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.