Things to read...

If time is short, I'd suggest reading at LEAST The Prologue and Legend of The Pinto Bean Posts!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vegas baby yeah!

Well the Bean lives on another day.... Last time I blogged I was limping the bean to Sacramento. Well I made it there and treated myself to a hotel, mostly to end a frustrating day on a high note. While there I managed to attract an audience willing to listen to me go on and on about the fuel situation, so I was happy. If there's one thing I love, it's people willing to listen to me rant and appear interested at the same time. After the pool/podium I headed to the shower for a refreshing few minutes. While in there the phone started ringing, and I jumped out all panicked and managed to answer it. I could see on my cell I'd just missed a call from Brittany so now I was really worried. Upon answering the front desk says "Hi, is everything all right?" Great... now I'm really panicked and RTD is trying to lick water off my legs... I tell them everythings great and ask what the problem is while trying to kick Rocky who was deftly staying out of range. They tell me everythings fine they were just checking, and my heart rate drops back down to normal and I hang up. I had barely finished towelling off when there is a pounding at the door. I look at and see a hotel clerk. Seriously, did they not beliebe the phone call?? Well I open it and she asks if I have time to talk, and I briefly contemplated walking outside in my nekkid glory before deciding against it and telling her to give me a few to get dressed.


Once dressed I stepped outside and confront her and another guest. It turned out that he was an old vet who had paid for my room and just wanted to talk for a few so I didn't mind trhe interuptions, but I had started to wonder if maybe the hotel had taken checking on their guests just a little too far. Finally all was settled and I plopped down to watch TV before drifting off to sleep...








Sunday morning found me heading to the Firestone dealer to get the brakes checked. Once in there they got the Bean in relatively quick and RTD and I sat in the waiting room awaiting the verdict. After a bit they told me there was just a minor adjustment issue and the drums were a bit warped and needed to be fixed. I gave them the go-ahead and sat back to wait. After a bit another customer came in, and RTD immediately set about making friends. Then he layed down on the guys feet and looked at me like a stranger. After about three hours I'd started to wonder if maybe there was a strike or if perhaps there was some sort of tiddlywinks tournament preventing any work from getting done. The shop finally told me the Bean was A-ok and I picked Benedict Arnold up off the poor guys feet and we got a move on to the cabin in the hills.



Once off the interstate and heading back up into the smoke filled and golden hills of middle California I realized the Bean was now worse than it began. Apparently my $120 in repairs netted me absolutely nothing... I stoppesd to look the Bean over and take some pics, too. The valleys here are all wine and fruit country. The fierce heat gives way as you pass the huge orchards, but picks right back up as the vineyards dominate again. As I approached the Sierra Nevada mountains, the smoke gave way to reveal the dry strawcolored hills punctuated with blotches of green that were the small scrub trees. I saw quite a few deer, dodged a number of suicidal ground squirrels, and even saw a large bobcat running through the grass. I tried to watch the wildlife while keeping an eye on the temp gauge of the Bean, as it seemed to rise just like hills which I was clombing. Every time I thought I'd have to pull over I'd hit a downhill stretch and trhe temps would drop. Finally I made it up to the cabin so graciously offered by one of the readers here, and RTD and I got set for the night.
The cabin was up over 600o ft, so the air was nice and cool, and RTD was loving being in the forest without a leash for the first time in his life. Allen explained to me about the local wildlife, so I tried to keep Rocky in sight as he furiously tried to mark all the trees out in the darkness. In the morning I was able to see the fruits of his labor... more on that in a moment. Anyhow, we settled in and had steaks and beer, and finally knocked off for the night. Overall, a decent end to a long day...








This morning I finally dragged myself out of bed about 9 or so, and debated if I was going to stay another day or not. The lack on internet crack convinced me I should press on, so I got to work. I decided to pull the thermostat out of the Bean so it would run cooler as I crossed the Death Valley today. I wisely had packed a set of tools, so I got them out and tried to figure out which tool was missing since I knew it would be the one I needed. Amazingly, I had all I needed, so I set to work. Meanwhile RTD continued his marking... I drained the antifreeze and got it out of RTD's way because the stuff tastes like deadly Kool-Aid. Then I pulled the thermostat and started breaking stuff. I think it is physically impossible for me to work on a vehicle with breaking SOMETHING. Just makes it more fun! This time it was some plastic vacuum lines, which I capped off and now the Bean runs a little funny... Adds character! I then reassembled everything sans thermostat and sat back to see if it would actually work. Surprisingly it did! Who knew.... Still, never trust the one armed mechanic. I then turned to see the minefield Rocky was busily making. See, RTD recently has learned how to scratch the ground to mark his spots. now he does it furiously. Tornados in Kansas lack the ferocity with which RTD plows the earth. He uses both front and rear legs all at once, and looks a lot like a four wheel drive truck trying to do a burnout in the dust. All through the forest about every five feet were tore up areas of dirt where RTD had marked them as his own. Somewhere today a mountain lion is probably roaming that area, confused as to what monster passed that way...


Well today we headed out across the aptly named Death Valley enroute to Vegas. As far as the eye could see, the largest growing thing one could see were Joshua Trees. I would have run a few down but apparently it's illegal to harm a U2 album in the state of California... Pity. I must admit that the browns and reds of the desert do have a beauty of their own, but it is one enjoyed for a few minutes, and then it gets a little old. The farther into the valley we went the hotter it became, and the more I worried about the Bean. Eventually we had to climb out of the first valley, and the Bean wasn't liking it. The temp gauge finally pegged in the red just as we crested the hill, and it slowly came back down, but not without an odd smell. Fortunately I ignored the smell long enough and it went away, so it must not have been a big problem. We reached the bottom of the valley, and the temperature approached that of the sun. I stuck my hand out the window and the wind felt like jetblast as it blistered my hand. Rocky paced the back, panting furiously so I pulled over often for him to get water. A few times I soaked him, but he didn't much care for that...


We finally made it out of the valley, and I rolled up the windows and turned on the A/C so RTD didn't lose his tiny little mind and start trying to do something stypid, like play Butthumper with the back of my head. The downside to this was the gas mileage dropped to about 14-15 mpg from the usual 18-20. I guess I better get used to this to keep the hero back there cool and happy! We kept the A/C going as I continued the trip to Vegas, and RTD eventually stopped sounding like a freight train. Now we are in Vegas where I intend to do no gambling... I may post why tomorrow, but it's not that entertaining. I may stay in Vegas if anyone here has any ideas as to what to do, or can show RTD and I around. From here we're heading to Phoenix where I will definitely be for a day or three. I've been offered a lot in Phoenix, so I may try to organize a meet and greet, so keep a watch here to see!!

Now for something a little bit different....

I fear my writing might be becoming boring, but it's so hard for me to tell. Having "lived it" it never seems as good to write it as it was to do it, but here's an attempt. I wrote this about my first day in basic, so I'll post it here for everyones critique. Please take a minute to read it and let me know what ya think. Next up I am gonna try to write about my first flight in the Army, which might be a bit more entertaining!! So without further ado, Basic.






I enlisted in the Infantry, and started basic/inprocessing on Oct 03 1995. I arrived at Fort Benning just after the passage of a hurricane which had made the flight in more like a ride on the Vomit Comet than a passenger plane. My first few days were spent at inprocessing with no power, and a bunch of bored drill sergeants trying not to have too much fun with us. Each day a group would be taken and given all their immunizations and shots and also would get their initial issue of uniforms. Upon their return to the building, they would immediately put on their uniforms and transition into Viet Nam veterans. The groups would then split into uniformed and non-uniformed, with the former trying to pass on their expertise to the new guys, who’d been in the Army about six minutes less than them. All in all it wasn’t too bad, and just a few push-ups were doled out at any one time. I knew I was gonna like this whole Basic Training thing. Then came the day we actually went to our training units…
The units were known as “Starships” for their huge layout and this was where the “real training” would commence. We sat anxiously on our duffle bags at the replacement unit, waiting to get loaded on the cattle cars and sent off to the starships. Finally my turn came and off I went, a little saddened that I was riding on a bus instead of the cooler looking cattle cars. Finally we stopped in front of our new home, and unlike the movies, the gentleman who stepped onto the bus wasn’t yelling at all. He was the unit’s executive officer, and he gave us some encouraging words about the training we were going to face, and then explained that soon we’d get to meet the cadre of Drill Sergeants where we’d all be formally introduced and the training could begin. This wasn’t bad at all! I sat there on the bus wondering if maybe there’d be some snacks at this formal introduction, and barely noticed the less friendly looking man who had now stepped onto the bus. After getting our attention he informed us we had no longer than 30 seconds to unass the bus, then stood there in the middle of the doorway counting. Now how were we supposed to get off the bus if he was in the way? Maybe he didn’t understand our plight, as he just stood there calmly counting. At the end of the thirty seconds, he expressed his displeasure at our inability to listen very well, and now things started to go downhill.
The DS stepped off the bus, and out of thin air about twenty more materialized. I think maybe they’d been hiding in the bushes, or perhaps they utilized some Army magic we’d not yet learned to appear to us, but either way they were here and not happy. They jerked open the back door of the bus and started jerking privates out of the bus. Finally I made it off the bus unscathed and took my bag and beelined for the assembly area. DS’s were grabbing guys left and right and assisting them with carrying their bags in all kinds of new and interesting ways. Personally I couldn’t understand how crawling on your hand and knees with two duffle bags on your back was an easier way, yet this seemed to be choice method. I, being me, continued hand carrying my bags trying to ignore the advice of the kind gentlemen surrounding me and instructing me otherwise. Finally one suggested I just stop and start doing push-ups to help clear my hearing, so I dropped down and happily obliged. Eventually we all made it to the formation area and lined up in a ragtag attempt at a platoon formation, then continued with all manner of physical fitness maneuvers designed to distress your mind and refocus that stress around one’s body. A particular favorite was “The Mule Kick.” This involved locking your fingers behind your head, putting both feet together, then jumping as high as you can while attempting to kick your own rear end with your heels. I guess if they couldn’t do it to us, they could help us to do it for them. Autoarsekicking at its’ finest!
After a few hours of this, I was beginning to think maybe there wasn’t going to be much in the way of refreshments at this meet-and-greet. After we were done with the greeting we headed upstairs to our platoon bays where we would be assigned our battle buddy, as well as learn the art and science of making a bed and setting up a wall locker. How hard could it be? This was when we met the first non-screaming DS who then sat us down and calmly walked us through the steps to properly make our bunks. 45 degree corners on all four sides, and the dustcover over the pillow is ¼ the length of the bed. How bad could that be? Well he left us alone with ten minutes to get all our bunks squared away, and we all set about busily measuring and folding. This was when I learned another very important lesson. Apparently Drill Sergeants have trouble telling time. He specifically told us we had ten minutes, yet he was back in only four and very displeased at our lack of bed making progress. I knew he wasn’t happy because I found myself doing push-ups with my legs elevated on the bunk I’d worked in vain to make. Finally he told us to get up and remake the bunks and he’d be back in ten minutes to see our progress.
Three minutes later I found myself learning a new maneuver called the “over and under”. We’d crawl under one bunk and over the next as we made laps around the bay. I was seriously beginning to question if we’d ever get to finish anything given the propensity for the DS to arrive and undo all of our hard work. We ended up repeating this game for several more cycles before we were deemed unfixable and we just left our bunks sloppily made (which I must admit looked a lot like the way they were the whole time I was in basic, but hey this was day 1 and they were the experts. We then went on to play a similar game involving the wall lockers and fitness training. The basic sequence was: calmly explain how to do it right and then leave us to do it. Show up at some arbitrary and unrealistic time later to inspect. Smoke young privates while berating us about our inefficiency. Rinse. Repeat. I later learned that the Army continues to use this model of inefficiency throughout the service for certain things.
The only other real agenda we had for that day was to meet our battle buddy, who was the guy sleeping in the bunk next to you. He was the guy who was supposed to help and motivate you, while the two of you learned together. You were supposed to do everything but wash each other’s cracks in the shower with your battle buddy. If your battle buddy screwed up, you both paid the price. My battle buddy was a fat guy who was also a pathological liar. This made basic much more fun for me over the duration. No matter what the story, he’d always done something better. Turns out he had almost won the professional bull riding championships before deciding to join the army. I often wondered if he’d meant to say the competitive eating championships, but mixed up his words. Anyhow, every basic training unit has “this guy” and I just happened to be partnered up with him. Some guys get all the luck. After these introductions were made, we finally were released to get ready for the next day, and it was close to midnight before I got under the sheets for my first night as a trainee. It wouldn’t be until later I learned not to sleep under the sheets…

14 comments:

anita said...

can't wait to read the next installment of your big trip!

Anonymous said...

Ok, first NOT boring!! Second, easy to read bec. you're talking to us, at least I think.

And my biggest thing is -- you actually make paragraphs!!! Nothing is harder to read than someone who writes one long, continuous, never ending, beyond chatty, all one sentence, all one paragraph -- whew! Don't you just hate that?

Anyway, no, silly, it's fun to read. And like I said, I've never been out west, so I like to see the pictures and read about it all.

It's good, you're fine. Keep on writing.

Kath

Anonymous said...

Oh, and lucky you -- that cabin looked very nice!

Kath

Ky Woman said...

Yup, it's fine reading... both your trip and the regaling of the auspicious start of your Army life.
Soooo, when are you gonna give us the rest of the story??

Safe Travels...

Sheila said...

Not that you could survive doing this in the desert, but I've had thermostat problems before and one trick to get the temp down is turning the heater on full blast. Of course you can roll down the windows but it doesn't help much. At the very least it's an option over walking because your car overheated. It somehow helps by taking heat off the engine...I don't know all the mechanics of it. It’s worked every time for me.

I think your "battle buddy" must've been my ex-boyfriend. Not the "fat" part but definitely the "pathological liar" part. What's up with people that are like that...it's harder for them to keep up with the details of their lies so why don't they just tell the truth?! Anyhow I don’t know much about basic training but it sure would be one heck of place to be stuck with someone like that!

And your writing isn’t boring. I read the blog everyday.

Michelle F said...

Daniel you severely underestimate your writing abilities. There has been more than once that I am laughing so hard at your antics present and past that cause tears to shoot out my eyes. I have also learned NOT to drink any thing while reading as it usually ends up being spewed across my computer while reading. MORE MORE MORE!!! Continue to write. I anxiously await every morning to read the lastest blog. You are quite a story teller and I think if you ever decide to give up the medical thing…you definitely have a future in writing and even a motivational speaker. Again hope to see you here in NC. Both you and RTD be good and be good at it.

Samantha said...

I went to basic at Ft. Jackson in November 1995 and I can tell you that there wasn't much difference between Benning and Jackson, at least not those first couple of days.

Love the blog and can't wait to hear about your first flight.

Jacob said...

AsI read your first day at basic I started to have flash backs of my first days in Ft Leonardwood, MO, man that sucked! At least your DS showed you how the beds were suppose to be made and how the foot locker was suppose to be, we had to learn on our own! If I had a dollar for every time we screwed that up!!

I am enjoying your writing about the trip, if you find yourself in northwest Arkansas during the trip let me know. Steak and beer are on me!

Helena said...

Congratulations, you really had the courage to write a very long deep description about your trips.
I also make small trips with my dogs, but I must admit I keep it short … I simply don’t have the breath to write so much and I think no one would ever been interested to read so much.
So keep it going and have a nice trip.

potandkettle said...

Glad you made it thru DV and are into Vegas. Never been there, but I hear you can have lots of fun and get into lots of trouble...Hope you avoid the latter.

Loving the stories and can't wait to hear more.

Safe travels.

Allen said...

I hope you enjoyed your time in the Sierras. Come back for a visit any time.

Keep on Beanin'

HockeyPhool said...

Hey Daniel,

I love reading about your adventures with RTD and The Bean. Your writing is humorous - I've had several LOL moments reading it.

If your travels bring you through Denver I can arrange steaks and beers, plus a yard for Rocky to run around in for a while.

SkippyMom said...

Couldn't wait to catch up! [been away a few days] Your writing is superb and your allusions to current/past Americana cracks me up! [ex: movies/politics]

ALWAYS write the way you do - it is refreshing and honest and no matter how BAD my day is going - you never, ever cease to cheer me up - y'know, not saying your misfortunes are funny or anything, but...uh...the chainsaw/beer & the tree? yep, pretty much going to have to replace my keyboard on that one - who knew grapefruit juice was so detrimental - to electronics?..giggle....

Hugs to you, glad you are safe & enjoying yourself.

SkippyMom

Sue said...

Dan, been following your blog and yes, keep up the writing and the great postings on your trip. As far as the book goes, where do we sign up on the Amazon reserved list. Your writing creates a great visual. Mix that with humor and fact and it's bound to be a best seller! Great work soldier!

Sue