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Memories Of A Pathfinder

Part 4, San Diego Roads -- 02/22/04

Today is Sunday, February 22, 2004. It was eight years ago this day when I drove away from our Illinois residence on my way to San Diego County, California. Sherry flew out two days after I left and was here three days before I arrived. She worked her usual wonders as a homemaker, securing an apartment for us by the time I arrived. Now for the story of those days and the years since.

The mini-van was packed full that Thursday morning in 1996. I knew it would be a five-day trip, having covered this ground several times over the prior years. I went via Route 66 because it was Winter and the storms can come at any time across the southern plains and western mountains. I also knew it might be the last time I could drive across the country alone and I awaited the many elements of this new adventure. I had my music, my maps, my memories of the best places to stop and eat, and the eagerness of a man many years younger than I was at the time.

The first day I made it to Lebanon, Missouri after about 9 hours on the road. I picked a hotel next to I-44 around 5:30 PM and then headed across the road for a steak dinner. After dinner I noticed some motorcycle guys had arrived at the hotel and we chatted for about 30 minutes. The weather was warming that evening and the winds were blowing from the south-west steadily. I went to sleep early because each day I wanted to cover as many miles as I could in 9-10 hours. I wondered how the next few days would go as I fell asleep.

I awoke to a Friday morning to unusually warm weather for February along with the winds continuing from the south-west at about 25-mph. I didn't know then that I would be driving almost directly into those winds for the next four days. I welcomed the accompanying warm weather and opened the windows to let all this fresh air drift past me as I made my way down the road at 55-mph. Yes, that's right, I could only attain a 55 speed because of the load I was carrying and the winds. Every car on the road in my direction passed me because of the limitation of speed. But I wasn't in a hurry, my music kept me entertained as the miles scrolled by on my odometer. When I hit the hilly regions of south-western Missouri and Oklahoma along I-44, I found I could only go about 45-mph. I discovered from the weather reports that I was in the middle of heat wave, records all across the south were being broken during this trip. Parts of Texas reached 100 degrees! I would face no Winter storms on this trip and it that was a great relief. I rolled into Oklahoma City, Oklahoma around 6:00 PM. I stayed at a La Quinta Inn that had just opened the day before. It was a great big room and I ate dinner downstairs at the restaurant. Returning to my room, I watched some TV and called Sherry to let her know where I was and to wish her a good trip on her flight to San Diego in the morning.

Saturday morning I continued along I-40 West. The winds picked up considerably that day. It slowed my mini-van down to about 50-mph. However, it was about 80 degrees outside and I loved the warm dry air swirling around. There were Dust Devils observed all day long. They are to be avoided when driving because they can move your vehicle beyond your control in an instant. I learned that fact the hard way back in 1985 when I encountered one and it pushed my car into the other lane before I knew what was happening. The winds were impacting me from the drivers-side front that day, instead of head-on. That caused a lot more focus and energy because I had to constantly correct for the changing wind-pressure. I didn't make as many miles as I wanted to on Saturday because of the rising winds and inclined road as I approached the Rockies. I checked my map during a break and found that I could cut-off some of the distance if I diverted to a diagonal US Highway in New Mexico. So I pulled into the sleepy town of Tucumcari, New Mexico about 6:00 PM . I quickly ate dinner and then went to bed because I was very tired from fighting the road all day. Sunday would be a new route for me, a new adventure with some additional risks to face. I slept well and sound without worry because I've been through much worse, in the mountains of Wyoming during a blizzard in January 1973. What I was undertaking next was trivial compared to that.

I drove towards Santa Rosa, New Mexico, Sunday morning and ate breakfast at a local restaurant there. At a nearby gas station, I checked my tires out, my oil levels, belt tension, radiator and overfill, and filled up with gas all the way. My turn-off was U.S. Highway 54 to the south-west. I was taking that shortcut to U.S. Highway 70, linking up to the tip of I-25 and I-10 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. That was the day where nobody passed me up on those hilly U.S. roads. I saw only five vehicles coming the other way all day. The wind was again hitting me head-on, which was easier to drive against than those angular impacts had been on Saturday. Although I was again only making 45-mph, my trigonometry skills enabled me to see that I was making a better gain on my time this way than if I could go 55 on the westerly I-40. I also cut-off a good chunk of miles in exchange for great scenic images of the west. The trip was uneventful that day. The most important activity that day occurred when I stopped in a restaurant in Carrizozo, New Mexico for lunch. As soon as I arrived and spoke to the waitress, everybody immediately turned their attention to me. Yeah, my Chicagoan accent nailed me right then and there as a Yankee. No one said a word, they just looked at me eat my sandwich. I wanted to go over and speak to them as a gesture of my, "No Fear", attitude, but I didn't have the time. I was concerned that I needed to get to Tucson, Arizona by nightfall and that was going to be a big push at that time of day. As it was, I arrived in Wilcox, Arizona at 8:00 PM during a windstorm there. I was again very tired and hungry that evening. After eating late, I went to sleep. I was awakened at 3:00 AM when I thought the roof of my room was going to fly-off. A huge monsoon had whipped up in the early hours and the rain was so hard, I could hardly see my mini-van parked five feet away from the front window. I watched a while and then went back to bed, drifting back to sleep quickly. I wasn't sure if I would wake up by the Yellow Brick Road next to a dead witch, but I did know I could reach San Diego on Monday evening if I could get four more hours of sleep.

On Monday morning, I drove through Tucson, Arizona. It was a partly cloudy day up there in the mountains. I drove through some of those small clouds about the size of a truck. Now that was a unique driving experience for a short time. To be able to see clearly one moment and nothing but cloud the next. Like everyone else around me, we just kept going without slowing down. I was already acquiring California driving skills before I got there, I guess. About the time I reached I-8, the winds started to die down. Soon enough I was heading for the mountains of Eastern California. Hours later I pulled into my cousin's driveway about 5:30 PM. He welcomed me with open arms. Ten minutes later, Sherry comes back to their house and informs me that we have our own apartment for the next six months. What a great surprise! It was February 26, 1996 when I became a Californian for the second time in my life. Sherry had become one two days earlier and she always lords that over me. After a short dinner, we went to the new place about four miles away from my cousin's and crashed for the night on our sleeping bags and camping mattresses. In the morning, we greeted the Sun and warm breezes of Carlsbad, California. Sherry and I were happy we made it after so many years of waiting. We've never looked back on our choices together since.

As the ensuing months rolled on, I became heavily involved with the Carlsbad Village Business Association (CVBA). I happened upon that organization when Sherry and I went to the Carlsbad Convention and Visitors Bureau (ConVis) and picked up the last copy of the Village Voice magazine. The CVBA was mentioned in there and we started attending the meetings. I was still in my EveryDay Objects, Inc. (EDO), partnership at the time, so I worked from home. I began giving 5-minute weekly technical presentations at the CVBA meetings in June, 1996. I remember when I was the only person using email in that group. Months later that situation changed. That Summer I also started and for several months, hosted the web sites for the Carlsbad ConVis and CVBA, free of charge to them using my company's web server that we designed and created using our software Internet Library of tools. In a few months, I became the technical consultant for the ConVis without charge and kept that volunteer position until the Director, Steve Link, retired a few years ago. I also was elected to the CVBA Board of Directors and became their Secretary in 1997. I served in that position until 1998. I still have many friends in the CVBA and I learned a lot about organizing and managing a volunteer organization comprised of business people.

Sherry went to work for an investment firm in June, 1996 and worked there until last year. She now works for a local company and enjoys the change in job responsibilities. She also became a licensed Massage Technician and has her own business.

I've worked for three companies since I left my partnership in 1997. It's been an interesting ride through the ups-and-downs of the economy. In the meantime, I've discovered the artistic talent in me and that keeps me motivated in new directions.

Our daughter who was in college back in Illinois when we left in 1996, graduated in 1998 and went to work for a Chicago company that same year. She is now the National Program Manager there, serving in that position for a year now. She married her college sweetheart in 2000 and they live in the Chicago metropolitan region. Sherry and I are very proud of the both of them.

I remain involved in volunteer organizations. I am a long-time member of two San Diego computer groups, having served as an officer on one, and as an manager/advisor on the other. The Twin Oaks Toastmasters club is another of my leadership clubs, I served last year as the Vice President of Education with them. The Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park is near and dear to me too. I serve as a Charter Docent there and help the Friends of Leo Carrillo Ranch, Inc. as a technical advisor and producer for their elementary school DVD programs. I also continue to support the High School Intern program at Digital Sweatshop Inc. as the Director of that activity there.

I started selling my digital creations this year. It is a business that will grow as required with new products and other services as time goes by.

So here I am, staring my ninth year as a San Diegan and it's great. My many friends out here are the typical laid-back Californians. I stay in touch with my family and friends in other parts of the world in different ways, usually through email and content that appears on this site.

Life's been good to Sherry and me. We've made our dreams come true these past 31 years together. There have been some issues we've resolved together as a married couple should do when they arise. We have remained true to our Wedding Vows and to each other and our love is stronger than ever, it seems.

Don


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