Archive for June 2012

Pattys Most Excellent Adventure – Part V

June 13, 2012


2010 and I know you probably think that’s about all but it keeps getting better.  I had to cut the tax season short in order to use a birthday gift from Susan last year.  She bought me a ticket to the Elton John-Billy Joel concert in Seattle in February, which worked out great.  I was able to attend this unforgettable concert with Susan in Seattle before leaving to go to Hawaii.   The concert was held at the Key Arena and even though we had seats we hardly used them.  Everyone was standing and singing along and it was super fun.  Then my Hawaiian vacation started in Maui with the usual whale watching and an added bonus; a stargazing cruise.  I am hoping to repeat that one someday, it was very interesting.  Then we went to Oahu and spent two weeks at Bellows Air Force Base.  We like to travel to Hawaii by catching a hop on a military plane, usually out of Travis AFB, California.  We sometimes spend a few days waiting around the airport and we never know what kind of plane we will fly on; sometimes it’s a C-5 or a C-17 or a C-9.  This time we returned to Travis on a tanker KC-135 and we actually refueled a flight of F-15s (I think that’s right) that we met over the Pacific. 


The flights we catch are usually training missions or cargo planes that are flying to Hawaii anyway and the pilots are kind enough to let old military retired people like us go along for the ride.    The planes are not high on comfort but the experience is well worth any discomfort and it is just downright fun for an adventure junky like me.  That reminds me to mention how much I love doing the zip lines in Hawaii.  From the time I took that first step off the platform I was hooked; I enjoyed it so much we put a zip line in our yard for the grandkids.  

But first the highlight of 2010 was my trip to Denmark with Traci, Rene & grandsons.  Rene is a college professor and was asked to teach a class in Copenhagen.  Well, somehow I got invited along and what a treat.  Rene rented a nice apartment from a family that was traveling for the summer and we began to explore Denmark.  A Jazz festival was going on while we were there and I remember sitting by the Nyhavn canal listening to a local group playing  “When The Saints Come Marching In”. Remarkable, I know.  While Rene was busy at school Traci, the boys and I toured around Copenhagen via the Metro and climbed towers; castle towers and church towers.  You would not believe how many towers there are in Denmark.  Then on a weekend we flew to Paris and climbed towers there; the Eiffel tower, the Notre Dame tower, the Arch de Triumph and on and on.  We also went to an amusement park in Paris near ‘The Louvre’ and I went on rides with the boys.  Samuel asked me to go on a particular ride with him and I said sure without checking it out first; not a good idea.  This thing was like a big bubble attached by bungee cords and it just sprang up in the air.  OH MY Gosh!!  We screamed and bounced around till I thought I would wet my pants.  And then it was over and I was scared to death they were going to do it again but maybe they saw my face and decided not to.  Samuel definitely wanted to do it again but I’m a quick learner and said no.  But it is fun and you’ve got to do it if you have the chance.

 Back in Denmark we attended a concert at Tivoli Gardens which is one of the first amusements parks ever.  I did go on some rides with the boys but I checked them out first this time.  One weekend we traveled north by train to see another castle and to climb more towers.  One experience I have to tell you about; I went to the store to buy some groceries and saw this great special on beer – 2 for about $10 so I picked up two six packs.  I was careful to ask the cashier if it was indeed the correct price and he assured me it was.  After he rang it up I realized it was 2 “bottles” for $10 not 2 six packs.  Well, you live and learn; luckily I had enough money to cover my mistake.  The Danish people speak English and are very helpful if you ask the right question but all the signs are written in Danish which is impossible.  On the flight home I had a 5 hour layover in Amsterdam and tried to make the most of it.  I remember seeing a t-shirt that said, “Why drink and drive when you can smoke and fly.”  Very good advice I think.

Actually I had to leave Denmark earlier than my family because I had to attend an AARP training class in Dallas.  I had volunteered to be the AARP State Training Specialist for Oregon which involves organizing a tax workshop for the 80 or so instructors that we have in Oregon each year.  The thing about taxes is that they are always changing and you have to train people every year to do the volunteer work.  The instructors then train about 1200 volunteers statewide to prepare tax returns electronically free of charge.  These are some really dedicated people.  Our training class was held in the American Airlines training facility near Dallas and it was similar to a college dorm with classrooms added but the cafeteria was not like anything I experienced in college.  They had a dessert buffet that was unbelievable.  Anyway, about 5 pounds later I returned home and managed to do some trail work in Crater Lake National Park to work off some of those pounds.

Susan had another treat for me in August, a Chris Isaak concert at the St. Michelle Winery in Woodinville.  It is an outdoor theater and of course they serve wine.  We attended the concert with a hiking buddy of mine, Sandy, and her daughter.  Everyone sang along and we had a thoroughly good time.  And then on to my annual Patos pilgrimage and it was the best fun ever.  Parvin brought her sister-in-law and her niece along for our annual island clean-up and lighthouse birthday bash.  Check out this attachment for a blow by blow description of this great trip…

In Sept Jack and I took a short trip to Hawaii to recharge.  We spent a week at the Hale Koa Hotel, Hale Koa means house of the warrior, and it is the military hotel in Waikiki right next to Hilton Hawaiian Village.  We discovered Happy Hour at the Warrior’s lounge where we could get a 20 oz glass of Longboard Lager (my favorite beer) for 3 bucks and free popcorn.  What a deal!  Beer is a little cheaper in Hawaii than Denmark.  Our trips to Hawaii always involve a lot of walking because when we stay in Waikiki we don’t rent a car but we do ride the bus for one buck apiece.  So we work off the beer by walking.  For instance, we walk to a beach below Diamond Head Lighthouse so I can search for beach glass ostensibly but actually because we just like to walk and it’s about a five mile walk.  We take the bus when we want to go to the Kona Brewing Co. for pepperoni rolls and happy hour because that’s in Hawaii Kai and too far to walk but usually we just walk.  We ended this Hawaiian trip at Hickam AFB and caught a ride on a cargo plane; I think we flew home on a C-5 this time.

Now a fantastic end to 2010; Susan invited us to join her and Kai at the Rally to Restore Sanity with Jon Stewart and Keep the Fear Alive with Steven Colbert in Washington, DC.  We flew to Maryland and took a train to our hotel just outside of DC.  It seems like everyone on the plane and in the hotel was going to the rally.  On the train platform we found a hardhat by the trash so we took it with us and cleaned it up and Sue wrote on it –“please don’t stomp on my head”.  If you were watching any news during that time you know that she was referring to a young girl that got her head stomped on by an over-zealous security guard at a political protest.   It seems like everyone wanted to take Susan’s picture.  Before the Rally we toured the Washington Monument and just had a great time people watching and reading everyone’s signs.  There was over a quarter million people there and it was a real party atmosphere.  It was refreshing to know that we’re not alone in our political views – which means no extremes but mostly democratic (like Jon Stewart).  We headed home refreshed and invigorated.

This is turning into an epic adventure instead of just a story but 2011 gets  better so I can’t stop yet.  Of course we start off the year with a trip to Hawaii.  This time we combined our timeshares with my friend Terry and her new special friend George and managed to stretch our vacation to six weeks.  We started with two weeks at Bellows Air Force Base on Oahu by ourselves and tried something new this time.  Instead of hiking up Diamond Head we decided to hike up Koko Head.  That is a grueling hike that will tax you no matter what shape you’re in.  We almost died but we did make it to the top and were feeling pretty proud of ourselves until a young lady passed us running up and back down while we were still on the way down.  I can’t even remember having that much energy.  Jack said “no more hikes” so we just spent our time on the beach after that, except a trip to North Beach to our favorite pizza place, Pizza Bobs in Haleiwa.  One time we were on the North Shore and they were holding the Eddie Aikau Invitational surfing competition and that was incredible.  The waves were 40 to 50 feet high and we had to walk a couple miles just to get close enough through the crowd to watch the action.  Seeing a surfer on a 40 foot wall of water will make you respect that sport. 

Next we headed to Kauai to meet up with Terry and George.  This time we stayed at Point Poipu instead of Princeville.  Kauai is not our favorite island, we feel we have to spend too much time in the car but we did enjoy ourselves at the Diamond Resort there.  On to Kona on the big island where we can get back to walking; one day we walked about 8 miles to the Kona Brewery and they were out of Longboard Lager!  Can you believe that?  We had to settle for one of their other brews.  After a week or so at Kona we went to Maui which is a favorite island and had a wonderful time.  When we walk to the Maui Brewing Co. we pass a small cove and many times we have seen sea turtles on the beach there and we walk past the most gorgeous poinsettia hedge.  You must realize by now that in order to get Jack to walk we have to end up with beer.  Anyway, when we walk the other direction to Whalers Village we walk on the beach for miles and see whales and sea turtles from shore.  We have even seen eagle rays within 15 feet of the beach.  One day as we were walking along watching a group of eagle rays a young woman was snorkeling and happened to look up just as the tip of a ray’s wing was out of the water.  We knew immediately what she was thinking and just watched as she came flying out of the water thinking she had seen a shark.  It was funny for us but I bet she lost about five years off her life.  Another hike that we enjoy is at the end of the road to Hana on the backside of Haleakula.  From there you can hike to a beautiful waterfall and pool through an amazing giant bamboo forest.  As the wind blows the bamboo together it just makes the neatest clattering sound, just like wind chimes.  Well, all good vacations have to end so we headed back to Oahu for a few days of relaxing at the Hale Koa before returning to Hickam AFB and catching a hop back to the mainland.  I think we flew back on a Globemaster C-17 that time.

In July Susan and I returned to France and included Switzerland this time.  I was really excited about this since I have been to the Southern Alps in New Zealand and the Oregon Alps but not to the real Alps.  The Matterhorn was spectacular and as usual Susan did a great job as tour guide.  We flew into Geneva and took a train to Zermatt which is an incredible little Swiss village that does not allow privately owned cars.  They allow a few taxis and delivery trucks and that’s it.  It is situated at the base of the Matterhorn and is just sooo picturesque.  It took about 3 or 4 different tram and gondola rides from there to get to the top of the Alps; Switzerland on one side and Italy on the other.  Goats are driven though town every day and guys play those horns like in the Ricola commercials and yodel.  And if that wasn’t incredible enough we took the train to Carcassonne in the south of France for Bastille Day.  They had the most spectacular fireworks display ever.  I can’t even begin to relate to you what a fantastic experience that was.  It was a depiction of an assault on the castle and went on for what seemed to be an hour or so.  Susan had found us an apartment at the base of the castle and we sat in the window and watched the whole display, what a view!  After that we went to Sete to watch boat jousting and a concert with the beautiful blue Mediterranean Sea as a backdrop.  We ended this trip with a long stay at Versailles.  This time around it was summer so we were able to tour the gardens with all of its incredible statues and fountains.  I know I have used incredible a lot on this trip but that is exactly what it was.  We did get to Paris one day to meet up with Christelle, a French exchange student that stayed with us 20 years ago.  We enjoyed coffee and delicious cakes at a famous and very expensive restaurant called Laduree that she insisted on treating us to while catching up on her life which is amazingly similar to Susan’s.

Back home again just in time for a trip to Seattle to catch Chris Isaak again at the winery.  This time Traci, Gabriel, and my sister Tammy went with us to the concert.  Later that week we were joined by Rene and Samuel.  We celebrated Rene’s birthday by taking a boat ride out on Lake Washington to watch the annual Blue Angel show.  The boys love to watch the planes do their stunts and they are right overhead when you are on the lake.  We also took Gabriel for a steam engine train ride in Mt. Rainier National Park.  Gabriel loves trains just like my dad.  I guess it’s in his genes.

2011 is also the first time I have been able to meet up with some of my classmates in Scottsburg.  Six of us; Sue, Karla, Vicky, Verna, Sandi and I spent three days together at Sue’s vacation house on the Umpqua River.  It was just like a pajama party and it was such fun catching up with each other after all these years.  We ate, drank wine and went shopping at the cutest little boutiques along the coast.  In fact, we had so much fun we met up again in Arizona for a week at Vicky’s place in Scottsdale.  Vicky gave us a tour of the area including a trip to Sedona for the day but the most memorable time was just sitting on the patio in the evening drinking wine and talking.

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My life has been an incredible adventure and I have been so lucky to be able to share my life with Jack for all these years.  We will be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary this December in Hawaii with our family.  The whole gang will be there; Traci, Rene, Samuel, Gabriel, Susan, Kai, my sister Tammy, and some friends.  In the meantime I am going to the Britt tonight with Samuel to watch Kai perform with Smidgen, his band from when he was in school here, as the opening act for Primus, a rock band from the 90’s.  Tomorrow I start packing for the first of my three volunteer vacations for this summer; Lopez, Iron Goat and Eagle Cap one more time.  I have new equipment now and I will leave my jeans at home so this trip should be thoroughly enjoyable.  I’ll let you know how it goes when I write an addendum next year.

Here is a list of the countries I have visited:

Panama, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Canada, American Samoa, Samoa, Cook Islands, New Zealand, New Caledonia, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Philappines, Netherlands and England.  Can you believe I have not been to Yellowstone? – That is on my list for next year.  Jack promised we would take a road trip to visit friends across the states and to see Yellowstone.

This past winter I really got involved in my genealogy and that has been an interesting experience.  I discovered things that I wish I had known when I was in school.  I found out I have some famous relatives;  like President John Adams and his brother Samuel Adams and son John Quincy Adams, Eli Whitney, Buffalo Bill Cody, Edward Fuller who crossed on the Mayflower, and even Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys.  All of these guys are my cousins once or twice removed.  Who knew?  I’m still working on that but I did get into Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) which is something I’ve been interested in for a while.

I think I’m done now.  I know I left out a lot of things but it is what it is.  Jack has been asking me to do this for quite some time.  He says it’s a testament as to who I am and what is important to me and it will let my kids and grandchildren know me better.  I don’t know if he expected it to be a five part epic but I’ve really only hit the high points in a life that has been as exciting and fulfilling as I could have hoped.


Pattys Most Excellent Adventure – Part IV

June 11, 2012

I can never forget our trip to Tennessee in 2006 with Susan and Kai.  We went to see the Smokey Mountains and to visit with some friends that I worked for in Mississippi, Fred and Pat Boatner of Bal-Boa Company.  We flew into Knoxville and then drove all over that state.  First we went to Nashville to pick up Susan and Kai and to see the Grand Ole Opry at the old Ryman Auditorium.  Can you believe that we saw Little Jimmy Dickens and Porter Wagner?  I remember watching them with my folks when I was a kid; then on to Memphis and Beale Street.  This was soon after Katrina hit New Orleans so Southern Comfort was holding their annual music festival in Memphis instead of New Orleans.  We had Southern Comfort straight, Southern Comfort slushies and finished with Southern Comfort in our hot cocoa.  I don’t think I drank Southern Comfort before that but now I can’t drink hot cocoa without it.  And of course we went to see Graceland and that was a lot more fun than I thought it would be.  Back to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Dollywood which is an amusement park owned by Dolly Parton.  Jack was bummed because they didn’t have Dolly Parton pillows; he thought they were really missing a good bet there. And finally we went hiking in the Smokey Mountains and they are beautiful.  Our friends took us to see Cade’s Cove which is an actual historic village in the Smokey Mountains that has been preserved, it was pretty cool. Another great vacation; retirement gets old without a few great vacations thrown in to liven things up a bit.

June of 2007 was my first volunteer vacation in the San Juan Islands, recommended by Diane. This time there was no backpacking and we camped in a park with outhouses and tables and all the comforts of home, well sort of. We worked in several locations on Lopez Island and went one day to work on Patos Island. Patos Island is the northernmost island in the San Juans and it is uninhabited. There was an abandoned lighthouse and seven campsites and you can only get there by your own boat; no ferries to Patos. We met some local people, Lopezians, who were interested in fixing up the lighthouse and partnering with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to open it for public tours and as a museum. The next thing I know I am on the board of a new non-profit group, Keepers of the Patos Light, and return each year to clean the beach around the island and work on the trails.  Read “A Light on the Island” by Helene Glidden and you will understand the draw of this island. Our webpage is,, check it out.

July of 2007 I volunteered to work on the Iron Goat Trail which is an ADA trail near Stevens Pass in Washington.  It’s part of the national Rails to Trails project and in this case is the old and infamous Great Northern Railroad track over Stevens Pass.  This was different because we stayed in a ski lodge and did have the comforts of home and fabulous cooking.  One of the crew leaders was a retired chef who stayed at the lodge and prepared our meals.  My really memorable experience on this trip was meeting Parvin from Iran.  Everyone there was nice but Parvin is one of a kind; a fabulous chef in her own right and she prepared the vegetarian meals.  We went out each day and worked on the trails; I helped with the rock work this time.  This is a thankless job but a labor of love since the work we do seems always to be destroyed the following winter by landslides or flood.  On our day off some of us hiked into Lake Valhalla high in the Cascades and spent a wonderful day just enjoying nature.

In Aug I returned to Eagle Cap Wilderness; I was so sure that I could improve on my backpacking experience with all my new camping skills.  It didn’t quite work out that way; one thing I hadn’t learned was to leave the jeans at home.  As we started hiking, a light mist began to fall and it felt so refreshing I didn’t bother to put the rain cover over my backpack.  This year we were going to hike in and up about 8 miles to set up camp but we didn’t quite make it that far.  After about six or seven miles the rain had increased and hypothermia was setting in, a new experience for me, so we found a new campsite with lots of wood for a warm fire to dry out our clothes.  We set up our tents in the rain and I discovered all the gear in my backpack was wet.  I went to bed in wet clothes and couldn’t get my jeans to dry by the campfire for days.  It rained for two days and we worked on the trails but we were wet and miserable.  Finally, the sun returned and we got dried out before we decided to mutiny.  This time on our day off we hiked to the top of Eagle Cap and what a view it was.  This area is called the Oregon Alps and includes Eagle Cap. Sacajawea and the Matterhorn, named after its Swiss cousin.  Like the Swiss Alps, the glacier-carved valleys are deep and U-shaped. The peaks are sharp; one of the tallest is the 9,826-foot Matterhorn which we could see from the top of Eagle Cap.  At least I got along better with the mules this time until the last day.  We were trying hard to finish the work that Sweyn, our poster-boy forest ranger, had scheduled and so I decided to speed the mules up a little bit  while returning to the trail with side-packs full of dirt.  Sweyn said the mules were close to rebelling when I started jogging with them back to the trail to get another load of dirt, but we finished it all with their help.  That day my friend Diane hiked all the way to our worksite to bring us wine and fresh gazpacho made from her garden.  What a treat; one of the things you miss most on these trips is fresh vegetables.  That was one of the best meals ever.

Just one more fun activity for this year; I talked Jack into working with me on a Saturday on the Iron Goat trail and then I wanted to show him all the neat places I had seen on Lopez Island so we headed over there for the rest of Labor Day week-end.  Some people I had met on Lopez, Linda and David, own a 20 acre barley farm on Lopez and we stopped by to say hey.  They were in the middle of a crisis; the barley was ready to harvest but the harvester was broken.  Some fellow Lopezians offered the use of equipment from the early 1900s but needed additional hands for the job.  We decided to give it a try and what fun we had.  The thresher was driven by a steam engine owned by a dot com millionaire who made it big with Netscape and he ran the machine and pulled on the whistle to liven the place up.  The barley was cut into sheafs which we picked up and loaded on a truck.  Other volunteers, mostly college girls, showed up to help and we were introduced to the wonderful community spirit that lives on Lopez Island.  The volunteers helped with the harvest to get the barley straw to build Lopez Community Land Trust houses.  You wouldn’t think work could be so much fun.  Linda and David fed us and let us camp out in their backyard in exchange for our working and we have been great friends ever since.  I also work with Linda on Patos Island; in fact, she was one of the primary movers for that non-profit project.

In 2008 I returned to my favorite volunteer vacations, Lopez Island and the Iron Goat Trail.

I guess I should mention my other volunteer work that takes up part of the year; AARP Tax Aide.  After I returned from Am Samoa I started volunteering to help prepare tax returns electronically for the elderly and low income.   I worked with this group when I was with the IRS and it seemed a natural progression.  The work is enjoyable and seems to be appreciated.

My really fun work is quilting.  Something I put aside in 1985 when I started college.  Recently I finished a quilt, all by hand, that I had started in about 1982 before we moved from Fowler, CA.  And I completed a small version of a quilt that I started for Susan in 1984; I turned it into a wall hanging since she no longer has her room decorated in pastel pink, blue, and lavender.  I wrote a poem about her and stuck it on the back so she can’t just throw it away.  It was so nice to complete those projects that were always nagging at the back of my mind.  I now do most of my quilting on the machine but it is still fun.  Something left over from watching my mom and grandmother as a kid.

I think I forgot to include a trip to Hawaii with my friend, Terry, from work but since I did that again in 2009  I’ll just include it here.  I have a friend that owns a timeshare in Maui and needed someone to go there with her.  What can I say; I’m always there for a friend.  We spent a week on Maui at her timeshare and a week on Hawaii at the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC).  On Maui we drove the road to Hana and to the top of Haleakula; on Hawaii we hiked in the Volcanic National Park and visited Rainbow falls.   On Maui we discovered Maui Brewing Co. and on Hawaii we discovered Kona Brewing Co.; both are worth the trip.  Her digs at the Ka’anapali Beach Resort were quite a bit more luxurious than my digs at KMC but we had fun at both.

Oh my gosh, I’m only up to 2009; I don’t know how I ever had time to work.  After the tax season ended I started off the year with a volunteer vacations in Hells Canyon along the Snake River.  I signed up for this with my friend Diane and drove to her place in Walla Walla, Washington.  We drove to the Idaho side of the Snake River and were driven up the river on a jet boat by the park service to a campsite on the Oregon side of the river.  Everything seemed fine, the weather was good, the crew members were friendly and no problems setting up camp.  The problems began when we went to check out Temperance Creek and noticed that the water was a little high from the snowmelt.  Temperance Creek Trail is a horse trail that wanders back and forth across the creek and works its way up the canyon.  In order to do trail work you have to wear good hiking or work boots, a hard hat, long pants and long sleeve shirts.  In order to cross a stream you have to wear water shoes and roll your pants up.  So, we would work a ways up the trail, change our shoes, cross the stream, change our shoes and work some more.  On the return trip to our camp we pretty much followed the same procedure.  As we worked each day, the stream seemed to get a little wider and a little rougher; first up to our knees and then mid-thigh in melted snow runoff.  Another lesson I learned; crocks are not good for crossing mountain streams and always keep your wool socks on for warmth; forget about rolling up your pants because you are probably going to slip and fall in the water anyway.  The first day we crossed the creek 6 times up and six times back to camp.  The second day we had to start out by crossing 6 times to get to our work area and so on.  During the 3 days we worked that trail we counted 74 crossings.  OMG!   Besides that there was poison oak or ivy or whatever about 6 feet high that we had to cut and one day I looked where I had been cutting and a rattlesnake just looked back at me all coiled up waiting for me to get a wee bit closer.  What a vacation!  Diane and I laugh about it every time we get together.  You can’t buy fun like that.  On our day off, the park ranger picked us up in the jet boat and we cruised up and down the Snake River, explored ancient Indian hieroglyphics and basically had a fantastic day.  The rest of the week we just worked along the river trail and tried to thaw out our feet.

In August, I spent a week on Patos Island with five other women.  There is no fresh water on Patos so we had to haul in all the water we expected to use for the week plus all our gear, food and tools.  Patos does have a couple of outhouses but no other amenities like showers so we had to set up a camp shower and adjust.  If you’ve never spent a week on an almost deserted island with a bunch of friends you are really missing a treat.  We cleaned the beach, cut blackberry vines, sawed fallen trees, bushwhacked the trail and generally had a great time.  Parvin was there to help with the cooking and camp life was great.  We ended the week with a birthday party for the lighthouse and were joined by about 20 people with ties to the lighthouse; some were prior coastguard members who had served on Patos.

August continued with my next volunteer vacation to make up for the one on the Snake River.  This time I headed to Maui.  But first Jack and I spent a week on Kauai exploring that island.  We rafted along the Na Pali coast, drove up to Waimea Canyon, and just generally enjoyed ourselves.  I went on to Maui and Jack headed to Oahu to wait for me while I worked at the Hawaii Nature Center.  The center is an educational facility for school kids of all ages to learn about the way Hawaii used to be.  We worked on old trails, built new trails, removed invasive plants, and built a Taro pond.  Building a taro pond is kind of like stomping grapes I think though I’ve never done that.  I remember an ‘I Love Lucy’ episode where she stomped grapes and it looked similar.  You start with a clean dug out area with a little creek water running through.  Then you add back clean fresh dirt and mix it with your feet until you have very thick mud.  You plant the cut off tops of taro and the water just kinda flows over the mud pond. This was the best volunteer vacation ever.  The crew was wonderful; we had bunks to sleep in, showers and best of all we worked on island time.  And even our meals were catered by a local health food restaurant.  One evening after work some of us drove up to the top of Haleakula at sunset.  We were on one side of the crater watching the sun set and then ran to the other side to watch a full moon rise.  Have you ever run across a volcanic crater at 10,000 feet?  That’s not so easy, let me tell you, but great fun anyway.  I’m still Facebook friends with the great people I met on this trip.  When the week was done I joined Jack on Oahu and we relaxed in the hot tub and ate breakfast at Koko’s Café.  I know it’s tough but someone has to do it.

The end of 2009 brought another surprise.  My daughter Susan asked me to go with her to France.  Susan had been to France about three times but I had never been; I thought I would need to wear designer clothes to visit Paris.  Susan said jeans would be ok but no white tennis shoes.  Well, this trip turned out to be a thrilling experience and Susan is about the best tour guide ever.  We went to Arles first to visit the sites of Van Gogh’s paintings and to other parts of Provence to see the Roman aqueducts.  Then on to Paris all lit up for Christmas and Versailles in the snow.  We drank champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower and posed with the gargoyles at Notre Dame.   Susan introduced me to French Pastries and crème Brule, the French Metro and Pont du Carrousel and a boat ride down the River Seine.  The entire trip was magical and perfect.  Who would have thought that I would ever get to Paris- not me.  Retirement is great.

Pattys Most Excellent Adventure Part III

June 10, 2012

Time to get adventurous again; in 2003 I decided to retire early from the IRS and accepted a job with the American Samoan Government in their tax office.  I arrived there in April on a flight from Hawaii that landed at 9:00PM.  My new boss picked me up at the airport and dropped me off in an apartment and left.  There I was alone in the jungle again and I started to become frightened.  What in the world had I done – the jalousie windows were all open and the sounds from the jungle were so scary.  I didn’t have a phone and I didn’t know anyone to call anyway.  It was a long night.  I had no TV, no AC, no Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia FroYo.  Do you know what it is like not to be able to just go to the store and buy whatever you like?   I really had to adjust. 

However, American Samoa turned out to be a great adventure and one of the greatest times of my life.  The people there are warm, friendly and funny.  American Samoa is a country rooted firmly in tradition but pragmatically modern at the same time.  I joined a gym and started dance aerobic classes and had fun, no AC in the gym either.  Every day was so different from what I was used to and full of the wonder of a different world and culture. 

Jack came for a visit and stayed a couple of weeks but couldn’t stand the high humidity.  The humidity and temperature were both close to 100 on any given day. He spent the days with a portable air-conditioner on one side and a fan on the other and a beer in his hand.  Most days he would walk over to Malia Mai Beach Resort and order a Vailima (beer) and read books all day.   Susan also came over before Jack left and stayed about a month.  The three of us had a great time visiting and exploring the islands of Upolu and Savaii in Western Samoa.  Susan was very popular with the locals and received 3 or 4 proposals during her visit there.  One of the proposals was from an 80 something year-old guy that showed us the blow-hole on Savaii.  He ran out, dropped a coconut into the hole and it blew about 200 feet in the air.  We about fell down laughing and when Susan reached into her pocket and pulled out a wad of cash to tip the guy he asked to marry her. 

Susan and I also flew to New Caledonia and Isle de Pine which is a French Possession with a stopover in New Zealand.  There is a tower in Auckland similar to the Space Needle and one of my biggest regrets is not stepping off the tower.  They would put you in a harness and somehow you just dropped down to the bottom on a bungy cord.  Maybe if it hadn’t been dark or if Susan had dared me; anyway, that is still on my bucket list.  What a time we had visiting the boiling mud pools and touring caves filled with glowworms.  New Zealand is defiantly a vacation must.

 While in Am Samoa, Susan volunteered at the local Community College where she helped a professor in the English as a second language department.  A whole year after she left I was being introduced to someone and they said, “Oh, this is Susan’s mom?”  No one seemed to care about my work in the tax office.  It seems like I am always known as Jack’s wife, Traci or Susan’s mom, Rene’s and Kai’s mother-in-law and now Gabriel and Sams grandmother; only when I was with the IRS was I known for myself, no one wanted to claim me then.

That first Christmas I flew to the Philippines to join my daughter Traci and her family.  I met so many of Rene’s wonderful relatives and spent time with my grandsons riding in “jeepneys”, which are colorfully decorated little buses similar to the ‘Chiva” buses in Panama, and exploring Naga City.  On New Year’s Day I headed back to American Samoa but got stuck in Hawaii for a week due to a hurricane that was ravaging Samoa and flights were suspended.  Oh well, I figured I should make the most of my time and took some surfing lessons, my first scuba diving class, and went parasailing and hiking.   I continued in the tax office in American Samoa for almost two years but not all it was work.  Jack came for one more visit and we learned about snorkeling on Ofu Island and stayed with some wonderful people there, Marge and Tito, who owned the local B & B.  They had cabins on the beach and served local island fare at their house.  One night while Jack and I were sleeping something came in the window and landed on our bed.  Jack catapulted out of bed like a shot and turned the light on to discover Marge’s cat had come for a visit.  I continued with my scuba diving and received my Open Water Diving Certification but never did so well at surfing even though I continued to take lessons every time I got stuck in Hawaii (my instructor looked like George Clooney and was a fireman with Honolulu Fire Department).

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One final excursion before I left American Samoa for good was a trip to the Cook Islands, which included “One Foot Island,” with friends, Fred & Fran Niedo and some of their extended family.  This really was a dream vacation; I went scuba diving, pearl and ukulele shopping, and went cross island hiking with a fabulous character named “Pa”.  I will never forget that trip and the wonderful memories.

Working in American Samoa was quite an experience.  We frequently had chickens wandering through the building because the steel roll down gates were all rusted and didn’t work; everything rusts there.  I worked with some of the most interesting people; some chiefs, Miss American Samoa and other, just friendly, warm people.  They taught me all about their culture and let me join in their activities.  I attended festivals called fia fias, fire knife dancing contests, and even tried to learn their traditional dance called the Siva.  The Siva is like the Hula and tells a story with your hands and movements.  I performed at my ‘going away’ party and it seemed to go over ok.  Some of the Chiefs that were there told me that they appreciated that I tried to learn their culture and honor their traditions.  There is one airport in Pago Pago and Hawaiian Airlines flies there twice a week; it lands at 9pm and takes off at 11pm.  It seems like the whole island shows up at the airport to greet family members coming or going.  When you leave American Samoa everyone you know shows up with gifts for you and it is just like a party.  There is a large Filipino community in American Samoa and they kind of adopted me since my son-in-law is Filipino.  They invited me into their homes and included me in their church activities.  In fact, I just visited with Fred and Fran Niedo a couple of weeks ago here in Medford, one of their daughters has moved here with her family.  It was great to see them again; they are both in their eighties and are just such warm friendly people.  I’m lucky to have had the privilege to know them; they helped make my stay in American Samoa so memorable.

While in American Samoa I lived in a compound called “Freddy’s Beach” which was owned by an American Samoan chief who performed the first fire knife dance in Las Vegas.  The compound was filled with government employees from off island.  Some were French, British, Tongan, Indian and American; it was a very diverse community.  Susan and I really enjoyed hiking with the young British scientist who lived in the apartment above mine and a French scientist neighbor.  One week-end we hiked to a French Monument at Massacre Bay on the other side of the island.  It was a very strenuous hike and what a kick it was to listen to the constant bickering between the two guys, British vs French, they really knew how to needle each other. 

Here is a Flickr posting from Susan on our hike:

                       One memory from American Samoa that I would like to forget is almost drowning at Sliding Rock.  I went hiking with a friend from the office, a young surfer-dude lawyer named Benton, and we were snorkeling in the small pools left in sliding rock after the tide goes out.  Benton explained to me that a rogue wave might come in and knock me off my feet but not to worry because it would only carry me to the next pool.  Sliding Rock is a huge lava formation covered with some type of black sea plant that turns to slime when it is wet.  Well of course a rogue wave did come in and knock me off my feet and carried me to the next pool.  Just as I was trying to stand, another rogue wave came in and carried me to the next pool and so on until I realized there were no more pools, just the edge which dropped off into shark infested waters.  Well I dug my feet into the coral and hung on long enough for a wave to come in from the other direction and finally I made it back to shore.  I was covered with blood from all the little coral cuts and pretty shook up.  Benton got there to help me and said, “I thought you were a goner when you went down that last waterfall and I was trying to figure out what to tell Jack;”… typical lawyer.  Later I found out that many people have drowned in that same location just the way it almost happened to me. 

Maybe that is why Benton let me join him during a vacation to New Zealand… trying to make amends.  Benton rented a house in Oakura, NZ for a month so he could go surfing.  He invited me to join him and I did.  When Benton wasn’t surfing we went hiking and traveled by bus, train and ferry as far south as Christ Church.  We took a train across island and did some hiking in the Southern Alps where they filmed LOTR.  New Zealand is a beautiful country and I had wanted to return ever since Susan and I spent a few days there when returning from New Caledonia.  Oakura is just south of New Plymouth which has a great outdoor theater similar to our Britt Theater.  While staying in NZ we went to a Stevie Nicks concert at the outdoor theater and it was so much fun; before that I didn’t know Stevie Nicks was Australian and she is very popular in NZ.  We happened to be in Kaikoura, NZ on St. Patrick’s Day and yes they do celebrate it at the local pubs, which are the best places to eat in NZ anyway.  There is a great boutique winery in Kaikoura where they store their wine inside natural limestone caves.  I almost forgot to mention the avocados that we ate almost every day.  It was avocado season when we were there and we would stop at a local farm and buy these huge ripe avocadoes so cheap, it makes me hungry just thinking about it.  One of the foods you can usually buy in a NZ pub is a ‘pastie’ and they are yummy.  We were looking for a place to eat in Wellington and we stepped into a pub and their special for the day was vegetarian pasties with mango chutney; I still remember that excellent meal.  I was pleasantly surprised that it is not that hard to be a vegetarian in NZ.

I guess being a vegetarian was one of the biggest problems I encountered in American Samoa.  I think I ate a grilled cheese sandwich at “Moms Café” almost every day for lunch.  For dinner sometimes I would drive through Kentucky Fried Chicken to order coleslaw then go to the Pizza Hut for bread sticks.  I could cook my own vegetarian meals but eating out there was always a problem for me.   McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC are recent additions to American Samoan Cuisine and were instant hits.  I think McDonald’s is American Samoa’s largest employer now with about 300 employees.  Everything considered, my experience in Am Samoa was very positive and I hope to return for a visit one of these days.

One of the best perks during my time in Am Samoa was meeting Jack in Hawaii every few months for a little R & R.  We found Coconut Willy’s Bar in the International Marketplace and it became one of our favorite hangouts.  Kevin Mau is a local entertainer and covers Elvis, Santana, Jimmy Buffett, and CCR just to name a few.  We were just walking through the marketplace and we heard this great music and discovered a real Hawaiian treasure.  CWs closed this year but we have some good memories from our time spent listening to Kevin and watching the great local dancers that always danced to his music.  I try to return to Hawaii at least twice a year to replenish my soul and soak up the calm atmosphere.  Another treasure I picked up there is “IZ’ (Israel Kamakawiwoʻole);  I can listen to “White Sandy Beach” anytime and my blood pressure drops at least 20 points.  Even writing about Hawaii calms me; the sound of the waves, the smell of the jungle, and walking on the beach in the moonlight makes me want to hop on a plane.

Back home again in 2006 and excited about finding a new adventure so I went to SOU to join another Natural History Field Trip.  In order to join the class you have to have the professor’s approval so I just went down and asked to join – to my surprise the professor said “No”.  He also said that he thought I was too old and would not be able to keep up with the class or contribute anything important.  “Too old”!?  Really!!!?   Well that was very upsetting at first but then I decided there must be something out there left that I could still attempt so I went online searching.  Luckily I found volunteer vacations listed on the REI webpage.  I decided to check that out and gave them a call to see if I could join a backpacking trip to the Eagle Cap Wilderness and they said “Yes”.  I didn’t tell them that I had never really been backpacking.  Off I went to GI Joes to their sidewalk sale and bought a special deal – a tent, a sleeping bag, and backpack for $99.  Not very smart and I have learned since then that the right equipment is very important for a good backpacking experience. 

Here is a link to a Flickr group for the Eagle Cap Volunteer Vacation:

A volunteer vacation through the American Hiking Society is not actually a typical vacation.  It consists of you paying to take a vacation to volunteer to do trail work in different areas of the country and you also have to pay your expenses to get there.  I have done over a half dozen since my first one in 2006.  I found out I’m not too old to backpack and can actually give back by helping to maintain the trails.  Let me get back to that first volunteer vacation where I was such a novice.  I had about a week to get ready and so I packed up my gear and we headed to the Wallowa Mountains.  Jack drove me to Joseph, OR and we camped at Lake Wallowa for a couple of days before my trip.  We attended the Blues and Brews festival at the lake and took the tram ride to the top of Mt. Howard.  Then Jack dropped me off at the ranger station in Enterprise, OR and my new adventure began.  We backpacked into Eagle Cap Wilderness along the Hurricane Trail for 5 or 6 miles and set up our camp.  We carried our own equipment but a Forest Ranger came along on horseback and brought tools and cooking equipment carried by four mules.  Luckily I met a very nice experienced backpacker, Diane, and she taught me how to set up my tent and gave me a lot of good advice about camping.  One thing I discovered is you can’t use power tools in the wilderness so the work is all done with hand tools like pulaskis, McLeods, and cross-cut saws.  The mules were used to haul dirt for us when we need to fill in a trail and they are great to work with as long as you don’t try to mix them up.  I learned the hard way that they have a favorite working partner and they will kick or strike out when mad.  Luckily I learned my lesson with a strike and not a back-leg kick.  Also in the wilderness there are no latrines so you have to learn to dig cat holes; enough said about that.  We cook our own meals at the end of the day and enjoy the camaraderie by the campfire in the evening.  There is always a day off for sightseeing so we headed up to Echo Lake about 8,000 ft altitude for our day of rest.  Anyway, as you can see, my first backpacking experience was fun, exciting, and addicting.   The next year I signed up for 3 volunteer vacations.

Pattys Most Excellent Adventure-Part II

June 8, 2012

Camille 1969

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I guess this segment should start with Hurricane Camille which hit the Mississippi coast in August 1969.  Camille was one of the few category 5 hurricanes to hit landfall in the twentieth century and was the second strongest in recorded history.  Wind speeds over 200 mph and unknown just how high because it destroyed all the wind measuring instruments.  It spawned hundreds of tornados and killed hundreds of people, many of whom had developed a blasé attitude toward hurricanes and were having macho hurricane parties.   We were living in Back Bay Biloxi in a mobile home so we went to the base when the hurricane struck.  We had five trees down on our home and were without water or power.  Jack sent Traci and me to stay with his sister Omie at Eglin AFB near Pensacola, Florida while he went out on patrol with the AF to search for bodies.  I had just graduated from Business College with a degree in bookkeeping and was continuing with computer classes learning COBOL and FORTRAN and using the IBM 360 and data punch cards. Later that year I went to work for Bal-Boa Construction Company as a bookkeeper.  Bal-Boa cashed in on the building and reconstruction boom on the Gulf Coast after Camille.  We sold our mobile homes, the one we lived in and one we used as a rental, and moved into base housing on Keesler AFB.   In 1970 we decided to buy a farm in California near our friends Emily and Fred as an investment.  It was a 20 acre vineyard with two rental houses on it.  We grew grapes to make raisins and Fred sharecropped the farm for us.  We never made any money on it but usually came close to covering expenses.

Jack’s next assignment was to Lowry AFB in Denver, CO.  We headed across country again in the spring of 1972 in our Chrysler convertible.  Well, halfway across country anyway.  I was so excited about the move because I read that Denver had over 315 days of sunshine a year; only they didn’t say that a lot of those days were also below freezing.  We bought our first house for about $20,000 and thought we had just signed our lives away.  We didn’t even spring for the extra $1500 it would have cost to get the basement finished.  We did that ourselves and it would have been a lot better to let the builder do it.

In Denver we did a lot of bike riding and went on frequent week end trips exploring Colorado and the Rocky Mountains.  We’d take off on the spur of the moment without a thought to maybe take a coat or prepare in some way and we’d end up at ‘The North Pole’, a Christmas village near Colorado Springs, or ‘The Flying W Ranch’ where they serve chuck-wagon dinners to 300 people in half an hour.  Traci began school and I had mostly part-time jobs and devoted most of my time to taking care of her.  Jack was teaching electronics at the base and most of our friends were fellow instructors and students.   I finally learned to drink coffee and play bridge.  Jack was now a Master Sergeant and an Instructor Supervisor at Lowery AFB.  We had great fun partying and dancing at clubs, usually at Fitzsimmons Army Base or Buckley AFB.  We met several life-long friends while there and are still in touch with them.

Our next assignment was to Sacramento, California.  We wanted to live in California, where we planned to retire, and the only way we could do that was for Jack to cross-train into Recruiting Service.   We bought a house in Crawford’s Barn, a development on the American River not far from Rancho Cordova and Jack became an Air Force recruiter working at the Post Office in downtown Sacramento. We were enjoying life and were getting pretty settled with things the way they were; we even had a garage sale to sell all of Traci’s baby things.  Then our neighbors next door; Bill and Donna, he was an Air Force pilot who was retraining to become a lawyer, and across the street;  Lou and Cheryl Vianni, an architect, invited us to go with them to ‘Poor Red and Rich Opal’s’ in Shingle Springs up in the Gold Country for barbecue ribs and drinks.   What a happening place.  It was a hangout for students from McGeorge Law School and had an enormous horseshoe bar that seated about a hundred and a couple of picnic tables in the back that served ribs.  By the time your name was called for a table, you were pretty well wasted on Gold Cadillacs.  I think the ribs were good but who knows.  Anyway, nine months later, Susan was born in April 1977 when Traci was ten years old.  What a change.  Susan more or less took over our lives.  She kinda grew up with three parents – Traci has a lot of parent in her.

Our last move for the Air Force was to Travis AFB, California where Jack was promoted to a job at Squadron Headquarters for the Recruiting Service, a small move but an important one.  We bought a house in Vallejo on “Ralph” street and I hated it.  When it came time to move in I couldn’t do it and just sat down and cried.  I couldn’t believe it when Jack said “f— it we don’t have to move in and turned around and sold it.  We moved into base housing at Travis instead.  We bought an Arabian horse which we kept at the base stables and the girls and I had a great time showing our horse in the local arena.  Traci won a lot of ribbons with “Nossirah”; he was a beautiful full-blood Arabian and was well trained.  Jack now had his ‘twenty’ in and decided to retire when another farm came up for sale in Fowler.   It was another vineyard and only about a half-mile from our friends, Emmy and Fred.

We thought this would be our last move ever.  We bought the farm and the girls and I moved in January and Jack continued to work until August 1979.  He joined us on weekends until he retired and then he attended Fresno State College and made raisins that we sold to Sun-Maid.  He graduated with a degree in Viticulture and everything was going great.  1982 was going to be the year that we would make enough money to pay the farm expense loan and have enough left over for the next crop year.  Well, when everything is going great look out.  A freak storm came up the coast and rained on the raisins in the field.  We managed to save most of the crop but the added expense ate up our reserve.  On top of that Jack started having chest pains that he didn’t tell me about and decided to sell the farms so that I wouldn’t be burdened with that when he died.  It turned out, he had angina, an infection in the lining around his heart, and didn’t die, which is a good thing, but we were kind of disillusioned with raisins by then and Jack was anxious to start a vineyard to make wine and we weren’t happy with the school environment for Susan and Traci.

We wanted to transition easily so we bought a 50 acre hazelnut (filbert) orchard in Estacada, Oregon until we could find the perfect southern exposure to plant those vines.  The girls thrived at the schools in Estacada and the orchard was beautiful with a view of Mount Hood from our deck and plenty to keep Jack busy year round.  Then a couple of more setbacks came along; first, the filbert crop had the worst set in over 50 years and the crop was so small it hardly paid to harvest it.  Then, the next year, it never stopped raining and we were unable to mechanically harvest our nuts and, at the same time, the guy who bought one of our vineyards, an Indian who lived in London, England and worked for BOAC,  decided he didn’t really want to farm.  To make a long sad story short we lost the farm in Estacada since we didn’t have the payment from California and didn’t want to move back there.  Jack decided to go back to work for Uncle Sam and took a job with USDA, which required an Aggie degree, and we accepted an opening in the Farmers Home Administration office in Medford, Oregon.  Best move ever.

I was very adamant about wanting to live in Ashland so we decided to rent for a while until we could sell the farm in California again.  Jack convinced me to attend college since I had never had the opportunity before so in the fall of 1985 I matriculated to SOSC (now SOU).  One of the toughest things I’ve ever done was to walk on that campus and sit for the SAT.  I managed to survive and began a 2 year degree.  I found that I loved college and stayed on through 1990.  Traci started college a year later and we had fun attending classes together.  I graduated in ’88 with my 2-yr degree, in ‘89 with my bachelor’s degree and in ’90 with my Master of Science degree in Business Adm. with an Emphasis in Accounting.  I’ve got to mention my favorite classes which turned out to be field trips in the Natural History department.  In the summer of my junior year I enrolled in a field-trip where we camped our way up the coast, over to Bend and hiked up the South Sister.  This was an eye-opening experience for me.  I loved the adventure and the outdoors and the camaraderie and it was thrilling.  I was the only accounting student in the Natural History classes and the only Natural History student in the accounting classes but it worked for me.

In January of 1991 I started my career with the IRS in Medford.  All employees with the IRS have to undergo an audit and remember when Jack thought he could get the best of the IRS; well, a mistake was made when we sold the farm and we owed a huge tax bill.  Jack said, “just quit” and I said, “that won’t make the tax bill go away.”  So I went to work for the IRS and Jack worked for USDA and we suffered through the bureaucratic nightmare that working for the government turned out to be.  Two years after I graduated I attended another summer session; this time we went to the Steens Mountains.   I couldn’t quite get the love of adventure out of my system.   We were both successful in our new careers and I got a bonus from my college career.  When I was a grad assistant I introduced Traci to a young Assistant Professor that I worked with and he is now my son-in-law.  Traci and Rene were married in 1995.  At this time Susan was struggling with medical problems and dropped out of high school.  That was a very trying time for us and for Susan too.  She left home and struck out on her own.  She eventually overcame her problems by changing to a vegan diet, who knew?  She got her GED and started college at Edmond’s Community College in Washington.  While working in the computer lab there she often helped people from Microsoft who convinced her to send in an application and she was hired.    Before long, she was in a fantastic job that was tailor made for her; she had cut her eye-teeth on computers since we bought our first computer in 1984, when she was seven, and Susan took to it like a fish to water.  Apparently, Bill Gates saw her value.

Traci became pregnant in 1996 and we were able to buy the property adjoining our property and we built a new home on the combined lot.  Traci and Rene bought our old home and gave us our first grandson in 1997and our second grandson in 1999.  What is better than having a daughter and her family living right next door and being a part of their lives and having grandsons playing in your yard?  Our other joy is watching Susan develop into such a great person and sharing her life with Kai Strandskov, an Ashland kid that we knew back when he was in college and now works with Sue at Microsoft.  Susan took a break from Microsoft and returned to college and completed a BA in Linguistics from UW.  They don’t live next door but we do get great gifts from the Microsoft Store and as an added bonus, Kai is a drummer in several ‘Heavy Metal’ bands and we’ve been exposed to a whole new world of ‘music’.  In fact, he will be playing with “Smidgen” at the Britt Festival next week as an opening act to “Primus” and I have tickets.

Pattys Most Excellent Adventure! Part I (by Patty)

June 7, 2012

Patty’s Most Excellent Adventure!

My adventure really begins when I met Jack Ware on a blind date in Aug. 1962. I had graduated from Springfield High in June and Jack was home from the Navy after graduating from Springfield High in 1959.  We were engaged before the Columbus Day storm which we spent together at his sister’s house.  I was working at Sears in Eugene and they closed the store early after boarding up the windows; Jack picked me up from work and his sister lived close by so we went there since the roads were pretty well closed down.  We were married on Dec. 29, 1962 and I can’t imagine that I could have had a better life.  One of the reasons we got married in Dec. was so that Jack could claim me as a tax deduction.  He was so romantic as he said, “we’re going to get married anyway so we might as well do it now so we can take advantage of the tax laws.”  Little did he know that the tax law would catch up with him years later when I went to work for the IRS.

Wedding 29 December 1962

We were just going to elope but my mom talked us into having a small wedding at her house with both families present.

In the spring of 1963 we were both out of work so he enlisted in the Air Force and in April we packed up everything we owned into a 1957 Dodge and headed across country to our first duty station at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS.  We drove straight through and arrived in Biloxi in the middle of the night so we slept in the car along the highway overlooking the beach.  When I awoke in the morning it was almost breathtaking.  My first adventure away from home and the Gulf of Mexico was beautiful with that first sunrise.  We found an apartment off base along the beach in an old plantation house called “Harvey House.”  We traded in the Dodge for a 1961 Austin Healy Sprite that we called “Jeffers” and toured the south coast, from Mobile to New Orleans, every weekend that we could get away.  We discovered beignets and chicory coffee at Café Du Monde and the amusement park at the beach on Lake Pontchatrain.

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That was also the year that JFK was killed; I was working at Sears in Gulfport and we all ended up down in the TV section of the store crying as we watched the news story unfold.  One of those memories you never forget.  And then it was our first Christmas away from home.  Sears was having a sale on fruitcakes so I bought some to mail home and left them overnight on the table.  The next morning when we got up there were ants everywhere; OMG, we couldn’t afford to replace the fruitcakes so we cleaned them up and sent them on their way.  Nobody eats fruitcake anyway, right?

In January, Jack completed his training and we were headed across country again with most of our stuff including an ironing board (don’t ask why) in “Jeffers.”  Our new destination was Madera AFS near Madera, CA.  I went to work at Sears again, in Fresno, and during that time met some friends that had a big influence on our lives, Fred and Emily Adair.  Emy and I worked together in the lingerie department and became friends immediately.  We traded in the Sprite for a Nash Rambler station wagon, dumb huh.  What can I say.  We explored CA with Emy & Fred and I stayed with them on their farm when Jack was sent to his next duty station, Albrook AFB, Panama, a week before I turned 21.

Now, the adventure gets good, my first airplane ride.  After Jack flew off into the blue, I had to pack up everything, drive the car to Oakland for shipping and then live with Emy and Fred in Fowler, CA until Jack could find housing and get everything arranged for me to join him.  Finally, in June I took off from LAX on PanAm Airlines.  What a thrill; 21 and flying overseas with my own passport.  I was always carried away watching the Dinah Shore show when she sang “Far Away Places” and now I was on my way.  Our first landing was in Guatemala and their runway is on a plateau; I thought we were going right over the edge, but I remained calm, being such a seasoned traveler.  Finally, we arrived in Panama City and Jack was there to greet me but they wouldn’t let me through customs.  He was jumping up and down trying to make a deal with them to let me through for at least ten minutes, I don’t want to think about what he had in mind, and then I found the right paper that they were looking for, my copy of his orders.  Jack had found us an apartment in Panama City behind the Sears store.  It was furnished with a single bed, two borrowed lawn chairs, an ironing board that doubled as a table, a hot plate, and a double track Sony tape player.  After about 2 days in the apartment catching up, we started exploring Panama.  About 3 days later Jack was sent on the Andes run to repair radio equipment at our embassies in South America.  I was left in the apartment with a stalk of bananas and no one to talk to and no way to get to the base (I didn’t have a local driver’s license yet).  We had neighbors but I was too shy to introduce myself.  So I ate bananas, listened to Doris Day and cried; so much for being the big adventurer.

Sears wouldn’t hire me because I couldn’t speak Spanish so I went to work for the Panama Canal Company, then the BX, then the Army Commissary.  In the meantime, Jack continued his bi-monthly trips to places like Chile, Argentina, Peru, Brazil and Uruguay, just to mention a few.  The AF even gave him a clothing allowance for civilian clothes so he could attend parties at the Embassies when in the area.  I was so envious, I couldn’t believe it.  He ate out all the time, bought new clothes, attended parties and then flew home and wanted home cooking and a little love.  It always took a little time for me to adjust when he returned because I wanted to go out and he was never there during a crisis; like the reverse going out on the car, so why did I need him when things were fine.  Anyway, we adjusted and had a lot of fun exploring Panama and the canal.  We even drove to Costa Rica and stayed in a great little hotel in David, Panama that was built right over a stream.

During this time, we had decided to have a baby but I couldn’t get pregnant.  Finally, about a year later, we were successful and our first daughter, Traci, was born Jan. 10, 1967.  The pregnancy was fairly easy except for the broken foot and cast during my eighth month.  One Sunday morning I wanted Jack to take the garbage out and he was busy doing something so I decided to take it out myself and stepped off of the curb wrong and fell down.  I limped back to the apartment and the foot just got more sore and swollen as the day went by.  Jack dropped me off at the clinic on base the next morning and it turned out to be a fractured bone on the outside of my foot where all your weight goes when you are pregnant.  They put on a plaster cast up to my knee and sent me off on crutches.  Jack picked me up and dropped me off at a friend’s house, Vivienne Mayberry who was married to Maj. Maynard Mayberry, until he could get away at noon to take me home; he was always a dedicated worker.  He took me home and left me to fend for myself which wasn’t easy being eight months pregnant, on crutches, and a having ceramic tile floor.  We had some great adventures while I had my cast on; after the plaster hardened the doctor added a rubber piece to the bottom so I could walk without the crutches.  Jack had just made a new friend, Terry Fuqua, who was born and raised in the Canal Zone, and he was anxious to show us the Panama of his boyhood.  We went flounder fishing along the Panama Canal and my cast kept getting stuck in the blasted rock that lines the bank of the canal.  Jack was sweet as he motioned for me to try to keep up a little better.  My cast got wet from absorbing the water and it had to be changed.  Next we went to the interior (jungle) so the guys could go sliding through holes in the rocks as the stream surged through after rainstorms in the mountains.  I was just watching but got caught in the rain before I could get back to the car.  Yep, my cast got wet and it had to be replaced.  Then, we went body surfing on Pina Beach on the Caribbean side and, though I didn’t go in the water, the cast got wet again from walking on the beach.  Needed another cast.  Finally, we went orchid hunting in the swamp and even though I wrapped my cast in a plastic bag it got wet.  The doctor said no more, this was the last time he would change my cast, next time he was going to put me in the hospital to stay until my foot healed.  What can I say, we were young and invincible.  We survived and the cast was removed in time for Traci to be born.  I won’t even discuss that experience; thank goodness we forget some things easily.

After about 3 months of being home I couldn’t take it and we hired a live-in maid and nanny.  I went back to work at the commissary.  We found a new apartment with a maid’s room, which was handy, so I could knock on her door when I needed help.  For instance, one night after we were all in bed Traci got sick and barfed in her crib.  I got up knocked on the maid’s door and she cleaned the crib while I cleaned Traci.  An hour later we had to repeat the procedure.  What a life.

Let me relate a little story here that has always been one of the most embarrassing times of my life.  We had a one bedroom apartment and Traci’s crib was in our room.  Traci seemed to have phenomenal hearing and we had to be very quiet so as not to wake her up.  So, at first we moved to the living room on the couch and that bothered me because we had sheer curtains over the glass sliding door and jalousie windows and I was sure people would see us.  So, we moved to the kitchen where there was just a small window over the sink.  Well, to make a horrible story short, we had some friends who lived above us and they were invited one evening by their friends from the Air Force Band who lived in the neighboring building to watch these people making love in their kitchen.  The band members would have voyeur parties to watch us.  Their friends did not know that we were also friends; thank goodness they told us and we just moved back to the bedroom and learned to be quiet.  I was afraid to look anybody in the eye and I just knew the whole base knew about us.  Talk about being mortified – I still shiver when I think about it.

When Traci was about 6 months old Jack was sent to Chile for a 3 month tour at a weather station in Vina Del Mar on the coast.  I was feeling all grown up again and decided to surprise him with a visit.  His buddies at work thought it was a great idea and everyone pitched in to help.  I had friends checking on the nanny and Traci, friends who were supposed to be in touch with Jack and I was on my way, my 2nd airplane flight.  Lan Chile airlines this time and I had even taken Spanish lessons.  While on the plane someone started passing around bullets that everyone was putting in their pockets; I asked a question in English and the bullets were quickly snatched away.  I guess they were preparing for the coup.  Well we landed in Santiago and Jack was not there as I expected.  The only thing I could think to do was hand a taxi driver a $20 and say Hotel Carrera in my best Spanish.  Someone had told me that the Hotel Carrera  Hilton was across from the American Embassy in Santiago.  I was the first one to clear customs, because of the $20 and I found myself having lunch with a Major on duty at the Embassy.  It turns out that Jack was late in getting the message and he had gotten into some trouble at his new temporary  assignment and he was busy mending fences.  He finally made it into Santiago and then we took the train to beautiful Vina Del Mar.  It was like the honeymoon we never had.  It was winter in Chile and so the motel on the beach was pretty much deserted except for the American Air Force personnel staying there.  We had a wonderful week and then it was time for me to return and Jack had heard of a military plane that was leaving Santiago that I might be able to join.  All we had time to do was catch a cab, (too late for the train), and head to Santiago.  The pilots said they would be happy to have me on the plane so I left Chile without actually getting my passport stamped; maybe I am still legally in Chile!  We didn’t find out until later that the plane was full of GI’s returning from Easter Island and they had been stationed there for a year without female company.  The pilots made a wise decision and had me fly in the cockpit with them.  So here I am sitting at the feet of the co-pilot looking at the nose windows at my feet as the sun rises over the Andes.  Another thrill of a lifetime;  the pilots wanted to land in Lima Peru so they could give me a tour but we had Major Hollis (Jack’s Boss) with us who had been to  Easter Island and had contracted yellow jaundice so he nixed that idea and we headed straight to Panama.  The pilot said he could fake some engine trouble and force a landing if I really wanted to see Peru but I thought we were probably in enough trouble already; at that time military spouses were not supposed to fly unaccompanied unless on orders.  Jack took some heat over that but it wasn’t anything he wasn’t used to;  like the time he got in trouble because I got caught speeding on base right as he was being reamed out by his Commander for another speeding ticket I had received earlier (that darned Chrysler).

Finally, a few months before we were scheduled to leave Panama we received base housing.  We went ahead and moved into furnished base housing so our household goods could be shipped back to the states and be there when we arrived.  Our new assignment was back to Keesler AFB and so that meant another road trip.  And what a trip it was in our new Chrysler 300 Convertible; we left Panama in March 1968 when Traci was 14 months old and it was before disposable diapers.

As we were driving along the Pan-American Hwy in Northern Panama we noticed that people were waving to us from their porches and we were thrilled to be so popular.  All of a sudden the beautiful highway ended; it just stopped in the middle of a jungle and we realized that the friendly people were trying to let us know that the road wasn’t finished.  We had to backtrack and drive over what looked like a dry riverbed for miles to get to the road as it began again in Costa Rica.  Our next hurdle was the Pass of Death in Costa Rica; a part of the highway that is so high it is in the clouds and you can only cross it safely during the middle of the day.  As we approached this area we discovered that a landslide had blocked the road and we had to turn back or take a dirt trail across the very top of the mountain that had not been used since the highway was first built.  We discussed this with about four other cars of people traveling also.  We decided to go for it and we all took off in a caravan to cross the mountain, only we had a much heavier car than the other travelers.  We came last and as Jack was driving the trail was sliding; he made me walk with Traci because he was afraid the car was going to slide down the side of the mountain.  We made it to the other side and we all kissed the ground and hugged each other and continued our journeys.  One of the biggest hurdles along the way was border crossings.  The borders were closed for 2 hours at siesta time and closed at night so the timing was critical.  We got to one border 5 minutes late and had to sit there for two hours as the guard took a nap under a tree.  We usually got pretty good service because the guards were really impressed with our fancy car and our diplomatic passports, they always checked out the headlights because they were the kind that lifted up when you turned them on – they were concerned that we didn’t have headlights.  One of our best experiences along the way was Nicaragua.  We stayed in a pension near Lake Nicaragua and it was beautiful.  This was before the earthquake that devastated Nicaragua and it was one of the most peaceful countries we travelled through in our epic journey.  How many people have ever had the thrill of driving the Pan American Highway from Panama to the U.S.? At the border to Guatemala the guards were not impressed and they wanted us to hire a guard wearing bandoleers to protect us from the bad guys.  We looked at him and opted not to have him join us and drove right through Guatemala without stopping.  At each border crossing they sprayed our car down for bugs, as if they couldn’t just cross the border anyway, and asked us about fruit.  One time when we said no fruit the guard said with attitude, “What’s a matter don’t you like our fruit?”  I think they were used to eating confiscated fruit during their siesta time.  We made it to the Mexican border just before closing and decided to rest up a few days in Oaxaca, Mexico at the Hotel Victoria.  We rested, went shopping, and sent all the diapers to the hotel laundry which turned out to be a big mistake.  They had never seen pre-folded diapers and thought they were large handkerchiefs so they starched and ironed them.  When I explained that they were diapers they had to be washed again and our laundry bill was larger than our hotel bill.  But Traci seemed to enjoy the nice soft newly pressed diapers.  By the time we reached Mexico City we had ruined all of our new 8-ply tires and bought new tires in San Antonio, Texas.  One of our tires was ruined as I was passing a Mexican bus that was doing about 80 miles an hour, I guess I was doing about a hundred, and hit a broken coke bottle – the old green kind.  Jack had to help me get the car under control as we were fishtailing all over the highway not knowing what had happened.  When we finally stopped, Jack pulled half a coke bottle out of the tire.  After all that, the trip from Texas to Oregon seemed pretty uneventful.  It was wonderful seeing our families after 3 years and of course showing off our beautiful daughter with her golden curls.


June 3, 2012

Zombie handPatty said something today (every once in a while I tune in just to make sure I’m not missing anything) which struck me as very astute:  “…Jesus was not the kind of Zombie that went around eating people!”  That was an epiphany for me.  I realized that Zombies are really getting a bad rap and it’s because no one’s telling their side.  All we ever hear about is the mindless, stumbling re-animated corpses that ‘go around eating people’.  I’m sure there are all kinds of Zombies just like there are all kinds of people.  Some may be open-minded progressives that just want to give everyone a chance and some may be something else.  (I’m not going to let myself get sucked into a political argument here.)  The point is that we’ve seen that no one is ever as bad or as good as they’re made out to be in the public perception.  The public can be swayed by whoever has the Talking Stick at the time or the Talking Stick that you like to listen to.  (A ‘Talking Stick’ is a Samoan artifact that bestows the right to speak on the one who has it.)   These days you can buy a ‘Talking Stick’ and broadcast whatever kind of nonsense you wish and a lot of people will believe whatever you tell them even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Why not give Zombies the benefit of the doubt?  We shouldn’t just be writing off a whole demographic just because they have some undesirable traits that are more prevalent than in the rest of society. I’m not saying that we should elect one as President and give him the opportunity to stack the Supreme Court with Zombie friendly members that could set us back years in our development toward becoming the country we always imagined ourselves to be, but we shouldn’t automatically assume that they’re all mindless automatons that never think for themselves either.

Another thing, just because you ‘think for yourself’ doesn’t mean that you’re not full of shit either.  People inherently have different abilities and capabilities and some are just not as good at some things as others.  Things like thinking or lifting weights or brain surgery.  So we don’t necessarily want other people deciding some things for us.  Like letting a majority decide what is right and what is wrong when that majority can be influenced by a big Talking Stick.  I guess, all things being equal, its right that the majority decide things but that presupposes that the majority isn’t being unfairly influenced by special interests like maybe people that are making money by waging war on Zombies.

So, if you ‘follow the money’, just who is profiting from this paranoia about Zombies?  Hollywood!  They’re the rascals that have been pounding us with this one-sided propaganda about Zombies for years.  They never show Zombies as sophisticated intellectuals with good table manners do they!  They’re always stumbling around and eating some good-looking babe’s brains.  That’s just wrong!

I’m not so foolish as to think that I can point this out and change people’s perceptions about Zombies but maybe the next time someone mentions the “Zombie Apocalypse’ you will think about it and not be easily frightened into thinking that it’s a bad thing.

zombies are coming

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