—  Ken and Vesta  —

Wedding and Portrait Photography

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Riding the Greyhound

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My Christmas present to Vesta was a road trip. It was supposed to be fun, and it was for the most part. We were going to drive to Medford, Oregon, about three hundred miles, on Christmas and see Devon for a few hours as his Aunt Chris had him for the day. Then we were going to spend the night with Steve Cook. The day after Christmas, we planned on picking Devon up and driving to Portland to spend a couple days with Tiffany. And to cap it off, we were going to go to a party at Monika Malgorzata Cassidy’s as soon as we got home.

Wait! I have to back track a bit here. In preparation for the trip, we had to board Scruffy the cat and since he’s been scratching a lot, because this has been a bone dry winter, we got some anti scratch cat shampoo at the vet. She said to wash him three days in a row before we boarded him and we did that.

Plus, I had my 1989 Dodge Raider, which is really a Mitsubishi Montero in disguise, tuned up and a new starter installed as the starter was acting up (I had to get under the car and bang on it every now and then to get it to work). That cost six hundred and two dollars, but it seemed worth it, as the car came home running like it was new, almost.

We made the first part of the trip in record time, listing to the Rolling Stones most of the way. We got off the freeway in Medford at the Crater Lake Highway off ramp and started the journey to Shady Cove, where Steve Cook lives, but ten miles up the highway the car started missing more than I did when I was on the target range in bootcamp, then it died and I coasted over to the side of the road.

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It’s Christmas Day. It’s cold outside. There are not many cars on the highway. And Vesta is nervous. She’s got visions of us dying of hyperthermia, because she’s thinking Triple A isn’t going to be working on Christmas Day. Plus, she’s freaking out because she thinks we won’t be able to see Devon and Tiffany.

But before the hyperthermia set in, I was able to get the car started and in spits and fits we made it the next dozen miles or so to Shady Cove and Baki’s house (Steve’s grandkids and Devon call him Baki).

Right off the bat I asked Dave Clark, Devon’s some kind of cousin by marriage, I don’t know how that stuff works, if he knew anything about cars. “Heck yes,” he said and I told him my tale of woe. Carrie Clark, Aunt Chris’s and Baki’s daughter and Dave’s better half, said we could take their Saturn to Portland and Dave said he’d see about getting the car fixed before we got back and with that, Vesta calmed down. I did too.

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We went on to enjoy Christmas Dinner with the Cook’s and their clan. Steve cooked prime rib that was better than any I’ve ever had. Holy cow I was in food heaven. Hold the diet, because this was a feast.

After dinner the kids opened presents and more presents and more presents, more presents than I’ve ever seen under a tree, in fact too many presents to fit under one tree, but Steve had that problem solved, he had two trees.

After the present opening, everybody went on home, leaving just me and Vesta with Steve. We shared an Irish whiskey, talked some politics and I must admit, I thought I had this national health thing nailed in my mind, but Steve gave me a whole new way to look at it, but this isn’t the place to go into that, other than to say, you’re never too old to learn something or to change your mind about something.

I guess we went to bed around ten with the sound of the Rogue River outside our window. In the morning, Steve followed us over to Dave and Carrie’s, just to make sure the car didn’t crap out in the middle of nowhere, which Vesta really liked, because you know, there was that dying of hyperthermia problem.

After we changed cars with Dave, we picked up Devon and headed up to Portland, another 300 miles. The trip went good, the car went like a dream and got way better gas mileage than I’m used to, so that was way cool.

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Portland is a city I really like. They got a great mall and great malls were something Vesta and I missed a lot when we lived away. We had ice cream and Vesta and Devon ice skated. A couple days after Christmas and the place was packed, well not like it used to be before all the economic troubles, but it was pretty full.

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We saw a couple great movies while we were there, “The Fugitive,” with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. I’ve seen it about a dozen times and it just keeps getting better. And we saw “Despicable Me,” a movie Devon had seen, but it was one he liked, so it worked out for us all.

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It rained ropes on the trip back to Medford, thick, driving, beating rain and it was windy to beat the band. My Raider would have been all over the road, but Dave and Carrie’s Saturn barely noticed.

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Back in Medford, Dave told me my Reno mechanic did put in some new parts, but he didn’t put in new plugs or wires and one of the wires wasn’t sparking at all. After we left their house, the car was running like a champ, for about thirty minutes. Then the car crapped out and we had to call the Auto Club. The Triple A towed it to a garage back in Medford and they said that couldn’t get to it till tomorrow, so instead of driving like the wind to make Monica’s party—which was going to be a good one and this I know, because you had to wear a colorful wig or a fuzzy hat to get in—we spent the night in a dingy Motel Six, where we were afraid to touch the remote, but the heater worked good.

In the morning, we went to the Medford Mechanic, who was just down the street from the Motel Six. He said the tuneup was fine, but the car needed a valve job, which I thought was crap, because the whole engine had been rebuilt in Portland twenty thousand miles ago. So we took the car away from him, went to the Greyhound bus station and bought two tickets to Reno. Then I called Dave and told him what happened.

He said we could leave the car with him and he and his friend Albert would look at it. I told him we had to get back and we were going on the bus. He said he would have driven us, but jeez Marie, we were already being a pest, having him drive six hundred miles out of his way for us, that we couldn’t ask.

“Do you like Steak and Lobster?” he said.

“Yeah,” I said and he invited us to dinner. I thanked him and hung up and now we had a day with nothing to do, so we went to Tinseltown and saw George Cloony’s new movie “Descendants,” which, unless you wanna sit and cry for a couple hours, I recommend that you don’t see.

It was drizzling rain when we left the movie. At Carrie and Dave’s, I played with a bulldog named Sniper who is way too big to be a puppy. Dave cooked the steaks on the barbie and they were great with the lobster and this was a good way, foodwise, for me to end the year, because my New Year’s Resolution is not to drink any wine or eat meat till December 11th, which is the day before the end of the world, according to the Mayan calendar. If it’s gonna be my last meal before the world ends, I’m having Filet Mignon and a big Bordeaux.

After dinner, Dave drove us to the Greyhound station. It’s small, just a whistle stop. The station was closed, but there were about ten people milling around waiting for the bus, which arrived at 8:00, right on time. The door opened with a hiss and a short stubby man got out, wearing the muumuu version of a Greyhound shirt. This guy was as round as he was tall and I had no idea how he could position himself behind the wheel, but somehow after he checked our tickets and ushered us aboard, he squeezed in and proceeded to speed us on our way to Redding, California.

This guy drove like the wind and it was pretty windy outside, but he didn’t seem to mind as he blew by every big rig on the highway, getting us into Redding fifteen minutes early. The bus was new and clean and even had plugs for your digital devices. It wasn’t full and it was comfortable. Stubby was a fast driver, cutting through the rainy night like sharp scythe.

We had a half hour wait in Redding, where we changed busses. Our new travel vehicle was pretty doggone old and it was full and everybody seemed to be coughing and sneezing snotty sneezes and none of the sneezing coughers had been told by their mommies when they were little to cover their mouths.

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The driver was a white lady in her mid fifties or so and she took us on a slow germ filled ride to Sacramento, where we got in right on time and where we had a forty-five minute wait. We were getting a new driver, but were keeping the bus.

And forty-five minutes later we were loaded onto the bus with many of the same sneezers. Our driver was an overweight, but not as chubby as Stubby, black lady with saucers for eyes, who kind of looked like Idi Amin, you know, the now dead former dictator of Uganda. She looked demented as she showed us onto the bus, like she was maybe high on something illegal or maybe just getting over the flu and was damned unhappy to be back at work, because she wasn’t anywhere neear better yet.

This was a crowed bus, actually too crowed, because there was a kid standing and damned if he wasn’t sneezing, when the driver boarded.

“Take your seat!” she said.

“Can’t.” The kid wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “Nowhere to sit.”

“Everybody check your tickets.” The driver was standing, giving us the evil eye, each and everyone of us. “Make sure you have one from Sacramento to Reno.” Everybody looked at their tickets, well I didn’t, because I knew what mine said. I’m old, but I’m not senile yet. “Come on,” she said, “who’s here who doesn’t belong?”

Nobody moved. Nobody raised their hand.

“Don’t make me check your tickets!” I didn’t know black people could go red in the face when they got mad, but she was going red. She was smoking pissed. But nobody got up to get off. Alright then, get ‘em out!”

Vesta dug our tickets out of her purse, but we didn’t have to show them, because a quarter of the way through the bus, she found the stowaway and ejected him. She was one tough lady, one I wouldn’t want to mess with.

“Okay,” she gave us one more once over before she got behind the wheel, “we’re running a little late, because of that guy, but we’ll still be on time, don’t worry about that.” Then she took her seat, turned out the lights and we were off. Next stop Reno.

Or so I thought. Twenty miles or so down the road at a reasonable pace and she takes an off ramp.

“What’s up with this?” Vesta said.


“Fifteen minute stop at the store.” She was the first off the bus. We got off too. In the 7-Eleven store we saw her filling a giant coffee cup from one of those fancy coffee machines. So she wasn’t on drugs, otherwise she wouldn’t need the coffee.

Back on the bus, she must have realized we were running way late now, because once she got on the freeway, she turned the trip into the ride from hell. I knew she was gonna run the bus right off the damn road and kill us all. She stayed in the fast lane, with her foot glued to the floor and I pitied the cop that might attempt to pull her over, but I hoped one would. Didn’t happen though. Greyhound bus drivers must get special dispensation from the Highway patrol.

“She did say we’d be on time.” Vesta looked at her iPhone. “Looks like she wasn’t lying.

We were at Donner Summit and I wasn’t looking forward to the downward spiral, when she took the off ramp to the brand new rest area. She hit the brakes, hit the door and ran jackrabbit fast for the restroom without a word.

“Guess the coffee kicked in,” Vesta said.

“Guess so.”

She was in there for a good ten minutes and the natives were getting restless, but before they were able to revolt, she was back on the bus and still no words from her as the started up and in no time at all she was doing her all, trying to break the land speed record on her way down into Reno, but God must have been on our side that night, because we got there in one piece.

We’re home now. We missed Monica’s party and that was truly a bummer, but we’re alive. I’m just getting over being sick. For two days solid I’ve been afraid to go more than one room away from the toilet. Caught something on the bus, I did. Vesta too. But like I said, we’re alive. We got to see Devon and Tiffany, thanks to Carrie and Dave and now we’re looking forward to the New Year.

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Got a diet coming up, but not till the first. Here I'm drinking a vanilla ice cream soda. I used to love those when I was a kid and I was more than please that the girl at the ice cream station in the food court in the mall knew how to make one.
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