Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Trip to Glacier - Day 1

July 1, 2006

Getting up before the sun does always leaves me disoriented, like I'm dreaming even though I'm awake and walking around in the real world. Kirby Drive is never this empty, and the sky is dark and opaque and heavy on my mind. Bright shop signs and neon lights seem out of place in this dark still world, the only things alert while everything else is groggy and quiet.

It's not often I walk into an airport by myself. Mostly I fly with groups. There's a strange sense of freedom in dropping everything but my back pack at check in. As I walk towards my gate, I have an urge to change my flight and not go to Spokane where I'll meet the rest of my group. The entire country, the entire world seems open to me here, and Hobby airport feels like the center of all things, and a new beginning. I feel like I could flip a coin or spin the wheel and end up . . . anywhere!

Slowly the sun rises, turning back the reflections on the terminal windows and showing me the airfield around me and no longer my own face. The terminal starts to show signs of life where before it was empty except for a few early travelers like me, floating around or huddled in the black seats like the wisps of dreams as they haunt you half-awake. In the surreal dark before dawn, with the windows that point inward instead of outward and the empty gates, you feel like there are secrets here that only you can learn. You touch the slow drowsy pulse of the world, before it wakes up and becomes the heedless headlong breakneck rush that lasts all day and late into the night. Early in the morning, before the sun comes up, the world is asleep, innocent like a child or like an animal. When it wakes up, it will see me already awake and watching it. And until I meet my group later today, this world seems like it's mine alone.

Viva Las Vegas. Flying here was like running from the sun, trying to keep the morning world young the way you want to keep a small child young. It can't be done, and when you land in Vegas, the world is already jaded and old, and the slot machines have come to meet you at the airport. I thought it would be fun to drop the one quarter I have in my pocket into a slot and take a chance on one pull. But the slots don't take anything lower than a dollar, and I can't bring myself to spend the time it takes to push a button four times, so my quarter is safe for another day.

One thing's for sure, I came to my departure gate way too quickly. I have at least an hour before I board, and I never new the Las Vegas airport was so big. I've never had to change from one terminal to another here, and I walked through parts of this place that I'd never seen before. I knew they had slots, but I had no idea they were practically a little travel-themed casino of their own. Complete with shops filled with beautiful, expensive, and utterly useless things to spend your winnings on. I walked by a stall with inlaid stone globes, porcelain figurines, and cut crystal miniatures. I really should have gawked more along the way. And bought something at the Cinnabon. My part of terminal C is pretty bland, and I'm getting pretty bored. I'd go back, but then I'd have to come through security again. I think I'll go wander around the rest of terminal C and see if things are any more exciting elsewhere.

Addendum: Walked around a dogleg in the corridor of terminal C and found Amy and Teebs. MUCH less bored now!

Land in Spokane, meet Mark, Joanna, Kerri, and Erik, and wait for Will's flight to get in. Once the group is all gathered and we've lunched, we're on the road. Drive from Washington to Idaho and Idaho to Montana. The drive is gorgeous, but I've been traveling far too much, and I'm starting to get car sick. Better after dinner, and finally we're driving south of Glacier, headed to the east side of the park and St. Mary's, where we'll be staying for the first half of the trip. It doesn't get dark until after 11PM, and then the moon is setting in the mountains and the mist is rising off the lake. The evening begins to feel as surreal as the morning did, until finally we pull up at our cabins, unload the vehicles, and finally get in bed and go to sleep.

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