Murphy’s Law states that, no matter what, whatever can go wrong will go wrong, if given the ability to do so.
The truth of this statement is definitely debatable, but any member of the 2017 IB/AP traveling classroom would tell you that when Murphy’s Law works it can throw even the smoothest of trips off kilter.
“The trip was amazing, truly a once in a lifetime experience. There’s no way I’m ever going to get to do some of these things again, or at least not with the same atmosphere,” said Pueblo West High School Junior Joel Potter.
The 2017 trip, aptly dubbed “West Goes West” by chaperones Michelle Erickson, Sheila Sloan, Jeff Sloan, Jeff Osborne, Amy Derting, Katie Wilson, and Johanna Woelfel, was a week long road trip to northern California.
51 students and the aforementioned chaperones began their journey in Denver on Tuesday, November 7th. From Denver, the group of PWHS students boarded a train for a 30 hour ride to Sacramento, where they would finally escape the confines of the Amtrak train and get, what was for many, their first breath of California Air.
Potter was sure to mention how new the west coast was for many of the students, “Some of the kids on the trip had never been out of [Colorado], so getting to go to California and just being able to see the ocean was a huge moment for a lot of them.”
Along with ocean views, the students had the opportunity to explore Sacramento, San Francisco, and Monterey in small groups under the watchful eyes of the trained chaperones. In Sacramento, the students traversed the Capitol building, visited Sutter’s Fort, and received a lesson on the history of train travel in America at the Railroad Museum.
From Sacramento, the group hopped on a bus to the Rosie the Riveter National Park, where they had the opportunity to meet three real life Rosie the Riveters before completing the final stretch to San Francisco.
Erickson noted, “Meeting three real life Rosies, who at this point, are in their 90’s was such an inspirational moment.”
Her sentiments were mirrored by Potter’s, who gleamed when stating, “The Rosies were life changing, knowing that these women helped to shape modern history… it was absolutely incredible to just be in their presence.”
The Rosies were absolutely the highlight of the trip, according to most of the students. However, visits to the Muir Redwood Forest, walking the Golden Gate Bridge, the rolling streets of San Fransisco, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, as well as a dinner at John Steinbeck’s house, were not to be outdone.
Of course, panning such a huge trip is far from a walk in the park, “It is a huge undertaking,” said Woelfel, “We put in countless hours, well before we even mention the trip to students.”
Erickson explained, “The feasibility of the trip itself is interesting to put together. For example, arriving in Sacramento by way of train, the teachers knew that the train could be late. I mention this because, that day, knowing that we needed to be off that train by two o’clock to get to the hotel so we could get to the museum, was so hard to schedule. But, we managed to get it all done.”
“It all went according to plan,” chuckled Potter when explaining how the trip was far from a relaxing vacation. “We went to multiple locations a day, and we managed to do it all without a hiccup, until we tried to get home.”
Due to technical difficulties with a Frontier Airlines plane on Monday November 13th, a group of 44 students and 5 chaperones were, essentially, stranded in the San José airport.
“Sometimes there are elements that are out of our control,” said Woelfel when describing the situation.
The group traveling to Las Vegas for a layover flight to Colorado Springs on Monday boarded, and subsequently de-boarded, their plane two separate times. Hydraulic malfunctions led to delay after delay, until the teachers were given two options; either stay in San José, or fly to Vegas and stay the night in a hotel.
“We immediately started asking [the Frontier customer service representatives], ‘What are you going to do to help us?’ because we knew we had a large group of 44 students whose parents would be wanting them home, and many others who needed to be home as soon as possible,” explained Erickson.
Not long after discussions were being held about hotels and meal vouchers, the plane to Vegas was finally ready for flight. The chaperones decided that, due to there being more flights to Colorado offered at the larger Vegas airport, boarding the flight and awaiting better options was the best plan of action.
Once reaching Vegas, the group received meal vouchers for every person, and the remaining chaperones after departing from the Sloans, who were taking a flight to Salt Lake City with a smaller group of seven students, debated their next move.
“We started working with the airline… our next step was to start working on ways to get everybody home,” said Erickson.
The first option provided by the airline was rather unfavorable; 16 spots were open on a flight for Colorado Springs leaving early the next morning. “We desperately wanted to keep the group together, for obvious reasons,” explained Erickson, who, alongside Wilson, planned most of the returning flights in conjunction with Frontier representatives, “we told them about our situation, and they were as helpful as they could be.”
Eventually, the group was ferried slowly by way of Taxi to the South-Point Hotel around 2:00 a.m. after a possible flight around 12:30 a.m. fell through. Potter mentioned how he was “Just glad to have a bed to sleep in,” once the group was informed that there was no way they were reaching Colorado before the following Tuesday afternoon.
In the end, Frontier ended up providing a crew from Denver to pick up the large traveling classroom with a 9 a.m. flight from Vegas to the Colorado Springs airport Tuesday morning.
“We were all relieved to make it home, especially after about 3 hours of sleep,” laughed Potter.
The group finally landed in Colorado around noon on Tuesday, where each student was picked up by a parent, and driven home.
Erickson accredits the smoother-than-could-be return due to the constant communication with the airline, “Our constant communication allowed things to go the way they did.”
“What can I say,” Erickson said with a quick smile, “West Goes West, and All the Rest.”