I’ve been home for a week. I will be honest and tell you that I’ve only now finally landed.
When I travel with the whole of the household, on our many trips through tents and campgrounds and parks a-plenty, I settle back in pretty easily. I unpack like my hair’s on fire, I suck in a deep breath, and there we are–home.
But it is a different thing when the house isn’t completely abandoned. When there are still some brave and lonely souls living en casa whilst I flit about the country. Somehow, when I return to an already inhabited home, when the rhythms of home life have been flowing on without me, it is a harder thing to step back into the stream. Maybe it’s just power in numbers, and we’re all in this together, and hang-onto-your-hats familial momentum–or in this case the lack of those ethereal and weighty things–but I struggle a bit more to find my place among the sailors on the ship already underway.
And so it’s taken a bit. For me to settle.
Anyhoo… here we are, and while it’s taken a while to get to it, I did promise a more exhaustive reporting of the big CFX Trip. Turns out that outside of the clinic, however, and the flu, not a whole lot happened. ‘Twas a relatively single-minded journey indeed. Nevertheless, there is always a tale. Let’s get to it…
The Utah trip en toto was pretty decent, according to my personal barometer. Let’s keep in mind here that I wasn’t the one veritably tortured by the army of therapists at Cognitive FX, nor was I the one who endured wave upon wave of the wretched flu. Nor was I the one wracked with nerves at the whole prospective problem of all the up-and-coming potentials inherent in this trip. pretty much from beginning to end. So maybe don’t put too much weight on my opinion.
First, before we get to the parts one could possibly classify as good, we need to talk a bit about air travel.
This trip was not the poster child for enjoyable air travel.
So we’re all on the same page, the plan was to fly from Minneapolis to Salt Lake City and back, with a little stop in Denver each way. Easy layovers, nice flight times. No problem. Saturday to Saturday. Unfortunately this trip was–apparently–special ordered to give the first-time flyer kiddo a little taste of the myriad ways air travel can go south. And so the journey commenced…
Flight numero uno: a dream. Honestly that guy landed so smoothly that I didn’t even know we were on the ground.
Flight numero dos: a nightmare. We hit the kind of gut-wrenching turbulence that makes the whole cabin let out whoops and hollers. I’m sure for many, this isn’t the end of the world as they know it, but for this kid–who 40 years ago had a special bed in the back of the cargo van, where she could slam a few Dramamine, pass out, and thereby minimize the pukage on the annual pilgrimages to the cabin–turbulence isn’t the most fun. By the time we deboarded at SLC, the jaw was tingling to the point of full-on quaver; I couldn’t get off that plane fast enough.
Emily did better than I did, despite her similar penchant for motion-sickness. I suspect this was due in part to the fact that someone had to be the adult, and it clearly wasn’t going to be Mom. I do think that she squealed an obscenity or two, but mostly that was just entertainment for the gentleman in front of us.
Safely on the ground, yet still dragging my friend nausea around like a carry-on with velcro wheels, we headed to Carousel #4 to collect our bags. I’ll cut to the chase: Emily’s bag, capricious beast that it is, missed its connection in Denver. We waited three hours on SLC’s newest art installations/rock hard benches for her bag to join us in Utah. My guts roiled.
Once finally in possession of the renegade suitcase, we taxied ourselves out of the airport proper and into the cold, windy parking garage. Oh, the relief a little fresh air can bring when your stomach can’t find its seat–I never thought I’d enjoy a parking garage so.
The rental car experience wasn’t terrible. The 12-year-old that rented us the car did walk us over to a car without keys–the window clearly stated as much, in white chalk marker: “No keys, 2/20/21” (the very date we stood in front of it). But that didn’t stop him from scanning us in and sending us on our way. To nowhere.
In Salt Lake, thank goodness, you don’t have to take a bus nine miles out to the godforsaken rental lots, so I did not have to relive any key scenes from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. I only had to follow our well-intentioned toddler back to his little booth and inform him that no, actually, the keys were not in the ignition. You know, like the window says. We were upgraded to a flashy little pickup with California plates. Kinda snazzy. Probably dropped 3x more gas in Utah than we had to, but we looked cool.
So to recap, on the way out, we have the kind of airsickness that has you cursing at the paper bag that is installed neatly in front of you, we have missing baggage, and we almost have a serious Steve Martin moment. Not bad. Thankfully, the state of our fanTABulous hotel made it all fade quietly into the background. Here’s to the unspoken beauty of a room so clean I didn’t even cringe when I crawled into bed.
Fast forward a week, to the following Saturday, and we’re taking the scenic route back to SLC International in our beach truck. A full hour before we arrive, I am carsick. I am driving and I am carsick. I am in such a state of anticipatory airsickness that I have managed to make myself sick while driving. But it’s OK. Just a little boost of the ventilation, and I can calm the beast. Honestly, pull yourself together, woman.
When we arrive at the airport, we drop the rental like we know what we’re doing, and we wheel ourselves through the TSA maze of security and start to remove our shoes. Whereupon we realize that we were supposed to check those bags a mile back and a level up. To be fair, the kiddo even asked me if we were supposed to have done that first. At the beginning of the maze. But I am dumb, and I am also busy calculating where in this airport I can come up with a real barf-bag, dammit, so that I have a way, there in my middle seat, to contain the inevitable result of the inevitable turbulence that we are about to inevitably encounter.
TSA agent Roberta makes it very clear that she is doing us a huge favor by unsnapping five sections of web fencing for us to cut half a mile off of our trip to the bag check, because this is an obvious breach of security and also an insult to her pay grade. We march out, and up, back down and back in–without our suitcases–back and forth through the maze again, and the faces under our double masks still match our IDs, so they let us through. Again.
Inexplicably, Em’s shoe triggers some conveyor belt shufflage, but we are soon shod and on our way to our gate.
Where we will be. For four hours.
For the pilot’s door on our plane has been refusing to lock, and it seems this is an actual significant security issue. It is soon clear that not only will our bags be missing their connection in Denver, but we too will be missing that plane. I have been on the phone with the airline, confirming that if we don’t leave Salt Lake that night, we won’t be leaving Salt Lake until Tuesday. I have nabbed the last seats available on a flight the next day from Denver to MSP, but that will only help us if we get to Denver.
And finally, after many, many delays, and many, many airplane mechanics scratching their heads, the pilot is safely locked away in his cockpit and we the already airsick, board our rollercoaster.
I don’t think I need to tell you how nauseous I was by the time that we boarded that plane. Also, you should know that I didn’t procure any confidence-inspiring leak-proof membranes in the airport. I considered locking myself in the bathroom the moment I stowed my backpack, but the flight attendant was guarding the door. I guess I’m not the first one to have thought of that plan.
You know what, though? It wasn’t that bad.
There was a little ride there on the descent into Denver, but honestly, what with that 3-year-old giggling like she was on the Magic Mountain three rows back, it was hard to not catch that joy. Not a tumble from my rumble tumbly.
So I didn’t puke. But we also didn’t have a flight home until morning, and the only way to get the meal and hotel vouchers from the airline was to stand in line with everyone else on that airbus. We spent 8 hours in airports that day, and only one hour on a plane.
Again, thank God for clean and lovely hotels. And Schitt’s Creek.
Alright, I’m done whining about the traveling circus. But it really was a circus. At least Emily’s air travel from here on will be a piece of cake.
What else? I mean, really, what else is there to talk about?
Well, there was the hotel, which was lovely. Also, cheap. An anomaly amongst accommodations.
And there was CFX, which you already heard about.
Let me just tell you, though, a little more about CFX…
It made me so happy when we arrived and this big mythical concussion clinic was in a regular old building, and not, like, the Crystal Cathedral or something. I was nervous about that. It would have been really disheartening to drive up to the Ritz, you know? Fancy building? Fancy people? Fancy everything? But nope, these are just a handful of neuroscience’s finest, holed up in a nice little medical building in Provo. Wearing Astronaut Kitty T-shirts and what have you.
The other half of the building is an urgent care. Might have been an eye doctor in there somewhere. Nothing fancy. Nothing glitzy. I kind of loved that the head honcho lady, the clinical neuroscientist who did Em’s second report of findings, was tucked way in the back in an office smaller than the one I’m writing from now. Granted, the one I’m in has a bunk bed built over the piano and more bookshelves than the walls allow, but you get my point.
Before embarking on the CFX voyage, we enjoyed a short day on skis at Sundance, thanks to our hotel’s two corporate passes. It was sketchy, the idea of skiing down a mountain the day before a concussion clinic, but how do you say no to free passes?
Have I ever mentioned that I once broke my neck skiing in Colorado? Or that this kid of mine has had 10 concussions? Well, not a one was snow-sport related, and it had been nearly 30 years since my own likely concussion, so we voted the skiing in, and vowed to be extra super-duper careful. Which isn’t terribly hard when you’re skiing with old me, who gave up on skiing altogether a few years back when my feet and knees staged their final revolt. We took our free passes and we headed up the mountain.
As we neared Sundance, I spoke gently to my knees. Just one more day on the slopes, girls. You got this.
Emily was already starting to feel the descent of the mystery virus, but we were in mountain-induced denial.
We made quite the pair. Mildly ill and mildly disabled.
But we made the most of it, until our denial no longer cut it, and it was clear that we weren’t dealing with a mild bug or a hint of altitude sickness. Em called ‘er quits after only four long and gorgeous runs. My lower extremities didn’t argue a bit. The day was as much of a win as we could have hoped for, given the circumstances. The views alone were worth it.
No, the fire truck and ambulance weren’t for us. We did follow that poor sled down the hill though, a reminder of how our day really could be worse.
By the time we relinquished our helmets, the kid was falling fast, but she wanted to drive around and do a little sight seeing nonetheless.
We headed to the Great Salt Lake. Which is uniquely bizarre, and slightly unsettling. We paid $5 to drive across a moonscape on an only partly constructed road to a Utah State Park, I think Salt Lake State Park, but honestly I don’t know. We’ve already learned that in Utah, state park means tire spikes and X-files. Still, we were taken aback.
Google said there was a campground, which didn’t seem possible as we approached the ‘park.’
Turned out Google was right. There were four campers lined up in the gravel parking lot along that alien landscape. I think the Visitor Center, with the entire word Visitor fallen off the building, kind of says it all.
I don’t want to offend anyone, but the Great Salt Lake is a bit creepy. The lake itself is kinda murky and green, there are miles and miles of
mud flats beaches with more stink than I am comfortable with, and there were people there, playing in the neverending sludge. I was baffled. What could be the attraction here?
Out of nowhere, the kid says, “Ooooohhhhh… They don’t have lakes here!” I mean, I guess so. It is the desert I s’pose. Whatever. They might have thought it was neat-o fun, but we didn’t spend too much time milling about.
I guess I’m spoiled. Lake Superior, or any of Wisconsin and Minnesota’s million lakes, can do that to a person. Gratitude. Amen.
Yes. You are correct. Those are tumbleweed upon the beach.
No. I cannot explain it.
The kid was beyond droopy, and her big week was coming fast, so that was about all there was for sight-seeing, other than a obligatory drive-by of Temple Square. Utah is a bit of an alien planet. That’s all I’ll say about that.
And me? Well, while Em was at CFX every day I got a lot of reading and writing in and tried, rather desperately, to get out for a hike every day. But I have to say, I didn’t have much luck finding trails. One would think that with all those mountains I would have been overrun with hiking possibilities. Not so much. Lots of paved paths (you know how I love paved paths), lots of pavilions, but a frustrating lack of actual trails. Ah, well…
I did find one trailhead nearby that led me on what I believe was an actual goat path directly up the side of a mountain, only to run me right into a line of No Trespassing signs. It was a good huff, and a decent view, but ridiculously short and certainly not worthy of the ‘trailhead’ designation it claimed. Maybe I missed something. Again, slightly baffled.
I stopped at many a park, even up into Provo Canyon, but everywhere seemed made for bikers, speed-walkers, or picnickers. Even that little mini-hike we took on Thursday, to Bridal Veil Falls, was all paved. Mysterious.
Overall, it was a good trip. Em had a successful (if frustrating and flu-ridden) week of therapies, and we saw what we could in so short a time, with limited reserves of energy. The travel situation definitely could have been better, but it definitely could have been worse, so I guess we’ll just shut up and be grateful.
Grateful for home. For lakes and trails and the familiar and the lovely of our own little corner.
Grateful for Cognitive FX. For healing, realized and in the wings. For such an opportunity as this.
Grateful for mountains and boots that fit and even for four fleeting runs. For snow and sun and spring.
Grateful for planes that fly and airlines that try. For clean sheets and zippy dune-buggies and good, good food.
And oh so grateful for time together with my wonderful and amazing kiddo, a precious commodity indeed.
If you need me, I’ll be singing,