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Silver Threads: Once in a lifetime is sometimes enough

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

I must have been the oldest person taking part in the Jeep-driven “Desert Safari” that bounced helter-skelter, rattling my aged bones,  across the terrain a few miles outside Dubai on the early evening of May 20. If not, I felt like it as I slowly pushed and pulled my feet into and out of the deep, fine sands toward the enclosure where the hundred or so of us on this excursion just off the Persian Gulf would have dinner.

Not a bit like walking on a Florida beach!

Two friends and I were halfway around the world from Louisiana and Minnesota and California, waiting to board a cruise ship that would take us from Dubai to ports on the coasts of India and Malaysia and  then to Singapore. I‘d  trustfully (and lazily) depended on them to set up our sight-seeing schedule for the trip, issuing only this caveat: I’d do anything except ride a camel.  I’ve done that, and found it  a tad scary. They get up funny, they get down funny, and they have a jiggly gait. And they’re said to be kind of mean at times. But, oh, how I wished I’d booked a nice gentle camel to take me on this Desert Safari.

Here’s how Eleanor Ostman, the friend who’s a writer from St. Paul, describes it:

“At 4 p.m., a fellow in white robe and red and white checked turban arrived to pick us up. I envisioned a sedate caravan through the desert to our dinner site. No way! Seventeen vehicles converged, and then started freewheeling in about 80 acres of soft, deep sand, up and over ridges (how did they know if anyone is coming up the other side?), sliding sideways down hills roller-coaster-style, careening over narrow lips of sand and swerving every direction. I moaned a bit; Bettye screamed. At one point, I yelled ‘Jesus Christ!!’ when I thought the Toyota van would turn turtle (it had roll bars, thankfully) — probably not a politic thing to shout in a Muslin country. Anyway, we survived about a half hour of this madness. At one point, Bettye, who writes for the Nolavie website, had an idea for a column — ‘Things I’ll Never Do Again.‘”

Yes, I had this column all figured out while on the other side of the globe. But since than, my list has changed a bit: I’m not sure whether seniors are really meant to venture outside their native time zones.

On the way to Dubai, Eleanor and I both left Central Standard time late in the day on May 17 to meet  Kris at the airport in Los Angeles, where we emerged into Pacific time, and then got on another plane at 1:30 a.m. on May 18 for a 14-hour flight across the International Dateline, winding up in Hong Kong at 7 a.m. on May 19.  After a loong wait there — bearable because of my level of excitement over the trip and the neat shops in the airport — we went to Dubai, where it was almost 9 p.m. on the same day.  During the cruise we sailed  through at least four time zones, and gained the day we had lost when we crossed the dateline again en route to L.A. on June 3.

Coming home, I fell asleep in the airport boarding areas in Hong Kong and L.A., leaning my head against the walls behind my chairs and probably opening my mouth and snoring,  and on the planes, of course; arriving in New Orleans at 1:30 a.m. June 4 — raring to go. Sheer weariness put me to bed by 4 a.m. though, and I slept for 12 hours. Then I got back on my Asian clock, and sleep patterns and energy level have had me rising and falling through the worst case of jet lag I’ve experienced.

Right now, I feel like putting “leaving good old CST” at the top of a list of things I‘ll never do again.

And since I’ve got to go lie down now, I’ll close by telling you the other things I’d planned to write about and never do again:

  • Take a ride in a blimp. Graven in stone.
  • Ride an elephant, only minimally less scary than a camel.
  • Go to the other side of the world. Applicable only until the next enticing occasion arises.
  • Take a desert safari. (I’ll do it if the jeep drivers are 60ish and behave like grown-ups.)
  • Ride a camel. (See above.)

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at



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