My July Adventure Home from Colorado

Originally written on July 7th, 2020. This sequence of events, in my opinion, led to my immune system weakening and getting COVID-19.

As I begin writing this, it is 7:30 AM eastern time on July 7, 2020. I haven’t slept since 5:30 AM eastern time on July 6, 2020 a total of 26 hours. My 12 PM mountain time (2 PM eastern) flight from Denver on July 6th took off on time. Somewhere near South Bend, Indiana (according to the captain’s announcement) the captain told us that due to severe thunderstorms, Newark is at a ground stop, this means that no flights are taking off and none are landing. He stated that we will be in a holding pattern over Pittsburgh, but due to fuel concerns as well as the number of hours the crew can work, we may have to divert the flight. At this point we were looking, at best, an arrival at 6:30 PM (flight was supposed to land at 5:35). After about an hour the captain announces that the conditions at Newark are not improving and we are diverting to Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia. At this point we have several upset passengers who will be missing their connecting flight at Newark (if Newark lifts the ground stop).

We land at Dulles at around 6 PM. We are told that unless you need to speak to a customer service representative, we should stay on the plane as the ground stop can lift as we refuel. About an hour later (7PM) we are told to de-plane but to stay near the gate as they are still waiting for news from Newark. At around 8 PM there is an announcement that the crew has reached their mandatory hours and needs to be replaced and they are trying to find a replacement crew otherwise the flight will be cancelled and we would be put up in a hotel overnight as there were no more flights to Newark that evening.

At around 9:30 PM they announced that they obtained a new crew and created a new flight and we are to go to another gate in another but connected terminal (terminal D to C) to be rebooked. The new flight was consolidating three flights into one. This flight was scheduled to take off at 11 PM as the ground stop was lifted. I stood in line and got a new ticket for this flight from Dulles to Newark. Around 10:30 PM (keep in mind this is already 8.5 hours after I left Denver) there was an announcement that they are waiting for a flight attendant to arrive, ironically from Denver and once they have the full crew compliment, we can then board and get to Newark. At this point I was looking at a 1:40 AM arrival time. I figured, this isn’t great, but if I get home by 2:45 I might get a short nap in.

The flight attendant arrived a little after midnight and it was discovered, unbeknownst to the gate agents, that this person was over their allowable hours and this “new” flight has been cancelled and we will get hotel accommodations and be booked on the 10:30 AM flight out of Dulles today (the 7th). This was shortly before 12:30 AM.

Since I have work today, this was not something I could do, nor it would be silly to sleep overnight just to fly from VA to NJ. I went to the main terminal and found the Hertz shuttle. He wouldn’t take me to Hertz unless I had a reservation. I quickly pulled up the web site and booked myself a Hyundai sedan. He then was able to drive me over. I go into the office area, give them my credit card and license and rent a car for about $100 and begin my 250-mile drive from Dulles International Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport (whose route takes me past my house). The biggest issue I had is that in VA and MD there were no toll-takers and you either had to have exact change or an EZ Pass. For one toll in VA I had enough change to be able to pay it, but not for the others. I know this is no big deal as I will get a bill in the mail at some point. Luckily in Delaware and NJ they had toll takers, so I was able to pay using bills. Since the agreement obligated me to refuel, I refueled in NJ in Hamilton on the Turnpike. I arrive at the airport a little before 5 AM and slowly navigate the craziness of Newark (remember, at this point I’ve been awake for nearly 23 hours) to find where to drop the car off. I finally find it (it wasn’t easy) but there was no one for which to return the car. I park it, leave the key in the car and take my stuff. I go into what I think is the terminal (it’s not) and find someone to “return” the car to.

At around 5:15 AM I took the AirTrain (first time for me at Newark) to Terminal A. I call the off-site parking people to pick me up and there was no answer. So now I am stuck at Newark less than 2 miles from my car. I try calling again and someone sleepily answers the phone and tells me they are on their way and where to meet them. I go to the spot and they were there within two minutes. I get taken over to the lot and I easily found my car within 2-3 minutes. I was never so happy to see my own car! I scan my reservation QR code (naturally charged for an extra day) and get on the NJ Turnpike in the opposite direction I came 30 minutes earlier. At this point the sun has risen, so without sleeping I saw it set in Virginia and rise in NJ.

No sooner do I go to the Turnpike, I see all the vehicles are diverted to the car lane as there was a crash in the truck lane (a bad one). Normally I take 1 & 9 home, but I figured this was going to be faster. I was stuck in traffic for about 10 minutes (luckily it was early) and I got home at around 6:40 AM. So, when Dad called at 7, I was home for not five minutes, but twenty, however, I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours by then and had work at 7:30 so I had to run out and get something before work started.