They Said . . .

They said, cook it in the oven.   They said, it’ll be much easier . . . yeah right.

I really like bacon, however since I have been a one person household it has not been a staple in my kitchen.  Probably a combination of three reasons: the stuff is expensive, it isn’t very healthy and it is kind of a mess to cook and clean up just for one person.

A couple weeks ago I smoked some ribs, brisket and other stuff.  I wanted to try a new process on a pork loin, I needed some bacon.  The loin was good and I had some bacon left, sure wasn’t going to throw that high dollar stuff away, so I broke out the old cast iron skillet and fried me some bacon.  It took a little elbow grease to degrease the skillet, stove top and surrounding area but by god that bacon was good.  I ate some and froze some (just a little test), a few seconds in the microwave and it was almost as good as the fresh fried version.

The next time I went to the grocery store a 1 ½ lb. (did you ever wonder who decided lb. was the appropriate abbreviation for pound) package mysteriously found its way into my shopping cart.

The plan was to cook all the bacon and freeze it so I could use one or five pieces at a time as the appetite dictated.  I have also always wanted to have that little container of bacon grease available to enhance the flavor of all sorts of things; mom always had a jar of bacon grease on the stove.

I used my old friend, Google, to determine the best way to accomplish this simple little project.  Google said it would be much easier to cook the bacon in the oven and that I could store the grease almost indefinitely in the fridge in a glass or ceramic container, no plastic.

There were several opinions about the best way to oven cook bacon, all of them used a shallow pan or cookie sheet, I have this like new, although it is several years old, sheet cake pan, the consensus temp seemed to be 400, my oven will do that. Opinions differed on placing the bacon on a baking rack in the pan or just placing it directly in the bottom of the pan.  I decided, to keep the grease a little cleaner, I should use the rack method.  I don’t own a baking rack, I don’t even know what that is, and so I improvised and used a rack out of my smoker.  Looks like all I need to do is oven cook me a bunch of bacon.

My pan/rack deal would only hold about half the bacon, not a big deal I’ll just do two batches.  Oven preheated, bacon neatly arranged on rack, timer set for 18 minutes, time to relax and wait.

A little FYI, I have two smoke detectors in the house, one about three steps from the previously mentioned oven, the other way back at the other end of the house.  You wonder why I mention this, hang on.

At about the ten minute mark I decided to peek at the bacon, the smoke detector went crazy.  I pushed every button on the thing, it was still screaming, I ripped it off the ceiling, still screaming.  I opened the battery compartment, no battery, probably removed as the result of a previous cooking adventure gone badly.  It was the detector way back at the other end of the house.  I made a mental note to get smoke detector batteries next time I’m in town or maybe not.

The first batch cooked to perfection (perfection might be a little strong) in about 22 minutes.  I immediately reloaded and started batch number two.  The ten minute check this time produced a tremendous amount of smoke, I opened all the doors, there was enough smoke I am surprised the neighbors didn’t call the fire department, in fact I considered calling. I got the oven closed and the smoke cleared and let the stuff continue cooking, like the first batch it came out just right.

 

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I have a few thoughts on what went wrong but I won’t bore you with them other than to say I have never seen that much grease in one oven.  A little in the bottom could be expected but this thing had grease on the sides, the top was even covered.  I just thank god for that self-clean cycle and I believe one or two more cycles the thing will actually be clean again.

The end result, a nice package of precooked bacon in the freezer, about a half cup or maybe more of bacon grease in a little glass container ready to enhance my next meal and the kitchen almost back in order.

My little glass container is the bottom of a wine bottle; I think I cut wine bottles better than I cook bacon.

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I think next time I want to cook some bacon I’ll use the old cast iron skillet.

I know I haven’t been here in a few months.  Life has been good; I just haven’t done anything I felt worthy of passing to your side of the keyboard, and mid-January to mid-March remains a quiet and personal time for me.

Since I am here I will mention, I had cataract surgery about a month ago and for the first time in my life I have 20/20 vision without glasses or contacts.

I’m not sure when I’ll be back, maybe sooner rather than later.

Good night and God bless.

Dave

Limos and Lug Wrenches…

The sparkling blue water of Lake Eufaula was inviting as we crossed the bridge eastbound at Highway 9 Landing, in the background the sun was well above the rolling foothills of the Kiamichi Mountains. We aren’t noted for our early departures. I glanced at Patty and said “We’re leaving THIS to find something scenic to look at”.  She nodded agreement and we continued east on the all too familiar #9.

We didn’t really have a firm plan, just get out on the road for a few days and look at the eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas countryside, maybe get lucky and see some pretty fall foliage.  Our first morning would include driving the always scenic Talimena Drive and lunch at, a little place we found a couple or three years ago, the Branding Iron in Mena, Arkansas.

Except for a slight delay due to a wrong turn (my bad) in Red Oak we were on schedule as if there was one?   A note about Red Oak; the population is just over 500.  I think they each have a railroad car, I have never seen that many empty cars outside a major rail terminal.  The wrong turn made that observation possible.

The colors on the Talimena weren’t what we had hoped for, too much green and brown and not enough red, yellow and orange; but it was a beautiful day and the traffic was light. We were in no hurry and were pulling over at most of the little turnouts for a better look.

At one of those turnouts we saw a very unusual sight for the Talimena, in fact an unusual sight for that part of eastern Oklahoma.  A loooong stretch limo was negotiating the tight turns of the Talimena.  A couple turns later the limo was stopped for a better look.

Naturally we stopped for a better look at who in the heck is up here in a limo. I’m not sure who we were expecting to see but we were not expecting these guys.  First out was a couple men in gray pants and beards, then a couple ladies in long dresses and little white bonnets.  They just kept getting out, kind of looked like one of those clown car deals.  We visited with them, Patty is a little more social than I am, and there were sixteen of them; mom and dad, their children and spouses.  They were Amish from Chouteau, Oklahoma, just enjoying a family outing. We visited a bit exchanged our “have a good trips” and we were all on our way to the next scenic turnout.

A short distance down the road we rounded one of those tight curves and much to our surprise our lane of traffic was full of limo and people; they had a flat.  Flats aren’t a big deal if the driver has the equipment and knows how to change a tire.  They didn’t have a lug wrench and the driver didn’t have a clue; he was not Amish, I think he was Pakistani or somewhere on that side of the world. Not only did he not have a clue he didn’t seem the least bit concerned.

We stopped and a couple from Texas stopped, our lug wrenches wouldn’t fit, this thing had custom wheels, we needed a ¾ socket and a long breaker bar.  Five motorcycles roll up, I know those Harley guys always have tools.  They had a socket that fit but didn’t have anything to get enough leverage to loosen the lugs.

Let’s pause and paint a mental picture.  A bunch of bikers trying to help a bunch of Amish fix their limo with me and another redneck thrown in the mix.  The Amish ladies were patiently sitting on the grassy shoulder of the road. Bikers tried but couldn’t help, they headed to Mena.  A little yellow sports car stopped, he had some tools but not what we needed, and he went toward Talihina with a promise to send help.  All the while the driver is doing nothing to help, his phone didn’t have service, mine did, I insisted he use it and call his company, and he said their response was, they would look into it.

The new game plan was, the guy from Texas would go to Heavener, the closest town, find a wrench and come back.  I couldn’t help and was going to leave but Patty’s heart is bigger than mine, we aren’t going anywhere until the limo is back on the road. We twiddle our thumbs and hope the guy from Texas really is coming back because that is the plan at the moment.

I’m going to pause again and talk about the Amish just a bit.  During the entire ordeal not a single one of them ever exhibited any sign of aggravation or frustration, the men gave each other some good natured kidding and the women sat on the shoulder and visited.

Finally, a break.  A pickup with a crossbed toolbox stopped.  It was an older couple from down around New Orleans.  I think he was carrying enough tools to open a repair shop.  So now we have a Cajun, the Amish and one redneck on the problem.  They were using the Cajun’s little compressor to top off the spare when Patty and I decided to see what was around the next bend.

We made it to the Branding Iron in time to order their lunch special. I think it was 2:45 the special ends at 3:00.

We spent that night at a neat little resort place (Shangri La) on Lake Ouachita just outside Mt. Ida. I think it was built in the 50s or 60s and they have seen no reason to change anything.  I registered on one of those little cards like they used in the 60s.   She didn’t want my phone number, ID or any form of payment when we checked in. We enjoyed the quiet evening, had breakfast paid our bill and hit the road.

We spent most of the day in Hot Springs, we even did a few touristy things there.  If you are ever in Hot Springs and need to gain a few pounds I know just the place.  Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcake Shoppe, it is up at the north end of Central Ave. I don’t remember the second best cupcake I ever had but I will remember this one.  I had a salty caramel and Patty had some kind of a pumpkin deal.

If you have one of those cupcakes and don’t need the extra pounds I know just the place to neutralize those calories.  Garvan Woodland Gardens is a 210 acre Botanical garden on the shore of Lake Hamilton.  It is a beautiful place, we probably walked at least three miles while we were there and yes if I am in Hot Springs I will go back.

The next day was mostly a windshield day.  We did Arkansas’ Scenic 7 route from Hot Springs to Harrison.  Scenic 7 is appropriate for that drive it is a very scenic route.  We took US 62 westbound from Harrison and planned to act like tourists again in Eureka Springs, however it was raining so we just drove around and watched the real tourists.

We stayed on that 62 westbound and found our way back to the Sooner state, and took some roads less traveled back to Longtown.  The most color we saw was on US 59 between Westville and Stilwell.

The only thing that could have made the run any better is more red, yellow and orange and not so much green and brown.

It has been a while since I’ve pounded the old keyboard, I got a little carried away and let this one get a little long.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

Rainbow Stew & Other Stuff

Yes, I am still around and the blog lives; I just took a little unscheduled break.  One reason for the break may be because I really haven’t done anything “blog worthy”.

The past few days I have had an urge to pound the keyboard.  I could always write one of those “from the heart” deals like I once did but I don’t think you or I benefit from those so if it is OK I will share some of those non blog worthy thoughts and experiences with you.

Of the four seasons, winter is my least favorite and it isn’t even close.  I don’t like all those cold grey days and the daylight to dark ratio is way out of proportion.  I had a couple of things kind of break up the wintertime blues this year.  One was the gray whale watching excursion I shared with you last time I was here.

The other was some age and gender related physical issues. I was up and down, actually more down than up, from mid-December until early February.  I will do you a favor and won’t share the details other than to say the ordeal included a New Year’s Eve visit to the ER and a few days later a twenty four hour stay at Norman Regional for some minor surgery.  About the only positives to come from that is it kept my mind off the cold grey days of winter for a few weeks and the procedure was successful.  Thanks to the good doctor and medical staff I am almost back to normal.

I will share one little detail.  If the nurse says “take a deep breath” she means it: the one I took wasn’t nearly deep enough.

We lost one of Country Music’s legends a couple months ago. “Rainbow Stew”, not one of his biggest hits, happens to be my favorite Merle Haggard song.

Probably an indication that sometimes old men have too much time on their hands but I decided I would pay a personal tribute to Merle and make a pot of Rainbow stew and try to find some Bubble Up to wash it down. Thanks to Google I found the stew recipe and figured out what Bubble Up is.

I almost didn’t proceed as the stuff had way more than my normal limit of four ingredients and called for a lot of chopping, dicing and mincing (those things are synonymous in my kitchen) and some other processes I normally avoid. One of the ingredients was Jicama, I didn’t know what that was, I did a little research and about five grocery stores and a half tank of gas later I had some Jicama.  I found the Bubble UP the first place I looked, Pops in Arcadia, about an eighty mile round trip.

I probably had twenty hours and a hundred bucks in that little pot of stew and the six pack of Bubble Up. The stuff had some kick and was actually pretty good. Bubble Up is a citrus flavored soft drink similar to 7up or Sprite, I could have substituted but the song says “we’ll all be drinking that free Bubble Up and eating that Rainbow stew.  It doesn’t say drinking free 7up.

Rest in Peace Merle, we miss you.

I think some people should not have pets; I also think some people should not have flowerbeds.  I think I belong in both those groups.  I don’t have a pet, however I do have flowerbeds. When flowerbed maintenance became my responsibility there were four of them all very well maintained. Two of them have survived but well maintained wouldn’t be words used to describe them.

The only desirable things growing in them are the things that were there when I became in charge; everything I planted didn’t survive, that is strange because the grass and weeds seem to thrive. I have started using rocks where plants don’t make it.  I think I am going to like this approach; I don’t need to water or fertilize them and they are Weedeater and Roundup resistant.  The rocks previously served as a border around one of the flowerbeds that didn’t survive and leftovers from some old landscaping.

I did one of these about a year ago on my life experience with haircuts and how pleased I was with the way Brandi “took a little off the top”.  I followed her to three different shops here in Norman but she has decided the grass is greener on the east coast; that is a little too far to drive trip each month for a haircut.  I am back on the streets in search of a new barber. Actually I don’t know for sure but I may have got lucky this time; I got a good haircut if she will just stay in town.

They just don’t make them like they used to.  Talking about gas grills, I like to cook on the patio pretty much year-round, weather permitting.  I have had this grill several years and, like me, it has certainly seen better days; maybe all that red meat is taking a toll on both of us.  I started shopping for a replacement this week, I checked Lowes, Wal Mart and Academy.  I wanted to see what Target had to offer but I really needed to go to the bathroom.  I wasn’t sure about their new rules and I sure didn’t want to offend anyone so I just came on home.  I think I will just get the one at Lowes.

I probably should have quit a few paragraphs ago but I didn’t so I will provide a brief houseboat update.  Partially because of the previously mentioned physical issues I pretty much let the old girl fend for herself this winter. She was just a little bit huffy and refused to start, sometimes just the right gift will make a lady happy, she wanted not one but three new batteries.  Those things are expensive and somewhat difficult to install.  She started and seemed to be happy again but last week she threw another little fit. This time refusing to dispose of the bathroom waste; hope I don’t have to buy her a new commode.  Just some minor bumps in the road or maybe I should say waves on the water; I still love the old gal and plan to spend a lot of time with her the next few months.

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Green things are batteries, I don’t know about all that other stuff

I promise to stay away from the keyboard until I have something that, at least I think, is blog worthy.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

Pursuit of the Gray Whale

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Just dropped by to say hello and welcome to my lagoon

On a summer evening late last August, Patty and I were kicked back at her house solving the world’s problems and probably a few of the personal variety. Somehow the conversation turned to travel; if you know Patty you won’t find that surprising.

We could both use a little road trip.  We talked about a fall run to Maine or Wyoming and some other places, however the one we both found most intriguing was a winter trip to the Baja California peninsula of Mexico to get up close and personal with the Gray Whales.  With the help of her iPad, Patty found an eight day trip with dates available that worked for both of us.  We made the reservation.  All we needed to do was meet our group in San Diego at noon on Monday the 8th of February.

We had a Sunday morning flight from OKC to San Diego.  Included in my retirement plans was an extended break from commercial air travel.  I think an exact quote is “I don’t care if I ever see the inside of another airport”.  A lot of things have changed with airline travel but I followed Patty’s lead and I made it through security without issue and I didn’t embarrass her.  Thank god, I wore clean socks with no holes.

We arrived in San Diego around noon allowing us time to see a few of the many interesting things the city has to offer.  I think I could enjoy more time in San Diego, maybe I’ll go back some day.

Monday was the day we were to start the pursuit of the Gray Whale.  I was a little nervous, this would be my first experience with the group travel thing.  We met our 22 traveling companions at noon, had lunch and a quick “meet and greet”.  They all seemed like people I would be comfortable with for the next few days. Patty was already comfortable, she handles diverse crowds better than I do.  Geographically we pretty well covered the four corners, a couple from New York, a half dozen or so from California and from Minnesota to Texas on the I 35 corridor, I believe ten states were represented.

After lunch we got acquainted with our wheels for the next few days, we boarded the bus for a short drive to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Birch Aquarium in La Jolla.  We didn’t see any Gray Whales but we did meet a guy that has forgotten more about them than I will ever know and the aquarium was well worth the short bus ride.

The bus wasn’t 5 star but it was certainly OK and I think all the tires were round except one (little bit of shake going down the road) but overall not a bad set of wheels. The bus could accommodate 50 passengers so there was plenty room for the 24 of us to move around, kick back and get comfortable.

We booked the trip through Road Scholar, a nonprofit travel provider, they contracted with Andiamo Travel, located in Ensenada, Baja Mexico to provide the services.  Both organizations get very high marks.

If you haven’t done group travel there is only three things you need to know; Example: Breakfast at 7:00, bags out at 7:30, bus leaves at 8:00.  The times may vary but the sequence doesn’t.

Tuesday morning we were south bound toward the busiest border crossing in the world.  Approximately 250,000 people a day cross the border at San Diego / Tijuana.  The crossing went smooth and we were in Mexico in search of the whales.

Our first stop south of the border was the Museum of the Californias. We didn’t see any Gray Whales but we left with a better understanding of the history and development of the Baja peninsula.

Our primary route for the entire trip was Hwy 1, the only paved road that covers the entire 1,000 miles to the south end of the peninsula.  We only saw the northern 2/3 of that route.

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One of our pit stops, some of them were nicer, others not so much.

From Tijuana to Ensenada, our next stop, the highway is a modern 4 lane divided road; it follows the Pacific coast and is a very scenic drive.  We had lunch at a private residence in Ensenada and continued southbound on Hwy1, no longer the good 4 lane we had enjoyed, now a heavily traveled 2 lane.

We just rode the bus that afternoon, the whales hang out way down south and the long bus ride is the only way to get there.  We no longer had the ocean view, the route had shifted inland through the desert, and although not as scenic as the Pacific coast the view for the most part was interesting and kind of pretty. We made one stop in addition to the routine pit stops.  It was out in the middle of nowhere; we wandered around the desert enjoying the large variety of trees, desert flowers and cactus and also enjoyed the opportunity to stretch the legs.

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Kind of a strange lookin guy, don’t you think?

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Typical look across the desert

Our destination for day 2 was a beachfront hotel in San Quintin, the brochure talked about the gorgeous sunsets, however, because of the previously mentioned heavy traffic we arrived about an hour after the sun had set.    The next morning after “bags out” and before “bus leaves” we had time to enjoy a nice walk on the beach.

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Lots of these on the beach

Day 3 (Wednesday) was pretty much another bus ride day.  To break the monotony of the bus ride we took another desert walk, the vegetation was a little different. This one also included kind of a tough climb to a small cave with paintings dating back a few hundred years; the actual dates are unknown.  We had lunch in Catavina, I thought it was one of the best meals of the entire trip, just a Mexican combo plate but they did it right. Our destination was the Half Way Inn in Guerrero Negro, we had arrived in whale country.

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Day 4, the agenda said “depart for whale watching excursion”.  Alright, this is why we are here.  The brochures showed smiling faces in a small boat close enough to a whale to touch the thing.  I was skeptical, I visualized 47 boats jockeying for position to get close to one of the three whales.

We abandoned our big comfy bus and boarded a 24 passenger shuttle for the 15 mile ride to the boats.  The route took us through the heart of a salt processing facility owned by the Mexican Government (51%) and Mitsubishi (49%), they provide 5% of the world’s supply of sea salt.

When we arrived at the lagoon, there were no crowds, no souvenir shops etc., simply a small building for storage of supplies, about a half dozen porta potties and 4 or 5 boats, much like the one in the brochure, on the rocky shoreline. Definitely a no frills operation and my skepticism was rapidly disappearing.  They only allow 6 active boats at a time in the whale area of the lagoon, shot down my 47 to 3 ratio.

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Our ride, 115hp Yamaha hanging on the back

We boarded, 12 per boat, and were on the final leg of our journey to find the Gray Whale.  About a fifteen minute, reasonably brisk, boat ride put us in the heart of whale country.  A beautiful calm blue water Pacific lagoon.  I have experienced much rougher seas on Lake Eufaula.

What we experienced the next 90 minutes far exceeded my expectations and verified everything presented in the brochure.  I couldn’t begin to count or even estimate the number of whales we saw.  The huge mammals weren’t the least bit shy, in fact some of them seemed to enjoy interacting with their visitors.  They sometimes are close enough to the boat to actually touch, I think everyone in our boat did so. About half of them were moms with baby at their side. These gals make the 6000 mile trek from the Arctic Ocean in the fall, give birth in the lagoons of Baja, and return to the cold Arctic in the spring.

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Just looking around

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Bet they have a picture of us

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Mom taking it easy, baby having a little fun

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Catching her breath!

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Mm and baby coming our way

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Outta here!

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Over your left shoulder!

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Hello, welcome to my lagoon

We did the shuttle bus ride back to town and found our big comfortable (compared to the shuttle) bus again, did a little salt marsh bird watching; I didn’t take notes or pictures so no further comment on the bird watch.  Lupe put the bus back out on highway one and we proceeded south to San Ignacio.

We were greeted at our hotel by a group of local middle school students, they entertained us for about an hour with a variety of song and dance routines.  The kids were very talented and seemed to genuinely enjoy performing and we enjoyed the change of pace and appreciated their effort.  We then had some dinner, kicked back and got ready to visit the whales again tomorrow.

We didn’t have to do bags out the first day in San Ignacio, we stayed two nights.  Three vans picked us up at the hotel and we proceeded on a tough 40 mile ride on rough unmarked desert roads to the San Ignacio Lagoon.  Although much more remote the area was more developed than the one in Guerrero Negro; they had a small gift shop, restaurant and some camping spots.

We did a similar thing as the day before, the boats were 8 passenger so no one had a center seat.  Whale watching was a little better the first day but it was still a very good day, and the interaction was a repeat of what I described previously.  We had a late lunch at the restaurant, the biggest Scallops I have ever seen.  No exaggeration they were about 3 inches in diameter.  After lunch we boarded the vans for the long and dusty ride back to town.

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The showers were refreshing, to say the least

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Told you we touched some

That evening we spent time in San Ignacio, it is kind of a neat little town, a little bit touristy but not too much.  They have a very neat old mission just off the well maintained town square.  We enjoyed observing and interacting with the local citizens.  Not just in San Ignacio but throughout Baja, the standard of living is far below what we are accustomed to but the people were very friendly and seemed genuinely happy.  I think maybe their priorities are in order.

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The next morning we pointed the bus north on good old Hwy 1 and started the long journey back toward San Diego.  We stopped in Guerrero Negro for one last visit with the Gray Whale, very similar to the first but probably not as exciting because we were now experienced whale watchers and knew what to expect.

We did another of those leg stretcher nature walks on the way to Catavina.  I don’t want to downplay those walks because the vegetation is pretty and much of it unique to the region.  I wouldn’t go all the way to Baja just for the nature walks but since we were there I’m proud we had the opportunity.  We had dinner and spent the night in Catavina.

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For you gearheads. A pit stop in El Rosario

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The walls and ceiling was filled with pics

The next day we pushed north, we had lunch at a nice place in San Quintin, but just looked at a lot of highway. We were supposed to have a couple hours to shop in Ensenada but traffic problems cut that to about 30 minutes; probably saved me a couple hundred bucks or so.

Our hotel in Ensenada was very nice and right on the Pacific; we were there before sunset but this time fog and mist blocked that beautiful Pacific sunset, oh well, can’t win ‘em all.  We had a great dinner and slept with the door open.  I love the sound of the ocean.

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View from the hotel room in Ensenada

The next morning we made our way to Tijuana and the U S border.  Crossing northbound takes a little longer but it really wasn’t bad.  We arrived back in San Diego around noon and said good-bye to our traveling companions.  Patty and I took advantage of the opportunity to see a bit more of San Diego and flew home the next day.

We had a great time and I would recommend the trip to anyone interested in the Gray Whale.  This one was difficult for me to write; I kind of wanted to make it novel length instead of blog length.

Thanks for listening and God Bless.

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See you later!!

Dave

Needed A Little Relief!!!

Do any of you remember Jerry Clower?  He was a standup comedian from Mississippi, his stories revolved around life as he remembered it in rural Mississippi and usually included some members of the Ledbetter family.  One particular story involved a coonhunt and his friend John.  John was in the top of a big tree losing a battle with a lynx; John desperately asked that they just “Shoot up here amongst us, one of has got to have some relief.”

I thought of Jerry and that story this week.  No, I wasn’t coon hunting and it wouldn’t have been “amongst us” because I was home alone; but I needed some relief real bad.  I think I could relate to John’s desperation as he lost the battle with the lynx. I had encountered a Urinary tract infection and it wasn’t going away quietly like I remember them doing years ago.  Age related?  Maybe.

I don’t cook often and my repertoire is small but the few things I know how to make are pretty good; and I have never learned this thing called moderation when it comes to food prep.  I made red beans and rice and some gumbo; had to get the big artillery out to do all that.  I divided the stuff up, put some in the fridge (oh, crap, need to get that out of there) and took the girls some.  I had stuff setting all over the kitchen, I planned to clean up later.

By the time I got home all I wanted to do was drink some more water and go to the bathroom.  I am smarter than I once was but I’m just as hardheaded as ever. I got a little rest Friday night and picked up some over the counter crap and continued to drink a bunch and hope for some relief; it wasn’t happening.  That night and the following three nights the longest (no exaggeration) my head was on the pillow was thirty minutes, twenty seemed to be the norm.  I thought about John up in the tree some more.  Sunday morning I visited my neighborhood Urgent Care.  They gave me a prescription for an antibiotic and said I should feel some relief soon; I think our definition of soon is different.  I think I heard them snicker as I walked out the door.

Meanwhile the kitchen situation wasn’t getting any better.  All the big dirty stuff was still there and I am adding a little bit to it.  One day I ate a half slice of toast, I’m still not sure what happened to the other half; the next day I had a couple frozen waffles.  Lori brought me some soup and other things from the grocery; one day I had a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle, the next day a can of Progressive Noodle soup of some kind.  I prefer the Progressive and it isn’t close.  I found a place on the cabinet for the cans and pitched my bowls on top of some other stuff in the sink.  For three or four days I hadn’t even noticed how bad the kitchen looked.

Four days later, 2 cans of soup, 2 waffles and a half slice of toast to eat and no more than 30 consecutive minutes of sleep.  I was tired and the medicine still wasn’t working.  Tuesday afternoon I called my primary care physician; hoping he would call in a new prescription that would make it all better in a few minutes.  All I got was an appointment for 9:15 the next morning; this was going to be a challenge.

I made it to the Dr. the lab for a sample, thank god for that, and downstairs for an x-ray just to be sure there was no kidney stone.  I didn’t pee anyone including myself, although it got kind of close when the x-ray lady poked me in the wrong place. The Dr. said I just needed to give the stuff time to work that they had prescribed at Urgent Care.

I guess they were right (god that is hard to say) by midafternoon Wednesday I was beginning to slightly improve.  I slept some Wednesday night and the recovery was underway.

I tackled the kitchen Thursday.  Did you know those soup cans will actually stick to the countertop if they are left for a few days.  It only takes a little nudge to get them loose, but they will stick. It looks like my kitchen again.

There is always a bright spot if you look. I lost ten pounds during this ordeal, but I’m not too concerned; I’m sure with little to no effort I can put all that back on in the next couple weeks.

It is now Friday night or Saturday morning, I have had a couple decent night’s sleep and probably should be getting another good night’s sleep, but I haven’t pounded the old keyboard in a while and kind of felt the need tonight.

One reason I haven’t written is because I have had a rather slow uneventful fall.  If you ask what I have been up to; I could give you a truthful two word answer.  Not much.  I probably should leave it at that and go get some of that sleep that I so desperately crave early in the week, but you know how I am.

I have spent a lot of time at the lake, not really doing anything just hanging out.  After all that is what lakes are for.

Last time I was here Patty and I had attempted to take the houseboat on a little shakedown cruise.  We were fortunate and made it back to the marina under our own power.  I worked all those little issues and a couple months ago Cale and I took her out again, there was a slight temp issue on one engine but overall it went OK.  I think if I relax my standards just a little everything will be OK, kind of a nice way to say I’m too picky.  Right now she is comfortably bedded down patiently awaiting the arrival of spring.

From my house to yours: A Very Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!!!

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

Got it Right. . .

I guess this is a continuation of my last two trips to the keyboard.

I probably need more than the month or six weeks I have spent with this gal still labeled as Wine Time, but I think the title applies.  I got it right this time. She will be known as Nuthin2Mow as soon as I can get my act together and make the change.  You gotta do that right or bad luck can prevail.

Why do I think I got it right?

Not because the sale of the old place and the purchase of Nuthin2Mow went as smooth as anyone can expect those things to go; although that did give me a warm fuzzy feeling that I had made a good decision.

Not because the first trip out of the slip was a huge success; let me share a little of that with you.

Included in the purchase agreement was a training run with the previous owners.  I decided I didn’t need their help; all I needed was a willing “first mate”.  I happen to know one; she has the same amount of houseboat experience as me.  Next trip will be our second, if I can get her back onboard.  We got the thing started, untied and eased back out of the slip just like we knew what we were doing.  The captain (me) had a little trouble getting it to turn starboard (that’s right for you non mariners) but we kind of backed it away from the dock; I don’t think anyone was watching.

It is about a half mile or so through a reasonably narrow cove from the marina to open water; we just kept her pointed north and cruised right on out past the mouth of the cove, lookin good.  The plan was to get out where we couldn’t hit anything or heaven forbid anyone and figure out how to maneuver this twin engine thing. I thought it would be about like a Zero Turn lawnmower, I still think it will be. Following the couple minutes it would take me to become efficient at that we planned just a short shakedown cruise.

We made our way up to the fly bridge; great view from up there.  I played with the throttles and gearshifts and turned left or port if you prefer like a pro, then I tried the other way. Things went to hell in the proverbial handbasket.  The big ole steering wheel up top wasn’t turning anything, just spinning.  The starboard engine wouldn’t go into reverse, and just to complicate things a little more we lost forward and reverse on the port engine.  From the fly bridge we could go in a big lazy circle.

We went back down to the main cabin.  We now had a functioning steering wheel and one engine in forward gear; we managed to get her turned about and pointed in the general direction of the marina.  About half way there when it appeared we would make it back, Patty asked what I was going to do when we got there.  My response made her feel real comfortable; I calmly said “I don’t have a clue, we’ll figure something out”.  With a lot of assistance from the Evergreen (marina) crew we docked it emptied the waste holding tank filled the fuel tanks and got it safely tucked away in the slip.

I think we figured out what all the problems are and the parts to fix it are on a brown truck headed this way.  If you happen to be diving in about 60 feet of water just outside Evergreen cove and find a big old propeller, it is probably mine, we lost one there.

Not because some good friends and relatives have stopped by for a tour and a visit or because if have made some new friends; although those things certainly contribute to the title.

Not because it is easy to step off Nuthin2Mow, step on the pontoon and go fish, go to the beach or just cruise around the lake; again a contributor but not the real reason.

I think I got it right because for the first time in a VERY long time I spent four consecutive nights there, really didn’t want to come home and plan to go back real soon.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

Was Never On My Bucket List. . .

Over the years I have probably spent almost as much time trying to think of a title for my posts as I have spent actually writing the things.  The opposite is true for this one, I thought of too many appropriate titles.  I had to use an elimination process and finally just went with the bucket list reference.  Some that made the short list are: Crazy Old Man.  You Bought a What?   Welcome Aboard.

The last time I was here I almost wrote a boring novel about the years up the hill from the Crazy Woman Campground.  I promise this one will be much shorter, no promises on the boring part.

Allow me to introduce the new lady in my life, her name is Wine-Time, her home port is Evergreen Marina at Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma. I don’t anticipate a port change however I think a name change will occur in the very near future.

nuthin2mow

You see why I had trouble deciding on a title.  It was never on my bucket list but the crazy old man bought a houseboat.  If your travels take you to Evergreen Marina you are welcome aboard Wine-Time or whatever her new name might be, right now the lean is toward Nuthin2Mow.

This wasn’t just an impulsive move like I have been known to do, I thought about it almost a full day before I made the purchase.  It just seemed like the thing to do at the time; so I did it.

This picture is of my front yard on a busy Saturday afternoon.

frontyard

This one is of the backyard on a lazy Sunday morning.

backyard

I don’t think I need to mow the front or back.

For those of you interested in such things.  It is a 1985 Gibson 36’ x 12′ with twin four cylinder Volvos. It is supposed to sleep six; 2 adults and some kids maybe.  Six adults, I don’t think so even if you are very good friends and no one the least bit modest.

She will spend most of her time in the slip, with an occasional venture around the Gentle Giant.  So far the relationship has been harmonious and I am very excited about my new home away from home.

Drop by for the 10 minute tour, a cold drink and some conversation if you make it to Evergreen.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

Turn Right At The Crazy Woman Campground

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About 26 years ago some friends invited us to visit their lake place and gave us the typical left turn / right turn directions using a few highway signs and a lot of landmarks. The final landmark prior to arriving at their place was a hard right turn at the Crazy Woman Campground.

Making that right turn soon became a frequent and routine part of our life. We were looking for a getaway place at the lake and the mobile home park just past that right turn at Crazy Woman seemed to fit our budget and provide what we had in mind.

A few days ago as I made the left turn (turn right going you gotta turn left when you come back) and headed for the highway and home I paused a little longer than normal in front of the Crazy Woman (I actually stopped at that stop sign, maybe a first.) and reflected on twenty six years of memories.  Most of them very good memories; if it is OK I will share a few.

The Crazy Woman Campground was a unique little place consisting of a small convenience store with gasoline, beer, bait, tackle and enough groceries to get you through the weekend if you wasn’t too picky and didn’t check “use by” dates. The other end of the building was a bar complete with a pool table and a couple card tables. They also had about a half dozen mobile home or travel trailer spaces, after all it was a campground.

Bob and Judy were the proprietors at Crazy Woman, they were newcomers to Haskell County, I think they were from Oregon via Wyoming but they adapted well to the Eastern Oklahoma lifestyle.  We always ran a tab while we were there and paid our bill when we started home.  When Cale and Conner were about three the highlight of a lake trip was going to Bob’s, loading up on candy and putting it on Paw Paw’s bill.

About 10 or 15 years ago the EPA took away the gas pumps (grass still doesn’t grow there), bread, milk, beer and ice sales dwindled forcing the store to close, leaving the bar.  I think a combination of poor sales and declining health forced them to close the bar.  About a year ago those health issues forced Bob and Judy to go back out west to be near their children.  To Bob and Judy: we enjoyed having you in Haskell County and you did the Crazy Woman Campground proud.

I have so many memories of fun times with family and friends, especially during the first 20 years of those right turns, I could probably write a book instead of a blog if I shared all of them.  I have neither the skill nor desire to write a book so I will try to generalize, touch a few highpoints then share a few pictures.

Sharyl and I didn’t have these wonderful things called grandkids when we started making those right turns, there were only two grandkids in our social group, a baby girl and her cute little blond headed brother named Brock.

I have to share a quick (I hope) Brock story.  He loved to fish with his PaPa; after a morning of having absolutely no luck, nothing biting, we’ve all been there, Brock analyzed the situation and identified the problem.  He told his PaPa he needed a new hork (cork), if his hork would just go under like it was supposed to he would surely catch a fish.

As an adult Brock is a proud United States Marine, he has defended freedom around the world for several years.  He has a darling little girl of his own, I hope they find time to fish and I hope he gets her a better hork than his PaPa got him.

We were fortunate, over the years, we had good horks and caught a lot of fish.  A few times each summer we would pool our resources and have a fish fry.  Sometimes we would cook for 50 or 60 people, other times maybe just three or four couples.  I think I liked the whole bunch of folks kind better.  I was usually in charge of cooking the fish and hush puppies.  Everyone would start eating long before I finished cooking, some of the sympathetic ones would feel sorry for me because I wasn’t eating.  I’ll just say it would take a special kind of stupid to cook that much fish and be hungry.  You have to sample enough to know you are putting a quality product on the table.

Dava was in high school and Lori in college when we started the Crazy Woman run.  The early years (pre wakeboard) we did the water ski, tube, kneeboard routine.  Some of the guys learned to barefoot and were pretty talented on the old standup jet skis.  I don’t think I was ever athletic enough to barefoot, I’m sure Sharyl could have, but given the opportunity as a young man I think I could have given them a run for their money on the Jet Ski.

Sharyl and I became grandparents in ’91.  Grandkids are fun anywhere but they are real fun at the lake.  Lori and Steve made that right turn a few times a year when the kids were small.  As the kids got older, baseball and life reduced the frequency of their lake trips. Often the kids would go with Sharyl and I, those times were good because we didn’t have that parental interference.  What happened at the lake stayed at the lake.

Dava and Rick on the other hand are Lake People, they bought a boat then a marriage license.  They bunked up with us for a couple years, then bought the place across the street.  I think Braxton was four weeks old the first time he got to hang out on the beach, Luke was born in the middle of winter so he had to wait a while.  The guys did a lot of sleep overs at our house and Maw Maw made a lot of cinnamon toast; a breakfast favorite at the lake. Just last week I found her special mix cinnamon/sugar shaker tucked away in a corner of the cabinet; yes I dumped it.

I fished a little with all the grands.  Rylie was the best fishing partner of the bunch.  Cale and Conner argued continually about who caught the biggest or the most fish, they just couldn’t relax and fish.  Braxton and Luke had fun part of the time but Rylie would just fish like an old pro.  I thoroughly enjoyed fishing with all of them and hope to have more of those days.

About fifteen years ago we added a Wave Runner (Jet Ski) to our little fleet.  We thought the grand kids would enjoy it, believe that if you will, we bought the thing for us.  I thought the speedometer was wrong on the thing, there is no way I was doing 50 mph.  We decided to just run it and the bass boat side by side about 30 mph or so just to verify the speedometer.  Sharyl was always pretty competitive and you give me a steering wheel and an internal combustion engine I will do anything in my power to beat you to the other end.  That little 30 mph speedo test turned into a full bore dead heat race to the other end of Brooken Cove.  It was a slow day on the water; the only people at risk was us.

As with daily life, lake life changed over the years.  We continued to make that right turn at Crazy Woman but we busted the budget and upgraded a little bit in ’94 and again in’08. The last upgrade left us with a pretty good second hand double wide with a huge deck and a heck of a view and about an acre or two of gentle slope down to the water to mow.

As Lori’s kids got older, their lake time decreased as life seemed to interfere.  About four years ago Dava and Rick quit making that right turn at Crazy Woman, they are still Eufaula lake rats, just changed home ports.

Some of the old friends that helped make those memories still make the right turn at Crazy Woman, it just seems that we don’t show up at the same time very often.

The past three years I have spent an awfully lot of time up on the hill past Crazy Woman alone.  It has been a favorite writing venue for me, I am doing this one from home.  I still enjoy a morning cup of coffee on the deck or a cold drink later in the day. That right turn doesn’t put the same smile on my face that it did when I was planning to cook fish for about 50 people.

You have probably guessed where I am going with this.  I have changed ports.  I think the new owners will smile when they make that right turn at Crazy Woman just like I did for many years.

If my reasons aren’t obvious and you would like to ask why; I could give you a real long answer, a long answer or a short answer.  Let’s go with the short answer: It was time.

I will introduce you to the new place, still at the same lake, in a few days or a few weeks.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Consider a donation to the Cancer research organization of your choice.

Good Night and God Bless.

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Dave

Take A Little Off the Top

They say the difference between a good haircut and a bad one is about two weeks: I will know in a few days.  More on that later.

To me, getting a haircut has always rated right up there with paying taxes and going to the dentist.  Not something I look forward to; just one of life’s little necessities.

I think women have always been a little smarter at the hair maintenance thing than their male counterparts. The longer hairstyle gives them more flexibility, no one really notices an extra inch or two of growth, and when it is time, they have always simply made an appointment and showed up at the scheduled time.

In today’s society the appointment thing is acceptable for men; hasn’t always been that way.  Back in the day an appointment with a hairdresser would have been grounds to have your man card taken away.  If you needed a haircut, by god, you went to the barbershop and waited your turn, even if you were there most of the day.

My earliest memories of barbershop visits were in the small community where I grew up.  The barber was my best friend’s dad.  He had a small shop and wasn’t very busy.  There was usually a card game of some kind in progress (surely they weren’t playing for money) and sometimes Booger, his name was John but everyone called him Booger, seemed upset that you interrupted the card game for a haircut.  You didn’t need to tell him what you had in mind, he only knew how to give one kind, whitewall the sides and take a little off the top.

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Then he would rub on a double handful of Fitch’s Rose Hair oil.  I think every barber in the free world used that stuff.  The smart customers wore a red shirt, you sure didn’t want to wear white.  On a hot summer day that stuff would soak a shirt, drip off your elbows and run all the way to your waist. In those days, haircuts were a quarter or fifty cents, most barbers had a second source of income, Booger made moonshine.  I never had the opportunity to sample his, but I understand his moonshine was better than his haircuts.

My teen years were during the heyday of the flattop, the ducktail on the sides was a popular option. During the early years of the flattop not many barbers could do one right, and they didn’t do appointments so you had to go sit and wait.  I either waited for Tom at the Cozy on West Main in Shawnee or for Herman at Hackett’s in Tecumseh, both those guys could do a flattop right.  By this time a regular cut was a buck and a flattop was a buck and a quarter.  While you waited at the Cozy a guy called Cinders would shine your shoes, I think he charged a quarter, he was as good at shining shoes as Tom was at giving flattops.

The late sixties and seventies saw much longer hairstyles and was not financially kind to the barber industry.  I think a lot of those guys wished they knew how to make moonshine.  It was also during this time that it became socially acceptable for a guy to make an appointment with a hairdresser.  The only thing Sharyl knew about flattops was that she didn’t like them, but with the longer hair she could take a little off the top and trim the sides.  She was my barber for several years and she rates in the top three or four that I have used.

About 1980 I found the perfect, for me, barber; his name was Doyle.  He made appointments and kept them.  I was always in the chair within 2 minutes of my appointment time, and after the first visit I didn’t need to tell him what to do.  Unlike most barbers, Doyle didn’t initiate a lot of conversation, he just cut hair.  It didn’t get any better than that, walk in sit down in his chair, exchange “how’s it goings” relax get my haircut the way I wanted it and walk out.  The whole thing took about fifteen minutes. I used Doyle for a few years.  Cancer took him much too soon. Rest in Peace Doyle, you were the best.

For a while, after Doyle, haircuts were kind of like dental visits if you need a root canal.  Hairstyles eliminated Sharyl or maybe she thought I was too picky.  I tried the wait your turn system again, I liked the barber and sometimes I got a good haircut.  The quality seemed directly proportionate to the intensity of the political, religious, or football discussion at the time. Bottom line, I couldn’t handle the sit and wait system.

I gambled and went to the phone book.  I found Linda.  She made appointments and kind of kept them, at least it beat the wait your turn system and I liked her haircuts.  We had enough common interests to support pleasant conversation during the 30 minute process.  After we moved to Norman I continued to drive to Tecumseh for haircuts.  I think I was more comfortable changing family doctors than changing barbers.  A landlord/tenant issue forced Linda to move her shop to Shawnee and me to find a barber in Norman.

I found a little shop close to our house, the owner and one other barber.  I have simplified my hairstyle, since what hasn’t turned loose has turned white, I wear what we call a short Caesar.  It is kind of hard to screw it up in fact I thought it was impossible to screw it up.  They do appointments but with my present lifestyle I don’t like to make them, I just check the parking lot and stop when they aren’t busy.  The owner cuts it occasionally but I usually use the other barber.  I have used Laura, Wendy, and now Brandi; I hope Brandi stays a long time I like her haircuts and we have enough common interests for pleasant conversation.

Paragraph one continued.

About 10 days ago I stuck my head in the door, Brandi had someone in her chair, she said give me a couple minutes.  I can wait that long, just as I was sitting in her chair a guy came in.  Brandi didn’t realize the time; he had an appointment.  Suzi (the owner) was doing a major overhaul on a lady. Between Brandi and Suzi was a third barber.  Suzi said “let her do Dave”, I was OK with that, and anyone can do a short Caesar, right?  The very young lady seemed a little nervous, I would tell you her name but she didn’t tell me, in fact she didn’t say anything.  I looked at her license but it wasn’t a license.  It was a permit, Suzi occasionally works with a vo-tech to give some kids a little practical experience.  I assumed they did this practical experience thing during the latter stages of the vo-tech course; I now believe they do it the first week or maybe the first day.

She was very nervous and completely unsure of herself.  I quickly became nervous and unsure of her abilities.  I kept my cool, we kept some lighthearted conversation going with the lady in Suzi’s chair and Brandi.  Suzi gave my barber a crash course in haircutting 101 and Suzi isn’t the most patient or diplomatic person I have encountered.

I left with a short Caesar, albeit a little shorter on one side than the other and we don’t usually do that 2 inch gash up high on the left side. I think this one is going to need more than two weeks before we can call it a good haircut.

Maybe I’ll make an appointment with Brandi next time or maybe I’ll just see how much she improved in four weeks.  I’m sure she is a sweet young lady and will make an excellent barber with a little more training and some experience.  I will ask Brandi, but I kind of suspect I may have been her first customer, and we all had to start somewhere.

Thanks for reading what I write.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

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Fifty years ago today Sharyl and I followed instructions and either repeated after Reverend Burns or said “I do” or “I will” at the appropriate times.  I don’t remember all the words; there were things like:  with this ring . . .  and do you Dave take Sharyl . . .  I do remember, very well, a small part of one of those “repeat after me” things; the part about “for better or worse, in sickness and in health until death do us part”.

We got a little taste of the worse shortly after he said I could kiss the bride.  The car wouldn’t start.

Some of our friends made sure the thing wouldn’t start so they could have a little old fashioned fun at our expense.  We did a little wheel barrow ride down Main Street and some other goofy stuff.  We managed to escape and get back to the car.  I looked under the hood, expecting to find the coil wire disconnected.  No, they opted to pull the coil wire and all eight spark plug wires out of the distributor.  Those eight plug wires each have a specific location in the distributor, it won’t run if they aren’t in the right place, I think there is 512 possible ways the things can go.  Like most young guys, I didn’t know as much as I thought I did, but I did know the firing order for a 394 cubic inch Oldsmobile.  It took about thirty seconds to get the thing to breathe a little fire and we roared off toward the future. Suddenly we had some of the better the preacher spoke of.

Over the next forty something years we continued to experience a mix of better and worse. Kind of like the spark plug deal, when it got worse if we just relaxed analyzed it and got the wires all back in the right place pretty soon it was better again.  We were fortunate and the better far exceeded the worse.

For 43 years we had some bouts with the sickness and health part of those vows and we thought we knew all about that.  In ’08 we got a crash course about “in sickness and in health”.  That day in 1965 we had no idea Reverend Burns might be talking about this thing called cancer. Cancer suddenly controlled our lives; it was the driving force behind every decision we made and everything we did.  Forty three or four years after I said “in sickness and in health” I fully understood its meaning and why it was an important part of those vows.

That brings me to the part about “until death do us part”.  Sometimes I still struggle with that one.  This is one of those times.

I love you babe, and still miss you every day.

Good Night and God Bless.

Dave

PS:  The title is the firing order for a ’61 Oldsmobile.