Philmont Trek 708-A-3
Watchung Area Council Contingent
July 7 - 21, 1979

The Trip Home: July 20 - 21, 1979

or, the Reason I'll Never Fly United Airlines Again (If I Have the Choice)

Note: Back once again to memories 25 years later. It's amazing how this part has remained clear in my mind, even though the times may be slightly off.

I woke up after a solid night’s sleep, my first on something other than the ground in about 11 days. The rest of the crew was stirring, so I went to the showers, washed another layer of trail grime off, and dressed for breakfast.

We went to breakfast together and met up with our sister crew, as well as the rest of the contingent we had come with. After breakfast we had some free time, so Scott, Greg and I went to the trading post again where I bought an oval, brass Philmont belt buckle and a bolo tie with a silver arrowhead woggle and silver arrowhead tips. I also bought a Philmont charm for mom’s charm bracelet. That pretty much exhausted my supply of traveler’s checks, but since we only had the plane flight home, I figured I didn’t need much more. I already had 15 roles of film and all the souvenirs, gifts and trinkets I could want.

Right after lunch we packed up our gear and loaded it onto the buses for the trip to Denver, where we would fly out of Denver Airport for the final leg of our journey.

The ride to Denver was uninspiring. Most of us slept the whole way there. We arrived at the Denver airport after dark, checked our packs and went to the gate to wait for boarding.

We were scheduled to depart by 8:00 p.m. and arrive at Newark around 11:00 p.m. Our departure time came and went, and we were still sitting in the terminal. It was then announced, at about 8:30, that the plane had a cracked windshield and we would depart by 9:00 that night after it was repaired. We grumbled a bit, but we accepted that fairly gracefully. A line formed to the phones to call home to alert our families that we would be late.

Nine o’clock came and went. We started to get antsy. We were in the old Denver airport, and it wasn’t very comfortable, and there weren’t enough seats for all of us. The airline (United) announced that departure was delayed until about 11:00 p.m. We griped, but realized there was nothing we could do. We rushed the phones this time, calling our families. I overheard some of the scouts asking their parents to do something, anything.

I told dad that we were delayed, and he just said to keep him informed about our departure. No sense in getting upset over something you have no control over. Besides, it would only be another couple of hours.

At about midnight we thought that United should just get another plane. Denver is United’s hub, after all, and they should have some planes to spare. They said that they would resume work on the plane in the morning, and they would give each traveler $2 to spend for breakfast.

Many of us asked for our gear so we could at least have a change of clothes and a sleeping bag. United refused to get our gear.

So there we were, no gear, no change of clothes, most of us had no money left, and a promise of a whopping $2 to get airport food for breakfast. There was no McDonald’s or Burger King, just airport food, which is more expensive than movie theater food and less appetizing. So, imagine the mood of over 100 scouts and leaders.

We settled in for a long night on a hard floor. In the morning we were told that they were going to get a different plane for us, but we had to wait until arrived. That would be at about 11:00 a.m. I called dad to give him the update, and said that if he didn’t hear from me, he should assume we had taken off.

We were amazed when they started the boarding process at 11:30. A sarcastic cheer went up, and we boarded the plane in an orderly manner. So now we had 100 scouts and adults who hadn’t had a shower in about 24 hours, nor a change of clothes, and very little to eat, and having just slept on the floor or a chair in the terminal. The tensions from the previous 12 hours were released as we took off because we were finally on our way.

And it was an uneventful flight.