Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Adventure Travel

One of the hottest segments of vacation travel is "adventure travel". Not content to relax and lay on a beach, or enjoy a comfortable excursion on a cruise ship, adventure travelers want to ski difficult runs, hike in the Andes, or traverse a glacier.


For those of you who crave the challenge of adventure travel, let me humbly suggest my recent arduous hike: from the main terminal to Gate B 84 at IAH. Pshaw you say, "I've faced the queues at Heathrow on a Monday morning. I've fought through the cigarette smoke at the Bangkok's Suvanarbhumi airport so thick it was like a dense fog. I've made it from Terminal E to A at the ancient DTW. I've survived a trek from the American to the United Terminal in the dead of winter at ORD. I've even made it from the International Terminal to Terminal E at PHL and lived to talk about it. What possible challenge could Bush International possibly pose?"

Ah, listen closely fellow adventurer. Don't let the sleek visible exterior of IAH Terminal B fool you; behind that false front is an endless, nearly unmarked labyrinth. While Gate 84 is a mere 12 miles or so from the ticket counter as the crow flies, spelunking through the barely marked criss-crossed passageways requires a hike of twenty miles or more.

While we can't verify reports of casualties rivaling the climbers attempting the ascent of K2, we advise the intrepid adventurers willing to challenge the course to take provisions on - the last section is the most treacherous, and has absolutely no resources for the hungry or thirsty survivor. Those lucky or skilled enough to solve the riddles and find the lost territory of high numbered gates of 80+, thinking that they are near their goal, have their spirits dashed when they discover that Gate 84 is nowhere to be seen. Indeed, Gate 84 is reached only by finding a hidden path and a sharp descent to a lower level.

There one discovers not a single gate, but rather the equivalent of another entire airport terminal. A Spartan, enormous, poorly equipped terminal. It resembles a very large bus terminal, without any of the endearing qualities of a bus terminal: the old coin-op pinball and video games, the grill in the corner with burgers and onions sizzling on an oversized griddle, the scent of coffee that's sat far too long on a burner, and newspaper vending machines. B 84 offers no services at all: no newsstand, no concessions, no restrooms. If one can summon the strength at that point (and I confess that my will was crushed at that point- I couldn't push through the wall to go back into the maze) one must retrace through distance passages for any necessities.

Those lucky enough to find a seat in the crush of throngs of exhausted wayfarers and plop down thinking that their journey is at an end learn that it is far from over. While there are a number of counters where flights are announced, passengers must hike much, much further to an actual boarding area: B 84 actually has sub-gates A though Q! Those trail over the horizon, not facing each other, but all in a seemingly endless line like tombstones at Arlington cemetery, proving a worthwhile test to the most experienced, thoroughly trained and skilled adventure traveler in peak condition.