Thursday, April 22, 2010

Escaping the Volcano - PostScript

Having been a Boy Scout, I was trained to always "be prepared". But for a Volcano and airports shut down for a week?   Really?

Before I left, I was well aware of that I might require additional medication beyond that specifically designated for the 22 day scheduled vacation. I took another couple of day’s worth of pills, just in case. It turned out that I was a few days short.

After the Icelandic volcano blew its lid last Wednesday, our flights home were canceled less than 24 hours before we were to leave on Saturday from Marseille to Paris, then on to London, and finally Vancouver. I decided to wait for a day or 2 to see how the mess would be sorted out. No use becoming part of the panicky mob camping out at airports. Hedging my bets, I booked 2 alternative sets of flights departing Wednesday, one through London and the other through Barcelona. I was not sure how we were going to get to either, but felt some comfort that if anything was leaving Europe for North America we had the basics covered. Tuesday morning brought the moment of decision and, while some optimism was being expressed with respect to the London alternative, getting there from Provence and the risk of joining the throng of thousands of other desperate refugees seeking a flight, we elected Barcelona.

The kindness of our hosts knew no bounds and, after a five-hour car ride to Barcelona, we stayed at an extraordinarily nice hotel quite near to the airport. The reasonable price included a 6 course evening meal, plus breakfast. This allowed us a leisurely time on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning before our flight was to depart and to say au revoir to our friends.

Of course, the best laid plans, and reservations, are prone to go awry. We were up at 5 AM on Wednesday morning to undertake the impossible; packing all of our European treasures and mementos, some of which were fragile, into already overstuffed bags, somehow magically ensuring that they weighed no more than 50 pounds each (so as to avoid an overweight luggage charge). Barely had we begun than we were greeted by an e-mail saying that our flight had been delayed over 2 hours. This, of course, totally eliminated the viability of our connecting flight through Atlanta, which was then to connect through to Vancouver. Wanting to face the problem head on and personally (you could wait hours on the phone and Internet changes were prohibited), I headed out to the airport to see what could be done. The lineups were astonishing! Fortunately, I had printed boarding passes, having checked in online, and was directed straight to the front of the line, where alternate arrangements were made getting us as far as Portland, Oregon, where we would have to overnight. This worked perfectly for us, given that Renae's family resides just across the Columbia River. In addition, given that we had planned to turn around and drive back to Vancouver, Washington, on a Thursday night for a wedding on Friday, this all began to make sense, as if it was planned from the beginning.

At 11 PM Wednesday, Portland time, some 27 hours after arising in Barcelona, Spain, we were picked up at the Portland airport and taken in by the kindness of others. While the details of the trip home, or almost home, went well (including lining up next to Morley Safer of "60 Minutes” fame) considering the debacle faced by many others with similar challenges, it proved to be a bit challenging for me due to my lack of medications for past several days. While I normally sleep anywhere, anytime, and easily on airplanes (usually before they have left the ground), I developed what was called Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), a rather unpleasant malady that can be related to Parkinson's disease. It is difficult to explain, but begins after you are sitting or lying down and begin to relax or attempt to sleep. Commencing with an uncomfortable series of twinges up and down your legs, there follows an irresistible urge to move them. This results in twisting and turning your legs, crossing, folding and changing their positions endlessly, or walking. Any of these are difficult to carry out for a long time anywhere, but on a crowded airplane at 30,000 feet it is virtually impossible. Try explaining this odd series of disruptive behaviors to your already frustrated fellow passengers.

Please Note: effective immediately, new rules for old ex-Boy Scouts: ALWAYS take double the amount of medication you think you will need when traveling.


  1. welcome home! Sounds like it was a great trip...even with the volcano delays. It gives some interesting stories to tell, that's for sure. :)

  2. Carol White WileyMay 8, 2010 at 9:42 PM

    Glad you made it home. RLS is so not fun. I had that while I was on dialysis, so I can relate to your predicament on the airplane.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your blog.
    Happy anniversary to you and Renea!

  3. I got restless leg syndrome from a cholesterol lowering med. I told doctor I'd rather die with a clogged artery than not sleep due too rls. So I went off meds for a few months. Once the LDL got too high again, he gave me a different kind and took it and slept well and no rls. However, after a few months it started making my hip joint hurt, so I'm not taking it now. Probably will go back on it eventually.