~ Months of the year ~
~ On the Road in 2023 ~
January first marked the first day of the week, the month, and the year; as well as my tenth anniversary. It was a good day for Liz and me. We had planned to go to Half Moon Bay and lunch at the Ritz, but the fierce storms had closed the beaches. Instead, we opted to go to Leo Ryan Park and stand in the spot where we stood as newly-weds ten years earlier. We also visited our Starbucks, location of our first encounter. The day grew wet so by afternoon we were homebound.
The remainder of the week was stormy with heavy rains every other day. The gym closed, so I walked the Hillsdale Mall. I did a video conference with Dr. Teng on Tuesday, mentioning problems with my heart (Afib), my hip (Osteoarthritis), and my hands (purpura). I walked the mall with Steve on Wednesday, avoiding the rain, and met with Men's Fraternity leaders on Thursday morning at six. On Friday I filled four vials of blood at KP, picked up a senior meal and conducted a phone conversation with a physical therapist regarding my hip. I also received in the mail my new phone from Lively. It's a red flip-phone. As I set it up, it seemed I was was stepping back a decade, but then it's only $16.99 per month and I seldom require it
I took my camper to Men's Group on Saturday morning, hoping to get more miles on the vehicle as needed for the smog check. Alas. The battery died, the trip odometer reset to zero, and now I’m back to zero for registering my camper. This is one of the many reasons I have planned to sell my Eurovan. I seemed to have encountered some writer's block. I really do want to plow through chapter 4 of my novel, but every time I think about it, I discover a novel way to wile away my time.
As the month progressed, Liz and I became more fans of the SF 49ers.They had won their 10th straight game on January 8 and Allan Kennedy celebrated his birthday. A few days later I got word that Zachary's family had acquired a cat named Twilight.
January seemed uneventful. I walked with Steve, shopped for a potential new car (Will it be a Kia Sportage?), and hiked the Sawyer Camp trail. The recent downpours gave voice to the several waterfalls.
I had to put miles on my camper odometer and spent one cold night at Prayer Mountain. The steep entry road suffered a few rockslides, but remained clear. During a walk, I tossed a few off the cliff side. I dropped the camper off at Hari's 76 station and hope to get it smogged this month. Liz and I shared lunch with Ryan on January 10 and with Grace on January 21.
I continued to struggle with my writing. When will I get back to composing chapter 4? I did think of a new title, but will it stick? So Great a Cloud of Witnesses. Franc's book, Spitting Beans, was put on the shelf at a library in Pittsburg and on January 21.
The Chinese neighbors gave us pancakes for Chinese New Years - - the year of the rabbit. That means Kim would be celebrating her 72nd birthday in 2023. She was born a rabbit 6 cycles ago.
As the month grew to a close, I had a tooth crowned by Dr. Chan in San Lorenzo, and walked Catamaran Park in Foster City. My camper still could not pass the smog test and will require further driving. I spoke with Liz about her mother and hear anxieties at 92. Growing old is tough! Do I fully believe this quote by C.S. Lewis? "There are far, far better things ahead than we leave behind."
Early on Saturday morning, January 28, I parked my Prius at the Airport Aloft Hotel and caught a United flight to PDX. It was a short visit, mostly to check on Charlotte and Jeanne. Frank picked me up about 10am, then Jeanne at her assisted living facility, then we drove to Eileen's in Longview. Charlotte was not well enough to join this group, so after a lunch of tacos, we all went to the Francis home in Kelso. The fellowship was warm as we spoke of old times and family. Jeanne brough old pictures of Ohio to share with Char. I was happy to see Shelley integrated into this group. I stayed with Eileen and the two dogs for the night.
On Sunday, I attended Columbia Heights AG with Eileen, then watched part of the 49ers game. They did not do so well. I did my Zoom Bible with three couples and three singles in attendance. About 4pm we headed back to the Francis home, picking up a bucket of KFC. We as we reminisced, Eileen told us January 29th marked the 58th anniversary of when she first met Terry at a railroad crossing. Shelly surprised me by knowing all the lyrics to my old 78 record "C-U-B-A". She said she enjoyed my 78 record player while I was in Korea in 1972. We spent a long while in Kelso, then I returned to Longview with Eileen. I was cold - - in the 20's.
I rested on Monday morning and went for a walk with cold while listening to an Audible about WW2. We headed out to Vancouver to visit Jeanne in her facility: Cogir of Glenwood Place. It looked great to me, lots of light. Jeanne, Frank, Eileen, and I shared lunch at Red Robin, then I was homebound. Frank dropped me off at PDX where I boarded an Alaskan flight to PDX. Listening to Audible, my time passed quickly. I soon arrived at SFO and caught the shuttle to Aloft. I arrived home about 6pm, washed up, then talked with Liz a while. My lightening trip was over and my routine picked up again.
The month began with rain, sometimes drippy from trees sometimes pounding against my window pane. In the midst of these storms, I strove to get my camper smog-checked. I took my recalcitrant VW to Hari's shop three times, but all the lights wouldn't go out. I drove the vehicle to Marin and back just to get miles on the odometer. On Friday my camper finally passed smog - - the bill was an unbelievable $1600. On Saturday, after men's group, I drove to a 5-star smog shop and passed the test. Next I drove to a mailbox send out 2023 registration. What a hassle! That's why I'm planning to sell this beast - - as much as I love it.
The weekly routine continued. I wrote more of Chapter 4 in my book, watched the Chosen with Liz, zoomed from the Gospel of Mark, and walked with Steve at Seal Point. February is birthday month for Gia and Lorenzo. I sent them an Amazon package of Japanese treats. I received a video clip of my two grandchildren sorting the candies. It was quite an ordeal for the indecisive Gia. On Wednesday, I discovered I was the victim of credit card fraud. My g-mail inbox was filled with a blizzard of 100 spam messages and some criminal used my Chase card to buy an expensive iPhone at the Hillsdale Apple store. I did cancel the card. I figure the smog shop, Hari's, or an online camping reservation caused the theft.
It took a week for my new Chase Visa card to arrive. I had to update 13 auto-pays with my new information! While waiting this out, I continued to attend Saturday Men's group. We are working our way through the Beatitudes. I stayed two nights at Prayer Mountain (February 13-15) alternately celebrating sunshine, cold, and sprinkles. My camper needed a simple surprise repair in Scotts Valley. The protective shroud under the engine began to scrape against the left front tire. The shop was slow to fix it, so in the end they charged me nothing. I got pictures from Zachary leading ballroom dancing and from Simon showing Gia in her first soccer game. For Valentine's Day Liz received a vase of flowers and I got an electronic greeting. I guess we have been getting along better. The days of February were passing.
The next week saw me geeting into the groove of novel writing. I'm not sure where my book is heading, but it continues its motion. Whence? not sure. A week passed with Liz and I preparing for our journey to LA. The weather turned cold and our travel plans complicated. I really enjoyed sending little gifts to my grandchildren. I spend just enough time with them to guess what they will like. For Gia it a a "soccer girl" makeup kit and for Loerenzo a samuri pin.
Liz and I rested on Sunday morning and then began our trek south. My wife has this notion in her head that I'm an unsafe driver. She says I brake too quickly which hurts her neck. So, my lovely wife got to do all the Prius driving. We checked the latest weather reports which suggested the grapevine, going into LA down I-5, might be closed. So instead, we drove the longer highway 101, leaving at 8:15am. We stopped at Gilroy for a break, then at Paso Robles for gas, a walk, and coffee. The weather wasn't too bad-lots of threatening clouds but only a few sprinkles. We then hit some slow-go traffic driving past San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria. Liz said her back and shoulders hurt. We stopped in Santa Barbara and stretched our bodies. It was a pleasant stroll along the beach. Again, It was slow through Ventura but soon we arrived at our courtyard Marriott in Valencia. We were both tired when we arrived at 5pm so it was wasn't too hard to follow Liz's diktat and turn out the lights by eight. We did manage to visit a Wendys for dinner.
After a hotel breakfast and leisurely Monday morning we headed off in the rain to Huntington gardens. (This was my third visit). We arrived as the grounds opened at ten. It was good day for the two of us. My umbrella was up and down several times as we stepped through raindrops. We first encountered the Chinese and Japanese gardens- lots of art, flowers, architecture, and culture to see. We walked through camellia trees. We visited the European art collection and saw Blue Boy and Pink Girl. Then we walked through the library to view the ancient books of Gutenberg's Bible and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. I'm glad someone is looking after these treasures.
Liz and I took a lunch break sitting in the Prius consuming bagels borrowed from the hotel breakfast. During this second half visit, we walked through the desert garden to the lily pond. Marveling at the fantastic shapes of the miscellaneous cacti may have been my favorite part of the gardens. We visited the American art center, then returned to the car. We checked into our new Marriott hotel in Monrovia about 3pm. For dinner we drove to a Panera Bread then settled down for the evening. I walked the environs some to reach my goal of 10000 steps.
On Tuesday, we weren't sure if the Gamble House would be open. The unusual cold, raining, snowy weather had shut down many venues. When we arrived about 10am, the place was open-although the bookstore was storm damaged. The Gamble house was a medium-sized structure build in 1908. The tour guide pointed out architectural details as we stepped through the rooms. It was OK but nothing to write home about. We did see the Rose Bowl in the distance as we walked down a back trail.
We then kept an appointment we had with Dasha from Fuller. Liz and I did experience some drama after she parked the Prius in a city lot. I walked one direction and she in another. We each spent $3 for a parking tag and we met at the rear of the car. Alas, there were some harsh words. At the Urth coffee shop I consumed a pastry and coffee as Liz did most of the talking. We spoke of the seminary and its future. Wearing my fedora, Dasha said I looked "dapper". I guess for an old man who has aged beyond "handsome" dapper is a good thing.
We relaxed in the evening. Instead of going out for dinner, I microwaved a bag of popcorn. I listened to podcasts, we played scrabble, and soon it was 8pm. I cheated a bit by listening to Mike Winger with my ear buds. I think my Tuesday stretched to ten. Then the 28 days of February had ended.
Our time away from home continued into the new month. The night was full of rain, but the morning brought sunshine and the hope we could do a hike. With Liz still driving, we traveled to Eaton Canyon Trail. We didn't know if the area would be open because of rain and damage. But all went well. The start point was beautiful and the winding Mount Wilson Road presented numerous views of the Los Angeles Area. It was a lot of up and down and my legs were tired. We then stopped off at the nearby visitor center where we encountered a burst of snowflakes - nothing serious. We rested for the remainder of the day and walked to a Baja Fresh down the street.
On Thursday morning, Liz drove us to the Burbank Airport, dropped herself off, and I was on my own. I drove about three hours to Lost Hills listening to yet another Audible about the Civil War. The Grapevine was wide open with just patches of snow along the roadside at the highest elevations. I settled in at Days Inn, got a massage from Liz that she was safe at home and got photos from Simon, showing Gia and art. I ate next door at Dennys and turned in early.I headed out Friday morning about ten, stopped a few places along the way for walking, coffee-in, and coffee-out. I was home just after two, did a swim at the pool, and my adventure was complete.
The rain and foul weather continued in San Mateo. I went to Sunday CPC in the rain, while Liz recovered at home from our trip south. A weather break was forcast, so I moved up an outing to Prayer Mountain. After walking with Steve at Seal Point, I drove the hour to Scotts Valley, staying for two nights -- March 6 & 7. It rained some at night but I was able to walk and get my 10000 steps in. On Tuesday night I decided to do something different and went to the cinama to see The Jesus Revolution. It brought back memories and dreams of a time long past. While in my camper looking at raindrops I got word from Frank that he had experienced a house fire and words of Zachary teaching and a gift notice from Simon. I am blessed to have such children.
At mid-month there was a week of rainstorm, wind, power-outage and mud. Then on a bright day, Liz and I went to Filoli with her friend June and Aram her husband. It was a good lunch, walk, foliage, and company. A good day all around.
On the Ides of March - - brother Jack's 80th birthday - - I pondered my own age of 73. Am I really this old? I reckoned it must be true. There were telltale signs. First thing in the morning, I continued my Greek reading in the Gospel of John. When I arrived at the part in chapter 13 where Judas betrays Jesus I thought. "What? Again? Why would this guy betray his master?" The story which I had read a thousand times had shocked me. How could any sensible man turn his back on Christ? Musings of an old man?
Later in the morning, I walked into the CSM gym to lift weights. I noticed an old guy who always seemed to shadow me around. Why was this geezer imitating me, wearing a blue t-shirt and trunks? At first, I saw him from across the long workout floor, barely visible, but as I approached the full-length mirror, he grew in size. His beard was gray and face crinkled. I smiled at him and he smiled back, certainly not the man who exists in my imagination.
After a soapy shower in the locker room, the last item of clothing to cover my body are my socks. Putting on this foot apparel almost seems like a second workout. You see my legs don't bend like they used to. First, I place my left foot firmly on the bench. I then strain to slip the toe of the sock over my dorsi-flexed foot. I then pull the sock up in increments until I snap the elastic top above my ankle. My right foot proves to be even a greater challenge, because the hip socket hurts. I put this foot on the floor with toes up. I just manage to snare the foot in the sock. Then standing, I crank my right heel above my left knee. With one hand I support my wobbly body against a wall and with the other hand I yank the sock into its proper alignment. Thus, I am prepared for my slip-on shoes and my walk to the car.
I talk to a gym mate about my two boys, Zachary and Simon Peter. The years melt away in mind. I mention a Toyota that I once drove in Missouri. I say "in the 1990s, no 80s, no 70s." I have to peel back to reach the right decade.
Then on the evening Fox News there's a new story about the assassination of John Kennedy. Was it just Lee Harvey Oswald who did the deed or was it actually a conspiracy? The newscaster speaks as if it's ancient history, comparable to the Lincoln assassination. But I remember the date as clear as a bell, just sixty years ago. I guess I am getting old. My personal biography has become most people's history!
The month of March continued with frequent rain storms and with daily writing. I finally finished the Butare segment in 4 chapters - City on a Hill, Eye of Darkness, Interim President, Bus Ride into Burundi. When I attended Men's Fellowship in Burlingame, dozens of trees were fallen, at various stages of removal. I mailed out my taxes. Ouch! $8000 Federal - $2000 State. I will begin to make quarterly payments to avoid a penalty.
Zachary thanked me for helping Zofia with her Montessori Catholic School and Simon and I discussed how I could help Lorenzo get into the proper high school. The days were winding down for my brother-bonding road trip to Southern California. I prepared my camper and my mind for the final 8-day voyage of my trusty Eurovan: 2 nights there - 4 nights camping with Frank - 2 nights back.