Getting lost on the information superhighway … or how I ended up at Possum Kingdom Lake instead of Jamaica

Woke up a recent morning on the way to Jamaica and ended up hiking at Possum Kingdom Lake.

This story has little to do with Jamaica and even less with Possum Kingdom Lake. It has to do with living at a time there’s so much information available but it’s more difficult to connect with a real person to get answers … and if we do, the answer may not be accurate.

This 2022 travel saga (not to be confused with the 2021 travel saga?) began when I found out the band Little Feat would be playing in a five-day music festival called Feat Camp 2022 at an all-inclusive Jamaican resort.

Most of you probably have never heard of the Feat, as fans call them. But the group’s 1973 song “Dixie Chicken” inspired a female trio to call themselves the Dixie Chicks, who, as y’all know, feature Lubbock-raised Natalie Maines. Yes, they recently changed their name to the Chicks,

The Feat were an L.A. band, so I could have easily seen them growing up in L.A. in the 1970s, but didn’t discover them until the 1990s.  Then, while I was editor of the Elkhart (Indiana) Truth newspaper, I started working on a multi-part series about an Elkhart County native who became friends with band and went to their concerts when they toured Indiana  or neighboring states.

Jim was a pathologist who had a cerebral hemorrhage and lost enough function one one side of his body so he couldn’t work. His wife left him, his kids were finishing college and moving on with their lives.

Jim lost most of the things that make most people happy and fulfilled.

He ended up happier and a big part of it was his relationship with this rock band from Hollywood. He’d reached out to them and asked for backstage passes for an upcoming concert.

In reporting the story 20-plus years ago, I asked Bill Payne, the band’s keyboard player, why he gave this guy the backstage pass.

Payne said he didn’t want Little Feat to blow people off. Could you imagine the Rolling Stones connecting with people at that level? Payne appreciated the fans and it started this wonderful relationship between the Jim, his brother Fred and his wife and the band.

The wife was a home economics teacher and made Hawaiian shirts for everyone in the band. She brought treats.

At one concert in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Payne told the crowd how good those treats were.

The story was how this man lost almost everything and ended up happier … Little Feat was just part of that story. But it was fun attending a number of Little Feat shows in Indiana, Michigan and Illinois with Jim and his family.

Once, at the House of Blues in Chicago, the trio were standing in front of the stage. Shaun Murphy, who was then singing with the band, bent down, took Jim’s chin in her hand. She serenaded him while singing “Changin’ Luck.” That became the name of the award-winning series.

My appreciation for Little Feat’s music grew at all those shows … but I really appreciated the way Bill Payne and late Feat drummer Richie Hayward treated Jim and his family. They visited with them backstage or on the tour bus after shows.

Fast forward to last fall when I found out Little Feat  would be playing four nights on a Jamaican beach with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Tommy Emmanuel (who’s played our Cactus Theater) and two other acts.

The New Mexican said Jamaica was on her bucket list so we booked it.

Two weeks before the trip. I knew we needed negative COVID tests within 72 hours of leaving for Jamaica and decided to shut down being around people. A few days later, we took tests to just make sure we were negative so we didn’t have any surprises within the 72-hour window.

Surprise. Now negative … I was positive. Fortunately, the New Mexican was negative. I moved to an air mattress in another room and we kept our distance.

I was vaccinated and boosted and it only felt like a slightly nagging cold. Never a fever. I was glad we bought trip insurance but hoped for a negative test before we’d leave.

I thought my chances were good because I went past the CDC standards for quarantining but found out you can test positive well after you’re no longer contagious. And Jamaica demands a negative test.

We were supposed to fly out on Sunday.

Early that Friday, I tested again. Positive.

Later that same day, the New Mexican saw something about people getting a “fit to fly” letter from a doctor.

I called the group putting on the tour to ask if this was possible. They didn’t answer a number of calls. I emailed them. No response. The New Mexican called American Airlines numerous times and could only get someone on a chat. This person on chat said a fit-to-fly letter with a positive test would be OK in Jamaica.

The New Mexican specifically asked if that would be OK for Jamaica and the answer was yes.

I got the letter after visiting with a doctor.

The trip was back on.

Saturday we drove to Dallas, got a room by the airport and was at the American Airlines counter well before our flight.

We gave a woman all our stuff … and the trip was off. She said the person on the chat was wrong and you can only go to Jamaica with a negative test.

She said I could go down a little ways and get another test. So we did. Positive again.

But while I was waiting for the results, I got a call from a guy who said he was with the Tarrant County Health Department and told me I had a positive test. The people had not even come out to tell me yet. He said I must send him a letter from the airline saying my flight was canceled  because he had to contact the boarding gate. He didn’t say it, but was it to keep me from making a run for the gate?

Insulted? Yes. Added to injury? Yes.

I’ve been very vocal since the pandemic started about being responsible and I have been … being ridiculed by people who felt government has gone too far.

That call made me a little more sympathetic to those arguments.

But I still believe it was responsible to get vaccinated and if COVID hadn’t gotten so politicized many lives could have been saved.

We got back to the car. I knew we’d gotten too good a parking space. We found a place for breakfast and started driving back to Lubbock. Along the way we decided to break up the drive by taking a little hike at Possum Kingdom Lake.

Was this a tragedy?

Not at all. A small, frustrating  interruption of a wonderful life.

And should we have tried to confirm the chat info? We tried by contacting the trip company and couldn’t get an answer. Maybe we should have done more research. Maybe I wanted to believe the chat info … and why shouldn’t I?

Ultimately, though, it’s my responsibility to have the right information. But getting that information isn’t as easy as I hoped.

Since getting home. we’ve tried to contact the airline to complain and still can not connect with a real person. Then came the sub-freezing weather when we were supposed to be on a tropical beach.

That’s just cold, man.