Pre-Cruise Party Revisited
as told by Rustic 41
I thought I'd give it a shot at writing the "Intro" for the Second Night Rustic Reunion as you all are now sailing across the Caribbean. Although I wish that Noreen and I could have joined you for the voyage, it was grand to get together with all of you for the party and send off:
Saturday, the 28th of October, saw a number within our ranks descend on Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Nine couples were to head off the following afternoon on a 7-day cruise with 3 stops in the Caribbean. But before boarding ship, there was a need to party as several others had flown in to participate in the "bon voyage."
The site of revelry was The Field, an Irish pub not far from the Wyndham Hotel where all had gathered. The success of the evening could be measured, in part, by the fact that we were asked a couple times to quiet down. Given the premise that Irish pubs are generally noted for rowdiness, Wayne Baker (aka "The Instigator"), and a few others, accepted the requests to tone it down as a badge of honor.
Stephanie, a delightful lass from County Armaugh in the old country who was our waitress, took it all in stride as the Guinness flowed. Field grade officers - our leaders from years ago - sought refuge on the porch apart from one table in particular. It was established the following morning that once braid is attached to the wheel cap signifying attainment of field grade, partial lobotomies are made so that any memory of those men having once been - or acting like - lieutenants and captains is forever erased. And for those of us who flew in combat as lieutenants, the saying holds: "Once a lieutenant, always a lieutenant!"
Fortunately, all former lieutenants and captains (their rank when flying combat) present had not succumbed to such prior medical treatment and well remembered their days of pranks, drinking, low flying (for most present) and partying. The rumor persists that some lieutenants flying missions over Cambodia at the time were issued highly classified telescopic lenses for their cameras in order to take such close up pictures from some altitude which a few of us have. Only a few selected captains were also cleared to use this equipment.
Of course, Marcy Roberds maintained her status as the junior officers' heroine by reciting the complaints that once emanated from Independence, Missouri, and then, also some years ago, from Kansas City. She held the group spell bound - once again - as she related how her husband, the Maj (aka "Major Major" and "The Major Squared"), had tied the low altitude record for that state when he was but a lieutenant, a fact not readily recalled by him. It would have been a wonderful thing had some of us many years ago only known of such a dire lack of discipline once exhibited by those placed in leadership positions. As a matter of note, the low altitude record may only be broken by landing or crashing.
There is apparently a swath of ground that has remained forever scorched near Independence due to an F-102's afterburner having passed close over (or was it between?)the corn stalks. After the occurrence, one man in Independence was said to have opened a glass factory in the hopes that further low level passes would spur on his new window replacement business.
The perpetrator, however, was apparently promoted and the man's business fell on hard times as no other windows fell prey to the Air Defense Command. Growth of corn throughout the area was stunted for several years, though. In Missouri, the sound and sight of the F-102 in question was known as "shock and awe," a term brought into use decades later by our military.
Jim Hetherington and his lovely wife, June, joined the group after a long trip from Boise, Idaho. Jim related that after 20 years of their having gotten up at oh dark thirty, they had sold their hot air balloon to a group comprised of one American and two others from Belgium. Sadly, a close friend of theirs, a B-24 pilot who saw action in WWII, had recently passed away. I was fortunate to have met the man when visiting with them a couple years ago. He is but another American hero who served our country well.
Larry and Pat Driskill made it in from Lubbock, Texas. Pat, unbeknownst to her, has been selected as the resident Night Rustic psychologist. As I departed Sunday however, negotiations were in limbo with her as to billing as it was very obvious from Saturday night's pub crawl that psych evaluations were in order - and long overdue - for more than a few. We plan to lobby Larry for deep discounts as many were deemed to be in need of permanent help.
Merle and Margaret Shields came from Sacramento, California, and were a welcome addition although they arrived too late to partake of the fun at The Field. They joined us all for breakfast Sunday morning and told of the birth of their first grandchild, a beautiful girl. Merle remains active in their real estate endeavors.
Jack and Judy Strickland made their way across the state from Orlando, Florida, and were accompanied by their son, Keith, whose friend, Kate, also joined the breakfast crew on Sunday morning as the yacht on which she is employed was docked in Fort Lauderdale. Judy continues her work at Disney World and hopes to sing in the choir at Epcot Center. Jack is with Lockheed after having retired from the Air Force.
Mick and Mary Gibbar flew in from their home just outside Scott AFB, Illinois, where Mick is employed by the US government. Mary is up for honors as grandmother of the year as she and Mick are hosting one of their daughters and her six children ranging in age from three months to 13. That daughter's husband is now attached to the US Embassy in Ethiopia and has been stationed since this past June in Addis Ababa. Rumor has it that Mick now has to work late more than ever before at the office and has applied for a number of TDYs.
My hat's off to both Mick and Mary as Noreen and I are still adjusting to having our youngest at age 20 return to live with us for a few months. The trail of dirty dishes and lights left on always lends a clue to where she's been.
Redeye flew down from his home in Northern Virginia where he is employed by the Transportation Security Administration as a Crisis Management Specialist. There was some thought given to asking for his expertise to hold down the "noise crisis" at the pub; but then he, too, was a participant. He departed Sunday after breakfast for South Beach. He owes me a tube of tooth paste as the screener at the airport on my departure did not find my having squeezed out toothpaste from my large tube down to the 3 ounce point to have been satisfactory. I then demonstrated breathing on him in an effort to salvage my tooth paste and, fortunately, found that the screener did have a belated sense of humor. He didn't relinquish my toothpaste, though.
Slapper and Maggee arrived from their 25 acre farm in Warrensburg, Missouri. They now have one granddaughter, age one and a half, who is with one of their two sons and his wife in Brunswick, Maine, where he is stationed in the Navy. Their two daughters, Julie and Mary, have both recently married and their other son is doing well as he is also an officer in the Navy. Why is it that so many from the Midwest elect to join the Navy?
Zeke, the highly regarded grand planner of all festivities, and his wife Sue, drove in from Largo, Florida. While all others tasted the range of beer available at the pub, Zeke was obviously promoting the new Irish martini. I could only assume that it was made from potato based vodka in keeping with Irish norms. Their youngest daughter, Dawn, has also been recently married. Kudos once again to Zeke who has demonstrated for all his prowess in planning and execution - all flawless. A great job on t-shirts, too.
Stump and his wife, Leslie, made it in from southern Colorado for the send off. Leslie was the self-appointed designated driver and made a number of trips from the pub to the hotel to be sure that all made it to the party. Stump was at his best as the group gathered round, no doubt to muffle the fervor. We found a spot for him to be seated for dinner that was not acoustically challenged. I was told that Stump left the next morning with a little hangover and sore vocal chords.
While at the pub, I did my best to look for a recording of "Okie from Dublin" but none could be found although all recall "Okie from Muskogie" as we drank to it some 35 years ago. By then, our dinner waitress Emily, a lass from Dublin, was inquiring as to what an Okie was. I told her that folks from the Great State of Oklahoma had to speak loudly as they didn't live close to one another. She left thoroughly confused.
Thanks to Zeke and Stump for picking up the bar tab on the porch. Had I only known that my drinks were going to be paid for by others, I could have drunk more. As the old saying goes, if you're not drinking at an open bar, you're losing money. And I hate to lose money.
Curly and Evelyn Jones made it to the festivities and cruise from their homes in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Of course, these days Curly resembles his nickname about as well as Stump could be called "Mute." Evelyn enjoys their horses and, together with the Bakers, opened the suggestion box for a subsequent reunion in their area of the country.
A lively educational discussion ensued between Leslie, Evelyn and Slapper about the advantages of cutting and bailing your own hay and the pricing of it. Having owned a thoroughbred horse a few years ago for one of our daughters, I ventured that had the West been settled with thoroughbreds, we would have only gotten as far as Kentucky as they tend to go lame easily. I tried to find someone interested in fishing to no avail. Bailing hay won out.
Somewhat ironically, Curly, as a Ph.D., was seated at the opposite end of the table from our other resident source of knowledge (note I did not say wisdom), the Maj, who also has a Ph.D. Based on comments made at the breakfast on Sunday morning, there will also be a quiz at the next reunion as to the requirements for Professor Emeritus status at James Madison University.
A comment was offered that one table - the Hetheringtons, Gibbars, Driskills and Stricklands - had intelligence while the other table (comprised of Redeye, Over, Stump, Slapper, the Maj, Curly and Zeke) represented "artificial intelligence." Wives who were present were obviously not the target of such good natured ridicule. There were a number of not so subtle verbal responses offered to counter that thought.
The meal from a good hearty Irish menu was followed by a visit from the Queen of Ireland, Rosemary, who did indeed know how to play the fiddle with the best of them. It became apparent that he - not she - had chosen his best dress - and I do mean dress - for the occasion at the behest of the rest of the band so as to be ready for Halloween. As we parted, the pub was in fine shape and none the worse for wear. Our visit did give rise to the old proverb as to why God invented alcohol - that is, so the Irish (and others so inclined, including us) will not rule the world.
A return to the hotel saw some turn in after a long day's travel while a few - Zeke, Slapper, Stump, Redeye, Over, with Mick on the early shift and Jack as his replacement - sought to identify all the world's problems: the airline industry, as in military training versus general aviation and other associated issues; war and peace; investments; status of the country; our educational system and more. As midnight passed, it was noted that while this astute group of profound minds was highly adept at identifying such weighty issues of the day, no one amongst them could solve any of these problems. Thus, Stump once again succeeded in turning up the party rheostat before his and Leslie's early AM departure on Sunday.
Fortunately, an hour was gained Sunday at 2 AM with the clock's being turned back to regain Standard Time, thus adding to much needed sleep. After an enjoyable breakfast and coffee Sunday morning, the shuttle buses and those with cars headed for the docks and a wonderful voyage.
by Dave DeKoker, Rustic 32
This was truly a week to remember. We had a great time, even though the weather tried to mess it up a couple of days. Apparently, as our group's leader, without asking, I was given a free upgrade from our Veranda Suite to a Deluxe Veranda Suite of 510 sq.ft. (THANK YOU LANCE!) The bathroom had a dressing suite, a tub/shower and a separate shower, as well as dual sinks so that both of us could bathe and get ready at the same time! Our veranda had two lounge chairs with foot stools and also a dining table and 4 chairs. The bed was a huge king size with 8 pillows ranging in 3 levels of firmness (pure decadence), haha. The room was even fitted with a conversation area containing a large circular leather couch/hide-a-bed, 2 stuffed chairs and a coffee table . Oh, did I mention 2 desks, large wall width mirrors, windows to the veranda and even a set of binoculars!!!!!!!!!! Then there was the closet safe, the 36" flat screen remote TV, remote DVD player, remote music CD player, wireless internet and a fully stocked bar refrigerator!!! We also were given fresh cut flower arrangements and a fresh fruit bowl every day. I suspect we will probably never enjoy such luxurious accommodations again, so we greatly appreciated this wonderful gift from Holland America.
Sunday evening we sailed from FLL and when we woke up Monday morning, it was pretty cloudy and rainy with rough seas, but we were under sail the entire day, so it really didn't factor in, just a little rock and roll to get used to. Monday night was our first formal night and I wore a tux with black tie and cummerbund. Suzy wore a burgundy velvet full length dress. After the dinner and the show, we all somehow wound in the Karaoke Lounge and I got brave enough to sing Blue Suede Shoes. The "Talent Scouts" from the ship's crew picked me to be in a Karaoke contest called SuperStars, so I agreed to compete later in the week. Sometime during the night, the seas calmed greatly and the ride became smooth again.
Tuesday morning we docked at Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos where we spent the day under clear skies and 90 degrees. We went ashore and visited the old town portion of the small flat island. It was VERY primitive and dirty with dirt roads, stone walls and very old structures, even an old prison from the days of English colonization. That evening we cast off and began motoring all through the night to Roadtown, Tortola. Tuesday evening, we 'dressed' and had dinner in the exclusive private restaurant (Pinnacle Grill). Following that, I competed in the second round of competition Tuesday evening and got picked by a very tough panel of 3 wacky judges to continue on again on Thursday night.
We docked in Roadtown Wednesday morning and spent most of the day there. We also went ashore there, but that island was much more scenic with very hilly topography. Not very many fancy shops there to buy trinkets, either, but we took a nice walk through the town. Late afternoon had us heading onward to the southeast to arrive at Phillipsburg, St. Maarten Thursday morning.
Early Thursday morning, 4 couples of our group along with other passengers went on a "shore excursion" which wasn't really a shore item at all. It was a 50' sailing catamaran and we sailed about an hour and a half out to a small island called Tintamar, where we snorkeled and sunbathed (some nude) and had lunch. Of course the bar was open the whole time with beer, rum punch and soft drinks. After returning back another hour and a half, it was time to head downtown. I think I neglected to mention that the sun was shining brightly, but the seas were about 3-4 feet high----YAHOO!!!! In that small boat, it was "Ride 'em Cowboy!" One in our group worked relentlessly to not feed the fishes, if you get my drift. Several others got motion sickness as well, but no problem with me. Suzi was queasy, but hung in there, haha. Now Phillipsburg has a lot of upscale shops and much shopping (and buying) was done by all. I bought a 1.75 liter bottle of Stoli's Vodka for $14.95, about $20 less than the U.S. price! Nearly bought a supposedly $1200 Asher inlaid ring for Suzi for $499 to match a bracelet we got her 4 years ago there. Should have done it....got home and found out the $1200 is the right retail price....!!!!!!!!! We cast off about 5 pm and began the long haul back to Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, which took all night and all the next day and night, finally weighing anchors early Saturday morning. After getting under way, I again competed in the SuperStar Contest, only this time I had to choose a different song and did "Hound Dog" as by now I had my leg and hip movements down pretty well, haha. However, after many encouraging comments from the judges following my 3rd round, I thought I was going to make it to the finals, but somehow did not get called as one of the 3 finalists. Anyway, I had a blast doing it and all of our group was there cheering and supporting me as I made a total fool of myself, haha.
Friday was another full day at sea and evening brought the last formal night and again the tux was donned and Suzi wore a beautiful slinky long black gown! We arranged for a ship’s photographer to shoot a group photo of everyone all decked out after dinner, a complimentary 8x10 of which was given to each cabin as a gift.
The next morning when we woke and opened the curtains to our veranda, we could see showers over and around Half Moon Cay and the wind was beginning to pick up causing some white caps on the waves. It was forecast to be 25 knots strong, but was kicking up to 45 knots (52mph), making it too dangerous to board the tenders to go over to the island for our lay back day of fun on the private island. Our Captain made a wise decision and cancelled our call to the Cay, anchors were heaved and a slow speed sail to FLL was begun. This is when it started to get pretty interesting, sea conditions-wise. The seas became 'moderate' at 4-5 feet high due to the wind and the ship definitely tossed every once in awhile just enough to make you notice. As the day went on, the swells got higher and higher until they reached 'rough' condition as much as 12 feet high!!!! It was a pretty awesome sight to see this angry sea out the windows. This much wave action was easily felt on board, but no one got sea sick in our group, even though many were doing a little extra staggering down the hallways when walking. Saturday evening we went to the SuperStar Finals to see who would win and it came out as a 3-way tie, so I was glad I didn't work up 2 more songs and all the angst that goes with performing to be called a 'tie'. The gently pitching and swaying was an absolute sedative for me and I slept like a baby in the bed through it both nights.
We finally reached FLL Sunday morning and it was a beautiful smooth sailing and sunny day upon arrival. Apparently the human body gets used to the swaying and pitching and makes adjustments fairly quickly. Now we will see how long it takes for my house and chairs to come to a stop as my head is swaying and the seat of my pants is still rocking, haha.
Through it all there was never a lack of gorgeous and delicious food of any kind you can imagine and even some that you can't!!!! The same went for adult beverages, accompanied by a fantastically accommodating staff for our group and impeccable cabin and dining service. We had breakfast in our suite everyday but one!!! There was also First Class entertainment in the after dinner shows every evening including a Master Illusionist, a Comedian from TV's Home Improvements, a great Ventriloquist, a Las Vegas Class dancing and singing troupe, and an Opera-type lady singer who also belted out other types of music, all of which were amazing and truly talented. I would highly recommend Holland America Lines to anyone shopping for a cruise as it was hands down, the best cruise line of the 6 cruises we have been on. To the credit of the services rendered, I received no complaints from any of the other 8 cabins (which varied in level of price/accommodations) in our group regarding the cruise. Everyone felt is was better than 2 years ago and patted my back way too much. It did go much easier than before for me, but a lot of that was due to the staff personnel who were so willing to help with anything last minute....made my job very easy.
Our round trip voyage was a pretty long one of 2,232 nautical miles in 7 days and took us through two time zones and back!!!! I truly don't know how we could have enjoyed it any more that we all did, ask anyone who went!!! The smaller group on board seemed to make it more personal and everyone got to visit plenty this time around.
Those attending were: Jim & June Hetherington; Dick & Marcy Roberds; Tom & Evelyn Jones, Frank & Maggee Sovich; Larry & Pat Driskill; Mick & Mary Gibbar, Merle & Margaret Shields; Jack & Judy Strickland and Dave & Sue DeKoker. What a week, indeed.