"Really? You're kidding me. Just what we need. God dammit!" Overhearing the flight attendant talking to the captain, we knew it wasn't good news. She tried her best to recover and inject a friendly bounce into her re-packaged delivery for passengers.
"Hi, folks. Once again we're happy to have ya on board. The captain has just informed me that we have a mechanical issue, so we're gonna be pulling back up to the gate. He'll have more information for you at that time."
When we got back near the gate, we understood her seemingly over the top frustration. We looked out the window and saw a fire truck and a team of inspectors waiting for our 737. So comforting.
Because this isn't a post dedicated solely to our flight, I'll leave out the nitty gritty details and skip right to the end. One of our engines had a problem that apparently involved fire and danger. Not what we expected.
It got taken care of, and we eventually made it up to Fairbanks, Alaska. But that was only the beginning of a day that proved the inherent truth in an often thrown around statement.
It's about the journey.
Certain events / days / moments in life are a reminder that if you're too tied to expectations and results, you're making a mistake. So, we perpetually practice making the most of the process – the journey – and not getting too wrapped around the axle when things get glitchy. Sometimes it works.
Plane scare behind us and renewed attitude in place, we enthusiastically made our way to baggage claim and the car rental counter. At this point, we needed to move swiftly to our hotel and head back out to load up on food and other supplies in preparation for our early morning departure for some lakeside camping and adventure.
The disinterested and all about business car rental representative sent us away with a "I've marked a couple scrapes here on the sheet. It's important that everything is accurate. Just give me a call if you find anything else. No need to come back in."
Hauling all of our bags and backpacking stuff across the massive parking lot, I noticed something on the rental contract that foretold of what was to come.
I stopped and said: "Have we ever had a rental car with 54000 miles on it? How can there be only a 'couple scrapes' on it?"
The next block of time was dedicated to chronicling every chip, scratch and dent on our not-suitable-as-a-rental car. We then visited the rental agent – in person – to go ding by ding over everything. We half-hoped that we'd simply be assigned to another car. Turns out all of the available options were majorly beat up.
Note to selves: Never rent a car via a no-name player in the car rental business.
After removing the last renter's trash (did I mention that it wasn't cleaned either), it was much later than hoped. Oh, and the dull roar accompanying the car every time it was in "drive" was not making us feel well prepared for off the beaten path travel in Alaska.
Checked in at our hotel, we walked down the badly lit hospital like corridor towards our room. When we got close to our door we were stupefied. There was glass and gunk all over a wall and on the floor. It looked like someone had heaved a bowl of grade-A Alaska beef stew at the wall. We gave each other the "people will never believe this" look.
When we entered the room, we decided that we had booked an expensive campsite for the night and would be sleeping in our sleeping bags on the bed. Yes. That bad.
Having said all of that about our big opening day in Alaska, what we're really bummed about is the weather.
As I write this, we're all ready to go out into the backcountry. The only problem is.... we can't. It's about 50 degrees out and there's a brutal rainstorm hanging over the region. We have good quality camping equipment, but not the kind that can combat this kind of storm.
We're in a bit of a holding pattern, sitting in a Safeway getting some work done, warming up with a cup of coffee and somehow hoping that the weather will rapidly turn a corner.
A few minutes ago, we decided that we're going to embrace this. We're going to fully accept what is because we can't change it. And, really, it's no big deal. It's just a different kind of adventure.
We have everything we need: our trashed rental car, our don't-walk-on-the-carpet-barefoot hotel room and no script.
We are lucky, even in this situation.
8/23 UPDATE: Since writing this, we settled on a Plan B and traveled SE to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. With 13 million acres, it's the largest NP in the system. Perfect for NP fanatics like us. All is good.