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

My Germany journey begins

When you have adult children living and working in different countries, and you wish to see them…like I do, you travel to them.  In this case, Berlin Germany.  I’d never been there, in fact, up until a year ago the only other country that I’d visited had been our good neighbors to the north, Canada.  Our daughter Macy has lived in Berlin for eight months.  I hadn’t seen her since we dropped her off at the airport last summer.  It was a tough moment for my wife and I.  Here was our “baby”, little Macy Sue…all twenty years of her…flying off to be an Au Pair in Germany.  My wife and I would finally be “real” empty-nesters.  Our girls would all be quite a ways away.  Jordan in Miami, Karalee in Japan and now Macy in Berlin.  Needless to say our mood during the ride home from the airport and subsequent evening were “subdued”, almost in mourning.  Our kids….gone.  We missed them already.

Fast forward to January when I started booking my visit to Germany.  I’d be going alone, Connie had to work, plus she had gone over the holidays when I was working.  I fly standby much of the time so I go to the airport and hope to catch a flight.  Normally it works out fairly well, but with United Airlines computer glitch the day before all of my options for flying standby to Germany evaporated the day prior to my departure.  My plans went like this:

  • Cedar Rapids to Charlotte; Charlotte to Paris; Paris to Berlin (all tickets sold out)
  • Cedar Rapids to Chicago or Dallas/Fort Worth; DFW to Paris; Paris to Berlin (all tickets sold out)

It was decided that my best option would be to buy a one-way ticket for a flight leaving Chicago and arriving in Berlin from Air Berlin.  I bought a ticket that way, BUT it wouldn’t use the front end of a connecting flight from Paris to Berlin so I called Expedia.com to see if I could still use the back-end of the return flight Berlin to Paris when I wanted to return home.  Literally an hour and a half on hold with them and I finally reached a person who could tell me “no”, I could not do that.  Airline policy prohibits it.  So, at three in the morning of my departure I purchased a one-way ticket from Berlin to Paris to hook up with my return flight.  Done deal.  I’m good to go!

After arriving at my starting point at the Cedar Rapids airport (at 4:30 AM) I received an email from Air Berlin that my Chicago to Berlin flight had been cancelled overnight, less than twelve hours after I had purchased it,  (I was really, REALLY getting anxious and irritated at this point) BUT the email went onto read “American Airlines picked up the flight, with a transfer to British Airways in London.”  Thank God!!  The trip was still “on”.

My Cedar Rapids to Chicago flight was just fine, I had a twelve-hour layover at O’Hare.  Once you’ve spent time in a big airport terminal, that’s pretty much enough.  I’ve been there several times and appreciate its amenities, though pretty much just waited until my 5:25 PM boarding time.  My flight from Chicago to London went well.  We flew overnight.  I caught a glimpse of the northern lights, which I hadn’t seen since I was a kid growing up on a farm….and I didn’t sleep a wink.  I usually don’t sleep on airplanes, even though it’s not because I’m nervous or anxious.  My day began at 2 AM and it’d be a long, long “day”.

We arrived at Heathrow airport.  The English countryside looked amazingly beautiful and London looked to be a cool city to explore someday.  My layover was only seventy-five minutes, which isn’t much when you’re:

  1. Arriving at one terminal and needing to get to another terminal of a huge airport.
  2. Need to find the shuttle/tram/bus to get to that terminal.
  3. Go through security again. (my tiny tube of Crest toothpaste was eyed closely) AND I received a complimentary pat-down in the home of some of my ancestors.
  4. Locate the gate of my departure only to find out that they wouldn’t post it until forty-five minutes prior to departure. (is it any wonder that we rebelled and formed our own country with airports posting which GATE YOU’RE FLYING FROM in a timely manner?  Just sayin’)

Fortunately I researched the whole “how to get from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5” question while I was sitting in O’Hare for twelve unremarkable hours and found the shuttle easily.  Terminal 5 at Heathrow is really nice.

I was told that the information desk that I was looking for was “down there in the middle.” Do you see it? Yeah…neither did I when I walked around down there.  Those danged Brits and their dry sense of humor.

As with many of my trips I try to gather as much information as I can to ease through airports and such.  Sometimes it works, sometimes you just go on faith that it’ll work out.  I’ve found that being polite, patient and courteous go a long way when asking for information when out of the States. (I can spot Americans at foreign airports, they’re the ones being loud).

While waiting for my British Airways flight I struck up a conversation with a fellow American from Joliet Illinois.  She was traveling to see a sister in Germany and we had a good laugh about the different things just between the English and Americans.  Our flight to Berlin was boarding so we wished each other a good trip and settled into the (quite) nice British jet.

Once on the ground in Germany, the Tegel airport in Berlin is rather old.  They’re building a new airport but it’s not in use as of yet.

Holy smokes!! England and now Germany, plus I got to see the English Channel.  I got a window seat since I’m a big shot in the States.  True story.

Once I was off the plane I got in line to have my passport checked.  Honestly…the guy really gave me a once, then twice over.  Perhaps he was just super impressed to have ANOTHER American enter his country OR that he recognized me from Facebook, regardless he stamped my passport with the authority of a LeBron James slam dunk and handed my passport back.

Customs!  It’s where they really, REALLY go through what you could possibly be bringing into their country.  Since I fly standby I travel very light.  Small suitcase that holds a couple of days worth of clothes and a small backpack.  I read their customs sign carefully, slowly, making sure that I wouldn’t get into the wrong line and end up causing a commotion.  I had to go through the “green door”.  My qualifications indicted that I had to be screened once I entered the “green door”.  “Dear God!!  What could I possibly have to endure?”  The passport guy was intimidating enough!!  I cautiously approached the green door, glanced around…no one else was even CLOSE to going through this door.  I’d probably set off a series of alarms, guns would be drawn and K9 units would chew on my tuchus. (one of my best attributes!!)  I pushed the door open, glanced around and looked at a guy sitting on a stool.  I looked at him.  Him at me, then he pointed to a gate for me to go through where (wait for it….) MACY WAS THERE!!  Holy smokes!!  Home free!!  Well…not quite home free.  We still had an hours-worth of bus and train rides to get across Berlin to my hotel.  I was so tired but gave Macy what I had left in the form of hugs.

After the bus and train rides we made our way up to my hotel, which was just a few blocks from where Macy lives, and checked in.  I’m not sure how much English the hotel people know, but with Macy as my interpreter (she’s fluent in German) the transaction was done in German.  I had booked the hotel on Expedia.com, which is quite easy.

The view from my hotel window. It’s set in a quiet neighborhood.

My room. It cost around $50 a night.

The lobby of the hotel.

After quickly settling in we went out for supper at a….wait for it…TURKISH PLACE!!  They have these gyro-like things that they call doner’s.  Two words.  DEE.  LISH.

Meat on a pole. MMmmmm….meat.

Macy and our doners.  Say it like “duner”

Around the neighborhood that I stayed, and in fact, around Germany are “stumbling blocks”.  Small, cobblestone sized brass memorials for those victims of the Holocaust. Every stumbling block has the name of the victim, the date of their birth and the date of death.  These blocks are set in the pavement of sidewalks in front of buildings where Nazi victims once lived or worked.  There are around 25,000 stumbling blocks in 600 different cities around Germany.  Its the worlds largest memorial, and its still growing. The name of the death camp is stamped on it as well.

Stumbling blocks

With supper finished I tell Macy that “its probably close to six or seven o’clock” and that I should retire for the evening and get some sleep, I’ve been awake for over thirty hours.  She replied “its four o’clock in the afternoon Dad.”  Regardless…I head to the hotel, take a hot relaxing shower, send out a few messages to family and fall asleep at seven, not waking up until six the next morning.  The hardest part of the trip is over, I have four days with Macy in Berlin.  Let the fun begin!

God bless!

R

On this hallowed eve…

Ahhh….turning 51 tomorrow.  What can I say?  My celebrity pals have been all over it.   Brad Pitt sent me a pair of mittens that he knitted himself (or so he says…).  Beyoncé dedicated a song to me at her last concert (or so she says…I wasn’t there.  Her concerts are past my bedtime) and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said that the first touchdown pass that he throws in tonight’s Super Bowl will be for me (he always says crap like that…).   Anyway…celebrity notables aside, here’s what’s on my mind as I turn 51:

  • You know that you’re getting older when the gifts that you receive become more and more about comfort and “socks” are mentioned as your number one item.  Instead my beloved bride bought me a really nice chair to sit my dainty derriere into whilst I sit in front of the computer, making funny for you folks.  Nicely played Connie Sue.
  • Failure isn’t fatal.  If I had come to this realization forty years earlier I can’t help but think just how different this life would be.  In high school I would have danced my ass off at homecoming and prom.  Ass….OFF.  I would have shot the ball constantly in basketball.  You can’t score if you don’t shoot.  I probably would have started down a different career path.  It’s not that I don’t like what I do now, it’s just maybe these talents would have been better suited elsewhere.  At the age of 51…its probably too late to try something different.  Everyday I’m around many young people. I encourage them. I let them know that while I am their boss and hold them accountable for their actions that they are valuable and there’s no such thing as a “perfect life”.  That todays culture doesn’t put enough importance on being: honest, trustworthy, friendly, moral, having a good work ethic and playing nice with others.  That you don’t have to agree with everyone. That life is oftentimes a grind of the boring and mundane.  That it’s up to you to make it happen for you.  And while I’m at it…making work fun and stable for those under my watch.  I really appreciate those tried and true stalwarts of my work day.
Failing...?

Failing…?

  • Are you like me?  Old enough to remember the days when you had to buy a rock groups whole album just to get the ONE song that you really liked?  Albums were like ten bucks or more, and unless the group was really good you had just paid ten dollars for one song.  That’s why I think ITunes is the bees knees.  $1.29 for one song.  Just a couplea clicks and its downloaded into your computer.  A few more clicks and its burned onto a blank DVD-R for the CD player in my old Chevy truck.  Quick survey…who has AC/DC AND the Statler Brothers in their ITunes library?  Anyone…?  Anyone…?  Just…me?  Figures.  The Class of 57 is GOLD people.  GOLD.
  • Yes, I will be getting back into the gym.  Officiating basketball doesn’t really keep a guy fit or build the upper body.  Goals set.  Failure looms.  Let’s see what happens.
  • At this age I’m probably more apt to call a spade a spade, a drama queen a drama queen and walk away from idiots rather than waste my time and energy.
  • I traveled to four different countries this past year.  Headed to Europe this year.  I’m pumped.  I’m also pumped to take a two-day road trip, camera in tow,  of the back roads of my beloved home state…Iowa.  I might even make it a three-day trip.
Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful....but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful….but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

Rooms next to the river.  Nuff said

Rooms next to the river. Nuff said

  • I haven’t gotten any post-season officiating assignments.  There’s still time, I suppose, but I’m skeptical.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you do your best, get a glowing evaluation from a state clinician at a big time game, love the sport and work on it daily to get better only to be on the outside looking in…left out of the tournament.  I had a great season, nothing can diminish that.  I’m a good official, and so are the guys on our crew…but it wasn’t meant to be this season.  Failure isn’t fatal, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lesson to learn from it.  I just don’t know what that lesson is, yet.  I’ll have all off-season to mull it over.  All.  EightMonths. 
It could be a long offseason....

It could be a long offseason….

  • I’ll be published!!  A magazine contacted me about writing an article for them.  Dead serious!  I signed a contract and am getting paid to write.  I had my right-brained wife (who’s real anal about being smart…cause she is…) proof-read the article prior to submission.  She had me add a couple dozen comma’s and apostrophes.  Nuff said.
  • It’s a time of transition.  My old classmates are becoming grandparents.  Those big-haired, sexy vixens from the early nineteen eighties are now grannies…and are totally rocking it!!  I love seeing them with their grandkids on Facebook.  It’s also a time when some of my older friends are retiring.  What.  The.  Hell?!  I can’t have friends that old…can I?  Good for them.  AARP has been blowing up my phone trying to get me into their stable of older celebrities.  I’m not buying…for now.
Ooo...touch tone phones?!  Why didn't you SAY so?

Ooo…touch tone phones?! Why didn’t you SAY so?

  • This next year I’ll try to shore up some long time friendships that have gotten on the cool side of luke-warm.  You may never know what kind of journey someone’s on until you park their ass on a bar stool and buy them a beer, or three.

Thanks to all of you for your friendship, for reading along and commenting.  I count myself truly blessed to have each of you in my life.  God bless.

R

 

 

The trip home…

My trip back to good old America started with me being dropped off in Miyazaki for my overnight stay prior to my flight out the following morning.  Miyazaki’s a large city and I readily looked forward to an afternoon to walking around and exploring the sights nearest my hotel.  It was a Sunday so not a lot was going on but there was still plenty to take in.  Firstly…I loved it.  It’s not too often that a middle-aged guy like me anticipates an afternoon of just walking around and looking.  I didn’t have my interpreter with me (our daughter Karalee) so finding my way back to my hotel after walking quite a ways from it would be my biggest challenge.  I had booked my room through Travelocity.com and was pleasantly surprised how nice it was for only $58 a night (The Sky Tower Hotel).  Here are some of the local sights that I found interesting.

McDonalds Halloween Witch's Fries.  Purple sweet potato and chocolate sauce OR pumpkin and chocolate sauce.  I didn't try any.  What I did find out was that McDonalds makes the same bland burgers for the Japanese as they do for us in the States.

McDonalds Halloween Witch’s Fries. Purple sweet potato and chocolate sauce OR pumpkin and chocolate sauce. I didn’t try any. What I did find out was that McDonalds makes the same bland burgers for the Japanese as they do for us in the States.

The "thing" in the refrigerator was a bottle of water.  Did you know that beer cans in Japan have braille on them?  True story!

The “thing” in the refrigerator was a bottle of water. Did you know that beer cans in Japan have braille on them? True story!

A traffic light.  This hat-wearing dude is EVERYWHERE in Japan...

A traffic light. This hat-wearing dude is EVERYWHERE in Japan…

No need to get spooked.  There's only a mafia hitman standing behind you as you wait for the light to turn green

No need to get spooked. There’s only a mafia hitman standing behind you as you wait for the light to turn green

...and now he's stealing your bike...

…and now he’s stealing your bike…

A rare photograph of the fedora-capped stranger behind me.  I tried to alert the proper authorities...in vain.

A rare photograph of the fedora-capped stranger behind me. I tried to alert the proper authorities…in vain.

So I walked around for a few hours, into the late afternoon, up and down streets and avenues packed with all kinds of shops.

The Colonel's kind of a big deal in Japan...

The Colonel’s kind of a big deal in Japan…

I found, of all places, a “Celtic Sport Pub” where I had a delicious American Blue Moon bottle of beer…for close to $9.  Regardless of its high price it tasted awesome.  I headed back towards my hotel where I contemplated eating in their hotel restaurant.  I hedged thinking that I didn’t fly halfway across the world not to take a chance at a local place.  I chose a place and took a seat.  Thank goodness that the menu had photos and between me and my server my selection was made without any international incidents occurring.

...uh...yeah...the deep fat-fried thing stuffed with...cheese?

…uh…yeah…the deep fat-fried thing stuffed with…cheese?

…and….

Delicous-ness!!  Basically a fried pork cutlet, prawn, soup and rice.

Delicious-ness!! Basically a fried pork cutlet, prawn, soup and rice.

Tommy Lee Jones is the spokesman for Boss Coffee in Japan.  Dead serious.

Tommy Lee Jones is the spokesman for Boss Coffee in Japan. Dead serious.  He looks none too happy about it.

Fast forward to the next morning.  I had set up a taxi ride to the airport in the morning.  That went great.  Once arriving at the airport the ticket counter couldn’t “find” me.  Literally…they had my passport and couldn’t find me on the 11 o’clock flight to Tokyo…and the lack of them understanding English and me Japanese didn’t help.  We were about ten minutes into this dilemma when I said “listen…I gotta be on that flight.  I’ll buy a ticket and settle up with Travelocity.com when I get home”.  The third of the three ticket counter ladies just smiled at me and continued typing away.  Sweat beads ran down my back…it was warm and I was stressed.  Finally one of the ladies asked if I had kept my old ticket stub from when I had arrived.  CHA-CHING!!  I had kept it!!  I gave it to her and literally (LITERALLY) two minutes later I was walking away with my new ticket.

Fast forward again…I landed in Tokyo’s Haneda airport on time.  I had to transfer to Tokyo’s other international airport via a shuttle bus.  I had somewhere like six hours before my flight to Chicago boarded.  PLENTY of time (or so I thought).  I hustled to the shuttle bus ticket area and found…CHAOS.  Okay…not chaos…but an alarmingly large selection of transportation venues.  I was kind of “oh…sh*t…” (ever been there?  Not a good state of mind…am I right?)  Anyway…if you believe in God (like I do) you’ll like this.  I saw an airport employee, a young 20-something, walking towards me.  I got her attention, without looking like a crazed middle-aged American, and asked her where I could buy a shuttle bus ticket to Narita.  Get this…she was friendly, she took me to a ticket kiosk, changed its screen to read English, helped me buy the right ticket then led me to the bus stop and put me in the right line (mind you…there’s many buses coming and going by the minute).  She was an Angel.  Dead serious.  My wait for the bus was like two minutes before I was boarded and heading the right way.

Second Angel.  As we began our drive to Narita airport, which I thought would be a twenty minute ride, I struck up a conversation with a guy who I was pretty sure would understand English, Thomas.  Thomas is black.  There aren’t many black people in Japan, like he was the only one in Japan at the time.  Anyway…I asked Thomas how long the ride was.  He replied “an hour and a half.”  Holy cow!!  I hadn’t planned for this at all.  In my rush to find a ticket counter and thinking that the ride would be a short one I didn’t buy or bring something on the bus to drink, and I was parched!  Get this…Thomas not only calmed me down (I’m a little high-strung when traveling…) he gave me his unopened bottle of apple juice (I’m not a big fan of apple juice BUT this one tasted wonderful!!) and gave me a great person to talk and listen to during the ride and told me which stop to get off at once at Narita.  Thomas was great.  He’s Methodist by the way.

Once I found my gate I had a couple of hours to kill.  I was flying back in economy…not quite the business class that I had hoped for…but I was going home.  The plane would take off at 6 PM Tokyo time with a 3 PM landing in Chicago.

So long Japan!   Its been fun.  Let's do it again soon.

So long Japan! Its been fun. Let’s do it again soon.

I used to be a nervous-nelly on flights.  Twitching at every little chime, buzz or sound.  Not anymore.  Old Rich Ripley is a world-traveler.  I write.  I read.  I have a few drinks.  I watch TV.  Flying over an ocean…? No problem.  Forty minutes into our flight we had turbulence.  I mean real-live roller coaster, people shouting, plane shaking, pilot telling the flight attendants “ATTENDANTS GET TO YOUR SEATS”.  It was scary.  I thought to myself “this is the way that Hollywood portrays the moments before a plane crash.”  Surprisingly enough…I didn’t get overly concerned, but enough to have an impromptu chat with the Lord concerning aforementioned flight over said ocean.  The turbulence only lasted a few minutes…but long enough to leave a lasting impression.

We reached Chicago unscathed.  I had to really hustle to make it from my “big jet” gate to my little old “regional jet gate”.  I had less than 70 minutes to find my way through customs and on towards my new gate…which I didn’t know where it was…yet.

After clearing customs (when you’re a bigshot like me, they’re just happy to have me back in the States…you feel me?) I was starting to find my bearings as to where I needed to go next.  I saw a couple of the flight crew from my flight walking next to me.  I made a remark about the turbulence that we had experienced, had a nice laugh and I asked them if I could go out the door that they were exiting by…..and my next Angels were there.  They asked me what gate I was flying out from and once they heard that they replied “we’re walking right past it.  Come along with us!”  Dear Lord…these two attendants made the fifteen minute jaunt through a major international airport, onto a shuttle train, through security and right to my gate back to Iowa so easy.  I mean it…our Good and Gracious Lord made coming home so easy.  From the girl in Tokyo to Thomas on the shuttle to these two attendants walking me to my gate after working an eleven hour flight…just AWESOME.

My flight back to Cedar Rapids from Chicago is barely thirty minutes long.  I look down on the lights of Chicago fading to the east as the darkened farm fields of rural Illinois and Iowa slip under us.  I see the Mississippi River, the moon reflecting on it…it won’t be long now.  A combine illuminates the corn rows ever so slightly before taking them it.  Its funny what a person recognizes, if even from thousands of feet in the air above it.  I see a farm houses stretched down rural roads every so often…shining like little warm mercury-lit beacons…like bread crumbs left along a trail…guiding this Iowan back home.  We land, the cool early November air washes over me in the jet-bridge.  Dear God…what a journey.  Thank you for carrying me home.

Thank you for coming along with me.

God bless,

R

 

Our trip ending…we escape to Chinatown

For our sixth and final day in NYC we took the subway down and over towards Chinatown, but stopped along the way to one of the restaurants that Connie had researched prior, The Clinton Street Bakery.  Nestled into another old neighborhood we walked past the world famous Katz’s Deli and put in our names for a table.  What was promised to be a 45 minute wait was only about ten.  The place is small, but packed with people, which is always a good sign to two hungry Iowans.  The food was delicious.  I mean over the top delicious, but be prepared to pay cash as they don’t take credit cards.

At the Clinton Street Bakery.  I have no idea what old Moosehead is doing behind Connie.

At the Clinton Street Bakery. I have no idea what old Moosehead is doing behind Connie.

 

After breakfast we walked down to Chinatown…which remarkably resembles a town in China!  (who knew…?)  After Chinatown we walked through Little Italy and Soho before ducking into the subway to escape the summer heat.

Next stop....Chinatown!!

Next stop….Chinatown!!

Dried shrimp and other dried sea creatures.  Where's Forrest now...?

Dried shrimp and other dried sea creatures. Where’s Forrest now…?

With no itinerary and it being the last day in NYC we ventured back up to Hell’s Kitchen and Times Square to do some more sight-seeing.  The mid-afternoon sun cascading through the leafy canopy of tree-lined streets I caught the smell of cinnamon and brown sugar and spun around on a dime like one of those showgirls that I’d seen the night before….and headed to the bakery that we’d just passed.  I had a banana crème pie all of myself…a mini banana crème pie.  Apparently Oprah has eaten there too from what I gathered from the newspaper clippings hanging on the wall read.   I’m glad that she left some for us.

MMMMM.....pie

MMMMM…..pie

Supper at Hurley's Saloon off Times Square.  I ate under a painting of Cool and the Gang.  I told my waiter that my food was "too hot...too hot baby...gotta run for shelter gotta run for shaaddee."

Supper at Hurley’s Saloon off Times Square. I ate under a painting of Cool and the Gang. I told my waiter that my food was “too hot…too hot baby…gotta run for shelter gotta run for shaaddee.”

Towards the end of any vacation I’m ready and willing to go home, my bride….not so much.  Once back at our room we find that what we came with and what we bought to take home with us has made our suitcases bulge much like our waistlines….just a little snug.  While I’m not much of a “travel guy” (I’m more of a “where’s my wife going this summer that I’ll have to go with her” ) I was totally taken off guard by how friendly New Yorkers are.  I mean this….it wasn’t uncommon for folks to see us, map in hand looking like lost idiots, approach us and ask if they could help us find something or such.  The stories of the rude New Yorker I didn’t see, though the tourists more than made up for it.

 

We’re up and in a taxi heading towards LaGuardia at 4:30 AM, leaving NYC on a rainy mid-June morn.  Long story short….great flight from NYC to Chicago.  A small layover in Chicago before getting on a regional jet headed to God’s country….Iowa.  You know that you’re in for a wild ride when prior to taking off the pilot comes on and announces “Folks…it’ll be a tough ride….if you need to visit the restroom do it now” before you even leave the terminal.  In his defense…the turbulence was….breathtakingly abundant. 

The expression that Connie gave me as our  flight passed through thunderstorms....though this isn't Connie...just sayin

The expression that Connie gave me as our flight passed through thunderstorms….though this isn’t Connie…just sayin

A friend had texted me while we were in Chicago “I hope that you’re here soon.  Bad storms coming in!!”  I notice how quickly I write when our plane dips, gyrates and shimmies through the air.  My bride, the honorable Mrs. Ripley, is as white as a ghost.  Soon enough…we’re on the ground in Cedar Rapids just as a line of strong thunderstorms hits the area with hail, high winds and rain.  Thank God that we’re safe!!

 

It’s been a great vacation.  Thanks for tagging along.  God bless and take care!

R

I like window seats.

I used to fear flying.  The whole concept of being lifted into the air in a multi-ton machine sans safety net nor parachute left me anxious and fearful for the length of the flight.  Now I embrace it, in fact I love to fly.  I lean towards the window short of pressing my nose against it, watching the patchwork of farm fields, creeks and timber passing below as we climb, slipping the surly bounds of earth if only momentarily.  Freshly sprouting corn and beans reach for the sky from the rich black soil that my beloved home state of Iowa possesses a great deal.

As the jet dips it wing to head east the patchwork quilt of farm fields come into view.  A thunderstorm rolling towards us obscures the horizon.

As the jet dips it wing to head east the patchwork quilt of farm fields come into view. A thunderstorm rolling towards us obscures the horizon.

 

We’re on our way north and east to Chicago for the night before we head north and east again to the eighth largest city in the world….New York City.  THE RIPLEY’S ARE VACATIONING IN THE BIG APPLE!!  Oh the sights we’ll see!!  The food we’ll eat!!  The things that I’d otherwise probably never experience, I’ll see in person!!  The Statue of Liberty.  Ellis Island.  9/11 Memorial.  Broadway!! Rockefeller Center. Times Square!!  The list is practically endless!! (did I use enough exclamation points?)

When Connie (the honorable Mrs. Ripley) suggested NYC as a vacation destination I was less than enthusiastic.  The crime, the traffic, the unknown and my overall worrywartedness (it’s a real condition) made NYC look like optional root canal.  Mrs. Ripley pressed on and researched the trip while I mulled over my eventual “yeah….I’ll go” vote (like she already knew that I would).  With plans and itineraries in hand we arrived at La Guardia Airport in the morning and promptly took a cab to our hotel, about a thirty minute ride.  My wife, Connie, gets motion sickness quite easily.  It took her years to get used to my driving.  Our taxi’s backseat space was separated from the front seat space by a thick panel of clear arcyrlic….it also separated us from the air-conditioning during the ride.  All I can say about our driver is that he should be racing on Sunday’s for NASCAR.  The dude was in a zone, bobbing and weaving his way through the Sunday traffic.  Accelerating quickly, darting into the next lane before slowing down by sternly applying the brakes.  I looked over at Connie, who was now fanning herself and was as white as a ghost.  She looked nauseated and irritated.  With no barf-bags present I steeled myself against the inevitable ralph which, thank God, never materialized….but it was touch and go there for a while ladies and gentlemen.  Being in the back seat of a smoky, hot taxi with a sick SHE-TIGER is a tough way to start our vacation.

After we checked in and unpacked we decided that since we still had the better half of a day to explore and sightsee….we did exactly that.  We stayed at the Doubletree Hotel on Times Square which put us in good position to go just about anywhere downtown.  We walked to Rockefeller Center and went up to the viewing platforms on three different levels.  That was pretty cool.

View from the top of Rockefeller Center

View from the top of Rockefeller Center

Central Park from Rockefeller Center

Central Park from Rockefeller Center

View of NYC from Rockefeller Plaza

View of NYC from Rockefeller Plaza

 

Connie had heard good things about a restaurant called Luzzo’s in East Village so we started down that way.  What should have been a 25 minute trek via the subway and walking turned into an hour.  Several false starts down wrong streets and not knowing what the heck we were doing made this into more of an expedition, but we finally found it.  It’s just a little hole in the wall place.  We had skipped dinner and not had much for breakfast either so we were starving.  I had a twelve-inch pizza with prosciutto ham and artichokes that was baked in a coal-fired oven.  Not too shabby.  I devoured the whole thing while Connie had their lasagna.  There was an old-timey feel to the place, most likely since it was part of an old brick building.  While we were there a guy who promotes “pizza tours” of the city asked the managers permission to bring 12-18 people in every Sunday afternoon around 5PM.  I also overheard someone ask the guys in the booth behind us where they were from.  New Orleans.  They replied that they’d heard about Luzzo’s down there, word of mouth.  While I thought that the pizza was really good I didn’t feel that it was the best that I’d ever had.  They seem to be “pizza traditionalists” as the manager grimaced and waved off a young lady’s attempt to order a pizza with “half this kind and half another kind”.  He was quiet and didn’t speak much English but was nice enough. Great experience, I’m glad that we went there.

Jeez....blue shoes, lime green shirt....its a wonder that they let me in through the front door and not the basement.

Jeez….blue shoes, lime green shirt….its a wonder that they let me in through the front door and not the basement.

 

Luzzo's Pizza East Village

Luzzo’s Pizza East Village

These Coke cans always hit the nail on the head!!  "Dreamer"...fits me like a glove.

These Coke cans always hit the nail on the head!! “Dreamer”…fits me like a glove.

A quick stop for some mango gelato and we started our way back to our hotel.  It was late Sunday afternoon so we got off the subway a few stops early and meandered the neighborhoods leading up to Times Square.  It was a near perfect time for walking, with it being neither hot nor chilly.  The traffic thick…I waited for it to clear prior to crossing.  Twice.  TWICE…I was almost run into by a speeding cyclist…as in bicyclist.  Those dudes were bookin’.  I can only imagine the hospital ER nurses looking me over as I arrive to the hospital bloodied, bruised and battered. “Sir…were you hit by a bus?!”  Me “…no….a red Schwinn…tassels on the handlebars…chrome fenders…young dude…delivering Kung Pow chicken….I see a light….should I go into it…?”

It’s now 5:30 at night.  We’re exhausted and in our room.  We began our day at a quarter to four in the morning in rain-soaked Chicago. We’ve had a full day.  Perched thirty-one floors above Times Square we  hear the constant commotion that’s going on below us.  We find out that its that way all of the time.  New Yorker’s don’t drive very much, but those that do are required to honk their horns every twenty seconds, or it would seem that way.  I try to rally past my fatigue by eating handfuls of sweet and delicious Garrett’s caramel corn purchased in Chicago and washing it down with ice-cold Coors Light.  This combo doesn’t give me the desired effect that I had hoped so I hit the showers and retire for the evening at the heady big-city hour of….9:15….or 8:15 Iowa time.  So much for painting the town red our first night in NYC.

View from our room.  There's always something going on in Times Square

View from our room. There’s always something going on in Times Square

We had a corner room which afforded us a great view of the ball that drops on New Year's Eve.  If the windows had been cleaner...this would've been a better photo.

We had a corner room which afforded us a great view of the ball that drops on New Year’s Eve. If the windows had been cleaner…this would’ve been a better photo.

Tomorrow we venture out for more sights and sounds of what New York City has to offer.  I’ll blog more later on this week, and the weeks to come about our exploits…and “yes”….some of the photos appear out of sequence in relation to the week…we were using our cameras and phones to snap shots so it’ll be a regular collage of photos.  If you’ve never read my blog before or wonder why I’m blogging about something that the roughly nineteen million New Yorker’s, plus millions of visitors have already experienced is because I use this blog as a kind of “family and friend newsletter” and creative outlet.  Its also because if you’re a blogger, you’re required to write about your vacations, trips, life and fun meals….its part of the blogger constitution and blogger bill of rights.  Dead serious.  I don’t wish to get into hot water with the blogger union representatives or my tush could be in hot blogger water.  So yeah…enjoy our trip with us….its way cheaper that way.  Just sayin’.

This blog has been brought to you by....Wrigley's chewing gym and Papermate pens....official pen of RICHRIPLEY. The wheels of thought starting while we were in just under way heading to Chicago.

This blog has been brought to you by….Wrigley’s chewing gym and Papermate pens….official pen of RICHRIPLEY. The wheels of thought starting while we were in just under way heading to Chicago.

 

Thank you for reading.  Have a great week and God Bless!!

R

 

 

Gonna fly like an eagle…to the sea…fly like an eagle only I gotta really pee…

I recently had the opportunity to fly, which I rarely undertake since I don’t have wings.  Undaunted,  I went to the airport anyway where I dutifully sat, waiting for a seat to Dallas/Fort Worth.  I was flying standby and with the recent fire in the Chicago airport everything was running behind.  I was close enough to a pilot whom I overheard say “This Chicago fire has things really messed up” which is the kind of thing you don’t want to hear when flying standby.  I was bumped once, then twice but caught the last flight of the day to Dallas.  All day long I was watching the weather monitor as storms rolled over Colorado and Nebraska, becoming more green, more yellow and a lot more red…on the radar as I sat…waiting.  I thought to myself “whoever flies through those is gonna get a bumpy, thrilling ride…” 

As I waited in the terminal I pulled out a basketball rules book and started to review for the upcoming season.  A little girl, probably four years old, made eye contact with me from across the room and zipped over and grabbed the book from my hands.  Her eyes sparkling with life and mischief matched her giggles as she ran away with the book.  Her horrified mother intercepted and returned my book, apologizing profusely.  I laughed, I thought that it was a great break in the “non-action” of waiting.  Soon afterwards the girl was transfixed on a video that was playing on her parents laptop.  I pulled out my phone and started listening to Eddie Rabbits “Driving my life away” and other tunes.  Waiting….just waiting.  If I get to go, great.  If not, so be it.

Six hours into the wait....I'm bored and try to stay out of trouble, as Connie had gotten on an earlier flight.

Six hours into the wait….I’m bored and try to stay out of trouble, as Connie had gotten on an earlier flight.

Around the terminal, in a quiet corner,  I spied a man in his fifties, gently spoon-feeding his father who was sitting in a wheelchair.  Buried in a sea of blankets the old man enjoyed every bite, and when boarding his face lit up like a kid on Christmas morn.  I could only imagine the story behind that trip.  That’s my problem, airports are such impersonal places.  Thousands of people, very little if any “person”.  All walking briskly, all with places to go, flights to catch, meetings to attend, wanting to be somewhere else….expect for the big dude ten feet from me, he seems perfectly content to nap the afternoon away in the terminal.

Finally boarded and ready to go I’m as cool as a cucumber.  Flying doesn’t bother me like it used too.  I still marvel at the beauty of the earth below.  Iowa’s landscape is full of corn and soybean fields ready to be harvested.  I spy combines chewing up corn stalks, tractors with wagons moving into place and a single school bus making its way along a gravel road.  Good God in Heaven….its beautiful. 

Those thunderstorms that I kept an eye on are now close enough to see, the pilot takes us up to 36 thousand feet to get out of the turbulence, but I can see the lightning flicker and dance through those monstrous anvil shaped storm clouds. There’s many of them…and under them someone is getting some serious rain, wind and lightning.  Soon, with the sun hugging the horizon, it breaks through a slit in the clouds like a bright red eye squinting its last for the day.  Shortly thereafter, with my ears popping, I know that we’re descending for Dallas.

Once on the ground I meet up with Connie and our daughter Jordan, whom we’ve come to visit and see graduate.  She’s a flight attendant now…and we couldn’t be happier for her.  She’s thrilled to death, of course.

Connie, Jordan and I.  Proud parents.  Adventure is hers!!

Connie, Jordan and I. Proud parents. Adventure is hers!!

We’re in Dallas less than 24 hours.  Its a whirlwind visit.  I think to myself that I’ve visited Dallas Texas more often in the last two years than I have our neighboring state Illinois.  Go figure.

My "flying medicine".  No...just kidding, though this delicious Coors Light hit the spot during lunch.

My “flying medicine”. No…just kidding, though this delicious Coors Light hit the spot during lunch.

On our return flight I’m the second to last one seated, still flying standby.  The ticket counter lady asks if I mind sitting next to the emergency exit.  I reply “I will sit wherever you tell me to sit.”  A smile creases her lips, I just want to go home.  I make my way to my seat, look at the lady whom I have to crawl over to sit down and say “you lucky girl, you get to sit next to me”.  Thank God she had a sense of humor.  She was from Iowa, headed home as well and we talked about sports and such for about an hour into the flight.  I tell her that I think flying “is like a magic trick”.  Sure…all the physics are in place…”but we’re flying through the air!”

I watch from above as the Mississippi River passes below, then river basin turns into the patchwork quilt of farm fields, timber and small towns.  Folks from other, more worldly and sophisticated places call Iowa and places like it “fly over country”….meaning there’s nothing “down there” to stop and look at.  I’ll gladly fly over it too, just make sure that you fly me back to it before supper, I’m an Iowa boy.

Peace to you and yours,

R

Hawaiian time is over…home is where the heart is

What a sunrise...quite the change from watching it come up over fields of corn and beans.  Both are beautiful

What a sunrise…quite the change from watching it come up over fields of corn and beans. Both are beautiful

The day started as usual with a spectacular sunrise. During our stay I’d usually head down to the Starbucks coffee kiosk and grab a cup while Connie slept for a while longer. I’d take my notebook with me and jot down some notes for these blogs. While everything went perfectly for us while on Hawaii (good health, safety, good weather, etc.) it sure wasn’t home, nor was I ready to settle down in this tropical paradise.

One thing that we constantly ran into was folks not knowing where we were from. They’d ask us where we were from and we’d reply “Iowa” then they’d start on how they knew someone from Ohio, or Idaho and ask weren’t we “big Ohio State Buckeye fans?” Ah…no. Iowa. It got to the point that I’d just reply “we live three hours west of Chicago.” After meeting us a lady from Los Angeles whispered to her husband “not many people make it out of Iowa” to her husband after we met. Dead serious. It must be the twenty foot walls at our borders that dissuade us from leaving the Hawkeye State.
Our trip back to the airport started with a bunch of packing and getting everything back into the Mustang.

Our bags loaded, my copilot giving me the "Hawaiian thumbs up" we're on our way home...towards the airport

Our bags loaded, my copilot giving me the “Hawaiian thumbs up” we’re on our way home…towards the airport

I'm a regular "Joe-Flyguy" now...my bride...maybe not so much (on the plane just minutes before leaving Maui)

I’m a regular “Joe-Flyguy” now…my bride…maybe not so much (on the plane just minutes before leaving Maui)

As we boarded I slipped one of the flight attendants a fiver and whispered in his ear “just make sure that we’re topped off on the gas tanks would ya pal?” My concern addressed he took my money and assured me that he’d check as soon as possible.

After yet another safe take off (my number one concern) we settled back into our seats. After being in the air for about forty minutes or so one of the flight attendants spoke over the PA. “Due to technical difficulties…(pause of about five seconds during which everyone in the ENTIRE PLANE LOOKED UP AND GAVE THEIR FULL ATTENTION)….we will not be able to show the featured movie or TV shows…”. I could have done without the five second pause, lady. And the TV shows are essentially CNBC shows that I’ve never heard of and the movie is pretty bad…but at least it’s something to watch. As for me…I stayed busy with reading a book that I bought to purposely keep myself occupied during our flights. I plugged into the planes “music channels” with my ear buds but was asked to retake my seat when the Hispanic channel caused me to involuntarily get up and start dancing the rumba in the aisle. (There’s just not enough space in coach to properly dance the rumba if you’ve got the vivacious hips of a Ripley…which I do)

Goodbye Maui!!  Notice our planes shadow along the bottom edge of this photo?  Kinda cool...heh?

Goodbye Maui!! Notice our planes shadow along the bottom edge of this photo? Kinda cool…heh?

After we reached cruising altitude the pilot throttled back the engines. I looked at my watch and set it five hours forward, to Iowa time. I thought to myself “God willing we’ll be home in thirteen hours.” With my watch telling me what the current time was in Iowa, I began to unwind and relax a little. Flying over the Pacific Ocean at thirty-five thousand feet at over five hundred miles per hour night began to fall though my watch told me differently…it’s back on Iowa time…a place my heart never left and probably never will. I missed home. I’m an Iowa boy.

Thanks for reading. Peace to you and yours,
R

Day 3 another plane ride…I call shotgun!!

We departed Oahu midmorning and took a small prop plane to Maui. I did a little better this flight but only because I told the flight attendant to tell the pilot that I had a Google map ap on my phone that he could use if he wanted too (but that I’d get to ride shotgun if he did. He did not take me up on my generous offer). Once on the ground in Maui we picked up our rental car…a 2013 Ford Mustang convertible!!! Well played Connie Sue, well played. We ventured out for our forty-five minute drive to the hotel that we were to stay at, with top down on the car.

Never having driven a convertible I thought that it was a lot of fun.

Never having driven a convertible I thought that it was a lot of fun.

Most of the rock walls lining the highways had a sort of wire mesh anchored into them to catch falling rock...which was great since we had no roof on the car.

Most of the rock walls lining the highways had a sort of wire mesh anchored into them to catch falling rock…which was great since we had no roof on the car.

The drive to our resort was real scenic.  Ocean on the left, mountains on the right.

The drive to our resort was real scenic. Ocean on the left, mountains on the right.

It's about damn time someone recognized the importance of the fifth and FORGOTTEN FOOD GROUP...SUGAR!!

It’s about damn time someone recognized the importance of the fifth and FORGOTTEN FOOD GROUP…SUGAR!!

Now let me say this, the Ripley’s are “Holiday Inn Express” type of folks. We’re not fancy; we fly coach and drive Fords. Our hotel in Oahu was quite nice, our hotel room on Maui was…over the top nice (by our standards). Two words, “ocean view”.

The view from our fourth floor deck off of our bedroom.  Just awe-inspiring beautiful.

The view from our fourth floor deck off of our bedroom. Just awe-inspiring beautiful.

...and the view to the right side of our deck

…and the view to the right side of our deck

We had lunch poolside were the sandwiches were awesome, but the 10 ounce fountain Coke was $4 and not even that good. So later on at night we ventured into town and purchased some beverages for our room refrigerator, including some of adult nature.
That night we ate at the Pineapple Grill, where we had our favorite meal of the whole trip. Our server was Jessica who explained the menu, foods and Maui as a whole. She was our favorite person of the whole trip.

My meal was New Zealand salmon with garlic flakes, bok choy sauce and some fancy carrots (I'd rather have some corn or peas but maybe that's just my Midwestern upbringing).

My meal was New Zealand salmon with garlic flakes, bok choy sauce and some fancy carrots (I’d rather have some corn or peas but maybe that’s just my Midwestern upbringing).

The red stuff on top is roe, the whole meal was delicious.

The red stuff on top is roe, the whole meal was delicious.

The purple stuff on Connie’s plate was Hawaiian sweet potatoes and it rocked!!!
We returned to our hotel and ventured into the surf again. I was only wanting to go in up to my knees. See how that worked out?

"Tourist amazed by rolling surf.  Film at 11"

“Tourist amazed by rolling surf. Film at 11”

Tomorrow we head to the sea to do something that neither one of us has tried…snorkeling.
Until the next blog…God bless and peace.
R

Good God Almighty…I HATE TAKING OFF!!!

Few things make me as spiritual as funerals or the moments just after lifting off from the runway in a plane. Its been said that there are no atheists in foxholes, I think that the same could hold true for take-offs. Many a fuselage have emanated the earnest prayers of its passengers, rivaling Sunday morning sanctuaries. GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY…I HATE TAKING OFF!!!

My bride isn’t much better which is quite ironic since she’s the one who planned our whole twenty-fifth wedding anniversary trip to Hawaii. Since there’s no known roads or interstates to Hawaii we pretty much had to take the airborne route, driving west on Interstate 80 won’t cut it. I don’t fly much. I could count the number of times that I’ve flown on ONE HAND. We arrived at the airport weary from a night of strong thunderstorms and not much sleep. At the TSA checkpoint I tried to keep up with everything that was going on and what needed to go where. Normally I’m a joke-machine and run off at the mouth, but today I’m quiet and compliant. I asked the nicely dressed business lady behind me if she’d like to go ahead of me since I hadn’t done this kind of thing very often (as in eight years ago), but she politely declined. I thought that I was finished with doing stuff when she whispered “take off your shoes.” Which I did very quickly. Then she whispered again “take off your belt.” Again I obliged very quickly, (you’d have thought that Connie would have gotten interested that a nice looking gal was literally telling me to undress, but “no”. The lady could’ve continued “and now your pants and socks” and there’s a fifty-fifty chance that I would’ve done it until I got tackled by the TSA guys…or Connie for that matter.

After the checkpoint we settled into our waiting area where there was a church group in matching tee-shirts having a prayer service. I’m all good with scripture, they were heading to Haiti on a mission trip, and am real relieved that they didn’t proceed into the 23rd Psalm “and though I walk through the valley of Death” thing or I might’ve gone a little weird. Nice people, though.

On the plane I sat across the aisle from a high school girl who was busy texting, as we were puttering around the lead up to the runway. Now the flight attendant had already told everyone to turn off their electronic devices several minutes earlier, so I was debating whether or not to say something to this youngster who was starting to make an already edgy and paranoid Rich Ripley go totally ape-shit crazy as I hadn’t planned in dying in a fiery plane crash that morning with her texting somehow interrupting our precarious existence in flight. So, to my credit, I reached across the aisle, touched her on the arm and pointed to her phone and asked her to turn it off, which she did. Now I say that I said it politely but I’m sure she looked at me and saw a middle-aged man sweating profusely with a look of sheer determination upon my furrowed face. Whew! Now that I had the passenger compartment under control our pilot (who was wearing black shiny cowboy boots, or shit-kickers as my bride calls them) could fly us to Dallas/Fort Worth. Maybe its my father-in-law that calls ’em shit-kickers…the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree is all I’m sayin’.

I prayed as the engines on our plane started revving up to take off:

Angel…”Lord. Rich Ripley has an urgent prayer that he’s really concerned about.”
Lord…”I’m not letting him win the lotto…”
Angel…”It’s not that prayer this time…he’s flying.”
Lord…”Flying?! What’d he jump off of this time?”
Angel…”No Lord…he’s flying commercial.”
Lord…”Who’s the pilot?”
Angel…”Randy Johnson.”
Lord…”It’s not Randy’s or Rich’s time yet. Direct Rich’s attention to some pretty clouds or better yet, he’s always blabbering about umping baseball games so let him see some from eight thousand feet, or the clouds.”
Angel…”Yes Lord.”

As we leveled out after the climb Heavenward I looked out the window and thought “Dear God…it’s beautiful up here.” To our east a flat horizon of pure sky blue while to our west the horizon was interrupted occasionally by clouds that shot straight up like Dairy Queen jumbo twist cones (I owe the Angel a big one).

Our flight and landing went off without a hitch into Dallas/Fort Worth, except for the fact that I chose to finally use the bathroom on the plane just seconds after the pilot announced our descent into Dallas. CURSE YOU COFFEE!!! It’s like peeing in a Porta-John during a windstorm with someone tipping it partially sideways. Anyway…mission accomplished. For some reason I’m totally cool with landing. It’s a natural progression of being so high and honestly I’m relieved that the flight will be over soon. Our second flight was from Dallas to Oahu, Hawaii…which in my opinion they should’ve stopped somewhere along the West coast and topped off the gas tanks, maybe grabbed a burger and stretched their legs…but no…they fly straight through. I mentioned my concern to my brother Brian, an all around nice guy and world traveler, and he assured me that there’d be enough fuel to get us that far without stopping to refuel. Mind you, I remember the time when I was around five years old and I climbed on top of my bed, his was right next to mine, and I whipped it out and whizzed all over his bed. I can’t remember why I did that, but I remember that he was real, real mad about it. Since I was so much younger he couldn’t extract a pounding on me like I deserved so I figured that he’d eventually give me some bullshit story that I’d believe in desperation like “sure there’s enough fuel to get you to Hawaii” as we plunge into the ocean, well short of the island. Well played, Brian, well played…forty years later and you finally got your revenge for that pee-prank your baby brother pulled on you in nineteen seventy-one. At that point during take-off from Dallas I was relatively sure that Brian wouldn’t do that, but only because he’s fond of my wife Connie. Relatively sure….

We loaded onto the American Airlines 737, through the livestock chute…er gangplank, whatever they call it. I resist the urge to squeal like a hog being led to slaughter, if only to keep my bride from back-handing me. I internally rationalize that if my aunts, who are in their 60’s and 70’s, can fly all over God’s creation and not make a scene then maybe I can too.

Again we sit on the runway, this time in a big silver tube with wings. The engines throttle up, the big girl lurches forward then launches down the pavement. It just doesn’t seem possible that this big multi-ton piece of metal, plastic and wire can get into the air much less stay in the air. Faster we roll, faster my heart beats. Palms sweaty, face mighty stern, stomach in knots…and she lifts…first the nose then the rest. We’re climbing and gaining altitude. Seconds pass and we continue the ascent. My thoughts during those moments aren’t fit for print. Let’s just say that they’re profanity laced religion to a certain extent. Nothing sacrilege…just very plain and direct…then a pretty cloud catches my attention.

We arrive to Oahu safely and on time. Relief washes over Connie and I, I’m as serious as a heart-attack…we don’t do well with flying…actually I like flying its just the whole take-off thing that has my undies in a bunch. As we stand at the luggage carousal an elderly man approaches us, using a cane. He’s in his 70’s or 80’s and was a couplea rows behind us on our Oahu flight. He stops and with a smile on his face asks us “May I ask you a question?” We reply “sure”. He continues “Do you fly much?” Both Connie and I laugh and answer “No. Not very much at all.” He smiles, shakes his head in agreement and continues on his way. We laugh at our obvious trepidation and fear, so apparent to others. “I bet that he saw us pressing our faces against the window, looking at everything under us” I tell Connie. Later on, after we’re in our room for the night I revisit our exchange and the day. Perhaps he’s an experienced traveler and the whole “flying thing” is old hat, or maybe, just maybe he didn’t see the pretty Dairy Queen jumbo twist cone clouds that I saw. It’s probably a little of both…but God-willing, I hope that I’ll ever get tired of looking at those delicious clouds.

On the ground for the next couplea days…we rest that first night having been awake for almost twenty-four hours.

Next stop, Pearl Harbor. Until then…peace friends.
R