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On the Weather Channel is the oft-shown, “Forces of Nature.”

On Discovery, there's “Earth's Natural Violence.”

I don’t want to brag or be overly boastful, but I have an idea for a great new weather-disaster show:

“Vacationing With Flick.”

A year ago in October, with a group of 30 or so Bloomington-Normal area residents in tow, we went to Italy.

There was a 6.8 magnitude earthquake.

This October, it was on to Ireland.

Just in time for a Category 2 hurricane.

In her romp through a southwestern stretch of Ireland where we were at the time, Hurricane Ophelia produced 105 mph winds, knocked out power, downed trees and dealt Ireland with its worst hurricane in recorded history.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Bill Flick Natural Disaster and Unexpected Excitement Tour.

One of 32 on a nine-day "Elegant Ireland Tour" arranged by Direct (Suzi Davis) Travel of Bloomington, I would love to report that during the storm's fury, we were forced to desperately huddle for survival, cast out into peril to bravely find shelter.

If true, that'd be great story, Page One stuff, and I'd be working on my Pulitzer acceptance speech.

But reality?

Sheltered in a well-prepared Castlemartyr resort, the power did go out, but that's when the sprawling hotel’s 22 diesel generators kicked on.

Thus, with most of the staff sent home and other guests having already left to escape the storm, we were among the only guests left.

"Are we the first tourists to ever take over an entire hotel?" chuckled Greg Jurgenson, of Atlanta.

"I guess we'll just have to hunker down and enjoy," said Leann Anderson, of Minier.

"Let's play Bingo!" exclaimed Cathy Hyslop, of Palatine.

And so went our terror.

Sequestered, with the rest of the country on lock-down, we were forced to read, watch TV, chat, play games, mill hallways and stare out at the rain, bending trees and, with all that wind, quickly developing Irish Yard Furniture Giveaway.

By nightfall, with the place to ourselves, we moved into the hotel’s ballroom and — what the heck — had our own hurricane party, with music, song and dance.

If Bruce Willis had been among us, we might have started filming the opening scenes for Die Hard 127.

Then our horror turned into absolute terror when Trevor Sheehan, the hotel's guest relations manager and a truly grand host, announced that, with no delivery trucks running, we might run out of  Guinness, the country's flagship brown-colored beverage of wobbling choice.

Oh the rigors!

And how was Ireland, when not under meteorological siege?

It indeed is a grand land, not only for its natural beauty and, as magazines like to croon, 10,000 shades of greens, but also its innocence.

Ireland is a little bit like going back in time.

People sit in pubs and coffee shops and talk, and pore over their newspapers. Texting in Ireland still appears to be what you do with a book. Almost no one is seen playing with a phone. 

There are only small, utilitarian cars — no Texas-sized SUVS or big pickups. "With gasoline over $7 a gallon," explains tour guide, Colette Dennison, "people just can't afford that."

Roads are narrow — many one lane — and when a referendum recently was cast countrywide to widen them, Irish voters voted "no" to modernization, that they liked them the way they are.

Beyond urban areas like Dublin, Cork and Killarney are endless rolling, squintingly green pastures, populated by thousands and thousands of grazing cows and wandering sheep.

As for the Irish themselves, they seem to be in a "fully enjoying life" mentality.

Polite and courteous, their national pastime appears to be smiling and imbuing friendliness.

While sovereign to their own, they also love America.

One grand 'ol Irish gent who we met on a walking trail outside Dromoland Castle in County Clare: "I love Ireland but if I could go back to when I was 19 to 22 again, I think America is where I would have gone. You have so much opportunity ..."

And so it went.

What could possibly top trips highlighted first by an earthquake and then a major hurricane? Naturally, it became a topic and running joke.

Herb Eaton, one of our Ireland travelers, a Bloomington artist and a funny man, suggests perhaps a trip to Mount Vesuvius or even Krakatoa, a live volcanic island in Indonesia.

"Free Molten Lava For The First 30 To Sign Up!" could read the ads.

Tim Davis, of Direct Travel, wonders if perhaps a river cruise through Germany, or along the Danube, or in Spain might be in order. "That of course could possibly lead to the greatest flood Europe has ever seen," he jokes. "We'd throw in life jackets for free."

Or suggests Don Sutton, a Bloomington real estate agent who along with wife, Sue, have been shaken in Italy and then windswept in Ireland: "Next time let's just do the tour."

Now that would be a novel trip.

Meantime, Weather Channel people ... eat your heart out!


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