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

Billy Idol sneer…CHECK!!

I honestly thought that these photographs were lost forever.  I hadn’t seen them in years…but that’s not where the story begins.

It was April 1984 and we were just a few short weeks away from graduating high school. My best friend, Scott Carlson, had hatched an idea to take some “cool pictures” at an abandoned farm house just a few minutes from where we lived.  Since I was one of the photographers for our high school newspaper and had access to a 35mm camera, black and white film plus could develop said photos at school without supervision, he asked me to come along.  Scott was a bit of a free-spirit back then.  He occasionally smoked pot, was extremely talented in art and track and was kind of on the outside edge of the cool crowd.  I was all of those things except that I didn’t smoke pot, wasn’t talented in either art nor track and the cool crowd was indifferent towards my existence….so it worked out well.  All we needed for the photo shoot was:

  • tinted safety glasses (borrowed from welding class)
  • a black tux jacket (borrowed from choir)
  • Billy Idol sneer.
  • a total lack of regard for trespassing (we didn’t know who owned it and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway)
  • two cameras.  One with color film and one with black and white.
  • a little imagination.

We arrived at the farm after school and started taking some pictures.  As you will see, the house was a beautiful home at one time.  Scott was adventurous enough to go inside the house while I hedged my bets that he’d fall through the floor and into the basement.  Years removed from this afternoon I wish that I would’ve taken more photos, gone inside and perhaps invited some of our classmates to join us.  How much more fun would it be to look at these now as I share them?

Once we had been there for a little while we heard a truck pull up into the lane, it was old man Spickermann.  I didn’t know much about Old Man Spickermann except that he yelled really loud at basketball games and had an ever-present scowl residing upon his beet red face.  Scott and I walked up to his truck in the lane like two kids walking to the principles office.  I think that I did most of the talking while he scowled at us, on his property without his permission.  Mind you one of us was wearing a black tux jacket and tinted safety glasses while the other carried two cameras…not exactly looking like two juvenile delinquents vandalizing an old and abandoned farm.  Mister Spickermann listened, never giving us an indication of his feelings one way or the other…just sizing us and the moment up.  Once I had finished with my apology for not getting his permission and telling him what we were doing (which was harmless) he turned away without saying a word, opened his truck door, got something off of the floor of his cab (it was shiny) and moved back towards us.  At this point I thought that he may have had a gun to scare us with, instead it was a chrome Thermos.  He chuckled as he poured himself a cup of coffee, using the hood of his truck as a table, and talked to us about the farm and local matters.  I learned that his scowl was just him being him and that once turned upside down was really a very pleasant face to go with the man.  His beet-red complexion a consequence of years of farming and being in the sun.  Mister Spickermann departed shortly thereafter and so did we…not knowing if any of these photos would turn out.  Here they are:

Scott and I thought that it'd be cool if he went inside.  I didn't have the courage to do it.  I wish now that I had.

Scott and I thought that it’d be cool if he went inside. I didn’t have the courage to do it. I wish now that I had.

Never mind that cool old abandoned house, look at that beautiful hair profile.  I'd give a weeks pay to have that hair again for seven days.

Never mind that cool old abandoned house, look at that beautiful hair profile. I’d give a weeks pay to have that hair again for seven days.

The whole Billy Idol sneer thing was going on with Scott at the time.  He's a front window on the second story.

The whole Billy Idol sneer thing was going on with Scott at the time. He’s a front window on the second story.

I have no idea why we took these photos in April of 84, but I'm glad that we did.  It would've been a blast had we gotten a few more of our classmates out there with us.

I have no idea why we took these photos in April of 84, but I’m glad that we did. It would’ve been a blast had we gotten a few more of our classmates out there with us.

This photo was taken at the back of the house.  Scott was in the second story window when he said that he heard something weird behind him.  He disappeared for a bit before coming back and telling me that the back wall was covered with bees and honeycombs.

This photo was taken at the back of the house. Scott was in the second story window when he said that he heard something weird behind him. He disappeared for a bit before coming back and telling me that the back wall was covered with bees and honeycombs.

View from the front door.  Scott coming down the stairway from the second story.

View from the front door. Scott coming down the stairway from the second story.  Ooo…so creepy.

If you ever wondered what I'd look like sitting in the ceiling inside a corn crib...well wonder no more.

If you ever wondered what I’d look like sitting in the ceiling inside a corn crib…well wonder no more.

Again...inside a corn crib.  I was working with corn cribs before working with corn cribs was cool.  Just sayin'

Again…inside a corn crib. I was working with corn cribs before working with corn cribs was cool. Just sayin’

We were smart enough to bring a camera with color film in it...but not smart enough for the photographer to get his stupid shadow out of the photo.  (that's my stupid shadow, by the way)

We were smart enough to bring a camera with color film in it…but not smart enough for the photographer to get his stupid shadow out of the photo. (that’s my stupid shadow, by the way)

A summer ago I returned to those gravel roads that I grew up on, looking for that beautiful old farm house and its outbuildings.  What I found shouldn’t have surprised me…it was completely overgrown with trees and brush with old cars and trailers parked in its overgrown lane.  I couldn’t tell if the house was even standing. Its probably better that I don’t know.

I last spoke to Scott at a class reunion.  We’re quite different and the consequence of that is we don’t keep in touch.  I wish that I could share these with him, or at least his kids….they’d probably all get a kick out of seeing them.

April 1984. Old school selfie.  Focus the camera.  Set the timer and run to your spot.  Nailed it the first time.

April 1984. Old school selfie. Focus the camera. Set the timer and run to your spot. Nailed it the first time.

That’s us….two kids, now in their fifties, having a little fun thirty-two years ago.

Thanks for coming down Memory Lane with me.  Take care and God bless.

R

THE EPIC SAGA CONTINUES…LOVE IN ’88

The third in a series of six epic tales…sure to warm the hearts and souls of those in the upper Midwest…and maybe other places too…but for now…just the upper Midwest.

So 1988 began much like the previous year left off….quietly.  Not.  Much.  Going.  On.  I was just a lonely single dude….lookin’ for love and not having much luck.  Truth be told, I wasn’t much of a Don Juan character.  My total number of dates in the previous five years could be counted on one hand….so yeah….I was PRIMED for SUCCESS!!

A mutual friend got Connie, my future wife, to stop by the store where I was working and meet me.  Needless to say, the vixen that she was/is, went all out that initial introduction and wore baggy gray sweatpants and huge winter parka….HOT STUFF BABY!!  Long story short….we went out on a date, then another (the next night) and by the end of the night…we were discussing the possibility of marriage…to each other.  Thirteen days later…we were engaged.

Back then when you became engaged folks threw you a wedding shower.  In our case….we had shower, after shower, after shower.  Even folks from our workplaces threw us showers.

Sexy undies for me...Connie's quite pumped about them.

Sexy undies for me…Connie’s quite pumped about them.

These "elephant undies" were a hit at our wedding shower...what with it "trunk space" and all....

These “elephant undies” were a hit at our wedding shower…what with its “trunk space” and all….

And…another shower.  This one at the Methodist church in historic Joy Illinois.

I blame my expressions on my brother, Brian, who was egging me on....true story.

I blame my expressions on my brother, Brian, who was egging me on….true story.

A place setting of our wedding dinner ware. I'm pretty pumped...about the cake.

A place setting of our wedding dinner ware. I’m pretty pumped…about the cake.

August 6th 1988. I remembered my lines!!

August 6th 1988. I remembered my lines!!

After our wedding we did the usual sexy young couple stuff….we sat in front of International posters and looked suave…

We actually look like we know what we're doing! Incredible!!

We actually look like we know what we’re doing! Incredible!!

She left me funny and sexy notes. For the sake of my younger viewership I've chosen not include those sexy notes...they're too "hubba hubba"

She left me funny and sexy notes. For the sake of my younger viewership I’ve chosen not include those sexy notes…they’re too “hubba hubba”

Skiing with another couple. Ah...the joys of being "kid-less".

Skiing with another couple. Ah…the joys of being “kid-less”.

...and the "mustache experiment". I rocked it. TOTALLY ROCKED. IT!!!

…and the “mustache experiment”. I rocked it. TOTALLY ROCKED. IT!!!

We went to concerts…Lee Greenwood! Randy Travis!! Kenny Rogers!!  We met important people!

I told you we met celebrities!!

I told you we met celebrities!!

In the mean time we had started on…well, starting a family.  We got close a couplea times…but this last one…we went the distance.  On December 18th 1990 on a cold winter morning we became parents for the first time.  We were green.  Amateurs.  Rookies in the first degree.  I could have gone on for a while…you know…just practicing to get pregnant (HAR HAR) but my bride was born to be a mommy.  She relished and cherished the idea of being a mommy.  Me?  Well ladies and gentlemen…the following photo pretty much sums up my idea of parenting in the early stages….

Dear God....what time is it? This little squawk-box wants food AGAIN.

Dear God….what time is it? This little squawk-box wants food AGAIN.

Parenthood…what was THAT all about?!  I was clueless, but being clueless is something that I seem to specialize in.  Until the next episode…stay warm and classy…like me.

God bless,

R

 

RICH RIPLEY…TWO DECADES WORTH OF PUBERTY 1967-1987

We begin todays blog in 1966 where I was added to the bottom of the batting line-up as Richard Matthew Ripley, the third and youngest son of Charlie and Marcie Ripley….Davenport Iowa.

An early record of me and my brothers. Brian's looking at Mom like "...do we have to keep him...?"

An early record of me and my brothers. Brian’s looking at Mom like “…do we have to keep him…?”

I moved from the city to the country at the tender age of two (not for political, religious nor financial reasons) to just outside historic New Liberty Iowa…a town that had exactly one bank, one library, one volunteer fire station and two bars with a handful of faithful Christians sprinkled in for good measure. I brought my parents and brothers with me at the time as I felt it’d be unfair to leave them to fend for themselves in the city.  Nothing of consequence happened until first grade when I set our barn on fire.  You read that correctly…I set a barn on fire.  I blame the school system for not teaching us practical, if not life-altering, stuff such as “don’t play with matches in a barn full of straw since straw burns almost as fast as rocket fuel” or “you shouldn’t pee on an electric fence, it’ll emotionally and mentally scar you for life” or “how to shoot a BB gun without hitting window glass.”  THAT kind of information would have been INVALUABLE to a kid like yours truly who had LOADS of time on his hands.  I found out about this time that humor could potentially save me from a good old fashioned spanking.  I was across my Mother’s lap, butt up, clinching for the punishment that I deserved to get as her hand was descending upon me when I started shouting “THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT!!” My brothers fell off their chairs laughing as I continued with my defense and Mom started laughing too…so much in fact that she couldn’t finish whipping me.  We all had a good laugh and I made a mental note to have a one-liner handy for most occasions AND that I doubt that I’d get that same leniency twice in one lifetime from a deserved spanking.

Dan, Brian and I. Look at the size of that forehead. (note to self...wear bow-ties more often)

Dan, Brian and I. Look at the size of that forehead. (note to self…wear bow-ties more often)

I included the photo below if for no other reason that its the only photograph of me without a bald spot.  Just look at it!  Soft brown hair.  Straight and smooth….just like the man writing this crap.

1975 was a good year for hair for yours truly. Dead serious...it got wavy and curly just weeks after this photo was taken at Peace Church Bennett Iowa

1975 was a good year for hair for yours truly. Dead serious…it got wavy and curly just weeks after this photo was taken at Peace Church Bennett Iowa

My circles of influence ran like this:

  1. Family & dog
  2. Friends at school
  3. (repeat)

Here’s the Ripley clan in 1975.  I’m arm in arm with my cousin Doug (before he became known as Dirty Doug of Mercer County Illinois).  Doug got me into a lot of trouble, but nothing that killed either one of us…but there’s still time.

1975-1976 Ripley's Galore!!

1975-1976 Ripley’s Galore!!

Here’s why I don’t ride motorcycles.  I rode Craig “Coonie” Conrad’s Honda minibike directly into the side of school lunch lady (Gladys Lynch’s)  grass green Pontiac LeMans in the spring of 1977.  Fourteen stitches later I didn’t have the same “need for speed” as just an hour before.  Go figure.

Fun. Fast. Not entirely idiot-proof

Fun. Fast. Not entirely idiot-proof

Here’s a fun fact for all of you Ripley Minions out there.  How many kids did I graduate with in the class of 1984 from Bennett Community High School?  Twenty-four.  Just twenty-four kids.  Twelve boys.  Twelve girls.  Most of us had been together since Kindergarten, while others had been added to the mix along the way…and by the fall of 1983 we were pretty much sick of seeing each other.  I was an average student and average athlete. The girls in our class either dated guys from other schools or guys that had already graduated (looking back our guys didn’t really give the girls a deep gene pool to draw from…honestly) while the guys in my class casually dated the lower grades or out of town as well.  I remember wanting to get the hell out of Bennett so badly that I didn’t really say goodbye to anyone.  I got my diploma and left.  I wasn’t mad…just ready for a new scene with different people.  I can’t speak for my classmates…but I think that the feeling was mutual.

Graduation May 1984 Bennett Community High.

Graduation May 1984 Bennett Community High.

It wasn’t all bad.  I worked detasseling corn for three summers as well as baling hay and straw.  I got a job working at a truck stop restaurant my senior year where I found out quickly that I didn’t care for working over a steam table nor fryers. I moved to Cedar Rapids, about an hour away from New Liberty, for college.  I’d make it back to Bennett and New Liberty through the years, but only to visit my parents, occasionally running into former classmates with polite conversations.

It really didn’t happen that way…or did it?  Regardless I’ve made it back to Bennett for several class reunions and had a blast.  Flat out…my former classmates are just good people.  I wish that I could be around them more.  They entertain me.  They remind me of what was, stories either not heard or forgotten.  They’re doing well and I’m happy to see them when I do. Truth be told…its kinda hard for a group of balding, heavy-set middle-aged men who grew up in our school to be pompous and our female counterparts are looking good with solid careers and good kids.

College was just like high school but with more beer and a lot more idle time.  I met a guy in the fall of ’84 who would become my best friend…hell…he’s like a brother to me.  We’ve been drunk together, gotten in trouble together (those two most often go hand in hand) gone to rock concerts,  been in each others weddings, watched as each has raised their families, worked with each other (I hired Dave one time, and he got me to sell used cars with him for five months…so we’re even) shared concerns over our parents, drank more beer and conversed about plans for possible world domination, etc, etc.  As I scanned through the photos from this period of my life I chuckled at how many photos included Dave.  A quick but not complete summary.

Me and Dave in Des Moines 1986

Me and Dave in Des Moines 1986

Dave and me in class at Kirkwood. Look at my hair. I'd give a weeks pay to have that hair again for a few days.

Dave and me in class at Kirkwood. Look at my hair. I’d give a weeks pay to have that hair again for a few days.

Jeff Hopkins, Dave and I on Jeff's birthday at Dori's apartment. May 1986.

Jeff Hopkins, Dave and I on Jeff’s birthday at Dori’s apartment. May 1986.

I graduated from college in May of 1986 at age 19. During this time I had joined a company that hired me and would transfer me to Mason City Iowa, roughly four hours from my family, my friends and all the fun that I had grown used to.  I was to be alone, working 70-80 hours week in a place that I didn’t like, with people who were ANCIENT (they were in their late 30’s and early forties).  It was terrible and probably the best thing for me at that stage of my life…getting me out of my comfort zone and making a career.  I was miserable. I was lonely.  That was 1986-1987.  In the fall of 1987 things started to get better.  Mason City had become my home.  I was 21 and things weren’t as bad as they were.  I was coming into my own.  1988 started like ’87 ended…quietly and without anything going on…then “she” came into my life wearing baggy sweatpants and puffy winter parka and life as I knew it would be forever changed.

I’ve been blessed to be born into the family that I’m in.  I’ve been blessed with good health, stunning good looks, a quick wit and a humbleness unrivaled.  She…wouldn’t buy any of it.  Tune in next week.

God bless…

R

 

 

 

Customer Appreciation….? Not so much

Okay….so I’m driving home last night when I see a local grocery store having a “customer appreciation” night in their parking lot complete with free hot dogs, drinks, activities for the kids and an inflatable bouncy house. I love bouncy houses. So I parked my truck and hauled ass into said bouncy house and totally rocked that thing for like twenty or thirty minutes before an authority figure complete with a white shirt, tie and name badge showed up at the entrance of my bouncy house. Mister Authority told me that I was “too old” to be in the bouncy house. I told him that I have “that disease that ages children and makes them look hideously old and partially balding” so “lay off me, man!!” (he doesn’t believe me) He then tells me that I’m above the posted individual weight limit to which I reply (while bouncing…it is a bouncy house) “I’m just big-boned”. By this time a crowd had gathered around the bouncy house to see what Mister Authority’s next move is AND because I’m really, really good at bouncing inside bouncy houses (kudos to the folks who put this bad-boy up. The PSI ratio to weight was exceptional. That’s Pounds per Square Inch for all of you non-inflation to weight ratio types). Anyway…Mister Authority tried to take matters into his own hands and enter said bouncy house to either:

A…join me and enjoy the bouncy house on his employers dime. OR

B…attempt to remove me (good luck with that)

Mister Authority didn’t get very far as he couldn’t get a reasonable foothold to get into the bouncy house since I never stopped bouncing and he wasn’t the “bouncy house kind of guy.” (we all know who they are…) I eventually relent and am pulled from my bouncy house by Mister Authority and two of his underlings which is good since I was kind of getting tired though I didn’t feel very appreciated at that point, but the crowd that I had attracted was really cheering me on (I’m a bit of a wallflower) and the attention wasn’t doing me any good. Throngs of folks, with the exception of one older lady, patted me on the back and wished me well (I told you that I’m really, really good at bouncing inside bouncy houses….a guy doesn’t make up stuff like this.)

I had a free hot dog and was disappointed at its substandard quality and made a mental note to let the manager know of my displeasure with it, still it was a pretty good night.

Peace,
R

Day 6 We hit the beach OR My life as a cliff jumper

Ripley men have always been cursed, cursed with smokin’ hot thighs and calves. One gal approached me recently, pointed to my legs and asked “Pilates or hot yoga?” I answered “brat’s and Lay’s potato chips”. Cursed. I won’t go so far as to say that I’m particularly good looking or muscular but I totally rock in my new swimmin’ britches. I’m hotter than a two dollar pistol in my chartreuse lime green light-weight water-drawers (I purposely bought this color so that the U.S. Coast Guard would have an easier time recovering my body if something bad happened. I’m not kidding). The sad news is that I bought those rascals and continued to loose weight with all of my running around officiating games, so they’re a tad loose fitting. I asked our hotels concierge if he had any suspenders in the “lost and found” box that I could borrow. That, ladies and gentlemen, went over like a fart in a spacesuit. Having gotten the “old Hawaiian stink-eye” from that dude…I departed. To the beach I preceded, saggy swimmin’ britches and all, looking like Deputy Barney Fife at the beach (and “No”…Connie wouldn’t let me call her “Thelma Lou” for the day).

Our lounger cabana had a retractable canopy that was excellent.

Our lounger cabana had a retractable canopy that was excellent.


Several foreign tourists mistook us for George Clooney and his latest Italian supermodel girlfriend hottie. I signed my autographs “Best Wishes, George Clooney and Italian Hottie” and no one was the wiser!!”

I had a goal this vacation. I told Connie that if she was going to require me to travel this far that I’d get to try surfing. She agreed. But before I could try it I spied Black Rock, an outcropping of volcanic rock that jutted out into the ocean from the beach at our hotel. The hotel has a guy swim out there at sunset and perform a ceremonial dive, head first, into the water. During the day, however, kids swim out there and jump off of the same rock. It’s about a 25 foot drop into the water, and it’s free…so of course I had to try it. It went something like this:

George Clooney look-a-like, Rich Ripley, points to his latest objective...which isn't a Dunkin' Donuts for once.

George Clooney look-a-like, Rich Ripley, points to his latest objective…which isn’t a Dunkin’ Donuts for once.

#1 Point to rock with stupid expression on face. Walk along shore, getting closer to rock…hitching up my trunks every four or five steps. Look back at my footprints in the sand, only seeing one set I assume that my Lord and Savior has opted to watch this latest Rich Ripley adventure from the lofty and comfortable confines of Heaven, but I know that He’s in my heart and for now…that’s enough.

#2 Swim to rock, more like dog-paddle to rock. (A journey fraught with peril)
#3 I notice that dog paddling to rock is taking quite a while. I look for a sea turtle to ride. With no turtles taking hitchhikers I continue to dog-paddle onward.

At this point I realize that dog-paddling in Hawaii and the ocean is a lot different than dog-paddling in a pool in Iowa.  WHO KNEW?!

At this point I realize that dog-paddling in Hawaii and the ocean is a lot different than dog-paddling in a pool in Iowa. WHO KNEW?!

#4 Reach rock and climb. Find volcanic outcropping difficult to climb.

I had to wait for a swell to lift me up to get a better grip on the rock...but the swells also take you INTO THE ROCKS...which isn't so swell.

I had to wait for a swell to lift me up to get a better grip on the rock…but the swells also take you INTO THE ROCKS…which isn’t so swell.

#5 Have mock heart attack.

I'm having a mock heart attack and the dude next to me isn't even expressing mock concern.  What the hell?!

I’m having a mock heart attack and the dude next to me isn’t even expressing mock concern. What the hell?!

Climbing volcanic rock barefooted, I found out, totally sucks.

Climbing volcanic rock barefooted, I found out, totally sucks.

...and the climb continues.

…and the climb continues.

#6 I reach the peak and rest. I make a new friend who, by the way, sells drowning insurance for reasonable mainland rates. I buy half a million dollars’ worth on the spot. I LOVE YOU CONNIE!! REMODEL THE KITCHEN AND NAME IT “THE RICH RIPLEY MEMORIAL CAFETERIA”.

#7 Point to Iowa.

"...Iowa's that way (wheez...puff...pant).  How'd you get up here so fast?!  Are you part Sherpa or something?! Wheez, puff, pant!!"

“…Iowa’s that way (wheez…puff…pant). How’d you get up here so fast?! Are you part Sherpa or something?! Wheez, puff, pant!!”

#8 Stand and size up descent, it looks a lot more than just 25 feet. Quietly curse the intelligence of this midlife crisis. I remember the word “bullshit” coming into play.

#9 Almost chicken out as new friend and insurance salesman tells me “there’s an underwater boulder to the left, but you’ll be okay…just don’t jump left.” I’m serious…that’s what he told me.

#10 Signal my bride and insurance beneficiary, Connie, that the moment of reckoning is upon me. Insurance man calls U.S. Coast Guard Water Recovery Team and they scramble a helicopter towards us.

I wave to my fans as they chant "JUMP GEORGE JUMP!!"  I get misty at their heartfelt bloodlust.

I wave to my fans as they chant “JUMP GEORGE JUMP!!” I get misty at their heartfelt bloodlust.

This is how the jumpers look from the same place that I’m about to jump from. These next two photos where taken from a balcony at our hotel.

Not me...

Not me…

...again...not me.

…again…not me.

#11 JUMP!! (More like step out over the water…to the RIGHT!!)

THIS....is me.

THIS….is me.

#12 Splash-down!! Salt water enema for free
#13 Shake hands with SpongeBob.
#14 Surface and dog paddle towards shore

#15 No waves to push me along. I pick the steepest shore to swim towards. Ocean remarkably calm. Curse you King Triton!!

I only look unhappy because my head is filled with salt water and my butt with sea-horses.

I only look unhappy because my head is filled with salt water and my butt with sea-horses.

#16 Reach shore and have a real heart-attack.

Notice that my swimmin' britches fit me better than the gals in front of me fit into hers?  Did anyone else notice that?  Anyone?

Notice that my swimmin’ britches fit me better than the gals in front of me fit into hers? Did anyone else notice that? Anyone?

#17 Reach Connie but cannot hear anything that is said, my head is full of water. (As are other orifices) Salty. Warm. Water.
#18 Collapse onto lounger. Take the next fifteen minutes to catch breath. Discreetly drain orifices.
#19 Feeling invincible I swim out to rock again, this time to try out my new dive “Middle-aged Man Death-Defying See How Many In-Air Jumping Jacks I Can Do Before Accidently Being Caught With Legs Open As I Hit The Water At Mach 5” also known as “the nutcracker”…something that my cousin Doug taught me in Missouri.
#20 I’m was teasing on #19. I stayed on shore for quite a while. I was water-logged.
#21 Forget the whole “learning how to surf” thing. I’ve had enough saltwater for this trip. Maybe for our 50th wedding anniversary trip.
We spent the rest of the day going into the water of both the beach and the hotels pool, before splitting an excellent sandwich from the poolside bar…while resting in the shade of our cabana.

We enjoyed the day so much at the beach that we wonder if we shouldn’t do it again tomorrow…our last day in Hawaii. We agree to think about it overnight. Later on we drive up the coast for supper, and then retire to our rooms for a movie and some ice cold beer and wine.

As it turns out...blogs come quite easily when your view is beautiful, the beer is ice cold and you're stilling draining salt water out of your body.

As it turns out…blogs come quite easily when your view is beautiful, the beer is ice cold and you’re stilling draining salt water out of your body.

Until my next blog, God bless and peace,
George Clooneyat your service

Middle-aged man trips on 9 year old. Photos to follow!!

I have a hobby. While some guys hunt, fish, collect sport memoriable or fix up old cars I ref basketball games and umpire Little League baseball games. It’s something that I started last fall and enjoy a great deal. Its helped me meet new people, get into shape and breathed new life into this middle-aged guys life. While not every game is a pleasure to work, the vast majority are. I’m happy with it. As promised a month or so ago, I now have photographic evidence of me umpiring a baseball game. The following photos were taken by our daughter Macy who sat through a game (in a drizzling rain) and earned $20 off her IPod debt to me. I think that she did great.

The game starts with a pregame conference with two captains from each team and a coach. Home team is decided by a coin flip and ground rules are established. “There’s a gopher hole in left field, if the ball goes into it, it’s a ground rule double. Home plates open, five run limit until the final inning. Slide if it’s gonna be close and my strike zone is ‘nipples to knees’ with the inside and outside of the plate a strike.” That sort of thing.

Time for the ground rules and coin flip.  Each coach stands beside me (the one to my right is barely visible)

Time for the ground rules and coin flip. Each coach stands beside me (the one to my right is barely visible)

I cracked a joke with the coach.

I cracked a joke with the coach.

Being behind home plate is both exciting and scary. It’s the best seat in the house if the pitcher and catcher are on the same page. If they’re not on the same page I get hit with pitches and it SUCKS. The catchers in this game were good. If you want to find out how fit your thighs and knees are, crouch behind a nine year old for an hour and a half.

Check out the view down the third base line.  A great place for a game!

Check out the view down the third base line. A great place for a game!

Fans don’t always know what’s going on (or players and coaches for that matter) so consistent mechanics/signals for strikes, balls, outs and the like are valuable. The outfielders should be able to know what’s going on.

Its not "disco night" at the ball park (as our 17 year old suggested) but a foul tip.

Its not “disco night” at the ball park (as our 17 year old suggested) but a foul tip.

"AAAAIIIIKKKKEEE!!!" That's how I call strikes.

“AAAAIIIIKKKKEEE!!!” That’s how I call strikes.

You live and you learn. In officiating basketball and baseball it’s a lot about angles and moving to improve your view of the game and plays. As the lone umpire in the majority of my baseball games I’m responsible for calls everywhere. First base, yep. Second base, you betcha. Third base you ask…why certainly. Home plate…stop it…you’re embarrassing yourself. Even the outfield gets my undivided attention when the ball heads that way. When there’s a grounder hit to the infield yours truly is on the heels of the batter/runner chasing him up the first base line (I hope that he doesn’t stop or I’m apt to run his prepubescent ass over…you just can’t stop one hundred and seventy pounds on a dime, ladies and gentlemen) I slow up and take in the throw (force play) from about ten feet away verses from home plate. Coaches are much less apt to argue a call when they see a guy their age (or older) haulin’ ass up thirty or forty feet of baseline just to get a better view and make a more informed call. And it carries over to other parts of the game too.

Tearing out from behind home plate. (Even high-tech digital cameras have a difficult time capturing my lightning quick sprint, or the camera was out of focus...its one of those two.

Tearing out from behind home plate. (Even high-tech digital cameras have a difficult time capturing my lightning quick sprint, or the camera was out of focus…its one of those two.

A different view.  I haven't trampled a runner...yet.

A different view. I haven’t trampled a runner…yet.

Wherever the play is I bust ass to get there. Recently this led to a problem.

There was a base runner on first base. The kid at bat had just hit the ball to deep right field. I could see that the base runner that was at first was going to try to score so I stayed between third base and home plate to cover anything as it developed. It looked like the defense was setting up for a play at second base so I ran there to cover the play on the batter-runner. The right fielder (a sweet boy I’m sure) muffed the throw and it went towards home plate where the former first base runner had slowed down between third base and home plate so I ran from second base back to home plate where there was no play BUT the batter runner was rounding second base and chugging towards third. (he was a freckled faced chunk, huffing and puffing his way along the bases) The catcher whipped the ball towards third where the third baseman was perfectly set up to receive the throw (if he was ten feet tall) though the ball sailed over his head (I’d just arrived at third base then) and the runner (God bless him) continues chugging right past me, this time towards home plate. (CRAP!! I HAD OVERRUN MY ANGLE!!) As I spun around towards home plate I could see that the catcher was set up to receive the ball and block the plate. I could see the back of the base runner, now half way to home plate and me…(I’m not making this up) almost falling flat on my face. In the reversal of going from home plate to third then back to home plate I became top heavy and started one of those “legs not being able to keep up with the top half of my body” like you see on America’s Funniest Home Videos. I was in a perfect position to do a number of cartwheels if I had that kind of ability, but (thank God) I pulled out of it and with the ball flying in over my right shoulder towards home, and the runner sliding under the catcher but not yet at the plate the ball tipped off the top of the catcher’s mitt and back to the back stop. That didn’t stop the catcher from applying a tag but I got to home plate just in time to point to the ball (now rolling away) collect myself (wait two seconds) and yell “THE RUNNERS SAFE!!!”. I called “time” and took my time brushing off home plate and to catch my breath.

I just about fell again running up the first base line later in that same game…I think that I was tired…jeez). My point is…coaches appreciate that hustle and I appreciate not being second guessed AND I think that the boys deserve someone giving a damn enough to hustle…even if it kills me…which it might.

Umpiring groupies wanting my autograph.  No seriously, the lady in the red chair is one of the score keepers, but the other ladies are most definitely groupies...giggling like school girls...not so much.

Umpiring groupies wanting my autograph. No seriously, the lady in the red chair is one of the score keepers, but the other ladies are most definitely groupies…giggling like school girls…not so much.

And checking in with the scorekeepers between innings keeps both teams from claiming a victory if you’re on top of things. When I stay on top of the details, however small, coaches are more apt to coach and not question my ability and we spend more time playing ball than talking…which is what the boys came to do and folks came to watch.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend.
Peace.
R

Top Ten Reason’s That Doug’s Going To India

Top Ten Reason’s That Doug

Is Going To India

1. He’s going for business; he’s staying for the tandoori chicken and rogan josh. MMmmm…tandoori josh.

2. He’s dying to see a Bollywood movie starring Indian hotties Amitabh Bachchar and Aishwarua Rai.  (WOOT WOOT!!)

3. Nothing says “holiday spirit” like visiting a continent with subtropical weather in the southern hemisphere“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire….”

4. The Hawkeyes are to college football that mammary glands are to a bull…so why not leave for awhile?

5. Hells bells…it’s only eight thousand, six hundred and twenty-five miles from eastern Iowa to India…so it’s like only a day and a half away if he makes all twelve connecting flights.

6. He’s checking out the new Holiday Inn Express in Bangladesh and seeing if his H.I.E. points transfer from continent to continent.

 

7. Doug loves an $8.00 cup of mediocre, lukewarm airline coffee as much as anyone! “You want cream or suga with that luv?”

 

8. Three words….Kalyani Black Label. It’s the Pabst Blue Ribbon of the Indian continent, my friend.

9. Doug wants to check out the new Regis Philbin morning talk show with co-host, Indian sweetheart…Kareema Kapoor.  So newsy that Kareema Kapoor!

10.          David Hasselhoff is starting his comeback tour in Bangladesh and Doug’s a HUGE HOFF FAN…like nutty, stalker-type goofball weirdo fan type.  “Who has two thumbs and wants a ‘HOFF’S A HOTTIE’ tee-shirt for Christmas?! THIS GUY!!”

From Lerch with love…

There’s something exciting about being forty-six years old, like “why does my neck and shoulder hurt whenever I look to the right when it didn’t hurt a couplea hours ago?”  After ruling out the onset of either a stroke or heart attack I go with what is the usual culpert…the arthitis in my neck was aggravated into making me walk and move from the waist up like “Lerch” from the “Adams Family” TV show (though my motor skills exceed his to date).  Sometime Sunday I probably moved too quickly,  lifted without thinking or the dreaded “lift and twist” which is a great way to end up in this position that I now find myself.

Fortunately I’m blessed with a good chiropractor.  I hadn’t ever been to a chiro prior to last fall.  Whenever these symptoms befall me I’d wait a week or two before the pain was excreitaing…altering my sleep (what there was of it) and or my appetite. (note to all of my new richripley readers out there…I revert back to being an whiny seven-year old boy whenever pain comes along; being that I only go to the doctor when I a.) lose sleep or b) can’t eat or c) both a and b. I’m a joy to be around is what I’m getting at. Anyway…when the pain starts now I just pull out his business card (it’s the one behind my Panchero’s Bonus Burrito Club Card…I love me some burrito!) and give him a quick call.  Usually he has me fixed up, adjusted, cracked, shocked or whatever within an hour of my call (he kind of sounds like a drug dealer at this point) but nontheless…my pain is usually gone within half a day of his “laying on of hands” of me and my neck, which I appreciate immensely.

Since I’m still just an hour removed from the chiro I’ll have to forgo my workout at the gym, lifting those massive ten pound dumbbells that the older ladies guard like it’s the last prune Danish at a nursing home (I’m dead serious…my gym serves coffee in the morning hours and it’s become a neighborhood watering hole for all old folks wearing stretchy, form-fitting outfits, orthopedic Nike’s and showing off tons of liver spots.  TONS).  I can still do some light aerobic work…so I’m taking my boombox and The Very Best of B.T.O CD and starting a conga line to “Takin’ Care of Business.”  Everybody…ONE, TWO, THREE AND FOUR!!

“You get up every morning

From your alarm clocks warning (INSERT RIGHT PELVIC THRUST WITH RIGHT LEG)

Take the 8:15 into the city

There’s a whistle up above (INSERT LEFT PELVIC THRUST WITH LEFT LEG)

And the people pushin, people shovin…(if ya ain’t got the idea by now forget it)

Peace,

R

Eating our way eastward

Several years ago I got the brilliant idea for my wife and I to “get-a-way” from our daughters and have some alone time…just the two of us.  Living in Iowa our choices are a little limited as we didn’t want to be too far away from home in case an emergency popped up at home, and we didn’t wish to spend a ton of cash nor spend the majority of that time driving to and from the eventual destination.  Wherever we’ve ended up we’ve had a great time. 

As with most of me and Connie’s vacations we try things that we typically don’t do.  The first year I surprised her with a chartered fishing trip on Lake Rathbun.  She caught a four pound walleye in the first twenty minutes; I fared slightly less.

Four pounds worth of Walleye. Caught on a rainy July day in two feet of water. Connie is happy, and that makes me happy.

As Connie was slaying the “giants of the deep”, I kept the little fish safe by routinely bringing them into the boat throughout the day.

The second and third year we spent in Cedar Falls, not exactly a wonderfully exciting time…but time spent together…trying out new restaurants…watching movies…reading in our hotel room…real…high…rollers.

This years destination was (wait for it)…Galena, Illinois.  There again…nothing too exciting but plenty interesting for me and my bride.

Galena was founded in 1826 and shortly thereafter lead was discovered in the area around Galena.  The shout went out “There’s lead in them thar hills!!” or probably more like “C’est Thar plomb dans ces collines!” since the area was thick with French at that time (they finally found a place where the British Navy couldn’t kick ’em around quite so easily).  Anyway, the town of Galena has a lot of old brick buildings and such filled up with a variety of artists, wineries, shops and whatnot.  Along the way we stopped in Dubuque, Iowa (home of the world’s largest bowl of cerealI don’t know how they keep it from going soggy) and queried our Tom Tom device and it came up with a bar called “The Gastro”.  It’s located in a classy old German bank building.

The Gastpro Bar and Restaurant in Dubuque Ia.

I had the Gastro Burger, which combines my love of eating as many farm animals in one bite with my love of wonderful food. Mission accomplished.

I was just a little more than excited when our waiter, Josh, brought out my Black Angus burger, with bacon and a fried egg on top. Look closely and you’ll see a slice of fresh watermelon and little fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie. THANK YOU LORD!!

Connie ordered a wrap with chicken and something else in it but I was way too busy eating the literal “work of art” that I ordered.  I love that they’re using a classy old bank building in downtown Dubuque, making excellent food with local suppliers.  The hamburger bun itself was blue ribbon quality in itself, purchased from a local bakery.

We still had a couplea hours before we could check into our hotel in Galena so we shelled out some dough and meandered through the National Mississippi River Museum and had a good time there.  Below is a photo of me recreating a scene from my days as a river barge diver, rasslin’ a giant blue catfish. It’s lost most of its appeal since the kill-joys at the aquarium refused my repeated requests of getting into the actual tank.  I even promised to get ’em another stinkin’ catfish if the one I wrassled accidentally died…we’re thick in catfish up here in Iowa…literally up to our armpits, oh wait…that’s POLITICIANS I’m thinking of…my bad…apologies to the catfish for the defamation of their charector…as it is.

Recreation of me rasslin’ a blue cat. Look closely and you can see the fear in its eyes.

The time had come for us to leave the aquarium (or at least that’s what the “rent-a-cop” told me.  I was tired of him giving me the “stink-eye” and Connie the “hubba-hubba eye“) so we drove further onto Galena and checked into the resort, Eagle Ridge.  For supper we visited their restaurant, and normally we order conservatively but this night we went absolutely crazy and ordered…FISH!

Connie ordered this: Grilled California White Sea Bass. Marinated fresh herbs over a fresh mango-grilled pineapple salsa. IT WAS DELICOUS and she told me to keep my hands off of her bass. (true story)

My meal: Chamomile Seared Salmon with sweet corn, asparagus and tomato stew with Parisian potatoes and a Riesling cream reduction. I had to stop myself from licking my plate clean. I mean it. If you had told me that I’d have eaten all of those vegetables in one meal (a week’s worth in my book) I’d have said that you were crazy (I’ll still say it, but not to your face)

This is an otter, which we didn’t eat, but saw it frolic around the aquarium.

Some smarty-pants aquarium “know it all” tour guide thought she’d impress me with some little known facts about otters, like: “Did you know that one square inch of its skin contains more fur folicals than you do on your WHOLE BODY?!”  Well, for starters (peering at her name badge) Delores…I don’t have fur on my body, I don’t scratch my head with my hind foot and lastly…you don’t tell a middle-aged man who has an ever-expanding bald spot and receding hair-line something like that.  Cripes Delores…get a freakin’ clue.

Two meals, four thumbs up.  So we waddled our way back to our room where we watched some TV, then a movie.  How do you top off a day that’s had so many great culinary events in it?

Nothing completes a day of fine dining like a couplea bags of Larry the Cable Guy Tator Chips, some chocolate-peanut butter Bugles and Boulevard Wheat Beer. Now that’s good eatin’!

Tune in Sunday for Part Two (of three) of my award-winning series “Eatin’ Our Way Eastward.”  Until then…pass the sea bass and Larry the Cable Guy’s Buffalo Wing flavored tater chips.  Until then…bein manger mes amis!! (eat well my friends!!)