Reitmeier Travels

Welcome friends, my name is John Reitmeier and I've been so fortunate to have experienced a lot of travel starting back in 1972. It's time to put the memories in some sort of order, and to add text and pictures to share with our friends and the many listeners to our radio programs. Thanks for coming along on this ride!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

2B or not 2B

I guess you finally accept the fact that you're getting older when you realize that things you miss weren't from last year, or a few years ago, not even in this century...and something I miss the most is the 747's that North West Airlines used to fly from Minneapolis to Amsterdam (and also to the Orient) were the greatest planes flying, then and now!  I've been on all the newer planes, but there's something about the 747, of which I liked the model 200 the best, that just is missing on any of the big Air Bus (380 exempted...haven't been on that one yet) jets and other Boeing such as the 777.  Very nice, but you know you're not on a 747!

Over the years I now have accumulated over 1,500,000 air miles on NWA and continuing on Delta.  I have spent 1,200,00 of them by the way.  Most of the spending has been in 100,000 or so, mile units to book a first class (OK business class, or world class or whatever you want to call me if I'm not in the narrow no recline cattle car section, it's FIRST CLASS!)  Mix those flights with a few freebies, some buddy passes from a NWA pilot and several from a United Pilot and you can see that I've been back and forth across the pond more than every few years.   I remember one year I managed to get to Europe 4 times in 8 months.  AHHH the good old days!

Of course time and marketing strategy have marched on and first NWA stopped flying 747's to Europe in the winter, substituting various DC-10 type models, and finally only DC-10's and now mostly Boeing 777's.   All fine planes, but not the 747.  Early on I ended up sitting in Row 2 Seat B.  It is in the nose of the plane just one row back from the very front.  If you remember that's the lower level as the pilots and a few passengers are above us.  And then Seat B which is an aisle, with a HUGE GAP till the other 2 seats on the other side of the plane.  Because of the nose coming to a point, you can actually look over the shoulder of the person in 1A and look down the runway.  It's the most awesome seat on the plane in my opinion.   And then the top off to the seat is that it's 2 B.   As in Shakespeare's famous soliloquy that begins, "To be or not to be, that is the question..."  I guess no one else had figured that out over the years.  As I'd get on the plan and take a left at the entry door I was always met by the purser (the person in charge of the passenger portion of the flight) who always did the meet and greet with front cabin fliers.  I would always say, "I'm in the Shakespeare Seat, and would get 1 of 3 responses.  Some got it right away and just beamed and you could tell they had never figured that before, others took a while but when you did the famous line for them would give some response of happiness, and then there were some who didn't get it...and sometimes another flight attendant would lean over and explain it to them.

I wish I could have bought one of those seats!  What great memories, I even would change flying dates to get to sit in that seat.  NWA had about 8 of those planes at the time, I wonder if I ever sat in the same seat more than one time.

One purser came by my seat one day and said he had thought about it and decided that every seat on the plane was a Shakespeare Seat...."To be or NOT to be." (2B or NOT 2B) covered every seat in the plane.  We had a good laugh about that one.  I understand Delta now flies 747 400's only from Atlanta to the Orient.  Just one more time I'd like to book 2B and feel the power behind those 4 thunder jets and we lift off, knowing it will be almost 10,000 miles of distance and perhaps 40,000 feet in the air before we touch down.  747-200's are mostly in the bone yards now, or flying freight from some second rate carrier in a far off micro country.  But they'll always be new and red and shiny in my mind and I know that somewhere, some day there's a seat named 2B waiting to carry me to a distant land.  Goodbye old friends, thanks for your support over the years...and good years they were!

Monday, April 30, 2012

THIS IS PART 2 OF THE 1983 Paris/Germany Part 1 posted April 27, 2012 first!

Taking off in any airplane is always a few moments of exhilaration, perhaps a little fear, some joy (usually) at finally being on the journey, and that big, empty, "what's going to happen on this trip!" feeling, that moment of, "there's no turning back now.  If you're driving out of the yard, or are even a few miles from home, and forgot something, it's easy to go back, even with a bunch of friends, the ribbing and kidding pales in comparison to getting that most important thing that you forgot.  But when that big jet finally makes the long sweep and lines itself up on that 6000 foot cement slab, when it's sitting on the end of the runway, when those engines get the instruction to go to 100% and you're pushed back in your seat, at that moment you know there's no do-overs, there's no, whoops, there's no, "ahhh excuse me but I might have forgotten..."

At the moment this all happened on this flight, it was already dark in New York City.  The cabin lights were pretty much turned down and the view out the port hole window of a million lights was setting a scene that up to that time in my life, I really hadn't experienced.  Off to Europe with people I hadn't even met the day before, flying over the ocean, known to be icy cold with sharks circling like a world turned upside down and the shark/vultures were waiting, eye to the sky, hoping that we might be their next meal.  All this a build up to a never before experienced adrenalin rush such that I had never before experienced.  Headphones had been passed out and I was flipping through the different choices of music and all of a sudden there was THE MOMENT.   Chariots of Fire (the movie) was 2 years old, just old enough for the theme music to hit all the elevators in the universe, and here it was.   Dun Dun, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, we're blasting down the runway, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, enough fuel to carry three quarters of a million pounds thirty three thousand feet into the air, and keep it there for some four thousand miles. Just at the moment when the nose gear lifted off and the rear wheels break contact with the earth, the big string orchestra kicks in with, Da Da Dat Dat Da Da Dum, Da Da Dat Dat Da Da Dum...and we truly are on the greatest adventure of my life up to that moment! No Hollywood script write could have possible made this all happen, timing to the second, taking into account the weight of the plane and the passengers and the luggage, and wind conditions, and humidity, and the state of the engines, yet it all came together for me right then for the only moment that would be my first moment of flying to Europe, ever.

The next couple of hours were pretty standard, drinks all around, some appetizers, and a pretty good meal.  Up to this time I had only experienced the first class cabin on short haul domestic flights, a nice seat and a free drink or two, maybe some snacks, but never the multi-course, heading to France so the wine better be quality, deserts served with a flourish meal that kept TWA in the top rated group of international carriers.  Dinner over, the cheese course served and cleaned up after and I notice that my American hating, French seat mate was drifting off into that, too many days in America, glad to be going home, didn't need those extra glasses of wine and all those carbs for dinner mental state, somewhere between awake and asleep, but leaning to comatose.  Remember this was still the days of polyester development, we had somehow forgotten that wool and cotton do make some pretty good clothes.  He had a mostly full glass of red wine in his right hand with his wrist nestled in that v made by his torso and his thigh and as he was falling asleep, his wine glass was slowly tipping, tipping towards his crotch.

Dilemma time for me.  As I was watching this develop I realized that I had three choices.  Based on his very verbal and repeating mantra of not liking Americans, of which I was one, I should have just quietly gotten up and make my way to the bathroom and spent enough time for what ever was going to unfold, to happen with no question that I had nothing to do with it, and wasn't in in a position to save the situation.  Or I could gently try to wake him up and hope he got control back before that red wine started changing the color of his pants forever, right at crotch central.  Or even another choice of reaching over and grabbing the glass from his hand and trying to level out the top so that the though the good graces of gravity, the wine would stay on it's side of the glass.  Of course that would involve my having my hand way to close to a mad Frenchman's crotch and a very importune moment, something that now I would just find funny, but that back then, would have been a great embarrassment.

What to do, what  to do.  As each of the three possibilities were snapping through my mind, not unlike a carousel at a carnival midway, but rather than the next horse coming into view, one of the three possible choices presented itself to me, as the glass was slowly but with great certainty getting to the level  where the wine and the glass would part company forever.   Dilemma, what to do, why didn't I just steal away and make it NOT MY PROBLEM, but my country boy, Lutheran upbringing just couldn't leave my seatmate to his own situation.  WAY to late in the game, I make a quiet attempt to wake him up.  Of course you know what happened next, as he came awake, he realized that he had a wine glass in his hand, he realized that it was at a precarious angle, but he wasn't quite conscious enough to determine just what angle would be the correct angle, and most of his glass of red wine ended up in a one foot circle centered right over his crotch, red wine, off white pants.  Of course at that moment our French friend decided that it was my fault that it all happened.   OH WELL, I guess I learned that next time I'm going to be conveniently gone/absent when this situation comes up again.  Especially when it's a Frenchman of proven anger!  I should have tried to sleep that night, as our plane was thundering on to Paris, but with all the different excitement moments, and the though of being in Europe the next morning, now just a few hours away, there was no chance.  This I was going to pay dearly for in the coming hours and days.

Six hours later we safely landed at the yet considered new Charles de Gaulle Airport. I was in Europe, I was in France, I was in Paris!  Actually considering that I thought Boone's Farm was wine, and the livers of geese were to be disposed of in the harvesting process, Paris really had no big allure for me.  If only the same trip presented itself to me now!  The load us all into an oversize Mercedes bus at take us to our hotel.  Le Grande Hotel across from the Opera House (now called the  InterContinental Paris).  The room I had, with a cross the street view of the Opera House is now over $1,000.00 a night and sadly the reviews of the place include rodents, dirty linen, and most disturbing, an uncaring staff.  I always wanted to go back and relive those days, but not for that money!!!   What?  Our rooms aren't ready?  What a surprise, OK Back on the bus, 5 hours touring Paris.

I know that I've been on a 5 hour tour of Paris.  I've seen the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Quartier Pigalle,  Champs-Elysees, and Montmartre, I know I have because I've seen pictures of me in front of these places, HOWEVER I have absolutely no recollection, no memory at all of being in front of these places.  I could pass a lie detector test without flinching and say no to each question, yet there are those pesky photos.  HMMM.

I'm sure we had lunch somewhere, but again no recollection. Finally we get back to our hotel, our wranglers tell us we have a 2 hour break. I need some sleep but first a bath. I fill it with water, I climb in, I lean back, and just keep going. Never before have I been in a bathtub where I can completely lie flat and toes and head don't touch the ends. Of course I'm completely underwater before I can catch myself. Wonderful, I'm underwater and gasping for air before I can recover. Out of the bath, dried off and between the sheets. AHHH welcome sleep. How many minutes had gone by, I don't know, but not that many when I hear a KNOCK KNOCK "Monsieur, monsieur, a gift from the manager!" So I'm bolted awake and out of bed, I'm at the door opening it (did I mention the not clothes on part?) and here comes a french room attendant (male thankfully) with a big basket with wine, champagne, fruit, cheese, sweets, the works. As I'm waking up I'm realizing that, HMMM i'm a guest in a foreign country, and now a gift from the hotel, perhaps this calls for a TIP. However clothes/wallet are on the other bed. So here we are, hotel room door open (out to a commons area not a hallway, me unclothed, opening my wallet to pass on a tip to this delivery boy, with an uncountable number of people walking by and looking in. Truly, it was a "welcome to France moment!" a couple of hours sleep, jump into some clothes, into some French cabs and we're whisked off to rue St. Louis-en-l’Ile and La Taverne du Sergeant Recruteur, Paris. What an experience! A food joint that was from the far past. A place originally used by military recruiters to attract young French men to have some food and adult beverages, perhaps some private time with some young French lasses, and in the morning the realization that they were now in the French Foreign Legion! Fortunately those days are long past, but the place really hadn't changed much. An incredible meal, many courses, lots to drink, but served so different than anything I had experienced in the US. The salad was a big basket, cut of what you want of the veggies you want! Hands unwashed, didn't seem to be a problem. More cheese? Just use your knife and take what you want. Sadly I got word in the spring of 2012 that the Taverne is now closed forever. Another victim of escalating prices and to many tourist choices, even in a city the size of Paris! But a memory that I'll hang on to forever! MORE ON THE PARIS TRIP, the TGV France's high speed train, and a rough flight back, coming up!

Friday, April 27, 2012

It was 1983, I got a free trip to Paris (and on to Frankfurt) because I was the only one at the radio station that had a passport.  Actually when they called to ask if I had a passport, I didn't!  But with the good fortune of having my friend and mentor visiting Las Vegas in his plane, (from LA) and me being smart enough to ask him if I had a passport before I told my boss that I didn't, changing events started to unfold right at that moment.  I put my hand over the mouthpiece and said to Bob, "they say they'll send me to Europe on Monday (this was Friday) if I have a Passport.  He quickly responded, "then tell them you have a Passport!" So I told them I have a passport, hung up the phone and turned to my mentor and say, "OK what now!"  In his usual fashion he said, I don't know, let's find out what it will take to get you a passport...long Monday!"  I mostly live in Crookston Minnesota, my 4th generation home, I'm working in Las Vegas, he's from Los we start with a phone call to the Court House back home.

Sure (remember this is WAY before 911) they say, do you have your Drivers License?  Of course, do you have your birth certificate with you?  WOW lucky break, I do...take that to the Clark County Court House with 2 Passport quality photos and they will do a  bunch of paperwork, then take that to the Embassy, "let's see the nearest embassy to you is in Los Angeles." Wow again a lucky break.  We went to get the photos, went to the court house, got the paperwork done and Bob headed to his airplane.  Flew home, paid a young man to stand in line starting at 6AM on a Saturday morning, was the first one through the door when it opened and at noon Bob was flying back to Las Vegas with my brand new, ready to go, Passport in his kit.

Monday, 4:30AM I'm at LAS,  meeting TV and newspaper folks, and our TWA hosts/guides for our trip.  They had carefully told us that if we wanted to fly in the front of the airplane, that it was MANDATORY that we dress in formal suits.  HEY no problem here, anything to sit in a bigger seat and have upgraded food and booze and service, and yet, a couple of the "stars" of TV in Las Vegas showed up in polo shirts and no suit coats.  BACK OF THE PLANE BOYS!  I think they were surprised!  I however was smartly dressed and ready to take my fancy seat.  In those years there weren't direct flights from Las Vegas to New York, so even though we were guests of TWA, we had to go to Phoenix first, wait on the ground about an hour, and then off to NEW YORK CITY!  My first visit there.  We arrived in the early afternoon because of the time change, and since there was about a four hour wait for our ocean flight, we were put into cabs and whisked off to the twin towers of the WORLD TRADE CENTER!  WOW this being a news report on a 'Fam' trip just gets better and better.  At the time, TWA was a partner in a hotel that took up about 20 floors and so we got a tour of that, and then off to the Windows on the World restaurant for some light supper and drinks.  I of course was gathering interviews all the time, on 2 heavy cassette tape recorders and got to a pay phone and called in a couple of 5 minute stories, along with some sounders (30 second teasers) about my upcoming trip to France and a ride on the high speed trains!

The cab ride back to JFK was a bit surreal in the fact that the cab driver had to be an identical twin to Carrol O'Connor's character Archie Bunker.  Looks, haircut, accent, especially accent.  What a hoot!  Then to JFK, board the plane, L1011, 4th row back, window side aisle.  French man sitting next to me, did NOT like Americans and wasn't afraid to let everyone around him know!  Where are we going with this you ask?  Stay tuned for the flight, the landing, the first hours in Paris, and an awesome evening at a restaurant that just closed now in 2012.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

March 3, 1994 and now 2010

Welcome back, wow time goes so fast. First of all, in the year since I've posted, we mostly focused on my father. Dad died on epiphany 2010, January 6. That really was our focus in the past year or so. But I still made some trips. Flying to Las Vegas/Boulder City for business. Frankfurt Germany for business and then around Germany for a week for some fun. Also to Winnipeg Canada for a great weekend. Didn't get a chance to fish or hunt with the Governor of Minnesota this year. Couldn't find caregivers for Dad. BUT things are starting to change now. The Motorhome is almost ready to go. We have a 10 day Tennesse trip coming up. We have a week in Las Vegas booked. Along with a circle trip around Minnesota in May as a couple of Germans are coming to the USA for the first time! I did something I've never done before, in anticipation of some traveling by myself. Back in the early 90's I owned a Cadillac limo for the bed and breakfast, but not exactly a traveling for fun type of vehicle. Well I just bought a Cadillac DTS. Leaseback, 23000 miles, but for my money (about 1/3 of the new price) it's a brand new touring car. And that's what I plan to do with it. It get's about 20 MPG if I drive it carefully (speed doesn't seem to be what takes the miles per gallon down, but rather how carefully you accellerate. So we have some flights, some motorhome trips and some car trips coming up. Some train travel, but nothing planned by boat.

I am for sure however going to do some of the REPOSITIONING crusing in the coming years. Riding the big barges from Europe to the USA or vice versa, as they reposition for the different seasons. Do remember though even though you get an inside cabin for 500 bucks for an 11 day trip, there's about another 500 in port charges, and 3 hundred in fees and then the dogleg flights, so you're still talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000$$ when you're done, not counting tips and a possible hotel stay on the ends. Still all in all a good value! And It's my goal to ride the QE2 one direction, and one of the other boats (I'm going for smaller rather than larger) the other direction in the next few years. BIG HINT BIG HINT! Read the reviews that are posted on the many cruise sites. For sure I'm not going to get on an Norwegian Cruise Line boat until I see the reviews start to change. Just too many bad comments. Sad cause I would have thought that NCL would be tops on the sea! More coming sooner, :-) I promise. Your traveling companion. John

Saturday, April 25, 2009

It's been a while, but we're back and the wheels are rolling!

Well it's been one of those "tough winters." Between the weather, and work pulling at me from all sides, and participating in the caregiving for my, now 94 year old Dad, and some quick & surprise trips, I haven't been updating like I used to. I think we're back to some semblance of normalcy and plan to be back here generating our opinions on a bunch of topics. In the mean time you can now follow us on TWITTER and FACEBOOK. Just visit and all the links you need are there. Looking forward to hearing from you! Exciting things coming up this summer.

On Thursday next, we meet our friends from and pick up a late model, really cool Class A motorhome. Pictures coming! We'll be traveling again. We've been to Germany this winter and I'll post about that too. HAPPY TRAVELS! John

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Our first trip since travel blogging started...A WILD GOOSE CHASE

So here we go! I created this page for 2 reasons, one to find a place to keep my memories of so many great trips that I've had the good fortune of being on, and also as a sort of diary of things from here forward. With that in mind, we begin our first ever blogging and travel moment.

Today we leave for points Northeast. Not so far to go, but really a world apart from the flat openess of the Red River Valley and home. Thief River Falls, and Middle River Minnesota have done something that I haven't noticed nearby cities do any place that I've been. Thief River Falls, (the big town) is the home to Digi-Key and Artic Cat, two really big employers. Along with that there are a multiple of smaller manufacturing companies which give the city a large tax base and attract workers from about a 60 mile radius. Not only do they work there, but they also tend to do a lot of their shopping there, which makes for a vibrant and thriving community. They've even got themselves a big Walmart, along with a rash of motels and eating joints. It's out of the Red River Valley, so it's got that typical Minnesota farm country look with a little roll to the land and a lot of mature trees scattered in all directions.

Then we have Middle River, (also known as the little town) reporting 319 souls in 2000 and probably pretty accurate today. There's two places to eat in town, no places to stay, and an old fashioned General Store that's a landmark, full of narrow aisles and one of everything that a household might need, and a whole lot of stuff the nobody needs! But this town is at the gateway to some of the best water fowl area known in North America. There are big swampy lakes nearby, with lots of reeds and shallow flats, the perfect stopping point for 10 bizillion water birds heading north in the spring, and back south in the fall. Throw in a little government protection of the area, a hundred moose or so, the potential of mosquitos in such numbers that they can lift small children out of baby carriages, and you've got the perfect place for duck and goose hunters, sort of a musty smelling Valhöll (Valhalla, Norwegian heaven in Norse Mythology).

These two cities have the perfect symbiotic relationship although which one is the host and which is the freeloader is yet to be determined. It's a great working relationship that truly brings two communities together. FAM trips, short for familiarization journeys, are the staple of media fun. The Minnesota Governor's Fishing Opener is without equal to being thee number one media event for hundreds of radio, Television, newpaper, magazine, and other advertising and promotion folk. Taking place at various spots around the state and attended by as many as 400 guests, it's a way to get a lot of bang for the advertising buck. If you added up all the newspaper and magazine articles that are written, throw in a few regional and larger TV stations, and add an uncountable number of Radio Station guys doing advance, "it's coming" segments, then hours of, "we're live with the Governor" and finally, "wow that was some trip" there isn't hardly enough money in the Washington Bank Bailout to purchase that much advertising exposure.

So it's really a wining moment for all sides. The manager/owner of two stations that carries my radio shows has not missed a year in over 3 decades, and plans to go every year till he's permanently horrizontal. It's a time to meet old friends, to enjoy first class treatment, have some fishing fun and get away from the "grind" every day that is part of being in the media. Whether you're in the written, visual, or audio part of media, just like every job, it does become just a job after a while. Occasional breaks like this are what turn the corner and make up for all the downsides of being on the radio day after day with lots of calls from people who know that you have to answer the phone so they've targeted you as their best friend. And for them you are because you're in their life 3 or 4 hours every day, but from the media persons side it's like, "who are you stranger?" Getting away on a media trip is as good as a week in Hawaii for regular people.

This is an easy trip, 45 miles from home, just 2 night so not so much packing, and excited to hook up with folks who you never see except at these kind of events. Although it's within an hours drive TRF is not a familiar town to me. Back in the youthfull period it was always a stopping point on the way home from hunting or fishing because it was close enough to home to almost be there, but it was far enough away so that Dad could justify stopping and spending money rather than waiting and being late and hungry when we got home. So my only real memory is the inside of the REX Cafe. More Tomorrow...

Friday, September 26, 2008

The tail wags the dog...or the plane controls the Pilot!

This is a cross post from my personal blog, Reitmeier Here's the travel part of the story.

I was traveling back from Berlin Germany to Minnesota. It was early December in '06. I was scheduled to fly from Berlin to Amsterdam on the 6AM flight, catching a KLM 747 to Chicago, then up to Minneapolis, and Finally to my home airport at Grand Forks. I didn't really like this route, because it involved 4 legs instead of the usual 3 and because I'd be in Chicago going through customs, (a reported nightmare from friends) and then have to pretty quickly get to another domestic terminal to catch the flight to MSP. The UPSIDE was that I was going to be able to be in the upstairs cabin on the 747 (a first for me), in World Business Class or the KLM equivalent. I miss the front cabins of the 747's Northwest used to fly across the Atlantic, they'd have DC10's on the winter season, and 747's for the summer between Minneapolis and Amsterdam. I liked them both but there was always something about riding the THUNDERING behemoths of the sky that put an added spice to the trip. Because of their size, 747's don't just turn...they slowly lay over and start a wide sweep to a new heading. And if you want a little exercise, walking from my customary seat of 2B all the way to the rear of the plane, then across the row of bathrooms in the back and returning always left you in AWE of human ingenuity and design, to make something so big that was flying so high and so fast. Anyway back to our story.

I was supposed to be on this "unusual" routing but when I got to TGL, Tegal Airport in Berlin, AT 4:30 in the morning, the 6am flight to AMS-Amsterdam had been delayed for up to 90 minutes. So While I was going through the possibilities with this very proper British-English speaking KLM gentleman, I asked about getting on one of the direct flights from AMS to MSP. I remember so well his response, "AHM TERRIBLY SAURY SIR, BUT THE LIKELIHOOD OF THAT IS EXTREMELY REMOTE! YOU'LL HAVE TO GO TO CUSTOMER SERVICE. AH'LL KEEP YOUR BAGS HERE SO I CAN LOAD THEM WHEN YOU RETURN!" OK, I got like 180 minutes so why not give it a try! I head over to the customer service station, turn the corner to face the counter, and low and behold! It's Barbara (about 60, very blond, very attractive, and very Dutch). A supervisor that I've interacted with before. She was the one that worked so hard to try to find me a flight back after the big snowstorm in Amsterdam just the year before.

Of course in my excitement I started babbling this entire story again. In about as fast as an American can spout a dissertation, I'm going, "Remember me, you tried to get me a flight home when my aunt died and there was the big snowstorm in Amsterdam and I waited in line four hours and...and...and..." She was looking at me like I was some sort of predator about to jump over the counter. Finally to finish my story to her, I held my (very same)big leather coat open in the motion that I did on that memorable day, in a wide sweeping, block the counter, motion so that she could sneak away and go to the bathroom. (She had just had surgery, which I had mentioned in my excitement which only seemed to confirm that I knew WAY to much about her as opposed to what she knew about me!) Well the minute I opened my coat, the lights went on in her brain and it all came tumbling back, she got this big smile and said in her best German-Dutch accent, "YA SURE I Hremember you, vat can I do for you today!"

I explained that although I'd been looking forward to the upstairs 747 seat, was it possible that she could re-route me on the more direct and NORTHWEST flight. She smiled and said, "well you know we're not supposed to do that!" And I smiled and said, "and I totally understand if you cant!" as she remade my tickets. The one who really had the surprise was the desk guy back at check-in. He though that he was sending me on a wild goose chase, and when I handed him my newly printed, re-routed tickets, he did a double and then a triple take, and said, "WOW Who do you know!" I just smiled and said that he could tag my bags so I could get to the first class lounge for some orange juice!

After a couple of hours of "lounging" in the first class hangout at Tegal, we boarded the flight and got to Amsterdam. Then a couple of hours wait, and it was time to get on the Northwest flight, an Airbus 330, direct to Minneapolis, arriving in the same time to catch my flight up to Grand Forks. After going through the "screening" (translate GRILLING) to get on an international flight in Amsterdam, I comfortably settled down in my seat 3C, a bit smug that my plans had come together so well and the pilot announced something I'd never heard from a flight deck before. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm sorry but there's going to be a slight delay. It seems that this Airbus 330 won't let us start the engines." HMMM the only thing I could think of was this was a case of the tail wagging the dog. How was it that an airplane could refuse to do it's job. Then further news came. It seems that before they had left Minneapolis, a maintenance switch out of a component had been performed on one of the engines. When the airplane got to Amsterdam and hooked into the main computer system, it was discovered that the guy who did the change out DID NOT have the certification to do that repair. SO, the plane was refusing to move from that very spot until it got the information that it wanted. I didn't know that the computers on board were that sophisticated or had that much power. Well our slight delay turned into an additional 90 minutes on the ground. But it didn't matter to much being in the front of the plane, with excellent service, a wide seat, and a new found secure feeling about the high maintenance standards that the airline had developed! It wasn't that the guy wasn't qualified, it was that his credentials weren't in the master computer correctly, which gave the airplane the power to say, "NO GO!!" and it took them 90 minutes to get the credentials right, then into the world system, then into the plane in Amsterdam so that the engines would start up and we could depart.

If you've never flown in the first class/world class section of an airplane, there's a certain social camaraderie that seems to always be there, especially on long flights, it particularly comes out when there is a delay or other trouble. So the conversation is always lively, and it seems that the FA's (flight attendants) are always more upbeat and even a little snappy in their responses, all which makes for a much more enjoyable environment rather than being in the "squeeze together" cattle car section. So the conversation in the front cabin was lively and spirited, even the pilots came through and there was some banter about who was "really" in control of the plane. Also it was asked of the pilot, if there was some kind of emergency and we really needed to get away from this airport, could you override the airplanes directive, and he sort of winked and said, "the captain is always the one in total control!" Which gave me some confidence that if the computers decided to fly the airplane to some foreign destination where there'd be guys with masks and machine guys, that the captain could explain to the airplane computer that we would be actually flying ON TO MINNESOTA!

In our time on the ground, when all was quiet and the hot salted nuts and champagne were being passed around, I was asked by my seat mate where I was from. Not being shy about where I'm from, I mentioned that I was from Crookston Minnesota and gave an idea of where it sits in the state. I saw that the lead FA's eyes perked up a bit but really didn't give it another thought. Not too much later as she was passing by my seat, she said, "I have an uncle who lives in Crookston, maybe you know him." I responded with the fact that I knew most everyone there so who is he? She said, "Bob Dirks, he used to have the Ben Franklin in town." Well not only did I know him, but we went to the same church and had known each other for years and years and years. So we chatted a bit about the town and his family and that he had been in the family business in Olivia before moving to Crookston and how I knew of their family's furniture store because it was on Highway 71 and I had just driven past it the previous summer on my way to the Jackson County fair.

I'm always amazed at the folks you meet traveling around the world and how often you run into either someone you know, or at least someone you both know! So finally we take off and are heading to Minnesota. Our church in Crookston had just put in stained glass windows, LINK and we had made a Holiday card out of the window that was the Christmas Scene. I had taken about 30 of them along with the grand intention of filling them out in my free time while I was in BERLIN (HA) which then got down to the free time on the flight back to the USA. It hit me like Santa's sleigh running out of reindeer power two feet off my roof...Give a card to Bob's niece, have her send it to him without any mention of me and see if he figures it out! I shared my plan with her and she was game. So at 33,000 feet somewhere over the deepest part of the Atlantic my plan was put into operation. We had a great flight back to MSP, got through customs pretty easily, and were home for supper. I really kind of forgot about what I had done at that time with all the Christmas festivities that seemed to bump against each other. Christmas came and went, and then New Years and the Sunday after as I was walking out of church I felt the presence of someone off my left shoulder following just a little too close and then in my ear I heard, "IT WAS YOU WAN'T IT!" kind of growled like a parent catching their kid with a broken cookie jar. I turned and in my most innocent voice said, "I don't have any idea what you're talking about." He laughed and said he KNEW it was me, and so I told him the story about the Christmas card that went all the way to Germany with me and changed hands somewhere over the Atlantic and ended up at his house. It was a happy moment that I'll always remember.

So I learned a lot of things that day. 1. ASK if you want changes, you might get them. 2. Go with the flow, something good might come from it. 3. Don't be afraid to tell people where you're from. 4. Always be looking for little ways to have fun!