Monday, April 19, 2010

Under a Cloud of Ashes

The short story is that while things looked tight for a bit thanks to the Iceland volcano eruption, I will be flying to New York a little later than planned. It's too soon to say with any certainty, but my guess is I'll be in the US by next Tuesday, the 27th.

The long story is that Eyjafjallajokull (pronounce that one for 10 points) blew up, sending a cloud of ash covering most of the European continent at 30,000 feet-- right where the planes fly. Spain was not covered by the ash cloud. So you'd think Spain would be unaffected, right? Wrong.

Madrid has buses to Barcelona running about every 30 minutes any given day. I wanted to get one at 1:00pm. I couldn't get one until 7:30pm, because all the others were booked solid. In fact, I wouldn't have been able to get even that if somebody hadn't cancelled-- I would have been waiting until the next day.

Stranded travelers from all over the world have diverted their flights from London, Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt, Berlin, Dublin, Copenhagen, and beyond, and directed them to Madrid. Then they're taking ground transport home. Buses are jammed. Trains are jammed. Spanish car rental companies have been forced to issue decrees saying their cars aren't allowed to leave the country, because too many people have already taken cars and driven off the France and beyond.

When I finally arrived at 3:30am, I met a group of stranded study abroad students trying to sleep in the only room of the bus station open between 2 and 5:30am. They had been waiting for over 24 hours after their domestic flight to Madrid had been cancelled. Fun times trying to sleep and waking up next to homeless people. They were pretty miserable.

I don't have it so bad. I was counting on a method for flying involving waiting lists. That doesn't work very well when an entire continent is trying to buy tickets for your preferred flights. Briefly, it looked bad enough for me to take a trip down to the port and ask about boats crossing the Atlantic (there basically aren't any from here). But now that Eyjafjallajokull has calmed down a bit, it looks like I'll be able to fly from Barcelona in about a week.

So that means less time traveling around the US when I get back (I've got some judicial responsibilities to attend to in Chicago for a certain four days), but I'll make NY and Chicago as planned. We'll take it from there.


  1. Hopefully you can enjoy a few volcanic sunsets before your flight to NYC. The ash from Krakatoa inspired the French Impressionists, you know.

  2. Since you are a native of a state with several active volcanoes, you can take this pretty well in stride.....although striding across the Atlantic is not so easy. Good luck with getting a flight. I think everyone is avoiding pronouncing the Icelandic and saying "Iceland volcano". When the bigger one next to it blows, we'll work on the pronunciation to distinguish between the two. :)

  3. Tom Brown, the tracker guy, says you're only lost if you have to get to a particular place by a particular time. Guess that's kinda like being stranded by a volcano. If you really don't have to be some place, you get to see and do more stuff!

    Although by now you may be wanting to see and do more stuff here....