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Going home can be an adventure

Going home never seemed like an adventure to me.

When I went home to Minneapolis in college my freshman year, it was cool the first time because I was living away from home and I was attempting to be an adult. The jury is still out if I’ve actually become one.

Over the years though, it became more like a routine. I’d memorized the route and even came up with backup routes in case something went wrong. That changed when I went to graduate school and moved farther and farther away from my parents’ house and now the trip was more like a fun journey that I didn’t get to take very often.

A few weeks ago, heading back home became an adventure again, in more ways than one. First off, my wife and I were flying to Minneapolis when we’d driven in the past from the Upper Peninsula. My wife loves Christmas and she’d get to have a big family gathering as my immediate family would be there and my uncle, aunt and cousins would be stopping by as well for a day or two.

I’m definitely not like Clark Griswold from “Christmas Vacation” and the idea of a big family party isn’t necessarily my thing, but she was thrilled and I hadn’t spent any extended period of time in the Twin Cities in quite a while, so it was something to look forward to.

Things went pretty smoothly on the flight to Minnesota and over the course of the week, I ate way too much food and watched a lot of football. I checked out the Vikings Museum with the wife and dad, and my uncle, aunt and cousins went to the Vikings-Packers game at U.S. Bank Stadium during their stay. The first part was a lot of fun, while watching the latter on television was a discouraging experience. So basically, what it’s like being a Minnesota sports fan.

The time went by too fast and it was eventually time to return to the U.P. Both of us were a little sad to leave as we were leaving on Christmas Day, but by the time our return trip was over, we were glad we left. The adventure started when my family was watching the greatest Christmas movie ever, “Die Hard.” About around the time where Bruce Willis was confronting Alan Rickman on the top of Nakatomi Tower, I got a text message saying our flight was canceled.

At first, we thought this was fake as I’d been getting weird texts lately from unknown sources, but after checking with Delta, we found out it was accurate. Delta said it was due to bad weather, but there was no bad weather along the flight path, so the only conclusion I could come up with was the pilot forgot to show up to work.

Anyway, our flight was moved to bright and early the next morning. As a sportswriter, I hate getting up early as I almost always am working nights, but I sighed and accepted my fate.

Little did I know that being tired was the worst of my problems that day. Shortly after arriving at the airport, we found out our 7:45 a.m. flight was pushed back to 11 a.m. due to fog in Marquette County. Both of us were slightly perturbed at that point, so to calm ourselves, I went off to find provisions. I stumbled upon a Dunkin’ Donuts and returned to the gate with food items. Shortly after we finished the food, we got a text saying our flight had been pushed to noon.

At this point, I assumed the flight was going to be canceled again after two delays. Not long after that, maybe 20 minutes, an announcement flashed on the screen confirming my assumptions and my wife started to find alternate plans. We got shifted to a flight later that night, the typical return flight from Minneapolis to Marquette, and it looked like we would finally be allowed to leave Minnesota.

A few hours later, my folks drove us back out to the airport for round two and this time, things got even more interesting as the Northern Michigan University hockey team got involved this time. We got out there well in advance and not long after we sat down, I overheard the Delta employees talking about how the flight was oversold and they were hoping they’d get volunteers to not fly. ‘Don’t be looking my way Delta’ I thought to myself. I’m making a stand like John McClane did.

Sure enough, they made an announcement asking for volunteers. My wife and I refused to budge. Meanwhile, a large group of Wildcats were coming down the terminal toward the gate. They were due back in town as practice would resume soon and apparently, every player from Minnesota and Canada was descending on our gate. With the Wildcats gathered in their own corner, a light bulb went off in the minds of Delta. Hmm. Hockey players bring lots of equipment and that takes up a lot of room. So then they announced that there was also a weight restriction on the flight and they needed a grand total of seven people to volunteer to take another flight. You see, hockey bags filled with sticks, pads and masks weigh a lot. Still, nobody budged.

Desperate to get people to get off the plane, Delta kept throwing deals out and continuing to raise them every few minutes. By this point, I started to wonder if there was some mysterious force keeping us from entering the U.P. Like a large bouncer at a popular nightclub or like Gandalf, the wizard from Lord of the Rings, was screaming “You shall not pass!” at me.

Finally, Delta reached an offer we’d consider and we went to the desk. They said they’d try to keep us on the flight but the fact that we’d be willing to volunteer if needed was appreciated. We even got applause from the Wildcats for doing so as none of them wanted to miss the flight.

Later, it appeared as if we were actually going to be on the flight. After pretty much everyone had boarded and with my wife and I basically on “stand by,” a Delta employee said they now had room on the plane because two of the players were late. Relieved that we didn’t have to stay, we gathered our stuff and made our way to the entrance.

However, right as we were handing our boarding passes, we were asked to deplane again as the two missing players sprinted toward the gate and our seats were given back to the hockey team. I never thought as a beat writer that I’d get pushed out of a flight in favor of the team I cover, but here we were.

Now stuck in Minnesota for another day, we were bused to our hotel for a free night stay, which was an eventful ride as the shuttle was packed and we were forced to stand, hanging on for dear life as our driver floored it 65 miles per hour down the road. When we got to the hotel, my wife was sick and spent the rest of the evening trying not to pass out. Meanwhile, I went down to the vending machine, which ate my $5 bill, and got to watch the Bloomington police attempt to deal with a domestic disturbance on our floor. Yep, it’d been that kind of night.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know we’d eventually make our way back to Marquette. We had to make a stop in Detroit as we couldn’t get a direct flight until 8 p.m. the following night and we weren’t going to wait any longer, but we made it home.

As I sat down on our couch, my wife described our attempt to make it back to Marquette as an adventure, I realized that it truly was and that’s how I decided to look at it. Despite all the frustrating mess at the airport, it was still an entertaining story and it’s how I’m going to look at it.

Was it an epic disaster like in the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”? No, but it was definitely a wacky journey that involved people I care about, disgruntled passengers, overly suspicious security personnel and a hockey team that I realize I see far too regularly.

Going home, whether it’s to Minnesota or the U.P., had become an adventure again and I’m glad I was along for the ride.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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