Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Festival

I realized recently that when I go to Scottish (or Irish) festivals, things tend to happen. Like, things of biblical proportion--floods, plagues of locusts, that kind of stuff.  Here, in no particular order, are the things that have happened to me on the way to, during, or on the way home from various festivals.

Austin Celtic Festival: I drove an hour and a half in the wrong direction (and didn't notice.)  On the way out of Austin heading back to Houston, what you are supposed to do is get on 71 going east.  That's pretty logical, given that Houston is east of Austin.  Well, with me, logic is rarely part of the story.  When I came to the fork in the road where I could take 71 east or 71 west, I actively, consciously chose to go west.  I'm not entirely sure why, but it seemed right at the time.  It was dark (first night after the time change in the fall, if I remember correctly) and drizzly and foggy and I was just trying to keep from driving off the road or hitting someone, so I didn't really pay attention to landmarks or road signs.  So, after about 90 minutes, the fog had finally lifted and it had stopped raining, which allowed me to relax my death grip on the steering wheel and, I guess, pay attention to my surroundings.  When I saw the sign saying Marble Falls (a town in the Hill Country), it still didn't quite register, but when I very shortly thereafter saw a sign saying 71W, it was like one of those smack-upside-the-head, I-could've-had-a-V8 moments...there might have been screaming and cursing involved, also.  I will condense the next half-hour, which basically consisted of me continuing to drive west at 70 miles an hour looking for somewhere to turn around, and repeated phone calls from my father (after I had called my parents to let them know what was going on) to ask if I had turned around yet.  It was sort of comical, except for the part where I was crying (and cursing and screaming.)  Anyway, I finally found somewhere where I had room to turn around and drove back to Austin.  Precisely three hours after I had left, I was back in the same spot I started from.  (You should know that from Austin to my house is less than a three hour drive, so I should have already been home by that point.)  I got a hotel room and gave up for the night.  Oh, and possibly the funniest part of the whole thing is that when I told my parents I was staying in Austin for the night, my very practical father said, totally seriously, that I should talk to the front desk agent about a discount, since I only needed the room for about six hours.  Given that I didn't want to be mistaken for a hooker, I decided against it.

Texas Scottish Festival:  The very first time I went to this festival in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, instead of driving up on Friday night, I got up incredibly early on Saturday morning to go.  It was somewhat foggy off and on, which wasn't fun to drive in but was certainly manageable.  However, about an hour into the trip I hit this unbelievably dense fog and truly could not see my own hood, let alone the road or anything in front of me.  You know how you hear about inexperienced pilots who don't realize they're upside down and then crash into a mountain or something?  It was like that.  I couldn't pull over, because I couldn't see what was next to me, and I was afraid to slow down and have the person behind me hit me.  So I kept driving at the exact same speed and hoped everyone else was doing the same.  The whole thing probably lasted 30 seconds, if that, but it was terrifying.  When I drove out of it and stopped hyperventilating, I realized how ridiculous it would have been if I died--it's one thing if you die running into a burning building to save a small child or something, but it's something else entirely if you die because of Scottish folk music.  (On the bright side, when I told this story to the lady at the admission gate at the festival, she gave me a program for free!  I think normally they're a dollar, so yay me for saving a buck.)

Texas Scottish Festival, again--a different year:  My hotel room was infested with roaches.  Crawling on the ceiling, on the bed, on the walls--so not exactly plagues of locusts, but I think the modern-day equivalent.  It took me about three minutes to notice all this, and call the front desk to see about changing rooms.  The lady said she'd see what she could do and would call me back.  This is about midnight, mind you, because I didn't check in until the festival finished for the night.  When a huge roach flew at me, I grabbed my stuff and high-tailed it out of there.  I figured if the clerk couldn't do anything about a new room, I'd sleep on the couch in the lobby!  Luckily, she found me a room, which seemed to be roach-free, at least for the duration of my stay.  For some reason, I didn't even think about asking to be comped.  I mentioned the incident when I was checking out, but that was all, and they certainly didn't volunteer to comp anything.

Multiple rainy festivals, but the Denton Celtic Festival was the most memorable: It was a little rainy driving up, and during the festival itself, but coming home there was torrential rain.  The highway was starting to "pond" as they say;  in other words the highway itself had some standing water.  I had to pull off the highway not once, but twice, because it was raining so hard I couldn't see.  The first time, I couldn't even make it to an exit (or I didn't think I could do it safely), so I literally just pulled onto the shoulder.  When I realized that that probably wasn't the safest place to be, it had let up a tiny bit, so I was able to actually get to a real exit and get off and wait for 30 or 40 minutes until it was reasonable to drive again.

Cowtown Celtic Festival: I naively assumed that my GPS would know the general route I wanted to take to get home from Fort Worth, and direct me onto I-45.  Instead, it took me on another highway down to Waco and then on Highway 6, which seemingly goes through every little town in Texas.  I did attempt, early on, to get directions back to I-45, but that only succeeded in wasting half an hour, and I ended up only about three quarters of a mile further south than when I started, still on the highway I didn't want to be on.  I got home, but it took an extra hour and a half or so.

Pleasanton Highland Games:  I knew when I booked my ticket that a thirty minute layover in Denver was cutting it pretty close, but I figured if the stars were aligned and I ran through the terminal, I'd be able to make it.  The fact that the first leg of my flight left about three hours late dashed any hope of getting to Sacramento that night (which is where I was going; my friend and I were then going to drive down to Pleasanton, in the bay area, the next morning.)  I got put up in a hotel by the airline and booked on the first flight out the next morning, so it certainly could have been worse, but it was still kind of a bummer.  At least we got to go to most of the festival, if not all of it.

I think the reason these things seem to happen in relation to Celtic festivals is that I don't really go anywhere else.  If I took a lot of road trips or just traveled a lot in general, maybe stuff like this would happen more "randomly"--but since I mostly go to festivals, this stuff happens at festivals.  But, the thing is, despite floods and killer fog and roaches and getting stuck in Denver and driving 100+ miles out of my way, it was all totally worth it, and I'd do it all again.  In fact, I will be doing it all again pretty soon, since the North Texas Irish Festival is coming up soon.  I don't think anything too crazy has happened at that one...but never say never!

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