Every now and then someone makes a comment about how the romanticism of travel. Well to be fair, it is interesting, you get to meet people from many backgrounds and with some planning you get to see different parts of the world. Most of the time however its a sequence of airport security, hotel bedrooms, meeting rooms and jet lag. The last few days illustrated that well and I’ve averaged around four hours sleep or less a night, with the tedium of packing up each day for yet another flight. All of that compounded by the fact that I am on a set of fairly vicious anti-biotics to handle a poisoned toe. In typical male fashion I had assumed that it would cure itself, but when the purple discoloration started to spread to my foot I reluctantly went to the doctor. The first set of antibiotics had no impact, so I am now on ones that render me vulnerable to fainting if I lead forwards and kill of all the beneficial bacteria in your stomach; you don’t want me to describe those consequences.
Thanks to the volcano I didn’t know I was going to travel until the last moment. American AIrlines kept phoning me up to check I really was going to board as no standbys were allowed at Heathrow. My chance of an upgrade was non existent, but I managed an exit row seat to Chicago and got an upgrade to Denver. Thence a short drive to Fort Collins for a workshop on Friday. From there, as previously reported, the trip to Edmonton was relatively settled and I got my wish to see Drumheller and we had a good couple of sessions in Edmonton. After that however things changed.
My original plan had been to spend Wednesday driving down the Icefield Parkway, stopping overnight at Canmore before making the early morning flight to New York via Chicago. However a storm warning resulted in a change of plan, not only would I see nothing due to rain/snow but I would be at risk of not making the airport. So I spent the morning buying a new bag in the Mountain Equipment Coop (I am a long term member, outstanding Canadian retailer) to accommodate the five new Starbucks city mugs I had acquired and set off south on Highway 2.
Approaching Calgary the storm started to show itself and the wind coming in from the Rockies made driving difficult, but not too bad. I made it to the hotel and settled in. I half debated taking the hire car back to the airport given the deteriorating weather. However it was only a two mile drive so I reckoned it would be all right. Ruben came round to take me out for a meal which was highly enjoyable and I got a good nights sleep. So far I was irritated I had not had a days holiday, and also that I had lost the cost of the Canmore hotel, but not too bad.
However in the morning things started to unravel. I woke up to a good six inches of snow which had fallen that night so I decided to get to the airport early. I really was not dressed for this, so the five minutes it took to clear the car of snow saw me shivering badly, but I set off for the airport. Unfortunately no one had thought to clear or treat the roads. It was a very scary and slow half hour to make those two miles. I was in a small hire car and twice courtesy coaches ahead of me were ill advised enough to use their brakes, in each case resulted in their skidding badly, in once case turning round completely and missing me by a matter of feet. Robust Canadian drivers in massive four by fours were meanwhile ploughing past at speed with scan regard for those of us in lesser vehicles. The turn into the Hertz lot was a blessed relief.
At checkin I discovered that my flight was cancelled and I had been moved back a day. My attempts to get on the morning flight to Dallas which was going were unsuccessful. It had already closed and tickets had been issued. Being moved a day would have resulted in a wasted trip, but if you travel a lot you know your schedules, so I finally made the afternoon flight to Dallas and American organised a “distress” rate at a local hotel with an early morning flight to LGA. In Europe they would have had to pay for it, but not in the USA which has a different attitude to Acts of God and the responsibilities of the individual. The picture shows the seat I occupied from 0530 to 1330 aside from a breakfast break. Free wifi was good news, but no power anywhere that I could use, so with the battery exhausted I had little to do. The Mastercard fraud team enlivened the morning. A petrol station in Edmonton had chosen the wrong pump and then made another mistake which had triggered an alert. I had to read out card number, mothers maiden name etc in a crowded airport, but we resolved that in the end. However any call from a fraud team is stressful.
The Dallas flight finally made it only a half hour late and arrived at Dallas that evening and after waiting for 45 minutes the shuttle for the hotel arrived. Now “distress” rate in this case also meant “distress” in another sense and I slept poorly, in part because I had to get up at 0400, in part because I was aware of wildlife in the various nooks and crannies of the room. At one point I woke up and turned on the light to see three roaches advancing towards me across the sheet. I left early …
The flight the LGA was fine, but then it was a forty minute wait for the shuttle to JFK, then the Air Train, then the long Island railway to Adelphi University. A great session and a lift back to the airport and an American Eagle flight (always stressful in bad weather) saw me land at National at 1130 pm, get to the hotel at midnight thirty hungry enough to need room service followed by four hours sleep and a keynote and half day workshop starting at 0700. To cap it all I discovered a lost VGA connection for the mac so I was forced to export to powerpoint and use a borrowed PC. That was the near final straw, I had forgotten just how bad an operating system WIndows is.
One more night, then I will either sleep on a train for one night, or manage four hours in a hotel by Penn Street station, one night at a friends then an overnight to Heathrow. All of this with multiple time changes.
Still think travel is romantic?
Mind you, I was able to listen to the radio, via the internet, and caught the Blues defeat of the Wasps. So now a trip to Marseille beckons later in May and that will be pure enjoyment (one hopes)
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No phone has turned up so I am now in the process of getting another ...