Letters from the front

  "Around The World"

by Brad "Mexican Bob" Pilgrim  2005  1February2005/10:13Z

It seemed simple enough: around the world in five days. 
Charleston-New Mexico-Hawaii-Japan-Mongolia-Afghanistan-Qatar-The Azores-Charleston. 

Well, we ended up stuck in Honolulu for five days because shortly after 
landing one of my pilots had some sort of allergic reaction to something.
It took a little bit of time to get him replaced because the flight surgeon
in Hawaii kept saying he'd get better. During my time off, I spent quite a
bit of time with my good friends Bruce and Carlene Mayes. They were kind
enough to put up with my company and supply me with a home cooked meal ,
something I don't get too often. They were also good enough to take me on a
"locals" tour of some of the more historic parts of Oahu. I haven't enjoyed
myself that much in a long time.

The morning before we left, I finally walked the block and a half from
my hotel to Waikiki beach. I figured with a couple of hours to kill, I
might as well get some sun. I do not think it's possible to find a person
that is any whiter than I am. I've got a perpetual farmer's tan and usually
sport the raccoon motif from wearing my sunglasses. Other than that, I'm as 
white as the new fallen snow. I took off my shirt and laid down on the
sand and little kids started screaming about their eyes burning. One
guy walked up and said he saw the sun reflecting off of me and assumed that
I was one of those glass fishing floats that the Japanese make! I
ignored their comments and proceeded to bask in the sun. I also proceeded to
fall asleep. Shortly there after, I proceeded to roast like a pig on a spit!

Of course, I didn't wake up until I'd laid there and fried for an hour or
so. With the exception of the area covered by my ever present sunglasses
and my bathing suit, I was lobster red. I mean I burned the inside of my
belly button! Since I had my arms folded behind my head, I also sunburned my
arm pits. I don't believe I've ever experienced that sensation before.

Finally, with my flight suit glued to my red flesh by multiple layers of
aloe vera, we got on the plane and flew to Japan. I'm not ashamed to
say that I cried more than once on the ten hour flight. The next morning,
we showed up to the airplane. About five minutes before starting engines,
we were told that the weather had closed in at the field in Mongolia and we
would delay for 24hrs. Then, with another day of bad weather and the 
Chinese canceling our overflight, we delayed longer. We ended up
staying in Japan for just short of five days. We finally few to Ulaanbattar,
Mongolia. It was -38F without the wind blowing. But as they say. It's a dry

Mongolia was an interesting place. It looked to me like a pretty nasty 
place to set up house keeping, but the people were awful nice. I know
one thing for sure. You can't swing a dead cat at that airport without
hitting an AN-2 Colt Biplane. There must have been thirty of them there. I
would have snatched one to bring home with me, but it was too dang cold. We 
carried a unit of the Mongolian Army to Afghanistan. I had no idea that
they even had an army, much less one that was involved in the war. But,
they've been over there since the beginning of the fight and are
dedicated to the cause.

I know one thing for sure. I wouldn't want to fight one of those boys!
They look like the kind that would break a bottle and cut you in a heart
beat. I think they spend their free time rasslin yaks or something like
that. They were one tough bunch. There was also three women that were 
somehow involved with state security and they watched us suspiciously
the whole time we were there. I finally did get them to pose for a picture.
If I ever get married again, I might go over there to find me a wife. They
seemed like the type that would keep you warm in the winter.

We dropped the Mongols off in Afghanistan and flew on to Qatar. We ate 
dinner real quick and headed for our bunks. Shortly before we boarded
the plane to fly home, I began to realize that I had eaten something at some
point that I shouldn't have. I still don't know what it was that made
me sick, but I would have had to die before I felt better! For most of the
next 21hrs, including the fuel stop in the Azores, I spent my time
curled up in the floor of the plane in the fetal position. Or, in the latrine
waiting to die! It was without a doubt the most miserable flight of my life.
About an hour before landing here in Charleston, day thirteen of my five day
trip, I finally began to feel better. Now that I'm writing this, I actually
feel pretty good. I'm convinced that the only thing in this world that is
worse than home sickness is food poisoning. Maybe it was the yak butter that
I ate at the airport in Mongolia.

I know one thing for sure. From now on, I'm sticking to my macaroni
and cheese diet!

Brad Pilgrim