Merry Christmas

A Very Merry Belizean Christmas to you all!

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With holiday love from Bob Hawkins and Rose Alcantara in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize.
With holiday love from Bob Hawkins and Rose Alcantara in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

 

In 2010, Rose and I spent Christmas with friends in their village Los Barriles, a quiet and endearing little fishing town on the Baja Peninsula, about 40 Km north of the go-go party town of Cabo San Lucas. It was my first Christmas away from family and the United States, but hardly the first for Rose, a well-traveled soul of the World.

It was a terrific holiday with our ex-pat friends Kim and Rick and their friends, and importantly, my first real exposure to an ex-pat life. Not that we were even remotely considering such a dramatic change in our own lives.

We had a surprise visitor on Christmas Eve — no not that one. His name is Robert F. Gannon.

Long ago, Bob took off from San Diego in “Lucky Lady,” a Cessna 182, and began flying around the world.  And now 10 years later — after three trips around the globe, numerous adventures, mishaps, a massive collection of new friends and profound acts of luck and good fortune — Bob was ready to come home. In a stroke of good luck on my part, I was assigned to hunt him down and interview him before he reached his home airport in El Cajon, a dusty city east of San Diego, now flying in his “Lucky Lady Too.”

Around Thanksgiving, I found Bob on a layover in Mexico and we had a terrific conversation. He planned to hang out in Mexico until January, then make his triumphant return.

Globe-trotting pilot Bob Gannon in front of his home away from home, Lucky Lady Too, somewhere in Africa or the Middle East, if I recall correctly.
Globe-trotting pilot Bob Gannon in front of his home away from home, Lucky Lady Too, somewhere in Africa or the Middle East, if I recall correctly.

As you can imagine of anyone who travels the world, Bob is a first-rate raconteur who makes lifelong friends as easily as others breath air. I easily succumbed to his charm, his wit and his tales of adventure.

A few days after the story ran, we spoke again. I impulsively mentioned to Bob that we would be in Mexico, too,  for Christmas and if he wasn’t doing anything to come join us. Seeing as we were in the same country and all.

To my surprise, Bob said he’d be happy to join us.

And sure enough, on Christmas Eve day he landed on the tiny little rolling tar strip just north of Los Barriles and hitched a ride into town, arms laden with bottles of wine.

Needless to say, at dinner that night at Rick and Kim’s, Bob mesmerized a global audience of ex-pats with his good cheer and stirring tales of landing on dirt strips in Africa, high altitude fields in the Himalayas, and crossing the Pacific in what was basically a full gas tank with wings.

When Bob heard that I had proposed to Rose earlier that day — a most-clumsy, inarticulate and unimaginative proposal as ever there was one by an alleged writer — he took to the floor and proposed, to wild applause,  that we get married the very next day. Did I mention how impulsive people like Bob can be?

“What is there to prevent you from getting married?” he asked with a gleam in his eye and a glass of red wine upraised in his hand.

With no good answer for Bob, we still didn’t get married the that day.

After that night, Bob returned to his hotel and somehow managed to invite every soul in Los Barriles down to the airport for a ride in his plane. By the time we got there, the line was filled with local parents and kids. Bob took off, flew around the town and landed over and over, until everyone at the strip had been given a ride. Most of those kids had never dreamed of ever flying in a plane and the looks on their faces said it all when they landed.

Rose and me after our wedding with all our kids, Ryan, Cami, Brendan,Jon, Caira, Chris, Katie and Quinn in Los Barriles, Mexico.
Rose and me after our wedding with all our kids, Ryan, Cami, Brendan, Jon, Caira, Chris, Katie and Quinn in Los Barriles, Mexico.

The wedding finally took place in Los Barriles, but not until February 12, 2012,  with 40 family members and friends present. Sadly, Bob was not among them.

True to his word,  he did come home after 10 years — but true to his nature, Bob Gannon couldn’t stay grounded. He took off again and I like to imagine that he is still hopping from dirt road to airport to open field somewhere around the world.

Merry Christmas, Bob Gannon, where every you may be. I know that you are making the life of those around you on this day as merry and bright as any they have ever had.

Keep flying, old friend. And thank you for helping make our own dreams soar.

And Happy Holidays to you, our dear readers and newest friends. May you all have a wonderful 2015, in which your answer to the question “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” will be “Why, just today!”