Day 11 – The Banquet

One Hundred and Twenty Eight people filled the Pacific Room at Anchors Catering for lunch today. It was a noisy crowd, a happy crowd. All the things they did over the past three days surpassed their wildest expectations. I say all these things, not to take credit for what Diane and I accomplished this week, but simply to echo the sentiments of everyone with whom we spoke. OK, it’s to garner a little credit, too, but mainly to revel in the fact that our mission was accomplished. We did it! It’s over, and we’re relieved. Everyone was able to get on the base, the buses got on the base, everyone loved thr USS Midway, the harbor cruise was a huge hit, and the lunch was totally awesome.

The day began normally with me limping down to the hospitality rooms to see who was there and to visit a little bit. And eat snacks. Diane spent just a little less than $300 on all those snacks, and made a number of runs to the package store and commissary to get them. What a gal. We were reimbursed for that, of course, but I had to have a bit of it myself. Good stuff, and nearly all of it was eaten. Very little waste. Just great.

Getting everyone to the banquet was far less of an issue than I had envisioned because everyone buddied up just like they were supposed to. That was a plus. We all got seats then started filing out to fill our plates at the all you can eat Prime Rib buffet … cost for normal people is $11.95. For us it was $17.50 because we had a private room. Still, to get the kind of food we had at a private dinner would have been $35 a plate, easy. It was a really good choice. In case any of you are ever in San Diego, anyone can eat at Anchors Catering. They’re open for lunch Monday thru Friday.

As everyone filed into the dining room they placed raffle items on the tables creating an incredible array of things from which raffle winners could chose. Everything was really nice.

Diane won three times. We got a set of shot glasses and a commemorative coin from the USS Midway, a really nice Carhart hoody, and a t-shirt with “Don’t Give Up The Ship” on the front in really huge letters. If I tucked it into my jeans you would only see “Don’t Give”. That’s the only thing I picked out … I limped all the way up to the table to do it.

Halfway through the raffle one of our shipmates auctioned off a terrific charcoal pencil drawing that was done by another shipmate. The auctioneer was just great. He started it off at $50 and finally sold it for $400. All profits will be donated with the exception of some seed money for the next reunion in 2014. It will be either in Charleston or Norfolk, east coast.

Here’s a picture of the artist, left, and the winning bidder, right.

Once the bidding was done, and the raffle was over, all of the crewmen signed the back of the drawing indicating their years of service on that ship. The winning bidder is a retired Navy Captain who plans to give it to the wife of one of the friends he made while serving aboard the Buckley in the early 60’s. This friend went on from the Buckley and eventually went on to receive his own command at sea. During his tour as the CO, he fell down a ladder and broke his neck, rendering him immobile. Everyone knew the CO, from his fledgling years as a junior officer so this tribute to him is a pretty awesome thing.

After everyone was done eating, for the 3rd, or 4th time for some, we had a meeting to determine where we’d be going in 2014. It will be either Norfolk or Charleston, depending on who decides to step up and coordinate the event. Once that was decided, everyone present humbled Diane and me by giving us a standing ovation for our efforts. That was very nice and made it all worthwhile.

Now it’s behind us and we can help mentor whoever decides to take on the east coast event. Diane was successful in keeping my arms out of the air, but she didn’t have to work too hard at it. We’re done, for at least a while.


Day 3 – Naval Air Station Lemoore, California

Our stop at Beale AFB was very pleasant. Diane got to watch Dancing With The Stars, and I got to watch most of the Seattle vs. Green Bay football game. The latter was interesting because of the final play of the game that decided the winner. It was really Green Bay, but the officials awarded the game to Seattle for some odd reason. I’m guessing at least one official will be begging for work soon.

We got all packed up and headed for the main gate around 0930. On the way we stopped by Burger King for a breakfast sandwich. Diane had one cup of coffee in the room, but i didn’t because I was waiting for something better … that didn’t happen until we got to Sacramento. I was trying to get SIRI, on my phone, to tell me where the nearest Starbucks was but she kept aiming me at locations 15 miles behind us. I called her names but that didn’t do any good. Thins were better once we got our coffee, from a Safeway Starbucks.

Before getting that far I called Kathie R. to see if she might have a moment to meet us as we motored through Sacramento – she works in an office about 20 feet from the I-5 freeway so it wouldn’t have been a lot of trouble. But, nooo, she begged off saying she was getting a haircut somewhere 50 miles from where we were. So, instead, we had a nice conversation until her barber took the phone away from her. Perhaps we’ll get to see her on the way home … unless she decides to get another one of her hairs cut.

Things went well on the freeway as we headed south, then traffic came to a complete stop about 3 miles from Merced. A ramp ahead was closed for construction of some sort, and the two lanes of 65 mph traffic was being forced to zipper down to one lane. As soon as we did that, the speed went back to 65 like magic, and all the cars and trucks disappeared.

Before getting to the point, however, Diane had me retrieve the remainder of her foot long Subway sandwich and the little carrots so we could snack. After eating 3 inches of the sandwich she reluctantly gave it to me to finish. It was actually pretty good.

Now we’re only about 65 miles from Lemoore. Arrival time is a little shy of 4pm.

Travelling through the San Fernando Valley is pretty boring. I realize that it’s a major food producing area, but you’d think they could spruce it up a little … like paint the median grass green, or just set it on fire and make it black. Brown, all the time, makes me sleepy. Thankfully, it doesn’t affect Diane that way, or I’d be forced to drive. So far today I’ve escaped the hot seat.

Construction, construction, construction … they’re laying down so much cement and blacktop that it’s a wonder California doesn’t just snap off at the Nevada border and fall into the ocean. Maybe if someone took a shovel and made a dotted line along that line there would be no need for an earthquake … nah, that just wouldn’t be right.

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It’s now 1845 (6:45pm for you non-military minded folks) and we just got bck from the commissary on NAS Lemoore where we purchased a couple nutritious Stouffer lasagne meals. Diane has them simmering in the underpowered microwave as I type. Don’t get me wrong … the room is nice. Nicer than last night.

We arrived about 1500 (3pm), an hour earlier than I previously said we’d get here. That’s because Diane saw an open field and decided to check out the all wheel drive on her Buick. Turned out the field skirted the runway at Lemoore and, for some obscure reason, the fence was down and no one was around. So, instead of having to drive all the way around the base, like we did at Beale, we just drove across it. The AWD works great, BTW.

That’s a lie, of course. There’s no way security would have let us fly across the end of the runway like that. We drove around like we were supposed to. I just had the timing an hour off earlier.

Now we’re going to eat so I’m quitting.