Detours On a Holiday Journey

By Judy Berman

Crowds jamming the airports and train stations to get home for the holidays. For a real traveler’s nightmare, throw in some snowstorms, flight delays, sleeping on your luggage at the airport, and stress about catching a connecting flight or train.

One year, on our way to see my folks in Vegas, the snow began flying fast and furious. Our flight from New York had an unscheduled layover in Chicago. It looked like we’d be spending an overnight with our two small children at O’Hare International Airport.

Snow plows trying to clear an airport's runways.
Snow plows trying to clear an airport’s runways

Tantalizing thoughts of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie vanished as I considered we might be dining on airport terminal – note the word “terminal” – food. Tasteless burgers, greasy pizza, stale pretzels and watered-down sodas.

Still, our experience pales next to Steve Martin’s plight (as Neal Page) as he tries desperately to find a way home for Thanksgiving in John Hughes’ 1987 movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Neal’s plans are doomed from the start. Missed cabs, a canceled flight and a stranger he just can’t seem to shake: John Candy (as Del Griffith).

Neal, an uptight ad rep, wants to be left alone. Del, a jocular shower curtain salesman, comes off as an annoying blabbermouth. This odd couple’s road trip begins when a storm forces their plane to be rerouted to Wichita, Kansas. They are forced to hunker down in a fly-by-night hotel and are robbed as they sleep.

A few more hitches and Neal decides they should go their separate ways. He  heads to a car-rental parking lot. But his car is not there and he has a meltdown.

After a 3-mile walk back to the terminal, Neal is seething, and rips into the Marathon Car Rental Agent (played by Edie McClurg). His one-minute, profanity-laced tirade and McClurg’s response are hysterical (and earned the movie its “R” rating).

Who comes to Neal’s rescue as he is about to hail a cab? Del.

On the road again, Del gets into the music while Neal sleeps. At one point, his car spins out of control. They wind up driving the wrong way on a highway and into the path of two semis. Miraculously, they escape unscathed … until they set down on their luggage in the road and realize that their car just burst into flames.

It’s not the end of the mishaps or of the hilarity. When they part, Neal begins to laugh about their adventures. He realizes Del is the “real article,” and recognizes a deeper truth.

When Neal does get home for Thanksgiving, he’s not alone when he walks in the door.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie Clip – “You’re Going the Wrong Way” scene in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, with Steve Martin and John Candy.   

Photo: Travel – airport – snow removal – Heavy Oshkosh trucks are removing tons of snow from the airfield runways, taxiways and parking ramps after a snow storm dumped 12 to 18 inches of snow in the area. At Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.. Taken Feb. 12, 2010

    1. You’re right, Kate. But it’s an unavoidable fate when families are so spread out. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. From your latest post, I’d say you have quite an excellent meal lined up.

    1. Right, I loved that part where Steve Martin is cracking up on the train about their adventures … and, then, realizes the “deeper truth.” Beautiful. Thanks, Tina, and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  1. One of my all-time favorite movies! I must have watched it a billion times by now. That scene with Steve Martin, “I want a ***ing car with four ****ing tires…” makes me cry so hard from laughing. We make a point to watch that movie every Thanksgiving, helps chase the blues away. Have a happy thanksgiving, Judy!

    1. How I wanted to include that scene on my post. But, I try to keep my posts family friendly. Darla, I also loved that exchange. I saw the movie again a few days ago and just laughed out loud. I also wish a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

    1. There are a few scenes in that movie, Kate, that just resonate. Even though it’s far fetched, I can see that happening. I laugh every time. I also love the ending – very touching.
      Kate, I hope you and yours have a very wonderful holiday celebration.

  2. What is it that makes many of us so addicted to travel? Even when we are conscious of the discomforts. I believe it is the sheer uncertainity of what to expect next that serves to raise the adrenalin flow. And this is a great addiction.


    1. What’s at the other end of the rainbow? The long waits, layovers, delays and travel frustrations are quickly forgotten when you get to your destination. You’re right, Shakti. It is that excitement and anticipation that has me looking forward to that next trip.

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