Doug's Diggings: Christmas came early this yearChristmas came early for my wife and me last week. We traveled to Fort Myers, Fla., and spent a week in beautiful sunny, mid-80s weather.
By: Doug Stohlberg, Hudson Star-Observer
Christmas came early for my wife and me last week. We traveled to Fort Myers, Fla., and spent a week in beautiful sunny, mid-80s weather.
The trip was sort of a last-minute decision and we decided that the trip would be our Christmas present to each other this year. The real present, of course, was dodging the first week of winter — but just barely. We traveled to the airport early on the morning of Nov. 13.
If you recall, that was a day of heavy snow. We boarded the plane for a 7 a.m. take-off. The crew outside the plane began the de-icing process, but ran out of fluid before they were done. By the time they got back, they had to start all over. By now it was snowing very hard and passengers began to wonder if we would get off the ground.
Finally the plane began moving toward the runway. But that meant more waiting. When it was our turn to take off, one of the pilots came out of the cockpit and eyeballed the wings to make sure there was not too much snow on the wings. From where I was sitting, I could see a bit of snow beginning to build, but the pilot seemed satisfied and we rumbled down the snow-covered runway and lifted into the snowy sky. The entire process meant we left Minneapolis two hours later than scheduled. But at least we were in the air and on our way to sunny Florida.
Fast-forward to Saturday, Nov. 20, the day of our return to Minneapolis from Fort Myers. We had a later flight, leaving Fort Myers at 6:18 p.m. with a stop in Milwaukee and a scheduled landing in Minneapolis at 10:15 p.m.
If you again recall, the major ice storm hit our area at about the same time we were scheduled to land. We got to Minneapolis without incident, and I had no idea about what was going on outside. My first hint should have come when it took an unusual amount of time for our baggage to arrive.
We were at the old Humphrey Charter terminal (now terminal 2). At 10:15 p.m. on a Saturday night there are very few airport workers around and as we waited for the luggage, everyone was questioning the delay. Finally a voice came over the loudspeaker that said there was a delay because of “slippery conditions.”
Well, we waited almost an hour before the luggage arrived. My wife had already gone outdoors and was waiting in my son’s car. The plan was to go to his house in Eden Prairie and get our car and drive back to Hudson.
As soon as we left the terminal we realized the road was one big skating rink. I thought things might get better when we got on the freeway and headed west on 494. Things got worse — much worse. There were accidents or cars in the ditch every couple of hundred yards. We were traveling about 15 mph and weren’t sure if we could stop, or start. Cars trying to exit the freeway were stuck on the exit ramps because of the slight upgrade. Traffic jams formed instantly.
It soon became evident that we would spend the night at our son’s home — provided we could get there. We finally made it, nearly two hours later — a trip that usually would take 15 or 20 minutes on a Saturday night.
The good news is that we did have a good time in Florida and the weather was spectacular — low to mid 80s and low humidity virtually all week. We walked the beach every morning except one (five miles round-trip). We mostly relaxed, but did a few other things. One was the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes at the Barbara Mann Theater in Fort Myers. We also attended a dinner show at the Broadway Palms dinner theater in Fort Myers. We saw a show in the smaller theater titled “Andrews Brothers,” a comedy about three men having to take the stage of a USO show when the Andrews Sisters take ill.
We also went to Sanibel Island and did some biking at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is a 7,000-acre mangrove estuary, which is home to southwest Florida’s wildlife, including over 200 species of birds, alligators, raccoons and more.
The oddest sight for a “Northern” boy was seeing Christmas decorations starting to pop up in the balmy climate of Florida. When going to the grocery store on sunny afternoon before we left, I spotted a Salvation Army bell ringer. I told her she probably didn’t realize how nice she has it, being able to wear shorts and a T-shirt. She smiled, but unless she was originally from the North, she wouldn‘t understand the concept of wind, cold, snow, winter jackets, hats, gloves, boots and everything else that goes along with ringing the Salvation Army bells in Hudson!