Most of my friends know I have been looking for a “four striper” sort of bloke . That’s cougar talk for an Aeroplane Pilot at the top of his game. You know those handsome dudes that you see gliding through the airports with the four stripes on either the shirt epaulets or the jacket sleeve that are reserved for the Captain of the plane. They have a look, a charisma and charm that a seasoned cougar can smell a mile off. It turns out I haven’t lost my touch except this one has been out of the game for seven years enjoying retirement, travelling much and enjoying life I expect.
I was on the train consuming way too many cocktails from the observation deck of the grand old steam train as we puffed our way along the 65 mile route to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Each carriage has its own bar, is looked after by a hostess and enjoying plenty of hydration in those record temperatures we have been enduring in Arizona is a must to keep one lucid.
All travel classes within that carriage is serviced by the one WC area and we were about an hour into the Grand National Park when I slipped down to the level below to use the facility. I was surprised to see that that there was still a few empty seats remaining as I waited for the small cubicle to vacate. Sprawled on the seat like a big lounge lizard looking spending in his was a man who had that four stripe air without a doubt. He was tanned, handsome with a great smile and unfortunately for me, beside him sat a woman! I no longer hold that against her as I was to find out in the hour or so I spend chatting with them what a very cool couple they are. I was so engrossed in the conversation and stories we were sharing that I had forgotten I had left Viv sitting upstairs saying I would be back in a minute. She duly appeared some time later on a quest to find if I had jumped ship – or train in this case.
Bill and Lois, who live in Florida normally, had” stolen their two grandchildren” and hired a house in the town of Prescott that was a couple of hours from their home town of Phoenix to spend some time with them over the holiday break. The four of them had been going to drive to the Grand Canyon but at the last minute decided to have an adventure on the train together . Lois got the last minute tickets and Bill was still swallowing hard at the $360 USD cost of them when I started the Inspector Morse questioning regime on him.
He had flown 35 years for Delta Airlines all around the world - with the exception of New Zealand and Australia and still enjoys flying as a recreational past time. Lois and him travel a lot and are enjoy a well earned retirement doing the things they love. They sail heaps and I could see in the short time I spent with them they were adored by those two kids across the aisle who for the duration of that trip had traded places. The 10 year old girl had become Grandma and her 6 year old brother was the Grandpa on the journey overseeing the activities of the grandchildren in this case. It was so cute to see the articulation and interactions between the four of them and it reminded me of the special bond that is between grandkids and their older allies.
Anyway, I asked Bill if he had any four striper mates looking for a good kiwi chick? . He racked his brain but came up short before offering to contact me after the trip if Lois got too close to the edge of the Canyon!
They are going to come to NZ next year and I hope I can be of some use directing them around our beautiful country. I can rest easy that I haven’t lost the nose for the four striper/ sailor type (even if they are retired) and know that for a brief time in the Arizona desert I got to enjoy the company of a delightful couple I can’t wait to meet again on my own turf.