How I Spent My Summer Vacation Actually, it was October, but you get the drift. I was goin’ to Mississippi Fandango, which is a pretty good cowboy shoot up in Wisconsin. Drivin’ from Florida. I try to do this every other year. Take two weeks. Drive slowly, take the back roads. See America. It’s a great vacation road trip, and you get to shoot. What could be better? Take my family with me would be better. My baby, Hazel Honeybee, and her baby, Cuco, and their baby (my grandbaby) Lobita. She’s a werewolf. At the time, she was 4 months shy of her third birthday. I was taking two weeks vacation. Since we were working four tens (Monday through Thursday), with no overtime allowed (Government contract), that meant that I basically had fifteen days. So, the Thursday before, I’m talking to the boss about an inspection I had just finished. He asks if I’ve done the other eight also. What other eight? The other eight Huey masts. Oh. Well, I’ll get them as soon as I get back from vacation. Nope, gotta be done before I leave. So, I’m there Friday, on my day off, on the first day of my vacation, inspecting these damn masts. Nineteen hours, I’m there Friday, on my day off, on the first day of my vacation, inspecting these damn masts. And with no overtime (I mentioned it was a Government contract, right?), so I don’t even get paid for this. Well, I do, but I can’t take 40 hours of vacation this week. Can only take twenty-one. Bust my butt for two and a half shifts, and can’t even get OT. I had borrowed a trailer for the trip, but needed a cover for it. That was what I was gonna do, Friday. That was the plan. Make the cover Friday. Finish if needed Saturday. Pick up the kids at the airport at 3:15 Saturday, and leave Sunday. So, at 3:30, Saturday, I check my watch, stop work on the trailer and jump in the truck and boogie to the airport. Explain problems to kids. At least, with Cuco helping, it will be faster getting the trailer ready. Finish the trailer about 2:00 Sunday afternoon. Everything is loaded except the guns. Guess we are leaving Monday. The plan. Put kids and dog in truck. Drive to Georgia on Sunday. Leave dog with friends for two weeks. Drive to Wisconsin, arrive Wednesday night. Have fun at four-day match. Drive back to Georgia. Pick up dog. Drive back to Florida. Put kids on plane back to San Juan. This was the plan. Almost forgot. Saturday, I can’t find my wallet. Suspect that dog has taken it out of pocket and carried if off thinking it is a chew-toy (note to self, quit leaving pants on floor). Sure it will turn up, but just in case – call bank. Cancel cards, debit and credit. Call Discover. Cancel card. Discover said they will send me new card. I get them to send it to friend in Wisconsin. Now we have something to come home on. Just have to get there. No driver’s license. No pistol permit. Life sucks. Oh well. It’ll work. Daughter will drive truck. Put two grand in daughter’s bank account. Will use her debit card on trip up. It’ll work (if I say this often enough, I will believe it). Monday, head to Georgia. Arrive mid-afternoon. Dog, in back of Bronco, drools on baby (in car seat in back seat) the entire trip. We have fine time getting reacquainted, and everyone crashes for the night. Next morning. Sing it Willie. “On the road again”. We get lost. Finally realizing we are lost, we backtrack. Discover that we should have turned at this intersection, but were so astounded at the billboard there, we missed seeing the road sign. Okay, now north of Atlanta, and heading west. Going to Alabama, gonna go up 231. Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana. My permit is good in all of them. So that is how the trip was planned. Too bad don’t have permit, but trip is still planned. Goin’ to Alabama. Bama. Yaaay, we made it. Truckin’ on down the road. Left rear tire goes bam. Pull off the road in front of man’s house. Go ask him if we can back up to his driveway, so we will be sitting level, to change the tire. He tells us that we can’t block his drive, but he has no problem with us pulling up into his front yard to get a level spot. So, we attempt. Note to self: when driving through a ditch, always unhitch trailer first. So, now we are stuck in the ditch. Open back of Bronco, get out high-lift jack. Jack up truck, change tire. Engage FWD, finish pulling through ditch and up into yard, then onto driveway. Take much-needed Dr. Pepper break. Chuck, the homeowner, asks if were are gonna replace the blown tire. Oh yeah. He says he has a shop he uses, and could hook us up. We go in the house and he calls the shop and explains the problem. Gives me the phone. I tell the man the size I need, and he says he has three orphans. Tires that aren’t made in that pattern anymore. I can have any or all for 60 bucks each, mounted and balanced. I get directions from Chuck, and away we go. We get there, and he has one single and a pair. I tell him to put the single on the blown one, and hang it back on the back. Then I take a look at my tires. Hmmmm. That spare’s been on the back for a while. Dry-rot cracks in the sidewall. Hmmmm. Let’s put the new one on the ground, and put that spare back where it came from. While we’re at it, the front tires are kinda bald. Let’s put that pair underneath the front end. Okay, it’s done, we’re good, we’re golden. Sing it Willie. “On the road again”. We spend Tuesday night at the foot of Monteagle. This seems like a fine time to give the kids a lesson on the fine art of Cowboy Shooting. I had made up some dummies, and bought some store-bought snap caps, and gonna teach ‘em about “leaving the action open, always”, and “how to do a reload on the clock”, and, very important, “how to load, fire and reload a double barrel, under pressure”. First, we get out the guns. Now, Hazel has been shootin’ since she was twelve. I know she knows what she’s doin’. These are her guns. 6 ½” Ruger OM Blackhawks, 357. Old Model. Gotta put ‘em on half-cock, to load, like God and Col. Colt intended. Cuco picked though the available options, and chose these. Ruger 45s. Fortunately, I had plenty of choices. To shoot the match, we needed 6 pistols, three rifles and three shotguns. I had those, plus 5 spare pistols, plus a spare rifle, plus a spare shotgun, plus two buffalo guns, a 22 pistol and a pocket pistol (just in case we wanted to do some side matches), along with enough ammo to supply a small army. Anyway, we practiced, and I told him to make sure he had the butt of the shotgun tight into his shoulder. This is important. Next morning, sing it Willie, on the road again. Up we go, and then down we go. In “Smokey and the Bandit”, Jerry Reed sings a song called, “The Legend of Bandit”, which tells about Bandit haulin’ a load from Atlanta to Tennessee. One line says, “Monteagle grade is steep and long”, and friends and neighbors, I’m here to tell you, he ain’t lyin’. Monteagle grade is steep and long, and the damn truck kept overheating as we are goin’ down it. More on that, later. Then, “bamm". The left tire of the trailer blew. Get out the jack. Get the spare. Jack it up. Change the tire. Don’t get run over by all the damn traffic goin’ down Monteagle grade. Okay. Sing it Willie. Hazel says, “We gotta go see Lori.” What? See Lori? That ain’t in the plan. “But Lori ain’t never seen the baby.” Oh, well, then we obviously gotta go see Lori. Where does Lori live? “Ft. Wayne.” Hmmm. You mighta mentioned that when we was in Georgia. Then we coulda gone north, instead of goin’ 150 miles west to Alabama, and now having to go back the 150 miles east. Okie dokie. Blow through Tennessee and Kentucky. We are now in Indiana, heading northeast. As we approach Ft. Wayne, we call Lori. Her husband will talk us in. “Get off at this exit, and turn right, and go down until you see this.” That seems purty self-explanatory. We can probably do that. We get lost. So we stop and call Lori. No one answers. Of course not. No one is home. They are at the landmark we are supposed to meet them at. We keep trying. Eventually they come back home, and we get in touch with them. We describe where we are, and they come get us. Seems there had been some road construction that the husband was not aware of, and we should have turned LEFT and not RIGHT when we got off the interstate. Oh well. We’re there now. We are gonna spend Wednesday night at Lori’s house. She has bought brand new pillows. No pillowcases, though. So, me, being a gentleman, did not take mine out of the plastic wrapper (with the blue logo imprinted on it) so I would not get dirt from my head on her brand new pillow. Next morning I discover that Hazel had told Lori to get the new pillows, for us. Hazel repaid her for them. We were taking them with us, as there would be no pillows at the campsite. I also discovered that, from the heat of my head, the blue logo ran, and I had blue hair in the back. Get up Thursday and visit some more. And, since we got clothes dirty changing tire, must wash clothes. Go to laundromat. Leave Hazel and Lori with Lobita to wash clothes. Go to Wallyworld and get new spare tire for trailer. Gas up, back to laundromat and get girls. Back to Lori’s house, hug, hug. Sing it Willie. On the road again. Okay, now we are toolin’ down 24, heading due west. Gonna leave Indiana, go into Illinois. Don’t really wanna do this, as my permit is no good in Illinois, but by doing it this way we can bypass Chicago. Do not want to drive through Chicago with a truckload of guns. I mentioned 23 guns, and enough ammo to supply a small army, right? That don’t count, of course, the truck gun and my carry gun. Yeah, did not really want to drive through Chicago. So, approaching the line. “Isn’t it lunchtime yet?” Cool your jets, folks. We are approaching Watseka IL, and they have got this restaurant with the most goodest food you’ve ever wrapped your teeth around. Hang on. Yeah, Baby. I done made this trip three times now. First time I ate at this place by accident, and I make sure to eat there every trip, now, both goin’ up and comin’ down. It’s that good. Oh, yeah. Here we are. Watseka. There’s Miss Carol’s. It’s good food, too, but they just do supper. We’ll eat there on the way back. Keep goin’. Yep, there’s the motel I stayed at last time. Uh huh, there’s the Big Red Barn – got some pretty neat junk in that store. Okay, now, we’s getting’ close. UP around the curve. Yeah, there it is, just past that next light. Yeah, up there on the right, with the green roof, WITH THE BIG BLACK HOLE IN THE MIDDLE OF IT????? What the heck happened to my restaurant? Burned down two months ago. Dammitman. Oh well, eat a Micky D’s. Sing it Willie. On the road again. On to 39. I hate Interstates. Right and up we go. Sooner we’re out of Illinois the better I’ll like it. Okie dokie. Now we’re in Wisconsin. Madison. Runnin’ low on petrol. It’s night. Need to gas up and find a place to stay. There’s a motel with a gas station. That works. Everybody that will be in the room needs picture ID. What?? Never heard of such a thing. ‘Sides, ain’t got no picture ID. Lost my wallet. Hmmm. There’s another motel next door. Sign on the office, “After 7PM, go to the lounge and talk to bartender. He’s the manager”. So, go to the lounge. This was an absolute first, for me. This was the first time that I was ever the only white guy in a bar. From the looks I was gettin', a whole lot of folks there weren’t used to seein’ a white guy in there, neither. Manager said 75 bucks for a room, and 10 bucks for each additional person. Hmmm. Let’s find another motel. Sing it Willie. Spring Green Wisconsin. A lovely little town, with an even more lovely little motel. And we crash. Next mornin’, up with the sun, and, sing it Willie, on the road again, by, eightish? Get to Fandango, up in Holman, before noon. We is here. Get set up in our camper, and meet some old friends. Now it seems like a good time to get in some live-fire practice. Cuco shoots the 12 gauge. Lowers the gun. Rubs his shoulder. “I told you to pull it in.” Now he knows. Everbody practices. So, we visit, and then Saturday and Sunday we compete. A fine time was had by all. Monday we help knock down the camp, and then – Sing It Willie. We spend Monday night back at the Spring Green Motel. Tuesday mornin’, stop for breakfast at a IHOP, somewhere, and when we come back outside, see green liquid under the front of the truck. Hmmmm. Not too bad. Heater hose has a split, up next to the clamp. Uh oh. Not tools. Not good. Loosen hose clamp with leatherman. Cut off end, replace. Damn I’m good. Let’s go find a Wallyworld, or something, and pick up some tools. Just in case. Pulling into the Target parking lot, and Cuco says, “What’s this green stuff on the floor?” Heater core let go. Dayam. Buy a cheap set of sockets, reroute the hoses. We’re goin’ south – don’t need no dang heater. Sing it Willie. The rest of the trip was pretty easy. No more blowouts. No more leaks. I had packed a portable grill (Q Grill, pretty neat gizmo), and we stopped at English’s Buffalo Farm, in Indiana, and bought some buff. Plan was, the next night, in Georgia, as a kind of a ‘thank you’ for watchin’ the dog, we’d grill up some buff. Them grill work much better, though, when you bring the actual grilling surface along. The grates were still sitting in the dish drainer, at home, from the last time I’d used them. L Picked up big brown dog, and drove home, while the dog drooled all over the baby, again. I’d have to say that this was one of my better road trips.