Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, January 5, 2015

Travel is Broadening and so are Big Macs and Fries

My friend Ronald is about to embark on a trip to Lala Land - gonna plop himself down with a friend right in the heart of Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard one and one-tenth mile from Mann's Chinese Theater and the Walk of Fame. He post a video today of him on the East coast with the Atlantic Ocean rolling in the background. The photo on the right is one I took of sunset over the Pacific on a trip I made to L.A. a few years…man…actually decades ago now.

Like me, Ronald is on another journey these days, down a road called Old Age. He's decided to use this time to veer off on other highways and see some of this world.

I have kind of lost my desire for wanderlust anymore. Or maybe it's more I lost the wallet to finance such ventures. At any rate, I was fortunate enough to have done some jaunts about this country in years gone by.  Before the kids came, and my kids came late, the Little Woman and I used to make a car trip once or twice a year. Some were well-planned out and some were just spur-of-the-moment jump in the car with a couple changes of underwear and a toothbrush and go. It was like that when we decided to head off to Cleveland, of all exotic locales, one day in our fearless use. Rolling on out the Interstates with no spare tire and not even worrying about a flat.

Didn't have a flat either. Had the drive shaft fall out of the car somewhere about the Ohio border, though. It's what you call an adventure.

Most trips went without such mechanical treachery, drama coming more from getting lost than anything
else. Those drives were constant behind the wheel affairs, too. Get up in the morning, stop at whatever tourist traps trapped us that day and find another motel down the line by evening. We did so many places that way, Wisconsin, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and many other states. Only ever made it to one foreign country, Canada, and it wasn't all that foreign really. When we went through Toronto to Niagara Falls we didn't even need a passport.  That's the Little Woman sitting in front of the Giant Floral Clock at Niagara Falls, Canada.

After the kids were grown we did some more of those car trip things. Only difference being I preferred we have a destination to arrive at and stay a while rather than zig-zagging across the landscape of a thousand roadside attraction the whole
time. (I also always took a spare tire along.)  We still traversed a good deal of real estate, New England, Virginia again, and so forth. (Left is the Little Woman aboard the Skipback H. M. Krentz out of St. Michaels, Maryland in 2013.)

But it's the in-between I want to address, since those trips involved flying somewhere and are more akin to what my friend is now doing.  Well, sort of, except he is going purely for pleasure and my trips were always connected to business.  That didn't make them un-pleasurable, although somewhat lonely since I generally couldn't take the Little Woman along.Of course, if they hadn't been for business with Wilmington Trust paying for them I wouldn't have been able to afford to go myself. The odd thing was due to the financial craziness of airplane flight I was always afford a lot of free time for sightseeing. You see, if the business was Monday through Wednesday I would be booked out on Sunday (sometimes even Saturday) and not returned until the following Saturday. This was because you could get cut rate plane fares this way, so cut rate that it was cheaper to pay for several extra nights of hotel rooms and days of meals than to fly out on Monday and fly back on Wednesday. Crazy! (The Bank put me up in top-star hotels, too.)

Flying was the most bothersome part of all these trips. You had to get to the airport 45 minutes ahead of your flight and you had to make taxi or rent-a-car connections and all that. Sounds pretty tame now, a piece of cake. Now you got to be there three hours ahead and put up with all the security, scanning and probing and shoe removal, and maybe tossing away your bottle of water or tube of special hair shampoo. Man, I'm glad I didn't have to put up what the terrorists have inflicted upon we weary travelers today.

There were sometimes other things, like you plane's hydraulic system falling to piece in flight. I was on
my way to Phoenix via Continental when we made an emergency landing in Denver. They didn't even go to a terminal. They bused us off the tarmac as they rolled the pane into the maintenance hanger. Finally they rolled us back, packed us on and then sat us there because some other system failed. Really made you confident for the remainder of the fly-in to Phoenix. (Right is our approach over Phoenix on a sputtering hydraulic system and a prayer.)

Oh by the by, here is a poem inspired by a typical airport situation in those days.


Sitting in the airport.
Flight was scheduled long ago.

Please don’t leave your baggage unattended…

Squirming on a hard chair.
Maintenance breakdown I know.

Please don’t leave your baggage unattended…

Screaming of a lost babe.
My determined mind echoes.

Please don’t leave your baggage unattended…

Starting to load first class.

While waiting on a rear row;
I don’t leave my baggage unattended.


I remember sitting in those terminals and every few minutes the P.A. would squawk a bit then this harsh female voice would blare out: "Please don't leave your luggage unattended."  This was the extent of security back then along with two other rituals. One, you walked through a metal detecter and only had to pause if you beeped. The other was the probing questions at the checkin counter. "Did you pack your own luggage? Did anyone else have access to your luggage? Did anyone plant a bomb in your luggage?" Sure, you're going to tell them you felt your luggage with a odd-looking strange while you ran to the restroom. You know if you say yes to any of those questions there will be more questions and a hassle, so no, Ted Kaczynski didn't help me pack for this trip. No, my wife was nowhere near my bag. Yeah, those questions kept the terrorist at bay. I can't hijack de plane because I have to say yes to your third-degree questions.

Maybe one of the scariest things was a stopover in St. Louis. For some reason all their runways were down, except one. We landed and then I had an hour in the terminal before my changeover flight boarded. I am watching the coming and goings out on that one runway. Planes landed and took off from that ONE RUNWAY!  A plane would land, zip along and then another plane would taxi out and take off, followed by another arrival. I counted the interval between. It wasn't half a minute. I was glad to be out of Missouri without a 747 plowing through my DC-10 just as our wheels left the ground.

On the many trips I took for the Bank, I believe I flew a different airline each time. It struck me the similarities between these carriers. Without the logo painted on the tail you wouldn't know one from another and I suddenly realized how similar each hotel room was to each other, not to mention if I grabbed a lunch at a fast food place. Weather New York or Houston or Miami or downtown Wilmington, Delaware, a McDonald's was a McDonald's.

So Ronald, my friend, relax. You'll get through all the body scans that expose your deepest secrets and the tremors of turbulence I am certain. Have a great time in Los Angeles and with any luck you too may be inspired to write a poem about how Travel is Broadening.

First time I flew was American Air
                                    Straight to the airport in Dallas Fort Worth.
                                    I thought what opportunity to have
                                    Experiences beyond my own home
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    I took Continental to Arizona
                                    And a bus trip north to the Grand Canyon.
                                    It was ninety-two degrees in Phoenix,
                                    But from the bus stop window I watched snow
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    I flew Delta to Atlanta of course
                                    And stayed at a complex called the Omni.
                                    On Sunday I took a long walk downtown.
                                    Empty streets, no wait at the restaurant
                                    Where I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    TWA took me to chill Florida.
                                    The beach was lonely because of the cold.
                                    The unusual freeze led to disaster.
                                    At lunch I heard the shuttle exploded
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.
                                    It was Northwestern to Los Angeles,
                                    With a stop over in Minnesota.
Near Mann’s Chinese Theater a man stopped
By my table with a Rolex for sale
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    United took me to mile high Denver.
                                    I rode the van to the mountains of Vail.
                                    Paddled a raft down the Colorado,
                                    A fond adventure I contemplated
                                    As I sat and ate my Big Mac and fries.

                                    Every airline seemed like any other.
                                    Each hotel had the same lobby d├ęcor
And a picture hanging above the bed.
I wonder where the regional color went

As I sit and eat my Big Mac and fries.                        2001

By the way, a hustle did try to sell me a Rolex at Mann's Chinese Theater, so be weary my friend, be weary.

Hotel room in Houston.

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