I found myself stranded in the Dulles airport last week for about eight hours.
I was in Nashville, Tennessee attending the International Economic Development Council Annual Conference. The last leg of my trip was a one-hour flight from Dulles to Albany, and I was supposed to land around 2 pm. I was looking forward to getting home, seeing my family and having dinner together. Plus, I had a full day at the office the next day so getting to bed early was an added bonus.
As I was boarding my first flight out of Nashville, my airline sent a message that due to an issue with the crew, my flight home was not leaving DC until 8:30 p.m., nearly eight hours later than originally scheduled. I briefly wondered if I could rent a car. I’d be home at a decent time, but unfortunately my car was sitting in Albany so that would not work.
When I finally landed in Dulles, I had another update from the airline that we may be able to board as early as 4:30. Not great, but better than 8:30 so I was a little relieved.
With hours ahead of me, I ended up wandering around the Dulles terminal, looking for a decent place to get food (with my “sorry for the inconvenience” $10 food voucher). Eventually I found some shopping and a few places to eat. I settled down for a late lunch and to try and get some work done.
I found myself commiserating with another stranded passenger who was traveling to upstate New York to go hiking with family. She shared how excited she was to see the area, and how they plan this each year around peak leaf season. I ended up speaking with her about all that we have in Chenango County, the state land, parks, events and the number of outdoor recreation opportunities. She said that she had been to our area before and even mentioned having attended the Colorscape Arts festival in the past. I returned to my burger and my work thinking what a small world it was.
While we were talking, we received another update that our boarding time had been pushed to 6:30 p.m.
Eventually I started slowly making my way back to my terminal, grabbing a coffee along the way. Not only did I have a one-hour flight ahead of me, but I still had a long drive home afterwards. I needed caffeine. Lucky for me, Starbucks was one of the only places where I could redeem my food voucher. It was either there or Jersey Mike’s.
I found a seat near my gate and settled down to do a little reading while waiting to see if we were going to be boarding soon or get another update.
Boarding time was now 7:15.
An older couple sat down a few seats away from me (with their Jersey Mike’s subs) and the woman started chatting me up. She shared that she had just attended her 60th high school reunion and how she and her husband have been travelling the country. She asked if I, too, was headed to Albany and wanted to make sure I had gotten my food voucher. She was really sweet and before long we started talking about our respective trips.
When I asked why she and her husband were travelling to Albany she shared that they were heading to Lake Placid. When I inquired why she responded enthusiastically, “It’s peak season. We go every year!” Each year they plan this trip to see the leaves and travel around upstate New York. Once again I took the opportunity to share all that we have in Chenango County. She was impressed and said they would definitely check it out.
I may have also mentioned my new fire tower obsession, which she agreed sounded like a fun thing to do.
I once had an economics teacher, Mr. Abbot, who would talk with us about how beautiful it was to live where we do. I remember one particular day in the fall of 10th grade, where he went on and on about the glory of upstate New York. He gestured to the brightly colored trees outside the windows and said, “people pay thousands of dollars to come here and see the leaves and we take it for granted”. I didn’t understand what this had to do with our class or why he was spending an entire period talking about it. I found myself thinking, “Why is he going on and on about the leaves?”
Well as an adult, and someone who works in economic development, I totally get what he was trying to tell us! Each year thousands of people come to our part of the state to see the beautiful fall colors. They spend money on hotel rooms, eating out, rentals, gas, retail and anything else they may need.
The couple from the airport said that upstate New York is the most beautiful place they have ever visited in the fall and that’s why they return each year. I have to agree with them.
Fall, leaves and peak are a huge economic boom! In fact, the leaves are so important that our Tourism Director, Audrey Robinson, provides a weekly “Fall Foliage Report”. This is one of the ways that the state helps to promote tourism through the ‘I Love New York’ program. You should check it out: https://www.iloveny.com/things-to-do/fall/foliage-report/
So yes, Mr. Abbot, you are right; the leaves are really important!
To my readers: When was the last time you took a drive to just look at the leaves in the fall? Don’t miss out on this beautiful time of year. The world is literally changing before our eyes and we get to live here!
If you were wondering, I finally boarded my flight at 7:45 p.m.
Happy leaf peeping!