Visiting My Old Neighborhood

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I found myself out to my sister’s house this week doing some additions and remodeling on a 127 year old house. Nothing big, but big for my 69 year old dad and me. First on that list was replacing the original 67 foot wide covered porch which recently had a tree crash through it, destroying 80% of it. They all did demo last week, then we built it this week. It will be roofed next week when the entire house gets a shiny new metal roof. This house is proof that you can polish a turd to shine like gold.

Anyway, while out at her house I decided to drop in on an old friend from high school. He still lives in his mother’s house in our old neighborhood we grew up in. We had the first two houses built in this development in 1973, we watched the whole neighborhood being built. I haven’t been to his house since going to his mother’s funeral in 2000. As I will explain, much has changed in the old neighborhood in the last 15 years. I also wanted to see the house I grew up in which was three houses down. My parents moved out in 2000 as well, so I really had little reason to go back. As I found out, going after dark was a rather large mistake on my part, the neighborhood has been through some very disturbing changes. Let’s just start with my old family house, which is nothing more than a foundation, debris, and trash. Seems it burnt to the ground about three weeks ago after the meth lab blew up that was in the garage. I called my parents, who are still in disbelief, who drove out today during daylight hours to look at it. When I finally made it to my friends house it was like visiting one of the wards in downtown Houston. There were iron bars on all the windows, the garage doors, and all the doors had heavy duty iron security gates in place. I’m guessing at this time the old neighborhood is not super safe any longer.

I had it explained to me that the last several years there have been really negative changes. The older people were moving out and there houses were turned into rent houses. I’m not saying that created the problem but it did accelerate the problem. Out of 156 homes in the neighborhood, only 4 of them are owned or have a mortgage, my friend owning the one he lives in. I won’t get all stereotypical on y’all since you’re already doing it in your minds for me. And I’m not being racist, there seems to be equal shares of everyone, in fact the clowns that burnt our house to the ground were white, well white trash. It’s a shame to see a neighborhood go this direction in any regards, but we all know it does happen everywhere, even out in little hick towns in southeast Texas. Blaming someone or something is pointless since it is pure economics. Unfortunately in big cities and little towns the low rent houses tend bring in a culture of people that others tend to move away from, that’s if they can, many can’t and they are just consumed by the negative changes happening around them. I’m no sociologist, but I know that the money in your pocket usually determines your living conditions. I am going to end my opinion right there.

I recall hearing on the news a few weeks ago about a meth house burning down in my old little town but missed where it was exactly and dismissed altogether since news in the Houston area every day is full of the same shit, shootings, arson, safe houses, trafficking, car chases, robberies, and so forth. But damn, meth heads blew up our old house. Needless to say, I didn’t visit with my friend very long because I didn’t want to be there to late. I did ask about his heightened security and he told me after two break ins where they stole things easily pawned that he had two choices, stay and fight or move away, he says there are no plans to move.

In the end, its very disappointing to see these now 40 year old houses laying waste in decay, abandoned, burnt out, and boarded up. I’m not trying to be dramatic about it, I know things change, but that shouldn’t mean it all has to go straight to hell. Or does it? Again, yes I know, it comes down to money and economics, plus the right conditions be set in motion, and so forth. If I may be a little nostalgic, I remember the days before the internet and xboxs, riding my bike everywhere with my friends, and seeing the street lights coming on meant get your ass home. As kids we lived outside, we liked the outside, we cherished our time outside, and I can’t recall never being struck with the dilemma of having nothing to do. It was a simpler time back then, a time we never get to go back to, and now all I have are the fond memories of growing up in a great house in a great neighborhood, all of this, of course, before the meth heads blew it all to fuck and back. Okay, I’m done sharing, get back to your lives.

Thank You Karma, I’ve Been Patient

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So, I was working at the club last night, bored to the point I was actually on the verge of falling asleep standing up. Then, a ringtone begins to play on my phone, one I have not heard in many years, “The Bitch Is Back”, when I look at the screen to make sure it is who I think it is, I see ” The Cunt” is calling. Before I get into this wonderful conversation, let me remind y’all that in just over 15 years, I have spoken with my ex on the phone 4 times, and in person twice. Needless to say, we are on less than talking terms, much less being cordial terms with one another. But she called, which had to be hard for her personally, and now I am wasting my time “writing” about her cuntness while sitting here in my shop with better things to do, like scraping the duck shit off of my 50 year old iron bench so I can refinish it later. Oh Yea, the phone call.

When I first saw who it was I did smile a bit, but only because I was hoping she was calling me to say “I’m sorry” and “you are right”. It makes me smile because in 12 years of marriage and all the years since, I have never heard those words. Oh well, I better see what she wants so I don’t have to listen to a lengthy voicemail. It started off polite enough, almost like she was reading a prewritten script or something. I know I am the last person on Earth she wanted to be calling. Like normal, she talked and I listened, this is just the way it works, she wants something I have, and I just listen. This time it was different, this time there were a couple of ” pleases” there and a bit of gratitude in her voice. I had to pull my phone back twice to make sure who was calling me. Very strange indeed. So, what does she want? Well, that’s complicated. So you understand better, I need to take y’all back to when we were getting divorced because it would appear she made a few boo boos filing her taxes and now she has an appointment to discuss the discrepancies.

Anyway, part of the terms of our divorce were for her to receive proceeds from the sale, rental, or lease from the house we once called home. It always struck a nerve with me because this house was only in my name. But whatever, community property is what it is. The market to sell was very soft, so, with the aid of a realitor, which I paid for 100%, we put it on the market to rent. Now, I remind y’all, by this time I was out if the Air Force, living in Houston, and this house is in Alamogordo New Mexico. Within a month of our divorce a military couple were signing a rental agreement. Since I was still paying for the house, each month there was about $500 remaining, which I was oblidged to split with my now ex-wife. I made sure I wrote a paper check each month for ease of keeping the records straight. After around 3 years of the same couple renting the house, I received an offer to purchase it, cash. Seems the housing market was on the rise there. I purchased the house for $57,000.00, put another $10k into it, and at the point when they made the offer, I still owed the bank roughly $18k. What was their offer for this 2900 sq ft, 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath house? $98,699.00 plus closing costs with immediate move in. Without thinking, I agreed to the sale. But the cunt would not see half because I protested the decree and proved she never spent a penny on the house, the judge awarded her $20,021.09 payable over the next 16 months.

OK, so here is the problem, never did she report any of the proceeds from the rent or the final sale as income or a source of revenue when she filed her taxes. Oops. So, as it stands, she is claiming ignorance, and she has been given 30 days to prove she shouldn’t owe over $56k in taxes, penalties, and fines. She has been trying, unsuccessfully obviously, to do this on her own, leaving only a few more days before the 5th of August rolls around. Like I told her, I am not giving up any information without written proof she needs my information. When I asked what I get in return for graciously taking time out of my life to copy all the shit she needs, she offered to take me out for steak. I told her, in that case, when she shows up at my front gate to pick up her package, because I refused to do everything for her, for her to leave enough time for dinner. After a long, very dramatic pause, with a sigh, she agreed to meet with me on Saturday.

So, why am I helping the cunt? Its easy, I don’t want her mess getting on me, because trust me, she would find a way to suck me down that rabbit hole. Meanwhile, in exchange for the documents she has requested, my lawyer has drawn up documents that she must sign which release me from any obligations, financially or otherwise, and it includes a detailed inventory of all the documents so if push comes to shove, I can show I provided up, above, and beyond everything I could. No sign, no copies. Luckily for me, I keep the records of my past life neatly tucked away in a small three drawer filing cabinet. Lucky for her I packratted all of this away or she would be fucked and she probably doesn’t like prison orange anyway.

You want funny? As she reads along with you here today she is realizing that I truly don’t give a fuck about her situation and that this life lesson is one that will soon be forgotten by her because that is just the way she is. Yes, she reads my blog, only because my daughter sees to it on occasion for some reason. In the end, my dearest cunt, I can only thank you because you gave me something to do with my time and gave me something special to write about today. See you Saturday. Remember not to be sad in your time of need because, like always I am prepared, something you never took the time to learn.

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Another Life, Another Time

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I generally get a handful of texts and e-mails every week from people I worked with at Club X. Usually just to let me known whats been happening and what will be happening. I suppose it is done to “keep me in the loop” even though I have been out of that loop for quite some time now. I generally do not reply to 99% because there usually isn’t anything for me to say. Now, I have two people, one stripper and one waitress, that I do keep up with and talk to regularly because we all became decent friends over the years I worked there. What makes them special you might ask? I will make a long story short, because it actually took me a few months to figure out what was going on. In the beginning I thought there was just the waitress who also was a stripper on her off nights. She would talk to me like normal regardless of what shoes she was wearing that night. Then, out of the blue, after a couple of months, she was on the dance floor stripping and at the same exact time she was waitressing. I thought I had lost my damn mind at first and then they both came over to the bar I was working and sat down, the both smiled while they just sat there looking at me. Yes, now I know, they are twin sisters. There had always been the two of them and few, if anybody, knew about it. Most people in the club thought the same thing I did. Anyway, a friendship grew and developed and now they keep in contact with me quite a bit.

This morning I get an e-mail from them asking me if I miss being a bartender there. They also known I was laid off and wanted to known why I just don’t come back. Do I miss being a bartender there? Not really. I do miss the money but I have said this all before now. I’m sure I could go back to bartending and it would be a decent paycheck, but I walked away when I did for some very specific reasons, first and foremost it was because I was done working nights and second is the hours I worked. It was a freaking part time job yet I worked 50-60 hours a week while having a day job doing 40 hours a week. You do the math, I was tired, more like exhausted, no walked around like a freaking zombie most days. So, I gave up bartending at the strip club, with that I have up about $100k a year, so yes, it has been missed. However, after doing that for 5 years, I socked away a nice start to a retirement, which, so far, we haven’t had to dip into, as of yet. I think it would take something very drastic to get me to go back permanently. Not that time is not now. I liked it after I quite, I see my family now and we have relationships now, something we could not have when I was working nights. I won’t bore y’all with the issues that job caused with my wife. I will say that it wasn’t for the reasons y’all might be thinking, it was simpler, it was because I was never home to spend time with her, ever, and it had a tremendous impact on our marriage. I will leave it there.

I do miss the people, I do miss bartending, and yes, I even miss being surrounded by hundreds of totally nude woman every day. The scenery was always nice. But, back in the real world is where I belong. Perhaps if I was single it would be different. One never knows. As always, the sisters like to include pictures of themselves at work, and to date the one shown here today has been the only one I have been able to share. I wonder, daily, where my life is going, and with often reminders of the past I see that wherever it is that I am supposed to be going is probably I’m the direction I am already headed. I am happier now that I have been in so many years. That’s what we should be, right, happy in our life? Personally, I think that is the answer.

The People And Trees Around Us

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The people and trees around us seem to share some things in common. Both are around us yet we know very little about the actual life they have lived. We observe them both grow and age. Trees and people carry on with their life whether we are their to share it or if we have missed out. I know that sounds pretty deep but it is also a really simple truth when one sits down for the comparison. Well then, what’s my point? We will get to that or maybe you might even see what it is by the time I am done here. But let’s start with the tree that has fallen a few months ago out at the far edge of what I mow as part of my yard. Call me lazy but I just haven’t reaaly felt like dealing with this fallen tree because of the work I knew I would be having to do with it. However, as spring is now in full effect where I live in southeast Texas, I know I only have a few more weeks before it is very hot and swampy outside. It won’t be too much longer and we will be flirting with triple digits. Due to the heat I try to accomplish major things outside in our very short cool weather months. So, as I mowed my grass with my brand spanking new John Deere riding mower (the replacement), I drove by this tree which reminded me that there was work to be done. Or,leave it and let the other trees and vines consume it. But I don’t want this to look unkept, a personal choice, so I made the plans to handle it yesterday, Monday, since I have found it is better to plan things into my empty days instead of just throwing caution to the wind. After mowing I made sure my chainsaw was sharpened, my tractor was fueled up, and the burn pile had been knocked down, all in preparation for Monday’s task. I also went ahead and loaded the tractor onto the trailer already connected to my truck so there wouldn’t need to be so much back and forth walking on my part. Sadly, I know this dress all too well with all the old and majestic trees on the property.

Just before first light, just before the first glimpse that day is breaking, before the buttcrack of dawn, I was at the tree unloading my tractor from the trailer. I rearranged the small generator in the back of my truck so it was back on the runner mat, if not it vibrates allover the damn place. I plugged in my 80’s boom box and pushed play. Great news, we will be listening to Ozzy this morning. I cranked it up to max volume so I can hear it over the chainsaw. I am sure Mr. Crowley sounds pretty eerie creeping through the dense trees this early in the morning. Hot damn, chainsaw lit off on the first crank, time to let the wood chips fly! After about about an hour of cutting I begin to feel the warmth of the sun on the backs of my legs so I known I need to get moving so I can get it done. My son, riding the golf cart, came down to tell me he was off to catch the bus. He was a little upset he wasn’t helping me but was very understanding I think. Off he went, back to the house to get his bag so he could go catch his bus. Thankfully he brought down my big plastic mug that I left on the kitchen island, I was dreading having to break momentum to go back to the house. After a few hours I had a garbage pile and the wood I will keep for my outdoor fire pit. Oak is a great wood for these fire pits. I put a little effort into cutting the wood into very manageable pieces. I will split it in a few weeks to let it dry out more. First I need to fix my frankensplitter because it has a nasty hydraulic leak somewhere. Being done cutting, I hooked the chains to the bucket of the tractor so I can drag the bigger branches to the burn pile. Afterwards I loaded all the cut wood I was keeping onto the trailer. Tired now, and its only just shy of noon, I decide to leave everything where it is to go get a bite to eat up at the house. The hard work is done now so there isn’t actually much to do except clean up. I won’t lie, after making myself a toasted smoked turkey sandwich I did end up taking a short nap out on the deck while enjoy the slight breeze. But, nonetheless, I needed to finish. Before heading back down I loaded the crock pot up with chicken and spread the cheesy sauce on it and turned it on, dinner at 6 or so is my guess. Easy peasy done. I walked back down to my truck, loaded up, and the parked it back up alongside my shop. I will unload later, maybe even the next day (being today and it isn’t done yet).

While I waited for everyone to start trickling in from their day I took an ride down to get the mail. Bill, bill, advertising, sale, and something strange with no return address. I hopped back in the cart and headed back to the house. I opened the strange letter first. I skipped to the end to see who it was from, I know, bad habit. After realizing I didn’t know the person I started from the top. It started with a short explanation of how we don’t actually know each other but she knew me because of her mother and because she saw me in 2009 when I met my biological siblings for the first time in South Dakota. Technically she is my niece that I didn’t know I had until reading the letter. Her letter bears bad news, it seems that my biological grandmother has passed, someone I never met, and I am being informed that I was mentioned in the reading of her will. She will not disclose to what degree nor why, but told me to be expecting a package which contained some items belonging to my biological father. Items she had wanted to give me in person but it never happened. My biological father also died before I met him. In fact he had died before I never knew of him. Then the letter was signed with “Love, Gracie”. End of letter. Sadly, I never met the mother of my biological father, but I am sure she lived a very full life.

Which is where we get back to how trees and people share a similar path in life, both go on whether we are there to witness it or not. Both come and go in and out of existence and the is little we can do about it. There are many people I have not met and may never meet on that biological side of my family. Until 7 years ago the ones that have met me never knew I existed and when I dropped in on their lives I am sure it was as shocking as an old oak tree crashing into the living room because of a bad storm. And then in a crash of thunder, all of our lives changed. We questioned most of what we knew, and we embraced the changes that were coming whether we wanted them or not. I will wait for my package, impatient of course, because that is the way I get sometimes. So, this is where it ends today, with me waiting for my mystery package.

The Time Is Now

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Taking the time to do something right now seems to be more of a luxury than a necessity. I can’t speak for everyone but that is how it usually is for me personally. There are times I truly don’t have time and there are times where I don’t feel like making the time. I am sure many of us treat “time” in the same fashion. Recently I noticed that I was getting into a very bad habit which I chose to correct before it did any substantial damage that I couldn’t reverse. I consider myself to be pretty self reliant capable of making the big boy decisions when I need and following through with the things I begin. I look to others to be able to do the exact same thing, without question and without excuses. However, I must admit that being unemployed has changed my perspective on my day to day events because now I have the time that once eluded me for so many years. Time to do what? Good question. When I was young, having too much time on my hands would prove to be a very negative thing because I could easily find trouble. Somewhere in time I out grew that and started to cherish a little free time. Move forward many years to the present and I definitely know that having the time just to breathe is very valuable. I know time will not stand still for me, I may stand still but everything around me moves at the speed of light, and I do not like that feeling. So, I have been up to some different things. Like what?

We have lived in our 3400 square foot house since the day it was finished being built close to ten years ago. It is a house that I designed personally years before with high hopes that one day I could live in it with my family. The one thing I never considered was taking better care of all the woodwork that I wanted. There is not one single piece of painted wood in the interior of this house. Everything was stained and sealed with a high gloss clear coat. I made an observation a few weeks ago which alarmed me a bit to say the very least. I was asked to dust, a task I have never done in this house because it is a chore split between my children still living at home. I never considered it to be a monumental task before attempting it myself. Before you hand me a tissue to wipe me tears just know that I do maintain, once a week all of the wood and tile floors. Did I mention there isn’t a stitch of carpet in the entire house? Besides, I was asked to dust the stuff that out of reach therefore out of sight. Example, the whole house is done with crown molding in every room including the pantries and all closets. It took some time cleaning all of that because I don’t think any of it has ever been touched since it was installed. I saw some sun damage to many pieces that get direct sunlight so I carefully removed them, taking them to my shop to be refinished. Once I was done I replaced each of the 46 pieces of crown molding in its original spot in the house. In between finishing the molding I continued cleaning. Once all the wood was cleaned, a task that took me a few days, about 30 hours total, I cleaned all of the 14 ceiling fans since their dust was standing out to me. I did take special time in the kitchen because oils from cooking tend to build up where one least suspects. And then, all of a sudden, I was done, it was over. After inspecting my work I decided to make me a big glass of ice water and have a rest in the hot tub outside. This was drained and cleaned last week so I was ready for a soak.

I think since I did not mention starting and/or finishing the cleaning to my wife she assumed it hadn’t been done yet. Yesterday she asked me ifni was going ton take care of it before this weekend. I am sure I had a bewildered look on my face after she asked. I explained, simply, that it was already done. She had a somewhat embarrassed look on her face when she said she didn’t know because I didn’t say anything. I explained I didn’t think there was anything to say. But that is the way things are, some are too busy to see their immediate surroundings unless something stands out irregularly. After a tour we sat at the bar in the kitchen where I showed her my “to-do” list and asked if there was anything she wanted to add. I got a grin and was told that it looks like I had it under control. She mentioned it would be nice if I did laundry as she giggled, reminding me that she would be damned if she would let a color-blind man anywhere near the laundry. Smart choice. So, anyway, when I woke up this morning and realized that my list was complete with the exception of “chores” around the house. It felt good knowing I took the time and accomplished what I had set out to do. As I sit here in my shop writing this I look around wondering when this place became such a wreck. Its on the list now. I will probably be working on the shop for a few days and when I am done it will be ready for the next project. No idea what it will be but since I have the time now it will probably be something off of that list. I have always wanted my own smokehouse out by the pond at the edge of the trees so maybe I will start that. I have allot of old oak planks I took from a barn demolition so I should be able to do it almost expense free. A project like this might be waiting another month or so until my son get about for the summer from school since he likes doing these kinds of things with me. He wants to learn “everything” I know so he can one day have a cool hobby too. He is great to work with and his brain is like a sponge. Usually it is shown or tell him once and that’s all it takes. So, always take time to take time because you never known when you might have the time once again.

Homeowner’s Association Form Letter

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So, yesterday I walked the close to 1/4 mile trek out to collect my mail from the mailbox located out at the end of my driveway. Normally I would take the golf cart but I was feeling froggy and just decided to walk. I don’t usually “sort” my mail out here in the street but there was allot of crap that I was going to put in the recycle bin since it had not been collected yet. As I am flipping through it all I see a letter addressed to “Resident” with my address printed below it. It is a letter from our beloved homeowner’s association. Might be important so I went ahead and opened it. After reading it through the first time I was left asking “what the fuck?” and need to read it again before I got pissed all the way. After A quick review I can see that they are talking of my location, it has the correct block, lot, plot, and section. The address on the envelope belongs to me, so it must be my property being spoke of. The jist of the form letter is to inform me (property owner) that a complaint has been filed suggesting I am burning “trash” items too close to the street which is too close to neighboring houses. The date sited was 22 days ago. Too close to my neighbors? My nearest neighbor’s house is over 650 yards away. The letter continues to outline the “offense” by stating that I was burning tires and other accelerant fuels. Wait just a damn minute here. First I don’t burn anywhere except the rear of my almost ten acres of property. Second, I don’t burn tires or use gas or diesel to set such fires. The letter has me at a loss.

As I am walking back to the house to go make a phone call because they have assessed a $350.00 fine for the incident, I notice, which makes me remember, I did have a fire in my front yard about three weeks ago. The scorch marks are still visible as I walk by. I wonder if this could be what they are referring to in the letter. I haven’t written about this yet here so y’all are probably scratching your heads wondering what has happened. I guess this is a good place to put in what happened and the I will figure out why there was a complaint. In a way I guess an outsider could say it was a trash fire in my front yard but if a person was paying attention they would of seen it was my riding lawn mower that had actually burst into flames. Man, I loved that old mower too, I was sad to see it go out in a blaze of glory like it did. What happened? I was mowing in the yard in front of my house pretty close to my driveway when a giant puff of black smoke blew out of the front of the engine cowel. I jumped off and flipped it open and when I did it burst into open flames. I was able to dowse the flames with the garden hose but it was too late. As I stood there watching it smolder a bit I secretly was hearing TAPS being played off in the distance. It was almost a tearful moment for me, but I held it back. It truly was a spectacular show but at the same time I didn’t like seeing my old friend roast its own marshmallows.

In review of the complaints in the letter I can see why they would say I was burning tires and using an accelerant because the tires did catch fire and the fuel line did melt and feed the fire. But hold on, this means that my incident was visible to someone somewhere. So I stood in the spot and looked around 360 degrees to see if I could figure out who the bastard was that assumed I was burning trash in my front yard. Well, there is only one house in my view and that is straight across the street. That old bastard has the eyes of a hawk then because its a good 200 yards from the street in front of his house. And it only burned for 10-12 minutes anyways. I’m so confused. Anyway, I will deal with him later, I have bigger fish to fry. I went in the house and called the secretary of the homeowner’s association to discuss the complaint and the fine I was not ever going to pay. I invited him out to check out the burned out carcas and I was declined a visit. I was told to go to their website and print out a form which I could use to defend myself. Once filled out I am to mail it to them with supporting information and/or pictures if available to justify my case. I was also reminded to enclose a check or money order with my form so I could pay the fine. Ummm, fuck you, there will be no check or money order enclosed you goofy bastards. I filled out the form and enclosed some nice glossy pictures with my explanation of what occurred. When I was done I sent my son down to throw it in the mail box for pick up today. This is why I detest having neighbors.

This whole thing has served as a good reminder. Since my other rider (the back up) isn’t in that great of shape and isn’t exactly dependable, I think I will get dressed and go mower shopping. I wonder what I will come home with. Have y’all seen the commercials for all the different riding mowers lately? Maybe they have been the “sign” I have been looking for and just haven’t realized it. I better make sure the trash fire I have going currently is out before I go because I would hate for some snooper to say I left it unattended. If I get a new toy I will be sure to show y’all so don’t worry.

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Spring Break In South Dakota

I was very excited when planning this particular spring break vacation since it would be the first time since all of my kids were very young that we would be all together for a vacation. Why pick South Dakota for spring break? Excellent question. The answer is actually pretty simple, my oldest daughter could not afford to go anywhere so we decided to go be tourists in South Dakota so we could all be together once again. I have deep roots in South Dakota to say the very least. We will get into that later and in other posts as well since that is very interlaced in our vacation because itnwasnt just a vacation it was also a trip down memory lane for me as well. First and foremost our trip was to see our one and only granddaughter. If it hadn’t been for Skype and cell phones I very well would have missed the first 2 1/2 years of her life since the last time I saw her in person was the day of her birth.

So, every vacation begins with the trip, and since I don’t fly, we drive, everywhere. Speaking of which, a brief note, the odometer in my 2005 Nissan Pathfinder flipped 100k on our drive back into town. Anyhow, we left late in the afternoon on Friday 07 March 2014 to begin our 1345 mile trek to our hotel in Deadwood South Dakota. With a gas stops, restroom breaks, and eating breakfast in York Nebraska, we made it in just shy of 24 hours. Yes we drove straight through and yes I drove most of it myself. Since I am not a great passenger I don’t sleep in a moving car. But, a rest from the wheel for 1-2 hours is just as recharching for me personally. Watching the weather the days prior we knew it was going to be a chilly drive as we were headed into a cold front. But, nothing prepares one for 7 degrees with 40 mph winds when getting gas at 3 in the morning. That shit will wake your ass up in a hurry. Surprisingly, the weather at our destination was quite nice and real similar to what we left behind in Texas, minus the 87% humidity. Although, in my opinion, the weather went down hill from that point forward. All and all it was a pleasant drive up there and luckily, we were very lucky, there were no incidents. I will get into it more but the wife and I thought we would have time to gamble a bit (something we rarely do) since the Fairfield Inn was connected to Cadillac Jack’s Casino. Little did we know until checking in that we would get $25.00 per adult per day in Cadillac Cash to spend at the casino. And the room, it was a steal for us, we got upgraded to a $729.99 per night suite and still only had to pay the obligatory contracted $9.00 per night. Yes, we have friends (family) in the Marriot hotel business so it makes traveling great for us. So, moving on…….

After checking in we went to visit my daughter so we could all get something hot to eat for a late dinner. Have I ever mentioned that I was looking forward to my first hello hug from my granddaughter? It was way better than I could have ever imagined it to be. It was wonderful and I really didn’t want to let her go. But I did, I shared, didn’t want to, but I did it anyway. We ate, we colored, we talked, we planned,new reminissed, and the we said goodbyenfornthe night. I personally didn’t want it to end but when the baby says its time then its time. Since my daughter was working Sunday most of the day we decided to make it a “rest day”, stay close to the hotel, and just do a little sight seeing in Deadwood. See, one of the pitfalls of this room was that I this 45 minutes from my daughters house. We woke up late, around 9 or so, got showered, and grabbed the local map to do a little sight seeing. First stop was Mt. Moriah Cematary where Wild Bill and Calamatty Jane are buried. After which I showed everyone where Wild Bill was killed. I know the history of this area real well so I got to play tour guide most of the trip. Now, I don’t want to sound like I am complaining, because we did come to a touristy spot in the “off season”, but the amount of things and places that were “closed for the season to reopen mid-May” became a personal joke for our family on this vacation.

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So, let me give y’all a rundown of what we did or attempted to do each day. Now, for me the closures were no big deal since I have seen all of these things many times before. Deadwood was just that, dead. The casinos were open, some gift shops were open, but things like the Adam’s House, the wineries, and the majority of the tourist like gift shops were closed. We went to Mt. Rushmore, a national landmark, and 90% of the trail was closed. One could walk down under the noses but no further and had to turn around the way we came. We also drove through Keystone, figuring Mt. Rushmore was a bust, and all but one store was closed, not even a restaurant of any kind was open. No, there was not a contingent back up plan, who expects a national landmark and park to be closed. We also attempted to visit Custer State Park, the main route (the paved road) was closed off, diverting drivers off onto the back maintenance roads. On top of that, the buffalo we did see were mere specs when viewed through high powered binoculars. Now, that was disappointing. Then, we went to the biggest tourist trap in South Dakota, Wall Drug. Of course, the “Backyard” where all the really cool stuff hides, was closed.

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There was excitement however, one night we were at my daughter’s house where I cooked them a nice meal, well all of us, and when we left to go to the hotel it was only raining, but in the mountains it was snowing like a sonofabith,nso much that overnight we got over 8″, which is allot for this Texas boy. But, that is where experience pays off for me so it wasn’t as hairy as one might be thinking. The way luck was having it we decided to go for a drive to see ifnincould find the house in Black hawk that my parents finished building the summer of 1968 and where I lived until I was 6 when we moved to Texas. The answer is yes, I did find it, but that is a post in itself. On the way out of town, to return to Houston, we had plans to spend the night in Sioux Falls, my oldest daughter joined us because vacation wasn’t over quite yet. For the first time ever, all of my kids will see where my dad is buried, none of them have ever been there, and my son has always wanted to see his namesake. This will be a post of its own as well, just know it was the highlight of the entire trip. Since we had to leave via Mitchell South Dakota and my daughter had to drive through it to get back to Rapid City, we decided to visit the world’s only Corn Palace, surprise, open for business as well as everything else in the little town. We also took a short side drive to see the house my grandparents built in the 40’s and it is also where both of them are buried.

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Then that was it, the hardest part came, saying goodbye to everyone. That part sucked worse than I could have possibly ever imagined, to put it mildly. Afterwords we did indeed begin the trek home, a long quiet trip that consisted of me driving while drowning out my sorrows with music playing to the max in my headphones. The snow, wind, ice, and rain made sure I stayed awake for the entire trip. Other than that, it too was uneventful. So, there is my spring break vacation to South Dakota in a nutshell. Stick around in the very near future because I have many expanded stories to tell that were merely mentioned today.