Bad connection

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I could have flown to Bethlehem and back in the time it took me to make it an Iowa Christmas this season.

My flight to Chicago was perfect, but the connecting American Eagle service to Des Moines was canceled due to a mechanical problem.

On most days, I would have been moved to another flight. But this was two days before Christmas, and an awful lot of people have left the Corn State, only to jam the skies on major holidays.

There were no seats on any routing to Des Moines that day for any of us. Well, a pair from Houston were offered travel via Dallas. The choice was sleeping over or a chartered bus.

As we waited to learn our fates, the man behind me in line talked about his affection for Biztravel.com, so I went journalist but found no story.

Finally, I told him I am editor of Travel Weekly, and he said, "Are you Nadine?" I am not used to this.

He identified himself as Alan Robinson, a former reporter at Travel Agent Magazine whom I had never met -- and another of those Iowans who return at holidays.

That day, bus operators were busy, with AA charters to Fort Wayne, Ind.; Milwaukee, and at least a couple of points in Michigan.

Although no one tracks the numbers, bus trips in lieu of flights are not typical, especially for the distance we covered driving to Des Moines.

Ours was the longest trip by far -- seven hours because of snow that fell for five hours.

But don't assume I was miserable. I was grateful for the bus option (selected by 15 of the potential 50 passengers) because I was moving toward my goal. Also, the trip in falling snow was beautiful.

Then, there was the book in my lap. It was "Fatal Justice," which makes the case that Army Capt. Jeffrey MacDonald was convicted in error of the 1970 murders of his wife and children. He is still in prison. The thought of false imprisonment certainly puts missed flights into perspective.

(True crime books are not my favorites, but the late Bill McCoy, once an enforcement official at the old ATC, was one of the private investigators who reinvestigated the MacDonald case for this book. I had bought the book at his urging.)

Back to my holiday trip: On the return, I finally rode the cute little Eagle jet, but I missed my Chicago connection and stayed at an airport hotel courtesy of American.

That was a near rerun of last year's return when the hotel was courtesy of United.

I have warned family that Christmas 2000 has to be "rescheduled" to an easier travel season. Of course, I have nearly a year to reconsider.

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