IDAHO BOUND

What a trip from Portland, Oregon to Fruitland, Idaho. It was great. Before I left, Bill got on line and we checked out the road. They got video cameras on the freeway and we could see clear sailing all the way. As I drove from my cousin’s place around Beaverton, Oregon I hit Hy 26 into Portland. Traffic was the usual morning thing, but I didn’t care – I was on vacation, and anyway had fresh a hot cup of coffee, so just go with the flow. My little lady (British voiced GPS) got me through Portland with no problems. It was the usual weather, cloudy with some rain, but good driving weather.
I’ve always enjoyed the Columbia River Gorge. As I was driving I wondered to myself if this is the last time I would make this drive. At my age and accounting the fact I can’t remember the last time, I considered it a real possibility, so I settled down to enjoy this trip. As I passed the Bonneville dam, I wondered what the river looked like before the dams. I’ve seen the pictures and all, but it would have been interesting to see it for real. Passing the bridge crossing over to White Salmon, Washington and remember my Mom telling me she was born there and later her family moved back to Kansas, so I guess I do have a little connection to the region.
Looking at the gorge walls, it’s always amazing how God carved the land and what He used as tools. As I drove on I notice one big change – windmills! They hadn’t been there when I last drove the gorge. Traffic wasn’t too heavy, lots of trucks. What a joy to see real trucks(to me anyway), K-whoppers, Bulldogs, Freightshakers, Cornbinders, Peckerbuilts! I drove truck for a while, a Kenworth conventional with a 1693 Cat with a 4 and 4 transmission – 4 speed main box with a 4 speed brownie, so sometimes I had to shift two transmissions as once – much different today. Later down the road, going down the Starkey grade I got to hear the “thump, thump, thump” of the Jakes holding a Kenworth back with a load trying to push him down the hill. It was music to my ears.
After I hit the bottom at Starkey here was a freight train – a long one. I’d forgotten just how long the freight trains could be. One thing I miss living in Europe is hearing the whistle of the engines as they go about their business of pulling the freight around the country. As I got down past Baker City, winding down the canyon I got to see two trains winding around the canyon sides for at least three quarters of a mile or longer. Nothing like watching a long freight train. Loved ’em as a kid, love ’em as a grown up kid!!
It rained off and on most of the way. I was glad to top Cabbage hill and find the road clear as I was driving a rented car without snow tires. Yea, they were “all season” but anyone knows they don’t hold a candle to real snow tires. I could see the water flying up under the tires so I knew it wasn’t freezing which was good. From the top of the Blues through the Grande Ronde Valley the roads were the same. All around La Grande from what I could see it was about the same, surrounded by the Blue Mountains. Looking ahead I could see the mouth of Ladd Canyon, the last major mountain crossing. As I started up the hill, the rain began to stop and turned into snow. The road began to turn white and I began to look real close at the road – great, they’d worked it up real good (graveled it) so I wasn’t too worried as I started to pass a couple trucks slowly making their way up the hill. By the sound of their engines I could tell they were in their pulling gear.
Snow floor, blowing and drifting snow! Oh yea, it was all around me. I slowed down to feel the road and how my vehicle was handling it. I was glad I had the set of chains in the back and really hoped I wouldn’t need them. It was cold, frozen snow pack road, to me good driving. At least I knew what it was until I got passed Baker City and climbed up the other side. As I started down headed towards Lime the road thawed a bit and now it was more slush than packed snow – I hated slush! Slush is more dangerous than the packed snow. As I was going around a long sweeping turn, I felt the back end of my car move to the side a bit giving me a little lump in the throat and my heart jumped a bit. I was glad I had a front wheel drive SUV. Even though it wasn’t four wheel drive it was heaver and handled the slick roads pretty good. So it was all the way to Fruitland, Idaho where my brother lived.
It was a fantastic drive. I got to see country I hadn’t seen in many years and to be frank, don’t really know when or if I will get to drive it again. The country was great, weather was fun and the drive was exciting. I really don’t mind driving the snow and ice – have done it so many times. In looking back over this trip, I’ve seen so many of my relatives and friends I haven’t seen in so many years, and don’t really know when I will see them again. The worst part is so little time I couldn’t see everyone I wanted to see.
This trip wouldn’t have been possible for all the people who’ve helped make this possible. First I am grateful to my wife for taking care of things while I am gone. I am grateful to my customers for being so understanding on my taking a little longer trip than normal. To my family and friends for putting up with me. This will be a trip for me to remember and I am so glad it was possible.

SAN FRANCISCO

What a city. I arrived on a late plane due to weather. As my plane slowly made its way to the ground I thought we were getting pretty close to the water, then runway and THUMP! Cheated death again with a good controlled crash. I’d communicated with Darin on the way and told him it was no problem for me to make my way to his place, so after getting my bag – OH, wait, another story – Can you believe it! My bag was second – NUMBER TWO (2) coming down the chute! Never happened to me before!!! Anyway back to the story – I proceeded to find BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). Being a seasoned public transportation person, I had no problem finding my stop – 16th & Mission.
Climbing out of the hole and into the sunlight I found myself in San Francisco. Once in the light I began to get my map squared away with the lay of the land. As I was figuring things out a man asked me if I was lost. I looked up and told him I was getting myself orientated. He asked where I was headed and I told him. “Oh, it’s just down this way and to the right, then a few blocks to Market. We talked a bit and he wished me a Happy New Year!
I was glad I understood the meaning “Light Infantry”, so I saddled up my ruck and off I went. It’s been a while since I’ve humped a ruck and for some reason it was kind of hilly where I was, so I got warmed up good and actually was glad for the exercise as the past few days I’d had not much. I found his apartment number and he rang me in. Soon I was face to face with this old gray bearded dud (kind a like me). I’d counted up, it had been 36 years since we’d seen each other.
He got me squared away and later we went out to eat. We spent most of the evening laying out a plan of attack. So far I’ve done the Fisherman’s wharf thing. Ridden a cable car, ridden the street cars, walked on Knob Hill and visited China Town. That completed my list. The next day I got up to a beautiful sunshine morning, so we had coffee on the roof. After which we put on the LPCs (leather personal carriers) and hoofed it to the Mission Dolores. It was great. All during the walks we’ve had, Darin has been the perfect guide. I’ve learned a lot of San Francisco’s history and it’s very interesting. We circled around down by the city hall, federal building and such where I even got to see a real live big city demonstration – complete with banging drums, people shouting holding up signs, police escort to include a paddy wagon! Now I feel I’ve been to the big city!! Later on as we were walking to supper, we passed the San Francisco Mint. I asked if there was a discount day where a guy could buy double stamped seconds – Darin smiled and replied I missed it by a week – RATS, just my luck!! As we walked the streets I got so many smells from the different foods cooking in the bazillion little cafes. Darin’s planned great little places for us to eat and they are fantastic!!
Anyway as I am writing this it’s back to rain, but so what. I’ve got today and tomorrow remaining with Darin and we plan to use them with great passion. The last day Darin has rented a car so we can do some out and around things. I’m glad I made this trip. I’ve no idea when I will get the chance again. As when I was in Missouri visiting Jene, here with Darin we’ve got to talk old times and our lives in between.
I’m sure lucky to have been blessed with such a great family. Even though I don’t get to see many of them much and some of them it’s been a really long time, it’s great! There’s nothing like family and no way can they be replaced for me.

MORNING IN MISSOURI

My second full day in Carthage, Mo. Woke up this morning about 0300, checked my mail and stuff. No work shop to go to, no wife to beat(anyone knowing my wife knows this is a joke), no dog to kick(how dare I think this), so I laid down for a little while longer. Finally getting up I got two of the three “S” done(haven’t shaved in a coon’s age) and decided to go for a walk.
It was a fantastic morning – not a cloud in the sky and the eastern sky was starting to bleed as the sun fights away the queen of night. There was a slight breeze blowing but rather warm I thought for late January. Mornings are the best part of the day! There were a few birds I could hear doing their thing. As I got to the road and headed towards town started to get the faint whiff of horse. Across the road from Jene’s house (my cousin) and towards town lives a lady who’s got plenty of horses. From what I could tell mostly Quarter horses. As I walked down the road I was getting scanned by these four legged critters. Passing I did an assessment of how many were there, I figured it was for me, about two day’s work to trim them all. I wondered if she knew Chris Gregory who owns the Heartland Shoeing school not too far from here – I’m guessing she does.
It was great to walk down the road. Even though I’m not in Idaho, I felt like I was home. Back where the house construction is familiar to me. Seeing all the Chevys, Fords, goose neck horse trailers, barns and best of all – I got to see my country’s flag slowly moving in the breeze. It brought a smile to my face. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to see my flag flying freely on private buildings, or any place for that matter. It wasn’t only one house, on my walk there were several posted on the front porches of houses and two flag poles doing their job. The feeling was great. As I approached the first flag, I stopped, right face, and gave a nice smart hand salute. Holding it long enough to say good morning and give a thanks to the unknowing owner for having their (and mine) colors posted. As I’d pass each residence where a flag was welcoming the morning’s light I’d perform an “eyes right” and give each a salute.
On my walk I got to thinking, so many people have no idea how lucky they are to be living here. They have no idea of the freedoms they have, and how many they are on the verge of losing. Last night Craig, (Jene’s son) and I were talking about the direction our country is going. He told me every day he prays that God will direct our people to elect the best qualified person to stand up and lead our country out of the mess we are in. After hearing him, I had to agree. Today there’s no difference between the Republicans and Democrats. The politicians of our country have failed “We the People”. They haven’t served us well. So I told myself I am going to follow Craig’s example and ask for Good, Knowledgeable leaders who really care for our country and at the same time I’m going to ask that “We the People” can open up our lives, look inside ourselves and find the family values and respect which made our nation so great in the past.
Oh yea, I bought two power ball tickets – I still got to go back to work when I get back!!

ON THE ROAD AGAIN!

While sitting in the Hamburg, Germany airport waiting for a flight, I tried to remember the number of times I’ve sat in airports around the world, but somehow the number escaped me. As I looked around, others are sitting there for different reason, but most are like me, to cheep to get a room somewhere for such a short time.
Completing this trip, looking back it was kind of interesting. On the train down to Hamburg I had a great conversation with a lady who was a glass blower. She had her own shop in Denmark and had the glass hot about five days a week. She’d spend four years under a master glass blower learning and now she’s got her own shop. She’s been doing this for about the past fifteen years or so.
As time moved on morning slowly came. After checking in and getting dressed again after the security check I progressed towards the smell of coffee. I’m in the mind set I will be up for the next 24hrs hours or so until I make my final stop at Springfield, Mo. After the coffee stop I headed off to the gate – passport check! The German police were checking our passports again (even though they get checked at the ticket desk). I stepped up handed over my boarding pass and passport. The lady kept thumbing through my passport, obviously looking for something, then she asked how long I’d been in Europe to which I replied I lived in Denmark. She then wanted to see my work visa. In the twenty four years of living in Denmark, it was the second time I’ve been ask for it.
London was something else – never been there before! I get in the passport control, then get to a bus which took me to the next terminal where I again did a security check and then the long walk to the gate. In a way I was glad for the long walk as I knew I had around 9hrs to sit on the plane. Getting my seat it became clear the plane was almost empty! Later on I learned there was only 79 passengers! Ok for me, plenty of space, could stretch out across seats and relax – just glad I didn’t buy a 1st class ticket!
Charlotte, NC and through the passport check, run through the security check. I got to have my own private search. I had a knee brace on and they wanted to check. Come to find out they were training a new guy, and he explained how he was going to do this “pat down” search on me and then had to run the metal detector over my brace which said there was metal there, but they searched and couldn’t find any. I really didn’t care, I had lots of time to kill, might as well kill it somewhere. As I was getting “dressed” again I got to talking to a man who was also an author and was nice to talk about books.
I found a place to get something to eat. As usual the airport prices are out of this world. I got a draft beer, not large and something to eat. When I got the bill it was over $22! Later on I headed to my gate and spent the next hour just watching people. While watching I got in a conversation with a lady. It was very nice to talk to someone who thought the same as I do, like: How stupid can our government be by letting in all these “refugees”, not completely checked out? How come we are letting people flood in our southern border? Guns are the reason for violence in our country – dumb if they can’t see the real problem. But then I wasn’t surprised, I was in the middle of country music country, Bible belt, a place where people really care.
The flight to Springfield, Mo ( not Homer’s Springfield) was in darkness and stuffed in a flying cigar. I actually got to doze a bit, between the aching knees. I did get the chance to look out over the blackness at the lights. I wondered where I was and what the people below were doing – who was on their way home, eating supper, all the things people do at the end of a day. I soon felt the plane start downward, I was glad. THUMP! – Cheated death again. I was once told by a pilot a landing was nothing but a controlled crash. Another one told me any landing you walk away from is good(he’d went down once).
Walking through the Springfield airport it was strangely silent and empty (compared to the big international ones I’d been in), but I liked it. As I walked through the final doors, here was this lovely lady, her son and daughter-in-law to meet me. “I’d know you anywhere” Jene said to me as she gave me a big hug. I got introduced to Craig and his lovely wife. Jene had made me a ham and cheese sandwich and had a bag of sliced dill pickles!! And the bottle of water she brought hit the spot. After about an hour’s drive we arrived at me final stop! After a quick house tour, I got introduced to Jene’s homemade mince meat pie! Wow, I hadn’t had one since my Mom’s. It was truly a great treat!! Ah, but the best thing of all was getting undressed, laying back in the soft warm bed and drifting off – no I didn’t drift off – I got smacked down!!