Finding Tim

by Charlie

Episode 44 - This

My story will soon be coming to an end. As I write this the Beijing Winter Olympics have recently ended. My story is advancing from the Japan Olympics, with one tentacle reaching to New Year's Day. Story time and real time are encroaching on each other. I'm not a prognosticator, I can only write about the past, with maybe a little speculation about the future. In any case, before this story ends, I want to reach back and visit some of the Gang members whose stories got lost in the great arc of this tale. As you know, this story has focused on three things: the Olympics (think Dag and Dink, among many others), the spectacular members of the Gang (think Auggie and Shel), and some of the more unusual sexual relationships enjoyed by the Gang (think Bernie and Beverly). Now I'm going to try to fill in some of the blanks, in three episodes titled This And That, or more properly written as This, And, and That.

However, I have to begin on a sad note. Tim got a call from Norman, his father, telling him that he was on the way to the hospital in the ambulance with Betsy. She'd fallen in the house, hit her head, and was unconscious. He'd called 911 immediately, the ambulance had come quickly, and they were off to the hospital. Tim response had been, "Charlie and I are on the way."

And we were. Tim drove and I got on the phone and called Carl, who already knew, having been called by Norman just after the call to Tim. Carl and Carol headed to the hospital right behind us. Then I started calling key members of the Gang, who in turn called the rest--the message was to stand by--not rush to the hospital.

At the hospital Betsy had immediately been sent for a cat scan of her head, followed by an MRI. All the evidence was that she'd had a very bad concussion, and there was bleeding in the cranial cavity. In a fairly short time Norman, Tim, and Carl had to face a decision: should a brain surgeon attempt to relieve the pressure on the brain surgically? There weren't many alternatives except total rest and hope that the body would slowly recover naturally. Norman's first question was, "Assuming she doesn't die during surgery, what are the odds that she'll recover, that is recover to a normal life?"

The brain surgeon, who'd already been called in, gave the odds at better than fifty-fifty. The ER doctor disagreed. He said that in his experience with concussions this serious, the odds of full recovery were quite low, but he did agree that he had seen complete recoveries. It was a terrible decision for Norman to have to make. He and Tim and Carl asked to be alone for a few minutes. In that time the decision was taken out of their hands. Betsy's heart monitor indicated a worsening condition. The family was called in and we watched Betsy die. It was the machines, not her body, that told us the end had come.

We gathered in the ER waiting room. Norman and Carl talked to the hospital staff about arrangements for the body. Then Norman spoke to the four of us, "I'd like to gather the grandchildren and great-grandchildren together so we can talk."

"Where?"

Tim spoke, "At The Madhouse; that's our house in case you don't remember." Tim turned to his father and asked, "Just who do you want? Max? Elaine and George--they're only four years old? Spouses?"

Norman said, "Yes. Yes, to all. I don't care about what the paperwork says, or their age. They're all Betsy's progeny and family, and they all should be there."

Tim was about to ask another question, but decided to answer it for himself. Max's brother Milt and his family wouldn't be invited. Merle, Tina's husband would be. Decisions like that are arbitrary, but they have to be made.

So just who and how many did this involve? Norman (1), Tim (2) Carl (3), Tina (4), Merle (5), Max (6), Mabel (7), Elaine (8), Natalie (9), George (10), Carol (Carl's wife, 11), Nels (12), Mary (13), Ginnie (14), Sonny (15), Liam (16), Woody (17), Bert (18), Peg (19), and Diane (20). What a family. (If you've forgotten where Mabel, Elaine, Natalie, and George fit in, read Episodes 234-Marriage and 235-PyeongChang.)

As everyone was arriving at The Madhouse, Liam took me aside and said, "Charlie, thank you for including Woody and me. We aren't married to Sonny, and we could've been omited."

I replied, "You and Woody are Sonny's spouses just as much as I'm Tim's. You're part of the extended family; you belong here."

"You don't know how nice it is to hear you say that, Charlie."

"I was welcomed into this family, unconditionally. So have you been."

We all settled in the living room, with some chairs stretching out into the hall. Tim spoke first. He began, "First, Carl, this is for you. Tonight we're going to say and listen to a lot of sentiment, and we don't want you interjecting and, in your usual way, trying to end it. Tonight we all need it.

"We've lost a great lady, a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. For Norman the loss is enormous; he'll have a life to reconstruct in ways he hoped he would never have to. For the rest, it's sad, but it won't dramatically change our lives; but it'll change our feelings about life and our approach to it. It's hard to lose a parent or a grandparent. For Diane and George, the hard part will come in the future as they realize that they missed a loving relationship with a great-grandmothr that they barely knew, and will have a difficult time remembering by the time they're teenagers. It's incumbent on all of us to help Diane and George keep that memory alive."

Tim reminded us that Betsy was ninty-nine years old, far older than the average life expectancy she could expect when she was born in 1922, then around sixty years. "Her passing isn't really a sad occasion, but it's not a joyous one either. What is joyous is the life Betsy lived. Through the sadness of the moment we must appreciate the joy of her life."

Tim passed the torch to Carl, who, not being at all sentimental, said very little and passed it on to Norman.

Norman spoke, saying, "When I realize that Betsy was ninty-nine, I'm forced to realize that I'm two years older. Both of us were given far more years than statistics offered us. It's been a great life. And I'm so lucky to have spent about three-fourths of it with Betsy. A wonderful wife; a wonderful mother as Tim and Carl can attest; a wonderful grandmother as Max, Nels, Bert, and George can attest; and a wonderful great-grandmother as Ginnie, Sonny, Diane, and Elaine can attest."

Others spoke as they were inclined. There wasn't a dry eye when, toward the end Elaine spoke up saying, "I miss you great-grandma."

Norman and his two sons, Tim and Carl, found that they were in substantial agreement on arrangements for celebrating her life. While the largest number of her friends were members of the Gang, she had many others. So two memorial services were planned. The first, in the local funeral home that made the arrangements for her cremation, was for everyone, and the home was full. The second, held in The Hideout, had exactly 138 attendees. Tim led the service, but it consisted almost exclusively of Gang members' remembrances of Betsy. Toppy played two numbers, one on the trumpet and one on the tuba. In a band, he could make you jump with exuberance; that day he almost made us cry.

But life goes on, and Norman, at age 102 was determined that would be so. Carl and Tim asked him it he didn't think it was time to think about a retirement home, to avoid the burdens of a house. His reply, "Hell, boys cleaning out the house would be more work than living in it a few more years! Sorry, but the cleaning out will be your job, not mine. You may find that the best solution is to let the fire department burn it down as a training exercise!"

Norman thanked Tim and Carl for each staying with him a night or two, but, "No, I don't need company at night, nor a baby sitter. Go back to your husband and wife." The next thing we knew Norman, Melanie, and Trudi were being seen together at Jerry's for dinner, and at some campus activities. They called themselves "the three widows" and seemed to be having a good time together.

It wasn't long before Tim discovered that the three frequently spent the night together at one of their houses. He told me, "Charlie, I have no idea what goes on at night with those three, but they seem to be having a good time together. Do you believe? At ages 98, 99, and 102! You and I should be so lucky."

"And so virile."

Frank Bruder missed the Tokyo Olympics: an accident prevented him from going as an athlete and the virus prevented him from going as a guest of Fred's Sports. He'd been practicing on the high bar, with Marty right there coaching and watching. The big spongy catch pad was properly in place. He missed a catch and fell; despite the deep soft padding his foot went one way and his hip the other. In between is the knee and it simply doesn't bend the way it would have had to for Frank to avoid injury. He was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. The Emergency Room doctor told Frank, his parents, and grandparents that the dislocation of his knee and the tears of tendons, would require rather major surgery, probably by a specialsit, in Minneapolis or Chicago.

I'm not quite sure why Hal got Tim and me involved, but he did. Tim's immediate response was to suggest Dr. Anthony Wilson at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis.

"How do you know a Dr. Anthony Wilson in St. Louis?"

"He was Jimmy Lawson's orthopedist. He did wonders for Jimmy, both surgically and psychologically. Without Dr. Wilson behind him, Jimmy would never have been a diver."

Dr. Wilson was not, is not, a miracle worker. Frank had three surgeries by Dr. Wilson at Barnes and made a remarkably good recovery; but continued gymnastics was out. He would have a slight limp for the rest of his life. Tim knew the doctor in the ER that had told the Bruders that Frank would need surgery. He told Tim, "I didn't think he'd ever walk again. His surgeon was wonderful. I'll keep Dr. Wilson in mind for future reference."

Not long after all of the surgeries and rehab were over, Hal invited Frank to have dinner with him and Sue. Hal started the conversation, "Well, Frank, your future in gymnastics has come to an end. It's sad; I'm sorry; you're sorry; but that's life. Your folks tell me you're doing a great job of adjusting to a changed life. But have you thought seriously about what that changed life will be?"

"Not much."

"You know, you had a list of a lot of different sports you were good at. There are a couple on that list that your leg would allow you to do. I'm thinking primarily of archery, but canoeing and probably sailing would be open to you."

Frank replied, "We've talked before about those sports. The water sports don't really work unless I want to spend a lot of time away from Grand Forks, and I don't. So that leaves archery. There's no way that I could be an Olympian in time for Paris in four years. Los Angeles in eight years; maybe."

Hal said, "Charlie had six or seven years, since Tim didn't go to the Tokyo Olympics."

Frank said, "And Charlie had his love of Tim going for him. We both know that he would never have been an Olympian without Tim. He knew Tim wanted to walk with him in an Olympic Opening Ceremony, and Charlie was determined to make that happen. I can catch Olympic fever just like anybody else, and I can work damn hard, but I don't have a Tim. Honestly, Granddad, archery is boring. I simply don't have the drive to be an Olympian with my little bow and arrow."

"Then for God's sake don't let anyone push you down that path."

"Thanks, Granddad. I was afraid when I came here that that's what you were going to encourage me to do. I know you'd like me to be an Olympian."

"Frank, of course I'd like you to be an Olympian. But much more important, I want you to be you. You don't start down that path because someone's pushing you. It has to be your path. And I've heard Shel say that you have to run down it pell-mell, Hell-bent for leather (whatever that means). Frank, you have to find your own path. Thanks to that leg, it's going to have to be a different one. Take your time. You'll be a senior next year, and then have four years of college. You have the whole Gang behind you, ready to push when you tell them what direction, but they aren't going to push you in other directions. You'll find your way."

Later in the meal Hal said, "Frank, do you know Jimmy Lawson?"

"We've met, but that's about all."

"You need to get to know him, and talk to him seriously about being disabled. He's got a much more serious disability than you do, and he deals with it magnificently. Get to know him."

Frank did get to know Jimmy, and he told me later that Jimmy had given him a whole new perspective on living with a disability. Jimmy had said, "Look at me. I can just barely walk. I can put hours and hours into diving practice, but know that I can never compete because I can't control my leg. Look at me and remember how lucky you are, and not how sad it is that you have a limp and can't be a gymnast. In the same way, I look at the kids in wheel chairs and think how lucky I am to have legs that function enough that I'm not on wheels. We're all lucky to be alive. Always look on the bright side."

Frank said to me, "He continued with that broad smile and looked like he couldn't be happier. Nothing seems to put him down, and I'm determined to be the same way. Sometimes it's hard, but I just think about Jimmy. He refuses to feel sorry for himself."

It's too soon to say where Frank's going in life, but with that attitude, I'm sure he'll do well.

We'll switch to a new cast of characters and a new time frame. The super-collider came on-line in 1994. Will Carleton had worked almost non-stop for years through both the design process and then in actually seeing the building of the machine and its first experiments. He was ready for a break. He was thinking about asking about a sabbatical, when Tim called him on the phone and invited him to lunch the next day. With the invitation issued a day in advance, Will worked at his office in the physics building on campus, rather than heading up to the super-collider site. They met at Dakota House and drove in Tim's car. Since the Bar and Grill in East Grand Forks had long since slipped away in floodwaters, Jerry's was now the place for meetings such as Tim planned.

As soon as they'd ordered (it wasn't like the Bar and Grill where ordering the Special was assumed; at Jerry's you had to think about what you were going to eat) Will asked, "What's up?"

"You've been working constantly at the IAP since its inception and especially since we got involved with the super-collider. By the way, I and the whole University thank you again for your excellent leadership on that project. Without Will Carletion there wouldn't be a super-collider up in that isolated field in eastern North Dakota."

"Thanks but without your leadership there wouldn't even be an IAP. Your sneaky plan to bring Ronnie, Sharon, and Kyle to North Dakota was the key to the whole thing. But what's this lunch really about? Some new sneaky plan?"

"Not really. Will, you need a vacation. Only you know how long a vacation you need, but I'm sure you agree you need one."

"I was about to ask you about a sabbatical, but this lunch came before I could act on that plan. Just what did you have in mind?"

"Well, because of your work on the super-collider you've been on the faculty but not teaching anything. So your schedule isn't tied to the academic year. With Ronnie and company, as well as Kevin and Kay, the super-collider can run without you. I think that I'll invite Kevin or Kay, or maybe both, to be interim directors of the super-collider. After your vacation, you can decide whether you want to return to that role, or to a more traditional faculty position, including teaching. When you make a personal decision about that, we'll move on appointing a permanent director, either you or someone selected in an open search. The job is yours if you want it, it's well-earned. But right now lets talk about vacation. Close things out at the super-collider. Brief Keven and Kay as needed to replace you. Then begone!"

"Just how long a vacation are you talking about?"

"As long as you decide you need or want. You'll remain on the faculty and draw full pay and benefits. The time is open-ended. Build that canoe that I know you haven't had time to do recently. Travel the world. Stay home and sleep till noon every day. But I know you, you're incapable of doing that."

"That's quite an offer."

"It isn't an offer, if's a order. As of right now Kevin and Kay are interim co-directors of the super-collider and you're on leave. When you're ready to come back, let me know."

"My God, that's generous. Thank you, Tim."

Will was, of course, married to Jimmy Keelson, who worked full time for tthe North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Jimmy's ability to get time off didn't match Tim's generosity. He went to his boss with the problem. His supervisor, Jud Cramer, was sympathetic; he'd stood up with Jimmy at his marriage and really liked him. Furthermore, Jimmy was a knowledgable, dedicated employee of the Game and Fish Department and Jud want to keep him and keep him happy. His response to Jimmy was, "Well, Jimmy, I have to work within the bureaucratic rules of the state of North Dakota. You have about six weeks of leave stored up. During those days you'll earn an additional three days. After that you could go on leave without pay. Eventually in that status you'd lose your job, but not until your supervisor advised you that additional leave without pay wasn't authorized. Since I'm your supervisor, I can pretty much assure you that you can take all the time you and Will want. But the paychecks have to end after six and a half weeks."

Jimmy replied, "My God, that's wonderful. Thank you. Will gets a better salary than I do from the university, so we'll do fine without my check. Will and I can now think about how we'd like to use some time off."

"Good luck, Jimmy. Have a great time. Use the time well."

Will and Jimmy decided they'd like to travel. That's what they'd thought about from the beginning, when Will was just thinking about asking for a sabbatical. Travel where? Europe seemed like an obvious starting place, so in May of 1994 they boarded a plane, First Class Eurailpasses in hand, for Madrid. They decided that they'd start in the south and head north, hopefully getting to northern Europe before it became too hot in southern Europe. Spain. Portugal. Spain. Gibralter.

After returning to Spain from their side trip to Gibralter they decided to cross the strait to visit Morocco. Much to their surprise, when they got off the boat in north Africa they were not in Morocco, but in a part of Spain: Ceuta. It's a small Spanish city in north Africa that has been Spanish for centuries. A short bus ride heading for Tangier took them to and through the Moroccan border and they finally felt like they were really in Africa. A single night in Tangier and they were back, headed for Spain. France. Monaco, Italy. Vatican City.

Do you get the impression that they were counting countries? Well, yes they were, and they admitted it when they got back. The idea had come to them when Tim and I talked about visiting the six little countries of Europe. They added Gibralter to the list and then were surprised to add Ceuta. They didn't miss San Marino and then headed further east along the Mediterranean to Greece. They enjoyed their time in Greece, especially visiting Athens and it's Acropolis. Istanbul was next and they added Turkey and their first (and only for this trip) visit to Asia, taking the ferry across the Bosphorus. Then they took the famous Orient Express back to Europe: Bulgaria. Romania. Hungary. Austria. They had a brief stop (one night) in Budapest, but Vienna was their first real stop since Instanbul. They really got into the swing of things in Vienna, attending the opera, waltz night clubs, candy and pastry shops, as well as the usual sights. They did, finally, decide to move on. Czechoslovakia. Austria. Germany. Switzerland. Liechtenstein. France (they were disappointed in Paris). Belgium. The Netherlands. Germany (again). Denmark. Norway (by boat). Sweden. Finland. Where to go next?

The didn't have visas for Russia, the next logical country to visit. So they decided to head home via London where they had a great time exploring the city, and especially the theatres in the evening. According to Will, "We went to a London pantomime and it wasn't at all what we expected, and we still don't exactly know how to describe it. It's nothing like pantomime in America." From London to Ireland, and home via Reykjavik, Iceland.

What a trip. It'd taken them a little over three months. Will was excited to be back and eager to return to particle physics. He was offered the position of Director of the super-collider program but he declined. "It's time for me to return to teaching and my own research." Jimmy returned to his job at the Game and Fish Department, and within two days he was back in the swing of his job as if he'd never left.

They looked back on their trip and counted the countries. Not counting the United States their trip had taken them to twenty-nine countries; well, Gibralter and Ceuta weren't actually countries, but they figured they counted. Wow, add the United States, Canada, and Mexico and they were at thirty-two. (Both had made border visits to Mexico and been on separate trips as kids to Canada.)

They hadn't been home long before Jimmy read about the Travelers' Century Club (TCC). It's a club for travelers that have visited at least one hundred countries. He told Will, "With only one trip we're almost a third of the way there. Let's make it our goal to join the TCC."

Will wasn't quite as enthusiastic as Jimmy, but he did like the idea of traveling around the world. They looked at the official list of countries and territories that the TCC recognized and realized they could add one more: TCC counted Turkey in Asia and Turkey in Europe as separate entities. Since while in Istanbul they'd visited Asian Turkey that made their total thirty-three!

Will looked at Jimmy and asked, "Where to next, and when?"

"We're only been to three continents, North America, Europe, and Asia, and we've hardly touched our toes in Asia. We need to plan a good trip to Asia fairly soon, but I say South America is next, it's right next door. Next summer we head to Buenos Aires and nearby countries."

Will pointed out to Jimmy that they'd been on four continents, their trip to Tangier having given them a toe-touch in Africa. Then he endorsed the idea of a trip to South America.

To make a long story short, in the summer of 1996 they visited South America hitting the countries of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Chile. In the summer of 1997 they headed for Asia, visiting Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Malasia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, and on the way home Tahiti in French Polynesia. They'd now visited six of the seven continents. They'd also added sixteen to their list of countries making a total of forty-nine. They decided that hitting fifty would be fun so they started looking around for a single country they could visit. They got out the country list from the TCC and found that Alaska was considered a separate entity–because of its separation from the lower forty-eight. The year 2000 brought a cruise to Alaska and their list totaled fifty!

Where to go next? The island nations of the Carribean seemed an obvious choice. Could then simply fly to the Bahamas, or maybe Puerto Rico and island hop down the great arc of islands of the Lesser Antillies? They found that island hopping wasn't that easy. Movement from island to island was generally by plane, and tickets were far from cheap. There was no regular boat transport between most of the islands. And there weren't bridges like down the Florida keys; you couldn't take a bus!

Will's main connection to the Gang was through Ronnie, Sharon and Kyle. They both knew Dirk well and through him Carl. Jimmy had gotten to know me through his archery and Tim knew all of the Olympians. But, to be honest, the two of them were a little bit on the fringes of the Gang. They hadn't been drawn into the heart of the Gang because, unlike many members of the Gang they had a goodly number of friends through their work–Will at the super-collider and Jimmy at Game and Fish. In talking with Carl about their frustration at not finding a simple way to visit the Carribean islands, Carl said, "Talk to Shel."

"Why Shel?"

"Shel is the fixer in the Gang. If there's a solution to your problem, he'll send you to it."

Talking to Shel led to, "Talk to Auggie."

By this time Will had given up on asking, "Why," and simply called Auggie up and asked about a time to get together.

Auggie simply said, "Invite Lynn and me to dinner, and we'll have a chance to talk." Remember, this is the Gang. That kind of response was certainly acceptable.

So it was a dinner in their custom built house–thanks to Carl and the Gang–that Jimmy told Auggie of their interest in visiting many countries, aiming for the magic one-hundred required to join the TCC, and their thought that the islands of the Carribean would be both interesting and add countries quite quickly.

Auggie asked, "Shel sent you to me?"

"Yes. Carl sent us to Shel, and Shel suggested we talk to you."

"Then he's thinking about sailing down the islands of the Lesser Antilles." He turned to his wife and asked, "Lynn, how would you like to go sailing?"

Lynn answered, "You've spent the last three years sailing around the world with Tim and Charlie. Now we're headed to the Carribean for more sailing?"

"That was racing. And I was working. Fred's Sports was paying me to coach Tim and Charlie, and it was a full time job. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. But sailing the Carribean would be fun and relaxing."

Lynn said, "Well, if you're talking about us sailing the Carribean with these two, I think it's a grand idea.

Auggie said, "Right you are. And we ought to be thinking of our own list; we visited a lot of countries with Tim and Charlie." He turned to Will and Jimmy, who were both a little startled by the direction the conversation had taken, and asked, "When were you thinking of going?"

Neither Will nor Jimmy had an answer for that. Will said, "When we came here we had no idea of what you might suggest for traveling the Carribean, and I don't think Shel did either. Are you suggesting that the four of us sail down through the Lesser Antillies together. On what kind of boat?"

"Either a nice sloop or a catamaran. A catamaran that can make that trip would be cheaper–either to rent or to buy. A sloop is a much more fun boat to sail."

Will said, "I was think of some kind of a motor boat, but I guess you would want to sail."

"It's the only way to go. And the only way you'll get me to go."

"You're thinking of buying a boat?"

"Yeah. We'd buy it in the Bahamas where Goose could be our agent. Then sell it in Aruba at the end of the trip. Might even make some money on the deal; probably not; we'd probably lose a little, but not much. Again, back to when."

Jimmy said, "This's hit us pretty suddenly. It would be quite an adventure. I think that Will and I will have to think about it a little."

Auggie said, "If you have to think about it very long then you really aren't that interested."

Jimmy looked at Will, who nodded affirmatively, and then said, "How about summer after next, 2002?"

Auggie said, "You have a date. Lynn, put it on the calendar. All summer, 2002, cruise the Lesser Antillies." He thought a little and continued, "There's one thing you'll have to keep in mind. The size of sloop I'm thinking of will have a single sleeping cabin. It'll sleep four comfortably, but at pretty close quarters. Are you going to be comfortable with that? And all of the implications of that?"

Jimmy looked at Will, who was at this point grinning, clearly understanding the implications of that. This time Will didn't nod, but said, "I think that it would be wise to test the implications of that tonight, since the four of us are all here together. We can flesh out a few of the details of this trip at breakfast tomorrow."

The night was exciting. Will and Jimmy had had very little in the way of sex within the Gang, nor outside of it either, and this was broadening their horizon. In the more than a year between that night and their departure for Freeport in the Bahamas, Auggie and Lynn introduced them to the joys of Gangland, and the fun of using The Hideout as a bed and breakfast. (Part of Fyn's self-imposed job was to keep fresh food for breakfast in The Hideout at all times–it never went to waste; unused food was consumed by the Circle before it could spoil.)

May of 2002 finally arrived. The four flew to Freeport where Goose was waiting for them at the airport. About three months before, Goose had found the perfect boat for them, and Auggie had bought it sight unseen. It was a beautiful sloop called Tranquility. It'd been made by a small boat building firm on Great Abaco Island, the next island east from Grand Bahama where Freeport was sited. It was a lovely boat, carefully crafted out of wood strips, with varying woods in the deck and cabin that made it look magnificent; the wood wasn't painted; it was covered with multiple coats of marine varnish. Auggie, Goose, and the rest of them got aboard and set off. Auggie took control of the boat as if he'd been sailing it since he was a little boy. He immediately pronounced it to be "wonderful" and they had about an hour's sail.

Back in Freeport they assembled provisions and were soon ready to set off. The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos are essentially a single chain of islands that would lead them down to the island of Hispaniola which is divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic–they visited both. Then they were off to Puerto Rico where they spent several days and reprovisioned the boat.

Then it was down the long island chain of the Lesser Antillies beginning with the British Virgin Islands and ending in Trinidad. I asked Will about his adventue and he told me, "Charlie, it was wonderful. We'd cruise in this lovely boat most of the day. Auggie taught us all to sail it, and there really wasn't much to it; Auggie was always available for any problems. With satellite navigation, we couldn't get lost. We'd overnight in some harbor or whatever island we were near, usually in a town where there was a marina. We'd always sleep on the boat, and that was a constant adventure. We usually slept in our regular pairing, but we traded off enough to keep it interesting. Lynn really enjoyed having her pick of three men! What a life! It couldn't go on forever, and I guess I wouldn't have wanted it to. Trinidad and then the coast of Sourth America arrived; we got to Aruba; had little trouble selling the boat for about what Auggie had paid for it; and flew home via Jamaica, adding one more country. Oh, wow, what a trip. We couldn't thank Auggie enough, but he just said, 'Lynn and I had as much fun as you did. We may start our own country list.' Oh, Charlie, I think it was the trip of a lifetime."

The Travelers' Century Club list of countries and territories is rather inconsistent as far as I can tell. St. Kitts and Nevis is one nation, but the two islands are listed separately. Trinidad and Tobago is one nation and the two islands are listed together. Regardless, here are the countries and teritories that Will and Jimmy visited, as they count on the TCC's official list: (1) Bahamas, (2) Turks and Caicos Islands, (3) Haiti, (4) Dominican Republic, (5) Puerto Rico, (6) British Virgin Islands, (7) U.S. Virgin Islands, (8) Anguilla (British), (9) St. Martin (French), (10) Sint Maatrin (Dutch) [the French have the north side of the Island of St. Martin, and the Ducth the south side], (11) St. Barthélemy (French), (12) Saba & Sint Eustatius (Dutch) [they actually only visited Sint Eustatius Island]. (13) St. Kitts, (14) Nevis [site of several Gang adventures, see Episode 14-Tom, Episode 41-Surveys, and Episode 46-Secret], (15) Antigua and Barbuda (they missed Barbuda; it is somewhat out of the way, and, besides it wasn't separate on the TCC list!), (16) Montserat (British), (17) Guadelope (French), (18), Dominica, (19) Martinique (French), (20) St. Lucia, (21) St. Vincent & the Grenadines [They stopped at St. Vincent for several days and overnighted in several of the Grenadines as they worked their way south.], (22) Barbados, (23) Grenada, (24) Trinidad and Tobago, (25) Aruba (Dutch), (26) Venezuela, and (27) Jamaica.

Add twenty-seven to the fifty countries already on their list and they were at seventy-seven.

Will announced, to Jimmy's surprise, "I'm already getting itchy about travel. Where to next, Mr. Geographer?"

Jimmy had been studying the map and the TCC country list. His answer was, "We have two choices: Africa or the Middle East. Both have lots of countries and we could probably get to one hundred in either."

"What do you know about travel around either area?"

"I think a lot of the Middle East can be covered overland, but I think you'd have to fly to Baghdad and Kuwait. From Dubai you can drive to the other six emirates–they're all separately listed on the TCC list. If we stopped in Cyprus we could pick up three TCC entries (Turkish Cyprus, Greek Cyprus, and the remaining little piece of British Cyprus).

"I just don't know about Africa and the ease of surface travel from country to country. It looks like you could travel the west coast and tick off quite a few countries without too great distances."

Will fooled Jimmy with, "Let's do both. But the Middle East in summer sounds like a bad idea. I'll get a semester off and we'll go in the fall of 2004. We need to get a feel for the climate of west Africa and the availability of country to country surface transportation before we plan that trip for some time in 2006."

They didn't want their Middle East trip to just be ticking of countries. But they had to admit that country counting shaped the itinerary. They discovered that the Mediterranean was full of islands that TCC counted. So, en route to the Middle East they hit the islands. They flew to Paris and on to (1) Corsica. They found that there were many inter-island ferries, but that for islands some distance from each other they'd have to go to some mainland port and then set out for the next island. In this way they visited (2) Sardinia, (3) Sicily, (4) Malta, (5) Crete, and (6,7,8) Cyprus, which included three territories: Greek, Turkish, British Colonial. On all of their island stops they tried to stay two nights so they had a full day to explore the island. Cyprus took four days and a rented car to visit most of the interesting parts.

Lebanon was a question mark because of all of the turmoil and unrest from civil war and both Israeli and Syrian occupation. At the suggestion of several travelers that'd come from Lebanon, they took a small boat to the port of Jounieh, (9) Lebanon, just north of Beirut, and then they took a taxi overland to Damascus, (10) Syria. A taxi (actually a shared taxi called a /ser-vees'/) took them to (11) Jordan, and the West Bank, (12) Palestine. They were unable to get a visa for Saudi Arabia so they flew from Jordan to (13) Kuwait, (14) Bahrain, (15) Qatar [They didn't have a visa for Qatar, so it was just a transit stop on the way to (16) Abu Dhabi (the first of the seven Emirates of the United Arab Emirates). Then an interesting overland trip through the desert with four other passengers on a sort of bus to (17) Dubai. Not the most comfortable or efficient transportation, but vastly cheaper than flying. From Dubai a single days taxi ride took them to the rest of the Emirates: (18) Sharjah (a major city and the site of early British air operations, and thus an overnight stop on the early air service between London and Australia), (19) Ajman, (20) Umm Al Quwain, (21) Ras Al Khaimah, and (22) Fujairah. Back in Dubai they spent several days marveling at the fantastic modern city that had grown from a sleepy Arab port in two to three decades! It was time to head home stopping in (23) Egypt. Stop, add that twenty-three the the seventy-seven countries they had before they left and you get ONE HUNDRED. That was cause for a celebratory dinner at the best restaurant they could find in Cairo. They couldn't resist a trip to Port Said, in (24/101) Asian Egypt. Then it was a flight home via London, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Grand Forks.

They sent in their applications for membership in the Travelers' Century Club the next day!

They did make their trip to west Africa but it wasn't until 2011; since they'd hit the 100 mark they didn't feel the same pressure to add or count countries. A while after their return from Africa Jimmy said to Will, "You know, we've been on six of the seven continents. How does one get to Antarctica?"

Will said, "Well, I think that a lot of the cruise ships go there, either as a destination or a brief visit as they cruise around Cape Horn."

"It'd be fun to be able to say that we'd visited more than a hundred countries and all seven continents. I'm going to look into it."

He did, but it wasn't one of his top priorities. Several big projects for the Game and Fish Department kept him involved. When he did start looking into cruises he found that if you really wanted to take a nice cruise to Antarctica you needed to schedule it pretty far ahead, because there were more people wanting to set foot on the white continent than there was capacity to take them there. They did finally agree on a wonderful cruise package that would allow them a couple of nights camping (no hotels in Antarctica) on the continent as well as cruising some distance along its shores. The exact details of the trip would depend on the weather and ice conditions as the crusing season approached and there was no guarantee that they could land. It was the northern hemisphere winter of 2015-2016 before they set sail from Buenos Aires headed for the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Antarctica, and returning home via Puerto Williams, Chile, and Ushuaia, Argentina, at the southern tip of South America. I might note that they added three countries to their list as well as the seventh continent.

They flew home, landing in Grand Forks on a cold day in February, 2016. A fairly large continent from the Gang was on hand to meet them, as well as several of their coworkers from both Fish and Game and the super-collider. As they stood around waiting for luggage and generally planning their return to town and a big dinner at Jerry's, Will happed to say to Tim, "Well, I guess we're the only members of the gang to visit all seven continents."

Tim called out, "Ronnie, come here."

When Ronnie came up he told Will to repeat his comment, which Will did.

Tim said, "Tell him Ronnie."

Ronnie said, "My father's last cruise enabled him to visit Antarctica, and step on shore. His cruising had easily taken him to the other six continents."

Tim turned to Will, "Sorry to pop your balloon, but we have to give Frank Littleton credit for being first. However, you two were the first to qualify for the Travelers' Century Club!"

Kyle heard the conversation and said, "You know, the latest competition is to set foot on the highest point on each of the seven continents."

Will said, "Our balloons are sufficiently popped. But we had a fabulous trip!"

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