Follow by Email

Translate

Friday, November 30, 2012

POST 1008; NOVEMBER 30, 2012; KOREA

I report into the Orderly Room at K-13 in late February 1953,  am assigned to a barracks (tent with a wooden floor, a pot-belly oil fired stove, and wood-canvas cots lining the sides, four to a side.  My duffel bag is emptied onto the cot, contents carefully placed in the wood chest at the foot of the cot...just like at basic training. 

I walk to base headquarters, my assignment:  steno-clerk to the Commanding Officer, 8th Fighter Bomber Wing.  Across the field is the 56th Fighter Interceptor Wing.  Both the 8th and 56th fly F-86 jets...flying into North Korea; the 8th dropping bombs while the 56th provides top cover for our bombers from  MIG 15s (Russian jet).  This is MIG ALLEY country. 

My job is working under the Adjutant, 8th Fighter Bomber Wing, taking dictation, writing letters, writing orders,  mostly routine office work under supervision of a Master Sergeant.

K-13 has a high wire fence surrounding the airfield.  No one is permitted to leave the base without specific orders...and then, only when armed with a weapon. 

Korean civilians are employed as "house boys" to clean our quarters...and to work in the kitchens of the mess halls. 

Working in Base Hq (Headquarters), I routinely review correspondence passing over my desk.  One day, reviewing a list of newly arriving airmen, I come across the name of my high school classmate, Bruce B.    B.B. has been assigned  crew chief for one of our F-86 Sabre Jet Fighter Bombers.  I find B.B. on the flight line where we greet with hugs.  The next year B.B. and I spend much time together...he even visiting me at Panmunjom a time or two.  I have great times riding the brakes of B.B.'s F-86 as he moves it with his tug (small 4-wheel tractor) from the sandbagged revetment to the fuel depot or maintenance shed. 

B.B.'s F-86 is flown by a North American Test Pilot, visiting K-13 to demonstrate the capabilities of the aircraft.  This Test Pilot never using the runway...takes off from the taxi-way, rolling the plane 360 degrees as the wing tips barely clear the concrete.  Landing is made in equally short distance...the pilot bringing the plane to nearly hover position, sashaying from side to side as the F-86 settles to the ground.

Three C-47 - Gooney Bird - transport planes are assigned to the 8th FBW.  Working in 8th HQ, I write my own orders, signed by the Adjutant, authorizing my flight to KOKURA, Japan...to purchase supplies.  Only once am I questioned in Japan as I report to the local air base to fly back to K-13.  A quick phone call by the Marine M.P. (Military Police) to 8th HQ back at K-13 clear my uninterrupted travel to Japan and back. 

A tennis tournament is held at the 8th Air Force Headquarters compound in Seoul.  I receive orders to travel to Seoul to participate in the tournament.  During the night, Bed Check Charlie flies over.  Jumping into the ever-present trench, I watch the aircraft, engine idling, glide toward me, not 50 feet over my head.  Two bombs fall as it passes...the bombs clearing the compound wall 100 feet behind me, exploding in the street.  Two civilian Koreans die in that explosion.  I could easily have hit that aircraft with a rock.

B.B. and I, receiving orders to visit Seoul, catch a ride from Suwon to Yong Dong Po, a large community on the south side of the Han River across from Seoul..  We visit the Army Motor Pool in time for lunch...then walk across the military floating bridge into Seoul.  The main bridge crossing the Han River has been bombed during earlier fighting, the road deck lying in the river below.  Most buildings are collapsed, streets, littered with rubble reminiscent of scenes of World War II Berlin after B-17 raids.

 Walking the torn-up street, B.B. and I are surrounded by pre-teen age boys...Hey, Joe...you got cigarette;  Hey, Joe...you give me money;  Hey, Joe you want virgin...my sister, she ....  Before we get away, B.B.'s back pocket is slit open, his wallet yanked out by the running kids.

Months later, B.B. and I, returning from his visit to Panmunjom, walk the highway south to the north gate of the walled city of Seoul.  A young boy...about 6 or 7 years old, lies half on the pavement...half in the gutter, crying...reaching out to us.  HE HAS NO LEGS.  I walk toward him...B.B. grabs my shoulder...don't touch him...if you do, he's yours.  I stare at the creature, look at the indifferent Koreans walking by...and leave the boy where he lay. 

That boy often visits my dreams.

Early April, I receive orders to report to UNC-MAC (United Nations Command - Military Armistice Commission) at Panmunjom... near the ancient city of MUNSAN-NI...30 miles north of Seoul.  I hop onto a Beaver - Canadian Bush Plane, together with three field-grade officers, for the flight to Panmunjom.  Our plane flies low over a field being leveled by some bulldozers and road graders.  We fly back toward Seoul in a sweeping circle, returning to the field...the equipment moved aside as the Beaver touches down, bumping across the partially cleared runway, coming to a stop next to some tents.

I have arrived at the Base Camp on the United Nations side of the 38th Parallel.  15 miles to the north lies the Communist Base Camp.  In the center lies the meeting place for the peace talks. 

As I step off the plane, guns are firing a short distance away...the Korean War is still in full swing.

* * * * * * * *

UP DATE: 

Have not ventured out into the liquid sunshine drizzle falling onto passersby...many without coats.  Most of the day, I have tended to my mini-computer, checking e-mail for the hoped-for reply to my request(s) for employment.  No such luck.  Prepared and submitted three more on-line employment applications.

In the morning, plan to drive the 30 miles south on I-5 to the town of Mt. Vernon, Washington.  I have entered the "Jingle Bells" Run/Walk for Arthritis...a 5K competition to raise $$ for arthritis cure.  Still am a bit weak from lying prone in the hospital for three days, but invested $45.00 to compete, so will go anyway.





Thursday, November 29, 2012

POST 1007; NOVEMBER 29, 2012; PACIFIC CROSSING

Leaving San Francisco Bay aboard MSTS General (Something or other), I am assigned to a compartment in the bowles of the ship.  The compartment is lined with two rows of hammocks - tightly stretched canvas tied securely to a steel pipe frame about six feet long by two and a half feet wide with a small pillow and scratchy blanket.  These hammocks, attached to the side walls of the compartment, form two rows with a three foot aisle running down the middle.  Hammocks are stacked eight-high from floor to the overhead...each hammock pipe set 18 inches apart. 

To reach upper hammocks, one uses the lower pipe frames as a ladder,  stepping on fingers, legs, arms or a head of occupants in lower hammocks.  To roll over, one must climb out, turn around and roll back into bed.  18 inches is simply not enough for shoulders and hips to rotate beneath the tush-stretched above.

Having been on many boats, I quickly claimed the top hammock...no puke from sick guys dripping down on me.  The top hammock is snuggled among various pipes and wire runs lining the ceiling...making it quite easy to move around ... even to roll over without climbing out.

Our compartment holds about 250 hammocks.  Additional compartments with another 250 guys each extend fore and aft (front and back).  A latrine (restroom/shower) is in between compartments.

Everyone in the compartment is assigned a job.  My job is cleaning the latrine morning and again in the evening.  After one week, I am reassigned to be a "guard" in the Dependent's Quarters.  Our ship carries a large number of military family members, crossing the Pacific Ocean to Japan, to join their military sponsor (husband / wife).  I must be doing an OK job because I remain guarding  "wives" rooms in the restricted Dependent Quarters....with explicit orders to allow only those with written authorization to enter.

Little good it does.

Nearly all traveling wives instruct me to allow such and such to enter their rooms...in violation of my orders.  During the entire voyage, officer after officer enter the restricted area...sorry, sir, but this is a restricted area...you'll have to leave...no problem, guard...I have orders to interview (Mrs......)...why don't you make a circuit of the other rooms...I'll just be a minute...and put in a good word for you to the Sergeant of the Guard...sorry sir, but you must have written authorization to....that is an order, Airman...go check the rooms on the other side of the compartment !!

...not the first nor the last time I run into RHIP (rank has it's privileges).

Our ship pulls into Pearl Harbor.  I am rewarded a day pass to travel to Waikiki Beach...part of a group of military enlisted men closely monitored, are allowed to sunbathe and swim in the warm shallow waters.  Upon return to the ship, a number of men are given punishment for reporting back with sunburns...interpreted as shirking duty; i.e., intentionally getting sunburned to avoid assigned duty. 

Arriving in Yokohama, we are bussed to a local airport where I board a C-124 double-decker four engine transport plane.  The ensuing flight takes only a couple hours.  Our descent into Kimpo, the airport outside Seoul, Korea is quick and steep.  I am lying asleep on the canvas seats, my head toward the cockpit (front) of the plane.  The descent is so steep that I get an air bubble in my forehead, which is so painful I feel as though my head will burst.  We come in steep because Kimpo (K-14), is only 30 miles from in-progress fighting between NATO and North Korean/Chinese troops along the 38th parallel..

Walking down the ramp from the C-124, I am directed aboard a military bus.  As I board the bus, sirens begin blaring;  guns start firing into the night sky, forming a solid wall of tracer fire (bullets that leave a trail of fire as they rise into the sky).  It is a scene to be repeated every night I remain in Korea.  The cause of this display is the nightly visit from North Korea of BEDCHECK CHARLIE...a bi-plane (wood and canvas airplane with two wings, one above the other) which flys slow and low over NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) bases, with the sole purpose to keep everyone awake all night...dropping the occasional bomb...sometimes with devastating results.

We run off the bus, jumping into a slit trenche lining the runway.  Bedcheck Charlie, that first night, did not come over Kimpo.  On many nights during the next year, I and Bedcheck Charlie have numerous encounters; Bedcheck Charlie flying so low over me I could easily hit him with a rock.

Climbing back aboard the bus, we drive through the night over rough dirt roads, arriving at K-13 Air Force Base, Suwon, Korea, some 30 miles south of Seoul.

* * * * * * * *

UP DATE:

The past 3 days I have been guest of the Bellingham Hospital, admitted on Monday afternoon with severe stomach (gut) cramps.  X-ray and CT (cat scan) reveal a weak spot in my small intestine which has become clogged with Mini-Size Shredded Wheat, which I foolishly wolfed down by the hand full, apparently causing the plug.  The surgeon advised me that surgery was a probability. 

For three days, I lay in the MCU (Medical Care Unit), waiting the decision ... surgery or no surgery.  During that time, I am not allowed anything, including water for nearly 36 hours.  The next 36 hours, I am allowed a bullion broth and apple juice.  I finally suggest to the Hospital Administration Representative - who came around asking if I was content with my "treatment" - that lying three days immobile, waiting for a decision was surely costing a pretty penny...certainly to be only partially covered by Medicare and AARP Supplemental Insurance...she says, yes, you will have to pay the balance.  I inform her that I have no way to pay ANY "balance" as I have no income and have not yet found a job. 

Four hours later, I am released from the Hospital.  No surgery...if the pain returns, come on back...the hospital pays for a taxi to take me to my apartment, arriving about 8:00 pm last evening.

This morning, I walk the 1.5 miles to pick up my MPV...the new (used) transmission installed and tested ($1,577.00).  I telephone my "room-mate" of 12 years that I am on my way with the trailer to pick up my couch and kitchen table and chairs...well, says E, you can't do that...why?...because I am on a trip for the next few weeks...when I return you can come by...OK, have a good trip, as I click off my cell phone. 

I drive to the apartment, hook up the trailer, and deliver it back to Circle A Trailers - from whom I purchased it in July for $3,200.00.  Bill says he can probably resell it for me - on consignment - for $1,800 to $2,000...which is to be used to pay off the $8,000 + debt run up to rush to Pastor Steve in North Carolina to help his clan out of their peril.

This evening, my old high school chum, Wendell P (with whom I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner), brought by a bulging shopping bag of groceries for my empty cupboards...thank you ever so much, Wendell.








Monday, November 26, 2012

POST 1006; NOVEMBER 26, 2012; SAN FRANCISCO

The train ride to Oakland is uneventful...just the way I like it.  Dave and Bernie on my mind...both now dead.  I simply can not believe it...and me, on the way to fight in a war on the other side of the world.  Dad bawling at the train station... also on my mind.   I simply can not believe he was bawling; I'm the one off to war; and what did he do when I really wanted to talk to him that night he hauled me into Idaho;  he hands me five dollars and says, ... and don't come home.

I take the military bus from the railroad station to the embarkation center on Mare Island...a Navy Base in the middle of San Francisco Bay...the Bay Bridge soaring overhead. 

Your a week early, the navy guy says as I hand him my orders.  Since your here, we'll give you some chores to do.  He assigns me to a barracks...report to the Mess Hall in the morning for your work assignment.  The next five days, I clean tables, clean floors, scrub pots, peel potatoes, and clean some more.  I then receive an overnight pass to go into San Francisco.

I catch the military bus to the Embarcadero, get off, and start walking.  Never seen San Francisco before;  follow the waterfront out toward the Golden Gate Bridge, ending up in Fisherman's Wharf.  Now, I come from a fisherman's family - Mother telling me how, at 6 months, I was taken salmon fishing in a rowboat out of Des Moines, lying in an apple box in the bottom of the boat -, but never had I seen so many fishing boats and seafood of all sorts on display.  Bought a plate of fish chips and coke...Yummm.

Continuing my walk, I end up in the center of San Francisco.  The Mark Hopkins Hotel is standing alongside dozens of the tallest buildings I have ever seen.  I walk into the Mark, take the elevator to the Top Of The Mark where I can see the entire San Francisco Bay.  Coming back to the street, I walk the few blocks to California Street where I hop on a street car, not knowing where it is going, but determined to ride it to the end of the line.  The street car stops  in a residential district in South San Francisco.  I get out and continue walking.  Up and down many streets lined with neat white stucco homes, I come across an Ice Rink.  I walk in and watch as dozens of skaters go round and round the rink.  Out in the middle of the rink are a few skaters jumping and spinning.  A man walks to me...you skate?  No, but it looks fun.  If you like, skating is on the house today for service men - I was in my dress blue class A uniform -.  Sure, why not.  I follow the man to a room, walls lined with ice skates...what size?  Size 10...he hands me a pair of black boot skates. 

I sit on the bench and put on the skates.  Takes a half dozen tries before I can take a couple steps without losing my balance.  Finally, I reach the gate in the wall surrounding the ice rink and gingerly step onto the ice...and promptly fall on my tush.  Turning onto my knees, I pull myself up.  Holding onto the waist high wall, I venture around the rink, one hand on the wall to keep from falling again.  Half way around, I let go of the wall and dare to let the skates slide along the ice.  Returning to my starting point, I'm starting to get the hang of it...at least I haven't fallen again.  I start around again, fingers sliding along the wall just in case.   A hand slides under my left elbow.   I look down into dazzling brown eyes...owned by a smiling girl in a tiny white skating dress and white ice skates.

You look like you might like some help, as she takes my left hand and pulls me away from the wall.  Too stunned to say anything, I let her lead me around the rink, trying to pretend it really isn't ice.  At the end of my second circuit, I actually "walk" in step with her.  My name is Patricia...I saw you come onto the ice.  This your first time?  Yes.  Would you like to skate with me for a while?  Yes.  What is your name?  Bruce.  

The next half hour,  Patricia and I skate hand in hand...my thoughts on her hand in mine...not even aware there is ice under my skates.  Come on, I want you to meet my folks, as Patricia pushes open the gate.  She leads me to a row of seats where an audience is sitting watching the skaters.  Mom...Dad..., this is Bruce.  Mom and Dad are standing smiling at me.  Still holding Patricia's hand, I shake hands; glad to meet you.  You are doing pretty good out there; I blush, look at Patricia who is beaming up at me...she must be all of 13...because of Patricia, I say, as she squeezes my hand again.

We live close by...would you like to walk home and have dinner with us?  (Would I???).  Yes, I really would...I get another hand squeeze... I silently thank my Wichita Falls dance teachers for introducing me to some social graces.

Dad chats with me as Patricia helps her Mom prepare dinner.  By the time dinner is over, I learn that Patricia is determined to join the Ice Follies, and I tell them what it is like growing up on the stump ranch.  Mom, Dad, and Patricia, promising to write me when I get to Korea, walk me back to the street car.

It's dark when I step off the street car.  There is a military bus standing nearby with the sign:  MARE ISLAND.  I have no desire to walk the streets of San Francisco...finding a place to sleep never occurs to me.   I hop on the bus.  I spend the rest of the week washing more pots and pans...my mind on Patricia in her white outfit holding my hand nearly all evening.  Not once did I think of Kennewick.  It was difficult to hold back the tears...tears for ME...maybe...just maybe, I'm not such a criminal.

I do not get to see the Golden Gate Bridge as our ship heads out into the Pacific Ocean.  Barely 6 months ago, I was taking photographs of Sam in her cap and gown, she, standing  (me, unbelieving) in our living room on graduation day.  Korea, fighter jets, bombs, and bullets wait, only two weeks away.

* * * * * *

One o'clock on this sunny Bellingham afternoon, MPV is having it's transmission changed out.  Arriving back at my apartment in the Senior Assistance Housing building on Sunset Highway, Cathy, the manager asks...when are you moving your trailer...hopefully this afternoon, Mam.

I check my cell phone...I check my e-mail; nope, no messages from potential employers.

Down to three cans of baked beans, two packages of macaroni and cheese, and one frozen pizza;  no chance of a bite at Appleby's.  Only one more week until my Social Security $$ arrives. 












Sunday, November 25, 2012

POST 1005: NOVEMBER 25, 2012; WICHITA FALLS

August 1952...

Six weeks Basic Training have passed quickly.  Sewing on my new A3C stripes, I packed up my duffle bag, borderd the USAF bus for the Union Pacific Railroad Station in Oakland.  I should have been excited to be assigned directly to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas.  Every other member of my basic training flight was assigned to a technical school...another 6 months of training before they entered the real Air Force...but, I was not.

During mail call a two days before boarding the bus, I received a letter from Sam (yes, 'MY" Sam).  Bruce...I have awful news.  David and Bernie  both died yesterday in a car crash.  They were on their way to register for college..  Their car flipped and rolled many times.  Both David and Bernie were killed...

Dave and Bernie - we were the Kennewick High School Tennis Team -  were on their way to fulfill the dream that I had been denied...to go to college...; and now, both were gone.  Why, I ask myself have they been taken...I'm the criminal...I should be the one to die.  This thought has stayed with me to this day.  I have found no answer.

I boarded the train in Oakland.  My seat was in first class on a Pullman Sleeper Car.  Two sets of seats faced each other during the daytime.  My seating companion was a pretty girl a bit older than me.  She started many conversations...I, being abominably shy, was unable to look her in the eye...certainly, I could not possibly carry on a conversation.  She finally gave up and ignored me the rest of that first day on the trai;n.

At night, an overhead berth was pulled down, filling the top half of the open space.  Sliding curtains formed four separate sleeping areas - two below; two above.  I was assinged one of the top berths...the girl was in the other top berth. 

I was already asleep when I felt someone move my bunk.  The girl had climbed the ladder into her own bunk...separated from mine by the sliding curtain...she had accidentally moved my bunk.  Her light came on.  I lay still;  I heard the curtain slide, light falling on my closed eyes.  Opening my eyes, my companion, sitting only inches from my feet, smiling hugely at me, was completely nude.  I could only stare.  She put two fingers to her lips, blew me a kiss and clicked out her light.  I lay wide awake all the way to Green River, Wyoming, waiting for the curtain to slide again...it never did.

In Green River, I changed trains. 

My train arrived in Wichita Falls that afternoon.  I boarded the waiting US Air Force Bus, which took me to Sheppard Air Force Base.  Reporting in to the Orderly Room, I was assigned a bunk in an enlisted men's barracks.  The next morning, I reported to work at the Staff Judge Advocate Office.  Without any further training, I began reporting Courts Martials...writing all that was said; then, typing the transcript. 

Free at last from the tight controls of basic training, I was free to spend my evenings without duties.  I caught the bus into Wichita Falls.  After walking around town, I stopped at the offices of a Lawyer, asking if there was an opening for a transcript typist.  I was immediately given a part time job typing from the shorthand notes of the civilian court reporter.  Each page I transcribed and typed - double spaced -, I received $1.00. 

Having worked since 6 years old, I had no social skills.  I let the girl on the train get away.  I was determined to do something about it.  Walking the streets of Wichita Falls, I came upon a ballroom dancing studio.  I got up my nerve, walked in and asked about taking dancing lessons.  From September through Christmas, I took two lessons a week.  Dance class became my most important existance.  Not only did I learn the Foxtrot, Waltz, and Tango, but I also got to hold my gorgeous teachers - I had two teachers -  in my arms all the while. 

All too quickly, it came to an end.  Two days before Christmas, I received new orders:  I was to take two weeks leave, and report to the embarkation center in Oakland, California...from which I was to board a MSTS ship bound for Korea via Yokohama, Japan.

I again packed my duffle bag, boarded the train for Kennewick via Denver, Colorado.

Arriving in Kennewick on Christmas Day, I was informed I could not stay home.  I spent the next four days in the Public Library, returning home after dark.   On December 30, 1952, I again boarded the train for Oakland.

Dad and Mother stood together on the station platform...I could have sworn Dad was crying.  Also standing on that platform was Jeannie B.., now a Senior, and a long time friend of Sam.  As I climbed aboard, Jeannie ran up to me, gave me a hug...my first ever real hug...and said goodbye.

I began to wonder what I had missed  working day and night for years in the trucking business instead of learning some social skills. 

I was not to see Jeannie again...I have, however, located her within the past two years. 

* * * * *

Took a nice long walk through Bellingham today...my first in over a week.  Already getting itchy to be on the road.  Settling back in is proving to be no cake walk.











Saturday, November 17, 2012

POST 698; 11/17/12; BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON

Things are looking up. 

Approval has been received for my apartment...in fact, was given the keys yesterday afternoon and have completed moving items from the MPV in.  Slept on the floor last night, as the beds are loaded in the trailer, which was not moved into position to unload until just before dark.

MACY'S called me in for an interview yesterday.  Seemed - from my viewpoint - to go OK.  Was advised that an e-mail will be sent within the next week advising success/failure to join the Holiday Work Crew.

The transmission has stopped functioning in REVERSE; i.e., cannot back up the MPV, so must be careful parking.  A new (used) transmission is to be available Tuesday - 4 days hence - at the cost of $1,500.00 installed and warranted for 100 miles.

$$ cost to complete my move to  - and return - the Outer Banks to volunteer myself to the services of Pastor Steve has risen to nearly $7.00.00...all of which I had to borrow from others, and now must pay back.

P. Steve, greatly suffering from a rare type of crippling disease, together with his family and friends, pleaded for me to move to OBX to help them.  I did so, only to discover they were not really in much need; i.e., I was invited to join them on their cruise to the Bahamas...during which Pastor Steve was to be my cabin-mate.  Now, how in the dickens can folks in such great need travel (again) on a cruise to the Bahamas?

Oh, well;  I offered myself up to P. Steve.  For reasons I still do not understand, I was summarily fired and sent packing...all without accepting any remuneration for my 8 months work.

and, so goes life.

Tomorrow is another day...(Gone With The Wind).




Monday, November 12, 2012

POST 697; 11/12/12; BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON

I can attest to the truth that it does rain in Bellingham.  In reality, it rains pretty much daily from October through February, albeit without getting folks wet...by that I mean it kinda drizzles much of the time under overcast skies...I have for most of my life called Bellingham Rain "LIQUID SUNSHINE".

Hardly ever does a puddle of water form from a day's worth of drizzle; contrary to the sand spit I just left, OBX,  where 30 minutes of rain left my front yard ankle deep in water.

Drizzled most of today!  End of the weather report.

Transmission:  warming up the transmission for 4-5 minutes each morning has eleminated any transmission lock-up; have therefore put off tomorrow's appointment for a transmission inspection/overhaul.  Taking a risk, I know, but being a positive sort, am rolling the dice.

Apartment:  Am informed my apartment application is being rushed, with expectation of final decision as early as tomorrow (Tuesday).  Another reason for transmission decision, as I will need the MPV to move the trailer into position to unload it in event approval to move in becomes a reality.

Job:  Have submitted at least 20 job applications for work here in Bellingham, plus one in nearby Ferndale (10 miles away).  A number of job openings are advertised, for which I qualify (probably much overqualified).  Being nearly 80 years old might work against me, tho.  Certainly holding the positive outlook.

Various and sundry:  Spend most of my last 5 days filling out job applications.  In between, sit in my MPV under the radiant sun - between drizzles - reading a fascinating book, "LIDIA BAILEY" by Kenneth Roberts.  Bellis Fair Mall parking lot is my favored parking as it is close by the marina - where I spend my nights aboard Les' yacht - and is entertaining to observe the steady stream of hundreds of vehicles coming and going.  A stroll down the rows of parked vehicles reveal 4 in 5 license plates to be from British Columbia, Canada.  A stroll through the Mall brings coloquial dress and languages from the world over.

Filling up at the local gas station presents a line of about 15 vehicles at each pump...again 4 in 5 licensed in Canada.  No only do gas tanks get filled, but nearly every Canadian pulls 3 - 4 red plastic gas cans from the trunk which are also filled...is a bit of a wait to reach the gas pump.

Business in Bellingham is booming.  Parking lots are full.  Stores are packed.

Read on the internet that recent studies of centurians reveal those who walk daily at least 2 miles at 2.5 + miles per hour have a rather good chance to live to 100 years old.  Wonder what that says of my 4 - 5 miles per hour walking  4 times - over 16,000 miles - across America in the past 2.5 years..."me, oh my !"...quote from a leading character from LYDIA BAILEY.

This evening, plan to sip a glass of Cabernet at the local sports bar while taking in Monday Night Football...a pleasure I have been denied the past 12 or so years. 



Friday, November 9, 2012

POST 696; 11/09/12; BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON

Welcome again to Bellingham - one of the most liveable communities in the world.

Returned on November 03 after an eventful drive from Gillette, Wyoming.  Twice, my transmission "locked up" in the cold morning startup process.  After a couple minutes, it "unlocked" and performed without problem...until my first morning in Bellingham, when it locked up again. 

Checking in at Barrett Transmission, a highly recommended company, left my MPV overnight; in the morning, it again locked up for the service man, Lee.  His diagnosis is ..."...run it until it fails; it will not get better; 260,000 miles on any transmission is unbelievable...".  So, am looking at another $1,500 to $2,500 expenditure - which I do not have. 

Have "started up" the transmission on the last four cold (34 F) mornings WITHOUT lockup.  My solution (interim) is to let the engine warm up five minutes or so before engaging the transmission.  Appears that there is a "leak" of transmission fluid within the TORQUE CONVERTER which is bolted directly to the engine flywheel.  The sectioned torque converter requires a measured amount of fluid in each chamber.  SEALS / DAMS between the chambers apparently are leaking fluid from/to each other.  Warming up the engine also warms up the fluid within the torque converter, which allows fluid expansion (from the heat) sufficient to properly engage the transmission.

This "leakage" problem may or may not require a costly fix.  I have decided, therefore to continue morning warm-up and see how many more miles my beloved MPV will take me. 

After initially engaging, the transmission functions perfectly until again left overnight to face cold-morning startup.

As promised, Les' yacht was ready and waiting my arrival.  I slept three nights aboard in supurb comfort and hot showers ($1.00) in the dock-side restroom.
In consideration of Les' desire to not use TRUMPTER (Les' yacht) while I am sleeping aboard, I opted to spend last night sleeping in my MPV.  Did so at the local WALMART.  Was, as always, comfy as the front seat lies back nearly flat; however, it became bitterly cold in early morning, waking me up after 8 hours uninterrupted sleep.  My toes, however, were nearly frostbit and painful.
Put a pillow "under" my shoes to insulate from the floor; after an hour or so, warmed up and slept another hour.

Am taking meals at MacDonalds:  two Egg McMuffins for b'fast and one Big Mac for din din ($10.00 a day).  Les and Lynn had me over for my second evening...Les is a great cook!

I have applied for a 2-bedroom apartment under a senior citizen program offered by the State of Washington; cost = $705/month, all utilities included. A one-bedroom is also available, at $575.00/month.

 Full disclosure of assets/income/education/work/prior addresses/and background check was required before my application was accepted.  Approval/disapproval will take 2 - 3 weeks.

Crazy, isn't it:  to obtain an apartment requires FULL lifetime disclosure.
TO BE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, no such disclosures are required.

In the interim, Les offers TRUMPTER from time to time.  MPV will protect me on most nights.  If push comes to shove, a church group offers "emergency" (6:00 pm to 8:00am) matress on the floor in the sanctuary for street people.  Have I come so far ???


Social Security $$ alone are JUST adequate for stingy living.  I must obtain a part time position to become somewhat comfy again.

I have actively engaged in making work applications.  About 15 so far.  WALMART - Bellingham is hiring; not so many others.  Today I tackle the likes of SEARS, PENNY'S, MACY'S, etc.

My loaded trailer is, at the kindness of Kathy, apartment complex manager, parked in the tenet parking lot. 

My long-time ladyfriend with whom we co-habited over 12 years, has kindly offered items from "our" home, which I plan to pick up just as soon as the trailer is unloaded and moved into my new home.

All in all, my "home coming" has been pleasant (friend-wise), tolerant (job hunting), and optomistic (new "home" approval). 

What more can one ask ?!

Friday, November 2, 2012

POST 695: 11/02/12 pm; GILLETTE, WYOMING

  A bright sunshining day in Gillette has allowed me to use my free day to check out the transmission and to research my immediate options.

The transmission is apparently NOT leaking; however, it bodes well to have learned how to check fluid level and obtain proper lubricant and funnel to add fluid if need be.  Under the circumstances, the trannie fluid will be checked at least every other gas fill-up...just to be certain all is OK. 

The fluid leak is from a 5-year old engine oil leak - apparently the head gasket -, but small enough to need less than one quart oil in 3,000 miles...also prudent to dip-stick the engine oil every second gas fill-up.

Now, for my impetuous and from the hip recent decisions.  Have had numerous conversations regarding the wisdom of returning to OBX.  The bottom line is:  returning to OBX is NOT is my best interest.

Have also contacted my Bellingham friends regarding housing possibilities.  Have determined that Bellingham - via Northwest Regional Council on Aging and Disability Resources - has numerous housing possibilities available, all of which I personally qualify.  Rental costs range from $300 - $600 for one bedroom modern apartments. 

Bellingham, in addition to being touted nationally as one of the finest small cities (60,000 population) to live in all of America, has not been hit - as have most of the USA - by the economic downturn.  Local business remains brisk offering employment opportunities for nearly all wishing to work.   

My friend, Les, has offered me his yacht for a week or so pending my selection of a place to call home. 

I have, therefore, decided to enjoy the rest of this day in Gillette, partake in a sumptious seafood buffet this evening at the local steak house restaurant in the next door Best Western Motel...a 3 - 4 star motel.

In the morning, I will once again retrace my steps by continuing back to Bellingham where I will set up housekeeping amongst friends.

My saga...to walk around the world's available land mass - in the northern latitudes...continues. 

Again I am reminded of success over prior failures by Magellan, Columbus, and as I recall, Richard Nixon.  Not to burn bridges, I am also reminded is paramount to reaching those final goals.

I am told that the mountain passes over the Rockies will remain free of snow for the next day or so...I certainly hope that is true.

BELLINGHAM OR BUST !

POST 695: 11/02/12; GILETTE, WYOMING

Five in the morning, ready for breakfast, in Gilette, Wyoming.  Still very dark out, with twilight rising about 8:00 am. 

On the phone with a few friends during the night.  Was shaking with my body buzzing as I lay down last evening...remembering I, under the pressure of the last 48 hours, forgot my heart medication.  Was pleased to wake an hour ago...was not sure that would happen

Have driven 1/4 the way from Seattle back to OBX.  My trusty MPV (car) now has 258,900 miles and is beginning to complain (transmission).  With the advent of Hurricane Sandy, OBX cut off from the ocean once again washing out Highway 12, and the potential of finding a paying job in OBX nearly non-existant, AND, my growing weakness - I am so very tired -, I have decided to take a day off by staying another night in Gilette. 

I must stop here / now, not drive another 2,000 miles to uncertainty of the wisdom to return to the OBX. 

One of my friends in Bellingham has advised me that there is an overabundance of "low income" (that's me, for the moment) housing avilable.  I also have 28 years of true friends in Bellingham, many of whom continue to read my blog and offer their support. 

I really do want to help my new friends in OBX.  Most are quite poor, living in modest means, without flood insurance...now faced with another challange.  I, of all people, have learned, however:  that to help others, one must first be in love with one's self...or at least be content within.  At the moment, I am not too keen on my recent decisions.  Perhaps it is time to seek a quiet comfy spot to regroup.

So, before testing the endurence of my transmission...and pushing myself into deeper potential health problems - after all, I ain't no spring chicken no more -, I will take this day to reflect and plan. 

Uppermost, I look forward to Lisbon / Beijing.  I would like to do what no one has done before (as far as I have learned); walk fully around the land mass of the World.  I am still up to that challenge, but as my Bellingham Primary Doctor once said..."pick your battles, Bruce."

I am not certain a return to OBX will help achieve my ultimate goal.

Yes, a day of pure rest and reflection is in order.

I find myself chocking up, holding back the tears of failure.

I really do need this day off.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

POST 694; 11/01/12; GILETTE, WYOMING

I will cut to the crux of the matter.  All commitments and promises made to me regarding living at the home of Brother Jim (deceased) have been broken.

Last Friday, I was assured all was in order for my arrival at Jim's.  Therefore, I drove to Seattle, Washington area, arriving yesterday noon.  Before rushing to Jim's, called Nephew Dale that I would pull into Jim's before dark.  Dale, hum and hawed a bit before telling me:   - paraphrased:

"WE HAVE LEASED JIM'S TO ANOTHER PARTY, WHO WILL PAY A SUBSTANTIAL SUM."  "THEREFORE, THERE IS NO PLACE FOR YOU AT JIM'S."

OK, ok, ok...I was stunned, having driven over 3,000 miles - again at great expense.  After long cell-phone discussions, I was advised that the "lease" was made LAST SATURDAY...and no one followed through to contact me.

I sat, fuming, angry, confused, and cursing aloud all those who recently promised so much...only to have nonperformance and no consideration at all to even advise me.

I contacted some friends near Seattle and Bellingham, trying to find options...a place to settle for a time until I could sort out this mess.  Arriving at no reasonable option, I telephoned Miss Linda, my landlady in OBX, who told me my house was waiting for my return...and that, "everybody here really loves you and wish you would come back."

I considered Miss Linda's words, turned my MPV/Trailer around, and headed east on I-90, reversing my 6-day from OBX to Seattle.

At this moment, I sit in a room at Motel 6 in Gilette, Wyoming, having reached here in 1.5 days.  A weather system is closing down on I-90, which tomorrow is forecast to drop to freezing; i.e., possible snow.

Early tomorrow morning, I dead-head east on I-90 to Souix Falls, South Dakota, where I will hang a right to Kansas City, then east again across Tennessee, the Smokie Mountains (more steep hills, possibly with snow from Hurricane Sandy).  Should arrive in Columbia, SC at Karen and Craig's home, where I will hole up for a few days.  Why the delay in Columbia?

The Outer Banks is cut off from any road traffic to the mainland...two cuts have been made by Hurricane Sandy completely across that bloody sand spit...one north of Salvo, and another to the south of Salvo.  Ferries have been pressed into service for OBX residents, but not for "outsiders". 

I have made the decision to return to OBX with considerable questions.  Before moving onto OBX, I will do some detailed fact finding.  As an option, Craig has offered me his mobile home rental in Columbia.

One major problem with my auto:  the transmission has been acting up.  Today, I had it inspected in Billings, Montana.  There is fluid leaking from the transmission housing, coating the underside of the car.  Took 1/2 pint fluid to top it off...with a caution to "take it easy, especially on long steep hills"...otherwise, it may not get me to Columbia.

My walk blog did not include any criticisims or negative comments.  One nation-wide finding is that many Americans are scared to death - for a number of reasons -; another finding has been indifference by many regarding fulfilling commitments / promises. 

I for one, make life changing decisions based on promises made.  Broken promises have been costly for me.  I do not appreciate that. 

Please be kind enough to read into the above no anger on my part.  I do ask for consideration by ALL to avoid continuance of broken promises.  Consider if you will, the effect such failure(s) have on other folks.

I am now very worn out.  Started driving at 2:30 am this morning, reaching Gilette at 6:30 pm...14 hours, mostly crossing the Rocky Mountains...much of it in the dark.  I still do not see well at night.  At one point, following the white line on the edge of the roadway, I suddenly found myself well into an Exit off ramp, doing 65 mph.  My good brakes stopped me just in time from passing through a dark intersection at a dead end...not fun!  Not fun at all.