Ok...here we go...yep....in all of my free time I have been writing a book. Which means I may be finished with it 4 years after I retire. Anyway...here is chapter one....and if there are any publishers out there willing to sign a big deal for me to finish it...I bet I could find time to get it done...hahaha. Enjoy.
The chartered Greyhound bus line was headed north, or in at least the general direction of north. James knew this because of two things: a.) He was going to the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) located in Amarillo Texas and the general direction from Lubbock to Amarillo was due north. and b.) The shadows of the mesquite brush from the late Sunday afternoon Texas sun told him as much. Of the fourteen people on the bus, nine of them were going into the Armed Services…of course he was the only one to have the intestinal fortitude to sign on the dotted line for the freaking United States Marine Corps. The rest were pansies…either going into the Air Force, the Navy…or God forbid, the Army. James would be lying if he told you there was not an element of pride in that fact, but would equally be lying if he told you he was not flat out scared of what was to come….and thus he sat there silently, listening to the other recruits talking about all they were leaving behind or what was to be anticipated…Even one female Army recruit was going on about when she anticipated that her period would arrive in the timely manner during the second week of basic training. “For the love of God, do we really need to know that?!” thought James….”Really?”
The bus pulled into the Plainview bus station, it seemed like the bus was going to stop in every semblance of a town between Lubbock and Amarillo…even if it had only one stop light and it was a flashing light, making the normal two hour drive time nearly twice that. James was not happy about that fact. Mainly because he was having to listen to the gal, who had given precise scheduling of her menstrual cycle, had now moved on to the topic of her dysfunctional boy friend, who was still considered a junior in high school despite being 19 years old. James then pointed out to the gal in the most sarcastic manner possible that even though Johnny hadn’t graduated high school, he is old enough to go into the Army without his mommy’s permission. The snide comment, at that point, only got a string of expletives thrown his way by the gal. James was unfazed by that as he gazed out the bus window, thinking of nearly absolutely nothing except of how barren this land was.
He had grown up in west Texas, a small community of just over 10,000 people, and he always wondered what kept people around this place. Why didn’t they move to a more lively place? Since he could remember, James felt like living in West Texas had isolated him from the rest of the world. Being a young boy, during the later years of the cold war, there was plenty of talk about when the Soviets would bomb the place. James didn’t worry about any of this talk. In his simple opinion, he had two thoughts. The first was that some of this country already looked like a nuclear winter had blown through and the second was, “Why would the Soviets want to waste a warhead on this place.” This bombing thing had all been a moot point since 1994 with the fall of the Communist Soviet Union anyway and now since they had shown Hussein who was boss in 1991, there really weren’t any known enemies to be concerned about.
James’ mom was not all that excited about his signing up for the Corps. In fact, he had to actually fudge some responses to the medical questions on the application. There was that history of asthma question, but then again the recruiter had coached him on which box to check. All this didn’t sit well with his sainted mother, a staunch Southern Baptist woman. Couple this with the college applications that had been accepted, some that even came with bags of scholarship money, and momma had different ideas on what her oldest baby should do with his life…and being a Marine was nowhere on that list! Because James had scored exceptional on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), he was given an opportunity to go into any field of choice that the Marine Corps offered. Much to the disgust of the recruiter, James had voluntarily selected light infantry. Even after being questioned and harassed by the recruiter to go into something that would better be suited for the “Big Brain that the good Lord saw fit to give you” and maybe select something like intelligence, or aircraft mechanic…or anything…but not infantry! After three different times of asking the question, the recruiter finally gave up and mumbled that maybe James wasn’t so smart after all and deserved going into the infantry. Momma didn’t like this infantry thing either.
The one thing that Momma did like about this whole plan was that James at least would be in the Reserves, and that this would allow him to go to college while fulfilling his obligation as one of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, a term affectionately used by the recruiters after the ink had dried on the contract. It referred to being a distinguished member of donning the Eagle, Globe and Anchor in the USMC. Being a Reserved meant that James was required to take part in training one weekend a month and two weeks a year, usually during the summer. This would fit quite nicely into going to college to getting a degree and although Mom still was not happy about all this, being a Reserved made it easier for her to stomach. James’ father was supportive of any decision that his son made. This didn’t sit well with mom either. “What if he wanted to go off and join the circus?” she would ask, “Do you support that too?” It didn’t matter much now…those good byes were an hour and half ago…and strangely enough seemed liked years to James...as that Greyhound bus rolled on down the road.
Monday, July 18, 2011
I was born and raised and TEXAS. So with that said….I dig the heat…usually…but this year it is relentless. It seemed to go from a comfortable 76F to 101F over night…and it hasn’t let up. We are now on day 18 of 100+ temps. Oh it cools off at night…well, not really…usually hovers around 88 to 89 for a low.
But when you grow up in TEXAS…you can’t use the heat as an excuse for not training. This past weekend I rode 65 miles with Team Legacy…a beautiful country ride….you can literally ride for hours without unclipping. At one point around the 50 mile mark, I stop at an intersection to allow the team to regroup. It was nearly 100 F and the heat coming off the asphalt was unreal. Without having the air move across you when you pedal…standing still made me thankful that we were nearly done! My bud Chris and I hammered out another 30 mile early Sunday…and were done before 0800. But there was a problem…a real problem Sunday Morning.
My wife is HOTTT….I mean other than being a bombshell of sexiness…which she is!….I mean literally HOT! When I got up at 0530 on Sunday, I realized the A/C wasn’t cooling! I texted my A/C guy…and to cut to the chase…Sunday it got up to 90 degrees downstairs in our house. I hear that being Hot and 4 months pregnant is not a good combo…at least my wife tells me that…We’re good now…but watching that Tour de France while sweating wasn’t too bad…just don’t tell my wife that. (OF course this is coming from a guy who told his wife during contractions of our first born, “Honey, you’re going to have to suck it up…it’s going to get worse till they get you an epidural. “) We laugh now…but when I said that…it didn’t come across as funny as I intended it to….come on that is, like…really funny….ok, not so much.
Speaking of HEAT…BADWATER 135 was run this past week…you know….the 135 mile foot race through death valley with 120F ambient air temps….and 8,500 ft elevation increase. I have two buds that ran and finished the darn thing…North Texas’ Rochelle Frazuer in 39hrs 30 min….and Virginia’s Brenda Carawan in 36 hrs 45min.
So until next time…stay cool…and for crying out loud….don’t tell your wife to suck it up during birthing contractions…only by the Grace of God did I live to tell about it….and then again….I still may be on borrowed time.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
I looked over at Jim…we were cruising at about 20mph on a chip sealed road…a road that rattles the fillings in your teeth. Jim would have none of it and he drops the hammer…and then there goes Jamie. She had been racing in Criteriums…and was stronger than last year. I follow…out of the saddle…shifted to the highest gear possible…the 54 was cranking…up to 26 mph…the engine revved up…and despite being only half done at 30 miles…I was wanting off this chipped sealed road as much as the next guy…or at least as much as the guy and gal just in front of me. A couple of miles later we turned off to a more pleasant ride and brought the respiration rate down a bit…I wondered how many matches I just burned…that would be revealed soon enough in the temps approaching a 100 F…And the Wheel In the Sky Kept on Turning.
Oh the Texas Heat…this summer seems to be more stifling than most. Last week I had taken Luke to Webelo Scout Camp at Camp James Ray on the edge of Lake Texoma. For three days of tent camping, the heat continued to be brutal. Luke didn’t seem to mind…and for the 3 mile afternoon run on Thursday…it was hot….but my body had adapted to running in these high temperatures. Luke has come a long ways in just a year. I reveled in watching him joke around and converse with new friends….watching how he handled himself around the older 19 and 20 year old Staff members…the quick wit. But what I really enjoyed was how he was responsible for getting what he needed and scheduled for earning the activity badges that he needed to earn. He was on auto pilot and took care of business with minimal input from me…I have every bit of confidence that he is ready for Boy Scouts…and Wheel in the Sky Kept on Turning.
So on Saturday morning I had returned from the furnace of Camp James Ray. Before church on Sunday, I go out for a solo ride of 35 miles or so…including a great climb on Windhaven Hill. On Monday July 4th, here I was for a 55 mile ride or so with Team Legacy…to make it 90 miles in two days. After the cancelled Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim run in May, I had just maintained a general sense of fitness. There had been no training cycles…no intense 8 hour aerobic runs…I lamented to myself after our little chase group of 3 breaking away on the chipped sealed road that I was nowhere near where I was last year….you remember right? The 50 mile ride on fixed gear bike followed by a 50K trail run that night…all night! In May and June I had been doing weight workouts with Amber who had trained for her last body building show in June. She was riding for the second time this year, keeping up with the big boys. My endurance was not what it was. I had ridden twice with Plano Bicycle Association….with DB1…63 miles…and my buddy Chris Howsner and I had made it a June Sunday morning ritual to have a testosterone filled ride of 30 miles before church. He had an epic ½ Ironman performance in April. That really was the crux of my training in May and June…I was still non committal to the Hotter N Hell 100 mile ride in August…going through the motions….and the Wheel in the Sky Kept on Turning.
Monday morning I had unload my bike…Team Legacy was leaving from Coach Jim’s farm. His lovely wife, Sara, comes up to me and says, “congratulations are in order for you Dave, Is it a boy or girl?” Yep…for the first 15 miles of the ride that tended to be the conversation…at least the conversation directed to me from the gals. “No we don’t know the sex of the baby…Team Elliott never finds out, that’s how we roll.” “Yep this is number 4.” Jackie, mother of 4, reminds me that our wait just went up about 20 to 30 minutes at restaurants. “Luke is 10, Macy …8 , and Hope…5…they are all excited!” “We’re due in December sometime.” …and thus the conversation went. The social aspect of the group ride, at least in the early miles is something I really enjoy. Only during end of the ride, dehydrated a bit, and wanting to be done do those conversations seem like long ago. It is a reflection of the past and of things to come. The excitement of a new life being brought into the fold of Team Elliott…and the knowledge that the Good Lord has blessed us…of something we thought may never happen. It shows two things: God has both a plan and a sense of humor. The heat mirage of the road indicates that it is to be another scorching Texas summer afternoon…and we pull into Jim’s drive way. A really good country ride with no stop signs…no read lights…And the Wheel In the Sky Keeps on Turning!