THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 82

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 82

…Jean-Luc uses the time away from Switzerland for a sabbatical of sorts, if one considers conversation about speed-of-light or missing cattle a retreat…

The whole Martian affair should not merit any guesswork, fruitless from such a distance, certainly for King Ranch residents Roy, Francine, Gus, Mindy and recent migrants, Princess Cerella and attending physician Jean-Luc Picard.

Babies Marscie & Joyner make for a full house on the Texas prairie. Joyner can talk before he can walk and Marscie usually cannot wait for naptime. She will stretch it out as long as she can for a little peace and quiet. It is not his English, rather the copious doses of olde language melodies. He doesn’t shut up.

Jean-Luc uses the time for a sabbatical of sorts, if one considers conversation about speed-of-light or missing cattle a retreat. He has managed to occasionally slip away to Texas Children’s Hospital to check out stateside medicine, the main purpose of which is to feed his fascination with nurses of the female persuasion. American women are so American and until he figures out that certain someone on the pediatric ICU floor, he will keep coming back.–

–“Do you know anything of the Star Trek entertainment franchise?” Back in the day, it was right in Roy’s wheelhouse. It acts as an icebreaker excuse to converse with Picard.

“A film may have crossed a device of mine in the past. It is quite amusing. Why do you ask?”

“Tell me your parents didn’t name you after a certain starship captain. It has bugged me ever since I agreed to take your call.”

“Mon pére et mére are bookworms not video aficionados. I am sorry to disappoint you, monsieur.”

Gus McKinney did not have the guts to ask before now, “No? That’s a good thing Jean-Luc. It just took us a while to get used to calling you by name. It just didn’t feel right.”

“My friends call me Locutus.”

It is hard to catch an astronaut off balance.


THE NULL SOLUTION

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Episode 82


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Tourist Attractions that No Longer Exist – WIF Forgotten Travel

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Forgotten Tourist

Attractions that

No Longer Exist

1. Wawoma Tree, Yosemite National Park

Back in 1881 a tunnel was carved through this 2,100-year old sequoia tree in Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park. By the late 1910s (when it’s likely this photograph was taken) the tree was popular with tourists, keen to be pictured driving right through the 234-foot (71.3m) high natural wonder. Even President Theodore Roosevelt visited in 1903.

2. Buddhas of Bamiyan, Afghanistan

Two mammoth Buddha statues – the tallest in the world, in fact – once looked out from a sandstone cliffside in Bamiyan. They were carved in the 6th century, with the tallest topping out at 180 feet (55m). But, in 2001, these Buddhist effigies were destroyed by the Taliban.

3. Duckbill Rock Formation, Oregon

Slide 6 of 39: Named, as you might have guessed, for its likeness to a duck’s bill, this rock formation once drew camera-wielding tourists to Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. The sandstone hoodoo stood around seven-foot (2m) tall and, carved out over millennia, had most likely occupied its coastal spot for millions of years.

Named, as you might have guessed, for its likeness to a duck’s bill, this rock formation once drew camera-wielding tourists to Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. The sandstone hoodoo stood around seven-foot (2m) tall and, carved out over millennia, had most likely occupied its coastal spot for millions of years.

4. Sutro Baths, San Francisco

Slide 8 of 39: If you picture San Francisco, attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island or Lombard Street might spring to mind. But did you know that the city was once home to the world’s largest indoor swimming pool establishment? The impressive complex included six saltwater pools and one freshwater pool, with capacity for 10,000 people.

If you picture San Francisco, attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island or Lombard Street might spring to mind. But did you know that the city was once home to the world’s largest indoor swimming pool establishment? The impressive complex included six saltwater pools and one freshwater pool, with capacity for 10,000 people.

5. Pink and White Terraces, Lake Rotomahana, New Zealand

Slide 10 of 39: Back in the mid-19th century, these gorgeous, naturally formed cascading pools attracted tourists from across the globe and were one of the biggest draws for those visiting the Southern Hemisphere. Often dubbed “the eighth wonder of the world”, they were destroyed by the eruption of Mount Tarawera back in 1886. Now their glory is captured only by a handful of paintings, like this one by English artist Charles Blomfield.

Back in the mid-19th century, these gorgeous, naturally formed cascading pools attracted tourists from across the globe and were one of the biggest draws for those visiting the Southern Hemisphere. Often dubbed “the eighth wonder of the world”, they were destroyed by the eruption of Mount Tarawera back in 1886. Now their glory is captured only by a handful of paintings, like this one by English artist Charles Blomfield.

6. Vidámpark, Budapest, Hungary

Slide 14 of 39: While it may not possess stunning architecture or natural beauty, this former amusement park was an institution for thrill-seekers. The attraction offered several historic rides, including the City Wave Roller, a wooden roller coaster built in 1922, and a carousel built in 1906.

While it may not possess stunning architecture or natural beauty, this former amusement park was an institution for thrill-seekers. The attraction offered several historic rides, including the City Wave Roller, a wooden roller coaster built in 1922, and a carousel built in 1906.

7. Guaíra Falls, Paraguay/Brazil

Slide 16 of 39: Thirty-seven years ago, on the border between Paraguay and Brazil, there lay one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world. Comprising a series of 18 falls, with the tallest 130-feet (40m) high, this natural wonder attracted tourists from across the globe, who were captivated by its immense power and beauty.

Thirty-seven years ago, on the border between Paraguay and Brazil, there lay one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world. Comprising a series of 18 falls, with the tallest 130-feet (40m) high, this natural wonder attracted tourists from across the globe, who were captivated by its immense power and beauty.

8. West Pier, Brighton, UK

Slide 18 of 39: Today, Brighton’s Palace Pier is a beloved attraction in this seaside town, but just along the coastline you’ll find the skeletal remains of an older pier. Opened in 1866, during the Victorian boom for seaside vacations, the West Pier featured a concert hall, funfair and tearoom and was extremely popular in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.

Today, Brighton’s Palace Pier is a beloved attraction in this seaside town, but just along the coastline you’ll find the skeletal remains of an older pier. Opened in 1866, during the Victorian boom for seaside vacations, the West Pier featured a concert hall, funfair and tearoom and was extremely popular in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.

9. Porcelain Tower, Nanjing, China

Slide 20 of 39: If you’ve ever smashed a piece of porcelain crockery, you might think that a 260-foot (79m) tower made from the stuff is not the smartest idea. Yet, surprisingly, this architectural gem lasted for around 400 years, from the 14th to 19th centuries, before being destroyed by rebels. In its day, it showcased a traditional pagoda style, adorned with colorful Buddhist imagery and lit up by lanterns at night.

If you’ve ever smashed a piece of porcelain crockery, you might think that a 260-foot (79m) tower made from the stuff is not the smartest idea. Yet, surprisingly, this architectural gem lasted for around 400 years, from the 14th to 19th centuries, before being destroyed by rebels. In its day, it showcased a traditional pagoda style, adorned with colorful Buddhist imagery and lit up by lanterns at night.

10. The Hippodrome Theatre, New York City

Slide 22 of 39: If you had walked down to 1120 6th Avenue in New York one hundred years ago, you’d have been greeted by the sight of this spectacular theater. The giant 5,697-seat Hippodrome was the brainchild of entrepreneurs Frederick Thompson and Elmer Scipio Dundy, who enticed new middle-class customers with lower ticket prices and made theater accessible for all.

If you had walked down to 1120 6th Avenue in New York one hundred years ago, you’d have been greeted by the sight of this spectacular theater. The giant 5,697-seat Hippodrome was the brainchild of entrepreneurs Frederick Thompson and Elmer Scipio Dundy, who enticed new middle-class customers with lower ticket prices and made theater accessible for all.

11. Jeffrey Pine, Yosemite

Slide 24 of 39: Yes, it’s just a tree – but it’s possibly one of the most photographed trees ever, after landscape photographer Ansel Adams brought it to fame back in 1940. With its dramatic, keeled-over shape, the tree became a popular photo stop for visitors to Yosemite National Park, and it showed the effects of more than 400 years of windy weather.

Yes, it’s just a tree – but it’s possibly one of the most photographed trees ever, after landscape photographer Ansel Adams brought it to fame back in 1940. With its dramatic, keeled-over shape, the tree became a popular photo stop for visitors to Yosemite National Park, and it showed the effects of more than 400 years of windy weather.

12. Love Locks Bridge, Paris

Slide 26 of 39: This quirky tradition saw tourists flocking to the City of Love to express their amor by signing theirs and their partner's names on padlocks, before attaching them to the Pont des Arts over the River Seine. The practice became so popular that at one point the bridge contained one million padlocks weighing around 45 tons.

This quirky tradition saw tourists flocking to the City of Love to express their amor by signing theirs and their partner’s names on padlocks, before attaching them to the Pont des Arts over the River Seine. The practice became so popular that at one point the bridge contained one million padlocks weighing around 45 tons.

13. Penn Station, New York City

Slide 30 of 39: The former Penn Station, opened in 1910, was a striking sight: designed in the Beaux Arts style, it featured pink granite, vaulted glass windows, giant stone pillars and archways. Unfortunately, like many grand buildings, it cost a hefty sum to maintain, so in 1962 it was demolished – despite the backlash from many New Yorkers.

The former Penn Station, opened in 1910, was a striking sight: designed in the Beaux Arts style, it featured pink granite, vaulted glass windows, giant stone pillars and archways. Unfortunately, like many grand buildings, it cost a hefty sum to maintain, so in 1962 it was demolished – despite the backlash from many New Yorkers.

14. Royal Opera House, Valletta, Malta

Slide 32 of 39: When Valletta’s Royal Opera House was built in the 1860s, it was a neo-classical jewel drawing big-name Maltese and international artists, as well as up-and-coming acts. Sadly, though, its life was short. In the 1870s, the venue was ravaged by fire and its interior was badly damaged. 

When Valletta’s Royal Opera House was built in the 1860s, it was a neo-classical jewel drawing big-name Maltese and international artists, as well as up-and-coming acts. Sadly, though, its life was short. In the 1870s, the venue was ravaged by fire and its interior was badly damaged.

15. The Azure Window, Gozo, Malta

Slide 36 of 39: You might recognize this stunning natural formation – it’s been featured in Game of Thrones, The Count of Monte Cristo and Clash of Titans, as well as on many an Instagram feed. The arch was formed by the collapse of a coastal cave, probably in the 19th century, and was a popular spot for photographs.

You might recognize this stunning natural formation – it’s been featured in Game of ThronesThe Count of Monte Cristo and Clash of Titans, as well as on many an Instagram feed. The arch was formed by the collapse of a coastal cave, probably in the 19th century, and was a popular spot for photographs.

16. Crystal Palace, London, UK

Slide 38 of 39: Once a Victorian masterpiece, this impressive glass and steel structure was built in 1851 in London’s Hyde Park – it was later moved to Penge Place, in the south of the capital, where it remained for 82 years. In the palace's heyday, its grounds were home to a mind-boggling array of delights: a roller coaster, festivals, cricket matches and even a garden complete with model dinosaurs.

Once a Victorian masterpiece, this impressive glass and steel structure was built in 1851 in London’s Hyde Park – it was later moved to Penge Place, in the south of the capital, where it remained for 82 years. In the palace’s heyday, its grounds were home to a mind-boggling array of delights: a roller coaster, festivals, cricket matches and even a garden complete with model dinosaurs.


Tourist Attractions that

No Longer Exist

WIF Forgotten Travel

Strange Lake Guide Handbook – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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Strange Lakes

From Around

the World

Image result for lake painting

Mallards Lake by Doug Kreuger

10. Gafsa Lake, Tunisia

Pretty early on in life, most of us learn that things don’t just appear from nowhere. Apparently, Gafsa Lake in Tunisia never got the memo. One day in 2014, a group of Tunisian shepherds were making their way to a familiar patch of land. Imagine their surprise when they got there and found a giant freaking lake where their meadow used to be. A lake that just happened to be the most-inviting shade of azure.

 Gafsa is an area that has seen lots of mining in its past, much of it unregulated. Scientists think that some rupture in the rock above the water table resulted in the sudden appearance of Lake Gafsa, as below-ground water was sucked up onto the surface. Whatever the cause, it happened quickly. One local resident said he’d passed the remote area only three weeks beforehand and it had been dry as a bone.

Although Gafsa Lake started out a cool, inviting blue, it quickly became full of algae, and possibly toxic to humans. Not that that stopped locals from bathing in it. In the heat of Tunisia, even a lake full of green sludge is better than no lake at all.

9. Roopkund Lake, India

There are certain things you never want to find in any body of water. Piranhas is one. The decaying remains of hundreds of humans who’ve died a terrifying death is another. Yet that’s exactly what British troops found in Roopkund Lake in the winter of 1942.

It being wartime and all, the Brits naturally assumed that they were at the scene of a Japanese massacre. The truth was far, far stranger. When the bones were examined, it turned out that they all dated to around 850 AD. On top of that, they’d all been killed in a similar way: with a blow to the head that cracked their skulls. The injury matched no known weapon. So what could have caused 200 people to die in this way? The eventual answer scientists came up with was hailstones. Really, really big hailstones.

 There’s an old song from the region around Roopkund, about a mountain goddess who smote a bunch of travelers with a titanic hailstorm. It’s now thought this is a folk memory of a real event, and a freak hailstorm that dropped baseball-sized chunks of solid ice killed all 200 pilgrims in the valley when they couldn’t reach shelter. Over time, the valley filled with water, eventually becoming the skeleton-haunted Roopkund Lake.

8. Lake Nyos, Cameroon

Picture the scene. You arrive home from a weekend away, to find your neighborhood full of corpses. Bodies lie in the streets, an expression of fright etched on their dead faces. You wonder what could have killed all these people. Was it a terrorist attack? A virus? The answer could be even weirder. They could’ve been killed by a nearby lake.

In 1986, this is exactly what happened in Cameroon. As locals lay in bed, Lake Nyos quietly released a gigantic bubble of CO2, like the Earth was exhaling. The effect was immediate and horrific. A cloud of deadly gas settled over the region, suffocating anyone in its path. Up to 25 kilometers away, people and animals suddenly fell to the ground, coughing and gasping for air. Flames extinguished. Children died in seconds. Within minutes, 1,746 people and 3,500 animals had died. Entire villages had been wiped out. It remains one of the world’s weirdest natural disasters.

That it happened at all is down to sheer bad luck. Lake Nyos was formed from a CO2 rich volcanic crater. While similar crater lakes usually released small doses of CO2 over a long period of time, Nyos was so freakishly still that the gas became trapped. It wasn’t until something – a landslide, a heavy rainstorm on one side of the lake – agitated the water that its deadly payload was released, ending nearly two thousand lives.

 7. Lake Peigneur, Louisiana

Unlike Lake Nyos, we know for certain what caused the freakish Lake Peigneur disaster. Texaco were drilling for oil when they accidentally punctured the roof of a mineshaft below the lake. Not that knowing the cause makes what happened next any less bizarre or terrifying.

The collapse of the mineshaft created a whirlpool. A whirlpool that became a powerful vortex. A vortex that grew and grew until it became the biggest, scariest sinkhole in human history.

The entire lake was sucked down into a swirling mess of mud and terror. The drilling platform was pulled in. 11 barges on the lake at the time went under. Landslides started, bringing surrounding forest and countryside tumbling down into the sinkhole. The canal flowing out the lake actually reversed, pulling the Gulf of Mexico up into the former-lake. Imagine pulling the plug out your bathtub and having not only your entire house, but half your neighborhood go swirling down the drain. That was Lake Peigneur.

Incredibly, this muddy vortex of horror didn’t kill a single human being. 50-odd people all managed separate, miraculous escapes from what should have been certain death.

6. Baotou Toxic Lake, Inner Mongolia

The lake at Baotou, China, is so new that it doesn’t have a real name. Instead, reports simply refer to it as the ‘Baotou toxic lake’. That the word ‘toxic’ is in its title should be telling enough. Baotou is a manmade lake, created by the mining and refining processes that give us the minerals to power our shiny iPhones. As such, it is one of the most-polluted lakes anywhere on Earth.

Coming face-to-face with it is like stepping into a dystopian nightmare. The surface is almost entirely black, a giant swathe of sludge that’s unremittingly bleak. Nothing can grow here. The shores are all dyed as black as the lake itself. The result is a nightmarish, monochrome world. A place that’s as surreal to set eyes on as it is horrifying.

Perhaps the strangest part of the Baotou Lake is why it exists. Most modern technologies use specific minerals in their running, such as cerium, which gives us touchscreens on our phones. Many of these minerals are also used in ‘green’ technologies, like wind turbines. Minerals for such technologies are one of Baotou city’s biggest exports. That’s right: Perhaps the most-polluted lake on Earth was created thanks to our love of eco-friendly tech.

5. Lake Natron, Tanzania

It sounds like something out of a fairy tale, or maybe some haunting Disney story. A lake that magically turns anything that touches its surface into a frozen statue. Yet Lake Natron in Tanzania is far from being fictional. Hidden deep in east Africa, it is surrounded by the creepy stone statues of animals that strayed too close to its deadly waters.

Of course, Lake Natron isn’t magical, or cursed, or anything like that. Instead, its waters are filled with natron, a naturally-occurring compound that contains a lot of sodium carbonate, and a bit of sodium bicarbonate. They’re also dangerously hot and have an alkalinity of around pH 10. The result is that anything that tries to drink from the lake usually dies, quickly, and gets immersed in the waters. The natron then does its thing, calcifying the bodies and essentially turning them into stone.

For visitors, it represents a spectacularly horrible sight. All around the lake are dead statues, often of birds that died when attempting to land on the water’s surface. As a result, visiting is like walking through the most-gruesome department store in history, one where all the mannequins used to be living things.

4. Kawah Ijen Crater Lake Java, Indonesia

At first sight, Kawah Ijen Crater Lake in Indonesia looks almost inviting; the kind of lake you’d like to take home to meet your folks. But this sky-blue lake at the top of a volcano has a fiery underbelly… literally. The whole thing is so full of sulphur that it periodically bursts into neon-blue flames that are both hypnotic to look at, and so deadly that even getting close can cause you to keel over and die from inhaled fumes.

 While the shores of the lake burn and rage, the lake itself is basically one great big bath full of hydrochloric acid. Remember the chemical vat Michael Keaton’s Batman knocked Jack Nicholson’s Joker into, like, three Bat-decades ago? Well, that’s Kawah Ijen Crater Lake. The thing’s got a pH of 0, and could melt anything you chuck in it as quickly as a pool of car battery acid. Speaking of acid, the air around the lake is so full of the stuff that its almost essential to wear a gasmask while visiting. Unless you want your lungs to resemble those of a lifelong, six pack-a-day smoker, that is.

The craziest part of this weirdo lake? Some people actually choose to work here, dodging streams of flickering blue fire to mine chunks of Sulphur from the volcano itself.

3. Pitch Lake, Trinidad

Pitch Lake may have the most-apt name of any lake on Earth. It is a lake made entirely from pitch asphalt, the same stuff we use to surface roads and so-on. You better believe the result is weird. Pitch Lake is so thick in places that you can walk across it… and so dangerously-thin in others that you can slip through its surface, vanishing forever into the murky depths below.

 The lake’s surface ranges in texture from being as thick and solid as rock, to as springy as an eraser, to as squidgy and terrifying as quicksand. Trees, boulders and other bits and pieces that fall into its embrace often get stuck to the surface, where the pitch hardens around them, effectively turning them into stone. This means Pitch Lake is a lake that you walk across while surrounded with the statues of dead trees and other lifeforms. We’re betting that’s not a sentence you hear very often.

Word to the wise if you’re planning a visit: While some tourists brave the lake’s clearer waters for a swim, this is about as dangerous as the idea of swimming in pitch sounds. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

2. Lost Lake, Oregon

As we saw with Gafsa Lake, it is possible to have a lake just spontaneously appear from nowhere. But what about one that disappears? Lost Lake in Oregon is such a lake. Every summer, the nine-foot deep, 85-acre lake quietly vanishes. Every fall, it reappears again, as if nothing ever happened.

We don’t mean ‘most of it dries up’ or anything. It utterly vanishes. In its place, a pretty little meadow appears that has no trace of water in it at all. The reason this happens: Lava tubes.

Lava tubes are… well, tubes in rock that are left over from ancient lava flows. They can be less than a foot across, or big enough to walk into. There are two small ones in Lost Lake, constantly draining water off from the surface, ensuring the lake doesn’t flood in winter. In summer, however, the streams that feed Lost Lake dry up. As a result, the lava tubes completely drain the lake dry, until the fall rains come and the two little tubes can no longer keep up with all the water flowing in, and the lake reappears.

 1. Yellowstone Lake, USA

Literally everybody reading this has heard of Yellowstone Lake. Famously vast, calm, and beautiful, it’s about as far from a ‘strange’ lake as you’re likely to get. At least, it is on the surface. Go diving in its placid depths, and you might just notice an odd dome growing on the bottom. This is the current topmost point of what’s been termed the Yellowstone Supervolcano. One day it’s gonna burst. When it does, you can say goodbye to life as we know it.

Think of the lake as your teenage face, and the dome as a gross little spot that’s just starting to swell under the skin. Over time, that spot is gonna swell up and up and up, until it’s ripe and ready to pop. Only it won’t be a little jet of pus that comes out. Instead, the bottom of Yellowstone Lake leads into a gigantic magma chamber that contains enough lava to fill the Grand Canyon more than 11 times over.

If it one day erupted, it would be a catastrophe. Although a relatively-small number would die for such a gigantic blast (estimated in the region of 90,000), the Midwest would be buried under a layer of ash, and massive crop failures would plague the US for the next decade or so. If you thought Lake Nyos up there was deadly, just wait till Yellowstone Lake blows.


Strange Lake Guide Handbook

WIF 10 Cent Travel

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

…“We’ve got a big problem Roy!” Braden King is on the phone with an update, “And to top off a perfectly wonderful day, Deke and Gus never made it to the bus that takes them home to King Ranch.”…

Image result for a problem artwork

Houston, We have a Problem by Dadara

Roy’s text stream reads a continuous, HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!….

The details of which are just coming in:

***   Samiq Gaad {alias Gurkhas Shah Dhangotma} freed before being transferred to Washington D.C. — Two Mil Mi-38 Hind Russian Attack Helicopters headed south out of Houston — Possibly on way to Central or South America ***

***   Aldona Afridi critically wounded on a flight to Galveston from Turkey — Shooter apprehended by US Marshall aboard ***

 “We’ve got a big problem Roy!” Braden King is on the phone. “An hour ago 2 helicopters and a small army attacked the motorcade that was transporting Samiq Gaad to the CIA office in Dallas. They were able to free Gaad and take off to God knows where.”

“Who is Samiq Gaad?”

“He is the imposter you captured back at Gantry #2, you know hero stuff? You knew him as Gurkhas Dhangotma.”

“At least they got that straightened out.”

“On top of that, your friend Aldona Afridi was ambushed in the washroom on a Turkish Airlines Airbus A2100 in the middle of the Atlantic last night. The latest news about that is sketchy, but he was on his way for an interview at Lovell SC and he is still alive.”

“I asked him to come to LVC… I didn’t think he would get security clearance so quickly,” Roy is starting to feel guilty about his absence.

“And to top off a perfectly wonderful day, Deke and Gus never made it to the bus that takes them home to King Ranch.”

“I am on my way back to Houston,” he tells Braden.

After a few minutes of texting back and forth with the NSA, some of which is sorting the known facts from the suppositions, Roy makes his best judgment call.

“I heard your end of the conversation, just go,” Francine can tell that their fairy tale has come to a screeching halt.

“Are you alright with staying here? I do not want you in the line fire again.”

“I’m a big girl, I’ll be alright here,” she grabs his chin to get his attention. “You better give me updates when you can. I am going to book a commercial flight back to my apartment in Houston, but you can bet that I’ll be working the story on my end and see if I can track down some leads.”

“I will keep you in the loop Francine,” he gives her a huge reassuring kiss. “Just remember, I have that job for you when get back, so be ready to rock!”


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 121


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 120

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 120

…Four days have the feel of forty and what is formerly a 2 week acquaintance has leaped the boundaries set by the fortnight; a foundation is being laid for a lifelong friendship….

Image result for friendship artwork

Friendship Digital Art by Astrid Rieger

The following days slow to a satisfying crawl, their pace of life measured by the inch not by the mile. No more fertile an environment can there be to bring people closer. The kinship of this trio {Roy, Francine, Roger} builds down every new road, at each sacred island shrine. The driver of the car has become an integral element to their experience; which is incomplete when he isn’t around to steer them right.

Flying Fish and Lazy Days Waikanae by Gillian Cronin

Four days have the feel of forty and what is formerly a 2 week acquaintance has leaped the boundaries set by the fortnight; a foundation is being laid for a lifelong friendship. So complete is the blending of Roy into Francine, or vice versa, that any thoughts of the New Mayflower or Mars and KHST or celebrity, are dispatched from the foreground of priorities.

When they aren’t being guided by Roger the Dodger, they can be found lounging by the pool or ocean, SILVER SEAS both. In the case of this lazy day, they employ their newly acquired skill in the street side marketplace. With their considerable discretionary funds irretrievably commingled, joint bargaining has become the rule, when in natural dealings with purveyors of goods and their merchandise of fluid value.

Navy F-77N’s

While ferrying one of their spending coups back to the SILVER SEAS HOTEL, from the interior of the island, the tranquil skies are buzzed by a pair of jets, certainly not of Jamaican or Cuban ownership. “F-77Ns in a big time hurry and they are peeling off to the west.” Roy determines after getting a clear look at their low-level wake. “Something big is up.”

“What are they doing down here? Do you think it has to do with Cuba?” Francine wonders aloud.

“Well that isn’t a bombing run and they are going fast enough to reach the Mainland in 2 minutes. 

“I think the Atlantic Carrier Strike Group Two (CSG2) is having joint maneuvers in the Gulf with the Brits, but the attitude of those pilots are taking screams urgent. Let’s get back to the hotel.”

“I’ll call Roger,” Francine thinks ahead.

In the meantime, Roy’s dormant PDA is vibrating off his waist. The text stream reads a continuous, “HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 120


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 119

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 119

…“My clubs were too short, the balls are like lead, and the wind seemed to gust every time I hit a shot, enough to make a Pope angry.”…

On their first full day out and about, Roger Rodriques drives them out into the back country and a hilly little golf course, there by fulfilling one of the to-dos on their getaway platter. The score card of the Upton Golf Course & Plantation has a tagline on its cover, ‘700 feet up and always cool’, but the persistent 90 degree days betray that claim.

So while their guide waits for them in the clubhouse, the only cool spot for miles, Francine and Roy practice their best “no’s” in turning down a pesky boy who cannot believe these Americans prefer to carry their rented clubs. Compared to the private clubs they are used to playing, this version of golf lives up to one of the sports’ nicknames: “pasture pool”. The fairway mowers are black & white, have four legs, and moo.

The round concludes with Roy losing the only tee shot that was farther than Francine all afternoon, in a pile of grass the “moo”-ers hadn’t got to; in the middle of the 18th fairway.

“The greens are like our tees, the tees like our fairways, the fairways like our rough, and the rough is like our out-of-bounds.”

“Perhaps you should have used that caddy. I beat you 89 to 93.”

“My clubs were too short, the balls are like lead, and the wind seemed to gust every time I hit a shot,” enough to piss off the Pope.

“Don’t be mad Roy; I’ll give you a rematch.”

He will take her up on that challenge, but it will have to wait for another day, there is too much else to do. —

— Like the Shaw Park Botanical Gardens, ‘which is on the site of a 19th Century hotel, long since razed, situated high on a hilltop overlooking the Bay of Ocho Rios, surveying the azure waters of the Caribbean, the Gardens embrace 25 acres of tropic splendor. A sparkling waterfall cascades down a rocky course with luxuriant plant specimens on all sides. Lush tropical trees form bowers with flamboyant blossoms every month of the year.’

This is definitely Chamber of Commerce material.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 119


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 118

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 118

…Roger Rodrigues caters to picture taking, thrill seeking, taking the road less traveled, all for the benefit of Jamaican tourists…

The Road Less Traveled by Helen Dieter

 “Very good Roger. We haven’t decided exactly when & where, but we are golfers, love to hike, , and I would love to see a cricket match… Roy?”

“I’m with her.”

“Smart Mon! I can take you wherever the lady wants to go. I just need to know the day before.” Roger is markedly more intelligent and organized than the stereotypical islander. “There are also some points of interest we can work into all the other things you mentioned.”

“Can we hire you by the day, for the duration of our stay?”

He thinks it over. “400 $J or 50 $A cash in advance.”

“I thought American dollars were illegal?”

Roger looks at Jimmy and winks, “Not for everyone… give me a Red Stripe Jimmy, eet is hot enough to chase a gecko to the shade.”

Over several more Jamaican brews the visitors learn more of what this island has to offer, the good and the bad.

On the must-do/positive sides are:

  • Botanical Gardens
  • Dunn’s River Falls
  • Fern Gully RoadRelated image
  • Amateur Cricket
  • All Products Jamaican Ceramics
  • No Firearms

 On the avoid/negativity side:

  • Aggressive Native Marketing
  • Not-so-clean Residential Areas
  • Ganga Street Sales
  • Cocaine et al Drug Trafficking
  • Corrupt Police

“You’ve got to learn the word “NO” and at least pretend like you mean it. Then they may leave you alone.” It is Roger’s self-appointed duty to make sure tourists get the most from their stay.

And even though day one is spent sampling local libations, this affable taxi owner is a former local policeman who could not afford to raise four children on the measly wages. Instead he has chosen to carve out a niche, catering to picture taking, thrill seeking, taking the road less traveled, all for the benefit of Jamaican tourists.Chevy Malibu

The view from his 60 year old {well-kept} Chevrolet Chevelle SS is quite personal and real, something that a bus {not Speedy’s} filled with thirty other perfect strangers fails to deliver. You can ask him dumb questions about the cute Jamaican children or the continuing civil unrest, and he will give you a honest, clear and authoritative answer. The sugar coating is in a canvas bag, stored underneath his spare tire.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 118


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 117

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 117

…Roy takes a sip of his drink, staring at it like the artichoke bit him in the nose, “Now that is an interesting tasting Bloody Mary……rum?”…

The best place to find out about a new town is to talk with the bartender.

They do go downstairs after changing out their $USs for $Jamaican. The 1 to 6 ratio means Francine’s purse will be toting their stack,

“This is like Monopoly money, hand over 50 $J for a drink, that is an arm & a leg!?”

“Please ignore Dr. Roy, he specializes in amputations.”

“Yes, I would like a Bloody Mary with an artichoke and a saw,” Roy is playing.

“Make that two, good man….” she supposes a name with a face, “Hold the artichoke for mine.”

“Jimmy, eet’s JimmyD,” is the Oasis Bar’s fixture bartender… among other things at the SILVER SEAS RESORT & HOTEL. At any given time you can find him doing just about anything.

“Okay JimmyD, didn’t we see you at the front desk when we checked in?” they had arrived frazzled and unaware of new appearances.

“2 towsand sorries 4 da rooms bad, maid queet on spot. Red eye peeple catch us weeth pants down.”

Roy takes a sip of his drink, staring at it like the artichoke bit him in the
nose, “Now that is an interesting tasting Bloody Mary… rum?

“Yes we uze Ovaproof een everything, dunt be dreenking 2 miny.”

“Say, we did not book a tour, so we will need some help getting around the island, any suggestions?”

“Roger!” he gestures at a husky man at the other end of the bar to come over. “He eez da best driva on dee island; Roger da Dodger, who drives a Chevy and friend to da lodger.”

“That is quite a tagline Roger,” a hand is extended. “I am Roy and this is Francine,” who shakes the new character’s hand as well.

“It is nice to meet you,” he responds with a West Indies accent, but it is clear he has been educated elsewhere. “Here is my card:”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 117


page 111

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 115

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 115

…And here I pictured you as a pale, wimpy science freak the first time I talked to you on the phone…

— When sleep finally comes to her and him, it is deep and long.Pink Bubbles Sticker by Douglas Schatz for iOS & Android | GIPHY

In the dim light of day, Roy untangles an arm that has been wrapped around Francine like a twist tie and looks for his PDA to see if he had set the alarm. His device reads 9A which opposes the noon-like high blue sky. He chooses to trust the earlier time, so no need to rush cuddling time.

Tick-tock – tick-tock and ten o’clock causes him to stir. His restless movement alerts his bed-buddy, who prevents his escape by employing the old kiss-tummy-to-neck trick. It works.

“And where do you think you’re going mister?”

The acid test for beauty is the morning wake-up. Without makeup, jewelry and clothes orImage result for grade a shower, contacts and hair gel, is the way God intended adult men & women to see each other. Francine is a solid A through Roy’s eyes and Roy rates an A-, because he sleeps like he is weightless {all over the place}, but that is why the king-sized bed was invented.

“We are burning daylight and we don’t want people to get the wrong impression.”

“We are on vacation, the rest of the world can be damned,” she brags, playfully running her fingers through the hair on his chest, yes chest. “How is it you are so tan?”

“I have a small boat on the Gulf; go out after Red Snapper and Groper on Saturdays.”

“Two aircraft and now a boat that I suspect is not a skiff. What else don’t I know about your life?”

“I play http://www.ExpertScrabble.com with Braden and I enjoy long walks in the desert.”

“And here I pictured you as a pale, wimpy science freak the first time I talked to you on the phone.”

“I also play tennis and golf and love God.”

“I adore tennis have taken a couple of golf lessons and a 38 footer stocked with bait ‘n beer is my idea of a great weekend.”

“That is God, tennis, and beer ‘n bait in that order. I drive up to Lakewood Church in Houston when I’m in Texas.”

“I’ve been there back in the Osteen days, but with my weekend schedule I have trouble squeezing in time for God.”

“And when you’ve been up in space, it is hard to think about anything else but God.” He forgot to mention Mars.

The more she learns about Roy Crippen the more she is impressed. She doubts that there is a more well-rounded man in the United States of America, and she is trapped on this deserted desert island with that very man — well not so deserted or arid.


THE RETURN TRIP

Image result for deserted island artwork

Deserted Island by Jacek Yerka

Episode 115


page 109

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 114

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 114

…When in Rome… we will mix our money, share a room, and take it from there…

So it’s back down to the Silver Seas desk where Roy is given a key to 202. It is not as messy, but untouched by maids as well.

Image result for lucky number 3The third room is a charm; 303, third floor with three hours of daylight left.

“Lots of stairs. At least we won’t have need of the fitness room. It is probably a park bench and an iron pipe anyway. We’ll get all the exercise we need going back and forth to our room,” she consoles Roy who has been schlepping luggage alongside the porter.

He thanks the concierge. The concierge stands firm.

“You haven’t traveled lately have you… he’s waiting for a tip.” She hands the young man a $10.

“Thank you preety ladie!”

“I guess your money spends better than mine.”Image result for going dutch cartoon

“We’re going Dutch right?”

“No. When in Rome….we will mix our money, share a room, and take it from there.”

Once situated in the room, whose air conditioning struggles to keep up, Francine sets guidelines for cohabitation. “I don’t know about you, but I am not going to let modesty get in my way,” she unwraps her sundress, neatly folds it and places it on the bed like they were old marrieds. She slips on a nightshirt, sits next to him and says to him, “Let’s try out their room service. How about we order roast pigeon and fig leaves? That way we maybe we get lucky and get the chicken and salad instead.”

“So this is what Heaven is like, or are you just a dream?” He cannot believe how incredibly easy things are with this woman.

“I’m not a dream because dreams cannot do this,” she undoes his Windsor knot and unbuttons his shirt before he can say ‘no problem’.

… There are two less lonely people in the world tonight. —


THE RETURN TRIP

Third Time’s the Charm by blackxprince

Episode 114


page 108