Hovercraft crossing the English Channel,
the White Cliffs of Dover in the background
A cold nearly tripped up our trip to Michigan for our daughter Naomi’s wedding last month. The day before we were to leave (on Thursday before the Sunday wedding), Sandra felt the classic symptoms coming on and was hoping it was just an allergic response to springtime pollen. By that evening, however, she felt sure it had turned into a full-blown cold, and she was concerned it might prove to be COVID. So she was seriously considering staying home so as not to carry the bug across the country and infect friends and family. She did a COVID test, which came out negative, and in the morning our daughter Melissa, a nurse, and I talked her out of climbing back into bed while the rest of us headed east. Sure enough, by the day before the wedding, Sandra had beat the bug and was feeling fine.
Sandra’s conquest of that cold combined in my mind last night with the newlyweds’ departure yesterday for a delayed honeymoon in Spain — most of it on the enchanting Balearic island of Menorca — and Portugal.
What, you might ask, would bring common colds and long flights together in my brain?
The answer: An experience I had over three decades ago.
At the time, Sandra and I were living in Hawaii, where I was working with my dad on an effort to generate commercial interest in a revolutionary new type of oceangoing vessel he had invented, the SuperOutrigger. In the course of our efforts, we had gotten to know Robert L. Trillo,* the editor of Jane’s High-Speed Marine Craft and Air Cushion Vehicles, one of a host of authoritative defense- and transportation-related publications, of which the best-known is the oft-cited Jane’s Fighting Ships. To make a long story short, Trillo had invited us to submit and present a paper on our vessel at the Seventh International High Speed Surface Craft Conference in London in January 1990. I wrote the paper and Dad, who much preferred the delights of Hawaii to the discomforts of long-distance travel, asked me to fly to England and make the presentation.
The trip was a triple opportunity for me, since for a modest additional cost and a few extra days, I could not only attend the conference in London, but also pay a pre-conference visit to a couple of good friends** in the Netherlands, just a hop, skip and jump across the English Channel. That may sound like just a double opportunity, but getting to The Hague, where my friends lived, provided the third opportunity. Instead of flying directly to the Netherlands, I saw crossing the Channel as a chance to travel on a hovercraft, one of several types of oceangoing vessels that I felt some people might consider competitive with our SuperOutrigger. I wanted to experience it for myself.
Here’s the itinerary for the trip.
- Honolulu to London, changing planes in Los Angeles and New York (three flights, including two red-eyes, totaling at least 16 hours in the air plus connecting time)
- Bus to Waterloo Station (as I recall) in downtown London on the morning of the second day
- Train to Dover (port on the English Channel)
- Hovercraft to Calais, France
- Trains (with changes in Lille, France, and Antwerp, Belgium) to The Hague, arriving the evening of the second day
- Total apparent time elapsed: two days, not accounting for the 11-hour difference in time zones (departed Honolulu the evening of Day One, arrived in The Hague the evening of Day Three, having slept fitfully on each of the three flights)
And where does the cold come into this story? Right at the beginning. Just as Sandra did when we were about to fly to Michigan, I’d come down with a doozy of a cold the day I was to leave for Europe. There was no way I could postpone or cancel the trip. I was feeling pretty miserable as I checked in for my first flight in Honolulu. But I had to tough it out.
The funny thing was that once I arrived at the home of my friend Cynthia in The Hague, I had a bit of the soup she’d prepared for me and went promptly to bed. When I woke up the next morning, I felt like a million dollars! The cold was gone!
So there’s the magic. If you don’t mind doing it the hard way, you can beat a cold by taking a big trip. Theory posited in the wake of my 1990 trip to The Hague. Theory “confirmed” by Sandra’s 2022 trip to Michigan. Q.E.D.!***
* After the conference, Trillo and his lovely wife Moira kindly had me as a guest in their home west of London and accompanied me to two memorable historic sites nearby, the astonishing Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge.
** I’d made these friends back in the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was serving as the U.S. Information Agency’s desk officer for five West European countries — Austria, Switzerland and the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg). In that position I’d done a great deal of work in preparing for the 1982 celebration of the bicentennial of U.S. diplomatic relations with the Netherlands — America’s longest-standing unbroken relationship with any nation. (France, our indispensable ally during the Revolutionary War, broke off diplomatic relations with us during the undeclared Quasi War, 1798-1800.)
I may write about the Netherlands-American bicentennial at a future date, but the two friends I visited in The Hague in 1990 were Cynthia von Bogendorf-Rupprath (an American art historian, a specialist in Dutch art of the Golden Age who had married a Dutchman) and Dries Ekker, who was cultural and press attache at the Dutch embassy in Washington at the time I was desk officer for his country. Dries had been a hero of the Dutch resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II. He saved a number of Dutch Jews from the Nazis, walking them to safety in Switzerland through occupied Belgium and France at the risk of his own life. I feel privileged to have known him.
*** Q.E.D. — Quod erat demonstrandum. That which was to be demonstrated.