It Takes A Team

She’s a dear friend with the last name, Xuereb, and she drove us from San Francisco to wine country, so we started calling her, “XUber,” our personal Uber.

On Saturday, her husband and she offered to pick us up at our hotel and to drive us to SFO airport.  I gave them our flight’s boarding time, 3:50PM, as our flight time, since I worried about being on time with SF area traffic.

She said it was only a 15 minute drive to SFO, so we planned to be at the airport 2 hours before our flight. We had plenty of time…or so we thought.

Headed north on the 101 freeway, we could see the line of traffic ahead of us. An accident closed the freeway. Traffic had come to a stand still. We were forced to exit the freeway and to reroute through bordering neighborhoods. Traffic was bumper to bumper. No movement.  Lights would turn from red to green, but no progress.  We were stuck.

We watched the minutes ticking away on the dashboard clock, 3:40 PM.  We tried to keep our cool – we’d be rushed, but surely, we’d still make it. Traffic had to move, right? However, after a week in the city, we knew, all too well, that San Francisco traffic has a personality of its own. It moves when it wants, not when the driver wants.

Cars ahead merged at an intersection, paralyzing our lane. With every green light, merging cars added to our lanes. We creeped, then stopped. Creeped, then stopped.

Now it was getting uncomfortably late, and we began to question if we’d actually make our flight.  We began to search for other SWA flights to PHX.  There was only one – 6:30 PM via LAX, so if we missed our booked flight, we’d probably be spending the night in SF.

Finally arriving at the street light, we were floored that road construction blocked us. We needed to make a right Traffic was forced to make a left with no freeway access. We winded through more city streets, went down by a freeway overpass, merged left, turned right, and went up onto a bridge leading to the airport.  It was now 4:00. On the road leading to the airport, we felt like the car was on two wheels as we sped toward the SWA departure door. We got our IDs and boarding passes loaded on our phones. We were ready for a race.

Terminal 1, SWA! Unbelievably, we were at the airport! The car stopped, and we jumped out, popped the trunk, grabbed our bags and ran! Our “Xuber” drivers watched, wishing us luck, as we ran with our bags to check-in. To our benefit, the check-in line was empty, so we went straight to a kiosk and attendant.  The attendant checked our bags, and said, “if you run, you’ll probably make it, but your bags may not.” Our bags were tagged, “LATE BAGS.”

We sprinted to the security check-in.

The woman checking IDs noticed we were headed to PHX, and she made an announcement to the group waiting at the security checkpoint – “anyone else trying to make the 4:25 Phoenix flight?” Five or six others raised their hands.  The woman led us to an empty scanning machine. We unpacked our carry-ons, took off our shoes, and made our way through the body scan machine. Once on the other side, I got patted down and an extra skin test. We threw our belongings back into our carry-ons and RAN! As I ran, I thanked the angel who had quickly gotten us through security.

We ran so fast that people in the airport were cheering, “Run, Forrest, Run!”

We ran up to our gate, Gate 27, into a line of passengers waiting to board. We followed the passengers onto our plane bound for PHX. The flight attendants closed the doors and we were off! Down the runway and UP! Just like that.

We had run, and we had made it. We hadn’t stopped believing that we could make it if we didn’t give up, despite all the obstacles, and we also realized we couldn’t have done it without help from some angels, including our patient Xuber drivers, empathetic airport attendants and a skilled pilot. We’re reminded, “it most often takes a team.”

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…and a part of our team, during this Saturday’s race, made sure our LATE BAGS arrived with us, right on time.

Out of Nowhere in the Middle of Nowhere

We left Canyon de Chelly, headed to Telluride, Colorado.  About an hour behind schedule, we googled “quickest route” so we wouldn’t be too late for our friends who were hosting us.

The quickest route took us on a twisting highway through the desolate northeastern Arizona’s Navajo Nation.  As dark, monsoon clouds formed, we drove on Indian Highway 13, following a truck for a moment, but then later, seeing no one. We approached a mountainous wall of red rock, as rain began to fall.  The red rock formations were spectacular and quickly turned to grey rock and forest as we climbed the windy road.  Reaching the summit, we could see the valley below – plains expanding endlessly out to nowhere. We marveled at the clouds and rain that pelted the plains. The view, seemingly only for us, caused us to slow down, and thankfully so, since we then got the view of a lifetime –

Here, in the middle of nowhere, sheep, some with bells dangling from their necks,  had arrived out of nowhere, with a puppy trotting behind them.

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Google’s quickest route, routing us to the middle of nowhere, but leading us to an extraordinary somewhere.

 

 

Freedom

During a late afternoon in April, we floated downriver in kayaks, searching for the wild horses. We were on assignment to photograph the wild horses for Visit Phoenix, the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau. For years, the wild horses and river recreation have lured visitors to the Lower Salt River.  Along the shores, visitors barbecue, camp and swim while the wild horses freely roam.

Almost immediately, we spot our first herd of wild horses. The horses are casually grazing by the Salt River’s edge. The wild horses looked up from their grazing, acknowledging us, and then continued their feeding. Slightly expecting a stampede after seeing us, I was surprised by their calmness. They must be accustomed to visitors, and since we were on the water, and they were on land, we probably posed a little threat to their security.

We, the photographers, had crews paddling our three kayaks, so we waited for positioning and then began to photograph.

Click, click, click – our field of cameras sounded as if the paparazzi had landed on a red carpet full of celebrities.

The wild horses graciously allowed us to approach and to photograph their every move – what a welcomed freedom for photographers wanting to tell their story!

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"Face-Time"
“Face-Time”

After about 15-20 minutes, we continued down the river and witnessed another herd on a bank.  We beached our kayaks and hiked into the grassland, cautiously approaching the horses, so we wouldn’t startle them. When we got too close for their comfort, they aroused each other, as if sending a memo among each other that it was time to go, and in a single file line, crossed the river for safer, unoccupied ground on the river’s opposite bank.

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As I watched them regroup on the other side, I marveled at the serenity they bring to this land. Romantic and a vision reminiscent of the Wild West.

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As the sun goes down, the beverage coolers and the river rafters and tubers go home, but the wild horses remain. This is their home, and we are the visitors, admiring what the wild horses have in their home and grateful for what we’ve been given on this land – freedom.

https://www.change.org/p/salt-river-wild-horses