Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Interesting airport tidbits...

Posted 9/12/17 (Tue)

If you travel beyond North Dakota’s borders, my guess is you’re going to someplace exotic like Salt Lake City or Little Rock?

But sometimes we travel overseas and when we do, we see and hear things that we couldn’t possibly imagine in the United States.

For instance, everybody says that German chocolate is so good, and it is. But did you ever try British chocolate?

• I was stuck in Heathrow Airport in London for several hours so all I did was wander around the building. And since chocolate is one of the four basic food groups of a journalist, I found a candy store with authentic British chocolate. I should have ordered a boatload and sent it home.

It was incredible and I just wish it was available in the United States. I’d put it up against chocolate from any place else.

• In 1999, our National Guard unit made a trip to Germany for our annual training. On the way over, we reached Europe, but then had to sit in the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol for hours, so to kill time we explored. It was also the time the Euro dollar was being introduced and with the uniqueness of this airport, you could purchase items in just about any currency.

Some of us then made purchases for the purpose of getting change back in Euros.

And when we were tired and got back to where our flight was leaving, one of the guys said he would buy me a beer before our flight for Frankurt took off. We sat down and had Heineken, a Dutch beer in a Dutch airport.

• After a long, 14-hour direct flight from Los Angeles, our plane touched down at the Sydney Airport. It was so big, we had to be bused to another part of the airport to get on another plane for Brisbane.

When we got into the airport, the first thing we saw was law enforcement officers with a beagles sniffing through luggage and looking for contraband.

Hours later, I was on a smaller plane that took off for Brisbane and it was a crystal clear Sunday morning. I started taking pictures of the Sydney skyline. One guy traded seats with me so I could get a better view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge for my photographs.

• Flying to Qatar was kind of strange because I was on my way to a military mission and I was traveling by myself.

That meant a lot of civilian airports along the way, perhaps the most notable was when I arrived in Doha.

The U.S. government had issued me a military passport, but for some reason, the immigration officials didn’t want to accept it or my Army orders to report to Camp As Sayliyah near Doha.

It turned into somewhat of an argument and obviously the guy looking at it didn’t understand English very well and I didn’t understand Arabic at all. Finally after nearly an hour, a couple of the Soldiers from my unit showed up to pick me up, they vouched for me and everything was fine. I was free to go, no questions asked and no further restrictions.

• Military flights are often very different and the airports you land in, if you land in an airport, are often nothing more than a building with a few seats and a telephone.

It was like that in Panama. We took a military flight from Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City to Howard Air Force Base in Panama City.

The airport was drab and very industrial as you might expect from a military post but it sure wasn’t indicative of our surroundings because we got to see some incredible scenery including ships transiting the Panama Canal.

Four years later we took roughly the same path, but after a stop in Panama, we were off to Bolivia for a mission to build a medical clinic.

That was nothing more than an airstrip near the Argentine border. We were in a C-130 cargo plane and I still remember the pilot saying he wasn’t sure he could land that bird on such a short runway.

But he did, we got out and there was nothing but scrub brush like you’d see in parts of Wyoming.

• We also flew into Iceland in a C-130 and when we got out of the plane at Keflavik, it was just short of midnight and the sun was still in the sky. That was a strange feeling to see that for the first time.

We all like to travel and when we get there, we all like to get to the beach as quick as we can for that much needed relaxation.

But when we have these layovers, there’s plenty to see either in the airport itself or from the people who are in said airport.

And back to exotic Salt Lake City for a moment, it’s the only place I know of that has free drinks upon arrival.