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Published: December 25th 2009
Grashoppers in a Field
Since my previous Xmas letters are posted in the blog I thought I would post this one too.
2009 Seasons Greetings.
I hope this letter finds you well. Seems like it was not that long ago that I was writing last years Xmas letter, but here I am again. I have had a pretty full year. I took advantage of being able to pay someone else to do my job at the American Legion and took 3 trips this year. Early April I was suffering from the cold weather so headed south to ride the Natchez Trace from its beginning at Natchez, LA to its end at Nashville, TN. It’s a National Parkway, 444 miles without a stoplight, stop sign or yield sign. All along the route there were great bits of preserved history. I had my doubts I could ride the whole trace in 2 days when it took me and hour to go the first 15 miles. I did complete it and the 95F temps were exactly what I needed. Riding the Natchez Trace and Route 66 from their beginnings to their ends have been on my list of rides for several years.
With the Natchez completed, I had planned to ride Route 66 in June, but with the temps in the 100s in Oklahoma I changed my mind. Instead a couple days before I planned to leave I changed the trip to head northwest. I had several places I had wanted to stop at previously and one I wanted to check on again so after a short visit with Kay and Jackie in Denver I visited Wounded Knee, Devils Tower, stopped at Crazy Horse to see the progress, the Gerald Ford & Malcolm X birth sites in Omaha, and in there somewhere was the Enchanted Highway. That is where the picture on the card is from. Regent a very little town in ND has taken a 20 mile section of a county highway and made it a tourist attraction. About every 3 miles they have pull offs where they have huge sculptures. The
Grasshoppers In A Field were my favorite I think there were 4 of them.
The third major trip of the year was out to the west coast, where I had a blast serving in a pit crew at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I was there helping Dakin Engineering set a land speed record. That was an educational week. The same trip I visited Scout who was stationed at 29 Palms, CA. Scout took me on a base tour and we had a nice visit. Scout had taken the week off so we really got to hang out together. Karl a new friend from Bonneville took Effie in his care and after a few days in CA gave Effie some much needed TLC. Karl and his family were so nice take us in, in our time of need. Not only did Karl get her going again but we had time to do some of those little projects I had wanted to do, but didn’t have the skills to do them on my own.
Coming home on the last day, a mere 240 miles from home, Effie had an internal motor bearing go out. Estimates were over $4k to fix her, as I was looking at all the options from getting a new bike, to replacing the motor, I was saved by Harley Davidson Corporate as they determined they wanted to pay to rebuild the motor. With the motor already torn down I decided to pay for a few upgrades on my own. So I am back to the dreaded 1000 mile break in and only about 350 miles into it. With the weather now being so cold I don’t know when it will be done. To summarize up my year of riding it was 20K miles and 27 states.
I am still riding with the Patriot Guard and was saddened to ride for Chief Warrant Officer Matthew G. Kelley of Cameron, Mo. The CWO was previously awarded the Bronze Star. Cameron is a small town and flags flew in front of every farm, house and business for miles around. It was one of those times where you arrive already misty eyed. It is sad to see the cost of war.
This summer I was taking some time to go down and saddle the horses for Dad so he could ride. I previously didn’t much like messing with the horses, but had grown use to them and was enjoying it as time progressed. We were getting pretty good and getting a horse in the trailer and out to the lake so he could ride a bit. We discovered early on that the distractions by the other 2 horses made it harder to ride. Funny how once you separate one of the horses from Dads herd it became much easier to handle. I have come to really appreciate Harriet and Replica. Replica is so helpful. I think if she had fingers she would put the bridle on by herself. She knows just when to duck her head or tilt it to get the bridle on. Harriet is a sweetie too, but getting wise to getting caught. Once caught though she is very cooperative, although she does like to walk on my feet, problem solved with my steel toe shoes. Poco the young male, we (everyone in the family but Dad) decided was the horse to give to his heart surgeon. Dad promised him a horse if he got him through this, we thought Poco, the one that bites and kicks would be the most appropriate horse to give.
The riding stopped when Dad had his heart valve replacement surgery. That has dictated most of my time since Oct. Once past the long days and long nights of staying at the hospital with him I thought he was on the mend. But there have been 2 hospital stays since. After originally being discharged from the hospital we have learned that not just any group can care for him. It was a hard lesson to learn that Nursing Homes with ‘skilled nursing’ might not actually have either. Hardest on Dad though, that was a huge setback. His last attempt at rehab has been at Sweet Life, the interior is like an upscale Marriott. He stays in a building where only those going through rehab and heading home stay. With a fulltime therapy staff of 15 they got to work on him. It was nice to be able to see him everyday as I was spending usually 7- 9 hours a day with him. We had a routine going I was coming in before or during lunch and staying until he was in bed for the night. That is except for a couple times a week when Mom would come up to spend time with him. I would let them have their time and then come in and spend the evening with him. It was good to see him progress everyday, from being bed ridden, able to sit in a chair for only 30 minutes at a time to moving around on his own with a walker and taking an hour nap in the afternoon. I knew Dads lungs were bad, but they surprised me at really how bad they are when I brought in some party favors to the Sweet Life. Dad is supposed to breathe in with his nose and out with his mouth, but can’t seem to remember that technique as he is grasping for air. I bought some of those paper party favors that unroll to shoot out like a tongue and blows a horn when you exhale through them. These favors are very common at birthday parties or new year parties. My thinking was they would encourage him to breathe in through his nose. Dad does not have the air pressure or volume in his exhale to make the paper tongue unroll, not even a little.
This last hospital visit was caused by his shortness of breath. This will be another setback in his physical therapy as the hospital doesn’t have time to work with him like the Sweet Life does, but if his lungs can get some strength back it will be well worth it. Pulmonary said they wanted to keep him for a ‘2 day tune-up’ so I expect he will shortly be back in rehab. At least we got to skip ICU this trip. I know he doesn’t like being in the hospital but its probably best that he is there as it allows, the heart, lung and blood guys all a chance to do their follow up tests and checks from the surgery. For one reason or another Dad had not made it to any of those follow up appointments.
Scout is coming home for Christmas. Some friends from KS drove out to 29 Palms to pick him up and bring him back.. the plan was to see a bit of CA while they was there. So I hope he manages to get home by Christmas. J He is taking leave on his way to Japan, he has orders there for the next 2 years. I understand chances are high that during those 2 years he will be spending time in Iraq. He has to report in Japan the middle of Jan.
I am active as possible in HOG, the American Legion Auxiliary and the Riders group. I also became a member of 40/8 this year, that has been fun. They all do great charity work. My time priority has been to be with Dad so I have not done much with them this last quarter of the year. They have all been very supportive.
Well I am out of space so I guess I will need to sign off. I hope this next year brings happiness and prosperity to each of you. I would appreciate if you could say some prayers for my fathers recovery.
Until I see you next know that I am waiting for warmer weather and the chance to search for the next enchanted highway. Take Care,
Here is a link to my other Xmas letters that are posted here. 2003 Christmas Letter 2005 Christmas Letter 2006 Christmas Letter 2008 Christmas Letter
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