40° 46’ 29” N, 73° 52’ 20” W
LaGuardia Airport, NYC
Breakfast: Chicken Noodle Soup, Chocolate-covered almonds, tall coffee (blonde & sweet)
They say that travel to Antarctica is not easy; in fact it has to be earned. Under normal circumstances, this means a flight from wherever to a major city, then a flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina, then another flight to Ushuaia – the last city at the bottom of the world before the Drake Passage and the great white continent.
So far, this trip has been anything but normal. After days of sweating (and not sleeping) thanks to a whopping snow storm which cut off most of the East Coast at the knees, I then had to beg, plead and bribe a taxi driver with a $50 tip to get me to JFK for my arranged flight leaving from LAN airlines at 8pm.
Ha. That doesn’t sound too bad, right?
You see, originally I was supposed to fly out on American on the 26th. Because of the storm, American got me confirmed on LAN. Well, at least they thought they did. I got to LAN, found out that their flight was delayed until the next morning, and no, Virginia, you are NOT confirmed. American Airlines confirmations are the equivalent of flying standby – EVERY LEG OF THE JOURNEY.
No fucking way – its one thing to accept a leg (or even two) of a journey on standby, but the whole enchilada? Uh uh.
I sat in the JFK Terminal 4 along with several thousand other stranded folk from Chile, Peru, Israel, England, Ireland, Canada… yeah, the list goes on and we were all very burnt out, but damn, if it wasn’t one of the most charming experiences I’ve ever had. People would ask each other to watch their luggage, they go get coffee and then bring back 10 cups with milk, sugar, cookies, donuts, fries, burgers… without even asking. Never wanting a cent. Just wanting to share a smile. Share an experience. Be part of the great insanity that ensued.
I made so many friends in those hours of agony. That is, until my incredibly and most fantastic mother..
Yes, folks — the original SuperMom — came in. My mother is a retired American Express travel agent. She arranged travel for goons all over the world and did it with such panache that to this day, most of her former clients still miss her personal and most tenacious touch.
One phone call to her and within the hour, the most phenomenal woman in all of American Airlines sat on the phone with me from 9pm until 1am and made absolutely sure there were REAL flights for me – all back on American. Sure, it meant I had to flag a taxi and get my butt from JFK over to LaGuardia, but I most happily obliged (I’ve always been partial to LGA anyhoo).
Yes, I got that woman’s name and I am most certainly going to send her a big bouqet of flowers AND I’m already crafting a missive to American. They need to make Rachel (my AA agent) queen of the world.
So… I’m currently sitting, sipping coffee, having been warmed by chicken soup from Au Bon Pain that under normal circumstances would have tasted like water, but for me, tasted like the finest cuisine on the planet. Hot, chunks of chicken, crisp carrots… did I say hot? Yeah – the 30 minutes standing outside at JFK waiting for a cab in 20° F weather gave me the chills (that and the lack of sleep). For perhaps the only time in my life, I will say: “Airport food is manna from heaven.”
6pm, Dallas Airport (DFW)
(depart for Buenos Aires in 1 hour)
A quick wrap-up. I’m shoving food down my gullet, tons of hot tea, hot soup, juice – all in an effort to fight off what feels like the beginnings of a sore throat. Of course, the fact that I’ve gone without sleep for a few days might have something to do with how I feel.
On that note, I will wave goodbye to everyone – I might have the opportunity to arrange for a blog entry from the wild south, but I’m not sure. So for each of you, dear readers, I wish a very Happy New Year’s eve and I’ll see you on the other side!
Antarctica’s Asgard Range