It had been seven years since our last trip to Colorado and Amy and I were both excited to return. We were taking her parents with us and we didn't have time to do the drive, so we had to fly. I don't particularly fly well, but in my corporate life way back when I found some things that always helped. Namely, about six shots of Cuervo and some Valium. However, with the in-laws on board, this wouldn't be one of those flights. It would be OK, I kept telling myself.

First we need to put miles behind us as we make the four hour drive from Pocahontas County to Pittsburgh International. The flight left crazy early, so we had to stay overnight near the airport. My mother-in-law had booked first, and chose the Super 8 for economy reasons. I'm not big into cheap motels, as I have stayed in more than my share in my life, but everyone being together seemed prudent, so off to the 8 we were. I was already sour because I knew what I would find there. When I had phoned about availability I heard the same accent everyone in the world hears when they call tech support. It's late, I'm amped about the trip, I'm wiped out from the night driving, I need to sleep and know I won't be able to due to overwhelming olfactory sensations meeting me at the front desk. "Smoking or non-smoking?"..."Ya got anything that doesn't smell like [email protected]' curry?...er, I mean non-smoking".....

OK, I get some sleep and were off to the airport. My mother-in-law is going over the details of what and how the toiletry items must be packed for FAA security. She seems shocked when I explain I had no patience to read all the post-911 details regarding the proper transport of toiletries so I simply didn't pack any. F it, I'm pretty sure they sell those things in Colorado. I am a grasshopper travelling with ants.

We get there and we start curbside check-in. I expect the airline to lose my luggage so I pack my clothes in a large bag and check that one, all the bike stuff goes carry on. Clothes will be easier to replace, right? Anyway, the curbside check-in guy needs to see my ID to get my boarding pass. No problem, here you go. (For the record, that is ID check #1). Boarding passes are obtained, and were off for more airport fun.

Like cattle, we're processed through security. ID and boarding pass? Right here, ma'am. (ID check #2) Shoes off, pockets emptied, through the little metal detctor thing. I notice a group assembling at the luggage x-ray station. What's so damn interesting? I see the monitor and start wondering what all that crap is in that bag myself. Hmm, looks almost like a shock pump...and pedals, hey, that's my bag! "What, over where, me?" I get promoted to the special area and am introduced to a woman snapping on latex exam gloves. "eh, what do you need those for?". Standard procedure, sir. I pucker, literally. I mean they wouldn't look there, would they? Again, my ID is checked (that's numero 3). She opens the carry on and I see my brandie new back pack, and I am relieved. Hate to think what may have came out of my old one. She pulls out the shock pump and holds it up to me, for unknown reasons. "Shock pump" I say, as if identifying items will somehow give them an air of innocence. "Tire pump"..."clipless pedals"..."multi-tool"..."tire irons"..."Park Tools 15mm open-ended pedal wrench". Damn, I shouldn't have packed that Alien tool, I think to myself...that thing has to have some sort of illegal blade I bet. But the Alien isn't given a second look, her eyes are focused on the pedal wrench. "It's for the pedals..." I stammer. She opens a drawer and lays the wrench down on a grid. "Your tool is longer than seven inches," she says. A million responses run through my brain, and somehow I repress them all. "So....?" "So you need to return to the counter and check this bag." I fear I don't have time for that, so I forfeit the wrench to the TSA. Fock.

The flight afterwards was uneventful, and landing in a strange airport sober was an odd experience. We retrieve our bags and head for the gold bus that will whisk us off to Hertz and our over-priced rental vehicle. Once there, I am met by a nice young woman who speaks perfect English, apparently the greeter. She asks to see my ID (thats #4) and directs me to the proper line. The person at the desk also needs to see my ID (#5) before gouging me for the 9 days rental fees. Finally we get some keys and a number, and we quickly load our luggage into the rental and were headed to Crested Butte! WOOHOO! We cruise up to final gate and someone who speaks practically no English asks me something. I keep saying "what?" because I don't understand him, and his facial expression tells me he isn't happy about my non-understanding. Finally I make out "license" and "contract". So I give him my ID (thats #6) and the Hertz contract. Now he's really upset and his voice is getting louder. I glance at the name badge thinking that using his name might diffuse things until I can figure out what the heck is going on. "Uhm, Talekfaqr...(no crap, that's what on the badge)...what's the problem?" All I can make out is something that sounds like "expire". He holds up my ID and points to the expiration date. 9/27/2006. Double fock.

To be continued....