Carrie has recently come to the conclusion that I’m lucky. Yes, it’s true I’ve never broken a bone or been given a speeding ticket or even been mauled by a dog, but I’ve had my fare share of bad luck. I’ve been robbed in Mexico and I’ve recently acquired painful knee problems that have kept me off my bike for several months. It’s hard to deny, however, how lucky we were during our four-day trip to Zion National Park.
During the early part of most Junes, Zion is usually baking in 90-100 degree heat. Signs all over the park encourage people to drink water. The visitor’s center is designed with cooltowers and Trombe walls and other super-eco methods to keep the building’s interior temperature tolerable when the thermometer is blowing up.
We just happened to arrive during a cold snap. Gray skies kept the midday heat around 80 degrees. There were chances of rain and thunderstorms, which never materialized. The nights were cooler than expected, but the days were great for outdoor adventure. We did plenty of day-hikes and one overnighter on the West Rim Trail, which led us up and along steep sandstone cliffs to a campsite overlooking a vast expanse of canyons and mesas.
On my birthday – and our final day of the trip – we got up early for another hike up the trail known as the Narrows. The Narrows is unique in that the trail winds its way through ever-narrowing cliff walls. It’s also unique because the whole trail is literally the Virgin River, which claims responsibility for carving the entire Zion canyon. We rented special shoes, neoprene socks and waterproof pants to help us wade, splash and scramble up the river. It was a lot of fun and a great birthday memory.
After our water walk we had to hurry back to Las Vegas to catch our flight home. We were running a little behind and slightly worried about missing our flight until we realized that we gained back an hour after leaving Utah. To celebrate we stopped at a Subway sandwich shop, which was located, oddly, in a gas station convenience store. Carrie apologized for the lack of eating ambience on my big day, but we were hungry after hiking up the Narrows, and we had little time to be picky.
As we were approaching the outskirts of Las Vegas, Carrie pointed out that the fuel warning light was on. I wasn’t worried because we were so close to the airport. Those fuel lights always go on early. The needle wasn’t even close to E. Just to be safe, Carrie cut the AC. I thought she was being too cautious. I thought we’d be fine. We didn’t need to go to the airport already sweaty and dehydrated. That’s what the plane ride is for. I thought we were fine that is until we hit the nefarious Vegas gridlock.
As we crawled through the suburbs of North Las Vegas, the fuel needle crawled closer to the E until both of us were nervous. We had to make an emergency exit to find a gas station. I put three bucks in – enough for a gallon and change – and then we jumped right back into the parking lot. Time was running out. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 6:45 p.m. and here we were still slinking along with an hour to go. To make matters worse, we realized that we had no idea how to get back to the rental car building. We didn’t know which exit to take and our receipt had no phone number for the rental agency. Shit.
In a moment of panicked indecision, we drove right by the exit for the airport and kept right on driving until we had literally driven ourselves out of Las Vegas. When we noticed that we’d passed all of the grand casinos, we turned around and floored it up the empty northbound lanes. We guessed right when we exited under signs for the airport and soon saw signs directing us to the car rental building.
With about 20 minutes to spare, we returned our car, took a shuttle to the airport and schlepped our bags to the Southwest ticket counter. We knew we’d never make the flight. We were going to have to pay for another fare home, hoping that a flight would be available that evening. We approached the lady behind the counter resigned to the fact that we were too late. After searching for other flights we might be able to catch, the lady looked dismayed. Would we not be able to fly home tonight? Would we have to call work to tell our bosses that we were “stuck” in Vegas? And then we got our answer.
After a few more taps on her keyboard, the lady’s face lit up. Our flight had been delayed 20 minutes! If we didn’t dally, we’d have plenty of time to catch our original flight. Hurray!
Some people argue that you can make your own luck. A positive attitude will take you to higher places while a bad ‘tude will lead to trouble. Others say that powerful forces create our destinies, that the Almighty is a neurotic micro-manager. Most people understand, however, that it’s somewhere in between. We can make decisions that take our lives in certain directions, but we can’t predict exactly where that path will take us.
So is Carrie right? Am I just a lucky guy? After 30 years, I sure feel that way.