South Pole for the Weekend

The new dental cart at the South Pole made it there one day ahead of me from Denver

The new dental cart at the South Pole made it there one day ahead of me from Denver

Hola weekend warriors,

While most of the US was glued to the TV for either the Superbowl or to see if the Trump administration could lower the bar even further, I was packing and traveling to 90 degrees south. I caught a Friday afternoon flight south, stayed just long enough to unpack a new dental cart that miraculously made it one day ahead of me and fixed a few teeth. Of course I played some ping pong and pool and did a little day hike in 50 below sunshine to the telescope looking back a mere 12.6 billion years in time. By Monday afternoon I was back on the ski equipped LC-130 cargo plane in time to have dinner with Lynn back at McMurdo with one more week to go before flying out to New Zealand and a few weeks of fun.

We finally saw a lonely penguin this afternoon, since the sea ice is broken up pretty well because the icebreaker escorted both the cargo ship and fuel ship to the base, but we’re still hoping for some whales to stop by too. The dental cases are winding down, and once I’m done teaching the doc and PA who are staying for the winter how to fix teeth, I’ll pack it up and ship my big bag home.

It’s been another fun season on the Ice, and there’s already talk of next year. But before that, we’d like some warm sunshine, so send some news from home and we hope to see many of you soon.

Cheers,

Back from the Pole Bob

The South Pole Telescope that can see events 12.7 billion years ago

The South Pole Telescope that can see events 12.7 billion years ago

Touring the South Pole telescope

Touring the South Pole telescope

The grow room at the South Pole for fresh veggies

The grow room at the South Pole for fresh veggies

Back to Antarctica for 2017

Hi summer fans,

            Once again I find myself in Antarctica for a 6 week contract of meeting old friends, doing root canals, cleaning ears with my dental suction and using my drill for other tasks like cutting a ring off a guy who was unable to get it past his knuckle after a hammer injury. I got to use a fat tire bike for a week and found it a fun way to get around town. Also discovered that pickleball has come to Antarctica, and am holding a session in the big gym tonight to gauge interest for more games down the road. Also found a number of ping pong players who are all gunning to dethrone me, and while I’ve lost a few games over time I’m usually able to come back with a vengeance.

         

    Hope your winters are going well, and drop a note when you get a chance to let me know what is going on in your lives. Your friendship over the years means a lot.

Cheers,

Smiling Bob

L C-130 cargo flight to McMurdo

L C-130 cargo flight to McMurdo

Landed on the ice shelf in an L- C-130 Cargo plane

Landed on the ice shelf in an L- C-130 Cargo plane

Fat tire bike fun around McMurdo

Fat tire bike fun around McMurdo

Polar Star icebreaker and Palmer research vessel make a visit

Polar Star icebreaker and Palmer research vessel make a visit

Dentistry for docs

Future Antarctica medical staff get to practice gloved fingered dentistry on each other

Future Antarctica medical staff get to practice gloved fingered dentistry on each other

Tien and I playing hooky with our sailing adventure

Tien and I playing hooky with our sailing adventure

The full medical crew and the generous dentist that loaned us his office

The full medical crew and the generous dentist that loaned us his office

Ceremony for the 15 new pickleball courts in Colorado Springs.

Ceremony for the 15 new pickleball courts in Colorado Springs.

Balloons float towards the lake in hopes of doing a splash and dash

Balloons float towards the lake in hopes of doing a splash and dash

A fish shaped balloon drifts over the lake  before dipping in.

A fish shaped balloon drifts over the lake before dipping in.

Hola summer warriors,

As part of my ongoing consulting with the Antarctica program, I was told recently that funding was approved to teach the medical crew some dentistry before they head south to the frozen continent, instead of waiting for them to call me with questions like “If teeth really matter, how come they don’t teach anything about them in medical or nursing school?” Then Jim, who runs the program for UTMB in Galveston, TX, asked me how I wanted to teach the course, and I told him I would find a local dental office and we would practice on each other in a real dental setting. He skeptically asked how I thought I would find an office that would allow such an exercise, and thus the gauntlet was thrown. I did a few cold calls to dental offices and after one expressed mild interest, I sealed the deal by mentioning that we were trying to find an office that was interested in helping the US Antarctic Program- who could say “no” to that?

I joined the crew of 8 in Galveston a few weeks ago as they were going through orientation, and we spent 2 afternoons in the dental office I had secured taking x-rays, doing exams, and then practicing fillings on some teeth I had set up in models for their learning pleasure. Everyone seemed to enjoy the chance to root around in each others mouths with no tongue or gum lacerations that would take too long to heal. In the middle of the 6 day orientation I managed to corrupt my old pharmacy buddy, Tien, and we played hooky one day to go sailing on a lake on a sleek Hobie Cat. Inexplicably we somehow managed to irritate our coworkers with texts and photos of our sailing adventure while they sat in class.

In local news, Colorado Springs was back on the Pickleball map by unveiling 15 spanking new courts downtown last week, and when the politicians finally stopped jabbering to the anxious crowd of a few hundred people, we got to play on a world class venue. I even won a new paddle in a drawing, which I happily collected even after a heckler called out “He’s a dentist!” like I didn’t deserve to win because all dentists are filthy rich, which I tend to flaunt with my lavish lifestyle.

Labor Day weekend means the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival, and I crawled out of bed at 5:30 this morning in hopes of seeing them launch and float around with the backdrop of the mountains. I wasn’t disappointed, and even after seeing them for over 30 years it was a treat. Hope your weekend is labor free, and you have a few more weeks of summer to soak in the warm weather.

Cheers,

Lavishing Bob

Temples, Souqs and Marathon Flying

Night life beckons us in Bangkok

Night life beckons us in Bangkok

Bangkok Buddha Ronald McDonald

Bangkok Buddha Ronald McDonald

 

Waterfront and buildings of Bangkok

Waterfront and buildings of Bangkok

 

Cambodia Budda towers at Angkor Thom

Cambodia Budda towers at Angkor Thom

 

Walking among the towers at Angkor Thom

Walking among the towers at Angkor Thom

 

Angkor Thom Buddha towers

Angkor Thom Buddha towers

 

Airport sign- how come no grenades or TNT allowed on the plane?

Airport sign- how come no grenades or TNT allowed on the plane?

 

Giant squid like tree roots at Ta Prohm temple

Giant squid like tree roots at Ta Prohm temple

 

Ta Prohm temple being strangled by trees

Ta Prohm temple being strangled by trees

 

Massive roots at Ta Prohm temple

Massive roots at Ta Prohm temple

Tree overtaking the wall at Ta Phrom

Tree overtaking the wall at Ta Phrom

Pat stirs the pot in cooking class

Pat stirs the pot in cooking class

 

Qatar Islamic museum

Qatar Islamic museum

 

Boats and skyscrapers in Doha, Qatar

Boats and skyscrapers in Doha, Qatar

 

Buildings along the Corniche in Doha, Qatar

Buildings along the Corniche in Doha, Qatar

Greetings walkers,

         I made it out of McMurdo on the right day but one plane behind after getting bumped off the first flight, but that sort of a delay is no biggie. Following 8  hours on a cargo plane it was a welcome relief to dump my cold weather gear in Christchurch, New Zealand, leave a box to be mailed home and have just carry-on bags to check into the downtown hotel the program had reserved for me. After a delicious hot shower I headed off in search of a noodle festival with the symphony in the park that the lady at the hotel desk had recommended, and made a nice evening of that before crashing to bed.

          Next round was a 4:30am ride to the airport for a 4 hour flight to Sydney, Australia and I thankfully missed a 5.7 earthquake by a few hours, which fortunately did little damage to Christchurch which is still rebuilding from the devastating quake 5 years ago. After hanging around Sydney for 12 hours, I boarded the plane for a 9 hour jaunt to Bangkok to meet Pat and start the vacation portion of my post Ice experience. It all went smoothly and I quietly joined her in the hotel room at 2AM. We spent a few days in Bangkok enjoying the sights and friendship of my Denver dental buddy, Ron before flying off to Cambodia to take in the sights, sounds, smells and incredible tastes of a new place for us.

      The temples of Angkor were an amazing mix of 600-1400 year old ruins and towers, and on the final day I decided to see the sights by bike while Pat took a cooking class at a nearby hotel. I pedaled back to her class and when the 4 Chinese chef hopefuls had to leave early I was invited to join in the chopping and dicing that lead up to a sumptuous meal of our labors.

      The next flight was 7 hours to Qatar with a doubling 14 hour layover to run out of the airport and see what oil wealth can buy. I got the lowdown from the flight attendant who lives in the capital city of Doha, and we even did a little currency exchange in the back of the plane since he needed some US dollars for an upcoming trip and I wanted some Qatar Riyals for taxis and food. We paid for visas at passport control and taxied out to the main market called the souq waqif for some shopping and a sumptuous meal at a Syrian restaurant before checking out the gleaming glass and steel buildings on the far side of the corniche, a 3 mile promenade along the turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf.

       Then came the mind numbing 14 hour flight to Philadelphia where I caught up on the remaining six new release movies I hadn’t seen yet and celebrated with a bagel and hometown Philly cream cheese in the airport. The last 3 hour flight to Florida seemed like a short taxi ride, and in less time than it takes to sort out the message from the Republican candidates we were showered and home in bed. I’ve got a few weeks in Florida to do some windsurfing, biking and play some pickleball before heading back to work in Colorado, and right now it feels good to avoid getting on any more long haul planes. Hope your winter is going well and send some news from home.

Cheers,

       Frequent flier Bob

Bag Drag time

 

JD and I shared this snow machine on the ride to Room With a View

JD and I shared this snow machine on the ride to Room With a View

Long view of glaciers and the frozen ocean

Long view of glaciers and the frozen ocean

8 bladed props on the LC-130 from the South Pole

8 bladed props on the LC-130 from the South Pole

The Chinese journalist off the research ship after our ping pong match

The Chinese journalist off the research ship after our ping pong match

 

The medical team poses for a parting shot

The medical team poses for a parting shot

 

 

Great country band at one of the bars

Great country band at one of the bars

 

Catherine and Lynn holding their dental certificates

Catherine and Lynn holding their dental certificates

Greetings campers,

My time is winding down, but it’s been another great season on the Ice. Tonight I bag drag which means shIepping  all my gear to be weighed and  then palletized for the 8 hour flight to Christchurch tomorrow. I managed to win the ping pong tournament and celebrated until I challenged a Chinese journalist who was visiting from a research vessel that sent a dozen folks over to our base by helicopter, but it was a good diplomatic move for US-Sino relations when he beat me later that same night. A nice finishing touch to my time here the next day  was a 45 minute snow mobile run out on the glacier to the area called Room With a View. The crane operator, JD and I shared a machine out there and back and enjoyed spectacular vistas of glaciers and ocean landscapes.

My dental services wrapped up yesterday and I awarded all those that lent me a hand with a signed certificate of dental assisting in Antarctica, which should add some muscle to resumes for the next round of contracts. The medical folks are all heading home, leaving behind one doctor and PA for the six month winter of cold and darkness, which I would like to do as much as I’d like to watch political commentary for the next 10 months.

Next stop is New Zealand for a night and then hopefully a last minute purchase of a  flight to Bangkok to meet Pat for a week in Thailand and Cambodia. Then on to Florida to soak up the sun before making my way back to Colorado in mid-March.  Hope your winter is going well and will see many of you soon on the mainland.

Cheers,

Bag Drag Bob

Dry dive to 130 feet!

Hi undersea fans,

Last week the call went out for volunteers who had scuba experience to go in the Navy hyperbaric chamber and test some dive computers for accuracy, so Rob the aerospace doc, Lynn the flight nurse and I signed up. The idea was to go down to 130 foot depth and write down the gauge numbers as we ascended back to the surface, while ignoring the probable nitrogen narcosis that occurs for many people at that depth and results in a very pleasant “I don’t care what happens anymore” experience. Rob and I felt pretty buzzed at that point and would have played some hop scotch but Lynn kept us focused and we finished the task and the high wore off by the time we emerged back to the outside world.

My south pole time finished up without incident and I flew out on a brilliant, sunny day with the wind chill at 55 below, returning to McMurdo in balmy temps above freezing and plenty of oxygen. I was sporting my repaired sunglasses after making friends with someone who had brought down a 3D printer who made a replacement part for the broken arm on my glasses. Since being back, I’ve held on to my ping pong title, done some bar-b-queing on the ice shelf for the folks at the long duration balloon project, finished up some root canals and did a fair number of fillings and cleanings. To top the week off, we biked down to see a few penguins this afternoon who are hanging around waiting to molt into their new winter coat.

One more week before meeting Pat in Bangkok and doing some SE Asia touring. Apparently I missed a good snow storm in Colorado, but plenty of snow here to make up for it.

Cheers,

Hyperbaric Bob

 

Still smiling after descending in the Navy Hyperbaric chamber

Still smiling after descending in the Navy Hyperbaric chamber

Reading our gauges as we dive to 130 feet

Reading our gauges as we dive to 130 feet

Hamish the South Pole winter doc learning some dentistry

Hamish the South Pole winter doc learning some dentistry

 

The 3D printer that made new arms for my sunglasses

The 3D printer that made new arms for my sunglasses

The grow chamber at the South Pole for fresh greens

The grow chamber at the South Pole for fresh greens

Grilling shrimp and steak for lunch on the ice shelf

Grilling shrimp and steak for lunch on the ice shelf

Bird’s eye view of the cargo ship docked at McMurdo

Bird’s eye view of the cargo ship docked at McMurdo

A plump Adele penguin hanging out for his molting session

A plump Adele penguin hanging out for his molting session

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Pole News

Jim and I enjoying a few quiet moments next to an old Delta

Jim and I enjoying a few quiet moments next to an old Delta

55,000 year old ice at the Spice Core drill site

55,000 year old ice at the Spice Core drill site

 

Doc Sarah holding some glass clear ice at the Spice Core site

Doc Sarah holding some glass clear ice at the Spice Core site

 

Frozen C-130 at the South Pole and disabled plane in the upper left- note the line of people walking the runway looking for debris

Frozen C-130 at the South Pole and disabled plane in the upper left- note the line of people walking the runway looking for debris

Camping spot at the South Pole !

Camping spot at the South Pole !

 

Tourists pay $50,000 to fly to the South Pole for a photo op!

Tourists pay $50,000 to fly to the South Pole for a photo op!

 

Successful wisdom teeth patient wearing her teeth as earrings and a necklace

Successful wisdom teeth patient wearing her teeth as earrings and a necklace

 

The traverse team of tractors nears the South Pole station after 1000 mile run from McMurdo

The traverse team of tractors nears the South Pole station after 1000 mile run from McMurdo

New dental drills at the South Pole clinic

New dental drills at the South Pole clinic

Skiing outside the South Pole station to the geographic pole marker

Skiing outside the South Pole station to the geographic pole marker

Hola Icelovers,

              After only a day of delay, which is a shockingly low waiting period for  this place, I flew to the South Pole with a few friends to work on teeth for the  folks who can go nowhere but north.  Our C-130 skied to a landing and the plane  picked up about 30 folks who were heading out of there, but it soon returned  because of weather issues. Since all the rooms at the station were full they  became refuges on the gym floor for 5 days which was aptly renamed the  refugasium. The plane sat frozen through the night in 40 below wind chills and  was unfit to fly by morning, so it will be weeks before the seals can be  replaced and it can head back to McMurdo, so other planes have been making the 4  hour trip from McMurdo.

            Sarah the doc has been  filling my schedule with folks who are  planning to spend the 10 month winter season at the Pole, so I’ve been busy with  check-ups, cleanings and fixing a few chipped teeth. The one highlight was a  young lady who admitted   that she has been told in the past that her wisdom  teeth ought to go, but she said she didn’t have the funds to take care of that.  I countered that I could solve that objection, so after a few minutes of  contemplation, she said “let’s go for it!” The surgery went well, and when we  checked on her the next day she was presented with custom earings and a necklace  pendant  of   her  former choppers, which she proudly wore to  dinner that night.

          I’ve   fought off all ping pong challenges, won and lost a few games of  Scrabble,   and did a great 2 mile ski out to the ice core  project called Spice-Core as they reached 1 mile under the ice to pull up a 55 thousand year old sample that is as clear as glass. It looks like I’ll be here at least a few more days to train the winter doc and PA once they make it here next week, then head back to McMurdo for a few weeks of dental care before winter returns and I head out in mid-February.

Send  some news and don’t forget the sunscreen when you venture out in 24/7  sunshine.

Cheers,

       Pole dentist  Bob

Back on the Ice

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Rob and Andy join me on our first hike up Observation Hill  looking out over the frozen Ross Sea

Rob and Andy join me on our first hike up Observation Hill
looking out over the frozen Ross Sea

The US Coast Guard icebreaker opens a path for the cargo ship

The US Coast Guard icebreaker opens a path for the cargo ship

Weddell seals hanging out on the sea ice as it begins to break up

Weddell seals hanging out on the sea ice as it begins to break up

Hi fellow travelers,       

       After 2 weeks of building up my tolerance for heat in Florida, where it was 86 degrees on Christmas and New Year’s Day, I deployed south. After a nice 4 hour stop in Dallas for bar-b-que with my brother and sister I boarded the double decker Airbus 130 for 16 hours to Sydney, Australia, where I was able to catch up on most of the new release movies I have not seen in the last 12 months. Since I had a 12 hour layover there, I ventured out despite the non stop rain and took in a few sights before the midnight run to Christchurch, New Zealand. Two days turned into three after the flight to McMurdo was cancelled, but last Saturday I landed on the Ross Ice shelf in bright sunshine.     
       It’s been a great week of seeing lots of old friends and trying to remember everyone’s name. I’ve also managed to beat all the best ping pong players on the base, so now I’ve heard they are conspiring to figure out how to overthrow my position. I suspect we’ll trade the top spot back and forth over the next 4 weeks, but it’s fun to be the best for however long it lasts.   
     I’ve already done a few root canals, pulled a couple of wisdom teeth and fixed a few fractured teeth from a mosh pit collision and an aggressive kissing incident, where speculation is that in both cases alcohol may have played a part. Tomorrow looks like a good day for a glacial hike and climb up Castle Rock for a bird’s eye view of the frozen sea and distant Transantarctic mountains, since I’m scheduled to fly to the South Pole on Monday to play dentist there for a few days.  
Cheers, 
     Top Dog Bob

Antarctic telemedicine meeting and Iceland‏

Tromso, Norway and the Church of the Arctic

Tromso, Norway and the Church of the Arctic

Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik, Iceland

Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik, Iceland

Inside one of Harpa’s corridors

Inside one of Harpa’s corridors

Reykjavik’s famous concrete church is the tallest building in the city

Reykjavik’s famous concrete church is the tallest building in the city

Pat at Pingvellir National Park, where the Earth’s tectonic plates  are pulling away from each other about 9mm a year

Pat at Pingvellir National Park, where the Earth’s tectonic plates
are pulling away from each other about 9mm a year

Gullfoss staggering waterfall with about a dozen people standing on the rocks in the middle left

Gullfoss staggering waterfall with about a dozen people standing on the rocks in the middle left

Sitting next to a river of glacial melt in a lava pot formed by a bubble in cooling lava 8700 years ago

Sitting next to a river of glacial melt in a lava pot formed by a bubble in cooling lava 8700 years ago

Falls at Skogar with a long trail to hike up and behind the falls

Falls at Skogar with a long trail to hike up and behind the falls

Seals swimming among icebergs from a glacier in Jokulsarlon lagoon

Seals swimming among icebergs from a glacier in Jokulsarlon lagoon

Photo op among the icebergs

Photo op among the icebergs

Boiling an egg for a snack at the geothermal park

Boiling an egg for a snack at the geothermal park

Basalt columns from ancient volcanoes at the beach in Iceland

Basalt columns from ancient volcanoes at the beach in Iceland

Standing by 6 inch thick moss covered lava from the 1783 eruption  that covered over 500 square kilometers

Standing by 6 inch thick moss covered lava from the 1783 eruption
that covered over 500 square kilometers

Hi ice chasers,

       In an effort to combine a few cold weather destinations into one trip, I signed up for a telemedicine meeting of countries that have bases in  Antarctica held in Tromso, Norway, which is 200 miles north of the arctic circle, and continued afterwards to meet Pat, my mom and my brother in Iceland. Tromso turned out to be a beautiful setting at the gateway to the fiords of Norway and I got to meet all sorts of interesting folks from the UK, Australia, China, France, and Japan that deal with medical and dental issues when folks in Antarctica need to communicate with their home countries. My buddy, Jim, who now is head honcho of the medical side of the US program based in Texas flew in a day early to prep for his presentation. He discovered that renting a car with a GPS had limitations when he drove into a long tunnel, but figured he’d pick up the signal on the other end and continue on his merry way. Imagine his surprise when he encountered not one, but two roundabouts inside the tunnel, which resulted in a few misdirected choices and had him reentering the tunnel a couple of times before he got it right. After a few days there, I bid adieu to Jim and flew to Reykjavik, Iceland for the R and R part of my trip.

            Pat, my brother, Larry and my mom had arrived earlier in the day and found the first apartment I had booked on Airbnb, which turned out to be a great way to stay together in apartments and houses in new places for less than half of what a hotel would cost. We had a rental car and spent a week touring Iceland, which is chock full of incredible trails of waterfalls, glaciers, icebergs, volcanoes, and geysers, not to mention restaurants with delicious fish, lobster and lamb choices. We passed on the entrées of whale and puffin but stopped at most of the bakeries along the way to sample cakes and pastries. One of the more interesting snacks was an egg we boiled at the end of a wooden fishing pole in the 200 degree water of a geothermal park in one of the small towns along the road. It was good family time with lots of laughs and minimal discord so that no one had to be restrained and thrown into the volcano.

            Now it’s back to work, and Pat starts a new job tomorrow with Philips that might bring her out to Colorado more often, which would be a bonus. Hope your Labor Day weekend was a long, relaxing one and enjoy what is left of the summer.

Cheers,

      Arctic circling Bob

Jaunt to Japan

 

Pat’s view from the Sky Tree observation tower in Tokyo

Pat’s view from the Sky Tree observation tower in Tokyo

The Tokyo seafood market is touted as the largest in the world

The Tokyo seafood market is touted as the largest in the world

Cinnamon buns on display at a mouth watering bakery in Kyoto

Cinnamon buns on display at a mouth watering bakery in Kyoto

The Tokyo subway is filled with cell phone toting zombies

The Tokyo subway is filled with cell phone toting zombies

The obvious “Women Only” sign that we missed on the subway

The obvious “Women Only” sign that we missed on the subway

Moss lined trail to the temples in Nikko

Moss lined trail to the temples in Nikko

The sleek bullet trains are a model of speed, comfort and efficiency, just like Amtrak!

The sleek bullet trains are a model of speed, comfort and efficiency, just like Amtrak!

The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto is covered in gold leaf

The Golden Pavilion in Kyoto is covered in gold leaf

The bamboo grove was like a magic forest

The bamboo grove was like a magic forest

The remains of a building in Hiroshima mark ground zero

The remains of a building in Hiroshima mark ground zero

Hiking up a stream to a waterfall with Randi and Aaron in Okinawa

Hiking up a stream to a waterfall with Randi and Aaron in Okinawa

The mini conveyer brought sushi to the table after you ordered on the screen

The mini conveyer brought sushi to the table after you ordered on the screen

An F-15 ready to land at Kadena AF Base in Okinawa

An F-15 ready to land at Kadena AF Base in Okinawa

Pat’s Marriot points landed us at this beach resort the last 2 days

Pat’s Marriot points landed us at this beach resort the last 2 days

I got to dive one day in Okinawa with this curious clown fish

I got to dive one day in Okinawa with this curious clown fish

Konnichiwa Japan fans,

            Pat flew in a few weeks ago to hang out in Colorado a bit before we hopped a plane across the Pacific to visit Japan. It was originally planned back in 1991, but finally 24 years later we were ready to hit the streets of Tokyo. The city sights and sounds were reminiscent of many places with 10-20 million folks running around, and part of the appeal was visiting Peter and his family, a friend I’ve known since I was a kid in New York, who has lived and worked in Tokyo for over 20 years now. Pat and I took the subway around the city, and one morning Pat noticed that I was the only guy in the train car. Then she remembered that she had read about “Women Only” cars because of men groping the ladies during the packed, rush hour commute, and of course then we noticed the large notice posted on the wall. No one said anything though since it was obvious I was just another clueless male foreigner, so I kept my hands to myself and we slipped off the train without attracting too much attention.

            The bullet train to Kyoto that zips along at 200km/hour was a treat in itself, and we spent a few days there visiting temples and gardens. The bamboo grove in one corner of the city was especially scenic, and we were continually impressed with the clean, efficient and gracious nature of the people in such a crowded environment. It was as if the whole country took customer service lessons from Neiman Marcus or the Ritz Carlton, and it was easy to get used to having everything work and run on time. I also took a side trip to the now thriving city of Hiroshima to try to comprehend the devastation of standing at ground zero of an atomic bomb, and it was a sobering experience.

            The final part of the trip took us on a discount flight on Peach airlines to Okinawa to visit some Air Force friends I had worked with in Antarctica a few years ago, and the beaches, scuba diving and relaxed atmosphere of island living were a nice change. We got the local scoop on some great sushi, shopping, and tasty ice cream along with a hike up a stream to a waterfall. Hanging out one night with a few US F-15 pilots  was interesting too, and we learned that the Chinese and Russian pilots do not buddy up to our guys when they find themselves at an international air show the same way the Europeans or Israelis might share in the brotherhood of elite masters of the skies.

            All in all another good reason to add a pin to the map in the basement and return to work with a new sense of efficiency and purpose. Hope your summer is warming up and you remain somewhere safe between the floods and drought across the country.

Cheers,

Bullet train Bob