There’s one nice thing about meeting old friends we haven’t seen in a long time. It provides a glimpse of who we were…and what we have become.
There are some things that Jaine and I had in common between us even before we got married. We both had an open mind to new ideas, a willingness to take calculated risk and a strong work ethic.
For example, when Jaine and I were young, we were daring. Jaine was an AFS student in Turkey in the summer between her Junior and Senior year in high school. After graduating high school I went on a 30 mile backpacking trip hiking on US Forest trails no wider than deer trails in the Absaroka Primitive Area in Montana and was treed by a grizzly bear. Admittedly, the trip to Turkey was probably a little scarier than being treed by a bear, but you get the idea…we both had a taste for adventure.
This receptiveness to new ideas, risk-taking and work ethic came in handy when we decided to live in Saudi Arabia from June of 1985 to December of 1993. These attributes also served us well as we biked across America in 2015.
When crossing the United States we’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of people, almost all of them new acquaintances. This journey also gave Jaine and I the opportunity to meet old friends, friends from Saudi Arabia we haven’t seen in years, and with our re-acquaintance, the ability to see how much we’ve changed.
Our first meeting with old friends happened to us in Pueblo Colorado.
When Jaine and I lived in Saudi Arabia, we had the pleasure to have met Nell and Ferrell Carraway, a very refined, fun-loving couple from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Nell and Ferrell are the personification of southern gentility…they are the kind of people you can count on to do the right thing the right way.
Nell and Jaine John and Ferrell
Their roots are from the deep South as opposed to the upbringing of those ‘Damn Yankees’ from Wisconsin, but they also had the same attributes we had listed above which made it easy for us to become friends. We kept in touch by Christmas cards but we didn’t see each other for over 20 years.
When Nell and Ferrell came back to the United States, after a period of time they decided to move to a small town near Winter Park, CO and when they heard we were going to bike across America they came down to Pueblo to meet us.
It was so exciting when we first met. At first blush, one would think the first meeting would be somewhat restrained but it was like we just visited each other yesterday. Time just seemed to slip away between us as we got caught up on what we’ve been doing over the past 20 years and Ferrell and I talked about what he had been up to since we last meet in the KSA.
Ferrell was working for Lockheed and made the bold move to start up Red Sea Housing with a partner from the US and a Saudi patron. It was a risky move as he had a very secure job with a big US company, but his sense of adventure, his open-mindedness to opportunity and his hard work made that company extremely successful. Red Sea Housing expanded to a worldwide operation providing housing for many different business sectors. Ferrell, like I, has recently retired. Check out the company he helped start:
Nell and Ferrell stayed with us at a home Jaine and I rented in Pueblo, and I am confident we will continue to meet with each other a lot more frequently now. Ferrell and I share a love of golf, red wine, coffee in the morning and grilling out. He also promised me he will show me how golf is supposed to be played as opposed to how I currently butcher a golf course and I’m going to hold him to that promise.
Oh, by the way, there is one difference between Ferrell and I. I lost my hair about 15 years ago and he didn’t the lucky stiff!
Our second meeting with old friends happened in Leesburg, VA.
In Jeddah, KSA, Jaine and I were members of the Jeddah Hash House Harriers, a group of crazies that run in the desert each weekend. My hash handle was the 'Dean of Men' and my position on the Politburo was the Hash Horn. I blew a bugle every so often as we ran through the desert so people wouldn't get lost and summoned people to our meetings at the pleasure of the Grand Master. Jaine's handle was 'Vaine Jaine' and her position on the Politburo was On Sec. She was the secretary of the organization.
For a more detailed explanation about Hashing, check out this link:
One weekday during Desert Storm we got a call from Bob Reeve who was serving in the Navy on a ship docked at the Jeddah seaport. He asked about running with the Hash House Harriers, and we met with him and ran the hash together that weekend. About 2 days later Bob called and asked if our family would like to visit his ship, the USS Yellowstone.
Come to find out, the USS Yellowstone was a fleet repair ship bigger than a battleship and Bob was one of the 3 commanders of the ship. Jaine, our two young boys, and I were treated like royalty by Bob. I remember stepping outside of Bob’s office on the ship to see an A-10 Thunderbolt II sitting on the deck. I looked at all of the holes along the engine and part of the fuselage and asked Bob, “Why is the ventilation system designed like that?” Bob said, “John, those are bullet holes.” Yup, if you haven’t figured me out yet, see my May 31 blog “What happens when you take too many dumb pills”. Bob gave me a USS Yellowstone baseball cap that I used to proudly wear when I played softball for Pinnow Pharmacy and still have to this day. What is really cool about the cap Bob gave me is that it has 'fried eggs' on the beak indicating that it's an officers cap and more particularly as an officer of the fire department. Only 3 people on a ship of almost 4000 crew members could wear that cap. How neat is that?
USS Yellowstone cap without 'fried eggs' and fire department insignia
We also met Georgeann (who later became his wife) on the ship. She worked with computers and as I did computer work for Saudi Arabian Airlines, we could talk for hours comparing and contrasting ship and airline computing if given the time. Jaine and I had a lot of fun visiting with Bob and Georgann, but that visit on the ship was the only time we met. For the next 23 years we would keep in touch with Christmas cards.
Bob, Georgeann and John with 2 beautiful Bernese Mountain dogs. Bob and Georgeann raise and breed show-quality Berners.
When we rode into Virginia, we arranged to meet for the first time in 23 years and the second time in our lives. Talking with Bob, I found out that his plan was to stay in the Navy for 20 years retire to do something different. When he was about to retire, he was offered to be a Captain in the Navy, a very high rank with a guaranteed pension. He thought about this very carefully, but his sense of adventure and his openness to try something new led him to turn down the Captaincy and become a partner for Cooper and Lybrand a new startup consulting company. Cooper and Lybrand no longer exist as they merged to become Price Waterhouse Cooper and now are a part of IBM. Bob achieved great success during his run working with those companies.
Bob and I just recently retired. We both still exercise (I bike, he runs). We both love golf. We both love red wine. We both love to grill out and cook in general. We both drink coffee in the morning (Jaine and Georgeann are tea drinkers) and use the same coffee maker (Keurig). We both even like the same kind of creamer in our coffee (Coffeemate Italian Crème). What gives here?!
Ok. There is one difference between us. I lost my hair about 15 years ago and he didn’t. Some guys get all the luck.
Hmmm….I think I get it. If you are receptive to new ideas, willing to take risks and have a strong work ethic when you are young, you’ll end up still exercising when you retire, you’ll love golf, you’ll drink red wine and you’ll like to grill out and cook in general after you have your cup of morning coffee, probably with Coffeemate Italian crème.
And you’ll wind up living a pretty happy, successful life, too. (No guarantees you’ll keep your hair though.)