Tuesday, October 2, 2007

True Stories From The Fabled Road

Part One.

After a year at NAS Dallas I applied for and was tapped out as a "Rover".

'Red Rover, Red Rover, Come on over...'

'Over' to where? That varied by the moment. Sometimes, I would learn, plans would change while I was en route and the people at my destination would know before I got there that plans had changed.

It all started simply enough. My then soon to be new boss M2 told me repeatedly, "David, I'll keep ya in the States until you get used to living out of a suitcase. Then, if I need ya, I'll send ya overseas."

Fair Enough. I was anxious to go OCONUS (Outside Continental U.S.) but was ready to pay the dues.

One week before I was to leave Dallas M2 called, "David, I hate to do this but would you mind going to Athens Greece for a week?"

"You know me Boss, team player and all..."

Away I went.

I had never been outside the borders of the USA. Mexican border towns don't count.

The first leg was DFW to Frankfurt Germany.

We landed and deplaned to a phalanx of Police and Soldiers complete with an APC aiming a machine gun towards air stair.

"Welcome OCONUS David."

A layover in a big strange airport with moon mat flooring. (Moon mat is the stuff you see in the galley area of heavy jets.)

On to Athens. I followed the herd into the airport. No hang-ups in Immigration or Customs and nobody I knew waiting on the other side.

I learned right then and there what the phrase, "It's all Greek to me!" means.

I lingered in the terminal, looking for anyone looking for someone. Nobody in sight.

Somewhere I changed Dollars for Drachma and found a pay phone. I didn't know if the damn thing was ringing or busy! I tried the hangar and home numbers for the guy on station without any answer.

I began to get a little antsy. I didn't have a hotel name or rental car reservation and my point of contact was pointless.

'What are ya gonna do now smart guy?'

"David?", my point of contact...

On to the Hotel Brazil. A small place in Glyfada. It was an apartment hotel without any features like a restaurant or bar.

They did have a fridge in the lobby where we drank Amstel and got acquainted. I can't recall the guy on stations name but I met R2 that night and he was staying in the Brazil as well.

My rental car was waiting out front the next morning. I followed R2 through the tangled streets of Athens to the hangar. Every stop light was like the start of a hare scramble. Motorcycles of every ilk worked their way to the front, then launched when the light changed as if the next stop light was the finish line.

We had a lot of work. The unwritten job description for Rovers reads, in part, "Ye shall do the dirty work that the guys on station don't want to do." So, I found myself sitting in the dirt floor of the hangar flow checking fuel nozzles.

I wont get too detailed about a mundane task such as flow checking fuel nozzles. Suffice to say, it causes a 'fuel fog'. Atomized jet fuel hangs in the air and you stink like diesel for a few showers to come.

As I sat in that stinking fog of volatile fumes, up walks a Greek Airman, smoking a cigarette, "How are you doing?"

'Welcome OCONUS.'

At night, I explored the area around the hotel on foot. I found a great bar. More Amstel with Expats from a number of English speaking countries. We threw a lot of darts, drank lots of beer and Tequila.

The funny thing was, I was wearing cowboy boots, Levis without tags, unmarked tee shirts and speaking English (it was all I knew at the time) yet when asked where I was from, the asker was always surprised to hear, "Texas.".

I heard, "I thought you were British." "I thought you were French." "I thought you were German." "I thought you were Russian." (Russian? French?!!!) Oh, well.

That Saturday I set off solo to see Poseidon's Temple. That's a mini post all it's own. Driving along that coast highway. The mountains. The sea. Then, to round the bend and see the ruins in the distance... all these years later, it still makes me take a breath. Just to think of all of the sailors that have approached, seen it in the distance and said, "I'm almost home.".

The next day, R2, Mrs R2 and I went to the Acropolis. (They really need an elevator!)

The one week stretched into two and we tried to keep it rolling but M2 was anxious to get me back across the pond.


Late Summer in Greece back to early Fall in Wilmington, Delaware.

Such is the life of a Rover Dog.

I may have posted this before. It's now the first in a series of road tales that I plan to continue for a while.

1 comment:

bob barbanes said...

It sounds familiar...

I look forward to seeing the next installment.