Review of “Roaming the Rockies” Trip: Day 1
Recently I had the great pleasure of going on a media sampler version of the Adventures by Disney Roaming the Rockies trip. Normally it visits both Montana and the Canadian Rockies, but this shortened itinerary did the Canadian portion only. We did the typical activities that take place on the latter part of the trip. We also went whitewater rafting, although that part normally takes place in Montana.
This trip report chronicles each day of adventures, from the time I left Florida until I touched back down in the Sunshine State after my amazing five-day experience. My excitement did start early, though, when I received my pre-trip package with the itinerary and an Adventures by Disney backpack to whet my appetite for the trip ahead.
Day One: An Adventure in Travel
I love Adventures by Disney because of their expertise in making travel carefree and painless. For example, they arrange all your activities and transportation and even have snacks, bottled water, and rain ponchos at opportune times. I experienced that for the first time when I did my first adventure (Hollywood and Disneyland), and I expected the same on my Roaming the Rockies trip.
Unfortunately, there’s the small matter of actually getting to your destination before you end up in their capable hands. On this particular trip, I learned that getting there is sometimes an adventure in itself.
A Smooth Start
Things started off smoothly with the first flight of my two-leg journey to Alberta. I was booked on Delta, flying from Orlando to Salt Lake City on a 757, then hopping onto a commuter jet to finish the trip. The first flight was over four hours long, but I was well equipped with my computer and iPod Touch to keep me busy.
I like to have plenty of snacks, water, and things to do on board, which means being creative with my carry-on luggage. You’re allowed to have one bag and one personal item, but I managed to work in one extra item with my Go Caddy, which hangs around my neck. It’s surprisingly roomy, so I packed in my passport, license, tickets, and other important paperwork, a bottle of water, a granola snack back, my money, charge cards, cell phone, and iPod Touch. With all those essentials, the only thing I really needed from my carry-on was my netbook, which I fished out right after boarding and slipping into the seat pocket for easy access.
The captain warned us that there would be mid-flight turbulence, and he wasn’t kidding, It wasn’t the worst I’ve been through, but it was bouncy enough to make me a little queasy while trying to work on my computer. I was getting motion sick from trying to focus on the bouncing screen. Finally. I put my netbook away, plugged in my iPod, and let the music and motion lull me into a nap until things smoothed out again.
Delta did two beverages services, which mean two helpings of juice and two packs of their insanely delicious cookies, so I didn’t have to break into my personal stash of granola. When we landed, it was lunch time back home in Florida, so my stomach demanded something more substantial. I was tempted to hold off until I reached my destination, but I ended up buying an overpriced airport sandwich to gulp down at the gate. As expected, my connecting gate was clear across the airport, but even though I only had an hour between flights, I made it with time to spare. My only fear about the trip was missing the connection, so I thought I was home free.
As the commuter jet soared toward the Great White North, I had more juice and cookies to top off the sandwich I’d just gulped down. I also chatted with my seat mate, which made the time go by more quickly. We reached Alberta early, only to discover an ugly surprise. The airport was closed because of lightning, which meant that no one was allowed out to guide in the planes or unload the luggage. We were stuck less than 20 feet from the gate, with the tantalizing terminal teasing us as we wondered how long we’d be stuck on the tarmac.
My seatmate joked about once going through a three hour delay and whether she might beat it now. At first we laughed, but the hours passed…and passed…and passed, and still we stayed locked on board. So many airplanes had stacked up behind us that they had to start diverting some to other airports.
Our captain came out of the cockpit to let everyone know what was going on. Th officials weren’t telling him much, but he was trying to negotiate at least getting us off the plane so we could wait inside at baggage claim, even our luggage didn’t show up for a while
The flight attendants did two more beverage services (more cookies…at this point, I think I’ll have a phobic reactive if I ever see them again), and alcohol was handed out on the house. Everyone remained in remarkably good spirits, considering we’d passed the four-hour mark, but I’m sure the open bar had something to do with that. People wandered around the tiny jet, made increasingly desperate phone calls, and used the lavatory. I’d heard horror stories of bathroom failures on stranded jets, but thankfully ours held up. People joked about escaping through the exits, but thankfully there was no air rage.
Little did I know that one of my fellow Orlando writers was stuck on the United flight at the next gate. On her plane, they refused to give our any beverages or snacks, let alone offer an open bar. Needless to say, that led to some pretty cranky people who, I imagine, might have formed their own primitive society and done a mutiny if left to their own devices much longer. They weren’t getting any communication, either, which upset them even more. On our plane, I think it really helped that the pilot kept us personally up to date, even when he didn’t have much to share. People are more understanding when they’re kept in the loop rather than crammed in a metal tube, left to go hungry and thirsty, and ignored.
The United passengers finally escaped due to a medical emergency. Fun fact: Even if you’re in a medical crisis, you still have to go through Customs before they whisk you away for medical attention.
Meanwhile, after literally 4 1/2 hours on our plane, our pilot negotiated for two employees who don’t normally handle jetways to tackle ours. It took a few tries to line things up, but they finally did it and we were free…free to go wait for goodness knows how long for our luggage, after going through customs.
Airport workers were handing out bottled water in the baggage area, which looked more like a refugee camp. I heard that later they switched over to giving out sandwiches, then eventually switched to beef jerky as food supplies ran low.
People were wandering around in a daze, probably unable to deal with the concept of sudden freedom, like a zoo animal that’s suddenly released and has no idea what to do in the vast wilderness. I noticed certain flight numbers rotating on some of the baggage carousels, so I staked out a seat on the one that had occasionally flashed my flight’s number as part of a long list. I didn’t hold out much hope that my luggage would show up any time soon, or that I was even in the right place, but I figured it was worth a gamble.
Finally, about an hour later, a cheer went up as the luggage carousels rumbled to life and bags started arriving. By some miracle, my bag actually came out within the first ten minutes. I nearly tossed myself on it to make sure it wasn’t a hallucination. Now, with luggage in hand, I could go through the last leg of Customs and see if I could find a familiar face or Adventures by Disney sign.
I spotted the Disney PR rep from Orlando and immediately embraced him in a bear hug. I’d never been so happy to see him in my life. Not too long afterward, the other Orlando adventurer managed to make it out with her daughter, and she had the same reaction. Our motley little group headed to a quick repast at Tim Hortons, where I discovered that the maple frosted donuts are apparently made by the angels in Heaven before they’re delivered down to Canada.
The poor Disney rep had to wait for one more delayed person who wasn’t due until 11:30 p.m., making their likely arrival time at our lodging around 3 a.m. He put us on a bus bound for the Lake Louise area, among other places. It was packed with extra travelers because of all the airport craziness, which actually made the news that night (in Florida, lightning is a yawner, since we’re the only state with so much lightning that we actually have lightning strike survivors’ groups). Once we got to the little visitors’ center/shopping mall at Lake Louise, we were supposed to meet another driver, who would take us on to Emerald Lake Lodge.
Normally, airport transportation to your lodging via Adventures by Disney is a straight shot, but this was not a normal day. We got a tour of pretty much every hotel in Banff as our shuttle disgorged passengers, and then the driver stopped for a break before continuing on to Lake Louise. We got off the bus, too, since there was another Tim Horton’s tempting my taste buds with its maple-flavored treats. Suitably sugared up, I snapped photos out the window as we worked out way into the wilderness and the scenery gradually grew more impressive.
Even though it was very late, the sun stays out until after 10 p.m. in that area in June. It felt like being in the Twilight Zone to have light so late, especially since my Floridian body thought it was midnight.
Finally I started dozing, although I snapped to full alert when we arrived at the Lake Louise visitors’ center. My fellow Orlando writer, her daughter, and I ventured forth apprehensively, looking for another bus, but the parking lot was pretty much deserted. A vicious wind whipped around the building and drove us into a little alcove near the restrooms that was, remarkably, still open at this ungodly hour. A quick phone call to Emerald Lake Lodge revealed that the bus driver had been watching for us, but when we didn’t show up at the expected time, he’d started heading back to see what was up. He’d try to contact our driver, but she didn’t answer her radio.
I was almost as happy to see the bus pull up for the final leg of my journey as I was to see the Disney rep at the airport. Finally, finally, after all the craziness, I was in the home stretch.
Home at Last
Darkness had finally fallen when we reached Emerald Lake Lodge. The Adventure Guides, Tiffany and Lisa, were still up and waiting for us, and the lodge had kept the restaurant open so we could have a late welcome dinner. Despite the two Tim Horton’s stops, I realized that I could do with a late-night snack. I ordered a cheese plate, with sorbet for dessert. Then came the trick of finding my cabin in the darkness, which also meant tackling an uphill trek. This wasn’t regular darkness…it was out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere darkness, with nary a bit of light pollution to be seen. I stuck to the path, and soon enough I found my home for the next two nights.
The cabins at Emerald Lake Lodge are rustic, well furnished, and comfortable. Mine was upstairs in a building with four units, and I swear I heard the big, soft bed calling me as soon as I opened the door. I couldn’t even appreciate the in-room fireplace, and I wouldn’t realize just what a gorgeous mountain view I had until I woke up the next morning. That night, I barely managed to unpack the essentials before I dropped into that comfy bed and slept like a rock. Continue to Day 2