Sunday, May 20, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Mary Alice Powell

Lost luggage, surprise snowfall foil careful packing plans

Remember the recent column when this veteran traveler offered packing tips and admitted how much time was spent deciding on what clothing would be appropriate for the trip to western Canada?

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, as they say, but plans also can fail through no fault of our own.

And so it is that there is a new hot-pink nightgown in the dresser drawer and a warm, heavy jacket in the closet.

The hip-length jacket is reversible; it's water repellent on one side and lined with deep, black fleece. It is warm and cozy when it snows - and it did snow.

My good intention on the flight from Detroit to Minneapolis and then to Calgary was to travel without a carry-on. How sweet it would be not to shove a carry-on under the seat ahead of me or lift it into the bin above. With only my purse and a book to read, it was indeed a grand feeling of freedom.

In Calgary, that freedom was clouded by disbelief at the baggage claim. While my group of fellow travelers waited with their luggage ready to board our chartered bus, I stood on one foot and then the other by the empty luggage conveyor belt with faith that two red ones would pop up any second and we could be on our way.

You know the answer. My bags did not arrive, and neither did those of several other passengers who had begun their day of exciting travel in Detroit. Several of the disappointed passengers were Toledoans. The celebrity who stood in line with the rest of us filling out claim papers was former Detroit Red Wings hockey star Gordie Howe, who, like me, reported his medication was in the lost luggage. He, reportedly, was in Calgary for photo shoots. At any other time, I would have been thrilled to have been on the same plane with the famous athlete and maybe even swapped hockey talk. This time, I wouldn't have cared if Dr. Phil was standing next to me.

Several travel friends offered clothing, including pajamas, and I probably could have made it through the night in a T-shirt. Instead, I immediately went shopping for proper nighttime apparel and found the hot-pink number on sale at a Sears store in Calgary for $19.95.

The luggage was delivered to the hotel at 4 a.m. after being inspected by customs in Calgary. Everything was intact in both bags. I know because I sorted through everything as the carefully chosen lightweight cotton shirts were moved to the bottom, never to be worn on this trip with its early-winter surprise. The bathing suit was the biggest packing mistake. I chuckled when it was tucked down in the corner of Big Red.

Trust me, snow in Alberta and British Columbia is the same as it is in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. It's cold, wet, and melts into muddy mush. But like the first taste that we experience in Michigan and Ohio, the early snowfall in Canada was beautiful, even though it was a complete surprise.

When the heavy rain in Banff turned into snow and the large, white flakes settled on vibrant flowers, shrubbery, and the tall pines, it took on a magical mystique. The white-coated thick pine forests on both sides of narrow two-lane highways created a stunning pre-Christmas scene that inspired camera buffs into action and me to shop for a heavy coat in town. The yellow windbreaker just didn't do the job.

The coat, on sale for $59, is lined up in the closet with six other winter coats. That may sound extravagant, especially for someone who escapes Michigan and Ohio winters into warmer climes. But look at it this way: It is a very practical souvenir of a great trip to western Canada, that included walking on the ice fields, making a snowball on a glacier, and admitting I am not such a wise packer after all.

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