Traveling from one beautiful destination to another is usually tedious. Sometimes, it’s worse—the stuff of nightmares. I’ve generally, and sometimes very pointedly, omitted these details from my memoir. Here’s an exception.
Getting back to San Francisco from Amsterdam was never going to be comfortable. 12 hours sitting in airplane coaches, with a 2-hour break (theoretically) in Reykjavik. But when we got to the airport, we learned that the flight would be late. Bad weather, maybe—or perhaps, strikes.
If you have to be delayed in an airport, Schipol is not a bad place to do it. World-class food courts with a great range of healthy meals, and even bathrooms with a great view of the tarmac. (Yes, take a good look at that photo!). Even so, that 4 hours would have been better spent at a museum, or on a bicycle ride, and when the plane takes off at 5, we’ve already had a full day, without going anywhere.
A mix-up in the seat assignements means that the two-hour layover in Reykjavik is not spent on needed R&R, or even stretching, but waiting in line with hundreds of other inconvenienced, or even desperate travelers, in a futile effort to get it fixed. Of course, we will see nothing of Iceland, but with the airport socked in by grey drizzle, there would be no chance of that anyway. It’s almost 10 pm, Amsterdam time, when we take off again, with nothing of 9 hours of discomfort to look forward to.
After an hour, featureless cloud cover gave way to open, equally-featureless ocean. But then, suddenly, a dramatic sight appears…
It’s the coast of Greenland! Ice-covered rocks sticking out of the water, at first, then mountains, then glacier, huge and endless.
Quickly, the ice field fills the view, blinding white in all directions; and again, featureless—until 7 hours later, when we are over Oregon. Seven hours that should have been our sleep cycle, with nothing to see but bright sunlight reflected on the snow, and then on the cloud tops, through six time zones. Nothing to see, until the plane starts its descent over San Francisco Bay (top photo).
We have flown a third of the way around the globe to see, and photograph, nothing but this one scene. If it’s the only reward I get for enduring the journey, at least I can share it with you.