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Our last day in Colorado Springs began with anxiety. The memory of our first day lost to the pitfalls of travel, the inadequate resources of the airline and the time sink of the six hour layover were still fresh in our mind. Our bags were carefully packed the night before, so after our shower it was easy to throw the remaining items in and head to the airport.

The GPS system was having difficulty recognizing the traffic patterns, which I imagine had been modified recently. For example, it tried to have us turn onto a road that did not permit any turns and didn’t recognize the alternate route as we were on it, even though it was the route it told us to take. Eventually, we found the airport, returned the rental car and took one last look at Colorado. In all likelihood, it would be a very long time before we would return (lack of direct flights, and general chaos in getting there, and all).

We had better success at the check in kiosk, and had no trouble at all going through security. Once we arrived to our gate, however, the screen indicated that our flight was, of course, delayed. We grabbed breakfast and sat solemnly eating, contemplating how long it would take us to get home this time, and if we would even have our bags this time around.

We struck up a conversation with a nice gentleman who was sitting on the floor, his laptop plugged into the wall. He told us that there was free wifi and was checking the status of our flight, which he too was on. Apparently, the crew was delayed for the arriving flight so our plane was now about 40 minutes behind schedule. His connection was tighter than ours, so my husband offered up his closer seat so he might have a chance to make it if he sat nearer to the door. We thought that we’d have enough time to catch our flight with the time remaining. Oh, how wrong we were!

When the flight finally arrived, everyone boarded quickly, hoping also to make their connections in Chicago. The captain came on the loudspeaker to inform us that the fuel pump is broken and they would have to gravity fill the plane with fuel. Minutes ticked by, and he came on again to tell us the plane was now too heavy and some of the checked bags would have to be removed in order to take off. By now the flight was over an hour delayed. The chance of making our connection was long gone, and I sat brooding in my window seat.

Eventually, we were cleared for takeoff and made into the air just fine. The air conditioning piped in at our feet was so frigid I began to lose feeling in my ankles. No matter how I sat, I couldn’t escape the frigid air. It was miserable.

As we approached Chicago, a large storm loomed off in the distance, and I thought I saw a few lightning strikes. Sure enough, as we landed, we were warned to hurry across the tarmac (as no walkway would be provided) to avoid being hit by lightning. By then the storm was right on top of us. We cleared the gate and took off running in the hopes our connection might also be delayed.

In our panic we actually ran past it at first, but in doubling back, I was delighted to see that our plane was there and we could still board. The flight had been grounded due to weather, but we could take our seats and chance it. As we got onto the plane, we could tell that the people around us were very cranky from having to wait, but we were just so grateful to not have to wait for another connection.

I had a middle seat on this flight. My husband got a pity upgrade from his travel agency and had a seat with more space in the front of the plane. It wasn’t first class, but it was nicer than mine. After everything we had been through, he certainly deserved it.

I got settled in and plugged into my iPod, ready for the long haul. After about an hour, the flight was cleared to take off. The teenager in the window seat was fast asleep. I made small talk with the gentlemen sitting in the aisle seat. As it turns out, the guy was a pilot for a charter airline and we had very interesting conversation pretty much the whole flight. It made the remainder of the journey go by much quicker.

As we arrived in Philadelphia, now over an hour later than we should have, we went down to collect our bags. Not surprisingly, they weren’t on the connection and were still in Chicago. It seems our flight may very well have been one of the last few to make it out that evening. The storm system coming through was that bad.

What was surprising though, was how different our experience was from dealing with United at the beginning of our trip from U.S. Airways at the end. There was no nastiness, no apathy, no attitude. It was very matter of fact answers to our question and she took way more information from us at this point than the snippy woman from United did in Colorado Springs.

We were just happy to be back in Philadelphia and didn’t need anything from the checked bags. We called the airport parking service to come pick us up and went outside to meet them. The atmosphere was back to normal as our sinuses clearly told us as we stepped outside. There was a huge crush of people waiting outside the terminal so we walked further down in the hopes of making the driver’s life a bit easier to locate us.

On the long drive home, we realized were starving. It was almost 10:00 p.m. by the time we got back to Delaware, and we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. Luckily, the Chinese takeout place was still open, so we grabbed some nosh and came home to our kitties that were very happy to see us. We ate, loved up the cats and crashed in our own comfy bed, relishing in the peaceful moment knowing we were finally home.