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

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