27 September 2010--All the usual pre-trip jitters...spent half of yesterday looking for my iPod (it had slipped
under the closet door). I was very late planning this year, and as usual the plan changed quite a lot as the summer
passed. The hook finally revealed itself: two nights on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, in Northumbria, early in the
trip; and two on the Isle of Iona, on Scotland's west coast, late. Monastic bookends. The exciting thing in between
is that Win and Scott are coming over for nine days. Win has traveled with me to Iceland, Norway, and Orkney. We've
been begging Scott to join us for years, and can scarce believe that it's finally happening. We've settled on an
itinerary that will show them a cross-section of Scottish history and geography. That there will be a top-notch pub to
inhabit every night is, of course, mere coincidence.
Last night the Tannahill Weavers played at the Iron Horse in Northampton. I hadn't planned for that, but it was too serendipitous to pass up. They played a fine set, a very suitable warm-up for the weeks ahead.
Win drives me to the airport this morning. I check in and settle down by the gate with my laptop. Bradley International Airport has its pluses, free wi-fi being one.
At about 11:30, it's announced that the 12:40 flight to JFK will be delayed, estimated 2:15. Rebooking is offered for those making connections. Being at the end of a long and slow-moving line, I decide to go have lunch instead. When I come back an hour later, I'm only three places further back in line. At this point, estimated departure is 2:45. I'm told I can't rebook for a later flight from JFK to Paris because as it stands I still have forty minutes to make my connection. Mm hmm, have heard this before, and have a vivid memory of spending the night on the floor at JFK after a missed connection to Portland, Oregon.
In the end, it's moot, because the flight is canceled. The agent rebooking me first offers a flight to Minneapolis, connecting to Amsterdam. But the flight to Amsterdam is tomorrow night. What good is that? Instead, I book the same flights tomorrow I was supposed to take today.
Now what to do? Call Win to take me home? No, I have taken enough time out of his business day. Stay at the airport hotel? I'm quoted a price of $188. No thanks. Rent a car? $120 for one day! In the end, I find a room at the Days Inn for $78 (which turns out to be $88 with tax, thank you very much). I settle in for a nap, having second thoughts...maybe I should have gone to Minneapolis. Who knows what will happen to this flight tomorrow? As I'm ready to nod off, I realize that I have a room booked in Hexham, and a rental car waiting at Newcastle. I get a message to the B&B, and call my rental car broker, AutoEurope of Portland, Maine. Ladies and gentlemen, as displeased as I am with Delta Airlines at the moment, I am here to tell you that AutoEurope, who I've been using for years, is first rate. The prices are as good as any, there are no fees for changes or cancellations, and there's someone at the phone 24/7. If you're an American looking to book a car in Europe, I don't think you can do better.
After my nap, I pop down to the Ruby Tuesday down the street for dinner and a pint or two. I'm contemplating the menu when the waitresses bring a tray of sliders around--it's a Monday Night Football thing. I have three at kick-off, and two more at halftime. Not the greatest dinner, but the price is right.
Reflecting on the day's events, I obviously rue the loss of a day in Hexham. But oddly enough, I can't help but feel that this unscheduled layover has its bright side. I'm over the pre-trip jitters--I've been On The Road, my natural habitat, for hours now. I'll set out tomorrow more relaxed and better rested than I did today.
But the damn flight to JFK had better go on time.