mardi 24 mai 2011

Memorial Day weekend plans are a wash


In Montana, when it rains it floods

It would have been nice to spend five days under the open skies of south central Montana, on the banks of the Stillwater river, in the shadow of the Beartooth mountains.

The closest airport to our place is in Billings, which is just over an hour away by car. If you click on the title, you'll see a photo showing what the recent heavy rainfall has done to this part of Montana. Though nothing like the wave of tornadoes ripping through Missouri and now Oklahoma, the recent weather event has caused one death so far and flood warnings remain in effect. According to meteorologists, otherwise known as The People Who Ruin Your Vacation Plans:

Montana is at the soggy center of the weather pattern. Flood warnings already have been issued for 35 counties...[and] a series of storms is expected to further soak the state through the next week. Colorado and Wyoming also could get hit.


Driving fourteen hours to spend several days cooped up in a house does not seem like a necessary thing to do, even though thunderstorms are promised. I like thunderstorms, but not that much. Mathilde will return to the south of France without having seen Montana. And we will not get back to big sky country as soon as we hoped. I have been known to leave my home base for a vacation without checking destination weather conditions. Once I had to buy a sweater in Sweden, having left the sweltering August heat of Paris without bothering to see what was happening up in Stockholm. Up is the operative word in that sentence, as in up north. When I went to Iceland in 2003, it was so hot in France that 15,000 people died. It was pouring rain and about 45 when the plane landed in Reykavik; it felt like Seattle in February or March (or, let's be honest, May). The first time I visited Ireland, also in the month of August, I was coming off the crushing tropical heat of Shanghai and a month in warm and sunny Paris. In fact, my last memory of Shanghai is the torrential downpour that happened just before I left for the airport. The taxi I managed to find drove through streets that were quickly becoming little rivers. Faster, I kept thinking, drive faster, before we are swept away. So anyway, Dublin: I really wasn't expecting rain and 55 degrees. It felt like Darkness at Noon. Is this exceptional? I asked a shopkeeper. No, he said, this is typical summer weather for Ireland.

The good news is that we're not in Reykavik right now. A second volcano has erupted; ash is swirling all around; flights are being cancelled left and right. The reason to go to Iceland is to see some of the most extraordinary scenery on earth. The food is not even mediocre and costs a fortune. A glass of wine sets you back something like 15 euros. Imagine being stuck there without the consolation of the landscape and being unable to drown your sorrows without going bankrupt. About the only option remaining would be the famed Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, which specializes in treating psoriasis.