Blog 2062 – 05.18.2021
Room To Breathe Vs. Taking My Breath Away
I have lived most of this adventure as a city boy with neighbors nearby and only on drives out away from the city have been able to appreciate the wide open spaces. As a boy I recall seeing the Chevrolet TV spots with the jingle that suggested, “See the USA in a Chevrolet.” My parents at the time did own a used light blue 1956 Chevrolet but we seldom wandered far in it from the tristate area of Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama around Chattanooga. It was touted that one could see seven states from atop Lookout Mountain. I can only say for certain that I saw three and the Moccasin Bend of the Tennessee River, but then I was, even then, a bit nearsighted and did not get my first pair of glasses till I was in Middle School.
My first big road trip on my own was a bus ride from Chattanooga to Knoxville to take my physical, and be tested and inducted into the U.S. Army, at the ripe old age of barely eighteen. That was followed a few days later by another bus trip to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, also on Uncle Sam’s dime. After eight weeks of Basic Training, with an unusual two week Christmas leave home in the middle of Basic Training, the Army paid again for my relocation, by Greyhound bus to Fort Gordon, Georgia for my AIT, Advanced Individual Training, as a teletypewriter repairman. Because I spent so much time on sick call trying to get a medical discharge for an imagined heart problem I missed a week of training and was set back a week and placed in another class of guys taking the Southern East Army Signal School’s six month long teletype repair course. My class and I graduated the program in mid August of 1969 and our whole class was levied into the Army Security Agency. While they ran FBI investigations on each of us back home in order for us to work in Top Secret communication facilities, we were held over in our training company and given clerical jobs. I kept the PT (Physical Training records on the cadre, the NCOs (Non Commissioned Officers) that ran the company. In the Army except for the second half of Basic Training when I was made a squad leader by the Drill Sergeant and shared a two-man room with another PFC (Private First Class) who had been promoted to squad leader, I slept in a barracks where there was little to no breathing room. Because I spent my last ten months in the Army, after a tour in South Vietnam, as a Spec 5 (Specialist 5th Class) I was paid a Separate Rations and Separate Housing allowance with which I secured a garage apartment off base near Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The first road trip I ever made by myself was in late January of 1971 and was to that assignment and I made it in my new to me but used and still very sporty ‘67 Chevy Malibu. I dove from my parent’s home in Chattanooga to Fort Bragg which is next to Fayetteville, North Carolina. The view through my windshield was magnificent. I spent one night in a motel in North Carolina along the way. Since that first driving road trip I have taken many road trips by car or truck, a few with family and friends along to share the miles, but mostly on my own traveling between jobs or traveling home to await a new assignment.
Due to COVID-19 this has been the longest break between road trips and work assignments that I have ever known. In a week, unless plans change, I expect to head out on another road trip pulling my camper up the road from Houston, Texas to a KOA campground in North Sioux City, South Dakota, from where I expect to be driving Mondays through Fridays to work in or near Wayne, Nebraska. This assignment is scheduled to be completed before the really cold weather hits that part of the world about the first of November. If we get into October before it is done we will most likely be working Saturdays too.
Most of my eleven years as an on the road contract welding, mechanical, and utility inspector I have stayed busy year round. Only once before this last year and a half was I ever off more than a month between work assignments. When my last work assignment in the year ended because of cool weather up north and the end client project manager would ask if I would be coming back in the spring I would smile and say that I would probably be unavailable as I would most likely already be on a new assignment somewhere else. But thank the Universe, at seventy years of age, I am finally in a place where I do not have to work all year round and can enjoy a few months off if that is an option. I hope my new boss will need me back next spring and asks me that question so I can smile and say, “Sure thing, Boss, just call me when you need me to be back on the job.”
After I have replaced some of the savings that a year and a half without work has exhausted I plan to put away a little more for a trip to Paris that I have been promising my lovely wife Linda for many years, a promise I am pretty sure that she thought I would never be able to keep. After six months of perhaps too much breathing space, a plane trip to the City of Lights with my sweetheart will be the ticket. To the girl who more than any other has always taken my breath away, my loving and lovely wife, Linda Lee Stokes.
Your friend and fellow traveler,
Close To You