An Interesting Life

by The Other John Glenn

Evanston Illinois 1934

(A suberb of Chicago)

June 22, 2014

Having turned 80 in March of this year, I thought it would be a good time to write a short biography of my life. It has been an interesting one for me at least. When I was born on March 24th in 1934 the world was a very different place. Those of us born around that time have lived through some very exciting times.

My father was 100% German and an entrepreneur who started several businesses in the Chicago area. He was also an ex Golden Glove boxer. My mother was part German, part French and part Italian. She came from a very religious family in Corpus Christy Texas and was raised with strict rules. When she turned 21 she moved to Chicago, started drinking, smoking and partying and became somewhat of a Hell raiser. She even dated a member of the Murder, Inc gang at one time.

Things settled down for awhile when she married Will Glenn. He had changed his name from Wilheim Von Gleckler. Having a German name at that time was not a good idea for someone in business in Chicago. When I was 5 my 7 year old sister, Judy, died of pneumonia. For some reason my father blamed my mother for her death and that caused the break up of their marriage. I only saw him one time after that. He had opened a toy store in the Chicago Loop area and my mother took me to visit him. He gave me a toy sail boat that was almost as tall as I was. My mother would take me to a lagoon in Lincoln park along North Shore drive to sail it.

A short time after the divorce my mother became advertising manager of Row, Peterson Publishing Co. They were publishing the Alice and Jerry primers at the time. ( See spot. See Spot run.) My picture was in the brochure advertising them. This was a very prestigious job for a woman in those days. I remember sales people who sold advertising to Row Peterson coming to our apartment hotel in Evanston with presents. One of them brought a huge Nesco cooker. Another time I was taken to a studio to be photographed for portrait pictures. They knew how much my mother doted on me.

Doted is not a strong enough word for how focused my mother was on me after my sister's death. She tutored me in reading, writing and arithmetic to the point where I almost didn’t need school. In fact I skipped the third grade entirely. She also dressed me in knickers and long socks so different from what the rest of the kids were wearing that they made fun of me and chased me home the first couple of days of kindergarten.

The Army Years

When I was about seven my mother married Tony Looze. He also had a doting mother who raised him to be very sophisticated socially. He was a big strong handsome guy and he played the piano very well but he had no training in anything that might have earned him a living. Shortly after they were married Tony was drafted into the army and we started following him all over the place. First was Mineral Wells Texas. Tony went to basic training at Camp Wolters there.

This was a major adjustment for me the big city boy. Kids there went to school barefoot in overalls and the curriculum was so far behind the Evanston schools I felt like I was back in 2nd grade. We lived in a hotel downtown and I bought BLT sandwiches at a coffee shop across the street to take to school for lunch.

Tony became a Sergeant and a drill instructor. Mineral Wells was the first in a long string of places we lived as we followed him around the country. One of the more interesting ones was Lake Geneva Wisconsin. Toward the end of his military career Tony was assigned as Quartermaster at the Northwestern Military Academy there. We lived in a small house on a road leading down to the lake across from the grounds of the academy. I went to a one room school about 2 miles away that taught grades from one through high school.

It was there I got my first gun at age 10. A bolt action single shot 22 rifle that would only chamber shorts. I spent many hours trying unsuccessfully to shoot one of the ducks that swam on the lake. I also learned to ski and to ice skate on the lake.

After Tony was discharged from the army we moved to El Paso, Texas. We lived out in the country in a small house on an acre or so on Upper Valley road not far from the Rio Grande river. That’s where I got my first horse. There was no money for a saddle at first so I learned to ride bareback.

I started junior high school in El Paso. As a non Texan I was definitely treated as an outsider. If I wanted to make friends with another boy I had to fight him first. One of the first ones I fought became a good friend. He lived on a place out near the desert. I would spend the night there once in awhile and we would walk out into the desert to camp for the night. We would build a campfire out of the dried up yucca plants and listen to the coyotes yip yipping. I still remember how it felt sitting there watching the fire.

My mother was an attractive, dynamic lady who captured everyone’s attention when she walked into a room. She was classified as GS11, the highest Civil Service rating. During this time Tony was working at an automobile parts department and my mother was out earning him about three to one. They were both drinking heavily and fighting constantly. After drinking too much the fights would get physical and sometimes bloody.

The Los Alamos Years

When I was 14 we moved to Los Alamos New Mexico, where they were working on buildpng an atom bomb. Los Alamos was an interesting place. There was a front gate and a smaller back gate both guarded by guys in uniform with machine guns. Nobody got in or out without a pass. There were three major employers; The University of California headed up the “Manhattan Project” tasked with developing the atom bomb, Zia, the maintenance department, and the security department. Everybody there was of a working age. There were no old people or poor people and since everybody was at a childbearing age there were lots of kids.

The only job Tony could get was driving a cab. The male of the family was considered the head of the household and as such was awarded the family housing. The only housing he was eligible for was a room in a men’s dorm. That meant my mother also got a room in a woman’s dorm. I was sent to St Michael’s Catholic boarding school 33 miles away in Santa Fe.

There I had a bunk in a large room with about 40 other boys. One of the nuns slept in a covered poster bed in the front of the room. We got up at six every morning to attend Mass. This was very formal with Priests in full regalia swinging smoking incense pots and speaking in singsong Latin. It was so hypnotizing I had a hard time staying awake. One night me and another boy tried to sneak out of the dorm at night to settle a dispute. We were squared off ready to go at it when a Brother came up behind me and knocked me out with a flashlight. The only thing I remembered when I came to was seeing the lens of the flashlight tumbling to the ground in front of me.

After several months of this my mother arranged for me to get a dorm room in a men’s dorm in Los Alamos. My room was on the second floor with a communal bathroom down the hall. There was a day room downstairs with a kitchen. Whatever you put in the refrigerator usually disappeared before you got back for it. I was still fourteen and I started attending high school on a somewhat casual basis, skipping classes whenever I felt like it. I still passed most of the tests so they let me get away with it until I dropped out in my sophomore year.

After I moved up to the “Hill,” as it was called by the locals, I got a horse and kept it in the stable area up on the north mesa near the back gate. I had a saddle with saddlebags, a bedroll, a scabbard with a 30-30 Winchester rifle, a 38 revolver in a belt holster, and a poncho that covered me and all the other stuff and doubled as a ground sheet at night. I often went camping by myself up in the Jemus mountains around Los Alamos. Los Alamos was over 7,500 feet and the Jemus mountains went up to over 11,500 feet. The area around Los Alamos was lightly wooded in pine trees. At higher elevations there were mostly birch trees with leaves that turned a beautiful golden color in the fall.

I remember camping in a small glade one night several miles from the nearest road. I had my horse and an Irish Setter with me. When it got dark I built a fire and sat up for awhile before getting in my bedroll. After dark the horse started snorting and getting restless. The dog started growling and looking off into the woods then the dog ran around behind me and started whining. There were black bears and mountain lions in the area so I built up the fire and got out the 30-30. Needless to say it took me awhile to get to sleep that night.

When I was fifteen and felt I knew the mountains fairly well I got a friend with a horse trailer to take me and my horse down to the desert near the Rio Grande river between Los Alamos and Santa Fe. The elevation there was around 4,000 feet and there were dry washes running up toward the mountains. I rode up one of those and as I got higher up it had a trace of water in it. The desert gradually gave way to scrub oak and eventually to the familiar small pine trees. The wash became a small stream and then a rushing little river with fish in it. The streams around there were spring fed and ran down to the desert then sank into the sand. I always wondered how the fish got there. I spent the night somewhere near the top of the ridge and the next day I came out on highway 4 about two miles from the back gate to Los Alamos.

There was a horse ranch on highway 4 five or six miles from the back gate. The ranch itself was on the left side of the road and on the right side there were corrals and a small house that an Indian family lived in. The ranch was a boys camp during the summer months and I worked there one summer as a wrangler. The horses were let out to graze in the woods at night and me and an Indian boy would ride out to bring them in in the mornings. Two of the mares wore bells around their necks to help us locate them. Bringing them in was always a wild full speed ride through the trees and over downed logs and ravines.

One morning we came across two fawns in a small glade. They were alone and we decided to try to catch them. After a short chase around the clearing we ran them down. We still had to bring the horses in so we tied them up planning to come back for them later. I used my tee shirt to tie the one I caught. When we got back mine was gone but his was still there. We took it back to the ranch and he said he would keep it at his place. I never saw it again and I suspect they had it for dinner that night.

Most nights the Indians would light a ceremonial fire and sing songs around it. They would build a carefully constructed pyramid of criss crossed sticks and then pour gasoline on it to light it. I thought using gasoline was kind of strange but I enjoyed sitting with them and watching them dance around the fire to the beat of a drum and sing their "wey um hey um ney um" songs.

Sometimes riding around Los Alamos I would come upon stakes with bottles on the top and strips of film in them. This meant they were keeping track of the radiation in that area. Time to head in another direction.

Somewhere around that time my mother and I flew to El Paso to visit her mother. She had recently broken with her family in Mineral Wells Texas and moved into what was basically a hallway in an old home that had been turned into three units. The hallway ran through the center from front to back. It was about six feet wide and maybe forty feet long. There was a utility room and a small bathroom at the back. When you walked in there was a canvas army cot on the left wall and further down on the right a table with a hotplate. Next to that was a small half size refrigerator.

My grandmother was a dried up little old lady in her seventies. She was a devout Christian Scientist and led a very simple life. Her only recreation was doing crossword puzzles and her only hobby was compiling a crossword puzzle dictionary. We stayed next door in the empty unit on the right. The second day we were there she and my mother got into an argument about the way I was being raised. That night we heard her pacing up and down the hallway. The next day we found her laying on her cot wearing her best dress and her pearl necklace with her false teeth in her mouth stone cold dead.

When we got back to Los Alamos I got a job with a building contractor. Most of the employees were illiterate and I don’t think the owner had much formal schooling. My job was to keep the time cards, calculate the paychecks and make them out for the contractor to sign.

Now that I had an income my mother and I became partners in a brand new Mercury convertible. She made the down payment and I made the monthly payments. We used to take it for joyrides on the two-lane country roads around the area. We would take the old style Coke bottles, pour out the top two inches and fill them up with bourbon. I would sit on top of the drivers seat and steer with my feet and she would sit in front of me and work the pedals. There were a lot of dips in the road for the dry washes running through the desert and we would try to get the car airborne going through them. Never quite made it but we had fun trying.

I was just fifteen and you had to be sixteen to get a drivers license in New Mexico at that time. My mother took me down to the local State Police office, told them I was born March 24, 1933 and they issued me a license. That worked to my advantage later when I was able to get a job at United Parcel Service at age twenty. You were supposed to be twenty one to work there.

When the contractor finished the job he moved away and I got another job with a landscape contractor watering newly planted lawns in a newly constructed housing tract with single family homes. There were around 100 homes lined up right next to each other all with grass yards around them. I was one of several guys hired to water them. Most yards were slightly sloping so you had to be careful not to let the water run too long and cause washes. I figured out how to water three times as many lawns as anyone else by setting up a pattern going in a circular route around several houses and getting back to where I started just in time to move the sprinklers.

After a couple of months the owners made me a Foreman over about twenty or so workers mostly Mexican and Indian, who were preparing and planting the lawns and some other park areas around the development. They gave me the use of a pickup truck and a salary of $75 a week. That was big money in 1949 and I thought I was King Tut! I was fifteen at the time. When the job was over they offered to send me to a landscaping school and to have me to continue working with them around the state as a supervisor. I didn’t want to leave Los Alamos so I turned them down.

My mother and Tony got a divorce and my mother stared dating again. She was friends with Dr Goranson and his wife. He was a Geophysicist at the University of California working on the A bomb. His wife was an alcoholic and they both drank heavily. I remember driving them home from a party one time. They lived in a tract home and I didn’t know exactly which one was theirs. They were sitting in the front seat next to me and when I slowly passed their house he opened the door and they both fell out on the ground.

When his wife died a few months later he and my mother got married. Dr Goranson was friends with Dr Teller and his wife Mitzy. Dr Teller was credited with having a large part in the development of the A bomb. He was a big, loud man who played classical music on his Grand piano with a flourish. His wife Mitzy was a small very European lady. We were at their house several times and sometimes I would go grocery shopping with Mitzy to help carry things.

When I was sixteen I met Mary Rose Wagner. She was twenty and was working as a mathematician for USC. She had moved out to Los Alamos from upper New York state and was living in a women’s dorm. In very short order we were sleeping together. It was the first time for both of us and we both thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Much to my mother’s dismay we were married later that year. She tried everything she could think of to stop me but I was much too smart to listen to her anymore. I failed to notice several conflicts in personality and personal habits that eventually led to our break up.

In May of 1951, about a year after we were married, Michael, our first child was born. I had turned seventeen in March.

Dr Goranson was transferred to the Lawrence Radiation Lab in Livermore about that time. They moved to a place in Berkeley and my mother started extolling the virtues of the Bay Area to me. Dr Goranson was diagnosed as Manic Depressive and was being treated at a sanatorium in Berkeley. They were using shock treatments and at times he was not rational. My mother was begging me to come out and help her and eventually we gave in and moved to a rental unit on 66th street off Telegraph Ave in Oakland. Not the greatest neighborhood even then.

The Bay Area

The first job I got was selling Hoover Vacuum cleaners which I absolutely hated. After awhile I found a job with a company that manufactured aluminum awnings. I worked both in the plant making them and out in the field installing them. Dr Goranson retired and he and my mother bought a duplex in Danville. We liked the area and found a place to rent in Alamo, a small neighboring community. The unit next door to my mother’s was occupied by a couple named Hardeman. The had a son, a year or so older than me, named Buster. I was 20 then. Buster and I became drinking buddies. When he went to apply for a job at UPS I went along with him. I still had a drivers license, now a California one, that showed I was 21. We both got hired.

The hourly wage when I started was $3.75 plus time and a half over 8 hours. That was substantially more than I was making at the awning company so I quit, joined the Teamster union, and went to work for UPS. The Union won several 25 cent per hour increases in the next few months and I was back to making a comfortable living. It was 1954 and I was 20 years old.

My mother came up with a $500 down payment for a tract house in Danville. That was the only major amount I ever received from family. It was a small 2 bedroom I bath house with a separate carport. By that time we had three children Mike, Larry and Cindy. It was crowded but we were comfortable there.

That’s when I became interested in flying. I read a book called Stick and Rudder by Wolfgang E Langewiesche. It is a wonderful book describing all the parts of flying an airplane in great detail. The actions and reactions of flight, the controls and control surfaces and how to judge the relationship and distance to things like other moving objects and stationary things like runways. I read it several times and decided that I had to take flying lessons.

I found a flight school at Buchanan field in Concord that charged $12 an hour for lessons. $6 for the airplane and $6 for the instructor. I took my first lesson on March 26th 1957 two days after my 23rd birthday. I took to flying like a duck takes to water. I’m sure partly because of Stick & Rudder. I was such a natural that my instructor accused me of having flown before. He put us in a nose down tailspin to make sure I was paying attention. On September 8th after a little over 35 hours of instruction I passed my license ride. It’s supposed to take at least 40 hours.

Shortly after I got my license I rented a plane and took my mother on a flight from Buchanan field to the Nut Tree in Vacaville. She wanted to smoke so she put a beanbag ashtray up by the front windshield. This was a tandem plane with one seat in front of the other. Both seats had full controls. I was flying from the back seat. We hit a down draft as we were going over the town of Vacaville and the ashtray went flying throwing ashes and cigarette butts all over the airplane. That was her first and last flight with me.

In June of 1957 I bought a 1937, 40 horsepower Taylorcraft airplane from a fellow UPS driver for $600. It was out of license and hadn’t been flown for a couple of years. It had two side by side seats. I had only flown tandem planes before where one seat was in front of the other.

The only place I could find someone with parts for it was Calistoga. Since it was out of license I had to get a ferry permit to fly it up there. Napa had been a military airport and has long runways. The one I took off on was over a mile long. It took almost all of it to get off the ground. Once I was out of ground effect it took a long time to gain altitude. I had to circle around the flats around the airport for 30 minutes to get up to 500 feet above the ground. Once there I started up Napa Valley to Calistoga. Calistoga airport is only about 300 feet higher than Napa airport. It took me the whole distance to gain that much more altitude. Fortunately I was able to land straight ahead without making a lot of turns. I found out later that the engine had a blown head gasket and was probably only developing around 20 horsepower.

Even after the engine was fixed the 40 horse Taylorcraft was almost like flying a glider. I had to learn how to find thermals and updrafts to gain any real altitude. I sold it in a few months and bought a 65 horse Aeronca Champion similar to the one in the picture above.

UPS asked me to work out of a new terminal in Vallejo for few months to help get it started. There was a dirt road not far from the terminal where I could land so when the weather was good I took the Champ. Another UPS guy was also commuting from Concord to Vallejo and he started riding with me. We had trouble getting information on the weather. The fog tended to come up the Carquinez straits so if you saw fog in that direction you didn’t know if it was just over the straights or if it also covered Vallejo. If we had to turn back and drive over we would be very late. One day the fog was over the strait but about 100 feet above the ground. We decided to stay underneath it. I had just asked my passenger to help me watch for the high-power lines that run along the strait when we saw them go by just above us.

One day My mother called and asked me to come out to Danville and help her find Dr Goranson. When I got there she said they had an argument and he walked out saying, “He was going to take the easy way out and that it was going to be a lot harder for her.” She felt threatened and was sure that he was still somewhere around the house. I started looking in closets and under beds getting more and more nervous as I went. After checking every room I went out to check the garage. It was dimly lit but it looked like someone was standing in front of the car. My first thought was he was standing there with a gun and a bolt of fear went through me. When I got closer I realized he was hanging from the ceiling. He had tied an extension cord around his neck and stepped off the front bumper. His knees were bent so he could have stood up at any time.

Mary and I were growing further and further apart. I tended to have the German trait of being neat and orderly. Mary on the other hand tended to let things fall where they may. I was also high energy and she was more laid back. There were many other things wrong between us and I finally decided we needed to go our separate ways. We had been married over 8 years. I left her the house and everything in it but my clothes. There was child support ordered but no alimony. She eventually moved to Albuquerque New Mexico with the kids.

Glenn's Trail Camp

I met a lady named Sandra Cornell and we hit it off right away. Sandra had 4 children: Suzy, Debbie, Jack and Barbie. Sandra was older than me but smart and energetic. We started living together but were never formally married. I got the bright idea that I wanted to open a summer camp for boys with emphasis on horseback riding. She thought that sounded like fun so we started looking around for a place.

We found the perfect one up in the hills 2 miles north of Boulder Creek. It was in the San Lorenzo Valley off highway 9 between Saratoga and Santa Cruz 4 miles up Kings Creek road. The first mile or so of Kings Creek was paved. From there on it was dirt with a creek running along beside it. The property was owned by the Boy Scouts and they wanted to lease it out. The 60 acre parcel was partly wooded hills but there was about 40 acres of fenced pasture. There was also an old white, ranch style 3 bedroom 2 bath house with a barn and bunkhouse across from it. About 100 yards further up was a 120 by 40 foot horse barn with a concrete strip running down the center and 10 stalls with wooden floors on each side. It even had a washroom with several sinks and toilets and a large shower. How perfect was this? Near the lower barn was a dam which created about an 80 foot diameter pond. We later caught some bass and turned them loose there. They did very well and the campers had a lot of fun catching them.

There was a well that pumped water into a large redwood tank in a covered building. From there it ran down to the other buildings by gravity. There was no public electricity but there was a diesel generator. We had seen enough and we signed a lease.

Sandra sold her house and that gave us some operating capital. It was fall and we moved into the house and started cleaning things up. The house had been empty for several years and it took a lot of cleaning, The stove in the kitchen had 4 gas burners on the left and a wood burning section on the right. There was a family of mice living in the oven. There were several propane lamps on the walls around the house which provided light when the generator was off.

One of the first things I did was put an automatic starter on the generator that could be controlled from inside the house so Sandra could start and stop it when I wasn’t there. The generator was right across from the house and it was very noisy. I buried a 50 gallon drum next to it and put a 20 foot pipe on top to act as a chimney. This muffled the noise pretty well but we still only ran it an hour or two a day. The refrigerator was propane as was the heater and air conditioner. The only thing we needed it for was the washing machine and dryer.

The well was not really adequate so we had a guy come in to drill a horizontal well into the hill behind the tank house. He came out and used a y shaped stick as a water witch. I was kind of skeptical but he found water about twenty feet into the hillside that produced several gallons of water an hour. It was gravity flow to the tank and produced enough water to keep the 2 thousand gallon tank full.

I found the perfect guy to be our wrangler. Les Spengler was working as a painter at a gasoline refinery in Martinez. He had grown up working around mule trains. When I showed him the ranch and offered him a salary for the summers he said if we would give him room and board and feed for his horses he would quit his job in Martinez and stay there full time. Perfect!

Les had two horses at the time. Black Beauty, one of the best trained mares I have ever seen, and a black and white paint mare also very well trained. My first ride on Black Beauty was bareback. Les showed me the signals the horse was trained to respond to. If you sat quietly she stayed calm and relaxed. If you leaned forward slightly and moved the reins forward an inch or two she would move forward. Another couple of inches forward on the reins and she would break into a trot. If you were standing still and leaned forward abruptly and shoved the reins up behind her ears she would leap forward into a full gallop and boy you better be ready. When at a gallop if you leaned back and came back on the reins she practically sat down on her rump and come to a four foot sliding stop. She would also gallop in place and do a smooth single foot.

We decided the place was perfect for teenage foster boys so Sandra started working on that program and in a couple of months we had the first of several foster boys. They stayed in the bunk house with Les and took their meals with the rest of us in the main house. We gave them some responsibilities around the ranch and a lot of freedom. They loved it there. My three children came for the summer every year. They were a little too young to join in in the camp activities but played well with Sandra’s 4 children. The boys slept up in the bunk barn and the girls shared a bedroom in the house. I think they may have felt a little left out of things since I was spending most of my time with the campers but I still think they enjoyed their summers.

The barn across from the house was divided into two sections. One side had feed troughs divided by partitions to accommodate a dozen horses. The other side was a hay barn. There was a wood fence corral about 40 feet by 50 feet with a gate leading out to the upper pasture. Les took charge of cleaning it out and setting it up for more horses. Then he went on a horse buying trip with his horse trailer.

We went to work on the large barn above the house cleaning out the stalls with the wooden floors and putting 2 cots in each one for open rooms for the campers. Everything was looking good for opening day when the drains in the bathroom in the big barn backed up. When I tracked the line down I found that it didn’t go to a septic tank like I thought but just ended in a covered ditch filled with gravel. Basically a leach field but without a septic tank. The first campers were due in a week so with the help of the foster boys we worked day and night digging a 4 by 8 hole in the dirt in front of the barn for a septic tank. We put in redwood partitions and ran a pipe to the leach field. Then we covered it with heavy redwood timbers and reburied it. It was ready when the campers arrived and worked perfectly as long as we were there.

I hired two counselors in their early twenties with at least some riding experience to stay in the bunk barn with the campers and we were ready to go.

We advertised the trail camp in several of the newspapers around the Bay Area and in Sunset magazine. We got responses from all around the western states. We were hoping to get around 30 campers but usually averaged around 20 to 24 boys from ages 12 to 16. The week started on Sunday and the parents stayed for our weekly "gymkhana" completion Sunday afternoon. Les and I had built a circular arena in the lower part of the pasture above the house that was set up for three events. We gave out ribbons for first through third place in each one.

The first one was barrel racing where you ran your horse as fast as possible from the starting place around three barrels set in a triangular pattern and back to the starting place. This was a timed event with first place going to the fastest time.

Next was keyhole, where you ran your horse from a starting point into a 20 foot circle through a four foot entry lane, slid to a stop, turned in a fast flip around spin and raced back to the starting point. The fastest time won first place.

Last was pole bending where you weaved your horse around several 6 foot poles as fast as possible without knocking any poles over. Again this was a timed event with penalties for knocking over a pole.

It was an exciting morning with proud happy winners and it gave the new arrivals an idea of what was ahead for them. Most campers stayed for at least 2 weeks and some stayed for 4 or 5 weeks. When the boys arrived most of them had no or very little experience riding horses. Some were experienced and some actually brought their own horses.

Monday was orientation and riding instruction day in the lower corral across from the house. Les would put each boy on Black Beauty bareback and teach them the signals to control the horse. This also allowed us to judge each boys riding ability so we could assign him a horse.

Tuesday I would take half the boys on a trail ride in the mountains and Les would instruct the other half in the gymkhana events, He had trained all the horses to the point where they would go through each event with hardly any input from the rider. We switched groups in the afternoon.

Wednesday morning we did target practice with 22 rifles at a rifle range we had set up against a hill in the upper pasture. We awarded ribbons for this also. In the afternoon we split the group between gymkhana practice and free time.

Thursday Les took half the campers on an overnight camping trip in the mountains and I took the other half on an overnight to a beach in Rio Del Mar south of Santa Cruz. We made a circular fire pit out of rocks and built a fire with wood we brought with us. Later I would put a large grill over the coals to bar b que hamburgers and hot dogs. These were served with potato chips and a salad brought from the ranch. Some girls we knew from around Boulder Creek would come with us and stay for dinner. They went home around ten and the rest of us got in our bedrolls to go to sleep. I had one of the counselors with me so I usually left him in charge at this point and went in to town for a drink. A break I felt I deserved at that point.

Saturday was more practice and free time. Sunday we started all over again with new campers arriving and our gymkhana competition. It was always very satisfying to see how far our young riders had progressed. Their parents were amazed at how well they did in the gymkhana events and how well they handled themselves and their horses. Some of the campers came summer after summer.

One day I got the news that my mother had committed suicide. I was standing on the porch of the house when I heard and a stab of guilt went through me. After Dr Goranson died she fell into a pattern of alcoholism. I always thought it was partly because she was not able to acccept getting older. At one time she asked to come live with us at the ranch and I turned her down. By then whenever I was around her we fought. Never physically of course but very angrily. She knew exactly how to get under my skin and could drive me into a fury in a matter of minutes. There was no way we could live together. She never talked about money and I always assumed that she was OK financially but apparently she was running out of money. She didn’t want to go back to work or change her life style so she borrowed against the house and sold things until she was flat broke. She took a hose from the exhaust pipe of her car and put it through the window. She sat there with her little dog in her car, in the same garage that Dr Goranson had hung himself, and died. She was only 60 years old.

When our lease ran out the Boy Scouts wanted the property back so we moved out. Sandra and I had come to the end of our relationship and we decided to go our separate ways. I had left it up to her to take care of the finances and had no idea of where they stood, Once again I walked away with the clothes on my back.

The days of the Vikings

I was still working at UPS during the months between summer camps. I rented a room from an older couple in Los Gatos and bought a motorcycle to get around. I wanted to learn how to tend bar so I got a second job at a pizza parlor where at least I learned how to pour beer. After a couple of months I talked my way into a job at the Rare Steer next to the San Jose airport in Santa Clara.

The Rare Steer had a fast food style room with linoleum on one side where you went up to a counter to get your food and a carpeted restaurant and cocktail lounge on the other side with waitresses. It was a popular place for the after work crowd and was packed every night during the cocktail hour. I would get off at UPS around five and had to rush to get dressed and get over there by six. There would be people 2 deep at the bar and every table would be full. There were two cocktail waitresses taking drink orders at the tables and when I got there the day guy would be buried.

I would take over the station where the waitresses came for their drinks. They knew their business and would call the drinks in well order. First the shots and over drinks, then the mixed drinks, waters first, then soda then coke or seven up. Beer and blender drinks came last. Someone at a table with six or eight people would wave their arm in a circular motion and the waitress would rattle off the drinks in order. I would put up the glasses as she called them out to help me remember them and start pouring. While I was doing that the other waitress would come up and rattled off more drinks. This went on until around seven thirty. When things slowed down a little the other bartender left and I was on my own. By eight or so it had pretty well cleared out except for a few people having dinner. It would take me a couple of hours to clean up and restock.

At twelve midnight the Food Machinery plant across the street let out and the place would fill back up with mostly beer drinkers in a hurry because they had a limited amount of time to drink. They emptied out the beer coolers and got every glass in the house dirty. I would have to fight to get them out at closing time and then had to clean the place up and restock all over again. It would be after three when I left to go home. I had to be up by seven the next morning to get ready to go to work at eight at UPS. After 5 days of this with around 4 hours a nights sleep I was exhausted and basically slept through the weekends. I did this for several months.

I was carrying two union cards at the time. One for the Teamsters and one for the Culinary Workers. When the unions discovered this I had to drop one or the other. I had no interest in moving up at UPS. They had a very oppressive middle management system. Terminal managers were given just a little more than they could accomplish. They were always under pressure to do better. For instance, they would either be criticized for the trucks being dirty or for spending too much money washing the trucks. I felt I had a better chance getting into something more interesting by staying at the Rare Steer. There was a lot of exciting things going on in Santa Clara at the time and a lot of the movers and shakers came in to drink there. I resigned from UPS.

Shortly after that I met Dick Bangham. He came in late one night and ordered a drink. I could tell he was over the line and I offered to get him a cup of coffee. He agreed and I put one on the bar in front of him. He put his head down on his arms on the bar and took a little nap. When it was time to close I woke him up and when he moved his arms he spilled what was left of the coffee all over me.

He became a regular customer and we got to know each other. Dick was partners with James Hapoya in a delivery business named Viking Delivery Service. They had bid on and won a contract with General Electric to deliver what was known as intercepts to the P T & T operating centers around northern California. Intercepts are the changes to the phone directory caused by new phone numbers and changes to phone numbers. They were printed daily in San Francisco and were available by midnight. Viking picked them up there and brought them back to Santa Clara for distribution. They had to be delivered to all the operating centers before eight AM the next morning. After awhile they added the service of picking up the key punch cards recording the long distance calls at the operating centers and taking them to the central office in Sacramento. Next they added delivering the boxes of new key punch cards to the operating centers.

About that time Dick talked me into going to work for Viking. Both he and Jim recognized that I was a high energy guy with several years experience at UPS. I became employee number thirteen. This was 1966 and I was 32 years old. I would be with Viking for 17 years. When I left I would be an Officer of the Corporation with the title Vice President of Operations and be a member of the Board of Directors. Viking would be a public company traded on the NYSE with earnings of over 170 million a year.

Dick and Jim and I became friends and we decided to look for a place to live together. We were all bachelors at the time and liked to drink and party when we weren’t involved with Viking. We found a place up on the hill above Saratoga. When you drove down the driveway all you could see was the house. When you walked in the front door you were facing a large stone wall with openings on either side. When you walked around the wall you were facing a stunning view of the whole San Jose basin. There was a sliding glass door with six foot floor to ceiling glass window on each side. The bank in front of the house dropped off about five feet from the house. At night the whole window area was filled with the lights of the cities below. When you walked around the wall it almost knocked you off your feet.

There were 3 bedrooms facing that same incredible view. They each had a sliding glass door. There was also a large pantry off the kitchen which we turned into another bedroom. A friend of ours decided to join us and we shook dice for the rooms. Dick and I and the other guy got the rooms with the view and Jim got the redone pantry. When I moved in all I had was a mattress on the floor and a dresser.

The kitchen was on the entry side of the house and was part of a large area that was like a family room. There was a fireplace on the living room side of the rock wall and a bar b que that used the same chimney on the family room side. We turned the family room into a small cabaret with a bar and a couple of tables with chairs. Talk about the ultimate bachelor pad! Very few ladies we brought up there for drinks and dinner left before the next morning.

After a few months the other guy moved out and Dean Shippen, who did our data processing as an outside contractor moved in. He fit right in to our little group. We all tended to over drink and I remember Dick and I riding home with Dean late one night. We drove up Saratoga Avenue only instead of driving on the pavement Dean drove through the grass covered medium. We would bump down over the curb when we came to a cross street and bump back up again on the other side. Dick and I just sat there and watched. We got home OK somehow and the incident was never mentioned.

I met Myrna Shaw one night when she came to a party with Dean. She was 20 at the time. She was an attractive fun lady with a bit of a wild side. She would come in to the Rare Steer and party with some of the guys there. She had some fun sexy jokes she liked to tell. Myrna had her own business doing keypunching that she called Strokes Unlimited. She dated Dean for three months then they got married. I can’t tell the jokes here because after 47 years we are still friends.

Myrna divorced Dean and later married a hi tech guy named Roger Pettengill who has been doing very well with his own business representing companies selling wireless components. They live happily together in Santa Clara near Santana Row.

Things were going along pretty smoothly at Viking and the partners realized they had several small vans sitting around during the day. Dick had been working at Memorex before starting the business and he talked them into letting Viking distribute their products throughout the Bay Area. We quickly added other companies and soon had a busy little delivery service going.

Memorex was happy with the service we were providing and asked us to start picking up their raw materials in LA. We bought a couple of 22 foot bobtails and started running them back and forth to LA at night. Pretty soon we were taking things down to LA to a warehouse for Memorex. We started getting other business to and from LA and quickly realized that truck and trailers were a lot more efficient than bobtails. Memorex wanted us to start distributing their product in southern California so the next step was locating a terminal down there and putting on some local drivers. We were now what was called an LTL carrier, less than truckload, freight company. We changed our name to Viking Freight System Inc. designed a logo and painted it on the side of the trucks and in a blue strip down the sides of the trailers.

Dick and I learned to drive the tractor trailers as soon as we got them. They were Peterbuilt tractors with Detroit diesel engines and ten speed Roadranger transmissions. We continued to drive and work on the docks for most of the years we were there. Dick kept management wages fairly low at first and many pay periods some of the drivers making overtime over eight hours and double time over ten would out earn us.

There was a definite learning curve to learning to drive tractor trailers and sets of doubles. I was in Berkeley one day with a set of doubles, I had 4 pallets of freight in the nose of the back trailer that the consignee had refused to accept and I had to make a pick up at Boxcraft. They were a company that made cardboard boxes on Ashley boulevard in Berkeley just past the end of the off ramp from highway 80. I stopped in the slow lane to drop the back trailer with the 4 pallets in it so I could use the front trailer to pick up a full trailer of freight from Boxcraft. Randy Bangham was with me.

Randy lowered the landing gear on the rear trailer, unlatched the con gear and signaled me to pull it out from the under the back trailer. When I did the back trailer slowly tipped up on it’s nose putting the back wheels directly outside the office window of the Boxcraft manager’s office. Randy was standing by the rear trailer with his hands up like he was going to catch it as it tipped. We picked up our freight and borrowed a forklift from Boxcraft to tip the trailer back up and slid the con gear back under it. There was no damage to the trailer or the freight so we went on our merry way.

Another time I was pulling a set of doubles in San Francisco down Market street. There was a break in traffic and I decided to make an illegal left turn to get where I needed to go without having to go around the block. There was a cable car sitting in a turnaround and I had to stop with my rear trailer blocking two lanes of traffic on Market street. The driver of the cable car sat there on a bench ignoring my plight until he finished his break. No police cars came along so when he finally moved the cable car I completed my turn and continued on my way.

We found an old terminal with a dock on South Alameda street in Compton. To say it was in a rough neighborhood would be putting it mildly. It was surrounded by a 12 foot chain link fence with barbed wire on the top. We kept a Doberman Pinscher in the yard at night but the kids would throw a can of dog food open at both ends over the fence, climb over and steal the lift gate motors off our trucks to make their cars bob up and down. One time when one of our drivers stopped in the street outside the terminal in his truck, a guy with a gun jumped up on the door step and demanded money. Our driver told him to get lost and punched him in the mouth knocking him off the step. Like I said, tough neighborhood.

Over the next few years we added 8 other terminals throughout the state. I became Operations manager and was responsible for locating the property to build them on, purchasing it, drawing up the initial plot plans, getting the permits and working with the design/build contractor to complete the final plans and build the terminals. Most of them were on around five acres. They had docks with around forty doors, an office on one end and a separate shop building. All of them had underground gas and diesel tanks and pumps. The contractor was building them for around one and a half million, finding investors to buy them and leasing them back to us.

Later after we went public and had some operating capital I hired a guy with construction experience to be our construction manager. I also found an engineer who would draft his own plans and we started building our own terminals. The first one we built was in Petaluma. We brought it in on time and for just over a million dollars. That was $500,000 less than the contractor we had been using was charging us for one the same size.

Most of the work was done by sub contractors. Grading, underground, concrete, steel building, framing, plumbing, electrical, overhead fire sprinklers, paving and so on. We only had a superintendent, our construction manager, and a couple of laborers on the job.

I had learned how to “fast track” a job from the contractor who had been building our terminals for the last several years. After the plans were drawn, the permits pulled and the sub contractors selected we brought them all in for a meeting. Each sub contractor was asked what equipment, how many men would he need and how long his portion would take. Then the whole job was laid out on a calendar showing when each sub was scheduled do his portion. Everyone was told how important it was that they be there on schedule and complete their work on time. The superintendent would start calling each sub two weeks before they were due to be there to make sure they had the men & equipment they needed to complete their portion. He would call again every few days to check again. By the time they were due to be there they no longer had any excuse for being late. The subs loved this system because it allowed them to get in and out quickly and get on to other jobs. Some of them followed us all around the state as we built other terminals.

Viking was by far the fastest growing trucking company in California or anywhere else for that matter. Trucking is a cash intense business. That is expenses come due before revenues come in. By law freight bills must be paid in seven days. That doesn’t happen. We were lucky if we could keep our receivables average under 30 days. Wages, truck payments and fuel all had to be paid in an average of two weeks. Therefore it took capital to expand. We were operating on a shoestring and had to constantly borrow money to keep growing. Dick’s father, Russ Bangham, came on board to help find the money we needed and he was very good at it.

Most trucking companies did not expand at a rate of over six or eight percent per year. One year Viking grew by over 60 percent. We were non union and completely flexible. Dick was a brilliant manager. He was CEO in every sense of the word. He early on decided to quit drinking and did so with absolutely no change in demeanor or personality. He had the ability to bring out the best in everyone he met. He handed out responsibility and we all responded.

At one point Dick realized that an airplane would be a good addition to our equipment. He knew I had a pilots license so Viking bought a Cherokee 235. Interestingly enough he bought it from a company at the San Carlos airport. The owner of the company was named Catchem. I suggested we start a company named I Catchem you Bangham. Nobody thought that was funny.

I got checked out in the 235 and put the first 200 hours on it before Dick and his younger brother Randy got a license. The 235 was considered a high performance airplane. It was 4 place with a variable pitch prop and tricycle landing gear. I used it to get around to the terminals in the smaller towns around the state that did not have commercial air service, to conduct company meetings. When I was not flying it on company business I was free to use it as my personal airplane.

Dick figured out early on that bennies were far more valuable to employees than wages. Wages were taxable and bennies were not. For instance I was driving a company Mustang Convertible all expenses paid with full insurance. In the next few years we bought three more airplanes. A six place Cherokee Lance with retractable gear and two twin engine 10 passenger Navajo Chieftains. At a later date Dick and I bought a used Lake Buccaneer amphibian as a personal airplane. I had all these aircraft keyed alike and Dick and I only had to carry one key for all airplanes. Here's a link to a site showing what some of these planes look like and a video of me flying the Lake Buccaneer. Use the back arrow to get back to the main site.

I also had a key system for the terminals that allowed Dick and I to carry one key that unlocked every door in every terminal and office Viking owned. The terminal managers had a key that unlocked every door in their terminal, the dispatchers had a key that unlocked the terminal door and the office. The shop Forman had a key that only unlocked the shop doors and so on. Later when Dick and I each got married and bought houses I included the houses in the key system. That meant Dick and I only had to carry three keys; one for Viking and our house, one for the airplanes and one for our cars.

Being non union had a lot of advantages and a few disadvantages. Our drivers were paid almost the same hourly wage as teamsters but without all the restrictive work rules. Teamsters were only required to place freight a maximum of 3 feet from the tailgate of their truck. Our drivers would take freight anywhere the customer wanted it. Everybody at Viking had a good attitude and was dedicated to customer service. This gave us a big advantage over union companies.

On the downside were the problems we experienced during teamster strikes. We were careful not to take on new customers during a strike unless we thought they would make a really good customer and were committed to staying with us after the strike was over. Even so our business increased considerably during a strike. Some of our customers, for whatever reason still gave some of their freight to union trucking companies. During a strike they would give us those shipments and there was no way we could turn them down.

The teamsters thoroughly hated us and our drivers. We crossed their picket lines on a regular basis to continue serving our customers. This had to be done slowly and carefully and all our drivers were trained to do that. There were still a lot problems. Anytime the teamsters could they gave us problems. During a strike our shop trucks were kept busy replacing slashed tires and sometimes broken windows.

One time one of our drivers carelessly left his keys in his truck while making a delivery near the San Francisco airport. They were gone by the time he got back to his truck. I got a spare key from the shop to fly up to him. That was back in the days when light aircraft were still allowed to land at SFO. It was a windy day and when I was on finale approach, another light plane with high wings was just turning off the runway ahead of me. When he started his turn a gust of wind got under his wing and flipped him over right at the intersection of the runway and the taxiway. I of course was waved off and figuring there was no chance of landing there in the next few hours headed back to land at the San Carlos airport. I had to take a cab to get the key to the driver.

Another time Dick and I were in his car checking things out at the area around SFO. We were stopped in a parking lot and a big mean looking dude came up to the drivers side where Dick was sitting. Dick made the mistake of rolling down his window. The guy immediately pinned Dick’s arm to the window frame and yanked the door open causing Dick to fall out on the pavement. He had a big hunting knife in his belt that fortunately he left there and when I got out of the passenger side he walked away yelling all kinds of obscenities at us.

When we built a new terminal in Santa Clara we also built a new corporate office building. It was two story with the management offices on the second floor and was very nicely furnished and decorated. Dick’s office was in the back corner with a view of the terminal, Russ Bangham’s office was next to his and mine was next in line. There was a U shaped reception counter outside our offices with two receptionist/secretaries stationed there that we all shared. There was also a large conference room with a table that would seat 20 people. The picture on the right was taken in front of the office building. When I started as employee number 13 there were a total of about 8 employees. Look at us now! And this was just the Santa Clara terminal.

At the same time we built a computer building with an air conditioned plenum under the floor to cool the computers and disc drives. The disk drives were about 2 feet square and 3 feet tall They had storage capacities equivalent to what we have now in a half inch square flat disk. Each one sat over a grate in the floor. Dean Shippen came on as an employee and took charge of our data processing department.

From the very beginning one of my jobs at Viking was discharging employees when necessary and I became known as the hatchet man. Firing people was something Dick did not want to do. When several years later Dick became dissatisfied with the performance of the data processing department it fell to me to give Dean the bad news. That was not something I enjoyed doing.

I was having fun being single but by nature I‘m really a monogamous kind of guy. I always wanted a life partner who would be a lover and a true friend to share my life with me. Having made two mistakes already in this department I was trying very hard to be slow and cautious about getting involved with anyone on a permanent basis.

I met Karen Nicoles and was somewhat smitten. She was the first lady I had dated in a long time that was reluctant to have sex. I guess that should have been a clue. I pursued her relentlessly and again somewhat reluctantly she agreed to get married. Another clue? Karen was 13 years younger than me and came from a different world. We stayed together for 25 years until she moved out of our house in Kelseyville while I was gone on a motorcycle trip to Albuquerque to visit my kids.

She and I were never really the kind of partners I had envisioned. When we discussed things regarding changes to our life she would not clearly express her desires. It would only be after the change that I would hear her reasons for not liking the results.

We bought a house with a great view of the city, not like the one I had lived in higher up on the mountain but still very nice. We bought it for around 74 thousand and sold it ten years later for over 380 thousand. I designed an elaborate plan to build an extensive add on to it and Karen helped pull the permits to build it. When the price came in it was astronomical and I did not want to proceed. Instead I wanted to buy a place on the water on the Buckingham peninsula in Kelseyville at Clearlake that we had rented a couple of times.

It was right on the lake with it’s own pier and dock. There were 6 bedrooms and four and a half baths. The front deck had been enclosed with an all glass front and had a spectacular view of the lake and an island across the little bay. There was a hill behind the house that blocked the afternoon sun. The normal wind pattern also came from the back. This meant that anything floating in the lake was blown away from the beach. The storm winds came from the opposite direction but they were blocked by the island. The water in front of the house was deep and calm.

The guy selling it was getting a divorce from his wife and getting married to another woman. He wanted $230,000 for it and his ex-wife and children didn’t want him to sell it at all. That was more than I could pay but I really liked the place and thought it would increase in value very quickly. I offered him $147,000 and an agreement that his ex family and he could use it for two years any time for a dollar a day as long as they reserved it two weeks in advance and only stayed 2 weeks at a time. That allowed him to mollify his ex-wife and he agreed to the deal. His ex family never used it and he only used it one time for a couple of days.

This was the perfect summer house. Two of the bedrooms were upstairs over the carport and they each had their own bathroom. There was another bedroom and bath off the back of the house with a separate entrance. Then there were two bedrooms sharing a bath in the main house and another room with a half bath that could be used as a bedroom. We used it as an office. There was a two hundred gallon gas tank up in the front corner of the yard by the road with a pipe running down the side of the property, There was a hose with a gas nozzle by the carport for cars and one down at the end of the dock for boats.

We bought an eighteen foot Cobalt boat with a 240 horse V-eight engine. It had a deep V hull with a lot of freeboard and seated 8 people very comfortably. I bought it from a guy I knew at the San Jose airport. He bought it new without knowing anything about boats and decided he didn’t like them after he had put about 50 hours on it. I bought it along with a parasail from him for 30% less than it cost new. There was a 40 by 40 foot dock at the end of the pier with a boat slip and we kept the boat in the water all the time during the summers.

Many of our friends and employees at Viking loved to come up to stay at the house on the weekends and go waterskiing and parasailing on the lake. At first we bought an old suburban and kept it at Lampson field in Lakeport about 15 miles away so we could fly up and drive to the house. It was just over an hours flight from San Jose airport. Later when Dick and I bought a seaplane we flew up in that, landed on the lake, dropped the gear and taxied up on the beach in front of the house. Talk about living the life!

Dick heard about a new seaplane that was being built in Germany and decided we needed to go take a look at it. They were not in production yet but they had a prototype we could get a demonstration ride in. I worked at learning a few German words and phrases and off we went. Karen was with me and Dick brought along a lady friend.

When we arrived at Frankfort airport we rented a car and off we went. We had a paper map that we weren’t sure how to read and we had a hard time understanding the road signs but were learning as we went. They have a good system of colored freeway signs over there but it takes awhile to figure them out.

Our first task was to find the army base where Dick‘s lady friend’s brother was stationed so she could visit him. After several false starts we finally got headed in the right direction. We saw an interesting looking old building with a stone wall on a hill next to the highway and we went up to take a look. It turned out to be a restaurant with outside tables and a great view so we stopped for lunch. We had no idea how to read the menu and no one spoke English so we just took guesses ordering food. Their menus, like ours actually, didn’t use generic words for menu items but things like veal cordon bleu and scalone almandine. It was interesting to see what we actually got verses what we thought we ordered. It was all good though.

When we got near the base we stopped to get a drink and to call the brother. She had a phone number that worked from the states but not from where we were. We tried for over an hour and were about to give up when I decided to try one more time. I got a helpful operator that spoke a little English and we finally got him on the phone. Turns out you had to take the prefix off the number and add one from the area you were calling from. He gave us directions to where he was staying and after a pleasant visit we started off to find a place to spend the night.

We found a very nice little Gast Haus on a small river nearby. The manager spoke no English but I tried out one of the phrases I had learned and it worked! I said “Haben Sie zwei Doppelzimmer mit einem Dusche und Toilette? That is “do you have two double rooms with a shower and a toilet? “ Yes he did and they were 40 Marks a night. It was 1983 and you got three marks for a dollar at that time. That meant the rooms cost us a little over $13 US each for the night. They were spotless and had comfortable beds.

We went to the restaurant there for dinner that night. Again we had trouble with the menu but we ordered as best we could. They brought out large plates with some kind of chicken fried pork on it. Then they brought out a great big platter filled with potatoes and all kinds of vegetables. We finished that and thought we were through. Then they brought out new plates with large steaks on them and another platter of potatoes and vegetables. We were pretty full but we managed to get most of it down. We were sitting there congratulating ourselves on a meal well eaten when they came out with yet another plate with half a chicken on it and another platter of potatoes and vegetables. We picked at it for awhile and gave up.

The next day we found the airport where the seaplane Dick wanted to see was located. They showed us the hanger where they were making them one at a time. They were made of a new extra strong plastic and cast in two large molds. One mold made the whole right side of the plane and the other made the left side. They put them together and voila an airplane! The problem was that it cost was way too much to make them one at a time that way and they couldn’t get enough advance orders to be able to finance a manufacturing plant. We got a ride in one and Dick placed a future order, but they never got it off the ground so to speak.

We spent the rest of our time wandering around Germany, Austria and Switzerland stopping in different places every night. One place in Walenstadt Switzerland was really nice. We were driving by the Walensee (lake Wallen) and saw that there was a little town, or “stadt” in German, on the other side. We drove over there through the small town until the road ended where the mountains came down to the lake. There were spectacular snow covered alps towering in the background.

At the base of the hill there was a beautiful little hotel with a restaurant. German was the language in that area and no one spoke any English. I managed to get us rooms and we ate at the restaurant that evening. While we were there one of the other diners that spoke English asked us how we found the place. He said he has been coming there for years and had never seen an American there before. I have been back there several times over the years and it has never changed. The owner’s son speaks English now and he has installed wireless Internet there. The rest is all the same.

A friend of Dick’s in San Leandro offered Dick and me a partnership in a 38 foot trawler docked in the estuary by Jack London Square. For a $2,000 buy in and $200 a month we would each have use of it one week every other month. Dick and I both jumped on it. It was a California Trawler which is a cheap knockoff of a Grand Banks. There was a large Master cabin in the rear with it’s own head and shower and a large double bed. There were two V births in the bow and above on the main deck there was a booth with a table that also made into a double bed. There was a galley with a stove and oven and a small refrigerator. It was equipped with radar, a ship to shore radio, a depth finder and a fish finder.

The name of the boat was The Massive Action. I assumed that was what they said on the radio when they were catching a lot of fish. It had a diesel engine and a single propeller or screw as it was called. It cruised at about 9 knots and only burned about 2 gallons an hour. The $200 monthly fee covered all expenses including fuel. We were able to use it more than our allotted schedule by looking at the calendar and calling the person that was scheduled that week. 9 out of 10 times they would not be using it and we could take it out. We enjoyed taking it on overnight trips to San Francisco. There were guest slips at pier 39 where we could dock and spend the night. There were several good restaurants on the pier and a great place for breakfast that opened at 6 AM. We could go on a night cruise during the week and be back to work by 9 the next day. Both of us loved being out on the bay. It was beautiful during the day and absolutely spectacular at night.

When we went public things changed dramatically. Dick’s attitude had always been that we weren’t really working, we were just playing trucks. We made decisions daily that involved at least some risk but offered opportunity for growth and profit. We made them quickly and implemented them immediately. Having outside investors on the company Board of Directors changed all that. Our every decision was questioned and sometimes criticized. Major decisions had to be approved by a majority of the board. Dick no longer had a majority so the decision making was slowed to a crawl while we waited for the board to meet and cast their votes. The stockholders interests and security always came first. This was a whole new ballgame and took a lot of the fun out of “playing trucks.”

We had issued stock as a private company to offer incentive to employees and occasionally sold some shares to “sophisticated” outside investors but it was non voting stock. We sold and traded it according to FEC rules. After we went public the rules got a lot more strict. Dick and I were considered to have inside information regarding the company so we had to be very careful selling any of our own stock or we could be accused of “insider trading.”

We also had to hold stockholder meetings. I had been conducting employee meetings for several years where I addressed 50 or 60 employees at a time with no problem. Facing a roomful of a 100 or so shareholders was a totally different thing. At the first one we conducted, Dick spoke first and then it was my turn. I was fat dumb and happy expecting to have no trouble speaking. When Dick’s voice started shaking I started getting anxious. By the time it was it was my turn I was really nervous and had a lot of difficulty giving my presentation. My voice was shaking also. I got through it somehow but I lost some of my confidence about making a public presentation. I was never able to be completely relaxed speaking in front of a large group after that.

In 1985 Dick decided it was time for him to leave Viking. His stock was worth a lot of money and he wasn’t having a lot of fun anymore. We talked it over and I decided to leave at the same time. A lot of the fun was gone for me also and without Dick it would be zero fun. We made Randy President and CEO and made our arrangements to leave. We kept our seats on the board but everything else became Randy’s problem. Dick went off to Florida to buy a boat and I started a design build commercial construction business.

It was named Westglenn Construction Inc. The construction manager came with me as a partner and we hired the engineer /drafting guy. It was primarily to continue building Viking’s terminals but we looked around for other jobs also. Our first job was a 100 door terminal on 11 acres in Sacramento, by far the largest terminal ever for Viking. We brought it in under budget and ahead of schedule using the same fast track methods.

We only picked up one other outside job. An R & D type building for a company that built high speed cameras mostly for the military. I met the owner through his son who worked at Viking. The building was to be on a two acre lot in Morgan Hill. One feature they needed was a platform inside the building that had to be perfectly still. That meant it could not be connected to the rest of the building in any way. That was somewhat of a design challenge. We brought that job in under budget and ahead of schedule also. We got a nice letter of appreciation from the owner.

The reason we couldn’t find other jobs was because at the time there was a system in place that almost seemed like a scam. A contractor would build a building like a warehouse or Research & Development building. After it was finished he would take out a loan on it for enough to cover his cost & profit and walk away. The bank would sell the loan to a Mutual Fund who would in turn sell shares to the public. There were literally hundreds of buildings all over the Bay Area sitting empty. You could lease one with two years free rent and low monthly payments. There was no incentive for a company to build their own building. A little over a year later Randy decided that Viking should go back to building their own terminals. I closed down the company, sold the house in Saratoga and moved to the house on the lake in Kelseyville.

A few months after Dick left for Florida I got a call from him. He had bought a boat and spent some time getting it outfitted and ready to go. He wanted to know if I wanted to go with him on his first trip to the Bahamas. Yes I did want to do that! Karen and I flew out to Fort Lauderdale. It was my first trip to Florida and I didn’t realize how hot and muggy it was. Dick’s place was way up one of the rivers and had a parallel dock where his new boat was tied up. I got my first look at it. It was a 61 foot motor sailor and it was beautiful.

A motor sailor has much more cabin space than a regular sail boat of the same length because of the truncated stern. Instead of coming to a point the stern is about 14 feet across. There was a large cabin at the back with a big double bed and a head with both a bathtub and a shower. Ahead of that was a large luxurious salon with couches and chairs and even a television. Next was a full galley and dining area. In the bow there were two enclosed cabins each with their own heads with showers. On the deck above was the bridge with complete navigating and operating equipment. Behind that was a large covered seating area open on both sides and to the back. Behind that was an open deck area about a 10 by 14 feet with a railing around it. A gate at the back had a ladder going down to the swim platform on the stern. It had two masts with furled roller sails that were motorized and could be raised and lowered from the bridge. There was an engine room below the salon with a diesel engine and a large generator. Dick had renamed it The Valhalla.

Everything was ready to go so we bought several cases of beer, stocked up the refrigerator and stashed our gear in our cabins. Dick had another young lady with him. We decided to make the crossing at night because you could see the lighted navigation beacons from a greater distance when it was dark. Dick had taken the boat out on a couple of trial runs but everything was new to me. The largest boat I had experience in was the Massive Action at 38 feet. This was almost twice that big. We planned our departure so we would arrive at the passage to the Grand Banks at daybreak.

This was 1986 and there was no GPS. The navigational system in place at the time was a radio beacon system called Loran. It worked on a system of radio beacons placed all around the world. It had to “see” at least three beacons to triangulate a position. Then it gave you a reading in longitude and latitude. You located that position on a chart and put a mark there. When you connected that mark to the mark for your last position it created a course line. Loran was not nearly as accurate as GPS. In that part of the world it was only accurate within about 3 miles.

The charts for the area had not been updated for decades and were also not too accurate. The only time either of us had been anywhere near these waters was on a Windjammer cruise so it was all completely new to both of us. Another learn as you go experience. On our way out to the ocean we had to pass through 3 drawbridges that had to be raised before we could proceed. We finally got out to the coast and started across the Straits of Florida.

Around three in the morning I was at the helm when a small blip showed up on the radar. I made a slight turn to port to avoid it and a few minutes later a twenty foot sailboat went by to the starboard with no lights of any kind. They was no response to radio calls and they made no attempt to hail us so we continued on our way.

We arrived at the banks shortly after daybreak as planned. Dick had a book giving directions for each entry and exit point and the approaches to the harbors around the islands. For this one the instructions said to line up a telephone pole with a church steeple and start the approach from there keeping them in line. Then when 30 feet from the cliff in front make a 30 degree turn to port. Next when 20 feet from the shore turn to starboard and enter the channel directly ahead. It was a little scary because we were in fairly shallow waters with reefs and corral heads here and there. The water was crystal clear and you could see the bottom but there was no way to tell how deep it was or how far away a corral head or reef was. You coud see the hulls of old wrecks here and there sticking up out of the water. This was no place to make a mistake. Once inside the barrier reefs the water was a consistent 20 feet or so deep well below our keel.

The crossing had been made under power. Once we were on the banks we put the sails up for the first time. The water and the sky were clear and beautiful. The wind was perfect to take us in the direction we wanted to go. After we were all set up Dick went below to get something to eat and I took over the helm. He was gone for awhile and the wind started to pick up. We were on a close reach and as we picked up speed we heeled over more and more. The largest sailboat I had previously sailed was a 16 foot catamaran we had at Clearlake. Rushing along at high speed going over a bottom I could see from the bridge was both exciting and scary. Dick must have noticed the heel and came up to help adjust the sails.

That afternoon we dropped anchor in a remote cove and paused to catch our breath. We had been up and active for almost 24 hours and needed a break. We went for a swim and laid around the deck drinking beer. While we were swimming we noticed several conch on the seabed. We had discovered how good these large sea snails were to eat when we were on our Windjammer cruise and we decided to dive for some the next day.

We cruised around the area inside the reef for the next several days stopping at different islands. We picked up conch and caught some beautiful fish. Dick had brought a spear gun and we went diving to spear the local lobsters that were crawling around the seabed. All this supplemented our larder and added diversity to our diet. When we started running low on beer we headed back. This time we made the crossing during the day. The Florida coast was a larger target than the passage onto the banks and the navigation was much easier. It was about 180 miles or a little over 156 nautical miles, At our cruising speed of 22 knots it was about a seven hour trip.

For the first time Dick broke out a bottle of bourbon and by the time we arrived at the mouth of the river he was a little unsteady on his feet. He had trouble docking the Valhalla at the floating fuel dock where we stopped to refuel. It was dusk by the time we docked in front of Dick’s place up the river and we spent the night there before flying home the next day. That was one of the most exciting, fun trips I had ever taken.

A few months after we got back we went through the process of closing Westglenn, selling the house and moving to the house in Buckingham.

Shortly after we moved I heard from Dick. He had been sailing around the islands in the Caribbean looking for a perfect place to live. He found one he liked in the Turks and Caicos Islands named Providenciales. It was a 38 square mile island with a population of less than 20,000 people about a hundred miles northeast of Haiti. Dick built a house on a bluff overlooking Taylor Bay. He invited me to come out for a visit and knowing how I liked new adventures he arranged for me to catch a ride on an old container ship that made monthly trips to the island from Fort Lauderdale. Again, yes, of course I want to do that! I flew out and bought a Honey Baked Ham for the ship’s larder and went directly to where it was docked. It was a real rust bucket. The whole crew was Portuguese and lived aboard sometimes years at a time without seeing their families. The First Mate was not aboard for some reason so I was given his cabin. It wasn't exactly luxurious but adequate. My trip was complimentary because they did a lot of business with Dick bringing him containers of groceries and used cars.

Dick had already started two businesses on the island - a used car lot and a wholesale grocery store. The locals controlled the island and he was required to have a local partner. This was a partner in name only. They were paid a salary but did nothing. There were not a lot of roads on the small island and most of them were not paved but everybody had to have a car. Dick’s used car lot did well. He and his new wife, the lady that went with us on the Valhalla, were annoyed by the price gouging practices of the local grocers, hence the wholesale grocery store. Dick had a guy in Fort Lauderdale buy used cars and case goods in big lots and ship them over once a month on the container ship. The grocery store was a small warehouse with two roll up truck doors and no windows. The case goods along with things like sacks of rice and flour were stacked on the floor in rows. I got to help unload that month's shipment when I got there. The locals loved the low prices and swarmed the place when a new shipment came in almost buying it out.

Dick’s house was on a bluff overlooking a rocky bay near Taylor Bay. It was fairly small but had a big master suite, a large room with a kitchen and combination dining and living room and two bedrooms sharing a bath on the other side. The living room had a sliding glass door leading out to a deck with a long steep stairway going down to a 10 by 20 foot dock. Interestingly enough Dick Clark (the long time host of American Bandstand) had a house about 3 blocks from there at Taylor Bay.

Dick had traded his motor sailor for a 30 foot power boat that he used for sail fishing. He also had the Lake Buccaneer at the airport. He would fly over to Haiti once in a while to buy crafts over there. While I was there he asked me to take another friend that was visiting to the airport to catch a plane. While I was at the airport someone said, “Hi John.” It was a guy I knew from the Lake County airport who just happened to be passing through on an island hopping trip. Amazing! To run into someone I knew from a small town in California on this little speck in the middle of the ocean was really a small world experience. I went back a few years later to pay my last respects to Dick. He was dying of cancer. He was the best and most exciting friend I ever had. He died a week after I left the island. I loved Dick, like the brother I never had, and I will forever miss him.

Here is a page of photos for the island. Providenciales is truly a beautiful place. The tourist industry has grown in leaps and bounds since I was there last.

The Rainbow Restaurant

I was interested in trying the restaurant business. I thought it would be a good way to get acquainted with our new community. I thought that my experience at the Rare Steer would be helpful. Karen and I went to a culinary school for a couple of months and started looking around for a dinner house. In 1986 there were a lot of dinner houses around the lake. In the Lakeport area alone there were four nice restaurants that were all busy and doing well. Anthony’s, the Rainbow and Infrognito’s were all just north of town within about 4 blocks of each other along Lakeshore drive. A few miles further north there was Robin Hill.

The Rainbow was for sale. It was across from the lake with ceiling high windows across the front with a view of the lake. We made a deal on the restaurant and signed a lease on the building with the parking lot and the strip of land on the lake across the road. I used the corporate shell from Westglenn which had several thousand dollars in it that would be taxed heavily if we took it out as wages. It made more sense to use that money to start up in the restaurant business.

The present owners had owned and operated the restaurant and the property, which included a small motel for several years. They bought it on a shoestring and managed to pay it off. They had a full staff in place and we kept all the cooks, waitresses and the bartender. The main dining room seated 66, the cocktail lounge with a large bar and cocktail tables was in a separate room and there was a large banquet room in the back that seated close to a hundred people. Nothing like starting out going full speed!

There was a very complete dinner menu in use when we took over. We made some changes and additions and put in all our own recipes. We also started making all the soups, salad dressing and sauces in house. There were a lot of retired people among the customers and I wanted to keep the food healthy and control the amount of salt. We offered everything from steak and lobster, seafood, and veal dishes down to a simple plate of spaghetti. Weekends and holidays we served prime rib offering three different cuts. We cut all our own steaks in the kitchen when they were ordered. The waitress would ask how they wanted them cooked and if they wanted us to salt them in the kitchen or if they would prefer to salt them at the table. They were served with a patty of maitre de butter on top.

We also had several hors d’oeuvres for both the dining room and the cocktail lounge including a dish called pork tonkatsu. This was thinly sliced pork breaded in panko and deep-fried. It came with a rich dark brown sauce made from several things including soy sauce, catchup and liquid caramel. It was very popular.

We were open 6 days a week from Tuesday to Sunday starting at 5 PM. We were usually on our way home around one AM. That’s only 8 hours but it took a lot more time than that to run the place. There were all the parts to running any business. Ordering, stocking, payroll, bookkeeping, etc. Most days we put in around 12 hours.

We had quite a few banquets. The largest one was the Ducks Unlimited dinner. There were around 80 guys and they would usually have steak or prime rib. They had a lot of drinks from the bar and wine with dinner. That was one of our most profitable nights. We had daytime banquets also. The Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce met there once a month for a luncheon.

I got the bright idea to build a colored fountain across the road by the lake. As a kid in Chicago I loved the Buckingham Fountain. It was a big multi tiered fountain with changing spouts of water. At night it was lit by different combinations multicolored lights. I decided to try to build a smaller version. I found a guy that sold components to fountains and he agreed to help me design one. I was lucky to find him.

He got enthused about the project and was a big help. I drew up the way I wanted it to look and he found the spouts to make it happen. He also put together the computer to run it. I had a circular concrete pond built with a pump house on one side. The pump house had all the pipes to all the spouts and the pumps to run them. We ran a large pipe out into the lake to supply the water. I knew better than to recirculation the water because the kids would never be able to resist putting soap in it so I ran the water back out to the lake. The computer also controlled the dozens of colored lights around the fountain just below the surface of the water. When it was done it was spectacular!

The main Spout in the center went straight up about 60 feet. Four spouts spaced abut six feet around it went up about 40 feet. A series of 4 spouts one on top of the other sprayed in toward the center from each side and could be moved up and down. Then there was a ring of smaller spouts about 3 feet apart all around the edge that sprayed toward the center and created a dome like effect. The lights were red, blue and yellow and could be changed with the spouts to create many ever changing patterns of water and light. I could program the computer to run one pattern after another. It turned out to be really beautiful and I was a happy guy.

Owning and operating the restaurant was fun for awhile but after eight years we were ready to sell. The cooks and waitresses and bartenders were very reliable and stayed with us a long time. But the busboys and girls and the dishwashers came and went. They did not value their jobs and would often not show up leaving us in a lurch. And guess who Lurch was? Me!

No Matter how hard you tried you could not satisfy every customer. A lot of people loved our food but there were always the chronic complainers and the young guys trying to empress their girl friends by criticizing the food and sending their steak back because it was either too rare or too done. We had a German cook and we had a saying. “The customer vill eat der food da vey it iss prepared.” But of course that was just a saying. It was a relief when we found a buyer. It was 1992 and I was 58.

Randy tried to take Viking nationwide. They ran out of funds and had to sell out to Roadway. My outstanding stock was paid off and after taxes this amounted to a little over $800,000. I paid off the loan on the house and started looking into investments to bring in income. Karen was resisting that and seemed to want to keep our money liquid.

She started seeing a couple of female psychologists in Ukiah. Karen had previously been seeing a woman that was into reincarnation. After several sessions that included hypnosis Karen became convinced that she remembered several past lives. I was worried about the people she was seeing in Ukiah and went there one day to ask that I be included in the sessions. I was met by cold stony stares and was turned away. About a month later I went on a motorcycle trip to Albuquerque to visit my kids and while I was there Karen called to say she was moving out.

When I got back I found myself in my usual position with Karen. One where I was trying to convince her to do something she didn’t want to do. This time I failed. She was determined to proceed with a life without me. I don’t know why it took me so long to accept this, It was obviously the right thing for us both at the time. Whatever we had or didn’t have was over. I guess it was because she was making the decision, not me.

We had a little Westy named Max that was more Karen’s dog than mine. She left him behind. When we moved in to the house after leaving Saratoga I had combined the outside bedroom with one of the bedrooms in the house to create a master bed room with a master bath that had a sunken Jacuzzi bathtub. Karen used the master bathroom and I used the bathroom next door. After Karen had been gone a couple of weeks Max crapped all over the master bathroom that Karen used. I don’t know what he was thinking but it seemed kind of appropriate to me.

At first I had a hard time accepting the fact that Karen was going to get half of everything I felt that I had earned over the past several years. This of course was not a reasonable position. The money was earned during our marriage and half of it belonged to her. My choice was to either sell the house or borrow against it and go back to work. I chose to sell the house. I put it on the market at $515,000. Karen was pressuring me to sell it so she could buy the house she wanted in San Jose. After a few months I sold it for $485,000 and settled up with the requirements of the divorce.

While I was waiting for the house to sell I wandered down to Braito’s Marina a block further down the street. Carl was building a 40 foot by 40 foot dock up on barrels near the water. I was standing there watching when a lady came up and said “Wow, I want one exactly like that.” Carl knew I was not doing anything and told her to talk to me. Carl was a self made man and an interesting guy. The story about him that says it all is this one. His marina was on two sides of an estuary with a floating bridge at the end to get to the docks on the other side. The guy that owned the property past Carl’s sued him in court to get access by water to his place. He won but when he went out to cut out the connecting bridge Carl met him with a shotgun. The guy decided to dig a channel behind the docks on the other side. Carl also performed several civic deeds over the years and was awarded a trophy for “Man of the year” when he was in his 90s.

I and a friend ended up building the dock for the lady also up on barrels at the marina. Carl had several tricks for building floating docks that lasted years longer than most of the others built around the lake. The big thing about a dock like that is the constant twisting and pounding they get from the lake. One way Carl combated that was by using rebar, the steel rods used to strengthen concrete, to bolt the sides together. He would weld a couple together to span the whole forty feet, thread the ends, and bolt them on each side using bolts and recessed washers like the ones that PG&E uses to keep the ends from sticking out. We used the same technique and the one we built is still floating today.

60 years old and single again

It was 1994 and after a search around the area I found a house on the Buckingham golf course that I liked. It was a 2 bedroom, two bath house with an office and a deck overlooking the golf course. I spent some time making sure it was oriented correctly with the sun and the wind and then bought it for $176,000. I got the contractor that built the house to move the front door to accommodate one stained glass window I had made and put in a bay window in the office for another one. I also built a planter box room divider in the living room.

One of the first things I did was fence the side yard and across the back around the deck. Then I put a doggie door in the garage going out to the side yard and another one in the door from the garage to the house. I also built a ramp going up from underneath the deck to the deck about 7 feet above the ground. That way Max had the roam of the house, the yard and the deck. He still was not happy when he was left alone but that was the best I could do. The one ramp I built for him that I got kidded about from most of my male friends was the one going up to my water bed so he could get up there. They said I needed to date younger women.

I had enough left over furniture that Karen left behind to furnish most of the house. Some friends were in the process of moving and I bought some things from them to finish the place off. I started dating a lady that worked for a local furniture company as an interior decorator and she helped me with the final details. The garage was large enough for two cars plus an area on one side big enough to put a workbench. The walls were unfinished sheetrock. I painted the walls and found a rubber based paint for the floor. Next I had cabinets with doors installed and built a workbench. Several guys since, including Ron, Betty’s brother, have given me a bad time about having such a neat clean garage. All in all I was happy with my new home.

About that time, after three failed attempts, I finally met the right woman. Another lady I dated casually, named Judy, had a friend named Betty Kavanagh who had recently been widowed. Judy told her that she knew a guy that would be perfect for her. Betty told Judy that when she wanted a boyfriend she would find one on her own. Three years later Judy and Betty stopped by the Rainbow. I was there having a drink. Judy introduced Betty to me and told her I was the guy she wanted to introduce her to before. I invited the girls to meet me at a boat tied up at a lot about a mile up the road the next evening.

This was a very interesting boat. Nick, a professional saxophone player, had built it on floats with plywood floors and sides. It was 80 feet long and about 30 feet wide with 2 decks. It was powered by two outboard motors. He had built it in Clearlake several miles away and motored it over to where it was now parked nose in to the shore. You walked up some rickety planks from the dirt lot to get on board. When you entered the lower deck there was a large area with a big U shaped bar and a dance floor with a bandstand. Nick did not have a liquor license but he found a way around that. There was a loophole that allowed clubs to supply drinks to members as long as no money changed hands. When you went in you signed up as a member and bought tickets, then exchanged the tickets for drinks. I don’t know how he got away with this but he did.

We had a pleasant evening dancing to Nick’s saxophone music and having a couple of drinks. When we decided to call it a night I asked Betty for her phone number. She acted surprised and almost looked over her shoulder as if I must be asking someone else. All the time she thought I was trying to get back with Judy. What she ended up giving me was a card that had her name, address, phone number and her email address. It was December 7th 1996, I was 62 and Betty was 60.

Email was brand new at the time but Betty and I used it a lot to communicate. I thought it was a great way get to know each other. You had the time to think about what you wanted to say but it was still a lot faster than mailing a letter. Our first date was a drive over to Fort Bragg for lunch. The almost two hour drive each way gave us time to talk and we found that we had a lot of interests in common.

Betty owned a place, free and clear, on Lafferty Lane a few miles north of Lakeport. It was on a small channel leading out to the lake and had it’s own floating dock and boat ramp. There was a nice fenced yard and a large willow tree shading the lawn on one side. Her family loved to come visit her there in the summers. She had been working as a Court Clerk at the Municipal Court and worked with Judge Art Mann for several years. She had retired about 3 years before we met.

Betty was going to drive down with her dog, Mushroom, to visit her family in Burbank for Christmas. She had been born in Burbank and her two younger brothers and their families still lived there. Unbeknownst to me she was planning to sell her place and move down to an area close to Burbank to be near family. It had been raining hard that winter and there was a big storm while she was down there. By the time she was ready to drive back a lot of the highways were flooded and there were several detours. I offered to fly down and drive back with her. This flustered Betty. We had only known each other less than a month, she wasn’t ready to enter into a relationship and she was planning to move. Her brothers on the other hand thought it was a nice of me to make the offer and said she should accept. After a little more debate she decided to let me fly down and drive back with her. I exchanged these e-mails with her brother Ron;

I made reservations to fly into the Burbank airport arriving around 2 PM. A friend that was going to Sacramento dropped me off at the airport. I was early and there was a flight leaving earlier that would arrive at 1 PM. I caught that one and after we were on our way I called Betty’s brother from the plane to tell him the change in arrival times. I told him not to worry if it didn’t work out to pick me up early because I would have had to wait at one airport or the other anyway. He told Betty that I “was on my way” and Betty said, “How can he be on his way he hasn’t even left yet!” Her brother said “He caught an earlier flight.” Her niece, Michele, was with Betty and teased her unmercilessly about being so flustered. Betty was waiting for me at the airport when I arrived.

I met her brothers and their wives and her nephew and two nieces when we got to her brother’s house. They were nice friendly people. We all went out to dinner and afterwards, because there were no spare bedrooms, I took Betty’s car and spent the night at a motel. I picked her up at 6 AM so we could get an early start. It was a long drive home as we had to go out of our way a couple of times due to detours around flooded roads. Mushroom spent the whole time trying over and over again to creep across from Betty’s side and crawl into my lap. He was used to riding there because Jack, Betty’s deceased husband, always let him ride in his lap.

We got home after dark. I picked up my car from a parking lot in town and followed Betty to her place to make sure everything was all right. Several years later she told me how much she had appreciated that at the time.

After we had seen each other a few more times I asked Betty how she felt about motorcycles She said fear. I had a Honda 1100 Shadow at the time and we went for a short ride around Buckingham. She loved the wind in her face and the feeling of freedom it gave her and we started taking rides when the weather was nice.

In January I invited Betty to go on an overnight to San Francisco. It would be the first time we would spend a night together. We exchanged the following emails;

We had a great time with everything we did on our overnight to San Francisco.

Betty was both computer oriented and tech savvy. She carried around a black leather book about 4 inches by 6 inches by 2 inches thick with an address book and a calendar in it. We had only known each other a few months but when I first saw a Palm Pilot I knew Betty would like it and I decided to buy her one. A palm Pilot was a hand held electronic device about the same size as a present day Iphone with a calendar and address book that could be synchronizeds with a computer and with another Palm Pilot. It is now out of production because Google offers the same thing on an Iphone app for free.

Betty loved it. She could make all the entries on her computer and “hot sync” with the Palm pilot. I had a Palm Pilot also and we both had the same program. That meant that we had joint address books and joint calendars with all the same information. When she put in an appointment on her calendar and we hot synced it also showed up on mine and visa versa. When she told her brother about it he laughed and jokingly said, “He just wants to keep track of you.” It was also good for keeping a historical record of the things we did and the places we went. When they stopped supporting it we were able to switch the history over to the Google Calendar so we still have access to it,

In May of 1997, 4 months after we met, we decided to take a trip to Europe. I wanted to show Betty some of the places I had found on my trip with Dick. We took the polar route from San Francisco to Frankfurt non stop. This takes a little over 10 hours and we arrived in Frankfurt around 10 in the morning their time. We rented a car and started driving south down highway 5 through the Rhine valley to Heidelberg. From there we turned east along the Neckar river another 8 kilometers to the little burg of Neckargamund. There was a three story hotel there that had been built as a hunting lodge in 1724.

The Zum Ritter was right on the bank of the river and the rooms on the third floor on the back had great views of the river and the little town on the other side. The floors tilted this way and that and the elevator was so small that us and our luggage wouldn’t all fit but we loved it.

There was a nice restaurant next door with an open deck on the second floor also overlooking the river where we went for dinner. This was my third trip to Germany and by now I was little more familiar with the language so we didn’t have any trouble ordering. Our room at the Zum Ritter included breakfast so the next morning we ate there. It was in a large comfortable room with a serve yourself buffet type meal typical of most German Gasthauses. Kaiser rolls, soft-boiled eggs you put in a little egg cups and eat out of the shell, all kinds of sliced ham and cheeses and lots of sweet rolls. The Zum Ritter in Neckargamund is one of my favorite stops in Germany. We stayed two nights there and spent the next day exploring the huge Heidelberg Castle, or schloss, in Heidelberg. From there we went to the Hotel Metropol in Arbon on Lake Constance on the Bodensee.

Next we went to the See Hotel in Walenstadt. My favorite place in Switzerland and probably in all of Europe. It was exactly the same as the last time I had been there, We stayed there two nights and Betty and I took the Wanderweg, or walking path, from near the hotel up and over the lower mountains and along the back of the lake where there were no roads to a little tiny place named Quinten. That meant you either had to walk or take the ferry. The sign said it was a 2 hour and 55 minutes walk. The path started out wide and smooth but steeply uphill. We were huffing and puffing along when a little old lady steamed right on by making it look effortless.

At the top there was a farm with open fields and several people sitting on the porch of a farm house. They waved to us to come over but we decided to keep going because we needed to get to Quinten in time to catch the ferry back. I wish we had had the time to talk to them. I’m sure they would have been surprised that we were from California. Going down the other side the path became more narrow with rocks and tree roots across it here and there. It took us 4 and a half hours and we were pretty tired when we got there. Remember, Betty and I are 60 and 63 years old respectively. We stopped at the nice little Gast Haus on the water in Quinten and had a drink while we waited for the ferry back to Walenstadt.

Betty’s mother was born in Genoa Italy so we wanted to go there to see what it was like. I had not been to Italy and neither one of us spoke Italian. We decided to stop and spend the night in Lugano on lake Lugano. Lugano is just inside Switzerland on the Italian border. We wanted to drive down to Genoa, about 2 and a half hours away, and get back to Lugano by nightfall.

The next day we started off early in the morning and drove south toward Genoa skirting Milan on the circular freeways around it and were almost there when we ran into our first problem. We were on a toll freeway and when we came to the toll booths we looked for one with a guy in it. No such luck, they were all automatic with machines. We went into one lane and did our best to figure out the signs, all in Italian of course, and pay the toll. No joy. Three or four cars pulled in behind us. No one honked and after awhile they all backed out and went through another lane, We backed out too and went through another lane, that machine worked fine, the gate went up and we went on our way. We had been in a lane with a broken machine.

We continued though Genoa down to the Mediterranean coast. We turned east and in about 40 kilometers came to the small town of Portofino on the Mediterranean coast. We stopped there for lunch. I noticed a statue overlooking a marina and walked over to look at it. It was Christopher Columbus. Apparently this was where he sailed from on his voyage to discover America. That was one of the fascinating things about Europe. There was so much history every where you went.

Travel in Europe meant trying to solve many little puzzles similar to the toll booth. We had parked the car on the street in Portofino and there was a parking fee system where you walked over to a machine and bought a ticket for the amount of time the car would be there. We saw tickets in the windows of all the cars parked around there which gave us a clue that we needed to do something. We scratched our heads and looked around but didn’t see anything. A person walking by noticed our plight and pointed out the machine a half a block away.

Most people in Germany, Italy and Switzerland were very friendly and helpful. They were especially happy when we said we were from California, that seemed to be their favorite state. The only people that were not that way were the French people we saw along the Rhine valley where France borders Germany. They were loud, rude and smelly. Most of the men and women had long hair hanging from their armpits. They are the reason I never spent much time in France. The French people around the rest of the country are probably much nicer but I was turned off by the ones I met on the German border.

We left Portofino around noon to head back to Lugano. There was a division in the road just past a toll booth. We tried to read about thirty names on two posts to figure out which one to take. I ended up taking the one to Milan instead of the one to Lugano. We had to go several kilometers before there was an off ramp where we could turn around. When we got back to the toll booth I saw a small opening right in front where I could turn around.

After I made the turn flashing lights and sirens came on behind me. When I stopped two Italian policemen came up to my window. They asked for my license and when they saw where we were from spoke in broken English. They said, “Here in Italy we do not make U turns at a toll booth. Here in Italy when you make an illegal turn on a freeway you must go to jail and see a magistrate the next day.” Betty started wailing and crying. She did not want to even think about what she would do by herself while I was in jail. She told them that I was a nice man that had taken her to see where her mother was born and that I didn’t mean to do anything wrong. They talked it over while she sat there crying and after awhile they gave me back my license and sent us on our way. I guess they felt it was better to let me go rather than put up with this wailing crying Italian woman.

Back in Lugano we drove up in the hills above the lake and came across the Mona Lisa Hotel a big old resort type place mostly empty at this time of year. We had a nice room on the second floor and when we went down for a drink the owners in their 60s entertained us. The man played an accordion and they both sang songs. We were the only ones there so at first we felt a little uncomfortable but they seemed to be enjoying themselves so we relaxed and went along with the program. After an enjoyable evening and a good dinner we went to bed for a well deserved night of rest.

On our way back we went through Austria and visited Hitler’s Eagles Nest. It was up a long narrow twisty road to the peak of the mountain. There was snow all around and a interesting cave that was used as a retreat.

In July we took a motorcycle trip to Albuquerque so Betty could meet Mike & Cindy. When Betty told her brother Richard that we were going to New Mexico on a motorcycle in July he said, “You are f**king crazy!” We actually went through some snow around Tahoe. We also saw a funnel cloud hit the ground about a mile to our right while we were going through Arizona. We spent a couple of days with Mike & Cindy and had a good time with them. They liked Betty and accepted her as soon as they met her.

When we left we went to the Grand Canyon and spent one night there. From there we went north to Zion National Park in Utah and spent a night in St George. We went through Las Vegas on the way home and then north on highway 95 to Hawthorn and spent the night there. We went home to Kelseyville the next day.

We had joined the Clearlake Roadriders, a local motorcycle club, and toward the end of July there was a club ride to Twain Harte up in the Sierras. We went up the Feather River Canyon to Twain Harte and spent the night there. The next day Betty and I split off from the group to go visit Yosemite National Park and then over to Carson City to see Betty’s aunt Caroline. After a night in Reno we headed home.

Betty saw a junior college class in building websites advertised in the local newspaper. She wanted to go so we both enrolled. They were teaching the HTML programming language. I caught on to it quickly and it resulted in my publishing our own website and uploading it to the Internet. We have uploaded information and pictures of several of our more interesting trips there. Please feel free to visit and explore this site.

We spent a happy summer getting to know each other and taking several short trips up and down the west coast that summer. Up to Seattle, over to Reno and down to San Clemente.

Toward the end of August 1997 Konocti Harbor Inn sponsored the first Celebrity Golf Shoot Out program at Buckingham Golf Course. The deck of my house was 8 feet above the ground and overlooked the 5th tee of the course. We could also see the 4th green, the 6th green the 7th tee and part of the 8th green and the 9th tee. Several of the NFL greats like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Kenny Stabler, Hoaie Long and many others would be there. We decided to have a deck party.

We put together an elaborate layout of hot and cold hor d’oeuvres, baked 2 rum cakes and bought 2 roasts that both fit on a spit for our charcoal bar b que, and found some small slider type sour dough rolls. The party started at 9 when the first golfers were due to show up and we served a baked egg dish with cheddar cheese and green chile peppers, bloody Marys, screwdrivers, coffee and lots of sweet rolls.

Around 10 we started the hors d’oeuvres with a platter of cold shrimp with cocktail sauce and followed that with platters of hot and cold platters of hors d’oeuvres throughout the rest of the morning. At 12:30 we put out all kinds of salad things with several homemade dressings for a make your own salad. There was also fruit salad and potato salad. At 5:30 we served the hot roast beef on toasted buns with au jus and horseradish sauce and a choice of potato chips or potato salad. Nobody went home hungry.

The bar went on all day of course with everything from beer to blender drinks. Turned out that Joe Montana liked our margaritas a lot. He drank several of them that Betty took down to him. Several of the other golfers also had a drink or two. Howie Long was the only one that came up on the deck to get his. He’s a really nice friendly guy and we got a picture of him giving Betty a hug and a smooch. He towered over us and everyone else on the deck. Some other guests got their picture taken with him also. We got lots of pictures of other NFL stars but only down on the golf course.

We invited over 40 people to start with but the party grew as friends of theirs walking by on the cart path saw them on the deck and were invited up to join us. It was a fun day and we have done deck parties annually ever since, even after they stopped having the Celebrity Golf event.

One week after the deck party, on August 31st we left on a 16 day motorcycle trip to Alaska. We decided to go at that time of year because there would be fewer mosquitoes and they would have had time to fix the roads from the damage caused by the previous winter. The mosquitoes were OK but roads not so much. We were gone a total of 16 days and all we had with us was what fit in 2 saddle bags and a T-bag on our 1986 Honda 1100 Shadow. We had to allow room in the saddle bags for our foul weather gear when we weren’t wearing it so that left about one cubic foot for everything else. Betty took 3 pairs of pants, three shirts and three vests and managed to mix and match the whole trip so she never looked the same. Amazing how she can pack when she has to!

We left Sunday the 31st of August and stopped at a Best Western in Rogue River Oregon about noon so we could watch the 49er game. It was so warm Betty bought a swim suit so she could use the pool. We spent the next night with friends in Portland and Tuesday night in Bellingham so we would be there to catch the ferry early on Wednesday.

I had not thought to bring tie downs for the bike but I managed to find some ropes on board to secure the bike to the lower deck. Since we would be on the ferry over 2 nights we paid a little extra for a small cabin with 2 tiny bunks and a great window. Betty & I slept in one bunk together of course. We scrounged up a couple of chairs and ate most of our meals on the windowsill watching the scenery go by. We also met some nice people and had a couple of great parties around the capstan on the aft deck with them.

We arrived at Skagway early in the morning and had breakfast in town about 9 AM. After that we left for Watson Lake. The surrounding countryside was spectacular and completely empty of human presence. We realized for the first time what a major adventure we were embarking on. The people in this area start heading south this time of year and what few places there were around were closing. We were one small motorcycle in a vast empty universe. We saw very few towns or communities on the 320 mile journey to Watson Lake.

When we got home I used my new knowledge of HTML to put the whole trip on our web site. Rather than duplicate it all over again I am including this link to the site.

On October 1st we flew up to Seattle for a five day trip just to visit the area. Shortly after we got back we went to San Jose for a couple of days. When we were in Canada on our motorcycle trip Betty saw a picture she really liked of some fishing boats painted on a marine chart. It wouldn’t fit on the bike but I got a card from the shop and got them to send it to me to surprise her. When we got to the Hotel in San Jose I snuck it out of the trunk and bribed a belboy to hang it in our room over the bed. Roger & Myrna came over and we were having a drink in the room.

Betty hadn’t noticed the painting so while we were talking I pointed it out to her saying how much it looked like the one in Canada. Betty thought I was being rude not to stay with the conversation. I mentioned it again and said that I thought it was almost exactly the same. She finally looked at it and said yes it did look a lot the same but she still thought I was being rude. I kept looking at it and then I climbed up on the bed and took it off the wall saying that I was going to take it home. Betty was horrified and told me that I couldn’t do that to put it back. I finally told her what I had done and yes, she was surprised.

When we got back I started working on a surprise birthday party for Betty. Her birthday was October 30th. The closest Saturday was November 1st so I planned it for then. I made up this invitation, with a picture from our Alaska trip of Betty in a ratty looking mud splattered poncho, and sent it to everyone I could think of. There were close to 60 attendees including Ron & Tami, Mike and Gail, (good friends from Orange County), Roger and Myrna from Santa Clara and many others from around Lake County. About 20 stayed for dinner.

I got Nick, the sax player, to perform on stage to provide dance music. He wasn’t real reliable so I got a friend to stay with him to make sure he showed up. Most everyone got there before I brought Betty. She knew something was up because I got her to dress up in her best black mimi dress but she had no idea of the size the party was going to be. When she saw all the people, especially her brother and sister in law, who came all the way from Burbank, she was flabbergasted.

It was a fun evening and we all had a great time drinking and dancing the night away. I don’t remember anyone giving a party equal to it the whole time I lived in Lake County. Drinks were $1.50 each at the time. If 60 people had 3 drinks each that would be 180 drinks or $270.00. The bar bill came to $240.00. I tipped $50.00 for a total of $290.00. I paid Nick $100.00 for the night so for less than $400.00 I made quite a splash!

Betty & I were spending most of our time together at this point. Most couples like to do separate Guy and Gal things once in awhile. Betty and I preferred to do things together. Our friends were kidding us about being joined at the hip. They were pretty much right. We enjoyed being together and liked doing the same things. Because I had given Betty the Palm Pilot we have a record of the things we have done. Here’s a list for the first 12 months we were together;

Jan 4th………Drove Betty home from Burbank.

Jan 16th……..Overnight in San Francisco for THE night.

Feb 8th………Trip to Reno.

Feb 23rd……...Driving trip to Yachats, OR

March 8th…….San Jose to meet Roger and Myrna.

March 17th……Fly to Seattle.

April 3rd.……..Fly to Los Angeles.

April 26th……...Motorcycle trip to to Gualala on the coast north of SF.

.May 3rd………..Fly to Burbank to visit Betty’s family.

May 12th………16 day trip to Europe.

June 1st………..Motorcycle trip to Albuquerque.

July 25th……….Garlic Festival in Gilroy, met Betty‘s family there.

July 31st……….Motorcycle trip to Yosemite and Reno to visit betty‘s aunt.

Aug 24th……….Celebrity Golf deck party.

Sept 1st…………16 day motorcycle trip to Alaska.

Oct 1st…………..Fly to Seattle for 6 days.

Oct 25th…………Fly to Spokane for 4 days

Oct 30th…………Overnight to San Francisco for Betty’s birthday.

Nov 1st…………Betty’s BIG birthday party.

The first part of December was fairly quiet. We went on a toy run with the Clearlake Roadriders and on an overnight to the Benbow Inn in Benbow. On the 23rd we drove down to Burbank for Christmas. This was my first Christmas with Betty’s family but it has become a tradition and we have gone down every year since. The day after Christmas we all went down to Ron & Tami’s condo near the ocean in San Clemente.

There were two condos, A and B units. The B unit had a nice view of the ocean and the pier. Both units had 3 bedrooms and 2 baths downstairs and a living room, dining room, kitchen and one bath upstairs. They had bought them a few years ago as an investment and rented them out as vacation rentals. They were both empty the 4 days we were there so there were plenty of bedrooms to go around.

In February of 98 we made a quick trip to Yachats by flying into Spokane, renting a car and driving to Yachats. We loved the Adobe Inn there. It sits right on a low cliff about 30 feet from the ocean. There is a large bunch of rocks just off shore that the waves break on throwing spray 30 to 40 feet in the air. We always stayed in a room on the third floor overlooking this dramatic scene. With Betty and I it is always about the view. Wherever we are the drapes and blinds are always open day and night. Other people we travel with close them at night. Not us, if possible our window will be open too.

In early March we flew down to Orange County, took the boat to Catalina and spent 2 nights at the Zane Grey motel up on the hill north of town. The Zane Grey enjoys a beautiful view of Avalon and the harbor. Around the 24th we went to Santa Cruz and stayed at the Dream Inn Hotel on the Beach next to the pier and Boardwalk. Betty gave me a surprise birthday party at the Shadowbrook.

This is one of my all-time favorite places. It is without a doubt the most beautiful restaurant I have ever seen. The extensive grounds are terraced and landscaped to perfection. You take a small one car trolley down a steep track to get to the landing in front of this multilevel restaurant. All the various dinning rooms have a spectacular view of the grounds and the small river below. Just writing about it makes me want to go there. We had a private room. Betty had invited lots of friends and family and even flown my son Mike out from Albuquerque for the occasion.

We flew down to Burbank for Easter with Betty’s family in April. We were scheduled to fly back over to Europe on the 13th but had to cancel because some problems came up with the apartments I owned in Chowchilla. Back when I was earning good money at Viking I bought a 20 unit apartment building in Chowchilla both as an investment and a tax shelter. I had a good live in manager that took good care of them and saw that they were rented to good people. She decided to move and the guy I got to replace her was not anywhere near her equal.

Things gradually deteriorated without my noticing it until the rent money started going down. There were 3 or 4 empty apartments and he wasn’t filling them with new people of any kind. Betty and I went down to find out what was going on and nothing was going on. The outside was a mess, the empty apartments were filthy dirty and the rest of the tenants were all ready to move out. I fired the manager and Betty and I went back home to get ready to spend some time down there. I bought a small van and loaded up some tools and equipment so we could stay in Chowchilla as long as it would take straighten things out.

We moved into an empty unit and went to work scrubbing floors on our hands and knees, cleaning stoves and counters, painting as needed and just in general cleaning things up. The manager’s unit was one of the worst ones. He had only been there 5 or 6 months but what a mess he left behind. It took us several weeks to get things back together and the empty units rented out.

During that time we were living like a married couple. After awhile Betty got a little upset about that. She was uncomfortable pretending something that was not true. I said, “ Well in that case lets get married.“ She acted like she didn‘t even hear me and didn‘t say anything. The next day I told her that I thought I had proposed to her and what did she think. She said that she didn’t think that was a real proposal so I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. She said that she had never even considered getting married again and needed some time to think about it.

We talked about it several times over the next few days. Betty was concerned that things would change between us if we got married. We were so happy and having such a good time and she was perfectly happy the way things were now. I think I finally convinced her that we truly loved each other and that nothing would change. When she talked to her brothers they both encouraged her to marry me. Eventually she agreed and we set the date for Sunday July 19th, primarily because that was a time when her family could come up. We had a very simple wedding on the deck of my house with only a few friends and family attending. The ceremony was preformed by Judge Mann, the judge Betty had worked with for several years.

The first thing we decided to do was add about 6 feet to one side of the house where the master bedroom and office were. The guy the house had been built for was a golfer. He had a door put in the bath off the master bedroom going out to the deck so he could stop and go to the bathroom without walking through the house in his golf cleats. There was no door between the bath and the bedroom.

By adding the 6 feet we were able to move the wall on the bathroom side about 3 feet and create a walk in closet inside the bathroom. We took the door to the deck out and added a counter with 2 sinks and a large shower with a small window to the deck. There was a high window on the bedroom wall on the deck side. We took this out and replaced it with a sliding glass door. We put a fireplace in the corner across from the bathroom. We also extended the deck and put in a bar and a back bar with cabinets. They both were topped with slate and the front of the bar was finished off with padded marine upholstery. It was painted with black automotive paint which has held up very well over the years.

I drew up the plans on 12 by 16 inch graph paper and the contractor was able to pull the permits with them as is. When the work was completed it was perfect. There were several drawers in the cabinets across from the sinks in the master bath and Betty put a dresser in the walk in closet so we didn’t need a dresser in the bedroom. We put a small round table in front of the fireplace with a couple of chairs and the bed on the wall opposite the sliding glass door. We have spent many happy winter nights sitting there at the table watching the fire and having our final drink of the evening.

At the end of August when the construction work was done we flew up to Seattle. We spent one night in West Vancouver and the next day took the ferry over to Victoria. We spent 2 nights at the Empress Hotel and loved it. We had a great lunch at Butchart Gardens. We took the ferry back to Seattle and spent a night there before flying home.

We made a few local trips during the next couple of months. One to meet Roger & Myrna in San Francisco and go to Beach Blanket Babylon. We flew down to Burbank for Betty’s birthday and again for Christmas and yet again in January for Tami‘s birthday.

In February of 99 we bought a Harley Davidson motorcycle. They finally came out with a decent engine. The twin cam 88 was the first Harley engine I was willing to buy. Betty wanted the image and the tee shirts, I wanted performance and reliability. The Dynaglide Convertible with the twin cam 88 engine was a great bike. It had a removable windshield, which I didn’t care about, and removable saddle bags that you could take off and carry in to a motel. It was ready to go with very few modifications. I got new mufflers and made some other slight changes and we were on our way. We were the only Harley in the Clearlake Roadriders motorcycle club and they made us ride at the back of the group because of the noise but everything else was fine.

On May 11th we flew to Frankfurt on our second trip to Europe. Betty’s cousin Marco had come to California and stayed with Betty’s brother Richard in Burbank for a few days. We went down and met him there. He lived in Luxemburg. After a couple of days at the Zum Ritter in Neckargamund we drove up there for a visit, Then we drove down to Lake Constance and stayed one night in Arbon at the Hotel Metropol. After that we spent 4 nights at our favorite place, the See Hotel in Walenstadt. They were full on the 5th night so we spent the next 2 nights up in the hills above lake Wallen at the Hotel Shick. This was a nice little place with great views of the valley but I got some kind of stomach flu.

That cleared up and we went back to Neckargamund for a couple more nights at the Zum Ritter. We found a nice place in the country near the Frankfurt airport and stayed there one night before flying back to San Francisco.

We spent the rest of 1999 and most of 2000 following much the same pattern. Trips up and down the west coast from San Diego to Seattle either driving or flying. We went to visit Betty’s family several times and they came up here to visit us during the summers.

In October we had more problems with the apartments in Chowchilla. The managers at the time were a young pastor of a local church and his wife. The wife fell down and hurt herself, she said while working at one of the units. They filed a Workers Comp claim and we were in deep trouble since we did not have workers Comp insurance. The Workers Comp system is not at all like the court system. A board makes all the decisions and not necessarily reasonable ones. Exorbitant amounts are handed out on a regular basis. We hired an attorney and sweated it out until we were able to get a decision. The cost to settle was $20,000 plus attorney fees. It could have been worse and we limped away licking our wounds. We decided enough was enough and that we would sell the apartments and do a 1031 exchange into another property.

On December 17th 2000 we took our first cruise together on the Star Clipper, Windstar. I had been on a couple of Windjammer Barefoot cruises when I was in my 30s and thoroughly enjoyed them but they are definitely for the younger crowd. I had also been on one other short cruise. Myrna & Dean and Karen & I had flown down to Acapulco and we caught a Princess ship for the last 4 days of a 42 day cruise. The cruise ships at that time did not have the sophisticated stabilizers they have today. I remember there was a dance floor at the stern that was transcribing about a 60 foot arc up and down. When it went up all the dancers were pretty much stuck to the deck and when it went down we all skittered around like loose marbles.

We flew to St Kitts and spent a couple nights there exploring the island before we boarded the Windstar. We had a good time on the Windstar but decided not to go on that kind of ship again. There was a "nowhere to be" kind of thing. Our cabin was small with a porthole high up on one wall and no place to sit other than on the bed or at the little dressing table. Two people couldn’t sit comfortably and talk and you couldn’t see out. The same was true of the rest of the ship. There were very few common areas and it was hard to find a place to just sit comfortably. We enjoyed the ports of call and at one of them rented one of the ship's little sailboats to go ashore.

Later that spring of 2000 we started an ambitious stained glass project. The dinning area of the house had windows looking out to the deck and a blank wall to the right. We enjoyed entertaining and had a dinning room table that seated 8 people. The wall on the right made it a little crowded. We decided to add a floor to ceiling bay with windows to the end of the dinning area. The whole bay would be 8 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Just enough to make the dinning area less cramped. The 5 windows were 4 feet high by 18 inches wide. We planned to make the stained glass panels to fit. Betty and I would do all the work ourselves.

We wanted a San Francisco scene with Coit Tower, a cable car and the Golden Gate Bridge. We researched around and found pictures that showed these landmarks and took them down to Burbank to a friend of Betty’s brother who had a stained glass shop. He drew up the lead line drawings for 5 panels and did a beautiful job. I guess because he was a friend of Richards he only charged us a hundred dollars. A ridiculously low charge for all the work and talent he put in on it. We started on the panel with Coit Tower as soon as we got home. We turned the dinning room table into a leaded glass workshop and worked on it every time we could. Once you have a lead line drawing it’s all about accuracy. The glass pieces must be scored, broken out and ground to within a 16th of an inch or less to match the drawing. Then the lead caming must be cut and bent to fit the edges tightly. It took almost three months to finish Coit Tower but it came out absolutely beautiful.

We started work on the bay window next. We wanted to keep the time the wall would be open to a minimum so we started by building the framing for the bay in the garage. Then we cut through the wall below the floor and put in the floor joists attaching them to the existing joists underneath the house. When we had all that ready we started tearing out the wall. Betty loved that part. In two days we had the framing in place and the exterior wall in place. We put plastic in the windows and called the glass guys to come out and install the double windows on the outside. The leaded glass panels were to go on the inside. We took our time putting up sheetrock and finishing off the inside.

We liked the look of the scene outside the new windows so much we decided not to install the leaded glass panels after all. The total effect of the windows on the outside wall to the deck and the windows on the side wall gave the room an open look that we didn’t want to change. I built a light box and we bought special tube lights to put on the wall behind it. It fit perfectly over the TV console that divides the room.

On January 11th 2001 Betty’s brother, Richard, went in to the hospital for surgery on his colon to remove an area that was cancerous. The cancer was removed successfully but he got a staph infection. They fought it for three weeks but on February 2nd he died. He was a really nice man and knew a lot of people in Burbank. It was the community where he was born and went to school and where he had lived all his life. His memorial service was held at a local church and was attended by a huge crowd of friends and family. It was the largest memorial service ever held in Burbank. Richard had opened a custom upholstery business in Burbank when he was 18. Over the years his client list grew to include such famous classic car collectors as Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen and Jay Leno. Jay Leno called personally to offer his condolences to the family.

In October we spent a week in Maui and celebrated Betty’s birthday there. We stayed in a condo in Kahana about 6 or 7 miles north of Lahaina right on the water. It was on the 2nd floor and had a nice large balcony overlooking the rocky shore. There was a bedroom in the back but Betty and I slept on a hide-a-bed next to the sliding glass door to the balcony. We went for a submarine ride out of Lahaina on the Atlantis, a real submarine. I thought it was going to be one of those glass bottomed boats but no, it was really a submarine. It had rows of single seats on each side with portholes so you could see out. As we were submerging the narrator was joking about going down to see where the last one had sunk. It was really interesting.

One day we flew over to Honolulu and went to Pearl Harbor to see the Arizona Memorial. Also very interesting. It was kind of strange to see that most of the tourists were Japanese. Maybe they were there to gloat?

We flew down to Burbank for Christmas and afterwards drove to Palm Dessert to visit friends. When we came back we stayed at Ron & Tami's condo in San Clemente a couple of days then flew home from Burbank.

On October 2nd of 2002 we embarked on another fun adventure. We went up to Bellingham Washington and went on a bareboat cruise. We got a 32 foot power boat with twin screws and off we went. Those are interesting waters because of the extreme tides and tidal currents. We had done our homework and had some good charts. There was no GPS on board but we had our laptop with Streets and Trips, a Microsoft mapping program with a GPS that worked for land but not marine. At least it would show our position in relation to the San Juan Islands. I was determined to navigate by time and distance and we didn’t use the GPS until we were on our way back.

The biggest mistake I made was in the selection of the boat. There were no openings in the railing around the deck and it was over 5 feet from the top of the rail to most of the docks we tied up at. Since I had to stay on the flying bridge at the helm when we docked that left Betty with a very difficult operation to get down to the dock to tie us off. She did very well in spite of this disadvantage. The whole trip is shown on this page of our web site.

In January of 03 Ron & Tami bought a house in San Clemente. They bought it for the location and the lot, planning to rebuild the house. It was in a very nice neighborhood in the hills above the city itself. The areas around the streets and hills between the houses were all landscaped and the utilities were all underground so there were no overhead wires of any kind. The lot was large and backed up to a big landscaped hill so no other properties looked down on it. There was a nice house but it was much smaller than the one they planned to build.

This turned out to be a high pressure project. The first challenge was getting the design work and architectural drawings done. They hired a guy who did a good job except that the house didn’t quite fit on the lot. After that was straightened out there were multiple construction problems. Tami made changes from time to time as the project developed and there were cost overruns. Ron was working from dawn to dusk and both he and Tami were under a lot of pressure.

Their house in Burbank sold during construction in San Clemente so they had to move out. They still owned the family house where Betty and Ron were born that was also in Burbank . It was a rental and currently empty so they moved in there. Then they found someone to rent it so they moved again to the condo in San Clemente. This all added to the stress and confusion. It was a real struggle but the final house came out perfect.

To save money Ron had the contractor leave some of the finish work for him to do. This took time because of the long hours Ron put in at his backflow valve business, Sagona Backflow. He got up at 4 AM 5 days a week and left the house at 4:30. He covered the whole LA basin and on down to San Diego. When he got home around 3:30 or 4 he had to spend 3 or more hours with the billing and other paperwork. This means he was putting in 14 hour days. He still does as a matter of fact. On the weekends he was responsible for taking care of several rental properties including the condos in San Clemente and was on call to help with problems at their 2 daughters properties. This didn’t leave a lot of time for doing finish work.

Eventually it all got done and they started working on landscaping the back yard and putting in a swimming pool. There were large rocks built on the back side of the pool with a waterfall. Later Ron built a palapa with a palm roof. It had a bar and cooking area including a built in bar b que and stove. The finished product is beautiful. Ron and Tami and their 2 daughters families, now including 3 grandchildren, have spent many happy days there around the pool.

Also that January we went to Maui for a week, then on the 7th of May we left for Barcelona Spain to go on a Mediterranean cruise. We wanted to see that area from Spain to Italy but after our last trip to Spain I was a little apprehensive about driving there. The only language I was even a little conversant in was German. Spanish and Italian were beyond me. We decided that the best way to go there was on a cruise ship.

We found the perfect itinerary on the Celebrity ship Millennium. It left Barcelona and stopped at all the best ports in Spain, the Greek islands, Dubrovnik Croatia and ended in Venus. Perfect! I found the Cruise Critic board where you could communicate with other passengers going on the same cruise and picked up all sorts of useful information. I also talked to Albert and Silvia Guasch who were also on that cruise,

We decided to go on several private shore excursions with them and rented cars together in other ports. The private tours were less expensive than the ship’s shore excursions going to the same places and were in small vans with the 4 of us or at most 6 people instead of busses with 25 to 30 people. Again, perfect. When we got on board we discovered that the Captain’s wife had written a book titled “If I were not Upon the Sea,” or “Life Under the Captain’s Table.” We went with Albert and Sylvia to the ship’s drug store to buy a copy and met her there. She signed our books and while we were talking we found out that we all basically hated the then governor of California, Gray Davis, and ended up getting invited to the Captains table for dinner. Yet again, Perfect.

We thoroughly enjoyed all the wonderful ports and our days with Albert and Sylvia. It was a very port intensive cruise. Nice Italy near Monte Carlo, Florence, Rome and Naples. Then Athens, the Greek island of Santorini, The old walled city of Dubrovnik and last but not least Venice. What an itinerary! We have not seen one its equal since. Albert became a part time travel agent and has helped us to get good deals on many future cruises and take advantage of the best travel arrangements ever since. The entire chronicle of our first Mediterranean cruise is here.

In September we left on a trip to the East Coast in the hope of seeing some fall colors. On the 22nd we flew from San Jose to Baltimore and then on to Manchester. We spent one night in Manchester then we rented a car and drove north up the coast to Rockford. After one night there we continued north to Bar Harbor where we found a great motel right on the water that we really enjoyed. The next day we went to St Johns in New Brunswick Canada. We spent two nights there exploring the area. The reverse falls are an interesting attraction. The tides are so huge in that area that they actually cause a river to run backwards and even reverse the waterfalls.

From there we took the ferry across the bay to Digby on Nova Scotia and drove around to Halifax. We stayed in the Sheraton hotel down by the waterfront. Hurricane Juan was due to hit the area late the next day. Everyone except one bartender at the hotel bar seemed totally unconcerned. He was worried. We were planning on staying the next night but changed our minds after talking to him and watching the weather on that night’s news. We left early the next morning and drove up to Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island 326 kilometers or about a 4 hour drive north. This was far enough to put us out of hurricane Juan’s path. When we went back through Halifax a few days later there were trees and telephone poles down all over the place, the marina was destroyed and there were boats all over the waterfront blown up on the piers and even the streets. People were not quite so casual about Juan now.

From there it was about a 6 and a half hour drive west to Bangor, Maine. Still hoping for color but I guess it was still too early. The next day we drove about 3 & ½ hours back down to Manchester. After spending a night there we flew back to San Jose.

2004 was a busy year. January 12 to the 19th we house sat at Roger & Myrna’s house in Santa Clara. Then on the 24th we flew to Las Vegas for a couple of days for Tami’s birthday. On February 2nd we flew to Oahu for 3 days then over to Kauai for 5 days. On March 1st we flew down to San Diego and went on a 12 day Mexico cruise stopping in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, Manzanillo, and back to San Diego. Then on the 24th we went to Santa Cruz for my birthday with dinner at Shadowbrook of course.

April was a quiet month but things picked back up again in May. On the 10th we flew out to Baltimore, spent one night there and then flew over to London. Hertz had a program called Le Swap. For a little over $700 they gave us a car for 2 weeks and two passes through the Chunnel underneath the English Channel to France. In France they exchanged the right hand drive car for a left hand one. The whole trip is Chronicled on our web site.

On September 9th we drove down to San Clemente and stayed at the condo for a few days. On the 11th we picked up Roger and Myrna at the Orange County airport, spent one more night at the condo then the four of us went on a 4 night Baja cruise.

In October we went to San Francisco a couple of times to see plays and another time for Betty’s birthday. We spent a week at Ron and Tami’s in November and again in December for Christmas. New years we spent in Santa Clara with Roger and Myrna.

We left on May 2nd in 2005 to go on another very interesting cruise that would take us to Russia, a place we never thought we would visit. You needed a visa to go anywhere by yourself so we went to the Russian embassy in San Francisco. We walked into a waiting room full of people sitting around. There was a window with a hole to speak through and a bored looking woman sitting behind it. We started to walk up to the window and someone said to just take a number and sit down. We waited for 2 hours and nothing happened. We all just sat there. We gave up. The alternative to getting your own visa was going with a government approved guide. We decided to do that. That whole great trip it is all at this link.

Albert and Sylvia met us in London. They got there a few days before we did and had some great tours planned for us. They had arranged for a room for us where they were staying at the Hilton Docklands. It was a ways out of the downtown area but close to a subway station. They quickly showed us why that was the best way to get around London. There are some pictures on the London page of the web site that show some of the places they took us. There is also a separate page for our ride on the London Eye.

We all took a Limo from London to Dover and stayed at the Churchill Marina Hotel. This was the same hotel Betty and I stayed at the previous May on our driving trip. This time we took a couple of days to explore around the area as shown on the Dover page. On Saturday the 7th we left on our 14 day Baltic cruise. The 2 places we enjoyed the most were our 2 days in St Petersburg Russia and Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen Denmark.

Betty and I loved going on cruises. I mean what’s not to like about a luxurious floating hotel with a spectacular dinning room, great food, nightly entertainment that takes you to different ports from day to day! In the 13 years from 2000 to 2013 we went on 24 cruises for a total of 204 days at sea. We are pikers compared to some people who have gone on way more cruses than that but it seemed like a lot to us. For awhile we were going on 3 or 4 cruises a year. Three in 08, four in 09, three in 2010, and four in 2011. We went on 5 major cruise lines; Celebrity 11 cruises, Royal Caribbean 5 cruises, Princess 4 cruises, Azamara 1 cruise, Norwegian 1 cruise, and Holland America 1 cruise. That plus the Windstar adds up to 24 cruises.

Celebrity was our favorite with Royal Caribbean a close second. Celebrity had the best forward observation lounge of any cruise line. It offered a comfortable setting, a cocktail lounge and a beautiful view both forward and to the sides. I have often wondered why other lines do not have anything equal. Three other cruises stand out in my mind. The first time we went on a cruise with Ron and Tami to New England in 07, when they went on a 10 day cruise on the Azamara to the Mediterranean, and also with us on a 5 day cruise to Sicily.

The Sicily cruise included a one day stop in Palermo about 78 kilometers from Alia, the little village where Betty & Ron’s grandfather was born. The family name was Sagona which you hardly ever saw in the US. In Alia there were businesses named Sagona this and Sagona that all over the place. We had a really great day there. Here’s the page. When we got back to Barcelona we flew to Zurich and took them to, you guessed it, Walenstadt! (Click on “Switzerland at the bottom of the page) We even got to take them to Quincy on the little ferry. Here we all are on the right.

Life with Dialysis

In October of 2013 I started dialysis. This had been hanging over my head for almost 16 years. In 1997 I went for an airman’s physical, to renew my pilots license, and failed it due to excess protein in my urine. In 98 I had a biopsy that indicated I had a slowly developing kidney disease. In July of 2013 I was advised to have a fistula installed. The operation was performed by Dr Fujitani at UC Irvine Med Center. It turned out to be timely advice because I had to start dialysis 3 months later. I am currently going 3 days a week for 4 hours a day.

It took awhile for me to get what is called “dialed in” because I had accumulated and carried around so much extra fluid for such a long time. About 25 pounds worth. When that was taken off by dialysis a lot of things improved for me. I no longer needed to take blood pressure medication and stopped using the inhalers I had been dependent upon for many years. For the last several months prior to starting dialysis I had gotten severely anemic. That went away in a couple of weeks and my appetite and energy returned.

Our present routine is on Monday, Wednesday and Friday we go to the gym at 10 AM and from there to the dialysis clinic about 4 miles away. Betty stays there with me crocheting and occasionally going on errands or girl stuff like hair and nails. We are home by around 4 in the afternoon and I spend some time reading and on the computer. We start our cocktail hour at 6 as usual and I make the snacks and help get dinner together. We have even gone out to dinner after dialysis once in awhile. On the other 4 days of the week we go out to lunch and play with our friends.

There are dialysis clinics all over the world. When we fly down to Orange County there is one about 6 miles from Ron and Tami’s house in San Clemente that works out very well. There is even Dialysis at Sea, an outfit that offers dialysis on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean, our two favorite cruise lines. It’s fairly expensive and you have to pay for it in advance and then collect from the insurance afterwards but we will look into it one of these days.

Betty and I are perfectly happy with our lives right now. We have done our traveling and pretty well got it out of our systems. We love Europe but no longer care to take the 11 to 12 hour flights back and forth and deal with the effect of the extreme time changes. Mike and Cindy fly out once in awhile for a nice visit and that’s always fun. We very much enjoy the time we spend with Betty’s wonderful family down in San Clemente. We love our house and neighborhood and have lots of friends to play with. We love each other very much and we are content.

Authors note;

I have very much enjoyed writing this bio. I have not spent much time during my life looking back. I have always been focused on the present and looked forward to the future. Looking back on some of the experiences I have been through during my life has been fun. I want to thank my lovely wife Betty for encouraging me to write this and also my very good friend Myrna for taking the time to print it out and proof it, word for word looking for typos and mistakes. She found plenty of them.

At the this link I have attached the mystery novel I am attempting to write. Novel I am not satisfied with the plot yet but the I am using some of my life experiences as background and fill. That part is flowing along nicely.

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