Surviving the unexpected

It’s the middle of the night.

You are suddenly jarred from your sleep by the wailing of a fire alarm. What do you do?

This should seem like a simple question. Obviously you get out of bed and go outside. But what did you do to get ready to go outside? Did you get dressed?  Did you put your glasses on? Did you grab your keys to be able to get back inside? Did you grab your car keys?  Did you already know the quickest way outside, or even a alternate route?

Such simple things, bus most people don’t think about them. It may just be a false alarm. Or the building really could be on fire.  It could be something even larger, think earthquake or other natural disaster.   What you have on may be all  you are going to have for the next day… or two days… or week.  How well would you fare?

A similar situation happened to me last week  when there was a gas leak in my hotel in Seattle. At midnight  ( The perfect time for something to happen ) the fire alarm went off.  I was sound asleep and disoriented but got up and got dressed ,  remembered my key, and left the room.

Most of the time I wear contacts but I always carry glasses with me. Since it was a fire alarm I didn’t bother putting my contacts in. Besides it was probably a false alarm. I didn’t think about my glasses  until I was in the hallway. I am not totally blind without them but it never occurred to me how poorly I see when I do not have my glasses on.  Outside in the darkness, it was even worse. People were talking to me but I couldn’t see their expressions. I could not tell if they were looking  at me or at someone else. It was a eye-opening experience, if you’ll pardon the expression,  because I realized that if this was a real emergency then I had gone from being a fully functional human being to a handicap  and liability.

It took a hour before it was safe to go back in the building and other than some lost sleep the whole thing was a nonevent. But what if it had been the real thing? What if the building had been on fire? What if there had been a larger disaster  and I had to go a lot further?  Obviously that is alarmist thinking, but that doesn’t stop it from being useful.  Simply planning ahead  to grab my bag that has all my stuff in it (including my glasses) would have made a world of difference in an emergency.

No one plans to be in an  emergency situation.

None of the people in Indonesia in 2004 expected to be washed away by a tsunami.

None of the nightclub partiers expected to be in a terrorist massacre.

Yet it does happen.

The key to survival in unexpected situations is some form of preparation.  Ironically, most people are irritated or even offended at the suggestion  that something might go wrong. Just get on an airplane and say, “man I hope this thing doesn’t crash,” if you  don’t believe me.

You don’t need a ‘bug out bag’ or spend hours memorizing the hotel floor plan, you just need to make a mental note of what you need to do if something happens so you are best prepared to survive.  And what you need varies on where you are.  If you were in the US or some other first world country then the list of essential items you should have on your person is much shorter than if you  are in a place like Africa.

Again, you shouldn’t go around planning for every disaster that could happen. Simply have everything  to function on hand so you can adapt properly if something comes up. Think medication, or glasses, or proper clothing, or basic knowledge of your surroundings.  Oh, yeah, and be healthy.  You may have to run or climb, and while you don’t have to be an athlete, you should be fit enough to be able to save yourself.

The next time you see something in the news about a terrorist attack or earthquake or fire, think to yourself if you could have survived that situation. If not, take steps to prevent yourself from being another casualty.

As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Ex-Havreite to return home to sign books – Havre Daily News

When Rick Verploegen was a Havre Middle School student, he found his passion for reading and writing. He loved reading novels, especially historical action that was filled with history. He especially enjoyed books by Matthew Reilly, who specialized in action thrillers.

He was sure that someday he would write such a book.

Today, he has done just that.

While working as a flight instructor and pilot in Bozeman, he authored “Wings of Fury.”

Although he used a pen name, R.N. Vick, and some of his old friends may not realize that is actually the author, he hopes people will show up for his book signing Saturday, noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Havre-Hill County Library.

The book signing coincides with the Festival Days Friends of the Library book sale.

The book combines his interest in flight, action and history.

The story centers on the war between Uruguay and Bolivia during the 1930s.

He said he thoroughly enjoyed researching about the war.

He’s ready with a series of one-liners when asked why he used a pen name.

His real name was too long to fit on the cover of the book, he said.

Over his years in college, he said, his name was mispronounced and misspelled so often, he thought the name Vick would be easier to deal with.

via Ex-Havreite to return home to sign books – Havre Daily News.

Flight of the Pathfinder: Location 2 – Iguazu falls

The adventure novel, Wings of Fury, takes a passenger zeppelin called the Pathfinder to many different places throughout South America.  First was the Chapada Diamantina Mountains of Brazil.  Next on the tour is Iguazu Falls.

South America Iguazu Falls Though not a planned destination, some interesting things happen at this amazing location.


The falls are identifiable from a distance by a cloud of mist.  An unexpected traveler might be drawn towards them and witness a remarkable sight.

An excerpt from Wings of Fury describes the scene:

…there were several waterfalls, over two-hundred and seventy of them.

Where the river turned north, the land fell away in a two-hundred-foot gorge, through which millions of gallons of water cascaded.  The falls were over a mile and half wide with numerous rock outcropping and islands along its edge.  This divided the flow into hundreds of individual cataracts…

…First discovered by Spanish Conquistadors in the Sixteenth Century, the falls are located at the edge of the Parana Plateau.  Their location is incidentally that of the triple border of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.  The name, Iguazu, is a combination of two Guarani words that literally translates as big water…


…The falls are divided into two distinct areas.  The southernmost series of cataracts is by far the most impressive.  Coined Garganta del Diablo – or the Devil’s Throat–  by the Spanish, this is a V-shaped tear out of the Parana Plateau.  Water cascades down three sides of the Devil’s Throat, kicking up mist nearly five-hundred feet in the air.  After the Throat, the foaming, whitecapping water goes over a shorter cataract, before continuing downstream…

Iguazu_2011DSC_7217.preview …Most of the water from the Iguazu River thunders down the Devil’s Throat.  However, a vast amount pools to the west before plunging over the plateau.  The water volume is considerably less than that of the Devil’s Throat, resulting in dozens of individual curtains that drop onto a narrow ledge before cascading the rest of the way off the plateau.  Bright green foliage rimmed the Iguazu Falls, growing stubbornly out of the brown rock.

It was a true paradise on earth.


Pursued by enemy aircraft, one of the Pathfinder’s passengers takes the fight to this stunning location.  Check out Wings of Fury for the action and be on the lookout for more locations!

Flight of the Pathfinder: Location 1 – Chapada Diamantina Mountains

In the novel Wings of Fury, the Pathfinder makes a trip around much of the continent of South America.  Several locations are more memorable than others.

So stop one, is the Chapada Diamantina Mountains of Brazil.


Midway through Brazil, the Pathfinder flies over this majestic landscape.





These stunning images are not mine but taken from various sources online.

The mountains and their history are described in Chapter 6 of Wings of Fury:

Sediment had collected in some ancient ocean that had since retreated, leaving layered mounds to be sculpted by wind and rain into towering mesas and canyons.  It was an entire mountain-range of plateaus with bare rock exposed on the near-vertical slopes.  Arid brush hugged the base of each peak and adorned the tops, which were flat as if sheared off by the gods themselves. 

It was the Chapada Diamantina, an area dominated by red-rock mesas and towering waterfalls.  Prospectors in the 19th Century discovered diamonds among the fantastic rock formations and the ensuing boom resulted in the area’s namesake. 

The early-morning sunlight cast shadows over the valleys only adding to the beauty.  Ahead, low-lying fog hung below the mesas, shrouding their bases and making them appear like islands in a lake of clouds. 

Okay, so you have add the clouds with your imagination, but isn’t it an impressive sight?



Now imagine an 800 foot zeppelin flying right down the middle of it!



Heck yeah!





Now imagine fighter planes flying around and…

Wait? Did I say fighter planes?

Check out Wings of Fury for the action.  More locations to come!

The Pathfinder






A combination of real zeppelins from the 1930’s, the Pathfinder is where much of the action in Wings of Fury takes place.  It is nearly 800-feet long.  The empty space from the nose to the tail is filled with gas cells.  If pirates were to take over, there would be plenty of places for people to hide.



These are the passenger areas of the ship.  A Deck is located just above B Deck.  The Pathfinder’s gondola faces straight ahead.  At the most forward part of the gondola is the bridge.  This is where the zeppelin is controlled …and hijacked.


A cross-section of the Pathfinder’s passenger area.  The keel corridors run the length of the ship, as does the axial corridor.


Like some zeppelins in the 1930’s, the Pathfinder can carry airplanes within its hull.  The planes can enter the zeppelin through the T-shaped doors within its belly.  Perfect place for pirates to enter…



Four of these provide propulsion for the massive zeppelin.  The engine is depicted in black while the rest of the car is open space to allow mechanics room to move.  There may even be enough space for two people to fight it out…


Wings of Fury

On June 12, 2014, my first novel, Wings of Fury will finally be available to buy.

As the release date draws near, I’d like to take a moment to look back on the genesis of the book.

What started the whole thing was an underlying interest in zeppelins.  Make that a fascination.  They were like ocean liners that flew.  People could stroll about on the decks and marvel at the view.  They were not stuffed into cramped seats with no room to stretch, they had an entire cabin to themselves!  No one insisted they buy two tickets for being… well… you know.  Zeppelins were the high-mark of luxury air travel.

Yes, they were slow, but so are boats, and people pay thousands every year to go on cruises.  Imagine taking a cruise in a zeppelin!

And yes, using hydrogen gas to incinerate your clients was a poor way to ensure repeat customers, but there are plenty of safer alternatives today, including helium.  I’ve even heard suggestions for nuclear-powered zeppelins (Yikes!).

But we digress.

Thanks to the appearance of zeppelins in movies like Indiana Jones and the Rocketeer, I knew I wanted to feature one in an adventure novel someday.  It was the discovery of a book, Airships for the Future, by William J. White, that really set things in motion.  While the book mostly describes hypothetical uses for future zeppelins, it does take a little time to detail their fascinating history as well.  Thanks to a few tantalizing drawings, I was hooked.  I then discovered the website of and spent hours pouring over its contents.  Between these and a few other sources, I was able to construct my own zeppelin for the novel, the Pathfinder.

The original idea was to make a techno-thriller set in the 1930’s (you can’t have a zeppelin story in any other time period).  As such, I needed villains and themes that fit with the times.  Somewhere, I heard the phrase, Sky Pirates, and I just had to include that.  These guys are not your cutlass-wielding, eye-patch wearing, “shiver me timbers,” yelling pirates.  The Sky Pirates of Wings of Fury are ruthless and possess very formidable aircraft.  They will be no small threat to the Pathfinder.

With zeppelins and sky pirates involved, I now needed to make this a globe-trotting adventure, but where should the story occur?  Original candidates were Africa and China, but what I really wanted was a war.  A quick search online led me to the Gran Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay.  I had never heard of it, and it was this obscurity that made it so appealing.

So the Pathfinder was headed to South America where it would face Sky Pirates and somehow make an appearance in a bloody war.  That was enough to get started.

The rest of the novel grew from there.