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Volcanic ash extends Clarkesville couples trip to Scotland
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Listen as Jasper Lee of Clarkesville talks about being stranded in Scotland because of a volcanic ash cloud floating across Europe.

Scotland has been nice, but it’s time to get home.

Jasper Lee of Clarkesville left for the European country on April 12, as part of a Collette Vacations tour group, with plans of returning April 21.

The day after arriving in Edinburgh, he picked up a newspaper with a headline announcing a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull was causing havoc for air travel across the continent.

“We kept hoping things would get back to normal before we were ready to leave,” Lee said in a phone interview on Thursday. “Three days before departure, it dawned on us we might have problems.”

Initially, Lee and his wife, Delene, were rescheduled to leave on May 4, but that was later changed to April 27.

Still, the delays have been frustrating.

“Our time here has been wonderful and we never experienced any of the ash or any of the conditions from the volcano ... about 1,000 miles away from northern Scotland,” Lee said. “We’re just surprised airplanes aren’t flying.”

The Lees are part of a group of about 25 travelers who may have to split up to get back to the U.S.

“It’s hard to get a plane to keep us all together,” he said.

In the meantime, members of the group are busy canceling and changing appointments, including Lee, who had a meeting on Tuesday.

“We are absolutely looking forward to getting home,” said Lee, editor and partial author of applied science textbooks for Prentice Hall.

In addition to fixing commitments back home, tourists must spend more for their prolonged stays.

“We are no longer on tour,” Lee said. “The tour isn’t covering our costs.”

Fortunately, trip insurance is offsetting costs at $100 per day. But the Lees’ hotel room in downtown Edinburgh is costing them $160 per day.

“We’re ... in a very nice hotel right across from some of the (country’s) major museums, so we’re able to ease over to some of (them),” Lee said. “But mostly, we stay fairly close to some sort of telephone just to see if word comes through we can go to the airport.”

European airspace on Friday was almost completely free of volcanic ash from Iceland, according to Eurocontrol, the air traffic agency. All of British airspace was available after four small airports in Scotland reopened.

But for the first time since the April 14 eruption, Iceland’s major international airport was closed after shifting winds blew the ash cloud toward the capital of Reykjavik, west of the volcano. Trans-Atlantic flights on Icelandair that usually stop in Iceland were being rerouted through Glasgow in Scotland.

Schools in Scotland were on a two-week break when the crisis occurred, with many families traveling abroad, Lee said.

“So, all those people will have been stranded and couldn’t get home when school started back Monday,” he said. “This has been a real hardship on ... those families.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.