Texas to Michigan to Florida...Family & Friends Tour

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January 14th 2012
Published: January 17th 2012
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Tyler WedelTyler WedelTyler Wedel

My nephew getting a bath and acting goofy.
This is a long blog...from Texas to Michigan to Florida, so there's a lot to write about. We hope you enjoy it...

When you drive from the near bottom of the state of Texas, you’re about as far south as you can go in the contiguous (48) mainland states. Only below Miami, Florida south through to Key West is further south. We really liked Texas and especially the San Antonio area. Did you know that Texas is the most populous state only after California? 22 million and growing to California’s 36 million and shrinking. And I’ve read that of the 36 million Californians, only 11 million citizens pay taxes. 1 This is not a political blog, but I thought it was interesting that there are more people in California not paying taxes than live in the number two ranked state…Texas. That’s at least interesting to think about, don’t you agree? Perhaps that’s why California has a budget deficit and Texas has produced nearly half of all jobs created since the bubble burst. Texas might be a place to move to if you’re in need of a job or just want to keep more and give less to the government.
Saya SushiSaya SushiSaya Sushi

Lt. Colonel Wedel and Chaplain Kollman at Saya Restaurant in Fairborn, Ohio...Good Sushi!

So to that end, Conner and I drove down to Corpus Christi to have a look around. We found a nice RV resort and played at the beach for a couple of days. We went to see the USS Lexington. 2 The CV-16, is a WWII-Vintage aircraft carrier commissioned in 1943. She served the United States longer and set more records than any other carrier in the history of naval aviation. The Japanese reported they had sunk the Lexington no less than four times! Yet, each time, she returned again to fight, leading the propagandist Tokyo Rose to nickname her “The Blue Ghost.” After the war, Lexington operated out of San Diego, California, then Pensacola, Florida until decommissioned on November 26, 1991 and placed in Corpus Christi, Texas as a national treasure. This was definitely a must see on our cross-country homeschool field trip! (There are several pictures of the Lexington on our previous blog that are worth the viewing).

While in Corpus Christi, we met a couple that are wheat farmers in Kansas. The summer crop was harvested and the winter wheat was planted, so George and Olive packed up their RV and headed south to enjoy a
One of Three KingsOne of Three KingsOne of Three Kings

Tyler Wedel, my nephew, in his Christmas Special at school.
month of relaxing. They do this every year since their kids are grown and really enjoy the time in Corpus. They took us to the Executive Surf Shop 3 in downtown Corpus where they go everyday for shrimp burgers. We enjoyed meeting them and listening to stories of Kansas farming. Good ole working class folks from the midwest that keep our country going strong. Ya gotta love ‘em.

After a few days in south Texas, we headed northeast up Highway 59 to 77 to Houston then I-10 at Beaumont and into Louisiana before turning straight north at Sulphur on HWY 171 to Leesville. From there we drove HWY 28 to Alexandria before finding the Walmart RV Park for the night. The thing that stood out to us was all the pine trees from east Texas and Louisiana. I never imagined that there were pine forests in the south. But, even I can be mistaken! Pine forests for days down here. It just seems hard to imagine that a place covered with pine trees can get hot and humid. Living in the Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains has made me equate pine trees with snow and cold winters. Does it
Reunion With 66-0177Reunion With 66-0177Reunion With 66-0177

This was a plane I used to fly on as an Air Force C-141B aircrew member. She is also the Hanoi Taxi. Google it!
seem strange to you too?

We didn’t do a lot of sightseeing in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, or Kentucky since we were in a hurry to make it to my brother’s house near Dayton, Ohio by Thanksgiving. So we pretty much just drove all day…well, I did, while Conner did his school lessons. Ever try and tutor a math lesson involving cross-cancellation of fractions while pulling 8,000 pounds of trailer? It ain’t easy! Fortunately, Conner is pretty smart and doesn’t need a lot of instruction at this point. We did stop and eat BBQ at Bozo’s BBQ in Tennessee 4…the same restaurant that Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon acted in for the movie about Johnny Cash, “Walk the Line”. Been around since 1928 and the BBQ is finger lickin’ good!

Once between Texas and Ohio we had a scare…don’t remember exactly where. A semi blew the trailer sideways and it whipped the back of it so hard that the Honda motorcycle rolled halfway off the carrier enough to let the knobby tire drag the ground. This acted like a brake on one side and pulled the trailer violently to one side, let go, snapped back the other direction, grabbed

Conner with one of my old planes...66-0177.
again. Repeat this process a dozen times and I about soiled my pants. I hit the trailer brakes hard and got it pulled to the side. Somehow, nothing was damaged except a slight worn spot on the knobby tire. Whew!

We made it to Doug’s on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It was a good reunion. We enjoyed turkey and all the splendor with my sister-in-law’s family, then ate another great meal on Friday with Doug, his wife Jenny, and my little nephew, Tyler. He’s five. He was giddy about us coming, especially his older cousin, Conner. He wore himself out with anticipation and even wanted to sleep in the trailer with us. We let him have the bunk bed, and Conner moved to the couch. We stayed with them for over a week before finally moving on and Tyler slept in the trailer every night! While we were there, we toured the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. 5 This is the premier museum if you love flight and aircraft…Early history of flight including the Wright Flyer, WWI, WWII, Korean Conflict, Viet Nam War, Cold War, and Modern Military Aircraft…everything from a B-29
National Air Force MuseumNational Air Force MuseumNational Air Force Museum

This was a beautifully polished and painted WWII plane.
Strato-Fortress, to the B-2 Stealth Bomber. From an F-86 to an F-22 fighter. It was incredible. If you’re ever in Ohio…you have to visit this museum.

We then traveled north to Pioneer, Ohio and the home or our old friends from Sonora, California…Jim and Patti Fee and their family. Jim used to say that someday he’d be retired from California corrections and open a barber shop like Paul and Lyle used to have on Stewart Street in Sonora. We used to take our four sons there together to get boys’ haircuts. Jim thought the idea of cutting hair and talking to customers looked like his kind of business. He made it happen by going to barber college in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and then purchased an old bank building in downtown Pioneer, complete with bank vault. He remolded it extensively, and has been operating a successful business there for several years now. He even has two tanning booths for additional income. And he and Patti have opened a successful driving business in the upper Ohio/Indiana/Michigan tri-state area called; you guessed it, “Learn-To-DriveDrivingSchool”. And they are just as hospitable as ever. Conner and I made ourselves at home there for over
National Air Force MuseumNational Air Force MuseumNational Air Force Museum

Old single engine with a beautiful paint job.
a week. Jim even gave us haircuts! But, after several days below freezing, and a couple snow showers, we decided to start making our way down to Florida. It’s no fun thawing your water line with a blow dryer!

I have to tell you a story about Jim and Patti. We've known them since our kids were in elementary school. We both have two boys and two girls and they're all close to the same ages and friends since little kids. We established traditions when they lived in Sonora. We used to go get donuts at the Donut Factory every Saturday morning. The owner and other customers loved us all as the kids were so well behaved. On Tuesday nights at Denny's, kids ate free. The manager used to mumble to herself..."Oh no, not those people again!" Well, it was a 100+ degree day in July one summer. Jim and Sherry were both at work. I called Patti and asked if she and the kids wanted to go with us to get some ice cream at the Jimtown Frosty. I picked them up in my Dodge Power Wagon 4X4 and the kids all got in the truckbed camper. When
National Air Force MuseumNational Air Force MuseumNational Air Force Museum

F-22 Raptor...Supersonic, super stealth, superior jet fighter.
we got to the Frosty, I was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and jeans and cowboy boots. Patti had on short jeans shorts and a Daisy Duke top. When I opened up the camper, and eight blond headed kids between 13 and 3 came scrambling out, another customer said, "My God, are all those kids yours?" Without missing a beat, I said, "Yup, thank gawd fer welfare!" The guy's jaw just hung open as Patti turned bright red in embarrassment. Serves him right for assuming that a family with eight kids was some kind of freak show! Anyway, we really love and miss our friends the Fees.

Next stop was Brazil, Indiana. My Father’s home town and where I graduated from High School in 1979. I was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming and lived all over the United States and overseas, so how did I end up graduating from High School in Brazil, Indiana? I was a senior at Tehran American School in Tehran, Iran in 1978. Then the Iranian Revolution happened and all 70,000 Americans were evacuated from the country. (For more on this, go to Youtube and search: Discovery Channel "Iran Hostage Crisis" for an excellent 8 minute video
National Air Force MuseumNational Air Force MuseumNational Air Force Museum

Old Bombers, new bombers, this museum has it all.
edited by Jeff Alley). We moved to Brazil, where my father’s family lives and I finished high school there. So, Conner and I went to visit my Aunt Sandra and all my cousins that live there. We had a nice reunion and time visiting with them. My Aunt and cousins are always so hospitible and have been an important part of my life. Something of the legacy I wanted to share with Conner. And he didn’t realize he had so many cousins! Second and third cousins! It's good to know where your roots are. From there, we visited old family friends, Dan and Rosalie Earnest in Spiceland, Indiana. We’ve known them since I was a little kid in Connecticut where we went to church with them in the 70’s. I lived with them a summer when I was in college, too, and they’ve had a tremendous impact on my life for Christ. Such dear friends are a real treasure.

My brother Doug and his wife Jenny had to be in Orlando for Jenny’s US Air Force Yellow Ribbon Program which reintegrates Air Force personnel and their families before, during, and returning from deployment. This is a critical program to
Jim's Barber ShopJim's Barber ShopJim's Barber Shop

The old Pioneer Savings & Loan is now the home of Jim's Barber Shop. Best place to get a cut in 30 miles.
ensure our heroes get what they deserve. Jenny, or, ahem, Lieutenant Colonel Wedel, is a leader and subject matter expert in this field and attended a regional meeting in Orlando. So she, my brother and nephew all flew there and
Conner and I drove down to spend time in Orlando with them. Can’t go to Florida without taking Conner to Orlando, now could I?

On the way down, we stopped in Chattanooga, Tennessee to visit other dear friends…my adopted Dad, Grant Wolf and his wife, Ruth. He was the Executive Director of the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers (FCPO) for a couple of decades or more. He and his wife, Ruth live in Chattanooga. I started a chapter of the FCPO in Tehachapi in the early 90’s and Grant flew out to inaugurate the ceremony. When my father passed away in 1993, Grant was there for me and has been my mentor and friend, and father when I needed one. Although in his early 70’s and retired, he hasn’t slowed down. He plays the organ in church, but that is really understating his talent. He can play everything from the piano, to one of those rare and huge cathedral
Jim FeeJim FeeJim Fee

Jim Fee lookin' hard and doin' time in Jim's Barber Shop in Pioneer, Ohio. He gives a dandy haircut, though.
pipe organs like in Phantom of the Opera! Grant is the author/editor of the book, “Cops on the Street”, which I was privileged to contribute two stories to. (Go to:www.amgpublishers.com and search for "Stories of Faith and Courage: Cops on the Street to order your copy). Ruth is a wonderful woman and they are best friends. It was like being home while visiting them. They are dear, sweet, and genuine Christians that I’m privileged to call friends. Thanks for everything!

As we were entering Chattanooga, and pulling up to a fuel pump, our anti-sway brake/bar broke. Snapped right in two. Guess I had it a bit too tight. I wondered why there was not a hint of trailer sway all the way from Ohio! Anyway, on the way out of Chattanooga, we decided to stop at Camping World and get another hitch setup…one that doesn’t sway. It was working fine until we were entering Atlanta, Georgia. A truck blew by on the right, then another one on the left, then another one on the right…and a violent sway erupted, sending the trailer into the lanes on either side of us. The motorcycle fell off, again, and just like before,
The Fee HomesteadThe Fee HomesteadThe Fee Homestead

Jim and Patti Fee's beautiful home in Pioneer Ohio, surrounded by farmland...and snow!
acted like a brake on one side causing us to almost lose control and …? But, God was with us and somehow I got it under control and pulled over to the side. A trucker pulled behind us and said, “Holy cow! I thought you were going to crash!” After that, it was secondary roads and 55 mph all the way through Georgia and into Orlando. This confirmed to Conner and me that we’re not going to try and get anywhere by a certain time from here on out and we’re only going to drive on secondary roads/highways to avoid 75 mph semi’s blowing us around like a fart in a windstorm. Two near-death experiences are enough!

Doug and Jenny were staying at the Hilton, and when I pulled up to the front, the valets looked as us like, “What the heck?” Then the lead valet came out and told me to follow him. Turns out my brother had become pals with the head of security…they were both in Desert Storm together. They let me park the trailer and Suburban in secured parking by the loading docks. Not the quietest place to spend the night, but it was secure,
Pioneer, OhioPioneer, OhioPioneer, Ohio

Winter wonderland in Pioneer, Ohio. Clear, but cold day.
and it was the Hilton! They have several pools, spas and a lazy river that comprise their outdoor patio area, complete with movies for the kids to watch on a giant screen while they’re swimming in the heated pool after dark! Conner and Tyler had a blast there. Doug impressed the manager at Zeta’s Bar & Restaurant with his hot sauce and they’re going to use his recipe in their Bloody Mojitos drink. Can’t take him anywhere! Jenny and her friend Cathy took Tyler and Conner to Sea World for the day and Doug and I visited and relaxed. We didn’t do Disney World as the cost of a ticket is ridiculously expensive. But we did have some mighty fine dining experiences while there. Including Bongo’s Cuban Restaurant in Downtown Disney 6. Emilio Estefan (the Latin pop singer, Gloria Estefan’s husband) opened it in 1997, then the bigger, more famous club/restaurant in Miami in 2000. Good food and good music!

Well, after going from Corpus Christi and 76º of sunshine, to Pioneer, Ohio and 14º and snow, back to nearly 80º and sunshine, Conner and I discovered one thing. We’d rather have the warm weather and sunshine any day.
Mid-West Swamp LandMid-West Swamp LandMid-West Swamp Land

Beautiful scenery today, but harsh country for pioneer farmers and ranchers who had to drain this land.
But the drive up to the sub-arctic Midwestern states was worth it to see family and old friends for the Thanksgiving holidays. Now, on to the southeast and the SunshineState…Florida!

1 http://www.city-journal.org/2009/19_4_california.html

2 http://www.usslexington.com/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

3 http://executivesurfclub.com/

4 http://www.stateofq.com/restaurants/bozos-hot-pit-bar-b-q/

5 http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/index.asp

6 http://www.bongoscubancafe.com/locations/orlando.html

Additional photos below
Photos: 27, Displayed: 27


Bicycle BarnBicycle Barn
Bicycle Barn

This old barn covered with bicycles in lower Michigan near the Ohio border.
County CourthouseCounty Courthouse
County Courthouse

Beautiful architecture of the Williams County Courthouse in Bryan, Ohio.
Bryan, OhioBryan, Ohio
Bryan, Ohio

This is one thriving mid-western little town. Clean, friendly, and beautiful downtown.
Aunt SandraAunt Sandra
Aunt Sandra

My Aunt Sandra in Brazil, Indiana. Hoosier hospitality and a wonderful woman.
Paying A VisitPaying A Visit
Paying A Visit

Showing Conner some family history about his fraternal side of the family.
Wedel FlagstoneWedel Flagstone
Wedel Flagstone

My Grandparents flagstone in Brazil, Indiana.
Wedel Family FlagstoneWedel Family Flagstone
Wedel Family Flagstone

My Father was buried here in 1993. "Heaven's my home, I'm just here on a visit." Amen, Dad, Amen.

18th January 2012

Re Blog
Great blog enjoyed it thoroughly. dew sends

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