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Six years ago last weekend, my son Michael and I had a new word enter our vocabulary.
Just one word…
It’s a word that brings back memories that are still filled with wonder, laughter, awe, and not an insubstantial amount of reverence. It was the first hike for me after a long time of recovery, and was kind of a celebration of sorts, to prove that we could go out and do something more than just ‘recover’. By way of introduction, Michael was a Boy Scout at the time, and, it turned out, this was a traditional camping trip that our Scoutmaster, Paul, did on President’s day weekend.
You might be thinking, “But President’s Day weekend is in February!”
The Norwegian Memorial was a 5 hour drive to get to from Seattle.
It was out west of Forks, Washington, long before any TV show brought attention to it, and after you got there, there was a hike in. I had to work Friday and couldn’t get away, and it was a hike not recommended to do in the dark.
Note: What happens in this story (note: all of it is true) is what caused us to go out the next year – the adventures of which you can read in the Shi Shi beach story. It’s in that story we learned about hiking in the dark – and if you read that, you might get a better picture of why this doesn’t happen often.
So Michael and I headed west, in the Saab (1968 Saab 96 Deluxe, with the V-4 Engine). He navigated, I drove. At one point we were bombing down a gravel logging road, and having watched bits and pieces of the Paris-Dakar Rally on TV some time earlier, he’d commented that that would be fun to do, and it didn’t take me long to realize that we were doing just that.
We were doing about – oh, 30 or so, which on a road that had simply been bulldozed through the forest actually felt pretty quick. I yelled at him over the roar of the engine, the tires sliding sideways every now and then just enough to throw gravel up against the bottom of the car, “Hey Michael! you know what we’re doing?”
And the thing was, we kind of were…
I took a picture (hey, it’s me, what would you expect?)
We had a rough set of instructions that would get us into the right neck of the woods, so to speak, but we didn’t have any more detail than that… There were areas we had to travel slowly and carefully on, but there were some parts, the straight and gently curved stretches of the gravel road that we traveled down just fast enough to make it fun and exciting, without being so fast that we’d damage the car or ourselves if we got ourselves stuck. And there was the fact that this was the kind of road I’d learned to drive on (and it was a Saab I’d learned in.) So I knew the limitations of the car from a few decades of driving experience.
It was, to put it mildly, fun. (in fact, I’m still smiling about it as I write this)
Not on the map was our primary goal, which was, “Find Paul’s truck”, because if we found that, we’d find the trailhead, so that’s what we did. By the time we got there, it was 3:00, so we didn’t have too much daylight left. We’d been told it was a mile to get in, but Paul had developed this reputation that meant we had to convert “Paul Miles” into “Standard Miles” so we figured it might be a bit longer than a standard mile, and so we scarfed some snacks and started hiking in. The trail was barely distinguishable from the surrounding forest, but we figured if we kept heading west, eventually we’d hit this big patch of water called the Pacific, and we’d be able to find things from there. After some time, we took a break and sat down on a log to rest for a little bit. By this time, we’d learned two things about the trail:
- If it was muddy and you got stuck in it, chances are you were on the trail.
- If it was impassable, chances are, you were off the trail, and had to get back to the mud.
It was nice to have things clear and simple like that.
We got up and hiked for another half hour or so with Michael leading the way, and somewhere in there I realized the brand new tent I’d been focusing on, the one that was tied to his backpack, wasn’t there anymore.
Sun going down in the west, nothing but trees and the beginning traces of darkness, and maybe a tent to the east.
Thing is, we still had light, we just didn’t know how far (and thus how long) we had to walk, so we didn’t know how much time we had to go look for a lost tent.
We decided he’d go back for no more than 10 minute to look for it, and it’s good we had radios with us to communicate, otherwise the trees absorbed ALL sound. It was truly eerie how loud he could yell from just a few feet away and it just didn’t penetrate the trees.
Later I took a picture at that place, because it was suddenly so easy to understand how someone might get totally lost and never come out…
We were glad we’d each brought a tent of our own. It gave us a spare.
We kept walking, and eventually the trail started going sideways downhill toward the beach and we could hear the surf in the distance. We found where a tree had fallen and blocked the trail. It was too big to climb over, too low to the ground to crawl under as we were, and since we were on a hillside, we couldn’t really go around. So we took our packs off and crawled under, then kind of lobbed the packs over the top of the trunk laying there and put them on when we’d gotten to the other side. It was nice that we succeeded in that, it meant not having to climb into the tree to get our backpacks back down. After that, the trail was pretty clear. In fact, when we got to the bottom of the trail, it was next to impossible to miss…
This part of the trail could actually be hiked in pitch black darkness. Here – take a look…
I also took this one looking back on the way out but this is roughly what we saw on the way in.
Some of the scouts saw us and were both surprised and delighted that we’d made it. One took my pack off my shoulders for the last few feet, and of course when that happens, you just feel like you’re floating, so I floated over to the campsite (just left of center in the picture above, and it was right…
It was amazing.
When we finally got there, there was a small fire on the beach (okay, small, relative to the size of the beach) –
There was only rule about the fire, and that was that if it could burn, and you could lug it to the fire, it got burned. As you can see, they were stoking the fire with a couple of small sticks as we walked up.
The fire was worth its weight in gold for all the time spent just staring into it, focusing on everything, and nothing…
There was time to walk on the beach, and just be alone with your thoughts, whatever they were,
and even though the weather was so cold, there was a chance to sleep in a warm sleeping bag, in the same old tent that we’d slept in at Fort Ebey years ago when Michael was a Webelos Scout. We did see evidence of some strange wildlife out there, causing us to wonder where genetic engineering had gone drastically wrong.
It was a wonderful place…
There was time for pondering, and reflection…
There was time to etch your autograph anyplace you could find to put it.
There was always a pot of water on…
… for hot chocolate or coffee…
We had some guests for dinner, and found all sorts of things on the beach…
We never had any problem with food spoiling that weekend. Of course, the fact that it didn’t get much above 27 degrees in the daytime might have helped that particular issue out just a bit. It wasn’t windy, wasn’t rainy, just clear and bracingly cold.
There was an abandoned silver mine south of Norwegian by a couple of miles. We hiked down there with the rest of the scouts who’d gone and stopped to see some of the decaying machinery, where what had once been a boiler of steel able to harness the power of steam had been scoured by the salt air for so long that the steel could be peeled away with your fingernails.
Since we’d gotten there late, Michael and I took a hike up north, to the actual Norwegian Memorial, hidden away off the beach, a memorial to the sailors who died in a shipwreck many years ago.
On our way to see the memorial, we saw many downed trees, and this one…
…was truly a Goliath among them, making all of the others look positively tiny in comparison.
We kept walking, not really knowing where exactly what we were looking for, but eventually we found it, nestled deep in the trees, away from the beach, in a place you could easily miss.
Our Scoutmaster, Paul, had been keeping it tidy once a year…
…for the last thirty years or so as part of being with the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association in Ballard, where we live.
The mussels we had for dinner one night simply covered a huge rock. It was impossible to walk anywhere without stepping on them. And it didn’t take long at all to gather enough for dinner.
Once we got back to the campfire, we had what was again, amazing food. We learned that you can make something called Cioppino in a dutch oven, and since I’d spent a few years playing with cameras, we decided we’d take a picture of it. Of course, trying to take a picture of a dutch oven over a fire likely wouldn’t win any awards, and since we didn’t have any studio lighting, we just used the campfire for light and I think a couple of flashlights. We waved them around until we thought we might have something, and who knew that you could come up with a picture like this with just a couple of flashlights and a campfire?
Come to think of it, who knew mussels made pearls?
And, Pop Quiz:
When you’re eating them, how do you know the difference between the sand in them and those pearls?
If it’s sand, your teeth crunch it…
If it’s pearls, it’s the other way around…
(That particular lesson only takes one time to actually sink in…)
The temperature was cold, but no wind and so that evening a huge cargo net served as a wonderful hammock for two to relax and watch the sun set,
and watch the fire burn to embers.
But the most incredible part of it all was something not in any photographs.
As I said, it was 27 degrees in the daytime. After dark, it got colder still. One night, we went out onto the wide, wide beach for a walk. The beach was mostly flat, so we walked and walked, and as we got further away from the light of the campfire, and our eyes got adjusted to the dark (there was no moon that night) we found that we could see, literally, in the dark. It’s because the stars were brighter than we’d ever seen, and even Orion, huge in Seattle, was small in comparison to all the other stars now visible.
We kept walking, our eyes in the heavens, as wide as children seeing those stars for the very first time.
It was only when the sand we were walking on became a little slippery, and a little soft, like crème brulée, crunchy on the top, soft underneath, that we slowed and stopped. It took about three steps or so, and we all looked down…
…and found ourselves in a world that words cannot adequately describe.
The salt water had frozen as the tide went out, and the beach we’d been on had been transformed into ice that extended as far as we could see in front of us, and far enough left and right to feel like it went to the horizon.
As I looked back up, I noticed that I could see Orion again, not once, but twice. Once upside down below the horizon, once right side up above.
Wait a minute…
I looked left and right, up and down, and still saw stars.
I kind of skootched my feet around a little to be sure I wouldn’t fall and realized we were not standing under the stars, we were standing among the stars. We were standing on a mirror, stars visible above us, below us, and all around us.
As our eyes registered it all, and our brains struggled to comprehend the magnitude of what we were seeing, the sound of the waves to our right faded away with the tide. We were quite literally in awe.
We stood there for a few minutes, in silent reverence for the creation before us and around us.
We weren’t standing on ice, on a beach, we’d been transported into the heavens.
We were standing in the stars.
It was Amazing.
It was Magical.
For some time, I used to exchange notes with my pastor about the little ‘aha’ moments I’d had during some of his sermons. I would always title these emails, “The view from the Balcony” because that’s where I sit when I’m in church. I confused him once when I sent him this story, with the subject line
“The view from the parking lot…”
But it worked, and he liked it. By way of intro, this happened a few years ago (2009) and I thought I’d share. After writing it I realized it’s a long setup to something that happened in the blink of an eye…
So that said, bear with me.
I had to run up to Safeway near our house the other evening to get some groceries, and realized two very important things.
1. It was February.
2. That meant Girl Scout cookies.
Now for anyone who hasn’t had one of their “Samoas” or a “Thin Mint” – I have to say, you’re missing something….
<note: I originally had called the cookies “Samoans” – but was informed of the following by a friend:
“Samoans are a lovely, typically dark skinned, often hefty people indigenous to the island of Samoa. They love life, dance, family etc. Samoas, on the other hand, are a Girl Scout cookie, chocolate drizzled onto a caramel coconut yumminess. Very popular. “
I chuckled as I tried to imagine a box of Samoans (which might end up requiring a rather large box) … So I had to do a little editing…
We now return you to your story, already in progress…>
…smooth chocolate, delicate coconut, and all on a donut shaped cookie holding everything together. The mixture of the flavors, textures, and smells is – as my sister says, “to die for”. (Note: They’re my wife and son’s favorites, which is why they disappear so fast. In fact, I had precisely one of these, the rest disappeared. Likely into that 18 year old maw that is my beloved son, Michael)
The Thin Mints…
My daughter likes those best. There’s a little cookie with some kind of minty frosting on it, which is covered in chocolate.
Again, the Chocolate on the outside gives way to the sharp minty crunch of the cookie on the inside.
So why am I telling you this?
Well, it’s been said that Girl Scout cookies are unhealthy. My feeling is that for the one time that they come out a year, I’m really okay splurging and doing something slightly unhealthy that brings joy and happiness to someone – and I’m not necessarily referring to the Girl Scouts.
Wait – that’s where we came in… The Girl Scouts.
So as I walked into the store – there they were, standing guard. I told them that I’d be right back to buy some – but by the time I got back, they were gone.
I headed out to the parking lot with my groceries, and there they were – loading up the car. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask, “Hey, can I still buy cookies?”
The little girl looked at her mom, and they agreed. I knew I wanted the Samoas – and called my wife real quick and told her I had a box of the Samoas and did she want anything else? (she did – the thin mints, for our daughter). So I pulled a ten dollar bill out of my pocket and asked for the two boxes, which came to 8.00.
The young Girl Scout had been taught well.
“Would you like change?”
And there was a part of me that, for the blink of an eye, kind of lost it.
Would I like change…
Would I like CHANGE?
What kind of question was that?
It’s my money.
I worked for it.
I earned it.
I’m exchanging the money I earned for a product…
I was not interested in a little Girl Scout wanting to take my money from me.
So, politely, I said, “Yes, I’d like my change.”
And she went to her mom, and got the two dollars in change, and in that next blink of an eye, I knew what needed to be done…
She gave me my change back, and once it was in my hand, and had left hers, once she had given it up completely, I gave it back. “Here, this is a tip. Keep it. Thank you very much.”
And the look in her eye told me more than I have words to write.
From her point of view: She wanted the money – and letting go of it, risking not only losing control of the money she had in her hand, but actually risking losing it, was hard, but it was what she needed to do – the fact was, she wasn’t “taking” my money, she’d asked if I wanted all of the change I had coming to me.
From my, (at that point, reactive, cold hearted) point of view: It was my money, and given that, it was my option to give the money away or not.
But there was another side of me – not so cold hearted – that was there almost instantly. It’s like electricity finally got to the light bulb, and it went on… Brightly.
See, I would much, much, much rather give something away than have it taken from me.
So when she gave it back, she gave me the opportunity to give.
And it got me thinking…
How many times do we not give God what is rightfully His? how many times do we hold onto something because, like a two year old (could you just see the two year old tantrum I had going on in my head when she asked if I wanted change?), or like the seagulls in “Finding Nemo”, the only thing we can think is that “It’s MINE!”
And how many times would God just Love to give us something that was His – if only we’d let Him do it?
Think about it, how many times have we not gotten the “tip” He’d be so willing to give us?
All of these thoughts went through my head in the split second as our eyes met.
God speaks to me – in the balcony at church, and sometimes in Safeway parking lots in Ballard.
And occasionally I hear Him.
I did not need caffeine the other morning.
I got enough excitement just trying to drive my Saab, and in this day and age, driving isn’t enough.
I was multitasking.
I managed to:
- completely obviate the need for anything resembling caffeine that morning.
- simultaneously clean the left side of my engine,
- cool down a pesky hot exhaust manifold, with nice, cool gasoline
- and stop traffic in a spot where stopping traffic is the last thing you want to do.
See, I was driving my 1968 Saab up the hill on Boren Avenue in Seattle, which is two lanes up, two down, and the occasional intersection where people often decide they need to turn left with very little warning.
The hill’s steep enough to where you there’s very little wiggle room if something goes wrong. In fact, I generally blast up it in high second gear, the car won’t pull it as well in third, and when you’re blasting up the hill like that, you have a little better control if, for example, someone stops to make one of those left turns at one of the intersections in the middle of the hill.
It’s also beneficial to have a little extra speed so you don’t have to try to stop in the middle of the hill, because stopping means you have to start again – and if you happen to have a clutch that needs replacing (but you haven’t quite gotten to it yet), and, you discover, in a rather, um, ‘puckering’ moment that on this hill, while the brakes applied with the brake pedal will stop you fine, just the back brakes are out of adjustment just enough to mean that the parking brake will almost (but not quite) hold you. Especially on this hill. This one’s so steep that should you actually have to stop, you really need to have the brake hold the car while you do the two foot/three pedal dance as you shift your right foot from the brake to the gas while you let up on the clutch (which needs to be replaced, remember?) when you try to get moving again, because of course you don’t want to roll into the car behind you, nor do you want to stall your own car heading up a steep hill like this, because – well, trust me, that’s another story altogether. (yes, it’s written, no, it hasn’t been published, you’ll just have to wait for that one…).
So, you do what you can to avoid even getting into this situation, and you just try to get up the hill as fast as you can. That way, if you find yourself in the left lane, passing people, and someone actually does stop in the middle of the hill to turn left (or wait for someone else to), you can just whip around them into the right lane and accelerate even faster to keep the person who’s already blasting up the hill in the right lane from rear ending you.
Right, so second gear, floored, it is.
Now this car’s had some custom valve work done on it. It’s been ported a bit, has a two barrel carb instead of the standard one barrel, and has an MSS exhaust, so when I go up that hill, I go up, as I said, fast, and in control, and if I need to make any corrections of any kind, my goal is to make them with plenty of authority. That hill is simply not a place you want to stop – on purpose or by accident. There’s just so much traffic, and simply not enough room to get away if you do get stuck, or stopped, or both somehow.
Except for the other morning.
I was in the left lane that time, it was clear, no one was stopped at any of the intersections at the bottom of the hill, and I had a bit of a running start, so I was well into 2nd, around 4500 RPM, and because of the momentum and no one in front of me, was thinking of shifting to third when I simultaneously felt a tremendous loss of power, and an olfactory assault of gasoline like I’d never smelled in that or any other car.
Well, come to think of it, there was that time years ago when my boss thought it would be just fine to carry a 5 gallon plastic bucket – yes, bucket, with no lid, mind you – of gasoline in the company van to go rescue the other van that had run out. I did manage to keep him from lighting up one of his ever present cigarettes until we were done – but, that’s a different story altogether.
At any rate, back to the rapidly decelerating Saab going up Boren: in case it’s not obvious, this was not the most ideal time for this to transpire. I lost speed far faster than I’d expected to, and suddenly found myself in exactly the position I didn’t want to be in:
Precisely halfway up the hill with an engine that had quit and wouldn’t start. Time seemed to stand still as I put the four-ways on and frantically looked around to see if some other driver wouldn’t be able to avoid hitting me.
A couple of cars went by, and then I had a clear spot. (This is when I discovered that the parking brake wouldn’t hold.) I rolled back, hoping to get enough speed going backwards down the hill to try to do a J-turn backwards so I’d be heading back down and could find a place to put the car so I could get out and figure out what the problem was and fix it.
I came SO close to making that turn – but didn’t get up enough speed and ran out of room, finding myself backed straight up against the curb on the right side of the street, blocking off both uphill lanes of traffic pretty as you please. A guy in a van stopped and was watching me try to figure out what to do. With all the smell of gas, I thought it was flooded somehow, but acting like it was starved for fuel. Very weird, so I pulled the choke (shouldn’t have needed it, the engine was already warmed up – none of this was making sense yet, I was just operating on instinct – well, instinct and a few decades of experience).
Eventually I got it into first, turned the key, and moved forward far enough in gear on the starter to then steer left (downhill) and let gravity take over. It felt like it took forever, but as I think back on it, it must have taken only seconds, really.
The car started accelerating down the hill, but wouldn’t start at all, and as I coasted further down the hill, I put it in second and popped the clutch so I could try to at least get this coasting to turn the engine over – but that didn’t do anything. In fact, the only thing it did was make the smell of gas a LOT stronger.
And then I got stuck in traffic…
Truly, completely stuck. It seemed everyone ahead of me was trying to get onto I-5, off to my right, and I literally couldn’t move. I couldn’t move right (I was in the right lane, no shoulder, and a very high curb), I couldn’t move left (it was clogged), and I was on a bridge, but at least I was facing downhill, and if I could get in the left lane and make the light up ahead, I could coast into a parking lot just past the light and figure all this out.
By this time, with the car not moving and the breeze coming from the back a bit, the gas smell was fading, but I still didn’t understand what had happened, and wasn’t in a place where I could investigate it at all. Then, while I was pondering that and waiting for traffic to at least move, the left lane started crawling and one of the drivers pulled up beside me and said, “You’ve got a gas leak”
Well, that explained that…
“…and I can see it pouring out onto the street…”
I noticed he didn’t say “leaking” – he said “pouring”
About then the light up ahead turned green, but the lane I was in was still blocked by people trying to turn right, so, I, still on the bridge/hill, with a dead engine, coasted into the passing lane and passed a bunch of them, and yes, that was a weird feeling, silently accelerating a 1968 Saab past all those newer cars, making about as much noise as a Prius.‑‑
I popped the hood, got out, and looked at my watch, I had an appointment in a few minutes, I mean, that’s what I was doing in the first place, I don’t generally drive up that hill just for fun, and it was then that I finally felt more than just a bit of adrenaline as I could see what had happened. Something, as I looked into the engine compartment, just felt a little off – see if you can see it here:
It seems that at the 4500 RPM I was going as I was blasting up the hill, the brass fitting the fuel line coming out of the fuel pump let go. You can see the fuel filter in the top left of the frame. The hose going down to the right drapes over the fuel pump.
The hole you see at the bottom of the fuel pump is where the outgoing pipe on the fuel pump should be, and it’s not. That little hole is where all the gas the engine burns gets pumped through, and that black hose in the picture should be hooked up to. That meant that this was where the gas was spraying out from, which explained that gas smell. It was this fuel pump that was spraying 4500 RPM worth of raw gas onto the side of the engine compartment (cleaning it nicely, I might add) and at that speed, an awful lot of it went directly onto the hot exhaust manifold, (the rusty thing to the right). This, of course, cooled the manifold off very nicely, as if that might be a concern of mine (It wasn’t. At All). In fact, at the moment it let go, the engine had just a few seconds of gas left before it sucked the fuel filter dry and was sucking air, so that, in spite of the gas spraying around under the hood, made the whole thing a whole lot less dangerous.
(Less dangerous, like, it could only catch fire for a little bit… right
I still didn’t like the idea of gas outside the engine, but I took a look at the fitting that was supposed to be in the fuel pump. It was still attached to the hose pretty tightly, and since it didn’t look damaged in any way, I just jammed it back in to the pump, then tried to pull it out. It wouldn’t come out, so I figured I might be good if I was careful. (which reminds me of my grandmother’s saying to me, under totally different circumstances once, “Be good, and if you can’t be good, be careful.” – Ahh, but I digress. Bottom line, I felt the need to be both at that point).
The hood had been up for all the time it took me to figure all this out, and that aired everything out a bit, and by the time the picture above was taken, the heat had dried most everything off, so I just started the car, (you can see the starter under the exhaust manifold, I’m sure it got soaked too. I might be understating things a bit to say that I’m quite pleased that none of the sparks from the starter got close enough to the gasoline to – well, get acquainted – if you know what I mean.
This makes me wonder sometimes… I think, when it comes to Saabs, I must have a veritable Army of very tired, and some quite veteran, Guardian Angels in coveralls assigned to me.
I checked for leaks (there were none) and then very slowly, very carefully, drove to my appointment – totally bypassing that evil hill.
It was only when I saw the looks on the faces of the folks at my appointment as I explained and apologized for smelling like gas, and later at work that I realized that this was not a normal occurrence for folks.
Then again, I suppose having a car that’s within a few years of getting its own AARP membership isn’t all that normal either.
From the appointment, I gently drove it partway back down the evil hill, until I got into the remnants of the same traffic jam I’d just coasted through. I decided to drive around it. I left work early so I could go home and not risk rush hour traffic. Once home, I gave the car some time (okay, two days) to cool down before I set on fixing it.
So – that takes us to:
Part II – How did I fix this?
Well, to fix it, I knew I needed to fix it good, so after I got back from the appointment to the office, I called my wife and asked her to pick up some of my old Friend JB Weld, and only briefly explained to her what happened, and went to work. I knew that the fitting would stay in the pump at low RPM’s, because it had stayed during the gentle drive home, but it was the higher RPM’s that I was worried about.
Fast forward those few days to when I actually had a chance to work on the car with a cold engine. Now given that this is the first time in 33 years of driving Saabs that this has ever happened to me, I decided I was going to make sure that it would be at least another 33 years before it happened again.
So last Sunday morning, before church, I pulled the fuel line out, including the little brass fitting, and then pulled the fitting from the fuel line. Since I had a formerly full tank (I’d just filled up before this happened). I jammed a screwdriver bit into the end of the fuel line and tightened the hose clamp to keep it from spilling too much more while I worked on it.
I dried the fuel pump with a paper towel (some gas had spilled before I could get the little screwdriver bit in there, then grabbed a toothpick, the JB Weld, and mixed a little onto the card it came with, and then coated the brass fitting rather liberally with the mixed JB Weld.
I pushed it back into the fuel pump, and then gave it a few thwacks with the set of Vice Grips I’d used to get it out,and then let it set for the appropriate amount of time…
It ended up looking like this…
And then I put the hose and everything back together – right as the sun came out – (so we have shadows in the next shot)
I started it up this afternoon, no leaks, so that’s good.
I’ll see about driving it to work to see how well the seal holds, but if you notice smoke coming from the Seattle area, that’s probably me.
Oh, I was able to clean up and smell just a *little* less like gasoline in church. I mean, smelling like gas during a rare fire and brimstone sermon could have some unintended consequences, and I had no desire to become an object lesson.
What’s weird is my mind had been chewing on the “what if’s” of what “could have happened” and wouldn’t let go, and honestly, it took awhile to get past that. Really, just the whole idea of smelling gas (like rear-ending a tanker full of it), then hearing this “WHOOMP!” as it all caught followed by a blast of smoke and flame shooting out the front, and the paint bubbling on the hood (which didn’t happen, but this image, and the rest of them played out every night in my dreams for the next few weeks.)
It would have been enough for any adrenaline junkie.
Come to think of it, maybe I’ll stick to coffee after all…
Before I started the blog, (under duress, I might add), I was writing stories just the same. There’s been so much that happened in the last few weeks that has just knocked my socks off, and some stories will come out of all that, but they need to simmer for a bit. As part of that, I’ve been trying to do some cleaning, and, as it turns out, in my cleaning out some digital lint, I found a story I’d written almost 9 years ago. That said, I’ve taken another look at it and decided it might be fun to get it out here for you all to see. With that, let’s go on a road trip, shall we?
Work had been getting busier and busier, and I was really wiped.
I’d had to get about a week’s worth of work done in the first 3 days of the week, and needed a break.
Turns out my friend Dave had an Improv Comedy thing in Portland Friday night.
Michael had Friday off.
It didn’t take me a whole lot of time to figure out that getting our collective butts out of Dodge would be a good thing.
I got Friday off.
We had originally planned on Cindy coming along for this, but she had to work, so Michael and I went by ourselves.
We’d taken the Saab up to “Andy’s Cabin” last week, (it’s a wide spot in one of the forest service roads just off Highway 97 near Liberty, Washington. Used to have a cabin on it, belonged to a guy from the Scout Troop named Andy. Andy’s long passed on, and the cabin burned down decades ago, but it’s still called “Andy’s Cabin” – yeah, go figure. But tradition is tradition.) …and honestly, I needed something a little different than the Saab for this trip. I needed something for me. Not that I didn’t trust the Saab. It ran beautifully, got 32 mpg on the trip. I just didn’t have the time to risk if something went wrong, so I decided to rent a car and got a pretty decent rate on a little red ford sedan. We caught a bus up to Hertz and Michael was kind of amazed that we were simply walking out of the house to go out of state overnight with nothing but a duffel bag.
Oh, I’d given him my old leather jacket, and he found the hat he had in the play “Barnum” last year – that, some Jeans, and some sunglasses just made the outfit.
He was working on his “Cool” persona.
Once we got the car, as you can see, it was awfully hard to get Michael to actually ride in the thing.
Last time we did a road trip, we went to California, and Michael ended up listening to “Walk Like an Egyptian” about a zillion times on not only the way down, but back. It became, we realized later, the ‘theme song’ if you will, of that trip.
We’d made some progress down toward Roy (the plan was to stop in Roy, Hook Mom’s new computer monitor up and visit with her and our friends Lee and Lyndy a little bit and then head down toward Portland.
As we drove down Michael, with the hat and glasses, felt he looked like a movie talent scout. We were listening to one of the CD’s – and came upon the theme song from the Davy Crockett show… Remember that one?
“Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
Greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree,
Kilt him a bar, when he was only three!
(all together now)
Daveyyyyy, Daaaaaaaavey Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier!”
I’m singing this thing at the top of my lungs, and Michael’s not buying it. I’m
getting way too weird for him. He’s used to me in my “responsible father” mode
as opposed to getting a little weird mode…
So… I invited him to sing along.
He didn’t want to.
I invited him again…
He emphatically didn’t want to.
I told him I’d keep playing it until he sang along and had fun doing it.
He made it quite clear that singing that song was not anywhere near the top
of his list of priorities.
I felt like I was watching a kid being told to eat peas for dinner.
Eventually, he did sing along. It was fun.
So we did that, got down to mom’s, and she’d made chicken and dumplings, they were SO good. Michael, as usual, needed to put some pepper on his stuff. The lid of the pepper shaker was a little loose, and he ended up with a little more than he was planning on.
I hooked mom’s new monitor up and put her old desktop on it – it was nice to see that again (it’s the picture of Paddington Station that Corbis has, from the Windows 98 plus pack, with the travel theme.) –
It was the first thing we kind of ‘got back’ since her car was stolen. (so was the computer in it, but that’s another story)…
After lunch, Mom and Michael and Lyndy went out to feed the horses, and tried to get Michael to feed them, too. He kept pulling his hand away as soon as he felt their lips trying to nibble at the apple. You can see Lyndy holding his hand here in the first picture,
…trying to keep it there for the horse. Problem was, he kept seeing those big teeth and thought he was going to get bitten.
He actually had good reason to think that.
Some time back we were walking through a field on the way back from Grandma Danny’s and there was this horse that first looked like it was being friendly, then it tried to take a bite out of Michael’s hat (actually the one in the picture), and then it nudged him pretty good. It became obvious the horse wasn’t nibbling in a friendly way, so I told Michael to go get through the fence while I took care of the horse.
The horse tried to nibble on me, so I smacked the crap out of it every time it did, and got to the gate as fast as I could, just barely making it over before I got the butt of my jeans ripped out by the dang thing. At first I thought I was imagining things, but then later realized, while I was looking at one of the 4 x 4 fenceposts that was barely holding up the gate I’d climbed over and that the horse was on the other side of, that I wasn’t imagining anything.
The fencepost looked like an apple core – the horse had eaten it all off.
It was very, very strange.
Then I looked a little closer still and realized the fencepost the horse had been nibbling on was pressure treated lumber. I don’t know what all chemicals they put in pressure treated lumber, but I do remember them being rather poisonous, so I can’t imagine it did good things for the horse, and I think the horse was a little crazy from it. So that’s why Michael wasn’t all that interested in horses nibbling anywhere near him.
He ended up feeding one of the horses one apple, and that was enough. But by that time, it was time to go, so I had Michael get in the car.
As you can see, it was again, awfully difficult getting him to get ready to leave.
We waved goodbye to Mom and Lyndy, who waved back, thanked them both for a delicious meal…
…and we hit the gas, cranked up the tunes, and off we went.
Oh, the tunes…
We thought about all the times we’d seen, rather, heard people with stereos thumping wondering what the heck they were listening to. We waited till we were well away from civilization before cranking it up too loud, and when we did, we realized that we might be hurting our ears a bit. So, um, we put earplugs in.
And turned it up more.
So imagine two guys in a red Mustang, blasting down the freeway, with earplugs in, windows down, and the music blasting so loud you could feel it.
Now imagine them doing it to this song.
Yup… Michael and me.
We could not only hear the music, but feel it! It was great.
I have no idea how many times we listened to it, and how many times we just played it again and again and again – with no breaks, but we never got tired of it.
And the music we were listening to? “Under the Sea” (if you didn’t click on the link above, we had a Disney CD with us)
Here Michael’s shucking and jiving to…
“Each little clam here
Know how to jam here
Each little slug here
Cutting a rug here
Each little snail here
Know how to wail here
That’s why it’s hotter
Under the water
… and so on…
After several hours of driving, (and listening to the song, over and over and over) we got there, with just enough time to get a place to stay almost within spitting distance (across the parking lot) from the church it was at. The improv was part of a conference in Drama in the Ministry. It was very eye opening, how sometimes telling a 5 minute story, a parable, if you will, can hit home a lot harder than a one hour sermon.
It was a wonderful experience.
After that was the improv, which the pictures I took simply don’t do justice to.
There was a party game, in which people had to be some sort of church member, and also have a strange personality trait.
Some of them:
- The sound man, who’s deaf.
- A youth pastor who loved to dance,
- A kleptomaniac pastor’s wife, and so on.
Then there was the Alphabet game, where you were given two characters (mother/daughter, etc…) in a situation – and they had to start the first sentence with a letter picked out by members of the audience, then each subsequent sentence with the next letter. That ended up being a lot of fun. One of the most challenging ones was with one character being a mortician and the other being his prospective client.
Then there was the game that every sentence had to be a question – or maybe they combined the two. It was just a lot of laughter that made for a lot, a lot of fun.
The one that was literally the killer was when they played “chain murder” – kind
of like clue where you try to solve a murder, but with a couple of twists:
- There are 4 people.
- Three of them leave, the last one is told, by the audience, the who/where/what of the murder.
- The other players enter the room, one at a time, and the first person tries to get them to figure it out.
- With pantomime, and gibberish. No words.
As an example, the first one ended up being
In a Broom closet,
With the little things you stick into the end of an ear of corn to hold it because it’s too hot.
One person brought the house down on that one as the person was pantomiming the fireman and the broom closet. He’d guessed, “A fireman… at the Gates of Mordor?”
The second one was:
The Good Humor man,
In the belly of a whale,
With a waffle iron.
They got worse from there.
When it was over, Michael and I kidnapped Dave, but he had to be the navigator and tell us where we were kidnapping him to since we only had directions to the church and the hotel right next door. It ended up being a Shari’s Restaurant, where we tried really hard to order something.
However, we soon realized that at 11:00 at night, we were actually more in the mood for breakfast than anything else, so we tried to order, and somehow “scrambled toast” came out. We first confused the waiter so much that he ended up bringing Dave an extra hot cocoa –
which ended up being part of many jokes. Then the waiter got into the “scrambled toast” bit and we just went off, kind of like the “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch, complete with British accents and everything…
“Oh, I remember having scrambled toast when I was a boy…
“Too bad they don’t make the toast scramblers anymore”
“Yeah, that’s a shame… They stopped making them in the ’40’s, you know, had to take the factories and change them over to making machine guns for the war effort.”
— and it went on…
Grampa remembering when they had to scramble toast by hand.
Which led to “When I was a boy…” stories, like…
Walking to school in the winter…
…in 10 feet of snow…
I had to staple barbed wire to my feet to get traction…
to which David countered, “You were lucky, I had to use railroad spikes!”
Michael could hardly keep his food down he was laughing so hard. Come to think of it, we were, too.
We finally realized we needed to call it a night, and as we’re heading out, I realized I wanted to take one picture of David and Michael, so I asked them to pose in front of the Shari’s sign.
I suggested that maybe, just MAYBE, it might be better if we were to get their faces into the picture… Right about that time we were trying to figure out what we’d had, since it wasn’t Breakfast, nor was it Lunch, and it most certainly wasn’t dinner. We decided it was “Brupper” – and here we have Michael and David, Brupping in front of the Shari’s restaurant.
We went back, and got David to his car and headed home. Michael and I totally crashed and slept the sleep of the dead — and the next morning managed to drag our butts out of bed, and got out of our room around 11:00 and had to tear out of there (Portland) in time to get to Michael’s soccer game (in Seattle) at 1:00. (I thought the game was at 1:30). Needless to say, the trip was a fast one for me, and a semi-conscious one for Michael.
A little different than the trip down, but it worked.
We made it to the soccer game, lost, Michael messed around with some of the other kids after the game for a bit,
…then we took the car up to the rental place, where we cleaned it out, dropped it off, and ran to the bus stop, just in time to have the bus meet us as it pulled out.
We rode the bus home, and since we’d been listening to “Under the Sea” so much, Michael wondered if we had the video. He found it, we did, and he wanted to watch it, and sing with it as the movie played. We both started, and got a few bars into it and then both of us just let it go. Neither one of us remembered anything from those few bars until Ariel has legs (about 40 minutes later, I think.)
All in all, it was a fast, short, weekend (actually, now that I think about it, it was less than 24 hours total), but well, well worth it.
October 3-4, 2003
I don’t know if there’s a moral to the story, other than “Spend time, enjoy the time you have with your kids while you have them, it goes by so quickly.”
Seriously – take the risk and do something weird with them.
Make memories with them.
Sing silly songs with them.
Laugh with them.
Above all else, love them.