It might have been the best Christmas present ever; in mid-December I received this e-vite to attend the Global Launch of the Discovery Sport in Iceland the following month.
You can tell I don't get these often. My first response to Land Rover was that I needed to let Rovers North, the publisher, know the cost of the event as we had already set our budget for 2015. "No, no," said their representative, "everything will be covered by Land Rover." I accepted before I even notified Rovers North! Clearly someone had dropped out and they had extra spaces.. but I didn't care whether I was first or last - I was heading out to Iceland.
The requirements poured in from their travel agency in California. What were my preferred flights and airports? What was my passport number? Did I have the required international driver's license? What were my coat size and glove size?
Vinalhaven has a dirt airstrip served by Penobscot Island Air, an air taxi service. While they're quite a wonderful service, the costs are above my price range and generally I fly them only when I'm accompanying a patient on an EMS evacuation. But they fly into Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head, ME, which has daily service to Boston via Cape Air [to whom I have a sentimental attachment]. Iceland Air flies direct from Boston to Reykjavik. Imagine, no ferry, no driving or bus - no to be. The agency tried but found that the return trip would not work as Cape Air does not have a late flight back to Owls Head. So instead, I had to "suffer" with a long ferry ride, a drive in the Corvair to Portland, Jet Blue to New York's JFK, and then Iceland Air to Reykjavik.
The passport would be tight in terms of turnaround time but an extra $100 to the Department of State and a trip to Rockland's Post Office for photos did the trick [fortunately I still had my expired passport]. The international driver's license was simple to get; I stopped at the AAA office during a trip to Portland; 15 minutes and $20 later, I had one.
The itinerary from LRNA promised a tight schedule.To make the flights I had to leave the island on the 7:00 am ferry Tuesday, January 20 [of course I had an EMS call the night before so I only go a few hours sleep). I started driving towards Portland around 8:30 with a stop at L.L. Bean for winter weather socks and got to the Portland Jetport [yes, that's its real name] with plenty of time to spare before my 3:00 pm flight to New York.
Arriving a JFK I found out that the "Saga Class" ticket I had was the same as First Class and that it entitled me to wait in the British Airways Lounge that Iceland Air shared with them. This was ridiculously comfortable; any drinks you wanted, fine hors d'ouevres, plenty of comfortable couches and seats, lots of International Men and Women of Mystery, even cell phone charger kiosks. Decadence becomes me, I think.
I overheard some men discussing automobiles and took a guess that we might be on the same flight for the same purpose; indeed, that was the case. Land Rover put us all in Saga Class. That, combined with the utterly charming flight attendants, astonishingly good food and a pleasant seatmate, made the 6 hour trip go by reasonably well - considering all the time i had spent sitting aboard the ferry, in my Corvair, at airports and lounges and airplanes.
When we landed in Reykjavik charming people held placards that read 'Land Rover." I got my bag through customs quickly enough and then boarded a bus with about 40 other journalists from around the US. We had a 90 minute ride in the January darkness [you get only 6 hours of daylight this time of year in Iceland]. The bus had the European style of great height and narrow width. My seatmate was a good-natured but large guy from the West Coast and he was not comfortable with the required seatbelt.
We drove around the narrow ring road around Reykjavik's rush hour traffic and finally headed east to our destination, the Hotel Ion. It truly sat seemingly in the middle of nowhere, looking for all the world like a space station hovering above a moonscape.
Once deposited we had a few hours to get our rooms and rest up before the driver orientation and first day of life with the Discovery Sport.