We arrived back from Mexico to Kimi’s home in Katy, Texas safely and were welcomed by REAL FOOD from our daughters. Had a short visit with everyone before we proceeded to Austin and San Antonio for visits with friends and shopping at Randolph Air Force Base.
RV friends who we met some years ago sometimes stay with their family in Austin. We drove there first, had a visit with Charlie and Jung and then went out for some good ole Texas BBQ and more visiting. It took just under 2 hours to travel the 133 miles from Katy to Austin, but then took another 2 ½ hours to travel 70 miles to San Antonio; got caught in the “going home” traffic that wasn’t any fun at all.
Bad news, good news: We had a “reservation” at friend Bill’s home in San Antonio, but he called to let us know that he had some kind of rash that was covering his entire body and the doctors didn’t know what it was or if it was contagious. He still welcomed us to his home, but the burden would be on us if something happened. Since we were facing another wedding very soon we did not want to chance showing up with a rash.
I started to check motels in the San Antonio area and then remembered that I had put our name on the list for the old Air Force Village (retirement/senior living facility), now called Blue Skies of Texas, about ten years ago that allowed occasional (free) visits for a couple of days at a time; kinda of a “buy before you buy” program. I called to see if the program was still active and if they had any units open for two nights that we could use. They did and happily gave us a reservation. We showed up at the appointed time and the reception clerk escorted us to the room. It appeared to be a very nice, clean guest room with a mini-frig and microwave, similar to motels we've stayed in, but none of the power was working. The receptionist took us back to the desk and found other accommodations, to wit, a two bedroom, two bath, guest COTTAGE with garage, a full kitchen with all utensils/dishes/pans/etc., clothes washer & dryer and plasma TV. Nice recovery, Blue Skies.
We have an appointment with Richard, the Marketing Counselor, to hear and see what the latest changes to the program (and prices) are currently for Blue Skies. I like the SA area and all the action here, but da spouse isn’t convinced to leave Hawaii yet. I like the idea of my wife not having to worry about my health care that this type of facility offers. They are equipped for a guest to stay in “stages”; fully functional, needs some help and full time care (like for Alzheimer’s). They have a large number of activities and clubs, transportation to shopping, hospital, etc., and some really beautiful grounds. The last time we visited here the director was an old friend, retired Lieutenant General Chip Utterback. Walking the halls of the building I saw a photo display of all the board members and the “new” director, retired Lieutenant General Darryl Jones, who was my former boss at Headquarters Pacific Air Forces a number of years ago. Small world.
While staying here, we drove out to Randolph AFB Thrift Store to piece together a used uniform for me to wear to my Army Ranger Grandson’s wedding and really lucked out. Got everything except the shoes and insignias. Had to go to the Base Exchange to buy new stuff to complete the uniform, but I still came out ahead.
We then met with old friends from my days at the Air Force Military Personnel Center, Steve and Eda Giles. We talked story at their home and then they treated us to a great Italian lunch. This little restaurant hasn’t hit it big yet (because of the location), but the food was right on and a terrific value. It was great to see old friends again.
We then returned to Katy and Kimi’s home. Had a fantastic Thanksgiving Dinner with most of the family present and had a terrific time. Question -- What happens to THREE refrigerators when you and your sisters cook a 20 pound turkey, a 10 pound ham, 10 pounds of (white) Potatoes for mashed, 5 pounds of Sweet Potatoes for three different dishes, 2 pounds of Asparagus, 2 pounds of cream corn, 1 pot of gravy, 1 large pot of dressing, large dish of macaroni & cheese, cranberry jelly, green beans with pork, Brussel Sprouts, four large plates of biscuits and rolls, and SEVEN deserts including Blue Berry Pie, German Chocolate Pie, Chocolate Cream Pie, Chocolate Sheet Cake, Berry Cobbler, Brownies, Macadamia Cookies, Neiman Marcus Coconut Cake and TWO gallons of ice cream for only ELEVEN family members in attendance?? (This is all the food I can remember, but I think there was more)
All the refrigerators are busting at the seam, along with my stomach, but it was soooo great to spend time with the family. Hope y’all had a great time with your clan. Now, on to CHRISTMAS 𤘈繅
P.S. With all the food eating going on and then the “I’m too full to move” groaning, NO ONE TOOK ANY PHOTOS OF THE FAMILY.
Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, we met with more old friends from our second tour in Korea. Rob Hunt was my boss for a very short time, but ended up being my friend forever. He’s the original “World Traveler” who I try to emulate, but constantly fail. He has dozens (if not hundreds) of tour books for numerous countries he has visited, which I think at last count was somewhere in the 70’s. He studies these books and decides ahead of time where he wants to go, what he wants to see and how much time he will allot for each. I just seem to fall into whatever I see. I do plan where we’re going, but usually don’t know until a few days before we arrive what we’re going to do and see. Rob’s whole family were visiting him and his wife, Monique, from other parts of the country and we were lucky to spend some time with them all. We met at a newly opened Buffalo Bayou Brewery and took a table on the roof where we had a great view of Houston. Lights pointed at the building restricted what photos we could take, but Cecil-B-De Julieann did her usual magic and got some great shots. We got to spend around two hours with the Hunt clan and enjoyed every minute. Some friends are just meant to be “forever”. Thanks Hunts.
So now we fly to Columbus, Georgia for our final wedding of the year. My grandson is an Army Ranger and mentioned early on that I should consider wearing my uniform to his wedding. Since it has been over 25 years since I last wore a uniform, it took a few stops at various military thrift shops we’ve visited during our travels and some help from friends to finally piece together a uniform. My wife and children knew about the uniform, but none of my grandkids did and none of my family had seen me in uniform as a Major. I believe that they were all pleasantly surprised when I showed up in my blues; at least that’s what they’re telling me.
Now for your history lesson: Columbus is a consolidated city-county located on the west-central border of the U.S. state of Georgia. Located on the Chattahoochee River directly across from Phenix City, Alabama, Columbus is the county seat of Muscogee County, with which it officially merged in 1970. Columbus is the third-largest city in Georgia and the fourth-largest metropolitan area. According to the 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Columbus has a population of 194,058 residents, with 303,811 in the Columbus metropolitan area.[ The metro area joins the nearby Alabama cities of Auburn and Opelika to form the Columbus–Auburn–Opelika Combined Statistical Area, which has a 2017 estimated population of 499,128.
Columbus lies 100 miles southwest of Atlanta. Fort Benning, the United States Army's Maneuver Center of Excellence and a major employer, is located south of the city in Chattahoochee County. Columbus is home to museums and tourism sites, including the National Infantry Museum, dedicated to the United States Army's Infantry Branch. It has the longest urban whitewater rafting course in the world constructed on the Chattahoochee River. This was for centuries and more the traditional territory of the Creek Indians, who became known as one of the Five Civilized Tribes of the Southeast after European contact. Those who lived closest to white-occupied areas conducted considerable trading and adopted some European-American ways. Founded in 1828 by an act of the Georgia Legislature, Columbus was situated at the beginning of the navigable portion of the Chattahoochee River and on the last stretch of the Federal Road before entering Alabama. The city was named for Christopher Columbus.
This is a “typical” US small town with all its beauty and traditions. I love the old houses and the parade and decorations down the center of town. It seems like a very fun town.
Today #3 Daughter and her partner took me on a tour of the National Infantry Museum. This museum was established in 2009 and they average over 300,000 visitors per year. The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center is located in Columbus, Georgia, just outside the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. The 190,000-square-foot museum opened in June 2009. The museum chronicles the history of the United States Army infantryman from the American Revolution to Afghanistan. It exhibits artifacts from all eras of American history and contains interactive multimedia exhibits. The National Infantry Museum emphasizes the values that are meant to define the infantryman, as well as the nation: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.
In addition to galleries, the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center also consists of:
• Giant Screen Theater
• DownRange Combat Simulators
• Officer Candidate School (OCS) Hall of Honor
◦ OCS Hall of Fame
• Ranger Hall of Honor
◦ Ranger Hall of Fame
• The Fife and Drum Restaurant
• The Soldier Store Gift Shop
• Heritage Walk
• Memorial Walk of Honor
• Vietnam Memorial Plaza
• Global War on Terrorism Memorial (Fall 2017)
• World War II Company Street
Until April 2008, the museum was housed in an old Army hospital on Fort Benning. Space and conditions for the museum’s collection was inadequate. In 1998, the 501(c)(3) National Infantry Foundation was formed to plan, raise funds for and to operate a new museum. The National Infantry Museum Foundation has since formed a formal partnership with the Army to manage the facility and its contents. The National Infantry Museum does not receive federal, state or city funding. Through its lease agreement with the National Infantry Museum Foundation, the Army reimburses the foundation for approximately 30 percent of the museum’s annual operating expenses. There is no admission fee. The museum relies on donations, memberships and revenue-generating attractions such as the Giant Screen Theater, combat simulators, Fife and Drum Restaurant, Soldier Store and event rentals to cover operating expenses.
The museum is located on a 155-acre campus adjacent to Fort Benning. The campus includes Inouye Field (named after our Hawaiian senator and Medal of Honor recipient) and a 2,100-seat stadium which hosts graduations of Army trainees most Thursdays and Fridays. The graduations are open to the public.
World War II Company Street is a collection of seven buildings constructed at Fort Benning during the ramp-up to World War II, some of the type and style which I recognized as “my” barracks of the 1960’s. They have been furnished as they were in the 1940s and are open for tours most days. The buildings include a chapel, barracks, mess hall (AKA “Chow Hall”, AKA “Dining Facility”, AKA (DeFac), orderly room, supply room, and the sleeping quarters and headquarters building used by Gen. George Patton prior to his deployment to North Africa in 1942. The Vietnam Memorial Plaza contains a ¾-scale replica of the Vietnam Wall on the Mall in Washington, D.C. The Global War on Terrorism Memorial includes the names of 6,800 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines killed in service since 9/11. A 13-foot steel beam pulled from the wreckage of the World Trade Center and donated to the museum by New York City firefighters is featured in the design of the memorial. The museum received a Thea Award for excellence from the Themed Entertainment Association in 2011, USA Today’s 2016 Readers’ Choice Award for Best Free Museum, and TripAdvisor’s Hall of Fame
recognition for continued excellence.
Tonight we attneded the Wedding Rehearsal Dinner and got to meet the family from the other side. Even though they don’t drink as much as my side of the family, they were friendly and fun to be around.
So today we witnessed the wedding of my grandson. You’ll notice in the photos that I am in uniform, as requested by my grandson. Piecing together this uniform over a period of months was not an easy task and it felt “funny” to be back in uniform after more than 25
years, but very proud to wear it once more.
Today we woke at 0300 for a 0400 pickup to the airport to head to California. Processed into the airport and once again got a different “process” for my pistol. So far I’ve had to just declare my pistol AND/OR ammo, AND/OR fill out a declaration slip, AND/OR swear that all the ammo as stored in secured, locked box(es), AND/OR place the declaration in the suitcase carrying the pistol, AND/OR open the locked box carrying the pistol for inspection, AND/OR place the declaration IN the box carrying the pistol, AND/OR retrieve the pistol and show it to the inspector and today carry my suitcase, under guard, to the TSA station so they could run my suitcase through the X-Ray machine to verifiy that I had a pistol in a locked box. O.K., whatever makes you feel better. I explained that (this trip) I wasn’t carrying ANY ammo so my pistol was as useful as a hammer, but that didn’t seem to matter.
Finally boarded the plane and had my first double Bloody Mary (on an empty stomach, probably not my best idea). The plane’s take off was delayed so I had another double Bloody Mary (definitely NOT a good idea). I was reading USA Today and saw where folks who purchased an ELECTRIC car were complaining that there wasn’t any motor noise like they are use to, so the car companies are making an audio disk that comes on when the car is started to mimic car noises. Somehow (and giving credit to the vodka) I found this extremely funny and began to laugh hysterically. Julieann and some of the passengers around me, did not find it as funny as I did so I had to shut up.
Still waiting for the plane to leave I began listening to the MP3 (yes, MP THREE (I’m OLD)) that my son-in-law bought for me in 2006. It has all my oldies and easy listening music. Unfortunately for those around me I was listening to the oldies and then began singing along (again, blame the Vodka). Julieann punched my arm to indicate that I was being loud so I gave her one of my ear plugs so she could listen. That shut her up as she started snapping her fingers along with the music. The two passengers across the aisle were also singing along even though they couldn’t even hear the music than we were listening to (could be the Scotch they were drinking had something to do with it). The other passengers in front of us were not as impressed and started throwing “stink eyes” toward us so I stopped singing. :-(
The plane finally took off. Now I’m waiting for my breakfast sandwich and my Blood Mary. Only two hours to Dallas and then on to Sacramento.
We arrived in Sacramento, picked up the rental car and checked into the motel, all without any problems. Left the next day for Travis. Stopped by the rental counter at the Travis BX to let them know that when/IF we catch a hop I'll be leaving the car at the terminal. Stopped by the main BX for some basics and the Food Court for lunch and then checked into billeting. So far so good.
A plane is scheduled for tomorrow that we'll try to catch and if that doesn't work out there is "supposed" to be another plane on Thursday. I checked the terminal's web sight every few hours and then the flight I was tracking "disappeared". In fact, NO flights are scheduled.
The day is very gloomy (as seen from our window in the attached photo) so we're just going to catch up on some rest/sleep. Need to get up around 5AM tomorrow to catch the next flight, IF there is a flight. Oh, the thrills of traveling Space Available ;-)
One note of worth for this leg of the trip: the car I rented while in Columbus, GA was a 2019 Kia Forte. As we were driving back to the Atlanta airport it felt as though the car was fighting me for control. As I was explaining the feeling to Julieann and since there wasn't any traffic, I let go of the steering wheel (at 65 MPH). To my surprise the car began to drive itself. It expertly stayed between the road dividers even on the curves. I felt like I could just take a nap, but wasn't that brave. I retook control, just to let the car know who the real boss is, and drove the remaining distance to Atlanta. So, my very first experience with a car that can drive itself. If I had it for any length of time I probably would have found the switch to turn off the self-drive option.
We arrived at Travis on Monday. A flight to Hickam AFB, Hawaii was showing for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. BUT, Canceled, canceled and canceled. We sat around all day Tuesday and just washed clothes, worked on the Travel Journal, etc. When we found that the Wednesday flight was canceled we had breakfast in the Chow Hall/Mess Hall/Dining Facility/DeFac.The food was nothing to write home about. The remainder of the day we just “hung around” and watched TV.
We also received a "reminder" from friend Wayne Nelson that his son, Jeff, was the Wing Commander at Travis and that we should look him up. We tried to meet him during our last visit without success. After all, he IS the Wing Commander and has numerous meetings and duties to perform so we weren't really expecting to see him. Just to say that we did and get to tell Wayne, we stopped by Jeff's office to say hi. He was purportedly in another meeting so I gave "someone" (his aide? exec?) my business card as proof that we had made an attempt to see him. We left the building and were walking down the sidewalk to our rental car when Jeff came running up to us. We had a short sidewalk visit and all agreed that Jeff is a lot better looking than his Dad. At least we got a couple of photos to send to Wayne.
Then the Thursday flight was canceled so we drove about 90 minutes to visit and have lunch with my cousin, minus her husband who was working (and we later discovered that he was probably the ONLY person in California that was working). We only stayed a couple of hours because we heard that the traffic gets ugly very quickly so we started back to Travis around 2:30 PM. We arrived at Travis around 5:30 PM. After driving 90 miles over a three hour period you could say with some accuracy that the traffic was definitely ugly.
Thursday night, during my routine flight status check, I discovered that the Friday flight to Hickam AFB had also been canceled so we decided to drive around 45 minutes to Sacramento the next day to visit and have lunch with Al, his wife Nancy and his daughter Julie. Al is my oldest military friend. Back in 1968 when we were Staff Sergeants at different bases we were both selected on the same message for an assignment to the Pentagon. He had a wife and two girls and I had a wife and two girls (at the time). We all hit it off right away and spent a lot of off duty time together. We’ve been the best of friends and have visited each other often over the years ever since.
Concerned once again about the traffic we left Sacramento around 2:30 and were back to Travis by 3:30 (36 miles). But, I’m beginning to think that almost no one in California works since it appears that they and most of the entire state are always driving somewhere. W-A-Y too much traffic!!
Tomorrow (Saturday) they are showing three possible flights to Hawaii with 40 seats on one and 19 seats on each of the other two. Here’s hoping.
If it wasn’t for bad luck, we wouldn’t have any at all. The two 19 seaters were canceled which left the 40 seater --- we were #41 and #42 so I booked seats on Hawaiian Air leaving tomorrow morning and got us a room in a motel near the airport. Finally arrived back home in sunny Hawaii on Sunday at 1330 hours. Now for a six week rest before we start our 2020 travels. Thanks for traveling with us.