The journey home

As previously mentioned on RICH RIPLEY, the blog, I traveled to Berlin Germany to visit our youngest daughter.  The sights, the food and drink, as well as getting to visit Macy, was well worth the price of the tickets.  I’ve traveled alone to Japan and Germany in the past few months, and what I’ve discovered is that there are friendly folks all over this planet.  Getting through international airports, from one terminal to another and finding my next flights gate can be a daunting task.  I’m not necessarily the smartest guy around (stop and take that in….it just blew your mind!) but I’ve usually been able to find someone along my path to guide me to where I need to go.  Politeness, common courtesy and a friendly smile go a long way in most situations.  The following are some notes that I jotted down during my vacation, flying to and from Germany.

  • At O’Hare airport in Chicago: the rule of thumb for any Starbucks situated in a big, busy airport is to only have two employees working behind the counter while a third is seemingly constantly on break (standing on the customer side of the counter-talking to the two that are working).  Scheduling any more than two, or three, would mean that the line waiting for coffee would become shorter than twenty customers.
  • At O’Hare airport in Chicago: It amuses me what folks choose to wear when traveling.  I usually wear nicer, but comfortable clothes.  Other folks wear suits or nice dresses, whereas some folks wear wild, brightly colored jogging suits from the 90’s or a combination that looks like they got dressed in the dark at a rummage sale.  I call these travelers wardrobe  “flea-market circus”.  I like the name so much that I might trademark it and start a clothing empire.  “Flea-Market Circus.  When you want to stand out from the crowd but blend in with the clowns”.  Coming soon to a strip mall near you.”
  • While flying into Charles De Gaulle airport in France on my way home:  The French countryside looks stunningly beautiful, so did the English countryside when I flew into London coming over.  I realize that even though I’ve traveled quite a bit there’s more of God’s green earth that I’ll probably never see in this lifetime…but I’m okay with that.  At least I got to see it from “up here”.

I was supposed to fly into Paris Thursday morning, then waltz over to another terminal and make my connecting flight back to the good old U S of A at noon, BUT the early flight to Paris was sold out (remember that whole computer glitch thing at United Airlines when I started this trip?  It was still kind of biting me in the butt.)  The next morning flight into Paris left a 70 minute window for me to: land, get my bag, find the train to the other terminal, find my gate and check in….and totally freak out when this didn’t happen.  Sadly I had already purchased that ticket from Expedia.com (w/o insurance of course) and spent roughly forty minutes on the phone with them (without an international phone plan=$78 phone call).  Long story short I bought a ticket that would leave Berlin early in the evening on Wednesday and get into Paris around 8 at night….where I’d have a SIXTEEN HOUR WINDOW of time to really, really get to know Terminal 2A at Charles De Gaulle airport.  I’m glad that I did since it took me over an hour to make it to the correct terminal on Wednesday night.

Once on the ground and in the correct terminal I noticed that the shops and food stands were shutting down, at nine at night.  I hastily made a purchase of some junk food to stave off hunger though the long night, and connected to their free wifi.  Thank God some of my friends kept me awake by “talking” to me through Facebook Messenger, where it was 8 PM their time in the States though 3 AM my time in Paris.  Connie, the honorable Mrs. Ripley, decided to do our income taxes that night as well…so there were more than just a few messages sent across the Atlantic that night regarding that.

Terminal 2A at 2 AM. Not. Much. Going. On.

Do you wanna know what happened in Terminal 2A the night of my overnight stay?  Here’s a quick rundown:

  • The guy riding a big floor scrubber did hot-laps for three hours right past where I was sitting.
  • They changed the ceiling light bulbs right outside of the McDonald’s.
  • The soldiers armed with automatic machine guns disappeared.  Apparently once they saw me they figured “old Rowdy” had this area under control.
  • Late arriving flight crews walk past, laughing…headed off to a hotel for the night.  Their work is done for this day.

3:13 AM…Hey hey!!  I’m at single digits until I’m taxi-ing down a runway…headed westward home!!

4:17 AM…Hot dog!!  Foot traffic is picking up.  Airport employees and blurry-eyed travelers getting to their gate for their early morning flights are arriving.

5:25 AM….Screw it.  I’m headed down to customs to see if they’ll let me through to my gate.  So tired.  So.  Freaking.  TIRED.

6:10 AM….At my gate.  Six hours til boarding.  This gate is totally sweet!

Breakfast of Champions

 

7-8 AM…Dozed sitting up.  Bobble-headed it.  I don’t recommend it.

8-11 AM…Cannot remember anything.  Been awake for the most part since 7 AM yesterday.

11:30 AM…The gate crew is very nice.  Total professionals and very patient.

12 AM…Got a seat on the flight.  THANK YOU JESUS!!  This planes a beauty.  787 and the seat next to me is empty.  SCORE!! 

I have a glass of white wine.  Then I have another, then a third.  I watch a movie.  Start another and have supper.  I wind up sleeping four hours, which is a record for me on a plane.

Blazing Saddles. One of my all-time favorites

We land in Chicago a little after two in the afternoon.  I travel to the correct terminal, find my gate, get some pizza and root beer then settle in until they call my name for a stand by seat, which I’m told “isn’t available”.  They board the plane.  “Dear God…I’m going to be stuck here until the next flight at 9…and even then there’s no guarantee that I’ll get on it.” Everyone’s boarded…then…my name is called.  They have a seat for me“Do you mind an emergency exit seat?” they ask.  “I’ve been traveling for around forty hours.  I don’t care where you put me, Ma’am.  I’m just happy to be on that airplane of yours” I reply.  I get a seat and a little over an hour later I’m walking to my pick-up truck.  She’s never looked better.  The air is fresh and crisp.  Someone near is plowing, I can smell that unmistakable scent of freshly turned soil as it hits the air for the first time since last spring.  I’m home, and soon I’ll be in the arms of the woman that I’ve missed.  It’s been a glorious week.  Its about to get better.

Thanks for coming along.

God bless,

R

Sleep deprived is where its at!!

If you had told me just a few months ago that I’d be traveling to Japan this November I’d have thought you were crazy.  Not only is Japan a country that I wasn’t interested in its also a long-ass ways away from Iowa.  But…when your middle daughter (whom you love dearly) moves to Japan to take a job you find that your interest in all things Japanese rises significantly.  Karalee, our middle daughter, teaches English in a school in southern Japan.  Fortunately I can afford the time off and expense of travel to visit her. (remember all of those games that I referee…?  Yeah…some of that money went to this trip)

I decided to make this trip a couple of months ago.  My wife, Connie, wouldn’t be joining me since she was working and also had a trip planned in December to visit Karalee.  With the help of our daughters we planned out what I had to do, when I needed to do it and where I’d end up.  Without their help and expertise I don’t know if I would have been able to make this trip as easily as I did.  Granted…there were some well-place angels along my journey who pointed me in the right direction, and for them, I’m very grateful.

I left Iowa before six in the morning on the 31st, flying first to Denver then onto Los Angles.  I fly stand-by quite a bit.  What that means is that if there’s a seat left empty on the plane, yours truly is in line to buy that empty seat at a reduced price.  There’s no guarantee that I’ll even get a seat on the flight, but there’s a chance I might.  I’ve been left behind before, multiple times if the flight fills up. The bigger the plane, the better the chance to get on.  On the 31st there was a seat in Business class left if I wanted to pay the higher price for it (more than Economy, less than face).  I hadn’t ever flown Business Class before and it was a 12 hour flight to Tokyo so I asked for and got it.  It was over-the-top SWEET!!  My own space.  A totally reclining seat.  Bose noise-muffling earphones.  A top of the line menu (I had the salmon and a hot fudge sundae).  Alcohol, nuff said.  Midnight snack bar. A larger TV monitor.  A better selection of “free” movies and TV shows!!  I was like a kid in a candy store!!  Our flight attendant was Carter…and he was the bomb.  “Another bourbon Mister Ripley?”  Why yes Carter…that’d be excellent.

5489 miles til we land heh? I guess I've got time...

5489 miles til we land heh? I guess I’ve got time…

...for some nuts and adult beverage...

…for some nuts and an adult beverage…

..and an excellent meal. I had the salmon. The whole meal was wonderful

..and an excellent meal. I had the salmon. The whole meal was wonderful

The hot fudge sundae was the bomb!

The hot fudge sundae was the bomb!

The whole experience was wonderful.  I knew that I’d have time to kill during the flight because (wait for it….) I can’t sleep on planes.  Tried it, won’t work.  I always hear someone coughing, or the toilet flushing or a chime or something.  I can’t sleep.  So I was especially excited about the upgraded entertainment options.  After I watched Star Trek 2 I opted for a Melissa McCarthy comedy.

Who doesn't find this funny...? Anyone?

Who doesn’t find this funny…? Anyone?

I watched TV show after TV show.  Read.  Wrote in my journal.  Laid my seat down.  Tossed.  Turned.  Read some more.  Raided the midnight snack island (my take was six lady-finger sandwiches and a handful of delicious cookies).  Anyway…no sleep.  Even in the comfort of Business Class yours truly cannot sleep, but the guy next to me fell asleep shortly after taking off.  I resent him for this. 

Tokyo?! Its getting all real up in here people!!

Tokyo?! Its getting all real up in here people!!

Eventually….we get close to Japan and they serve us breakfast.  It doesn’t feel right eating breakfast when you haven’t slept and you’ve traveled fourteen hours INTO the future.  Towards the end of this day I figure that I stayed awake almost 29 hours straight. (I would NOT recommend it)  At Tokyo I breeze through customs (they’re thrilled to see me, who wouldn’t want to bask in the warm glow of my presence…?) and try to locate the ANA ticket counter for my connecting flight to Miyazaki where Karalee lives.  After several false starts and stops (mostly stops) one of the lady’s at the ANA luggage counter gives me easy to follow directions to the their ticket counter.  I need to stop here and say that the Japanese folks that I ran into were always very polite and courteous, my whole trip.  The ticket counter ladies found my Travelocity reservation and got me my ticket, then referred me to the shuttle that would take me to the correct terminal.  I breezed through a Japanese security check point then onto a shuttle bus where I struck up a nice conversation with two Germans from Munich.  Great guys, too bad we didn’t have time for a beer, but I had to find my gate.

I found my gate!!! I think. Hold on...what's that say...?

I found my gate!!! I think. Hold on…what’s that say…?

Fortunately the sign above rotated between English and Japanese every few seconds and the gates were easily found.

These were all over Japan. Earthquake bars? For the handicapped? Just in case you have a strong stream and need to brace yourself? Not willing to find out...I don't use them...

These were all over Japan. Earthquake bars? For the handicapped? Just in case you have a strong stream and need to brace yourself? Not willing to find out…I don’t use them…

I was feeling kind of sick now…just not right, so I walked around the terminal until I found a place where the food looked good.  I viewed their menu board and hoped that I could make enough sense to them so that I’d get some food.  The young man behind the counter beckoned me over and showed me a menu with photos of the food.   I just pointed to a sandwich and drink and hoped for the best.  It was delicious.  I’m sure that there’s a Japanese word for these sandwiches but in American lexicon it was a cold cut sandwich with avocados and egg salad on it served on a delicate sweet bread.  As soon as I stood up the young man returned and picked up my tray and thanked me (I think…he was smiling and nodding).  Regardless…my first real experience interacting with the locals.  Speaking of locals…they turned out in large numbers to see me off to Miyazaki!!

Its a PACKED HOUSE to see me in Tokyo!! PACKED!!

Its a PACKED HOUSE to see me in Tokyo!! PACKED!!

Once boarded on my flight departing Tokyo we waited…and waited.  Not too long…but a busy night at Tokyo’s International Airport in Haneda.

There's at least two planes behind us out there in the dark...

There’s at least two planes behind us out there in the dark…

My flight to Miyazaki went well, only taking a little over an hour and a half.

Sweet Jesus!! Finally here and headed to Karalee's apartment. Thank you Lord!!

Sweet Jesus!! Finally here and headed to Karalee’s apartment. Thank you Lord!!

Karalee was waiting for me at the airport.  I was so tired and thank goodness everything went well.  One thing that really played with my head is that in Japan they drive on the opposite side of the roads, that combined with going through some mountains, twisting and curving our way there…left me a little weirded out.  Not by her driving….just the whole being sleep deprived and seeing someone in a big truck in what I thought was our lane coming right at us.  Ah…good times being too tired to be totally scared out of my mind.  Once at her apartment I shower and hit the sack.  Too tired to roll over I fall asleep with my body halfway off the mattress that’s laid on the floor for me.  Karalee snaps a photo and sends it to Connie letting her know that I’ve arrived safely…even if I look like I’ve been murdered on her living room floor.  A fun week ensues.  Come along if you like, we won’t be talking politics.  That’s my promise to you.

God bless!

R