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Megafest 8.2 (part one)

Started: 2010-01-19 21:28:19

Submitted: 2010-01-19 22:52:57

Visibility: World-readable

For the end-of-December holidays, Kiesa and I tried a bold new experiment involving visiting both families for Christmas.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

My day was dominated by my flight from Portland to Lincoln to begin Megafest 8.2, while Kiesa and Calvin stayed in Longview. After a leisurely breakfast (and my last hand-roasted coffee) at the Stone Estate in Longview, I managed to finish my packing. This involved a bit of negotiation and stuffing, since I wanted to pack exclusively carry-on luggage to save $45 in airline checked luggage fees.

The first leg of my flight to Lincoln was United flight 572, from Portland to Denver. (This time, it was mere coincidence that Denver happens to be my home airport; it was simply the most convenient way to get from Portland to Lincoln.) I ate supper and settled in to wait for my flight to Lincoln. I started out at the east end of Concourse B, then moved into the new regional jet terminal hanging off the south-east end of the concourse when my gate changed. We boarded quickly ahead of the 20:13 scheduled departure; the flight had only 22 people on board, giving us plenty of room to spread out across the CRJ-200. We taxied toward runway 8, then seemed to pull off to the side of the taxiway while other planes passed us. After a few minutes, the pilot came on the intercom to announce that an unspecified computer glitch was forcing us back to the gate for repairs.

I text-messaged Yanthor to let him know I would be delayed from my airport pickup as we headed back to the gate. We pulled up to a different gate than the one we left and stayed on the plane for a few minutes while maintainence arrived and started poking at the plane. They decided they needed more time, so around 20:45 we were ushered off the aircraft at gate B50 to wait for news on whether the plane could be repaired for our flight.

As we sat at the gate, United dispatch decided to update their flight schedule to show the flight as delayed, so their helpful automated system texted me updates on my flight delays. At least, the updates would have been helpful had they told me anything new; all I learned from the stream of text messages was that they didn't know anything either.

I charged my computer and had plenty of time to stretch while waiting for my flight. I thought about reading, but I had finished reading Tea: Addiction, Exploitation, and Empire as we returned to the gate and I wasn't really awake enough to parse very much text. The airport services closed down around us as the evening wore on. I contemplated my options; with Denver as my home airport, I had a car in the parking lot and I could drive home and come back the next morning, but the next flight to Lincoln was late in the morning and I didn't really want to go to the trouble unless they canceled my flight.

Maintainence took the aircraft out for a taxi to try to reproduce the original failure condition, but the results were inconclusive, so by 23:00, a new plan emerged: the flight crew would take the plane up for a quick spin around the neighborhood to see if the angry amber light reappeared, and if it didn't, they'd conclude it was safe to fly to Lincoln. (At one point, one of the pilots mentioned that he wouldn't time out until 05:00 the next morning, giving us plenty of time to get to Lincoln.) They left the gate and we continued waiting.

Around midnight, the airport started to look like a brightly-lit ghost town. All of the remaining United gate agents were clustered around our podium and looked busy, but it wasn't clear what they were doing. At 00:45 the news came in that we were going to fly to Lincoln after all. The plane returned, and after an orderly reboarding process we were off. Again.

Once we were in the air, we managed to avoid any further flight-related drama or delays. While landing in Lincoln, I saw the plane's shadow, cast by the light of the full moon, in the snow-covered fields.

We landed in Lincoln after 03:00 CST. I found Yanthor, who had fallen asleep waiting for me at the tiny airport, and waited for my gate-checked bag to make it through the luggage system. We headed to his house on the eastern edge of Lincoln, chatted for a bit, and went to bed. Kiesa's absence displaced me from my normally-scheduled basement guest bedroom; I ended up sleeping on the massive new couch encircling the entertainment center.