Archive for Monday, April 4, 2011


River City Jules: Parking authority

April 4, 2011


Spring break in Phoenix with my in-laws was fantastic. We hiked, we played, and we basked in the sun, blissfully unaware that snow would greet us in Kansas.

And we caught an air show at Luke Air Force Base featuring the Thunderbirds.

My father-in-law, Larry, is a former Air Force pilot with a highly accurate internal sense of direction. My son, Luke, wants very badly to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, though I fear the Air Force will swiftly reject him if his eyesight and willingness to make his bed do not improve dramatically in coming years.

My husband and I joined them, he lured by the opportunity to bond with the men in his life, and I by the potential for a nap on the way there.

We pulled into a barren dirt parking lot roughly the size of Lake Michigan, guided uniformly into a spot somewhere, apparently, in the back. We failed to note any landmarks near our car, namely because there weren’t any. Nor did we pay any attention to the unending stream of cars that flowed into the lot behind us.

No, we simply followed the herd to the shuttle headed for the base, where we toured a sampling of what has got to be the world’s most intimidating aircraft and witnessed a breathtaking display of aerial stunt work by the (fabulous) Thunderbirds that left me wishing every war could be settled with style points. We would win, and quickly.

After the show ended we hopped the first bus we could back to the lot. Over 100,000 people were expected that day. As we unloaded into the now completely full parking lot it was clear all 100,000 had made it there, each in separate vehicles.

“Let’s head to the back,” my husband said, surveying the sea of cars.

“I think it’s more to the right,” Larry countered.

“I slept all the way here,” I offered, following the former navigator to the right.

And so it began. We wandered in the desert like Moses and his people without water or manna, looking for the (promised) van. At first it was funny. We laughed at the car alarms calling to their owners. We bonded with other lost drivers. But we soon grew despondent.

“Woo-Hoo!” shouted one woman as she danced to her Highlander.

“Luckies,” Luke muttered in despair.

The lot slowly emptied. We questioned what color minivan we had rented. We walked by the same white truck with an orange bucket on top 163 times. We felt like morons.

And we did this for 90 minutes. Ninety. Long. Minutes.

Covered in dirt inside and out, we finally found our car in the one section of the one row we had failed to search. Ironically, the exact spot my husband had tried to lead us to an hour and a half earlier.

He was right, we were wrong. But that doesn’t really matter, does it? What matters is that we made it back to the clean, cool car, and no ever need mention this incident again.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at


DONOLOVER 7 years, 1 month ago


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