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

 

The Ripman’s in Japan….dead serious…I am

Todays blog isn’t necessarily a blow-by-blow, in order of sequence kind of read.  Rather its more of a “we’re hitting the highlights” of a few days worth of adventures.  To bring those of you who didn’t read my previous blog I’m now in Japan visiting our daughter Karalee who teaches English.   My first day in Japan was kind of low key.  A trip to a kind of large grocery store that sold everything from groceries to clothing to fish hooks to appliances to bicycles (which for a nerd like me who works in a grocery store…was a blast!), a trip to Udo Shrine, new food experiences, morning walks around town and a few road trips.

A Shrine that we visited right outside the town that Karalee lives.

A Shrine that we visited right outside the town that Karalee lives.

This is a large bottle of Japanese liquor. I love the label!!

This is a large bottle of Japanese liquor. I love the label!!  He looks like my buddy Joel Duffy!!

While waiting for Karalee to get ready for the days activities I kick back and take in an infomercial about the Japanese boy-band Crazy Five.  So yeah…

We got a little off the beaten path and had to pull over to get our bearings and saw this vending machine that sold beer.  NICE!!

We got a little off the beaten path and had to pull over to get our bearings and saw this vending machine that sold beer. NICE!!

I’d usually wake up every morning at 5, or three in the afternoon Iowa time. Karalee’s apartment is small with thin walls.  I’d do my best to be quiet, putting in my earbuds and catching up with world and local events back home on my phone.  Its pretty neat that you can stay in touch with loved ones almost instantly even though you’re on the other side of the world. Eventually the sun would rise, I’d get dressed, make my coffee and would head outside for a walk through the neighboring streets.  These were some of my favorite times…just me, my camera and who knows what’s going to happen.

Karalee insisted that I use this cup.  Meh...could be worse...

Karalee insisted that I use this cup. Meh…could be worse…

For all of your funeral needs call my friends at Funeral Home Tensho.  Fast and friendly....they'll get 'er done!!

For all of your funeral needs call my friends at Funeral Home Tensho. Fast and friendly….they’ll get ‘er done!!

Japanese signs use quite a bit of English on them, or at least enough to get their point across.  I’d venture a guess that the average American could figure out what most of the signs meant.

A sign in an over-grown lot between two homes.  I bet it reads "Will build to suit"

A sign in an over-grown lot between two homes. I bet it reads “Will build to suit”

Rice fields or small gardens were tucked into practically every lot that didn't have a building on it.

Rice fields or small gardens were tucked into practically every lot that didn’t have a building on it.

At the entrance of Udo Shrine was this sign warning of vicious monkeys.  Apparently Americans aren't the only ones who try to get too close to wild animals.

At the entrance of Udo Shrine was this sign warning of vicious monkeys. Apparently in no mood to cuddle….I leave them alone.

Udo shrine is built into a cave facing the ocean.  Its breath-takingly beautiful!!

Udo shrine is built into a cave facing the ocean. Its breath-takingly beautiful!!

The stairway leading into the cave

The stairway leading into the cave

Huge rock formation washed smooth by eons of waves smoothing its face

Huge rock formation washed smooth by eons of waves smoothing its face

Karalee striking a glamerous poise

Karalee striking a “glamorous” poise

Looking tough with twist cones...

Looking tough with twist cones…

Along the coast there were some guys surfing…and some stunningly beautiful scenery.  My videos do NOT do it justice.

Having supper at a jazz club with Hayley from Austriala.

Having supper at a jazz club with Hayley from Australia.

I wanted to try new and different foods.  To get out of my comfort-zone so to speak.  I don’t have the kind of stomach that allows for anything too crazy but I really enjoyed this restaurants food.  Gyoza (deep fried pot stickers…my favorite), potato cheese Mochi and (for lack of a better description….fried chicken meat with tartar sauce on it (not too shabby).  I pretty much tried whatever looked good and came away from it just fine.  Dietary indemnity isn’t something that comes easily to me, but only one thing put a momentary standstill in our plans in that regard.  Another noteworthy difference between Japan and America, their convenience stores sell a lot of great food.  Dead serious, I ate at them at least once a day.  Lawson Stations and 7-11’s rock, and they don’t sell gas, or much pop (and definitely no fountain pop).

Google Maps work over in Japan much like they do in America...taking us to this vacant lot in the middle of nowhere when we were supposed to be at a restaurant in town.

Google Maps work over in Japan much like they do in America…taking us to this vacant lot in the middle of nowhere when we were supposed to be at a restaurant in town.

Beautiful mountain scenery on one of our trips

Beautiful mountain scenery on one of our trips

Mountains...lots of mountains in Japan

Mountains…lots of mountains in Japan

Karalee chauffeured me around the area, in one instance driving us an hour and a half to the coast.  Beautiful mountains, deep gorges and mountain rivers were the eye candy of the day.  If you had told me seven years ago when I was teaching Karalee to how to drive that she’d one day be driving me around the mountains of Japan, through tunnels and over high bridges it’d have blown my mind.

….and I did some modeling while in Japan…just to make a little extra coin while I was there.  True story…

Me...

Me…

There’s still more to come later this week!!  Thanks for coming along.  Take care and God bless!

R

 

 

Ugh…hiking

As you may or may not know, my bride sets up our itinerary for our vacations.  I’m free to participate in them or not.  An activity like horseback riding is something that I’ve passed on, which is really extraordinary seeing as how I look and act so much like a real live cowboy.  The confident swagger (I got it).  The “awe shucks Ma’am” demeanor after I rescue a lady in distress (nailed it).  The boyish good looks (what can I say?  God don’t make no mistakes…).  The alpha male/John Wayne persona (got muh six-shooter by muh side…pilgrim).  Me wearing just my straw cowboy hat and underwear, bare-chested on the cabins porch…blowing the steam off of my pine cone-shaped coffee mug (lookin’ pretty good if I do say so myself…).

Anyway…Connie had set up a couple of hiking days for us.  One at Maroon Bells and the other at Hanging Lake.  Let me be clear about this.  Despite all of the macho stuff that you may think that you know about yours truly, Rich Ripley….liar extraordinaire, I really don’t care for activities.  I like “alone time”.  Driving…alone.  Eating…alone.  Listening to music…alone.  Watching TV…alone.  You get the idea.  But here’s the catch, we had our three adult daughters along and I thought that I’d regret it if I didn’t hike with them…so up the mountain side I went, mile after glorious mile.  Here are a number of photos with descriptions and captions.

The "trail" for Hanging Lake. It ascends 1000' in altitude in 1.2 miles of climbing.

The “trail” for Hanging Lake. It ascends 1000′ in altitude in 1.2 miles of climbing.

I was goofing around at the trial head when our middle daughter scolded me.

Karalee:  Dad…quit joking around so much.  You’ll run out of breath!

Me:  That’s quitter talk!!  Ha ha ha WHEEZ….WHEEZZ….WHEEEEZZZ!!!

(Not a lot of oxygen up there in those hills.  Rest assured…I remained hilarious)

The troops mutinied when I set a pace that was too brisk and was demoted to the rear of the formation, a prime bear-target area. As I reminded the girls, "I only have to run faster than one of you, which I most surely will." Family vacations bring out the BEST in me.

The troops mutinied when I set a pace that was too brisk and was demoted to the rear of the formation, a prime bear-target area. As I reminded the girls, “I only have to run faster than one of you, which I most surely will.” Family vacations bring out the BEST in me.

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!!

This is what we climbed to see and were NOT disappointed. WHEEEZZZ!!

This is what we climbed to see and were NOT disappointed. WHEEEZZZ!!

Maroon Bells on a grey rainy day. Still beautiful.

Maroon Bells on a grey rainy day. Still beautiful.

Awesomely wonderful

Awesomely wonderful

We got lost for a few hours...that's when my Cub Scout training kicked in. OVER THERE GIRLS!! I SEE A STARBUCKS!! (I wore black knee high socks that day. I regret nothing)

We got lost for a few hours…that’s when my Cub Scout training kicked in. OVER THERE GIRLS!! I SEE A STARBUCKS!! (I wore black knee high socks that day. I regret nothing)

My advice to you about hiking is this:

  1. Wear good shoes & proper clothing.
  2. Take snacks and plenty of water.
  3. Arrive early.  It’ll take awhile to hike a mile or so to the attraction, and back.
  4. Learn multiple songs that can be sung by many, songs like 99 Bottles of beer on the wall.  Singers of 99 Bottles of beer on the wall rarely surprise moose and/or bear, and if you do surprise them and they take one of your group…hopefully its the tenor.  No one likes those snooty tenors….am I right?!

Okay…activities aside….we’d return to the cabin except for the one day when….

OH. MY. LORD. This place ROCKED!!

OH. MY. LORD. This place ROCKED!!

We were on the verge of death…literally starving and on life-support when we walked into this eatery in Glenwood Springs.  Our daughters milled around the illuminated glass display cases when the owner (a younger guy) approached them and asked “YOU GIRLS READY TO PARTY?!”  This place specializes in donuts, cronuts and specialty sandwiches.  We went for the cronuts and were filled with fried, iced and filled with cream….DELICIOUSNESS!!   It closes at two in the afternoon so we got two for the price of one…or at least the girls did.

A pack of hungry wolves couldn't have done it any better as we tore into these delectable pastries.

A pack of hungry wolves couldn’t have done it any better as we tore into these delectable pastries.

Later on that night we drove down to Aspen to check out….wait for it….

Excuse me while I get in touch with my inner nerd

Excuse me while I get in touch with my inner nerd

Its beautiful. Its free. Its like his music.

Its beautiful. Its free. Its like his music.

yep...just quiet with the sound of the brook running through it...all in Aspen

yep…just quiet with the sound of the brook running through it…all in Aspen

Connie and Jordan

Connie and Jordan

As for Aspen itself…I could live with never going back.  Its pricy and getting around is a little congested, what with it being nestled in between majestic peaks and such.  We did see some cool homes though.  The average price of a single family home?  Five million clams. 

Our cabin was a good place to stay.  Unfortunately there were some issues that arose.  We were blessed (still are).  Our problems weren’t health or safety related…just a broken washer so that I had to haul our bath towels into town every day and wash them, then truck them back to the cabin to dry.  THAT…right there…is a FIRST WORLD problem.

There's nothing like walking in from a 90+ degree parking lot into a 90+ degree, steamy laundromat. I jot down some blog notes while Macy snaps the pic.

There’s nothing like walking in from a 90+ degree parking lot into a 90+ degree, steamy laundromat. I jot down some blog notes while Macy snaps the pic.

One more day of vacation left, plus a few twists and turns along the way.  I think that I enjoy the road more than the stay.  Thank you for following along.  This vacation was made all the more enjoyable back when my brother Brian left for college in the summer of ’77 and left his record collection for me.  Hours of listening to him and Creedence Clearwater Revival.  That was a pretty good summer.

Until next time.  God bless.

R

 

 

Big Sid’s is where its at!!

We tried something different on this vacation. We hired someone to drive us around in a Jeep, up in the mountains, above the tree line and I thoroughly enjoyed it…the girls…maybe not so much.  The drive took us on roads (if you can call them that…) up steep inclines, through creeks and on plenty of paths that I wouldn’t have had the courage to try to navigate.  The reward was breathtaking views and time with family.  Our drivers name was John, though he reminded me a lot of my buddy Joel.  His voice, his demeanor, his knowledge of wildlife and the history of Aspen and Colorado (maybe not Joel so much in that regard) and his easy going segues into being a smart-ass and laughing at his own jokes.  Good times.

We passed maybe two or three vehicles all day on these paths.

We passed maybe two or three vehicles all day on these paths.

YIKES!!!  I thought for a second that Bigfoot had jumped in the Jeep with us.  Turns out its just Connie Sue's hair went bat-sh*t crazy.

YIKES!!! I thought for a second that Bigfoot had jumped in the Jeep with us. Turns out its just Connie Sue’s hair went bat-sh*t crazy.

We were lucky enough to see this young bear along the way.  I coaxed him into the Jeep, scratched his ears and sung him a little Rocky Mountain High before turning him back into the wild.  I think...he cried a little as we drove off.

We were lucky enough to see this young bear along the way. I coaxed him into the Jeep, scratched his ears and sung him a little Rocky Mountain High before turning him back into the wild. I think…he cried a little as we drove off.

Even above the tree-line my legs are sexy.  True story

Even above the tree-line my legs are sexy. True story

We had a picnic in an old ghost town near Aspen

We had a picnic in an old ghost town near Aspen

The wonderful views were plentiful.  Just awe inspiring.  The camera doesn't do it justice

The wonderful views were plentiful. Just awe inspiring. The camera doesn’t do it justice

Group "jump" photo.  First attempt....fail

Group “jump” photo. First attempt….fail

second attempt....NAILED IT!!

second attempt….NAILED IT!!

...and sisters being sisters

…and sisters being sisters

Hurricane Pass

Hurricane Pass

No trip to Glenwood Springs is complete without stopping by my buddy Big Sid's Bottles and gettin' a little medicine.

No trip to Glenwood Springs is complete without stopping by my buddy Big Sid’s Bottles and gettin’ a little medicine.

...and not having anything to do with Big Sid's Bottles is that all of that fresh air required a nap in the afternoon.

…and not having anything to do with Big Sid’s Bottles is that all of that fresh air required a nap in the afternoon.

So far….a great vacation.  Thanks for coming along.

R

 

 

INNER NERD=Colorado

Day three of our vacation had us leave Nebraska, scurry through Wyoming and into Colorado.  Once we got close to Denver the inevitable question came up from Connie (wait for it….) “anyone want to listen to some John Denver?”  Dead serious…we’re big John Denver fans.  In the mid 1970’s when Connie and I were growing up John Denver was HUGE.  He was at the zenith of his career.  TV specials.  Concerts selling out.  Movies.  His hit music being played and we readily listened.  Unfortunately John was killed in a plane crash.  I can’t help but think that his career would have had a wonderful resurgence like so many other performers of his day.  Back to the present we hooked up Connie’s phone to the vans audio system and jammed out to Rocky Mountain High, Poems, Prayers & Promises, Back Home Again and many others.  I’m as serious as a heart-attack (again…NERD ALERT!!!)…most in our van were singing along with the lyrics as our girls grew up with Denver being played in our home.  With God as my witness I got misty singing along to Back Home Again and Rocky Mountain High having to stop a number of times to clear my throat.

As with any other vacation involving driving, we ran into road construction.  This one was no different.

I WISH that we were going 45. The only thing that could be worse is...

I WISH that we were going 45. The only thing that could be worse is…

...going 2 miles per hour. Thank God this only lasted about five minutes.

…going 2 miles per hour. Thank God this only lasted about five minutes.

We arrived at our destination, a cabin outside of Glenwood Springs Colorado in mid-afternoon.  Connie had rented a cabin for us, it was someone else’s home at other times of the year.  I didn’t know what to expect.

The living room

The living room

Master bedroom

Master bedroom

Loft

Loft

It had room enough for all of us, a full kitchen, garage and (wait for it….)

...an outhouse!! Its leftover from when the former property owner used this rural area as his families picnic area.

…an outhouse!! Its leftover from when the former property owner used this rural area as his families picnic area.

The caretaker of the home informed us that there had been a “small bear” in the area and to “be aware” when outside.  “You’ll probably never see anything…the mountain lions and bears have all moved up….but still, be aware…”.  Well ladies and gentlemen…when you tell Rich Ripley that there’s the possibility that a bear could still be lingering in his general vicinity Rich Ripley is at “Scaredy-Cat Level 3.75” on a scale of 5 with 5 being the highest level.  Rational thought is given some credence, all while said rational thought is being had while sitting inside the cabin whilst drinking a Coors Light, but when I ventured outside around eleven one night to see the stars (they’re spectacular in the mountains) I was marveling at the cosmos when I heard a twig snap down by the creek (roughly thirty feet away) and bolted safely back into the cabin within a few seconds…covering a stretch of gravel driveway in flip flops like a sprinter competing for gold at the Olympics (who was being chased by a bear…).  True story.  Thank God I made it back inside safely and lived to tell the tale.  Stupid bear, mountain loin, skunk, mouse….

Anyway…we have a tradition in our family of leaving at the break of dawn (or earlier) to get to our main activity for the day.  I’m not lying.  Whatever it is that we want to do, we’re usually one of the first ones at the gate, fence, building, ticket office, Ranger station, restaurant, subway, movie theater, airport whatever.  We’ve never been late. Even with reservations we tend to leave early in case we have a flat tire (its never happened in 27+ years of marriage) mechanical breakdown (again…its never happened in 27+ years of marriage) or heavy traffic (see “its never happened in 27+ years of marriage).  Oh sure…we’ve had flat tires or mechanical issues on the way home (twice in 27+years)….but never getting there.  Its our Lou Gehrig-like streak that cannot be broken unless one of us dies, then the remaining spouse will dutifully drag the others dead ass to the event saying “I got dressed and ready for this and you’re not going to ruin it!!”

Today’s activity was white-water rafting.  We had done this nine years earlier on a different river so it was nothing new to us, but we were still looking forward to it.  Our guide was a twenty-two year old, cute, tan and engaging young college student named Raleigh.  Here are some snapshots of our adventure.  You get to enjoy them without getting soaked by ice-cold mountain water, or having your youngest daughter ogle the guide.

Having fun with paddles and life preservers

Having fun with paddles and life preservers

Where'd we go?!?!

Where’d we go?!?!

So far...so good!!

So far…so good!!

OH CRAP!! ANOTHER ONE!!

OH CRAP!! ANOTHER ONE!!

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

The CREW (notice our guide mugging for the shot)

The CREW (notice our guide mugging for the shot)

Cold, wet and exhausted we retired to our cabin for the remainder of the day.

What's to do at the end of a fun and exciting day? That's easy...pile into Moms bed and tell stories. I snapped this photo in the reflection of a nearby mirror.

What’s to do at the end of a fun and exciting day? That’s easy…pile into Moms bed and tell stories. I snapped this photo in the reflection of a nearby mirror.

That’s Sunday and Monday wrapped up in 914 words.  The week gets more interesting with a trip to CERTAIN DEATH, wildlife (damn bears…) and more mugging for the camera (I told the girls to quit screwing around when the camera was out…but they take after one of their parents a little too closely.  I wonder who?

Thank you for coming along with us.

Take care and God bless.

R

 

 

EXPERIENCE NEBRASKA!! (or so I was told…)

Here’s how it works.  Sometime in January my wife informs me that we need to start planning what we’re going to do for a summer vacation.  I wholeheartedly agree by mumbling “…okay…whatever…let me know what you decide…”.  She then plans our vacation, making reservations, setting up an itinerary, researching points of interest, restaurants and letting me know what dates to block off for said vacation.  I’m only in charge of my own packing and driving us to and from places.  It works out best this way since I don’t really care to travel but for the sake of keeping my bride happy I look for things along the way to keep me interested AND I always enjoy myself.  Its kind of an adventure.

This years vacation coincided with our nieces wedding in northwest Nebraska.  For those unfamiliar with the state of Nebraska, and all that it has to offer, its greatest resource are its people.  They’re nice, just like Iowans.  Iowa and Nebraska’s sister states Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota all have sexy attractions like: Chicago, The Dells, The Ozarks,  National Forests, Door County, The Great Lakes, The Packers, Bears, Cubs, Royals, Cardinals, Vikings, Twins, Chiefs, White Sox, Bulls, The Twin Cities, Kansas City and St. Louis just to mention a few.  In Iowa we have the Amana Colonies where the Amish settled AND really, really kickass rest areas along the interstate highways.  If you’re from Iowa you really can’t look down your nose at Nebraska…especially when you’re known for being a leader in the production of: corn, eggs, chickens, milk and hogs….all of which are just dandy but not sexy nor attractive (actually…YOU’RE WELCOME AMERICA…while the rest of you are having a blast we’re just toiling away in America’s Heartland, listening to the corn grow and tending to the millions of chickens and hogs that reside with us between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers).  But tirades aside…we were destined for the northwest corner of Nebraska and my wife decided to take us westward from there to Colorado after the wedding.  A great thing happened along the way….all three of our daughters would be joining us.  Ages 25, 23 and 20, it’d been years since we could all vacation together and we were looking forward to it, and truth be told….I like Nebraska.  Dead serious.  The state and its folks are fine with me…just don’t get them started on the Huskers unless you’ve got HOURS to listen to how terrific they are…er used to be.

The drive across Iowa and Nebraska is breathtakingly beautiful if you enjoy lush green rolling hills and plains chock-full of corn and soybeans, interspersed with hay, hogs and cattle in various states of growth.  Dead serious…hour upon hour of green…until you get to central Nebraska then its drier and less green.  To my point…not much going on until you exit I-80 at Ogallala and head north.  You don’t realize it while its happening, but we had climbed from 800 feet above sea level (where we live in Iowa) to 3280 at Ogallala.  It has BLUFFS that dive deep to Lake McConaughy (not affiliated with the actor) and rolling, far as the eye can see, prairie.  Its beautiful. 

Here’s a reenactment of our 2007 trip to Colorado.

At a rest area in Nebraska 2007.  Throwing away an ornery Macy. (try not to stare at those sexy denim shorts and mid-calf white socks...LADIES!!)

At a rest area in Nebraska 2007. Throwing away an ornery Macy. (try not to stare at those sexy denim shorts and mid-calf white socks…LADIES!!)

Nine years later...she's still sassy, a little heavier but I have the situation under control...sans the sexy denim shorts.

Nine years later…she’s still sassy, a little heavier but I have the situation under control…sans the sexy denim shorts.

Uh oh.  Fortunately they only got me six inches off of the ground.  I was thinking "if they drop me...how can I drive with broken ribs...?"  This was Connie's idea BTW.

Uh oh. Fortunately they only got me six inches off of the ground. I was thinking “if they drop me…how can I drive with broken ribs…?” This was Connie’s idea BTW.

We arrived at Scottsbluff the day before the wedding and went about investigating the locale and took the following photos over the next two days.  It was a really nice town out in the middle of nowhere.

Amazingly beautiful.  Scottsbluff National Monument was a great place to visit.  The Oregon Trail passed through it.

Amazingly beautiful. Scottsbluff National Monument was a great place to visit. The Oregon Trail passed through it.

Pondering my next move...

Pondering my next move…

...and suffering the consequences.

…and suffering the consequences.

Having a little fun with the pano setting on my phones camera and its filters.

A beautiful day.

A beautiful day.

Family fun…

Karalee and Macy hamming it up for the camera

Karalee and Macy hamming it up for the camera

So many cool views...this doesn't do them justice.

So many cool views…this doesn’t do them justice.

We had lunch in Scottsbluff at a Mexican restaurant that received good reviews on Yelp but wasn’t much bigger than a two car garage.  It was authentic and tasty.

Are the bars on the windows to keep folks out...or in?  Regardless...I was too hungry to ponder this question for very long

Are the bars on the windows to keep folks out…or in? Regardless…I was too hungry to ponder this question for very long

We went to the wedding, held outside on a high hill overlooking the surrounding plains.  Definitely “country-western” themed.  It was beautiful.  God.  Family.  Friends.  Food.

The bride and one of the groomsmen.

The bride and one of the groomsmen.

A storm had rolled in the previous night and I got a few shots of it.  That’s one thing that I really like about being in the country…seeing the sky.

Top to bottom...blue, white and pink.  Strong winds didn't keep the mosquitoes from harassing me between gusts.

Top to bottom…blue, white and pink. Strong winds didn’t keep the mosquitoes from harassing me between gusts.

IMG_0980

 

Together again…the RIPLEYS ARE GOING TO COLORADO!!! (via Nebraska and Wyoming).

Connie, Karalee, Jordan, Macy and me.

Connie, Karalee, Jordan, Macy and me.

The ride gets wilder as we enter a state that offers legalized fireworks, marijuana, scenic mountain views, critters that can eat you and a speed limit bordering on insane down 5% grades.   Thanks for tagging along!  More to come.

God bless,

R

 

 

 

 

No Speedo. No problem.

Blog #2 of 2 (I’m keeping it simple…its Wednesday for Heaven’s sake).

Our second port of call on our seven day cruise of the Caribbean was in Jamaica.  Again…stunningly beautiful sights.

Jamaica from our ship Oasis of the Sea's.

Jamaica from our ship Oasis of the Sea’s.

 

We walked around the port which was FILLED with shops that sold high-end, duty-free jewelry and liquor…and lot’s and lot’s of Bob Marley related merchandise, wood cravings and other touristy stuff.  Dave sampled the rum and coffee while I people watched.

"Hey buddy...you hot?"  I wonder if this is what folks do when they're hot, from where he hails from...?"

“Hey buddy…you hot?” I wonder if this is what folks do when they’re hot, from where he hails from…?”

Nothing says this is a "Jamaican Paradise" like Dairy Queen and Quizno's.

Nothing says this is a “Jamaican Paradise” like Dairy Queen and Quizno’s.

While at port in Jamaica the ladies refused to braid my hair.  It ruined my whole day.  I ROCK the CORNROWS!!

While at port in Jamaica the ladies refused to braid my hair. It ruined my whole day. I ROCK the CORNROWS!!

This was really, really good. I mean it.  Really good.

This was really, really good. I mean it. Really good.

Our last port of call was Cozumel Mexico where we had bought an excursion to visit a Mayan ruin via a MONSTER JEEP with a picnic on a virgin beach where we could swim, just $149 per person.  Those that really know me are aware that I’m not very cultured but the idea of visiting an ANCIENT Mayan Pyramid plus a virgin beach was too cool to pass up.  As it turns out…they were regular Jeeps (no biggie), we drove them (again..no problem) along a sandy and rocky trail (it got real interesting at this point with one Jeep at the head of the caravan getting stuck for almost an hour).  AAA roadside assistance wasn’t coming to our rescue.

This was our view most of the time while driving to the Mayan ruin...with an occasional well-armed soldier poking his head out of the brush every ten or fifteen minutes.  Who knows why they were out there?

This was our view most of the time while driving to the Mayan ruin…with an occasional well-armed soldier poking his head out of the brush every ten or fifteen minutes. Who knows why they were out there?

Mayan ruin.  A look out.  I was thinking that we'd see Mayan pyramids...nope.  This was it.

Mayan ruin. A look out. I was thinking that we’d see Mayan pyramids…nope. This was it.  Still cool.  Its dated at 400 AD. 

We departed the Mayan look out (it faced the coast…keeping an eye out for pirates and such) and drove to our VIRGIN BEACH with picnic lunch!!

The "catering truck" for our picnic

The “catering truck” for our picnic

Pathway to our virgin beach picnic.  The scenery was beautiful.  The virgin never appeared.

Pathway to our virgin beach picnic. The scenery was beautiful. The virgin never appeared.

We were all given blankets and umbrella's to share until our meal was ready.  That rain in the horizon....yeah...we got that.

We were all given blankets and umbrella’s to share until our meal was ready. That rain in the horizon….yeah…we got that.

I find it humorous that in a Spanish speaking country this sign is only in English...as in "only the Americans would be dumb enough to swim with this kind of rough surf."

I found it humorous that in a Spanish speaking country this sign is only in English…as in “only the Americans would be dumb enough to swim with this kind of rough surf.”

Me pointing towards America...I think...maybe it was Cuba.  Regardless, the water was warm and wonderful as long as you didn't go deeper than your knees.

Me pointing towards America…I think…maybe it was Cuba. Regardless, the water was warm and wonderful as long as you didn’t go deeper than your knees.  The riptide was very strong, the shoreline dropped off quickly.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but I passed on the picnic.  The meat used for the grill was stored in old, nasty looking buckets, they were touching the food with their hands (with no sinks, gloves or anything to wash their hands) and the only thing iced down were the beverages.  Maybe this is what passes in Mexico for a picnic, but for me…I could envision a night of intestinal issues back on the ship if I ate this meal.  Dave ate it, thoroughly enjoyed it and didn’t have any problems.

This is Dave.  He fell asleep waiting for lunch.  I didn't have the heart to wake him up about the hermit crab that took up temporary shelter inside his shorts.  Sadly...it left prior to nappy boy waking up.  It would've been a terrific blog...

This is Dave. He fell asleep waiting for lunch. I didn’t have the heart to wake him up about the hermit crab that took up temporary shelter inside his shorts. Sadly…it left prior to nappy boy waking up. It would’ve been a terrific blog.

We made it back to our ship just fine, via a required stop at a “tequila ranch” where they tried to sell us tequila and souvenirs.  While the younger folks in our excursion raved about how much fun this was I felt like what was advertised and what was delivered were two different things.  It was my fault for not investigating more thoroughly before purchasing it.  Its quite a trip to get to the Mayan pyramids is what I was told…like two days of hiking.  Who knew?

The view along our way to the Mayan ruin.

The view along our way to the Mayan ruin.  Hard to beat this view on a Wednesday!

The food on the cruise varied anywhere from good to excellent.  Two examples follow.

Seafood Ceviche.  Shrimp. bay scallops, lime-marinated lobster, red onions, cucumbers, dill & cilantro.  One of my favorite appetizers.

Seafood Ceviche. Shrimp. bay scallops, lime-marinated lobster, red onions, cucumbers, dill & cilantro. One of my favorite appetizers.

Pork Scaloppine Oscar.  Crab meat, fresh asparagus, grill plum tomato and mashed potatoes with a veal reduction.

Pork Scaloppine Oscar. Crab meat, fresh asparagus, grill plum tomato and mashed potatoes with a veal reduction.

I have no conscience while on vacation...but this was probably meant for someone other than Dave or myself.

I have no conscience while on vacation…but this was probably meant for someone other than Dave or myself because this is HOW WE ROLL BABY!!

Dave's impressed.  He only gets this look in his eyes like only...every five years or so.  Its best to just let him finish.

Dave’s impressed. He only gets this look in his eyes…every five years or so. Its best to just let him finish.

Sadly...all seven of my Speedo's were confiscated by the TSA.  The "incident" at Disney World in 2005 continues to haunt me. This dude ROCKS it old school.

Sadly…all seven of my Speedo’s were confiscated by the TSA. The “incident” at Disney World in 2005 continues to haunt me. This dude ROCKS it old school.

I've seen thousands of sunsets from my beloved home state of Iowa.  These were equally beautiful.

I’ve seen thousands of sunsets from my beloved home state of Iowa. These were equally beautiful.

The cruise had plenty of shows and activities to keep us occupied.  Dave especially enjoyed the Broadway style shows, while I usually passed and just walked around the ship or retired for the night.  One of the great things of having such a good friend (of 30+ years) is that we were fine with splitting off from each other and doing our own thing.  I enjoyed shooting baskets at the basketball court then grabbing an ice old beer then swimming while Dave did his thing.  We didn’t need to be joined at the hip to enjoy the cruise.  Folks may think that without our wives along to chaperone us that we’d get crazy and stay out late.  The majority of the time we were in our room before eleven each night.  Did we drink a little too much a couple of times?  Hell yeah…we’re not DEAD!!  But nothing that a little nap and Tylenol couldn’t take care of.  This cruise was a very self-centered extravagance for me.  I doubt that I’ll ever cruise again, but I’m glad that we went.  It was wonderful, except that I really missed Connie.  After I returned home I wouldn’t leave her alone for two days.  She had to grab a stick and whack me with it shouting “DOWN BOY!!” until I got the message.  (true story…I’ll show you the welts later…)

Do you remember all of those baseball and basketball games that I blab about?  Those games paid for this trip.  All of the times that I’ve hustled up and down a court, getting into position?  All of those times that I’ve stood on a hot and windy baseball field in the late day sun with sweat trickling down my back?  THOSE paid for this trip.  I can’t say that I earned this trip…but it was a real nice deal.

Yours truly...looking out from the Mayan look out.

Yours truly…looking out from the Mayan look out.

Its great to be home.  Good to be back at work (I need routine) and I hope that you’ve enjoyed these last two blogs.  As alwaysGod bless and take care!

R