Travelin’ with Dulcimers…A Northwest Report (September 2007)

[originally published in 2007 on, copied and republished here with corrected formatting on 4/11/2009]

I just returned from a trip to South Carolina. I was visiting a lifelong friend who lives near Charleston. This was a great time for me to test the baggage claims of Northwest Airlines….

Some of you might have seen my “golf club” airline travel case, as I have had it standing in my kitchen next to the garage door for a few weeks….ready to go. On the advice of a friend of a friend..(David Beede told Adrian Kosky, and Adrian told me…) I purchased from a store called Sports Authority, a hardshell golf bag case that is approved for airline travel. The case meets the weight and length requirements for the checked baggage on most airlines, as I understand. My double duty mountain dulcimer bag which I purchased from Lee and Doug Felt while attending my sixth or seventh week long mountain dulcimer workshop at Western Carolina University, fits very snuggly inside the hardshell golf case. From what I was told by my enthusiastic and musically excitable source…the hardshell golf club case is the perfect guise for safe airline transportation of my beautiful and precious mountain dulcimer(s) (yes, I traveled with TWO mountain dulcimers — a gorgeous Blue Lion and my cutesy/handsome Bill Taylor’s dulcimette — as I go most places with more than one instrument these days), as the baggage claim technicians might assume a pilot’s golf clubs are contained inside it and….more gently sling the case into the plane’s cargo compartment.

I’m assuming that info was true, because when my mountain dulcimers finally did arrive at my destination via Northwest Airlines, they were safe and sound and snug inside the Doug and Lee Felt, double duty, dulcimer bag which was sandwiched between two beach towels that could expect a day or two in the sun very soon and wedged at the either end of the DDDB inside the hardshell golf case. (click on the blue title to continue reading this article)

This was the first flight for me, traveling as a dulcimer whatever…and I was a little nervous about the safety of my mountain dulcimers. The banjo on my back was doing just fine….once I quoted the regs to the nice gate attendant who wanted me to throw it on the gate check baggage cart. It does pay-off to read up on an airline’s regulations about carry on luggage…and then arrange to have the largest purse one can carry in hand and the allowed musical instrument hanging discretely in a backpack style soft case. Note to self, and to whomever might read this….don’t travel with a favorite sparkly belt if your intention is to travel low profile with a banjo on your back….it was a little awkward to buckle my shoes and belt up, too, with that banjo case bouncing around on my back.

Well, the point of this article was to write about traveling with my dulcimers via Northwest Airlines…Baggage check in Memphis, TN, was a breaze….the flight was fine….and my dulcimers were safe, as I mentioned earlier, once they finally arrived. It was my first disheartening experience to have my luggage lost. Not the first time my luggage was lost…..but I really don’t mind replacing old t-shirts, sandals, and such, but not having my dulcimer…I mean golf club case…arrive in Charleston when I did, was very upsetting. Particularly since the airport in Charleston, SC, has no Northwest Airlines Baggage Claim Office, and on the day I arrived no one was to be seen at the ticket counter for over an hour and no answer to the airport intercom page was received when I whined at the information desk about not having my coughgolfclubcasecough or my other withinthespecifiednumberofpiecesof checked luggage.

After visiting with my dear friend and her three sons, I took a midnight rental car ride, directed by Hertz’s NeverLost GPS system…a system that I HIGHLY recommend btw, back to the airport to find a friendly Northwest agent to be the ONLY one at any of the ticket counters at that hour….and, my golf club/dulcimer bag case(s) were awaiting being picked up by moi.

Amazingly, the trip home from Charleston, SC, to Memphis, TN, was a piece of cake…no hastles (save the sparkly belt situation), and my golf club case was the first thang off the plane and onto the baggage claim conveyor belt and waiting for me when I arrived. <br><br>Hmmmmmmaybe it’s the Memphis pilots who are the golfers….maybe we need to convert them to be players of sweet music? Waddayathink? Any pilots out there reading up on this and wanting a lesson on less stressin’ through makin’ more Memphis music?
Back to Strummin’ in Memphis….
Carla Maxwell

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