Happy Columbus Day

Today in Myrtle Beach we had a brief scare in the morning. There was evidence that it rained during the night because the railings on our balcony were dripping wet and there were dark angry clouds covered the sky, hiding the sun. It made one wonder what the day held in store for us.

Turns out there was a sunny day hiding from us. It finally made its appearance late in the morning when we were at Wal*Mart obtaining provisions that are to sustain us for the remainder of the week. We hope. If the weather turns nasty, like we’re told it will tomorrow night. We’re talking thunderstorms by midnight. But, that leaves the entire day open for opportunity. We’ve already decided that we’re going to walk 5,000 steps north on the beach then turn around and return to our room to cook something. Maybe we’ll have a tuna sandwich.

That’s what’s left. We ate the steak this afternoon.

I think there’re a couple cans of soup, too. And crackers and cheese. We’ll make it stretch to the weekend.

Shopping at Wal*Mart wore us out. That’s why we ate the steak when we got back to the condo. Then it was touch and go for a bit while we contemplated the benefits of a nap over actually doing something.

We determined that it wasn’t the right time for a nap so we went outside and sat on the beach for a while. Diane spied an umbrella with two empty beach chairs under it so we headed for them. When we got there the “For Rent” sign on one of the chairs was a little upsetting because I didn’t think we would be comfortable in one chair so I let Diane sit while I wandered around on the beach and took a couple of photos.

Now the truth – the For Rent sign on the chair indicated we should see the lifeguard. Looking around there wasn’t a lifeguard in sight so we sat down and enjoyed the view, the breeze, and the silence for just a moment before a lifeguard showed up as if he was waiting for someone to sit down.

I asked him what the deal was with renting and learned that the two chairs and umbrella cost $35 for the day, from 9am to 4:30pm. He added that since it was 4:30 it was OK if we just sat there till 5pm and he’d only charge us $5. Apparently $20 is the suggested price. I forked over a $5 and we just sat there enjoying the warm breeze and the sound of the ocean. For some reason the Atlantic Ocean sounds different than the Pacific Ocean. I think it’s because the Atlantic is quiet. The Pacific is much noisier as the waves crash with with more energy. However, if that were the case, you’d think the Pacific would be warmer from the friction of the crashing, but I guess it doesn’t work that way. The Atlantic is warm and quiet here.

We returned to our assigned perch on the 17th floor and nibbled on stuff until it got dark and the moon came out. It’s a full one today and we weren’t sure we’d be able to see it this evening. But, we did see it and it was wonderful.

The Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood and the Alabama Theater

Today (Friday) we ate quite well. Not that we haven’t eaten well on previous days lately, but today we ate exceptionally well. The Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort, where we currently reside, had a package for all of us old USS Cleveland sailors that included tickets to eat at The Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood buffet. The web site shows the innards better than I can but here’s a quick peek at some of our group chowing down in our own private section of the facility.


Pretty much any kind of seafood you desire, especially shrimp, is presented in many different ways. Pretty amazing. Calabash, by the way, is a word that describes food in this way: Calabash seafood typically refer to seafood that is lightly breaded (usually dipped in milk & then a combo of flour & cornmeal) and then fried. Usually in a calabash-style restaurant you will get huge portions, oftentimes with a combination plate of several types of seafood – shrimp, various kinds of fish, crab, oysters, etc.. and hushpuppies. Calabash is also the name of a small town in North Carolina near the southern border north of Myrtle Beach. Driving on Myrtle Beach one is assaulted with all manner of calabash restaurants. It gets a bit confusing after a bit. Just remember, it’s all good. I’m happy to report, too, that none of it caused my blood sugar to spike. I think another reason it was OK is that Diane was very careful about what I ate. She takes really good care of me.

I would have liked to stay a little longer at the buffet but we had to leave in order to make it to the Alabama Theater before 7 pm to see ONE The Show. It was truly a great show and is highly recommended by all of us who attended.

We weren’t allowed to take photos of the show so this is the only picture I got of the inside. It’s special because it has Diane in it.

The host of the show, Greg Rowles, who won Ed McMahon’s Star Search Show as the Best Male Vocalist 25 years ago, honored all of us USS Cleveland sailors and even provided a lot of the ship’s history. Pretty special evening.

After the show we all headed back to the Sea Mist for our last night at that facility. After breakfast Sunday morning we packed up and drove all the way north to Hilton’s Ocean 22 high rise. It took 11 minutes. We fiddled around a while, driving north to an enormous RV park, with a very small dune that one must traverse to access the beach. It looks like a place we should visit.

From the looks of things, fishing off the beach is a requirement.

See you tomorrow …

Myrtle Beach, SC

Yes, we’ve embarked on another journey. Some of you may be thinking that, considering the sad time we had in Maui recently, we would have given this trip a little more consideration before committing. But, we’ve actually been trying to get some time at Myrtle Beach for the last five years or so but something always comes up that messes it up. Mostly the deterrents come in the form of hurricanes this time of year.

This time, we made it all the way. Here’s proof …

OK, yes it’s the baggage carousel at the Charleston airport, but that’s the airport we flew to and rented the car that got us to Myrtle Beach. Another reason we flew to Charleston was so we could reconnect with our luggage which got there 8 hours before us.

Here’s what happened – there are no non-stop Alaska flights from Portland to Charleston, but there is one from Seattle. So, all we had to do was get to Seattle early enough to make the connection so that we could arrive on the east coast at a decent time of the day. The reservations she got allowed us almost an hour to get to the connecting flight in Seattle that would arrive in Charleston at 4:30 pm their time. If you think about that for a minute, considering the 3-hour time difference, we would arrive at 1:30 pm St. Helens time. Then, figure in flight time from Seattle you can see we had to leave pretty early.

We got up at 3:30 am to catch the PDX to SEATAC leg that left at 6 am. The first snafu we encountered was when TSA kicked us out of the precheck line because out KTN wasn’t printed on our ticket. We knew that but had the letters from TSA as proof that we had KTNs. That’s Known Traveler Number in case you didn’t now. Not good enough for the ambitious little guy who insisted that it had to be on our boarding pass. The first time this happened, on the way to Maui, the TSA agent would have let us continue if we knew the KTN. Not this guy, however.

So, we returned to the ticket counter and fixed it with some manual interventional assistance of a cheerful Alaska Agent.

We breezed right through.

Got to Seattle in plenty of time to make our connection then ‘things’ kinda went south with regard to customer service and scheduling accumen of managers at the SEATAC International airport who parked our plane on the runway for 30 minutes because there wasn’t an open gate for us.

There we sat, with 12 other folks who needed to make the connection, watching the clock tick away, diminishing the probability of making the flight to Charleston.

We finally parked at N15 about 7:20 pm and our connecting flight was scheduled to depart at 7:45. Our pilot and crew assured us that everyone knew we were on the ground and the reason we were late and that they would hold the plane for us.

It was a huge lie. We got to the next gate, D21, in time, but management had already filled our 12 seats with standbys and sent the plane on it’s way, 20 minutes early. Kinda makes your day, ya know?

Then we were sent to the Alaska Customer Service desk near gate D2 that is manned by folks who are accustom to dealing with upset people and apparently don’t see the need to be friendly any longer. We 12 were demoted to 3rd class citizens (whatever that is) and the fact that we missed the flight due to decisions made by the airline.

The two agents behind the counter were working to re-book flights for misplaced people but their hearts weren’t in it and they weren’t very careful about information they doled out. For us, for instance, after they professed to have got us seats on an American Airline plane leaving shortly, gave us a confirmation number and sent us to gate D8 and told us to talk to one of the AA agents there to get us seat assignments. We made that trek and learned that the confirmation was invalid and that the flight we were supposedly put on was full. No seats available.

Back to D2 and customer service. At different agent made another attempt and actually got us seats on a plane leaving in a few hours for Dallas. From there we were booked on an AA flight to Charleston which was to arrive at 11:30 pm.

Interestingly, our bags were transferred from the Portland flight to the original non-stop connection with no problem, but they couldn’t delay 10 minutes to wait for the people who owned them. That’s why our luggage arrived in Charleston on time.

And, they didn’t have any trouble delaying the newly acquired flight, for some reason, which pushed our arrival time in Dallas a little later yet. That was OK because we had a 2-hour layover in Dallas.

Once in Dallas the flight to Charleston was delayed twice ensuring our arrival time wa pushed beyond midnight. Yippee!

By this time both Diane and I were to the point that we could see humor in all the things that had happened to us during this trip. It was like a comedy of errors so it was easier on both of us to accept the comedy of the situation instead of being bitter and upset.

Now, the good part of all this. On both of the flights we met passengers who went out of their way to accommodate both Diane and I by switching seats so we could sit together. You see, with all this switching going on, we were considered standby passengers with no real guarantee we’d get on an airplane. Because of that, we were placed in seats that were rows apart because, you see, all those other passengers made their flight on time.

Our fellow passengers made it all OK and we had a great time talking with them. Had we caught our original flight we would have missed that opportunity which would have been kinda sad.

When we got to Charleston we sent directly to the AA office in the baggage claim area to retrieve our on-time bags. The cheerful agent said, “oh, you were on that Alaska flight …” which kinda told the entire story.

After getting the bags we went looking for a cab because I was told the car rental agents closed up at 11:0-0 pm. But, we saw some lights on at the rental area and saw people turning in to that area. There was hope, after all. You see, we had a car reserved for the trip so we could get to the Air Force Inn at Joint Base Charleston for the night, then drive to Myrtle Beach in the morning.

When we turned the corner and saw lines of people at pretty much all the various rental agencies, and way off in a corner was Enterprise, with one agent working and a line of 2 people ahead of us. It was a miracle.

Long story short, we got a car and made it to Joint Base Charleston with no problem. It was only about 5 miles away, so we didn’t expect problems.

At the Air Force Inn we had a reservation and the agents were waiting for us. We got our room, spent the night, and took off for Myrtle Beach earlier this morning. We fudged our check out time beyond 11:00 am because it was so late when we checked in (1:30 am or so) and stopped at a really busy restaurant for lunch. It was the Long Point Grill in Mount Pleasant, SC for lunch. It was absolutely wonderful and the place was jumping. I had shrimp and linguine. Diane had a chicken BLT sandwich and a cup of tomato and artichoke soup. It as good, but getting it meant she could only eat half her sandwich. So, of course, I ate the other half.

The drive to Myrtle Beach was very relaxing and it was great sailing along without a care, our worries behind us. Life was good.

Now we’re here on the 9th floor, at 1200 S. Ocean Blvd with an ocean view.

Our view north
Our view south.

How sweet it is.

Oh ya, the reason we’re here is to attend the 22nd annual reunion of the USS Cleveland Reunion Association. So, there will be more news later.

Cheers.

Let me tell you a story …

It’s a simple one and won’t take a lot of time unless I happen to recall more details as I progress. Sometimes that happens. I don’t know why, it just does.

In a nutshell, yesterday we went camping. Technically we’re camping right this very minute. Well, some of us are. Others are off gallivanting around Tillamook, eating ice cream, and whatnot, while Ziva and I stayed behind to guard the camp. Ok, it’s not really a camp. It’s an RV, and it has TV, but it will always be considered camping to us. As I type, I’m sitting in my outside chair that we specifically bought for camping, so, we’re camping.

The weather is awesome. A little overcast, but not chilly and there are peeks of blue sky all around so all this cloud cover is likely to burn off before the day gets much older. I don’t really care because if things change for the worse, Ziva and I will just go inside and take a nap.

Getting everything ready to go yesterday didn’t seem to be much of a problem. Everything we owned was loaded into the RV along with three fairly small children – Gilligan, Baylee, and Jerrie. And Ziva, our elderly dog.

While loading everything, Onie, Jeff & Heather’s dog, discovered that the cat was roaming around the RV and gave chase. It was furious for a short time, but Onie finally responded to everyone’s plea to cease and desist the chase. Breezie, the cat, ran under the RV and appeared to be safe so everyone took a deep breath and went about their assigned chores. It was pretty exciting for a short time.

Once loaded, Diane headed down to her Mom’s, Jean’s, house in the tow car for a chat while I and the children went to the local Chevron station to load up on some cheap diesel. We had to run the pump twice because the first time we got $1 off each gallon, thanks to Safeway points, so that first 25 gallons only cost $1.86 a gallon. The next 11 gallons were full price. They used to allow 35 gallons but I think they changed the rules yesterday morning because they knew I was going to pay them a visit. Figures.

Once we were properly topped off, I strapped myself into the pilot’s chair and prepared to leave the station. Right at that exact moment, I see Breezie walking away from the RV and behind another vehicle at the pump. I was able to get outside quick enough to snatch her and get her safely inside the rig. It’s simply a miracle that I was looking in the spot she chose to escape, or she would have been lost forever. The station is about a mile from home, on busy Highway 30, a place she’s never been.

So, when we showed up at Great Grandma’s house, everyone was surprised to see that Breezie was with us. It was pretty amazing. Thankfully, Jeff came down to help me connect the tow car for the trip and was able to drive her back home. He said she crawled into his lap for that short trip and was really happy to be home. It was pretty amazing.

Hooking up the tow car isn’t really a big deal if you know all the rules. Unlike the last trip, we remembered to install the safety cables. I removed the designated fuse before Diane left home so that was already done. The fuse powers up things that will drain the battery because the key needs to remain in the ACC position. That’s the part Jeff didn’t know about so he turned the key all the way off, locking the steering wheel. Consequently, when we turned corners everyone was asking, “What’s that noise?” I could see in the rearview that the front wheels weren’t tracking so the noise was me scraping a bunch of miles off the front tires with every turn.

We hadn’t gone far so I pulled off the highway and I fixed that little error. Then, after turning the next corner, the car began wobbling back and forth for some reason which required another stop for investigation. Jeff came back and helped with that while we were parked in front of Daniel and Jennifer’s house on Matzen Street. They live about a mile from us, so we were setting a record for not getting out of town in a reasonable amount of time. The goal was to be gone around noon-ish. At this time we’re approaching 2 pm, way beyond the limits we normally observe. Had it been only 1 pm it would have been OK.

The only thing I could figure that was wrong with the connect between car and RV was that the tow bar didn’t latch properly, even though it appear to be OK. So, I disconnect the tow bar from the RV and ensured that the latches worked, then released both sides while Jeff maneuvered the car so I could set the hitch on the ball and lock it in place. Then I had him put the car in reverse and give it a bunch of gas to yank the hitch hard enough to make it latch on both sides. Actually, I had him slowly back up to apply enough tension to make them latch. Then I showed him the need for leaving the ignition on, so the steering wheel worked.

There were some other tests in there, one of which involved Jeff riding in the tow car while I towed it around the block a couple of times. He said it was pretty freaky doing that.

The last fix resolved the wobble problem and we hit the road for real. The destination was Paradise Cove in Wheeler, Oregon on Nehalem Bay. During that trip I heard a lot of suggestions that maybe I should slow down a little on the corners because the road was narrow. It really wasn’t, and I was really going the speed limit (most of the time), but I slowed down anyway. It was, after all, 4 to 1 against me as to who was actually correct. Didn’t matter that I was in charge of the steering wheel.

Women …

We arrived safely, in spite of my errant driving tactics, and found a likely spot with the required southern exposure needed for the satellite receiver. Gotta have TV or it’s just a wasted trip, you know. Once the car was relieved of the tow bar everyone, including Ziva, crammed themselves into the available seats and Diane drove us to Rockaway Beach so the Littles could run and jump in the ocean.

It didn’t matter that the sun was going down soon and everyone but them were wearing hoodies, they ran to the beach and immediately shed their candles and shorts, dropping them in the sand, then headed for the beach. It didn’t matter that the tide was out and the surf line was most of 1/4 mile away.

Diane said “I should have brought a bag,” which is code for, “please go back to the car and get a bag while I watch the girls.” It’s good that I know code. I got the back and loaded the clothes up then followed along. It was a long walk. Then, about the time I got there, it was determined that Ziva needed to go away from people to maybe relieve herself. She’s a little shy. So I walked her back to the rocks that protect the parking lot 1/4 mile away. She had a wonderful time sniffing pretty much everything in sight but didn’t seem to have any urgent needs to squat and pee. So, we walked back to the family. In all I walked most of a mile to do this. Now, that’s not a complaint, just a simple statement of fact. Really. That’s all.

Gilligan said we would never see her shiver and honored that claim. She said she was able to do that because the water was so cold it immediately froze her feet to the point where the water actually felt kinda warm. The other two agreed. I recall being that age … really, I do … and also had the ability to play in the freezing ocean just like that so I wasn’t surprised.

They romped for about an hour until we convinced them we should probably head back “home” and maybe eat something for dinner. Some of us were hungry.

We feasted on chicken noodle soup, the perfect meal for really cold people. Then we watched So You Think You Can Dance and went to bed. I got to sleep about 3 hours before a cramp in my right leg decided to get me up for a while. Everyone else woke up slowly, we had some breakfast, then Diane took the Littles to the Tillamook Cheese Factory, leaving me home to nap, read, walk, or whatever I wanted to do. It was OK with me. I stayed and kept Ziva company.

I got hungry a little while ago because they’ve been gone for a while and I know they’re eating lunch someplace. I probably should have had a PB&J sandwich but ate 5 pieces of licorice Jennie gave me for Father’s Day instead. I also had a couple handfuls of cashews to balance it off. Then Ziva and I went for a walk. I took a bottle of water and drank it on the way.

On the way back to the RV a car was leaving and stopped by me to talk. The gentleman began the conversation lamenting about all the things he volunteers for, the last of which is for the AcroCats. He’s apparently minding a 45 foot Prevost RV that he said is full of cages with trained cats that he looks after in this volunteer evolution. One got away and wouldn’t respond to the whistle they are trained to respond to at feeding time. He was a bit flustered and suggested that if anyone was in the mood to volunteer, he gladly let them have at it. I let him know I’d tell the cat lady I married about this opportunity. Here’s what he was guarding …

Then he left to go take a shower.

We spent time in the Wheeler pool and I was able to recreate a visit we had many years ago with the Walters’ Clan.

The original photo was of Jennie, Logan, Cedric, and Lydia doing the same jump. Fun stuff.

The remainder of our stay was just very relaxing interspersed with walks and lots of pool time. We went to the beach a few times, too, but there’s no need to bore you with photos of all that. I’ll just add a few more.

Weird Clouds

Tired Dog

Drying for the next trip

Breakfast

The trip home was uneventful except for two occasions where the tow car started wobbling very hard. The first time was while going down a hill into the Seaside area. The second time was while transiting the two very sharp turns when leaving Astoria. I was able to stop and get the tow bar latched both times but there’s obviously something wrong with that lash up.

Not far from home we encountered an accident that was in the process of being cleared to allow traffic to move on. It was an amusing spectacle watching the tow truck driver get his hitch thingy under the black pickup a few inches at a time. He’d move a bit, get out and go look under the truck, get back into the tow truck, move a few more inches, etc. until he finally had it where he wanted. Then he raised the trucks rear wheels and pulled it our of the way. It was amusing, also, to watch the policeman walking around with his vest on upside down. Kinda funny.

Diane brought a bottle of wine on the trip but didn’t have anything appropriate to pour it in until she went to Goodwill and found these crystal glasses.

The glasses and the case cost a whopping $4.00. What a deal.

That’s it for this trip.

Banquet, Marsha, and Memphis

Saturday was a very busy day, for some people. For us it was one of another, lazy late exit from our respective beds, a late breakfast (or early lunch) then some sitting around doing a lot of nothing. We had to rest up for the banquet which was to start at 6:00 in the evening. Prior to that the crew members in attendance had a business meeting for the USS Cleveland Reunion Association. Our treasurer, Rick, gave a comprehensive accounting of our financial situation and made it clear how much it costs to keep our organization functioning. After that we went through the agenda, ultimately agreeing on where we go next year. Lots of options were suggested, and promoted, but we finally agreed on Savannah, Georgia. Another new city for us to discover.

At 5 pm we started getting ready for the big event of the reunion by finding the clothes we brought for the occasion and laying them out hoping some of the wrinkles would disappear. That really wasn’t an issue for me because once I put them on they just disappeared thanks to all the food I’ve been eating. Yessir I just filled up all the vacant space and stretched those wrinkles away. It wasn’t pretty, but I wasn’t wrinkled. It worked so well that Diane asked me to put her clothing on for a little bit and kinda iron them out, too. Doing that stirred up some latent emotions from my youth when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a boy or girl. Right then the bra started to chafe reminding me that I’d made the correct choice all those years ago. Diane agreed and thanked me for pressing her clothes. Actually, her’s got stretched a little further than mine and, consequently, looked much better after i removed them. This entire exercise in removing wrinkles showed us that we no longer needed to ensure that rooms we get while traveling have irons in the room. Now I just need to ensure I don’t start losing weight thereby losing this new-found skill I’ve acquired. If necessary, I can hire out my body to fellow travelers so they, too, can avoid the need for an iron. Just have to find out what to charge, or if to charge. I might like doing it just for fun.

The banquet went well and we wound up with 46 ex-Cleveland crew members in attendance, in addition to significant others who attended. It was a packed room. The food was good and the raffle & auction items were plentiful. I have no idea how much money was spent in total, but one of our old Chiefs spent over $1000 on things his wife wanted. I believe that was a new record for one bidder. It went a long way toward ensuring the organization wouldn’t be having any financial woes in the near future. Rick reported that we were, once again, solvent.

After the banquet was done everyone went to the atrium and pool area which is surrounded by rooms for photos. We were making a lot of noise after the suggested quiet hour, but none of the other guests complained. So, we just continued to make lots of noise which made it very difficult for organizers to organize groups for photos, especially the guys. 

Finally, there was a lull in the noise and we got the guys to kind of line up for the photo.
And here are the ladies …

The festivities were finally terminated about 10:30 pm much to the glee no doubt of everyone who had an interior room, and we all headed for our respective rooms. I think.

The five Radiomen in attendance: Spence, Curt, Dan, Gene, and Me

During our good nights and farewells I volunteered Diane to deliverer our friend Marsha to the airport at 0530 the next morning. Diane wasn’t happy, initially, but I won her over. Then she expanded the day by declaring that “since we’re getting up so early, we may as well go to Memphis and visit Graceland.” I couldn’t really object because, first, she is the only declared driver of our rental and, second, well, because she wanted to go to Memphis. Even though it was pouring rain … 

Nashville to Graceland isn’t a trip around the corner. It’s about 220 miles and a 3 hr drive according to my map. In reality, it’s 220, yes, but 4.5 hours. The extended time is because there was a portion of the freeway closed but there were no detour signs pointing to an alternate route. The local folks knew about them but neither I nor our GPS were aware of how to proceed. So, I studied the map as we went and found a way around it. The long way around it, but we eventually made it. We stopped at a Waffle House about halfway to get breakfast and our first coffee of the day. Here’s proof …

Somewhere along the line we stopped at a rest area. They have names just like other states …

The first thing everyone who enters Graceland is exposed to is the gift shop. That’s where you can buy sunglasses for any occasion, just like Elvis wore …

I won’t bore you with the interior of Graceland because you’ve probably seen it before. I will say, however, that both Diane and I were pleasantly surprised to discover how un-pretentious the home was. It was very nice and we enjoyed it. It gave us a different look at how to view Elvis. He seemed to be a very nice guy who died far too young.

There was a picture in one of the out buildings that totally caught me by surprise and may also cause a second look by my brothers … 

The left photo in the middle looks disturbingly like my first grade picture. The means (to me) that at one point in time I looked like Elvis. We just didn’t turn out the same in the same, did we?

After touring the mansion we exited the venue, which is far bigger than just the mansion, and headed home. We had a 3-4 hour trip ahead of us and we were tired already. Diane drove both directions and amazed me at how much stamina she had. I had a horrible time staying awake to make sure she stayed awake. Could be we died somewhere along I-40 and I’m writing this to you from an alternate universe in the Matrix. Seems real, though.

We made it home in time to get to bed about 8:15 pm after eating a less than stellar hamburger from the Opry Backstage Grill here in the hotel. We didn’t wake up for 12 hours and didn’t get out of bed until 10-11. We’re not as tired as we were when we went to bed but it took a long time to get some energy back. Plus, it just felt good to lay around doing nothing.

Finally, the need for food took precedent over the need for rest so we left in search of something to eat. In the car I searched on line for a decent place to go and we wound up at a really nice place just up the street. The Santa Fe Steakhouse where the food is excellent.

When we walked into the place an were being led to our booth, about 25 people sitting at tables in the middle of the room got up and left. Diane said she noticed that the crew was composed of sheriffs and firefighters. When the waitress showed up I asked if they needed to go out and get another steer before they could feed anyone else. She said no so I ordered steak fajitas. Diane ordered their beef enchiladas. Both of us were overjoyed with our choices. Not only was the food excellent, the wait staff was more than wonderful. 

Now I must end this and prepare for our last night here in Nashville. Tomorrow we fly home from rainy Tennessee to bright and sunny Oregon.

Camping at Big Eddy

Last Thursday we took “The Littles” Camping at Big Eddy Park on the Nehalem River near Vernonia, Oregon. It’s a small place but full of fun on hot days. Even I found the water to be pleasant in the 100 degree temps. “The Littles”, by the way, are our Grand Daughters Gilligan, Baylee, and Jerrie. I’m using that now because it’s easier to type.

We attended this outing thanks to Jennifer’s & Daniel’s willingness to let us join them for their annual Church Campout at the park, even though we don’t attend their church. Guess Jennifer figured I wouldn’t cause too much of a commotion this time and the who attend the last time we went had plenty of time to forget past offenses. I don’t think there were any, but you just never know what might trip someone’s trigger.

This was the first time The Littles went camping with us so it was and exciting time for them. Since the church pretty much rents the entire park for the weekend the kids (lots of them) were free to roam all day and into the night. The big attraction was the big eddy in the Nehalem River for which the park is named.

With inner tubes of various sizes, and life jackets, the kids assaulted the river and had a spectacular time just floating around, visiting, making new friends, and for some, catching crawdads.

In line, front to rear, are Jerrie, Baylee, and Gilligan under Daniel’s watchful eye.

 

Living large in the deep water, about 20′ deep, middle of the eddy.

 

Even the dogs get to play. This is Ziva.

 

There was some down time allowed for river rock art.

 

Jerrie in a brief moment of inactivity.

 

Jennie minding the tubes. This is about as wet as she got.

 

Gilligan coming in for a pit stop.

 

Gilligan giving her Mosh Pit greeting.

 

Mocha just floated around all over the place, lurking kinda like an alligator. She loves the water because it sets her free of her aching joints.

 

Open fires are not currently allowed in any Oregon camp grounds unless they had a way to turn them off. So, before leaving civilization we made a trip to Lowe’s and got a propane fire pit that fit that category.

 

It works quite nicely, throwing a rosy glow on everyone who sits around it.

 

It was even used to produce vast quantities of s’mores for those who like that kind of thing. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of s’mores. I think that makes me kind of unpatriotic, or something, and I’m sorry if it does. But, I still don’t care for them. The kids love them, however.

 

Lots of time people showed up from other families to join in with Jeran, Lydia, Joey, Jamie, Sofie, and Ceiarra. I caught this one sitting still so took her photo. Also, got a fairly good shot of Daniels T-shirt, Save the Chubby Unicorns.

 

Most of the girls are wearing their hair longer, young and old, so braiding it was a full-time job. Jennie loves doing it and fixed up all comers. She’s a pro braider. So, I guess that means she’s Pro Braider Jennie, or PB&J for my acronym book.

 

Jennie and Jerrie posing after Jen gave Jer piggies, my personal favorite hairdo.

 

Diane contemplating something while relaxing.

 

Jennie relaxing.

 

Older kids gathered for lunch.

Sunday morning we attended an outdoor church service then everyone packed up to leave. For me, getting ready to go involved driving our motor home around the narrow, wiggly, tree-lined roads to get in a spot where I could reattach the tow dolly and mount the car on it. I’d done it once to drop the dolly and didn’t have a problem. This time, however, I cut one corner a little close and brushed an old, rotten stump. It left a mess on the driver’s side near the rear wheel that I was sure would signal the end of the world.  But it didn’t. Neither I, nor anyone else with a camera, thought to capture the moment and the damage, so there’s no proof that what I’m relating really happened. Therefore, you can just chalk this up to a big lie if you wish. I really did swipe the stump, though, and the visible damage appeared to be permanent.

Once we got home I got out the polishing compound and rubbed 98% of it away. I was amazed. And happy. Now I won’t be ashamed to take it out again next week for a trip to Nehalem Bay State Park. This is the bay where the Nehalem River joins the Pacific Ocean.

How odd is that?

 

 

A Marathon, a Trip, and Eating Out

Hi. In case you’re wondering, it appears that I’m going to survive the grueling sciatica affliction to which I was subjected due to the incredibly hard seats in the EOU gym during Maryssa’s graduation. That was on June 16th – FLASH! I need to share, right here, that June 16th is absolutely correct and I just pulled that date out of thin air BEFORE I checked it. I think I’m going to give myself a little star. Yessir! I’m getting a star!

Regarding my ongoing battle with sciatica pain, I must report that over the past 3.5 weeks I’ve had numerous occasions where I was almost pain-free. Every time that happened I figured it would be OK to do some work outside which undid all the good up til then. I should have listened to Diane. She’s was always saying, “stay on the couch or go take a nap”. Really, she told me that but I had a hard time with it because I couldn’t help thinking about all the outside chores that weren’t getting done while I snoozed away. I finally acquiesced to her demands and have since become very comfortable with napping pretty much any time of the day, guilt free.

Another setback was caused by my unauthorized participation in a marathon on the 4th of July in downtown St. Helens. Jennifer, our daughter, and Lydia, her daughter, were participating and asked Diane to join them on this trek around town. Much to my surprise, she agreed. Jennifer said she already bought the costumes for the dogs and had tutus for her, Lydia, and Diane. Sadly, I didn’t get a tutu.

The marathon had a name … The Underachiever .4K Marathon. Yes, that’s a .4K. Jennifer was in charge of Bronson while Diane and Lydia shared turns with Ziva which left me to bring up the rear, hobbling as fast as I could. When it was all said and done, huffing around every corner looking for the finish line, I finally found it after only 2 hrs 27 mins. Diane and the kids, being much younger and less prone to take small breaks along the way, finished in about 30 minutes.

This is the way our July 4th began …

Then we got all dressed up for the marathon … 

Marathon starting line – runners went first.

Diane and Jennifer bringing up the rear … I don’t know where Jeran was at this point, but he was there.

Here’s Jeran with Lydia and Bronson. Bronson looks absolutely ecstatic about all the commotion, doesn’t he? There was some doubt about Bronson’s willingness to walk all that way, especially while wearing that hat, but he did well. Another danger was the possibility of encounter someone on a skate board. Given the opportunity, he will chase down the rider and take the board away from him. Skaters have learned to not ride past the Walters house.

Ziva was interested in all the other dogs, of course …

This was Diane saying, “Don’t do it!”

Getting untangled …

First stop, the Krispy Creme Lady …

Next stop was the Running Dog Brewery for a beer, or a fantastic locally made root beer. Truly the best root beer I’ve ever tasted. 

Waiting in line for treats.

Still waiting in line …

… and, still waiting in line …

The race finished with a fashion show where Ziva won 2nd place. Judging was based on audience applause and Ziva’s ovation was the loudest. The judge, however, was obviously biased and gave it to a young girl and her dog who were wearing matching tutu’s. I knew I should have had a tutu!

The next day Diane thought it would be fun to have lunch on the Roof overlooking the Columbia River. It’s a new eating facility that, thankfully, has an elevator that drops visitors off at the bar. It was a perfect day and the food was great. They serve all manner of alcohol as well as sandwiches on hogie rolls. Good food, but they didn’t have ham. I wanted ham. Instead, I ate their version of a reuben which wasn’t bad. The view was awesome.

Straight out from the venue is Sand Island where the cities fireworks are ignited. No doubt it was loud and colorful the previous evening from this location. The far beach is the Washington side of the Columbia River.

Diane wanted to capture the flag in front of the old court house.

Last Sunday Diane and I took a trip to Bremerton, WA to deliver Cedric back to his ship, the USS Nimitz, America’s oldest super carrier. We didn’t leave until 2000 so it was a quiet and uneventful trip. We were treated to this sunset as we made our way north which made the trip worth it all by itself.

Instead of turning around and coming right back home, we booked a room at the Navy Gateway Inn and Suites on the Naval Base where we lounged until almost 1100 the next morning. Then we drove home.

After arriving home I had a short nap then picked up Jennifer and Lydia for another artistic adventure at a local school. It was fun as are all events that I get to share with my girls. My painting is the one on right. I think I could have done a better job if it hadn’t been for the two young girls at the table in front of us who were having way too much fun. They distracted me.

It was a good day.

On Tuesday I took my bad back to the golf course to ride around in a cart with Doug and Junior. Every once in a while I’d get out and smack a golf ball just as hard as I could, as did D and J. They were more serious about form and did better than me, but it turns out when I get enough rest and can hit a golf ball a long way. I can putt pretty good, too. It’s everything between the drive and the putting that gives me problems. Still, it’s fun to visit with the guys.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I had a visit with my VA primary care doctor, Dr. Gilbert. She’s been taking good care of me for a few years and this was just a followup so we didn’t have time to talk about everything new that’s cropped up since our last visit. So, I have another appointment next month to address my back. I’m getting my MRI, one of my most favorite things in the world to do. Yessir, stuff me in that tube, the one that tightens around you and squeezes the life out of you. Thankfully, they give me Valium so I can make it through without screaming too much.

After the doctor visit, we went to the Black Bear Diner on TV Highway for lunch. Rick and Jody joined us. Diane had a croissant tuna sandwich, and I had a California Burger.

Rick and Jody thought it was pretty funny and didn’t think I could actually compress it enough to get it in my mouth, but I fooled them. It was an excellent hamburger.

R&J had already eaten so they each just wanted a piece of pie. When it was delivered to the table it was evident karma was being observed because I got the last laugh. Turns out a piece of pie at the Black Bear Diner is a little bigger than a slice.

It was a good ending to a good day.