This isn’t going to be anything like you expected because it’s all about a personal journey to honor a brother and his wife. It goes back a few years and involves a standing tradition for our family. Simply put, we gather for all 70th birthdays and 50th anniversaries. You may have surmised, at this point, that we’re all old. That’s true. I will be the last to observe either of those milestones.
This time, it’s for Jack & Wynette. Yesterday was their 50th Wedding Anniversary so big brother, Jim, and I had to attend. The problem was, Jack and Wynette were in Arizona. How to overcome that obstacle proved to be a lot simpler than one would have thought. All it took was a wife who was willing to go anywhere at the drop of a hat which this trip turned out to be.
Before I get too involved with the details I must back up a little to provide a bit of history …
Last Sunday, the 9th, Diane and I were talking, something we rarely do, trying to remember when Jack & Wy’s anniversary was. It wasn’t written down anywhere we looked. Diane thought it was on the 10th, two days before Jack’s birthday. Regarding that, Jack’s 74th birthday was on 12.12.12. So, that’s a golden birthday.
Since there wasn’t a lot of confidence that the 10th was correct for the anniversary, I called Jim, who didn’t have a clue. Neither did Donna. Then I called the other Jack, Wynette’s brother, who said, “I think it’s the 15th.” He said it with confidence, but the “I think” imbedded in the statement added a bit of uncertainty so I thought I’d call Greg, Jack & Wy’s son. It’s a Scappoose phone number so I dialed it up. Brother Jack answered, throwing me off a bit, but I recovered and the conversation went something like this …
“Uh, hi. Are you Greg?”
“No, I’m Greg’s father.”
“Uh, can you pretend you’re Greg for a minute?”
“Yes I can.”
“Uh, will you pretend you’re Greg for a minute?”
“Yes I will. We were married on December 15th, 1962. You should know. You were there.”
He was right, of course. I was there. I was the best man. You’d think I’d remember, but it was, after all, 50 years ago. Just saying …
But, I got the information from Jack so my goal was accomplished. The fact that it was the 15th, not the 10th, was the determining factor for us deciding to jump in the car and make the trip. Jim was all for it. So, Diane jumped on the internet and started checking for places to stay along the way. The plan was to head east to Nampa, pick up Jim, then head south to Surprise, AZ.
While Diane was doing that, I looked around on Facebook and found Brian, J & W’s grandson who lives near Surprise. Not having an email address, or a phone number for him, I sent him a message via Facebook asking him to call me. He actually did that which surprised and pleased me a great deal. The objective was to learn if any plans were in place to celebrate J&W’s Golden Event. He told me it was on Sunday the 16th at 1300. That was great, and Brian expressed his excitement that Jim and I would be there.
Diane got us rooms, for three adults, at Ely, Nevada, Nellis AFB (near Las Vegas), and Surprise, Arizona, about 6 miles from Happy Trails where J&W are staying.
We planned to leave St. Helens at 0800 and actually got out of town around 1100. Right on time.
The trip to Nampa was uneventful except for the fact the rain coming down upon departure quit around Troutdale and we had dry roads the entire way. Very nice. We arrived at Jim’s and Donna’s around 1900. Donna had dinner waiting for us for which we were grateful … it was wonderful minestrone soup and cornbread. Excellent!
We visited a while then went to bed. I didn’t get up until 0830, or so. I ate a banana and Diane had a yogurt then we were on our way. I have no idea what time we left, and I have no idea what Jim ate, if anything. We did have coffee at the house before leaving, too.
The goal was to reach Ely, NV before it got dark. It was about a zillion miles away and we had to make it in less than 8 hours. We thought it was doable, and it turned out to be true. Diane drove most of the way then I drove the last 200 miles, and gave up control to Diane so I could navigate the last couple of miles. We had a room with two queen beds. That was one bed each for Diane and me. Jim had to sleep on the floor, but he didn’t mind.
After getting checked in, we took the night manager’s suggestion to eat at the Silver State Cafe. It was an excellent meal and we went back to the room well nourished. We all had a good night’s sleep and woke up refreshed. Jim didn’t really sleep on the floor, but he wanted to. He had a bed all to himself. Because of that, he got to drive the first leg. He had a really good time because after getting on the freeway, it started snowing. A lot. But it didn’t stick to the road. Thankfully, we were heading downhill so we drove out of the snow before Jim got too scared about driving in the snow.
The next goal was Nellis AFB just a bit north of Las Vegas. Turns out we left Ely far too early and arrived at the base at 1230. The time zone changes 2-3 times on Highway 93 during that trip, something we hadn’t considered. Because of the early arrival, we had to kill 3 hours before we could check in. So, we went to the Base Exchange so Jim could see what the “new” Air Force exchange looks like. It’s a lot like going to a Nordstrom’s that’s inside a mall, food court and all. Very high end store. The advantage to shopping on the base vs. shopping at local stores is the absence of the state tax.
We finally got checked in at 1500 and took a little break, watched a little TV, checked email, etcetera. The room had two double beds. For dinner Jim and I cooked. We went to the lobby and bought three chicken pot pies and three Klondike bars for $6. Cheapest dinner for three, ever!
After a good night’s sleep, we departed, heading south on Highway 93. That took us across the Pat Tillman Bridge that spans the Colorado River, just downstream of the Hoover Dam. We stopped short of the bridge, however, so we could take Jim out on the bridge for a view of the Hoover Dam that he’s never seen before. To get to the bridge required a fairly long climb so we could trek out to the middle. Diane stayed in the car which was a smart move. The wind was blowing at least 90 mph, making it difficult to walk. But, we did it, and I got some got pictures of the dam. Jim seemed to enjoy it but didn’t say much because he was out of breath.
On the bridge we saw cars driving over the dam, so we decided to continue on down that way and just get back on the highway on the other side. Turns out, that was a trap because the road is closed about a mile past the dam. So, we had to turn around and retrace our steps to Highway 93.
We arrived in Surprise Friday afternoon at some unremembered time of day, but late enough to check into our room without having to wait for checkin. The room has a king bed, and a small sofa bed with pokey springs and a very thin mattress. Jim, being the trouper he is, said the sofa was fine, but it really wasn’t, so Diane bought a fluffy mattress cover at Goodwill after a wonderful dinner at the Portofino Ristorante, just down the street. Very authentic Italian food.
The next day I called Brian to see if we could find out when and where J&W might be so we could surprise them in Surprise. He said they were going to be at his house in about an hour or so. So, we jumped in the car and headed to his and Annie’s house in Litchefield Park, about 8 miles south of the hotel.
We found the house with no problem and parked around the corner from the house. Brian came out to greet us, and we walked back to his driveway and were just about to enter the garage when J&W turned the corner. So, we just stood there and waited for them to park. Needless to say, they were very surprised to see us standing there. Who’d thought, right? It was very gratifying for all of us. Mission accomplished.
Later in the afternoon we had dinner at the Golden Corral where we met up with Pat, Caroline, Dennis, Mary, Jack, and Wynette. It was a gala reunion of Cate Brothers and Cate cousins. Pat and Caroline live in Happy Trails where J&W are staying and they just happened to have a livable unit that they are fixing up, and offered it to us for the duration of our stay. But, the room we have is non-refundable since the reservation was through Hotels.com, so we declined. Jim, however, thought it would be excellent. So, Pat & Caroline followed us back to the hotel so Jim could pack up his things, then took him back with them. They even gave Jim a golf cart to buzz around in. He’s currently in heaven, having a great time.
This morning Diane and I got up early so we could join everyone for church at Happy Trails. It was their Cantata, and it was absolutely wonderful. The church was full, with hundreds of people. After Church we took Jim and fiddled around a little before heading south to Brian’s for the party. The party was wonderful. We got to meet all of Brian’s family that includes Steve (Step Dad), Keithena (Mom), Brent, Bronte, Brooke, Brene, Breezy, Breven, and Bridgett. The last six are his sisters. A very good looking group of kids, including Brian, who range from 9 to 28 years old. Eight of them.
We all had a wonderful time visiting and celebrating J&W’s 50th. It will be remembered.
That’s it for now. My next entry will be a cry for help when we get stuck in the blizzard that’s currently b lowing across northern Nevada We’re going anyway.