Wednesday, November 07, 2001

I just changed my template. What a pain, I hope you enjoy. It took me a long time to get the colors right. i've been told that makes me "such a girl"

Tuesday, November 06, 2001

Introducing a new segment of Amanda's journal: Meet the Family

If you enjoy this installment of Meet the Family and would like to be featured in the second, email and tell us in 500 words or more why your story should be shared with the Capital City Tale Community. Only Bloomgren's and Kovaleski's are eligible for participation. You also must have taken at least one past Holiday with the host of this journal and be willing to send either money or presents on birthdays (gift certificates also acceptable.) Entries will not be returned and may be used as a source of humor around future dinner tables.

I have this aunt, that's not really an aunt, but for all intensive purposes and according to all of our family she is... she lives with my uncle, who really is my uncle, although some of our family might not want to say he is (just kidding Jim, I hope you are reading this-- we really love them both, but don't get to see them often enough)... Any way, long teasing introduction aside my aunt and uncle, Jim and Wendy, do cool things like ride thier bikes cross country (the US) taking a long detour through Mexico. They live in Florida and are the family that I finally get to see in their own stomping ground this Thanksgiving.

Today my Grandpa forwarded on an email from Wendy of thier recent adventure. Wendy is a great writer and often we get to read her emails and letters (I wonder if she knows this?) from the things they do. Wendy can make the mundane sound like the circus and sometimes make what must have been a hellish-circus sound like an adventure you're sad you missed out on.

If she was younger than me, or related to me I'd try to say I'd passed on my excellent writing skills from her to me. Unfortunately niether are true and after reading the below excerpt from the account of a trip she and Jim took to pick up a truck you'll realize her writing is far beyond my daily accounts...

(Wendy if you care I am posting this, just let me know. I thought it was hilarious and much more exciting than my last week. When are you going to start a journal of your own?)

Here is a bit more background. Jim does a lot of out door work. He is basically a yard artist. I could call him a gardner but I don't think it would be an apt discription. He's too good and too creative. He and Wendy bought a truck for cheap and decided to pick it up and drive it to Florida:

It sounded like a good idea at the time: fly to Kansas City, stay with friends, pick up Jim's "new" 1965 Ford
one ton dump-truck in Paola, Kansas and drive it back to Florida, sightseeing and loading the truck with
antiques along the way. "What if the truck breaks down?" asked friends. "After all, it's over 35 years old and you've never laid eyes on it." "No problem," we said. "It looks great in the picture on the internet. And if it breaks down, Jim will fix it. We'll bring along his tools."

"Oh", they said, not sounding convinced. "At least you've thought this through."

So, armed with exceptionally cheap one-way airplane tickets, [$24.00 each], we left Tampa for Kansas City arriving three short hours later. And aside from not knowing whether we'd landed in Kansas or Missouri, we were doing pretty well. We congratulate each other on our cheap air tickets.
"Can you believe we flew here for $24.00?" says Jim. "It must be a sign I am supposed to buy this truck.
Not only that, but my childhood friend, Gary Fitzke, happens to live 10 miles from Paola. It's another
sign. This truck is going to be perfect. I just know it."

After a lovely two-day visit with the Fitzkes, we head to Keith and Mae Allen's 130 acre farm in Paola
to get the truck. Mae Allen, blue eyes sparkling, charges out of the house. "I've just got to meet the people who are goin' to drive this old truck to Florida. Come over here and let me see you."
We hug and she holds me at arm's length, studying my face. "Call us when you get there. And be careful."
"We'll be fine," I assure her. "We're going to take to scenic route, heading east to Nashville, getting on
the Natchez Chase Parkway and taking it west to Mississippi, then heading back east along the Gulf
Coast. It will be a pretty ride. We plan on taking a week to get home."

Mae doesn't say anything; Just looks hard into my eyes like she wants to believe me, but can't.
"Call us when you get there."

We say our goodbyes and get in the truck. It's perfect: shiny red, mint metal dash, and only 59,000
original miles. Keith, the truck's second owner, has put less than 1,000 miles on it in the 7 years he's
owned it. Jim can't keep the smile off his face.

We rumble down the gravel road heading back to the Fitzke's house. The truck won't go faster than 50
mph. "How's it feel?" I ask Jim, noticing we seem to be riding all over the road.
"Oh, it's a little hard to control. I just have to get used to it. "

"Slow down," I say. "You're making me nervous."
Jim slows down.
"I see this is going to be a long trip," says Jim. We had no idea how long.

By the time we arrive back at the Fitzke's, I decide we will not be taking the scenic route home. We'll
take the shortest route to Florida which keeps us off the interstate. [The truck doesn't go fast enough for
the interstate. ]

At 3:30 on monday afternoon, we say good-bye to the Fitzkes and start back to Florida. It's a beautiful
fall day in the midwest. The sun casts an amber glow on the sorghum fields as we drive at a leisurely pace past picturesque farms.

"Jim," I say, admiring our new truck, "shouldn't this pretty old truck have cost more like $9,000 rather
than $3,000?" "Well, not everyone wants an old dump truck," he says. Just then, a banging noise comes from under the hood. "Oh, oh," says Jim. "That doesn't sound good."
Me: It's nothing. The engine's just loud.
Jim: No. That's not normal. We're pulling over.

We pull off the highway and into the Conoco station/convenience store parking lot. Jim stops and
starts the engine a couple times. The banging gets louder, then stops. So does the engine. It's 7:30 p.m.
We've made it 200 miles, to Jefferson City, Missouri.

"Not to worry," says Jim. "We can roll out our sleeping bags and sleep in the back of the truck. No
one will even know we're here."

I went into the store, told the clerk we had broken down and asked where we could find a mechanic.
"That guy next door's a real good mechanic people say."
"Next door? That's great! We're so lucky to have broken down here!" I say.
We stock up on beef jerky, crackers, peanuts, and stale popcorn from the conoco station, use the
bathroom, and hunker down in the parking lot under the stars.

"This is great," we agree, "and the truck will be fixed in the morning."

I could tell by the look on Jim's face as he returned from talking to the mechanic the next morning, he did
not have good news. "He doesn't do major engine work. He says there's a place down the road."
I can feel a shift in our good karma. Things are not going to go our way.

AAA tows us to the new shop: S & S garage by 7:30 a.m. "Leave her at the side of the building," says the
mechanic (Eric). "We can't look at her until this evening." "This evening?" I say to Jim when he tells me the news. "That sounds like 5:00 p.m."

I spend the rest of the day walking back and forth into "town", a strip mall housing the "House of
Bargains" (which had no bargains), an antique mall, a diner (Dudley's restaurant), and a convenience store. I use the bathroom in the convenience store and when I notice the bubblegum flavored condom dispenser on the wall, wonder what kind of an area I'm in. I walk the mile back to the garage.

A good Samaritan, Donald, has followed us from Conoco to S&S, and invites us to stay with him and his wife.We tell Donald we appreciate his offer very much but feel we should stay with the truck. [Donald looks too much like Randy Quaid.] By 6:00 p.m., no one had come to talk to us about the truck.

At 6:30 p.m., the mechanic (Jason) comes out and asks us what we are going to do.
"We're going to sleep in the truck," says Jim.
"Oh. I was going to take her in the shop and start looking at her," says Jason.
"No problem. We'll pitch our tent."
And we did, in the parking lot of S&S, across from the "Jeff City" Volunteer Fire Department.

We follow Jason into the shop.
"You're goin' where in this truck?"asks Jason as he pops the hood and starts taking the engine apart.
More looking around the engine.
"You're drivin' this truck to Florida? (pause, poke, tinker, tinker) Your mama drop you on your head? Wait
'til I tell my daddy about this. He'll have to come down and see this for himself." (tinker, tinker)
"When do you need this truck by?"
Me: We can stay as long as it takes.
Jason: Don't you people work?
Me: Jim's self-employed. I'm unemployed.
Jason (shaking head): Hmmm. Goin' to Florida.
Jim: We're thinking of taking the bus into the city
tomorrow. Anything to see there at the capitol?
Jason: A bunch of liars. (Wiping grease from his hands): I bet you're the talk of the town where you
bought this truck. I bet that old farmer went into the cafe and said 'I just sold that old truck to a feller
gonna drive it to Florida.' Yep. I bet they're all having a good laugh at that one.
Jim: How about checking the brakes while you've got her.
Jason: You don't want to have to find brake shoes for that old truck. You have to get 'em at Junior's place
and you have to get there before they start drinking."
Eric (on his back on the ground under a van): Problem with that is you have to get there before they wake
Jason: No, you don't want to have to find brake shoes for that old truck. (tinker, tinker, shaking head)
Goin' to Florida. Hmmm. You're gonna be cold out there in that tent tonight.
Jim: We're used to it. We camped out when we took a cross-country bicycle trip a few years back.
Jason: You did what? (tinker, hammer, bang) Your mama did drop you on your head. How long did that trip take you?
Jim: Seven and a half months.
Jason: You don't work much, do you.

Jason worked on the truck until 9:30 p.m. Tuesday night and found the gears had been stripped. If he
could get the parts in the morning, we could be on our way by afternoon. Not bad.

The next day, knowing the truck was getting fixed, we both went into town for lunch and some shopping at the antique mall. When we got back to "camp" at the shop, Eric told us to go in and see Jason, he had some bad news.
Jason: I put the gears in and took the pan off just to
clean it out and found this (holding out something metal in his hand.) Your piston broke. I looked at the
rest of 'em and they're all cracked. We'll have to take 'em all out and see why they cracked and whether
we can replace 'em.

Knowing we would be spending at least another night in Jeff City, we moved camp to a lakeside park 2 miles away. Walking down the street with our packs we looked like those homeless bums we see hoofing it up US 19 with all their worldly goods on their backs. We spent wednesday night (Halloween) at the lake and in the morning returned to S&S for more bad news.

Eric: We can't replace the pistons. You need a new engine. It'll take at least 2 weeks.

We decide it's foolish to hang around Jeff City waiting for the new engine. Jim's got to get back to
work to earn money to pay for it. We make a few calls from the camp payphone looking for flights. Two
problems: 1. The flights don't leave from Jeff City. We'd have to get to airports back in Kansas City, 200
miles to the west, or St. Louis, 150 to the east.; 2. With no advance notice, we got quotes of $500
(roundtrip) from Northwest and $400 from southwest. We call Greyhound : $125 one way, Jeff City to New Port Richey, 32 hours. We'll take it.

Me: This will be fun, comfy seats, no worries, looking out the window as the countryside passes us by.
It was hell!! The bus drivers treat the passengers like dirt! (Why not? What you gonna do? Call
Trailways?) Thirty-two hours is a long, long, long time to sit on a bus even with the stops to have a
break or change buses. Trust me on this. You do not want to take a long bus ride on Greyhound ever in your life if you can avoid it.
Example #1: We get at the bus station at 7:50 a.m., as directed, an hour before our scheduled departure at 8:50 a.m. on friday morning. No one's there to open the station until 8:15. The bus doesn't leave until
9:30. We get to Columbia, a 1/2 hour ride, for our first transfer. The bus is packed. There are no 2 seats together. Jim and I split up. I sit next to a man with only a couple of teeth. Jim sits next to a guy who I am afraid is going to start feeling his leg. On the seat across from me a man weighing over 350 pounds is taking up a seat and a half. A skinny Mexican kid has to take that partial seat and hang on for the three hour ride to St. Louis.
Example #2: We arrive in Nashville at 10:00 p.m. for our next transfer. We are lined up at gate 5 (as
directed) to board our bus to Tampa at 11:15. We watch the Tampa bus pull out of the station. Jim and I
chase after it pointing out to the man who told us to get in this line no one has boarded us. "I know he
says. There's no room on that bus." They bring in another bus for us. We get on. It reeks of urine.
They pump in some perfume (and possibly pump out the back toilet; who knows?) and the urine smell goes away.
Example #3: Our Nashville to Birmingham bus driver, Susie, gives us a stop at Krystal at 1:30 a.m. A 6' 3"
guy from the bus asks the teenage Krystal girl whether she can change a hundred dollar bill. "I think so",
she says. The store manager, a little old man of 60, comes out with the key to unlock the money drawer. I'm waiting for the big guy to pull a gun . My brain tells me to back away and get out of there b/f the gun comes out but my feet are stuck to the floor. I don't know if it's morbid curiosity or a wish not to abandon
these Krystal idiots who are asking to be robbed, but I stay put. Nothing happens. We make it to
Birmingham in time for our transfer. I ask the driver whether this is the bus to Tampa. He starts yelling at
me to get on the bus right this minute. I say I have to get my luggage off the bus which just brought us
in. He says forget it. Get on this bus right now. We're leaving.

Example #4: We are at a break in Spring Hill. I am standing outside the bus moving my aching limbs. Two
guys next to me are smoking . I listen to their conversation. "Yeah, man. I just got out of prison in
Perry." I look. It's the guy who was scurrying after me at the convenience store, smiling and holding the
door open for me, "Here ma'am. Let me get that for you, ma'am." I can always turn the heads of those
prison guys.

You get the picture.

We arrived in New Port Richey, Saturday evening at 5:30 p.m. We knew the New Port Richey stop was on US 19 in New Port Richey and figured (incorrectly) it would be at Main Street because that is the heart of
New Port Richey. One of us could stay with the luggage and the other could walk home and get the car. As we near Main Street, the bus is not slowing down. We head south past Main Street, past Gulf, past Trouble Creek. We are no way within walking distance of home now. The bus turns into the Greyhound station at Moog Road in Holiday announcing, "New Port Richey." "This isn't New Port Richey," I mutter under my breath. "It's Holiday. " The station is closed and the parking lot deserted. Jim hands me change for the pay phone in front of the station. It takes my money. I begin to lose it (especially when Jim suggests the problem was I had dialed wrong.) I dial again. I doesn't work. I head to the pay phone across the parking lot. I dial the taxi number posted at the Greyhound station. It's the wrong number. I am screaming across the parking lot at Jim, "I need more money. I just lost the money again. I need more money!!! You dial it. I can't believe they leave a broken phone for people coming in on the "f---ing" Greyhound when the station isn't open and they lose their last bit of change and they post the wrong damn number for the taxi." "Oh." (looking at the number again), "I dialed wrong." I dial again and reach the cab company. The cabbie arrives quickly and we are home. Like Dorothy, I keep telling Jim, "There's no place like home."

I wonder how we're going to get that old truck back from Jeff City.

Monday, November 05, 2001

It's been a week. oops. Sometimes there just isn't a lot to write or comment about. I feel redundant just saying "had a good day, went to class, went to work, made some dinner, went to bed."-- that's about it on your average day.

Mom visited this weekend. It was really nice. We didn't do anything. That was perfect. We went out to dinner on Friday night and talked to catch up. Saturday she came into the Salon and got her nails all gussied up, then we went to Georgetown to shop. Sunday we went to the Phillips collection and saw impressionist still lifes and then sat outside.

It was absolutely beautiful out all weekend. I hear it was as nice as Minnesota. Sort of crazy it an be that warm in the almost winter. Every thing we did this weekend we were able to do comfortably outside. I think my favorite part of the weekend was just sitting outside in the sun on Sunday afternoon at a coffee shop.

Mom found out how easy and near-perfect the metro is. She got stuck on a train on her way here that was sharing a track both directions, meaning it was SLOOOOOOOW. But she got here and was as impressed as most are with the systems cleanliness and ease of use. It's seems silly to write about, but it really is wonderful and nice to use. I am going to be spoiled.

I'm going to just write that. Had a great weekend, bought some new pants and got to see my mommy. shopping, sun and family. It was nice.

I'll write more later this week.