ONLY 1,945 MILES TO GO

I hope to never fly commercial again.  The brilliance of RV life is I can change plans and drive in a different direction on a moment’s notice.

I really hate the driving and try to do only 200 miles on any given day.  I was fortunate to be within 260 miles of Bakersfield and got there in time to say goodbye to my favorite Uncle Jim. 

It was strange to turn south and drive back through Palm Springs on my way to Casa Grande, AZ.  I had just spent two months in Palm Spring.  I thought about stopping and playing one last round of golf with Alaska pals David and Susan.  Instead, I drove on to Tucson, AZ, 580 miles with one overnight stop at a San Bernardino county campground in Yucaipa.  That allowed me to break-up the 7-hour drive.

I love having my home behind me.  I was never a good packer for weekends or vacations.  I always brought too much and never had what I really needed.    Everything I own and need is with me in Scout – my 20-foot Airstream.

I will spend a month in Tucson, because I have a ticket to hear the Tedeshcki Truck Band on May 14.  I really have to quit buying tickets.  Because plans change.  Cousin Karen and I were going to spend a week enjoying desert flowers, but Uncle Jim’s life was coming to an end.  It was more important to see and say goodbye to my beloved Uncle Jim. 

I am glad to be back in Tucson for a month of golf, before the cross-country trip to Rachel’s wedding on June 8 at Emerald Island, NC.  Sister Becky (Rachel’s Mother) will marry Chuck the following weekend in Cary, NC.   

Alaska friend Esther at 90 is undergoing hip surgery on Monday, so I will help her in her recovery.  Thankfully Esther has moved into a retirement home in Casa Grande and is no longer living alone out in the boondocks of Arizona, aka Arizona City.  American’s dream of retiring and living in the country, is not one I share.  After the Airstream, I hope to live in a city where I can walk or take public transportation to grocery stores, movie theaters and restaurants.  Not being dependent on a car.

Only 1,945 miles to Emerald Island, NC from Tucson, divided by 200 miles a day I could do it in 10 days, but I plan an extended stay in Austin, TX visiting Ruth, and a couple of days at the Moten Ranch with former colleague Beth and riding my favorite horse Hope. Beth contributed to my decision to retire early.  At a meeting in late November 2015, Beth announced her retirement saying, “she was done”.  I felt the same, I was also done with beating my head against a wall.  Work was no longer fun or satisfying.  Beth told us she and her brother grew-up on a ranch outside of Austin.  She said, they had worked hard to get good grades so they could get away from that ranch.  Now all she and her brother wanted was “go back to the ranch”.  I loved this story and thought to myself, I didn’t have a ranch, but I have a dream of an Airstream.  Visiting Beth has special significance for me.  

Stay tuned for travel log cross-country: golf, campgrounds, horses and best of all dear friends.

Uncle Jim

2017 Left to right, cousin Cindy, Uncle Jim, Aunt Jo and me.

In the fall of 1995, after spending 4 months in Europe back-packing, staying in hostels and modest hotels, I flew into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).  My Uncle Jim came to pick me up.  I don’t remember why Jim was the kind relative to collect me at LAX, but there he was.

Not the real pool, but gives you an idea.

Jim was my very favorite Uncle, and I have two.  My earliest memory of Uncle Jim is swimming in a little above ground pool in Sherman Oaks, California, filled with a garden hose.  The pool was in grandparent’s Moseley’s back yard.  The pool was maybe 3 feet deep?  Uncle Jim his two daughters, cousins Karen and Cindy, and sister Becky and I swam in a clockwise circle to create a current.  Uncles Jim and Bob were in that little pool with us.  We really weren’t swimming we were pulling ourselves with our hands on the bottom.  Two grown men and four girls on a hot California summer afternoon in a silly little pool.  Not really a pool.

I loved my Uncle Jim, he died yesterday at age 93.

I don’t know why Uncle Jim and I had such a loving connection.  He was a Republican and didn’t watch the news or read a paper.  Several years ago, Mom and I visited their home in La Canada, CA and we both remarked there were no newspapers or magazines.  Aunt Jo, Mom’s older sister, and Uncle Jim lived in the same ranch three bedroom two and a half bath home since the early 1096s.  They did not watch TV news (thank goodness not FOX), they didn’t read newspapers, but voted consistently Republican — because they were Republican.  Jim was a small business man, and worked very hard every day and was a very good provider.  

It is hard to put into words why Uncle Jim and I had such a  strong loving connection.  But we did.  So, I was thankful I could hug him and say goodbye.

Ironically, cousin Karen (Jim & Jo’s eldest daughter), her husband Larry and I had planned a camping rondeaux at Borrego Springs, CA.  Karen and Larry arrived as scheduled, but Jim had been ill the night before.  He went into the hospital and was put in hospice the next day.  Karen, Larry and I left Borrego Springs and drove back to Bakersfield, CA.  I stayed two days and was able to say goodbye to my wonderful, funny Uncle Jim. 

Jimmy and I play golf together several years ago, before they moved to Bakersfield.  Uncle Jim, like I, had taken up golf late in life.  But it was a very special treat to play golf with my Uncle Jim. 

Today I went out and played 18 holes ironically, I was paired with a man named Jim.  I played the best round of golf all year, a score of 98 (below 100).  I believe, I was playing with my beloved Uncle Jim.  You are my angel.  RIP.

Meet Me On the 1st Tee

Never wanting kids, I saw no need to marry.  My dream is the perfect “re-tread”.  A man who was married, had children, divorced – or even better yet, widowed.  A man retired and unencumbered, loves to play golf wants to travel and just have fun.  How hard could it be?  You would be amazed.

Unlike downhill skiing, where you wave you ski pole in the air and yell “SINGLE!”  Golf is a gentile sport.  The starter (usually a retired guy) will slot you in with a three-some.  We all know every man’s fantasy is a three-some.  BUT, not in GOLF!  As a single golfer, I walk on and play with whomever the starter assigns.  Guys generally looking forward to a round of golf without their wives.  I think, men play golf to get away from their spouses, spend 4-5 hours with buddies, and not talk about anything, or just not talk.  Golf conversation is limited to “your ball is over there behind that tree”, “nice putt”, and “where is the beer cart”. 

Palm Springs golfers are different, lots of retired couples who play golf together.  Alaska pals, David and Susan, live here in the winter, and we have played together at Indian Canyon, Mission Lakes, Desert Dunes and Palm Desert Resort.  So many courses, but Palm Springs golf is expensive.  I will be glad to get back to Tucson where you can walk 18 holes for $15.

Two years ago in Palm Springs, I walked on as a single.  I asked the 3 guys waiting to tee off if they would mind if I joined them, and they pointed to 3 woman on the first tee.  The guys said, “why don’t you see if you could join them”.  GOOD IDEA!

That sunny day, I met Cathy, Sheila and Karen,  Canadians wintering in sunny CA.  Their husbands were ahead, and we all had a great round.  I was happy to return to Palm Springs this winter and reconnect with Cathy.

Cathy and husband Ken and I played a nice round at Monterey Golf Club, before they left for Saskatchewan.  Golf is life, and I am fortunate to have far-flung friends who play golf and want to reconnect.

I am still waiting for the day I walk up to the first tee, and meet a nice retired, single guy who wants to play the back 9 of life with me.  But, until that day.  Thanks, David, Susan, Cathy and Ken for good company and golf.   Hope you’ll come to Florida next winter!

49 PALMS OASIS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Growing up in Southern California in the 60’s, Mom was an avid subscriber to Sunset Magazine, a wonderful magazine about southwest living.  A monthly feature was weekend or day get-aways, one of which remains a family joke, our trip to the 49 Palm Oasis.  Driving from Los Angeles my parents listened to our constant complaints of “how much longer?” and “are we there yet?”  At the end of a long car ride and hike to the oasis, we found it in ashes.

The National Park Service describes the 49 Palms Oasis Trail as “a three-mile round-trip hike to a fan palm oasis. It requires two to three hours and is rated moderately-strenuous, ascending about 300 feet each way. This well-maintained trail climbs to a ridge where large numbers of barrel cacti dot the landscape. After winding around the ridgetop, the trail descends steeply to the oasis located in a rocky canyon. Towering palms create a canopy over clear pools of water. Large boulders provide a place to rest and enjoy the sights and sounds of this small ecosystem”.

Sister Kerry traveled from Anchorage, Alaska to help celebrate my 65 birthday in Palm Springs, and Maggie and I have taken a break from trailer life to spend a couple of days at the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park, with Alaskan pals Diane and John.

Kerry and Diane did all the research and because the Park was closed in January due to (colossally stupid)  the partial government shut-down, they found an AirB&B just outside the Park entrance.  Today, Kerry and I completed the hike and found the oasis recovering from a more recent arson in March 2018Fortunately, the past two rainy California winters has allowed the oasis to recover, but several of the Palm trunks are visibly burned.  Sadly, during the government shut-down vandals cut down some of the Joshua trees. Yucca brevifolia is a plant species belonging to the genus Yucca. It is tree-like in habit, which is reflected in its common names: Joshua treeyucca palmtree yucca, and palm tree yucca.[2][3][4][5]

My idea of a good hike is usually punctuated by 18 holes, but Kerry and I had a nice hike catching up on our fond family memories, and enjoyed the wildflowers along the amazingly maintained trail.  Mom instilled in us a love of camping in the National and state parks as our family summer vacations, and often our destinations were first read about in Sunset Magazine.  If you are planning a trip west, pick-up a Sunset, the recipes are always wonderful as well.

As Ken Burns documentary films series illustrates, our National Park’s are still “America’s Best Idea”.  If you haven’t watched the series I hightly recommend it.

YOU’RE FIRED

I have been fired from every job I ever loved.  Each time my life took a turn for the better.  Sometimes a swift kick in the ass, is a good thing. 

This blog is about an early fork in my Road2Reinvention.  Graduated from High School in 1972, and didn’t want to go to college.  Alaska offered lots of opportunity, and introduced me to unions and later public service.  A Flash Back, on the road forward.

In 1976, I was working for Alaska Airlines loading and off-loading food service equipment, and cleaning the 

aircraft over-nighting in Anchorage for early morning flights.  Passengers were still allowed to smoke in planes in the 70’s, so the interior of airplanes were gross.  The walls were covered with a thin smoke film and the ashtrays were full of cigarette butts, and sometimes chew.  I never smoked but, my Dad was a chain smoker of Camel unfiltered.   I have always thought smoking is disgusting and support any and every ban on smoking.

Our small cadre of 20 workers, stocked liquor cabinets with those cute little bottles, we checked out the food (airlines provided free meals back in the 70s).  First class passengers were served meals on ceramic plates, with flatware and beverages in real glasses, NO plastic in first class.  We also loaded one-pint cartons of milk, one carton for every three passengers.  Have you ever seen anyone order milk on a plane?  We loaded the milk and other beverage service equipment on flights going north to Fairbanks (no food).  Ninety minutes later the plane returned, and we pulled all the milk, refrigerated with dry-ice, and threw it in the garbage.  Well, we were supposed to throw it in the garbage, but mostly the employees took the milk.  It was perfectly good kept cold, if not refrigerated…  We also took lots of the un-eaten meals and other perishables.  NOT the liquor, that was carefully accounted for.

I worked the swing shift, beginning at 5:00 p.m. and clocking out at 1:00 a.m.  Our crew was called Fleet Service and we were all woman, with one exception, our token guy we named “Fuzzy”.  He was a skinny guy who took horrible ribbing from the ramp-rats (real men) that loaded the baggage, but he was a very nice guy and hard worker.  We treated him like our puppy.

I had been working for Alaska Airlines Fleet Service for a couple of years.  It was a very good union job, great pay and benefits, including non-revenue flight benefits.  I could fly to Seattle for $25 round trip, if there was an empty seat.  I was in my 20s, graduated from High School, but really had no interest in going to college.  Fleet service might have become golden handcuffs, a great job with benefits and no need for a college education.  But, thankfully one summer evening when I left the facility at 1:00 a.m. in the morning there was an airport police cruiser sitting nearby.  Remember this is Anchorage, Alaska in July which means 1:00 a.m. is full day light, the Land of the Midnight Sun.  I was carrying a small box containing cartons of milk taken from the returning flight from Fairbanks.  I put the box in the bed of my Toyota pick-up and drove toward the airport property gate going home.  The police cruiser followed me.  I really didn’t think anything of it.  Not much going on at 1:00 a.m. on a beautiful bright Alaskan, night full of day light.

As I neared the property gate, the cruiser turned on his lights and siren.  I pulled over.  Let me first say this “airport cop” was a DICK.  He really had an attitude.  Here is how I recall the conversation:

Cop: Give me your license and registration.

Me: Of Course.

Cop: Where are you going?

ME: Home.

Cop: Where are you coming from?

Me: Work.

Cop: Who do you work for?

Me: Alaska Airlines.

Cop: What is in the box?

Me: Milk.

Cop: Where is the milk from?

Me: Alaska Airlines garbage.

Cop: Come with me.

Me. Where?

Cop: I want you to follow me to the station.

Me. Okay.

I will make the events that followed brief.  We went to the station, the cop spoke to my boss, and let me drive away without a charge and the milk still in the bed of my truck.

The next day, however, when I clocked into work, there was an envelope in my time-card slot paraphrased: “you are fired for theft of company property”.  My replacement, apparently a friend of the boss was already there and suited up to do my job.

Thankfully, I was a union employee, in fact I was a shop steward.  Under the collective bargaining agreement an employee terminated for cause, was entitled to a post-termination hearing within 3 days.

The union representative was incompetent and a drunk.  We met for 5 minutes before the hearing and all he said was, “don’t say anything, let me do all the talking”.

The hearing was worthless.  When I walked out of the hearing with my union representative I asked, “can I say something now?”  He said yes, and I said, “you are fired”.  He said, “no you don’t understand, you can’t fire me, I am the union representative.”  I said, “watch me”.

I will skip forward here.  I did fire the union and hired a family friend who was a management attorney.  One of my rules to live by: If you are firing your union and fighting an employer always hire a management attorney.  But because I fired the union, I signed an agreement that I was responsible for all costs of the grievance procedure and holding the union harmless.

Six months later Peter my kick ass management attorney and I entered an arbitration hearing seeking my reinstatement.  It was the most fun I had ever had, (remember I was in my early 20s).

Under the International Association of Machinist (IAM), arbitration was the last step of the grievance procedure.  There was an independent arbitrator selected by both parties – the employer and the union.  Also, a union and management official official sat with the arbitrator comprising a three-judge panel.  However, I remember the arbitrator saying at the beginning of the hearing, he was in charge and would be making the final decision.  Fine by me.  

The employer has the burden of proof to demonstrate they fired me for “Just Cause” (not just cause).  The employer thought “theft of company property” was a firing offense, you would have thought I stole a 727 aircraft, not garbage milk.

The employer called my boss and other witnesses, I don’t really remember who.  But the star witness was Cecilia, a German woman who had worked at Alaska Airlines Fleet Service longer than I had been alive.  I loved working with Cecilia.  She was about as round as she was tall, and when we were waiting for our plane to land in the snow and darkness of winter, Cecilia would tell me about growing up in Hitler’s Germany and stealing bread for her family.

There was Cecilia on the witness stand sworn-in, to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

Company Attorney: How long have you worked for Alaska Airlines?

Cecilia: 30 something years (I really don’t remember how long she had worked there).

Company Attorney: Have you ever taken Alaska Airlines milk?

Cecilia: I raised 3 kids on Alaska Airlines milk, I haven’t bought milk since I went to work for this company 30+ years ago.

I laughed so hard I thought I might cry!

There is a rule in testimony, never ask a question you don’t know the answer.  I really felt bad for the company attorney, he was very young, and it may have been his first arbitration, possibly his last.

Sure, there was a company policy that employees aren’t to take Alaska Airlines milk but throw it in the garbage.  But, if the company has a policy and doesn’t consistently enforce the policy — forget policy.  Companies have to enforce policy in a consistent manner. The employer can’t one day decide to enforce a policy it has ignored for years.    Fair and consistent application of policies is the key.

The company called a recess and asked to speak to the arbitrator, a few minutes later we were called back into the hearing room.  The company wanted to put me back to work immediately, pay my back pay and all arbitration costs.  Good news!

There was just one remaining issue, “back pay”.  I was fired and had not worked since my termination 8 months earlier.  Employers can reduce back-pay awards from wages earned during the disputed termination.

The arbitrator put me on the stand and swore me in.

Company attorney: Have you been actively seeking employment since your termination?

Me: Yes

Company attorney: Why do you think you were unable to find alternative employment?

Me: On every application I submitted there was a question “Why did you leave your last job?”   I completed the question, “Theft of company property”.

I was reinstated with FULL BACK PAY, with no reduction.  Because, I fired the union, my attorney got 90% of my back pay, but it was worth every penny.

I walked back into the Alaska Airlines Fleet Service and worked for another 4 months and quit to go to college.  No surprise the BOSS that fired me, wasn’t there anymore.  There is justice in the world.

Years later I would represent state employees unjustly disciplined or fired by arrogant bosses — like the guy who “TRIED” to fire me.  I would train union stewards and represent workers in the workplace.  Ironically that same airport cop that pulled me over that night was an ASEA union member, I worked for in the 1990s.  He needed representation, and  I represented him and got the whole thing thrown out.  I remembered him, but he didn’t remember me.

As a union representative, workers would often tell me they wanted to hire an attorney.  I would give them my business card and tell them, “have your attorney call me”.  They never did, there aren’t lots of attorneys looking to represent workers, there isn’t any money in back-pay awards, and no punitive damages.  They got quality representation for their monthly union dues.  I loved doing arbitrations and beating the employer.  I learned how to do it watching my attorney, being quick, having a good case, and mostly a passion to kick the employer in the ass.  If the worker deserved to get fired, I would cut a deal with the employer to allow the worker to resign, and get on with their life.  No one wants to work with a bad employee.  But if the company fires someone unjustly, I loved beating the employer represented by their attorney.  I am not an attorney, but loved beating them.

I am forever grateful to Alaska Airlines for firing me, it set me on my Road2Reinvention.  I still fly Alaska Airlines whenever possible, and chuckle.