Road to Travelwriter Day 2 – 7 Degrees and the Fat Bag

7 Degrees, Funky Sunset, overweight bags on BART


My sister and I are cut from the same cloth – the heavier the bed covers, the cozier we are in winter. And so it was when I was again, rudely awakened by the alarm this morning, that, for a half a second, I reconsidered my trip to San Francisco purely out of an unwillingness to peel back the heavy, warm blankets from my sister’s bed and get ready for day 2 of The Road to Travelwriter. Braving the 7 degree Ann Arbor winter in search of a suitable replacement coat for the one I left back in Frederick, MD really only added insult to injury – though I was grateful to find the perfect coat for a song at the local thrift store. Finding out that the ginormous suitcase I had challenged myself to fill only the day before was 9 lbs overweight AFTER dear sister had pulled away from the ‘zero tolerance no waiting at curb’ policy of Detroit International Airport really was just the icing on the cake.


The last time I packed a bag remotely as big, I was 19 and headed to Vienna, Austria to study for a year. This is 5 ½ weeks in the same country. What was I THINKING?! Well – I was thinking of layers and any variety of weather (minus cold and rain hence the absent-minded exclusion of a COAT!), any possible scenario in which I might find myself – whether writing alone in Sonoma or dinner with one of the authors/editors/publishers I met the last time I was in San Francisco for the Book Passage Travel Writer’s Conference. And I couldn’t very well leave the hiking boots!!


So, the battle began – $25 for a new 2nd bag with which to distribute the 59 lbs of I don’t know what, $75 to pay for the extra weight (you can have 2 bags at 50 lbs each for free, but not 1 bag at 59 lbs – I really don’t understand the logistics there, will have to consult one of my airline friends) or call dear sister back to unload 9 lbs worth of stuff. $25 it was. The thought of what I was going to be like after 8 hours of air travel, negotiating a metro system with TWO bags of junk plus my backpack to arrive at the home of my first host probably did not do my bitchy resting face any favors as the polite, if curt baggage attendant labeled my bags for transfer and ‘caution when lifting’. OUCH.


These kind of travel mishaps are not me – at all. I wear slip-on shoes and keep my laptop easily accessible to fly through TSA. I refuse to bring a mini-suitcase carry-on bag to the plane because it would only slow everybody else down. I pack efficiently! I bring a FUCKING COAT IN WINTER!! I force myself to keep remembering that in Buddhism it is believed the more auspicious the activity, the greater the obstacles will be. At this pace, I expect to fly away from San Francisco with a Pulitzer.


The rest of the flights westward were uneventful, which offered a nice balance to the first part of the day. My seatmate in the emergency aisle (by the way, when you’re on a plane, don’t start a joke about agreeing to be the one in the emergency seating to blow up the inflatable chute if there’s an emergency landing and have a brain fart after the words ‘blow up’ – that makes people nervous) of the first leg to Vegas was quite chatty, entertaining, and reminded me a bit of Richard Dreyfuss. The second leg started with me successfully managing to wiggle out of my skin tight long john top underneath two additional shirts without flashing anyone, much less the guy sitting next to me, anything more than a bra strap. I think I will give thanks to 4 years of all-girls summer camp and getting dressed inside my sleeping bag on those cold, late-summer Vermont mornings for pulling that off. Literally. But the meditative moment of the day was when I looked out my window to the west, to find a setting sun that started as a deep orange, brilliant jewel in the sky, that turned to deep pink and glowed and undulate the way an aurora borealis might, when the plane flew through some wispy clouds, just thick enough to partially obscure the sun. It was the most interesting thing I’ve seen outside a plane.


My first experience with the ease of the people of San Francisco was when I tried to disembark my first BART train with my 59 lbs of stuff. They were so patient as I fumbled to get the suitcase righted on its wheels and haul it off – actually creating space so no one tried to cross my path while wielding such a mass of stuff.


The second was being reunited with my kindred sister, Sabine and being treated to yummy duck breast a la Sean was the perfect denouement to this very long day.


Tomorrow, the fun really begins!!