Vacation Day 1: Epic Fail

Have you ever been to Grand Forks, North Dakota? Neither have I.

That is, until today.

What started as an exuberant morning to kick off the first day of my holiday vacation – only ended cold, alone and in the beautiful prison of Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Ah, it’s not that bad. It’s a town known for a few things: floods, drinking and hockey. Damn good hockey team.

My tale of woe began in Orlando. I finished a long week of work and practically popped out of bed this morning. Packed. Coffee was made. I even vacuumed my apartment so it would be pristine when I came home. I drove to the airport and realizing I’d be leaving my car for a week, decided to try off-property parking. I tried the Parking Spot. Nice people. Quick service. My vacation was off to the perfect start.

11 minutes through security and no butt pat or crotch grab. Success! And that was with a carry-on that contained a ridiculous amount of cords, computers, cameras and the like. My luck continued.

At the gate we started hearing warnings of quarter-mile visibility in Minnesota. But the attendants at the gate were confident…this plane was leaving on time and nothing was going to stop it. And wouldn’t you know, we left EARLY. 12 minutes early. When was the last time you recall that happening?

Welcome to Grand Forks, North Dakota

The flight was seamless. It wasn’t full so the guy sitting in the middle seat in our row moved up a few rows. What a relief. I stretched out. Life was great. Better than great. So it seemed.

The captain came on to tell us we were 25 minutes from Minneapolis and there was a wicked storm so we’d “hold our pattern” since we were ‘to the brim’ with fuel. He said we had a good hour to circle…and he intended to burn it all up. So we burned. And circled. Then he said a de-icing truck was stuck on the lone runway that was open. At this point, MSP airport was closed. One runway was open. But with the stuck truck, we were all…hahaha. Yeah.

So we went to the back-up plan: Grand Forks, North Dakota.

I was still in a decent mood, but wondered when it would change. Some kid behind me started balling “I want to go to my home!” Over and over again. It wouldn’t be so bad if he was a toddler. No, he was pushing about 12. Get a grip, kid. Life doesn’t get easier. Dry up, weepy.

We arrived at Grand Forks International Airport, a tiny airport with little prop planes zinging all around. Not much snow. We learned 5 other commercial airliners were following the same plan we were. So we sat on the jet way for a good 1.5 hours. Then we pulled up to a gate and deplaned.

Um, what now?

What a mess.

The tiny airport was full of transplants from Orlando, Detroit and Seattle from what I could gather. Everyone was on their own. The airport staff did a great job of trying to keep the peace, but people had to call for hotels, find transportation – and this while the cell phone reception was atrocious. I found a hotel, got my checked bag – rode in a shuttle that was WELL over capacity and got to my room.

While this was happening, I learned my parents (who were kind enough to brave the weather to pick me up at the airport) had went to the Mall of America. Upon learning my fate, they decided to head to my brothers house nearby and stay there. They said the weather was HORRIBLE. I called. They were STOPPED on the freeway. Stopped. Whiteout. All the exits were closed. 6 car accident ahead of them. After battling that scene for awhile, they made it to an exit, took a back way and made it to my other brother’s house. They still don’t know how they’re going to make it out of the neighborhood tomorrow morning since the drifts are pushing 3- 6 feet.

Nice, cozy room in Grand Forks

I went to the hotel bar for a bite and a beer. I see a guy in a Polaris jacket singing Cher’s ‘Believe’. It wouldn’t be so bad, but Ilater determined he was about a .24 and soon started drooling on himself and falling asleep with his phone to his ear. Bombed. Welcome to Grand Forks. It’s 3:14 PM.

I later learned Polaris was drinking Jagermeister shots two at a time. I stuck to a Bloody Mary and a few beers. A burger and fries and I was fried. Back to my humble abode with the door that was frozen shut.

As of this point in time, our plane is planning to depart at 7:00AM CST. That would put me in MSP at about 7:40AM. But at this point, I don’t know if I’ll ever get home. I hear the Vikings and Giants game is in question because the Giants are in Kansas City! Interesting to see how that turns out. I feel like I’m a permanent character in a bizarre Coen Brothers movie. Better yet, I’m Neal Page trying to get home and am about to run into Del Griffith.

Either way, I made it somewhere. And in one piece. So for that, I’m thankful. And if you’re ever looking for a nice getaway, maybe a romantic weekend…let me tell you about a little place called Grand Forks, North Dakota.

It’s amazing this time of year.

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About the author

Josh Benson


Josh Benson


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