Dream a Little Dream

Glen and Kay live in the same campground here in Kingman as Lisa and I and it has been great getting to know this very nice couple from Ohio.  Their story fascinates us.  As Glen tells it, Ohio became nothing but drudgery in terms of climate and lifestyle.  And four years ago, when they visited their son who had moved to California, they made a stop in Kingman and fell in love with the place. They loved the warm weather, the hills and canyons, the nearly year-round sunshine, and the lack of dreary rain and snow.  Lisa and I agree that the Mohave Desert has its own unique beauty – very different from Ohio and Kentucky.  But to say we have fallen in love with it – is just not true.  But for Glen and Kay it became their greatest dream to live here and so they went back to Ohio and put their home up for sale.  That was four years ago.

Upon arriving here in Kingman in June, Lisa and I first met Glen and Kay at the place where people meet here at our campground – in the pool.  We struck up a conversation and soon became friends.  They moved lock, stock and barrel from Ohio to Kingman just a couple of weeks before we arrived – after finally selling their home which was four years on the market.  They are having a pre-fab home built and have been staying at our campground until it is completed.  We have followed the progress of their home almost daily and now they are just a week or so away from moving in.  We are hoping that we can get out to their place before we leave here on Nov. 7th.

Lisa and I have talked many times about moving away to some exotic place – something, perhaps, every couple discusses at one time or another.  Lisa thinks dreaming like that is a good thing.  And I agree.  Probably most couples go no further in their lives than just talking about dreams.  Very few actually live them out.  It is impressive, to me, that Glen and Kay dreamed of moving to Kingman, Arizona four years ago and never gave up on that dream.  Although their home would not sell year after year – still they dreamed of being here.  They would travel out here occasionally and look over the land they had purchased and there they would dream.  Now their dream is about to come true.  Good for them.  Their dream is just that – theirs.  It is not ours – nor would it probably ever be.  The thought of living permanently in Arizona is just not appealing to us – it is just not our dream.  Glen talks about how miserable he was in Ohio and how the weather there made life so difficult.  Here, in comparison, the weather is marvelous – most of the year.  Every morning when I see the two of them on their way for coffee, I like to say things like – “Boy what beautiful weather – I think I could move out here.”  They always laugh and I think they like hearing me say that. Lisa and I have made it a point to be encouraging to them – we would want the same from people if we were living out our dreams in such a fashion.

Years ago there was a man I knew who was a member of my church and lived a rather quiet life with his wife and children.  He did not say much but had his role as church van driver – which he performed dutifully.  When he was not working – he took meticulous care of his yard and home.  After he passed away it was told that he had made the comment just before he died that he always wished he could have stayed just once in a hotel.  He had never stayed in a hotel in his life.  But then it was too late.  I have never forgotten his story.  How sad it is to think of someone having such a simple dream in life and never realizing it.

Perhaps pursuing a dream is all about the pursuit.  It is that carrot that dangles in front of our lives that moves us forward – that pushes us to go from one day to the next.  Having a dream is healthy.  Unfortunately, there are only a few people who actually realize their dreams.  Congratulations to Glen and Kay – whose dreams are coming true.

Dreaming of getting home soon – Steve and Lisa


A Desert Halloween

[hist whist]

By E. E. Cummings

hist      whist
little ghostthings
little twitchy
witches and tingling
hob-a-nob     hob-a-nob
little hoppy happy
toad in tweeds
little itchy mousies
with scuttling
eyes    rustle and run     and
whisk     look out for the old woman
with the wart on her nose
what she’ll do to yer
nobody knows
for she knows the devil     ooch
the devil     ouch
the devil
ach     the great
We have a little book at home that features that famous EE Cummings poem, “Hist Whist”.  I would read it at Halloween to our two kids when they were little and they still remember that strange poem and the even stranger art work.  It was one of our Halloween traditions.  Along with that there was the annual viewing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and trying to decide what costumes each would wear.  Their most memorable was when Justin dressed as a football referee and Heather dressed as a fairy princess.  Heather swears we always worked harder on Justin’s costume than hers and that she was left to fend for herself.  (That is just not true, Heather.  You did not want to be the football referee and Justin refused to be a fairy princess. We’re sorry but those were the only two costumes we had).  Boy, how we miss those days and how we miss those Halloween’s.
Last year Lisa and I spent most of October in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I cannot think of a better location to spend the fall than in the wooded hills of the Susquehanna Valley of central Pennsylvania.  In contrast, I cannot think of a place more unlike that than where we will spend Halloween this year, the Mohave Desert.

The autumn has always been my favorite time of year.  It seems that most people feel the same way.  Who doesn’t love the cooler temperatures, football season, the changing colors of leaves, sweatshirts and, of course, Halloween?  Where Pennsylvania and our home in Kentucky are perfect places to spend the fall, here in Arizona the weather is very, very nice.  Almost too nice, in fact.  We are still putting on sun screen and swimming in the campground pool and it is nearly November.  If not for the Halloween decorations at the local stores, I would swear it was June.  And that is hard getting use to.

Lisa and I are not complaining – don’t get us wrong.  But as we near our time to leave Kingman and head back to the colder fall temperatures of home – it is almost as if our DNA is telling us something is just not right.  We should not be wearing shorts on October 23rd and the swimsuits and sunscreen should have been packed away two months ago.  I also have this weird desire to go rake something.  My yard in Kentucky is surrounded by enough trees to keep my rake warm until January – but out here – nothing.  I suppose I could move the rock and dirt around a little bit but forget finding any leaves to pile up.  I did see a yellow leaf in the little tree next to our RV the other day.  It seemed so out-of-place.  I just stared at it and waited to see if it would fall.  It may be my only chance this year to see such a sight here in the desert – where trees are a rarity and cool temperatures shocking.  By the way – the little yellow leaf is still hanging on.  I am tempted to climb up and pull it loose and then rake it into a big, black bag.  It would help me get my bearings.

Halloween in Arizona is probably not too unlike other places in America.  Children will certainly go door to door trick or treating and by the looks of things many people dress up, decorate and celebrate the day. And there are plenty of strange desert creatures scurrying about that have been scaring the hell out of Lisa and I since we got here in June. But something just seems amiss here in the desert when it comes to Halloween.  Maybe it’s the warm temperatures, maybe it’s the lack of colorful trees, or maybe it’s something else.

Maybe it’s just not home.

See you soon!

Steve and Lisa

The Heart Attack Grill

Lisa and I took what will probably be our last trip to Las Vegas this past Wednesday.  Vegas is only around one hundred miles to the northwest from Kingman and the drive through Black Canyon and over Hoover Dam is worth every drop of diesel fuel.  Our trip on this occasion was for me to play golf with JC and allow Lisa to do some shopping.  It was a treat being able to play the Las Vegas Country Club – one of  (if not the oldest) golf courses in Las Vegas.  Our day ended with JC and his wife, Carol, driving us to downtown Vegas for supper.

Admittedly Lisa and I have limited knowledge of all there is to see in Las Vegas.  From what JC and Carol have said – the locals stay away from the famous “strip” and if shopping or gambling are your interests – it is advised to head toward the outlying casinos or to the old downtown “Fremont Street” area.  Downtown Vegas is where you will see the classic neon lights and famous places such as “The Gold Nugget” and “Binions”.  The overhead canopy of lights is worth the trip and light and music shows entertain every half hour.  But it is not just lights that you will see on Fremont Street.  While walking through we spotted a man in a thong wearing angel’s wings, a scantily clad showgirl offering discount tickets to one of the shows, street musicians, pan-handlers, drunks, parents with their small children, human statues and street performers pretending to be everything from ‘Spiderman’ to ‘Woody’ of ‘Toy Story’ – and that was just in the first one-hundred feet.  What a place!

But the highlight of our evening took place in a restaurant called “The Heart Attack Grill”.  Where all restaurants in the world are offering health conscious menu items, we found at least one that not only does not offer lighter fare – they paddle customers for not finishing their fat-laden meals.  When I say fat-laden we are talking fries cooked in pure lard and milk shakes that come with a pad of real butter floating on the top.  The ‘Heart Attack Grill’ offers only two meals: Cheeseburgers with chili, bacon and all the fixin’s or a hot-dog with the same.  But these are not just cheeseburgers.  Here you can order the Single, Double, Triple, Quadruple, Quintuple, Sextuple, Septuple or for $21.28 an Octuplet “Bypass” burger.  You can add bacon to any of the burgers and for $7.40 you can have forty slices of bacon added to your ‘Octuplet’ burger.  The name indicates the number of half pound hamburger patties on each burger – meaning the “Octuplet “Bypass” has four pounds of hamburger along with the chili, cheese, onions and – you get the idea.  Lisa and Carol split a single burger and JC and I managed a single “Bypass” on our own.  I asked if they had salad and I thought the waitress (dressed as a nurse) was going to slap me.  The menu also includes “Flatliner Fries”, “Butterfat Shakes”, Candy Cigarettes, and non-filter (real) cigarettes.  Here you can also drink wine from an IV bag hanging on a pole and take Vodka shots from a syringe.  Alcoholic beverages are served in prescription bottles.  But that is not all –

Upon arriving at the place you are given a hospital wrist band and a hospital gown to wear during your meal.  Where the female waitresses are dressed as nurses – all the male staff are dressed as orderlies or doctors.  But the real kicker is that if you do not finish all your food – the nurses will paddle you.  I’m not talking little love pats here.  They lay the wood to you.  As we ate our meal – several college aged guys were lined up in the center of the restaurant and assumed the position.  As a camera captured their facial expressions, they were asked to lean against a rail while a “nurse” proceeded to swat them three times – hard.  Hard enough, in fact, that these tough guys were hopping, rubbing, wincing and standing for most of the night.  Carol was so concerned about getting that treatment that she had JC wrap up what part of the burger she could not finish and put it in his pocket.  I had nightmares about the paddles from my younger school days and – trust me, I left nothing on my plate.

Here the weight challenged folks are actually celebrated.  With scales both inside and out – people who weigh 350 lbs. or more are allowed to eat free.  Before you even ask – all of us had to pay.  We laughed at the absurdity of the place.  If one word could capture the essence of Las Vegas – I would go with “absurd”.

There is no place quite like Las Vegas.  Without question there is nothing here that you cannot do or see.  People love it or hate it or tolerate it.  Vegas has the finest restaurants in the world and the most dazzling floor shows and entertainers.  They also have a place where it is not how little you eat but how much.  The “Heart Attack Grill” is like nothing you have ever experienced before.  If you are ever in Vegas – head to Fremont Street and stop by for a good ol “Bypass”.

Just make sure you clean your plate.

Viva Las Vegas!

Dear Conner Jack,

Dear Conner Jack,

Your Mimi and Mac wanted to write and tell you how much we have missed you these past months and how excited we are to see you again.  Of course, we are looking forward to seeing your mommy and daddy and everyone else.  But we have really missed you.  We have not seen you since you were just a little more than two months old.  And now you are almost seven months old.  In just three weeks we will be driving home and we hope you are ready for a lot of giant hugs and kisses because we have a lot stored up.  Your mommy sends us pictures all the time and, boy, you are growing so big.  They say you are a happy baby – always smiling and hardly ever upset.  We have seen you smiling and laughing on the videos your mommy records for us.  I’ll bet they are funny aren’t they?  And we know how much you love your Aunts and Uncles and all the other relatives who think you hung the moon.  Hung the moon?  Oh – that is just a silly saying.  We will explain that to you someday.  You have so much to learn and it will be so much fun.

You know what?  When your mommy and Uncle Justin were little – Mac would hold them standing in his one hand and they would just grin and grin and other people would stare at them.  Do you think you can do that?  We bet you can.  If you feel like it and if your mommy and daddy don’t care – you and Mac can give it a try when he gets home.

How do you like your bedroom?  Did you know that Mac painted that room for you?  We sure hope you like baseball because your daddy sure does.  Mac even painted a score clock that gives the time you were born.  And some of the clothes we have seen you wearing were bought in a place called Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  It is a very famous place that Mimi and Mac look forward to taking you someday.  But you will need to be a little bit bigger for that trip.  Ok?

Hey Conner – know what?  Mimi and Mac saw some horses here in Arizona and we also saw a place called the Grand Canyon.  It is a really just a big hole in the ground but you will really enjoy seeing that someday.  Gosh – you have so many wonderful things to see in your life and Mimi and Mac can’t wait to share those things with you.

Now we want you to know one more thing – OK?  We love you very much.  We are so sorry that we missed seeing you grow so big these last several months – but we had to be away.  Now we are aching to hold you again and see that smile and hear that laugh that everyone has been talking about.  We even have some gifts to bring you that Mimi bought and we think you will really like them.  It will be so much fun.

Now, Conner Jack, you keep growing and keep smiling and laughing.  Be good for mommy and daddy.  They work real hard to take care of you so you need to help out all you can.  Just keep smiling real big for them every morning and that will make their day so much better.  That is all you have to do – for now.  One day very soon you will be looking out that front door and your Mimi and Mac will show up.  Please save one of those big smiles for us.

We love you, Conner Jack!

Mimi and Mac

Los Angeles Wholesale District

It is a four and a half hour drive from Kingman Arizona to Los Angeles.  Lisa and I have become rather familiar with that drive as we have now traveled Interstate 40 and I-15 to the “city of angels” a half-dozen times.  About all we know of Los Angeles is they sell a lot of stuff.  I say that because all I have really seen of the place is the wholesale district.  I am told that LA has a lot of other things like museums, sports teams, and other points of interest.  But I cannot verify that.  I can verify, without question, that if you don’t like shopping – stay the hell away from the wholesale district in LA.

Lisa and I match up pretty well.  She is a shopping guru who could haggle over a piece of gum.  I, on the other hand, hate to shop or haggle and have overspent on just about every purchase I ever made.  We balance each other out fairly well.  The LA wholesale district is all about haggling and buying and where it is Lisa’s heaven it is my tormenting hell.

Yesterday we journeyed back to that area to buy items for our son’s upcoming wedding.  In particular, we were there to pick up twenty-two Manzanita trees (which I spoke of in our last post).  In August we were there and discovered these decorative tree branches (painted in assorted colors) that Lisa thought would be a unique decoration for the wedding reception.  We reserved twenty of the trees then and agreed to be pick them up yesterday. We arrived at the florist shop around 10:00 in the morning after leaving Kingman around 5:30AM.  Many (if not most) of the merchants are foreign speaking and it was no different at the place selling these two foot high trees.  Our first inquiry about our trees was met with a scowl and shrugged shoulders from one of the employees.  Our fear all along was that they would lose our order and our four and half hour drive would be wasted.  Fortunately, another worker arrived and told us our trees were the ones piled up along one of the walls – nearly to the ceiling.  We began gathering all our trees at the front of the store along the sidewalk.  What sat before us was this miniature forest of white tree branches that would have to (somehow) fit inside the backseat of our truck.  My only thought was we would be forced to tie them into the back of our pick-up and secure with a tarp.  In my mind I could see Manzanita branches flying all over I-15.  This would not be easy.

The florist owner told us to leave the trees on the sidewalk and continue our shopping.  He promised to make sure they would be there when we returned later in the day.  In fact, he went a step further and told us he would put them in the back of his pick-up truck which was parked in front of his store just so no one would take them.  I was very appreciative of him saying we could go shop some more – as if Lisa needed anymore encouragement.  Thanks a lot!

So Lisa and I continued milling around the fabric, purses, jewelry, clothes, toys, food venders, perfume, rugs, hats, shoes, luggage, spandex leggings, – you name it – it was for sell.  After walking around ten city blocks of merchandise – we decided to stop for lunch and have “MexiCali Dogs” (Hot dogs wrapped in bacon and cooked with onion and pico de gallo sauce). The smell of the cooking sausages was too tempting to pass up.  For me, this is the best thing they sell in the entire place.  But, because there was no place sit down to eat – we were forced to stand on one of the street corners and woof down our dogs while hundreds of people squeezed past – all looking for that magic purchase.  While standing on the corner eating, I noticed a pick-up truck pass with a truck full of Manzanita trees.  I looked at Lisa and said, “There goes our trees.”  Sure enough, the owner must have needed to run an errand and he had no choice but to take our trees with him.  We would have laughed harder at the ridiculousness of the moment except we both had mouthfuls of MexiCali dogs and I’m not sure anyone would have stopped shopping long enough to save us from choking to death.

From there we ventured into the famous, “Santee Alley”.  I commented to Lisa after about a half mile down this narrow path lined with merchants yelling out their bargain prices that I had reached the seventh circle of Hell.  Lisa pushed us through the crowd and I realized that not only was I in hell – I was shopping with Lucifer.  When I said that to her she just laughed harder.  Man, I hate when she does that.

By the end of the day Lisa had made purchases of clothing for the wedding, purses, jewelry and other items that filled two large trash bags and several smaller bags.  At one point I sat down on the sidewalk with the bags all around me and would not have been surprised if people starting throwing money at me.  While I strained carrying bags down sidewalk after sidewalk, Lisa continued to look for more bargains until we finally (mercifully) arrived back at our truck.  Now we had a back seat full of purchases and still had to find room for twenty-two trees.  Airplanes were flying non-stop out of LAX and as I gazed up at the planes coming and going – I wished I was on one.  Take me somewhere – anywhere – just get me out of here!

We arrived back at the florist shop to pick up our trees in the mid-afternoon.  Two of the trees were going to our friends, Martha and Marcello, and we still needed to take them to their home in Highland California as promised.  When I told the florist shop worker we had to fit all the trees into the back seat of our truck – he looked at me like I was nuts.  We began loading the trees and amazingly they all fit.  From the floor board to the ceiling – our truck was (and is) a maze of white tree branches. I have my doubts that we can get them out of the truck – but..,  As I write this the trees are still in our truck’s backseat and they will be there for the next four weeks until we are ready to come home.  The things we do for our kids – right?

After stopping for supper with Martha and Marcello and dropping off their two trees – we headed back to Kingman.  It was an exhausting day – but, I have to admit, another memorable one.

There is a possibility that Lisa will be contracted to return to Kingman in January.  As I wrote earlier, if that happens we will leave our RV here and store it until we return.  If that happens – we will have to find some way to get everything home in our truck – including twenty-one trees (we realized after we got home that they had loaded one too many).  If that happens I will be looking to rent a U-Haul.  If that happens I will need to purchase another truck hitch since I left my other one in Owensboro.

The truth is – we don’t know what will happen before our Arizona adventure is over.  I can tell you that if Lisa decides we need to take another trip to the LA wholesale district – this little gray duck ain’t going.  I’ll send her by herself and let her shop all she wants.

On second thought – maybe I should go with her.

Thanks for reading!

Love, Steve and Lisa

Cleaning Out the Junk Drawer

Everyone has a junk drawer.  At our house back in Kentucky we have several.  These are places where we throw things that we are hesitant to discard and too lazy to do anything else with.  This cache of collected junk piles up until the drawer no longer opens or the cabinet no longer shuts.  At some point we either find a new place for more junk or finally purge.  We actually have a small version of a junk drawer out here in our RV.  A plastic container sits on our cabinet that collects those things that have no other place to go.

I thought about all this as I sat down to write this morning and realized I have a lot of little stories that I need to do something with.  Individually, there is not enough to write a complete post with but I really don’t want to throw them out.  They have just been sitting in my writing junk drawer for a while.  Time to purge.

The Hairdryer.  We had a hair dryer once that would automatically shut off when it became too hot. Maybe they all do that – I don’t know.  I figured out that when in a hurry I could blow into the front of the thing to cool it off quicker and get back to drying my hair.  A little “click” could be heard from somewhere deep inside the device and that was indication it was ready for more drying.  While drying my hair the other day here in our RV – our hairdryer stopped working.  Being a newer hairdryer I was unsure if my blowing trick would work but I thought I would give it a try.  I proceeded to blow into its end and listened for that “click”.  Nothing happened after about a minute and still it would not work so I continued blowing.  I blew until I started to feel a little dizzy only to find that it still would not turn back on.  Finally, I looked for some other possible solutions – like plugging it in.  Just glad Lisa was not home to see that one.

Manzanita Trees.  Lisa and I are headed back to Los Angeles this weekend to pick up twenty Manzanita Trees.  Twenty.  Let me back up.  Our son is getting married at Disney World in November with a reception planned for mid-December in Owensboro.  As part of the reception decorations – Lisa has the idea to decorate Manzanita branches for all the tables.  She saw them while shopping in the LA wholesale district and asked me if I could create them myself and save the cost of buying them.  These branches are pruned into the shape of small trees and are good for decoration because of their shape and durability.   After learning it was illegal to cut Manzanita branches in Arizona – and seeing these were already attached to a wooden stand and painted white – and after learning we could buy them for ten dollars each – I told the man we would take twenty.  Done!  Now all we have to do is figure out how to get twenty Manzanita Trees in our truck back to Arizona and then where to put them in our RV to get them home in November.  I have a feeling we will have Manzanita hanging, laying, sitting – even sleeping with us for the last few weeks.  This adventure continues.

Waiting for a Decision.  The hospital where Lisa works is trying to hire needed Ultra-Sound Techs in order to avoid using travelers.  However, they are still short-handed and have talked to Lisa about returning for another stint in January.  Lisa and I talked about it and if contracts could be signed before we go home in November – we will leave our RV here in storage and return to it in January.  If that cannot be guaranteed we will consider other offers – preferably one closer to home.  Getting all our stuff home in just our truck (including twenty Manzanita Trees) is another issue.

Follow Up.  Lisa received a call from the Long Beach Police Department to follow-up with her about the Disneyland ticket scam I wrote about in “Racing With the Pigs”.  They are begging us to follow through on testifying against these scammers since they have had so many victims of this crime in the past.  It may require that Lisa and I both return to California to testify after the first of the year.  If we are here with her job it will be no big deal.  If not – that is a long way to go for a testimony.  We’ll see.

Pirates in Los Angeles.  My beloved Pittsburgh Pirates play in St. Louis tonight for game five of their best of five National League Division Series.  Since the Dodgers have now eliminated the Braves, there is a possibility that I can see my Bucs in LA this weekend.  But first they must win tonight in St. Louis – a tall order but here is hoping. Let’s Go Bucs!

What is a Jolly Roger?  Our daughter, Heather, is one of a kind – in a really, really good way.  She is a terrific new mom, a strong wife, and an incredibly reliable employee.  We are extremely proud of her.  She also makes Lisa and I laugh – hard.  The motto this year for the Pittsburgh Pirates is “Raise the Jolly Roger”, a reference to the name of pirate flags – the ones with the skull and crossbones.  I don’t know where that originated but it has been the rally cry for this year’s Pirate baseball team.  I often post that saying on Facebook after a Pirate victory.  Recently I received a text from Heather asking “What is a Jolly Roger?”  I explained and she replied that she thought it was a candy.  ‘Raise the Jolly Rancher’ just does not have the same effect.  God, we love her!

A Desert Halloween.  This will be the second Halloween in a row that Lisa and I will be away from home.  Last year we spent Halloween in Gettysburg Pennsylvania.  I cannot think of a better place to be (except maybe Transylvania) than Gettysburg at Halloween.  The ghosts stories of Gettysburg as told during the various “Ghost Tours” that are sold there – make it one of the (so-called) most haunted places in America.  We have no idea what Halloween will be like here in the Mohave Desert.  I suppose they tell ghost stories out here as well.  My guess is they will have something to do with tarantulas, scorpions, and coyotes.

Have a great day!

Steve and Lisa

With Our Noses to the Sunrise

“While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader.  When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle.  When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws.  And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.” 

Reepicheep from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Our camper sits on the east side of our campground here in Kingman.  Each morning we watch the sun rise above the Hualapai Mountain range and light up the Mohave County landscape.  There have been very few mornings in the past four plus months that we have lived here that the sunrise has been hidden behind clouds.  The bright morning sun gives way to warm (often very warm) days and dazzling sunsets to the west.  The desert has its own unique beauty.

Somewhere over those mountains is Owensboro, Kentucky.  Waiting in Owensboro are family and friends.  We are thinking more and more about them lately.  Over that horizon – where the sun rises two hours earlier, is home.  The writer Thomas Wolf wrote that home was the place that when you go there – they have to take you in.  For us – home is the place that when you go there – they don’t think you talk funny.

There comes a point in our travels that Lisa and I begin turning our mind and hearts toward home.  We have reached that point here in Kingman.  This week we realize we are one month away from leaving Arizona in it’s dust and turning our RV eastward toward Kentucky.  In our minds – our time is up here and the work is completed.  Now it is a matter of lasting out the final weeks and saying good-bye to Kingman and the friends we have made here.  Sure we still have four weeks before the end arrives – but now we see the end in sight and the desire to see our family and friends in Kentucky grows with each of those rising suns.

Whenever Lisa and I have traveled with her job to a location – there has been a  recognizable pattern of adjustment we have encountered.  Upon first arriving in a place we find the first month to be a time of acclimation – of figuring out locations, attractions, just learning how to get around.  After that first month we simply settle into a place.  It is then that we get to know people – make friends, make return trips to our favorite restaurants – find a church, the best grocery store, and learn how to navigate the Wal-Mart.  From that point until about a month from leaving we just accept where we are and make the best of it.  At the point in which we are at now (one month from going home) our desire to get home gets very intense.  I would say it is the closest to homesickness we have experienced.

So we will continue to write about our final experiences here in Kingman.  Next week we will travel back to Los Angeles to pick up some items for our son’s upcoming wedding.  And there will be more things to laugh about before our time here in the Mohave Desert is over – rest assured.

But in the meantime – Lisa and I will be staring at those mountains to the east with a little more intensity and longing – because we know what is waiting on the other side.

With our noses to the sunrise!  Love, Steve and Lisa

J.C. and Me

People talk about supernatural events that happen in which unexplained occurrences changed a life or a moment in a life.  I’m not sure if what they say is the truth or the stretched truth or if what happened is actually a miracle.  What I do marvel at is how life takes turns that are so unexpected and unplanned that one has to wonder if a higher power is orchestrating things – conducting the symphony of events.

That is the way I often look back upon relationships that Lisa and I have established in our travels. To think that we would be friends with people in Hanover, Pennsylvania and Loma Linda, California and now Kingman, Arizona seems so implausible that the only explanation would have to be the hand of God.  As I have said before, the hardest part of traveling is making friends and the hardest part of going home – is saying good-bye to them.  Today I say good-bye to my golf buddy, J.C. and I can’t help but marvel at how we connected.

I was swimming one day in the pool here at our KOA campground in Kingman, Arizona when I met up with two couples in the pool having a conversation about gambling.  At first I just listened, weighing whether I wanted to introduce myself.  One of the people in the pool was J.C. and I learned in that moment that he was a retired craps dealer.  After a few minutes I told the group that Lisa and I were here with her job until mid-August (she would be extended until the first week of November – but we did not know that then) and soon we were talking about many different things.  A relationship was born.

Over time I learned that J.C., who with his wife is a full-time RVer, enjoyed playing golf and so we made plans to play that week.  After that first round together we decided to play twice per week and have done so regularly for the past four months.  I will miss J.C. as he and Carol head back to their home in Las Vegas.  We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and will try to stay in contact with each other.  Who knows if we will ever meet up again in this life?

J.C. is a fascinating person.  Speaking of miracles – he told me it was a miracle that he became a craps dealer.  When he was eighteen, while in Reno Nevada, he walked into a casino and was beckoned to a craps table by a dealer working there.  He talked to him about how to play the game, which he knew nothing about, but was more interested in how much money the dealer said he could make.  Being only eighteen – he was three years away from being of age to work in a casino – but promised himself he would return.  He did return three years later and was interviewed for a job by the casino owner.  J.C. told the owner during the interview that he wanted to be a slot machine mechanic and work up to being a craps dealer – eventually.  The boss told him to come back at 2:00AM that next morning and he would start.  He was told he would be dealing craps and he did that for the next thirty-plus years.

Having worked during his career in Reno, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas – he has some amazing stories.  He tells of the shady dealings of the mafia in old Vegas and how his first wife was a professional musician playing there for such stars as Wayne Newton and Sammy Davis Jr.  Sammy Davis, according to J.C., treated his staff well, often rewarding them to first run movies at a rented out cinema after his show was over.  Wayne Newton, on the other hand, was arrogant and cheap.  Offering only free copies of his music – something none of the musicians were remotely interested in after playing the stuff night after night.  He told me about a man trying to kill his wife after she hit the jack-pot in a mega-million slot machine but did not play the right number of coins – nullifying the win.  The man tried to choke her to death right on the casino floor.  I asked him once what was the most he saw won at his table.  The answer: three-quarters of a million dollars.  And he still seemed bitter that they only gave him a three thousand dollar tip – which had to be shared with all the other eighty casino workers.  Compared to the stories and experiences of his life – my time working with middle school kids for twenty years – seemed embarrassingly boring.

Playing golf with J.C. is one of the funniest experiences I have had on a golf course.  Neither one of us will be making the PGA anytime soon – trust me.  His ball would go in one direction and mine the other and by the time we had found his – we had forgotten the location of mine.  At one point J.C. said, “I guess I’m just too stupid to play.”  Every time I think about him saying that – I laugh.  I knew I had very little golf skill – but never really thought I was just too stupid to play.  He may be right.  Once while looking for our balls – he said, “We need to start writing things down.”

And it is the laughter that I will miss the most.  I will never know how God managed to get the two of us together.  But I am certainly glad he did.  Kingman, Arizona can be a difficult place to live – the heat is oppressive and the small town attractions and activities limited.  I almost gave up playing golf at one point in my life – really did not enjoy all the time I spent in frustration.  But here it helped to pass some long days when Lisa was working and, in the end, at least helped me to feel like I had done something – even if I did score a 105.  But more than that – I developed a friendship with perhaps the most unlikely of people I can imagine. I think God did a good thing.

Thanks J.C.!