Travel to Australia

Have you ever been to Australia? Do you have a desire for LONG-distance traveling? If you do, Australia is a terrific destination.

We had the incredible privilege of visiting Australia. It was our first trip half-way around the world. Our son and daughter-in-law were married in Queensland and we were thrilled to attend.

We were able to make all connections originating with our local Flint Bishop Airport in Michigan. From Flint we flew to Atlanta, then on to Los Angeles International (LAX). Our flight from home was mid-morning, but we didn’t leave LAX until 11:00 p.m., which was 2:00 am home time. Obviously, by the time we were in flight to Brisbane, we were exhausted.

We flew Qantas Airlines round-trip from LAX to Brisbane. The attendants were wonderful and made our flight as comfortable as possible. We were offered dinner as soon as we boarded, but we were too tired to eat. We immediately fell asleep and awoke some hours later, far over the Pacific Ocean.

Qantas food was very enjoyable, and plenty of coffee and other drinks were frequently offered. We were able to walk around the cabin as needed to stretch our legs. There were many choices of entertainment including movies, music, comedy, and, my favorite, watching live progress of our flight on a digital map.

Being international travel rookies, we made a couple significant mistakes. We didn’t purchase our visas until we were at LAX, which maybe wasn’t a problem, unless it had been. I don’t know what we would have done if they had said, “Uh, you were supposed to get these weeks ago.” When we arrived in Brisbane, it was immediately apparent we had no phones. We didn’t know about purchasing an international travel option from Verizon. Luckily, our son and his fiancé arrived pretty quickly.

The family we stayed with provided a car for us to use. Driving on the left side of the road from the right side of the car was tough at first, but we managed. However, I soon discovered my “I know where I’m going” attitude didn’t stretch from the US to Australia. We left the rehearsal dinner and were quickly lost, but just happened to see a couple from the party on the road. We followed them to their house and they told us how to get to our home.

Our host took us to a local country club to see the resident wallabies that were everywhere. They were lying in the grass just feet away from our golf cart and couldn’t have cared less we were there.

It would have been great fun to see a koala, but it didn’t happen.

We were only able to stay in Australia for five days due to work schedules. Our trip was amazing, just not long enough. Someday it would be fantastic to return.

Bats in the Belfry

Nothing quite beats the experience of waking out of a deep slumber to the unmistakable sound of a winged creature flying around in your bedroom!

I heard about people who had bats in their home and could not imagine the horror. When we moved into a house that had a history of bats we were nervous, to put it mildly. The homeowners paid for an exterminator to come so we could be assured there were no bats in the belfry. We were so relieved!

After we settled into the house we were feeling more confident as the days passed. Certainly, the worst of the stories from years before were nothing but memories and we had nothing to worry about. My wife is terrified of birds and has been since she was five years old. The thought of a winged mouse flying around was more than she could stand.

Blood-curdling screams came from the basement!! Our daughter and her fiancé were playing pool but came pounding up the stairs with our three sons close behind. “There are bats flying all over the place!!” I wanted to throw something. The authorities told us the bats were gone!

I slowly crept down the stairs, expecting to be mercilessly attacked by the savage vampires. Nothing. I looked in all of the dark corners. Nothing. I peered in between, under, around, over. Nothing. If there had truly been bats, they were now gone.

I convinced my wife it was safe to stay in the house and not move out immediately. Since the house belonged to the church of which I was the new pastor, I was sure the perishioners wouldn’t understand if we disappeared within the first three months.

For the next few weeks we were not visited again. Then one afternoon I was home for lunch while everyone else was at school. I was sitting on the couch eating and was shocked to see a bat fly into the room. I slowly stood, picked up a pillow, and when he appeared again, I threw it and nailed him! He fell onto the couch and lay there, stunned I guess. I retrieved a BB gun and dispatched him quickly, quietly. Right there on the couch. I didn’t tell anyone.

Two of our sons had bedrooms in the basement. “Daaaaad! Daaaaaaaad! There’s a bat flying around in my bedroom!!” That’s an awful wake-up call!

Workers came and dismantled the basement, once again assuring us the problem was over. There would be no more bats. There were.

I always wondered if I would hear a bat flying through our bedroom in the middle of the night while I was sound asleep. I got my answer. I heard it loud and clear. “Honey, honey, wake up.” “Whaaat?” “There’s a bat flying in our bedroom.” “What?!!!” “Go into the bathroom and shut the door.” She was gone in a flash.

The bat headed for the living room. I started turning on lights and the bat finally made it to the den. I closed the door. The den was the exit to the back of the house, so I went around outside and came back in to confront the intruder. In a very small room, I could not find him!! Finally, I actually said, “Lord, you know where he is.” At that moment I looked up on the book shelves and realized there were spaces behind the books. Starting on the top shelf, I pounded the books into the wall. Finally, when I reached “Moby Dick”, I found the predator. The bat went the way of Captain Ahab.

After many long fights, we finally reached the level of bat-free living. When the house was built, the top of the basement wall, which was cement blocks, was not capped. Once the bats got in, many years before, they were in the catacombs of the basement walls, free to live, breed, eat, sleep, make babies, and reek havoc. The final remedy was foam insulation sprayed into and filling each of the openings at the top of the block walls.

Bats really are cute. From a distance. Having that horrible experience, which actually lasted several years, taught me how to get rid of the bats that had taken up residence in the house we bought to remodel. Lots, and lots of bats. And squirrels.

Whose idea was it to put wings on a mouse anyway?

Free Fun

Do you love a campfire? Isn’t there just something about the crackling sound and constant change of the flame that is mesmerizing?

I love coming out to the fire pit after a great campfire the night before to see if there are enough remaining hot coals to start it up again. To be genuine, you have to start it naturally. No blowing on the embers. You have to find small, dry twigs, stack them over the hottest part of ash, and see if they’ll ignite. It’s a thrill to see that first flicker of flame.

Why keep a fire going on the second and third day? Just because I can. No productive reason, other than pleasure. Yes, just like a kid. Our record is four days. No charcoal lighter, no paper, just dry sticks in the coals.

Why do you like sitting by a fire? What is it that makes you stare? To me, there is a calming effect that is hard to match.

When I was a kid it’s a wonder I didn’t burn the house down several times over. I remember making a stove out of a coffee can and a tuna can. I used a can opener to make holes around the closed end of the coffee can, lit charcoal in the tuna can, then turned the coffee can upside down over the burning coals. The bottom of the coffee can is the grill. My grill meat of choice was balogna. Baloney. Ummm, sizzling, curling balogna, fried to perfection in the garage.

There are lots of simple things to enjoy. A campfire is one. There is incredible pleasure in returning the second or third day and finding enough coals to ignite the flame again. It’s something about ashes that look cold, finding fuel, and discovering the coals are still alive. Flame. Not an inferno, just a nice, constant but ever changing flame.

Makes me want coffee. Where did I leave it?

The Pleasures of Traveling

Do you love to travel? Do you have a long list of the places you plan to visit?

We have had the privilege of traveling to all but ten states in the Country. Unlike many people I read about, I don’t dream of visiting other countries and then saying I’ve travelled. I have loved traveling across the United States.

A few of the career opportunities we have had through the years came with many miles of travel and some very nice accommodations. Probably the best, though, has to be Waikiki. I was conducting a brain-storming session for the sales team at our company. During a lull in the action, I kept writing on the white board until suggestions started again from the group. I wrote “Send Dale and Mary to Hawaii” on the list, and thought nothing more of it. Later, during a dinner trip into town with the team, the owner of the company said to me, “If you’ll visit a few places for me while you’re there, I’ll send you and Mary to Hawaii for a week.” Shocked, I said, “Are you kidding me?” “You suggested it, didn’t you?” he asked. “Yes!” He said, “Done.” We spent a week on the beautiful sands of Oahu and Maui. Amazing. Truly incredible was our introduction to Kona coffee. Oh, wow!!

I always said the best job in the world would be traveling to places and not having to do anything when you get there. I imagine that being a company pilot might be like that, but I’ve come pretty close in recent years. I just enjoy getting out and going places.

With one group we worked for, I was thrilled to pick up a brand new custom luxury van and drive it to Florida from Texas. This was in the 70s, so it was one of those big vans with the cushy seats, paneling, colored lights inside, a fold-down couch, a sink, and a fridge. Oh, and a CB radio! Man, that was living in those days!

On one trip that included flying, I got on board with the boss, he “turned left” (to first-class) and I turned right. I didn’t care, we were flying. On another flight we were both bumped to first class because of a ticketing error. I wasn’t paying, so I didn’t care about that either!

The first long trip in my life was in 1967 when my older brother and I accompanied our grandparents on a cross-country trip on historic Route 66 to California. I wish I had paid more attention to the route and taken lots of pictures. I have been to California many times since, never dreaming at the time I would ever be back. All that is left of Route 66 is stories and old photos.

Now we don’t have to go far to enjoy the trip. It doesn’t have to be someplace new. The drive can include sights we seen many times and we like it just as much. Many good miles don’t include distance.

Where did I leave my coffee?