Archive for January 2011

Is It Over Already?

Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm
By: Doug Lund
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Realizing what the weather’s been like back home, I hesitate to mention this..but even the desert valley locals say this has been one of the nicest Januarys in recent memory.  Monday, though, we face the chilling reality that our time here has expired and we must press on home to Dakota. I’m already dreading those long hours gazing though the windshield at that monotonous slab of concrete occasionally  interrupted by moments of heart-in-the-mouth terror as idiot drivers suddenly pull out in front of me while I’m passing..because it’s too much trouble for them to tap-off their #$%&! cruise control. Should be fewer travel trailers and motor homes on the road going back, though. But there are still plenty of truckers who feel the need to block the interstate when one tries to pass another without sufficient power to get the job done and, of course, the passee..not about to sacrifice any momentum,  refuses to lift off the gas to let him (or her) by resulting in a big backup of cars behind with drivers clearly mouthing  naughty words.  I’m also anticipating aggravation and anger every time we stop to top off Big Red. Gas prices have gone up 20 @#$%^& cents a gallon since we left.  A growing market for cars and fuel in places like China, Brazil and India are blamed..but that’s the same excuse given the last time when, during the financial crisis, oil jumped to 145 dollars a barrel. Then, when Americans said to hell with that and quit driving everywhere, the price dropped to 30 dollars a barrel. Market analysts say that’s not likely to happen again, though; just the opposite:  five bucks a gallon by 2012. If that’s the case, Big Red is in for a lot of down time in our garage.

But enough of that negativity. It has been another great escape and most enjoyable few weeks. Linda has read a dozen books and visited the nearby casino a few times and I’ve gotten to play lots of January golf and meet up with many old friends.

The first tee on my favorite golf course, Desert Canyon right here in Fountain Hills. Those are some of the Legion Club members I play with. Mike Lambau in the center is a long time Chicago Police detective who helped nail serial killer, John Wayne Gacy.

The first tee on my favorite golf course, Desert Canyon right here in Fountain Hills. Those are some of the Legion Club members I play with. Mike Lambau in the center is a long time Chicago Police detective who helped nail serial killer, John Wayne Gacy.

On the final hole. That's Four Peaks Mountain in the background.

On the final hole. That's Four Peaks Mountain in the background.

Spent an afternoon with Bob Pendergraf (one of my Brandon golf pals) and his wife, Carolyn. They have a beautiful place North of Phoenix with a lovely faux grass back yard and putting green. Their ranch also has room for their six horses to scamper about between rides.

Spent an afternoon with Bob Pendergraf (one of my Brandon golf pals) and his wife, Carolyn. They have a beautiful place North of Phoenix with a lovely faux grass back yard and putting green. Their ranch also has room for their six horses to scamper about between rides.

az golf and bob's 006 

 

We’re having a big get-together this weekend with Linda’s family. Six of her seven brothers and sisters along with the 87 year old matriarch of the Trudeau clan, Mother Mary, have traveled here. There are several relatives in the Phoenix area who’ll be hosting lots of patio parties featuring abundant wine, mildly spicy Southwest munchies and lots of laughter. A fine way to bid this home away from home “Adios” for another season.

65

Posted: Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm
By: Doug Lund
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65!

Okay..now this is serious.

I sort of tip-toed into my sixties; not thinking too much about it because I’d long since gotten over the shock of being eligible for AARP membership..plus I was blinded by the excitement and apprehension of retiring from a job I had loved for over 30 years.

Now, I’ve reached the age that my very first life insurance agent told me I needed to be prepared for way back in 1966. I remember him saying if I sign-up for the whole-life policy he was proposing, by the time I reached 65, it would be worth 250 thousand dollars. The thought of ever having a nest egg like that was as remote to me then as the possibility that I’d ever reach 65. Yet here I am and there’s no getting around it. I don’t have that promised quarter million dollars tucked away in the bank. The policy went dormant long ago when I wasn’t making enough to come up with food and rent money much less pay an insurance premium that offered nothing in return unless I died or survived to old age..which was eons away.

I don’t mind telling you, I’m a little scared..especially when reading through the obituaries and I see lots of people in there who were younger than me when the grim reaper came calling. The real sad part is they were old enough that no obit explanation was necessary as to what caused their untimely passing. I can hear many of you saying, “Why should you be scared, aren’t you a Christian?” Well, yes I am but I’m also a sinner who struggles with the concept of salvation by grace and biblical passages that warn of a judgment day when we’ll all be held accountable for our conduct in life. Uffdah!

One day last summer, my elder brother and his wife stopped over to the house. He not so subtly suggested I might want to consider adjusting my lifestyle a tad because, based on his own experience, things can really start to go haywire after 65. He bases that on his own episodes with a fluttering heart, a mild stroke and a touch of Parkinson’s that have stopped by to say hello since his 65th four years ago. He’s right, of course, and I don’t want my health to go south just yet so I will make an effort to shape up..so to speak. But I also take comfort in the words of those who regularly remind me that age is just a number..rejoice and be glad in it. As the great Hollywood philosopher, Doris Day, once sang; “Kay sa ra sa ra” (whatever will be will be) the future’s not ours to see.  I’ve been a very very lucky man.. undeservedly blessed with a wife and children and family who’ve managed to look PAST my dubious past and love me anyway. I have delighted in a challenging and fulfilling career in broadcasting and music. I have an abundance of friends and acquaintances… yet I know there are many whom I’ve wronged over the years and wish now to beg your forgiveness.

I do plan to be around for a long time yet..but, while I have the luxury of a forum like this, let me just say thank you to all who’ve touched my life and enriched my memories over these three score and five years.

“My cup runneth over.” (DD aka Capt.11)

Blizzard Of The Century

Posted: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 12:15 pm
By: Doug Lund
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I am a hoarder. 

Not to the extent that it could lead to an appearance on that television show with family members conducting a tearful intervention with me as trucks pull up to the back door to haul away room-clogging piles of useless junk that I’ve amassed from years of being a pack rat.  No not that kind of hoarder. I’m more like a squirrel stockpiling his nuts so he’ll have something to feed on during the cold winter months. Only instead of nuts, I hoard South Dakota magazines. Bernie Hunhoff’s wonderful chronicle of all things South Dakotan is now in its 26th year and I have nearly every one of the 150 issues safely tucked away in a couple boxes. I used to read each one from cover to cover as soon as it arrived. But then, like an intimate encounter with the one you love, I’ve found that it’s over far too quickly and you have to wait another two months for the next time. (Okay, maybe that analogy is a bit too revealing) So, for the last couple years I’ve intentionally set aside my South Dakota magazine (hoarding if you will) saving their reading for special occasions like long airplane rides or considerable stretches away from home..like now.

kelo tower sd magazineI have in my possession, well, actually in the porcelain library upstairs, pristine copies of both the November/December and January/February issues that I have been trying to ration out  to myself since we arrived; one story per visit. Only twice has Linda had to holler, “You gonna be in there all day?”  

I’m currently reading the fascinating accounts of infamous blizzards that have blasted across South Dakota over the decades. One in particular especially struck home with me.

In January of 1975, I had been anchoring the 10 O’clock news with Steve Hemmingsen for less than a year when I got a call from my boss, Tom Sheeley, on a Saturday telling me to get down to the station, bring your suit and prepare for a long stretch on the air.

The S.D. Magazine story tells of how Keloland’s chief engineer, Les Froke, was at his post in the control building at the site of our two thousand foot broadcast tower east of Sioux Falls when, what some have called, The Blizzard Of The Century” came barging in on the Midwest. Les recalled being jolted awake by what sounded to him like a giant pipe organ.

kelo tower downWhat he heard was the noise of three tower sections cascading towards the earth after 80 mile an hour winds snapped a guy wire; the air rushing through the severed pipes created an eerie harmony like a million people blowing across the top of coke bottles. One section crashed onto a garage but Les’ building was spared.

“The blizzard has knocked our main tower down,” Sheeley said,” but we’re switching over to our thousand foot back-up at Shindler and we need you to be ready when we return to the air.” Hemmingsen must have been on vacation or out of town because when they threw the switch and we were once again broadcasting, it was just me and Fred Ertz sitting at the news desk and our responsibility to let viewers know just the heck was going on. Before long every Keloland employee who could make it to the station was called to duty; answering phones and taking information about everything from cancelled events to missing persons. Fred and I would then pass along that info to our viewers. I don’t remember how many hours this went on without so much as a bathroom break but by the time we were relieved, I remember feeling tired, yes, but also exhilarated knowing we had been a beacon in the storm and actually able to help  people though a scary time. I’ll never forget it.  And even though losing that expensive tower was a huge financial blow to the owners of Keloland Television, the amazing feat of our engineers getting us back on the air within hours of the disaster was, in fact, our FINEST hour.

Greasewood Flat

Posted: Monday, January 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm
By: Doug Lund
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Christy had the day off for MLK Day so she picked up Linda early this morning..well, okay it was 8 O’clock but still. I’m not quite sure where they’re going  or what their plans are but I wouldn’t be surprised if they call later from the nearby Ft. McDowell Indian casino to say they weren’t making any money but having a lot of fun.  That’s fine with me since Linda, who hasn’t summoned up the courage to drive here yet, stays home while I drive off somewhere to play golf twice a week. And, the weeks are quickly passing by; less than two to go before pointing Big Red northeast and the long ride back to reality. I’m enjoying my quiet time alone in the house, though. It’s a pretty nice place. Not too expensive and there’s plenty of room for the two of us. Oh, what the heck..here’s the ten cent tour. Our condo is located in one of the oldest parts of Fountain Hills..which doesn’t mean much since the whole community is less than forty years old.

condo in ft. hills

 It’s not much from the outside except there’s a nice big tree out the front (only) door and a little patio that is just fine for both sunning and star gazing. Fountain Hills is a “dark” community; meaning there are no street lights. Some might say that’s a dangerous precedent but most here believe that beholding the heavens on a clear night without light pollution is worth the risk of being mugged or burgled in the dark.

condo in ft. hills 003

Our landlord, a great guy from Iowa, has provided for all our creature comforts fully furnishing the place including a couple of flat screen TV’s and wireless internet. Linda left the place so sparkling clean when our month was up last year, he waived both the security deposit and cleaning fee this time around.

Linda is going to say.."you didn't show that picture did you..with shoes by the counter and dishes in the drainer?"

Linda is going to say.."you didn't show that picture did you..with shoes by the counter and dishes in the drainer?"

Inside, the main floor consists of a small living room, kitchen and dining area; cozy, clean and comfortable.

I can still do Voice of Keloland stuff even when we're away.   A program allows me to record right onto the computer. To kill any background noise or echo, I sometimes drape that green comforter over my head. Looks stupid but it works.

I can still do Voice of Keloland stuff even when we're away. A program allows me to record right onto the computer. To kill any background noise or echo, I sometimes drape that green comforter over my head. Looks stupid but it works.

When Linda and I first started coming out here 15 years ago (a week back then.. not a month) everybody said we must experience the burgers and music at Greasewood Flat..a few miles from Scottsdale up in the mountains. The setting is outdoors and rustic and dang cold in January after the sun goes down even with the wood burning barrels going full blast.  It had been a long time since we’d been there so I surprised the girls with a return trip to Greasewood on Saturday afternoon.

greasewood flat 011

Didn't catch the name of the country music entertainer but he's been there since Grease wood was still in the middle of nowhere instead the middle of a housing development which it is now.

Didn't catch the name of the country music entertainer but he's been there since Grease wood was still in the middle of nowhere instead the middle of a housing development which it is now.

 

Lots of bars have dollar bills stuck on the ceiling..but I've never seen quite this many. Thousands and thousands of them which just might tempt some of the dubious clientele who frequent the joint.

Lots of bars have dollar bills stuck on the ceiling..but I've never seen quite this many. Thousands and thousands of them which just might tempt some of the dubious clientele who frequent the joint.

 

No burgers for us this time just a couple adult beverages and a satisfied smile from my girls, Linda and Christy, for a most pleasant afternoon.

No burgers for us this time just a couple adult beverages and a satisfied smile from my girls, Linda and Christy, for a most pleasant afternoon.

I’m still pretty much of an idiot when it comes to computers which is to say I accidentally erased a bunch of your comments again from my last blog. Sorry.

Ooops, the tranquilly of my quiet morning has suddenly been shattered by the roar and metallic banging of garbage trucks in the alley and the annoying buzz of Spanish powered leaf blowers out my window. Suddenly I’m feeling homesick for the comforting and familiar sound of neighborhood snow blowers being fired up at all hours and the sight of them shooting great white streams of freshly fallen snow into the crisp air of a South Dakota winter. Well, sort of.

Golfing Dollywood

Posted: Friday, January 14, 2011 at 10:59 am
By: Doug Lund
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For those who couldn’t care less about golf, there’s only one thing more boring than watching it on television and that’s having to endure somebody writing about it on his blog. But please bear with me for a minute if only to allow a chance to vent my frustrations about this blasted game..the playing of which is one of the reasons I’m down here in the desert each January. A week ago Wednesday playing with our regular group of Legion club members, I had an EAGLE on the very first hole; knocking in my second shot from 125 yards away. It thoroughly impressed my companions..many of whom are retired Chicago cops. But that turned out to be the high point of my round ending with a 91. The following week, after making a couple swing adjustments, I managed to improve my score by 8 shots. So I was filled with confidence when I joined up with my Brandon snowbird  buddies, Jerry, Digger and Pete, for a round of golf here.

golf one

Red Mountain Ranch in Mesa has until recently been a private country club but apparently for economic reasons is now open for public play and has pretty fair rates if you tee off late enough in the afternoon that you run the risk of not getting finished before dark. It is one of the strangest courses I’ve ever been on. A creation of the famous golf course designer, Pete Dye, it looks like an ocean of green on an extremely windy day. Mr. Dye must have been fantasizing about Dolly Parton when he dreamed up the layout because the fairways are filled with huge mounds that can send even a well struck ball shooting off in any direction. To make things even more complicated there are sand bunkers everywhere, big fairway walls made from thousands of railroad ties and elevated greens that were designed to make fat guys double check to make sure they brought along an adequate supply of nitro pills before attempting to scale them. 

golf twoThis is where I spent most of my day; far from the lush green hills  stranded in the desert dust surrounded by obstructions. I don’t remember which hole it was but after hitting a nice drive I sent my three wood shot into a location like this. I proceeded to hit a stake in front of me not once but twice. The second sent the ball sailing high into the air..off the roof of a luxurious home to my right and bounced right into the swimming pool. From there I proceeded to hit two more trees before finally just picking up in frustration. It was fun to be with my friends again but such a sour outing on the course made me want to put away my clubs forever or toss them into one of the Pete Dye designed lakes that I splashed a few shots into.  So why is it that after a good night’s sleep I can’t wait to try it again on Wednesday?  Is this how heroin addicts feel?

Just a couple words about my last post which mentioned Keloland’s decision to revamp its web page leaving me the only regular blogger. Lots of you commented about Steve Hemmingsen’s disappearance. Well, in the comments section Steve himself explains his reasons for ending his participation. I hope that is the end of it. A few people who’ve tried to comment might be surprised that their views were not approved. Here’s why. If I write something that might be considered political or controversial, I will likely okay comments by those with differing opinions. I can take the heat. But I will NOT allow anyone to come on here anonymously making wild unfounded untrue accusations about me personally or the good people who run Keloland Television. There are lots of political blogs out there where you can scream and yell to your hearts content. So, move on..there’s nothing for you to see here..just the ramblings of a Babyboomer generation charter member who can’t figure out his golf game much less the validity of Obama care.

A Walk In The Park

Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 10:18 am
By: Doug Lund
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I wanted my 400th blog on Keloland.com to be something special and, as it turns out, that’s just what it is…even without me writing a word. I received a call from Executive Producer and my long-time colleague, Jaine Andrews, last week informing me that they were changing some things around on our web page and that I would be the only regular blogger from now on.  Well, I didn’t ask a lot of questions so I don’t have a lot of answers about the decision except to be glad I made the cut and hope to show my appreciation by being even more prolific with my entries in the future. Look for “Lund at Large” in the left red column on the Keloland web page.

Linda and I have been trying to maintain some kind of exercise regimen while were down here in Arizona. Our favorite place to walk is the 1.2 mile stretch of sidewalk that circles Fountain Lake..a man-made body of water with the big fountain in the middle for which this community of Fountain Hills is names. It shoots a stream of water several hundred feet into the air for 15 minutes ever hour. I..and lots of other old guys just like me..are jealous every time we see it. 

fountain hills entrance use

 The walk is enjoyable enough except I now have a real appreciation for the many benches placed along the path so I can plop down and catch my breath at least once a trip. The other day, after we made the circle, Linda and I must have sat on a bench for the better part of an hour watching other gray hairs with their spouses or their dogs or both chugging  past. So this is what it has come to, I thought to myself, I’m actually enjoying sitting on a park bench and letting the world pass by.  Just to snap out of it, we got dressed up that night and went with out daughter Christy to a local club for a couple adult beverages. It was Karaoke night which meant Christy was putting the pressure on me to sing. She has fond memories of  tagging along with us  to dances when I was playing in bands and, for some reason, liked the songs I sang.   Well, after a couple more adult beverages, I gave her the green light to go ahead and write down a few tunes to give to the DJ and, before long I was up front of the crowd hoping I could keep pace with the recording. Before the night was over I’d managed to eek out renditions of September Morn by Neal Diamond, New York, New York by Sinatra and Can’t help falling in love with you by Elvis. The audience, who had also been consuming their share of adult beverages, was surprisingly pleased by my efforts and asked if I was coming back next week. I guess that depends on whether or not I’m motivated by a lazy day in the park and a few squirts of vodka.

The Tragedy In Tucson

Posted: Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 11:53 pm
By: Doug Lund
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As I write this, an Arizona congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords remains in critical condition after being shot in the head by a mad man outside a Tucson, Arizona grocery store Saturday..an attack that killed six people including a nine year old girl,  federal judge and a couple of elderly religious leaders.

Briefing reporters, the local sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, strayed away from simply releasing basic facts of the case to offering some personal commentary.  Mr Dupnik blamed a climate of vitriol for helping create the circumstances in which the shooting took place. (I had to look up “vitriol.” I believe he means “caustic criticism.”)  He said, “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” The sheriff called on politicians and certain members of the media to tone down the rhetoric.

It didn’t take long for MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann to get on the airwaves, acting like Edward R. Murrow reincarnated in voice and mannerisms, pointing a finger at the likes of Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and the Tea Party crowd for fueling the fires of anti government lunatics like 22 year old Jared Loughner. He called on everyone to put their guns down, literally and figuratively. To be fair, Olbermann apologized for any things he, himself, might have said on his program that could have provoked any of his left leaning followers into committing some act of violence. The truth is, Olbermann is just as adept at manufacturing rage  as any of those right wing “nut jobs” he accuses. He closed his lecture with Murrow’s  famous signoff, “Good night and good luck.”

Good Grief!

I’m not a fan of any of the political pundits on the airwaves..left or right. In fact, I can’t understand why President Obama would give Bill O’Reilly the time of day..much less granting a Super Bowl Sunday interview. How long do you think that will go before the smarmy O’Reilly interrupts the president several times with his embarrassing and condescending interjections? But I digress.

Sarah Palin’s ad, targeting democrats who favor the Health Care bill using symbols that look like the crosshairs of a rifle scope, may have been stupid..but I doubt that’s what pushed young Loughner over the edge.  It’s more likely he’s been a rejected loner all his life who is easily influenced by fellow crazies on the internet..violent video games..along with music and literature that promote hatred and vengeance. His cry for attention was to go after Representative Giffords and anyone around her with his recently purchased Glock semi automatic pistol blazing. We’ll know soon enough, I suppose, as this creature’s background is exposed in the light over the days and weeks ahead.

Odd that just a few days after my blog about former Keloland anchors who’ve gone on to success in big markets, two of them have been thrust right in the thick of this tragedy and one of the biggest stories of their careers.  Lou Raguse’s station, KMSB Tucson, has provided excellent insightful coverage. Steve Irvin’s station, KNXV in Phoenix, has also done a stellar job with Steve himself on the front lines in Tucson reporting live

Hoist The Anchors

Posted: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 4:46 pm
By: Doug Lund
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No matter where we are in the country, it’s always fun to turn on the TV and see a familiar face anchoring the news. It’s happened several times this past year as Linda and I have had a chance to explore a wide swath of the good ol’ USA.

anchor irvin

Right here in Phoenix, Steve Irvin is the main anchorman on channel 15, the ABC affiliate. I remember when Steve came to work for Keloland as a reporter back in the nineties. Steve was clearly talented and great at investigative stories. But Steve was also self confident to a fault and would often get into arguments with the assignment editor and producers about any changes to his stories or about covering stories he thought were beneath him. Because he was so serious about his career, we made it our goal in life to tease him incessantly to get him to lighten up. Somebody in the newsroom came up with the nickname, “Astro” which was a reference to the dog on “The Jetsons” but I won’t go into further detail. Steve got a shot at anchoring at Keloland and was a natural. He’s now one of the most recognized faces in Maricopa County and I think I actually saw him crack a smile on the air the other night. Good goin’ Astro!

anchors bachman

Last summer when we were in South Carolina I saw another Keloland alumnus on the ABC affiliate in Atlanta. John Bachman, who worked for six years at Keloland, is the weekend anchor at Atlanta’s ABC affiliate and the main fill-in on weekdays. John is following in his father’s footsteps, John Bachman Sr., who has been the main news anchor at W.H.O. in Des Moines since 1987.  But young John has always been determined to make good on his own merit. I most remember his enthusiasm and affable personality and wondered if he could handle the tough stories..which he could. Viewers loved him on the air as I’m sure they do in Georgia. John is married and daddy to three little girls.

In Sacramento, California last September, we caught my old friend, Dale Schornack on the air on channel 10. Dale is an Aberdeen native who came to Keloland News in the 80’s and was an immediate sensation. His good looks and deep voice were automatic attention getters with viewers but they soon discovered the depths of his reporting and anchoring talents too.

anchor shornack

On top of that he’s a genuinely nice guy. Even though we became good friends during his time at the station, I couldn’t help but be a little bit relieved when he moved on..fearing he’d have my job if he stayed much longer. After stops in Dallas, Phoenix and Seattle, Dale Schornack has found a home in Sacramento where he’s the main anchorman for all primetime weekday newscasts.

It’s been 20 years since Julie Francavilla and I shared the anchor desk on the Keloland Early News at 5, yet people still remember her sunny personality and Mediterranean good looks. 

anchor julie francavilla

I’m often asked what became of her. Well, I’m happy to report that she has been in Seattle for the last 15 years anchoring the morning television newscasts, most recently at KIRO TV. She is married with two children and is involved with numerous charities and volunteer organizations.

I’m also often asked about Lexy Hickok who reported news and weather for Keloland in the 90’s. After she left, Lexy became a full time weather forecaster and worked at several stations around the country including Washington D.C. The last I heard she was at WMAR in Baltimore but that was several years ago. She’s since pretty much dropped off the map. Someone said she might be back in Mankato but no longer on television. That would be too bad because she was very good.

anchor raguseFinally, many of you remember Lou Raguse, a bright young Minnesota  boy who came to Keloland in the mid 2000’s. He was my pod mate in the newsroom with a brilliant mind for digging up and reporting stories. His only flaw was being nervous as a Lutheran at the Playboy mansion whenever he had to go on the air. Well, it didn’t take long for him to overcome those anxieties because when he left Keloland it was to become the evening news anchorman at Fox 11 in Tucson. Lou is also a newly wed and another of us who cling to the dream of a Minnesota Viking Super Bowl victory before we take the big dirt nap.

Perhaps for you, Lou. I don’t think there’s enough time for me.

Does Los Angeles Vikings sound as odd as Los Angeles Lakers once did?

The Way West

Posted: Saturday, January 1, 2011 at 11:31 am
By: Doug Lund
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Well, I’ve been doing some math and even though I was terrible at arithmetic in school, my simple calculations have concluded that if Linda and I are to continue making these treks out West in January, it would make more economic sense to fly Allegiant and then rent a car for the month we’re here.  It would be a lot less stressful too, especially after the three days we’ve just been through.

The object of these sojourns to the desert has been to escape, if only for a short time, the kind of bitter winters South Dakota is experiencing right now. But, in the past 72 hours, we’ve endured some of the roughest weather I’ve seen anywhere. 

It began rather uneventfully as we pointed Big Red towards Omaha into a stiff South wind that made the gas gauge needle drop like the Times Square ball on New Year’s eve. The wind velocity continued to increase as we headed into Kansas and so did the price of fuel; over three dollars a gallon for the cheap stuff…but Big Red has a more sensitive palate and prefers octane levels at 89 or more. It was getting dark on day one when we pulled into Greensburg, Kansas to spend the night. The brand new Best Western motel along the highway was full so we found a place on the other end of town. It was operated by a family for whom English is a second language..a distant second. After finally getting checked in, we found the rooms to be okay except there were no coffee packets for the brewer and the only roll of toilet paper was down to a dangerously low level. I had to make a decision; should we go without coffee (which is usually undrinkable anyway) and try to make our meager supply of bathroom tissue stretch through the night (using Monday’s Argus as a backup) or should I call the office knowing full well the desk clerk won’t have a clue what I’m requesting without visual aids. The problem took care of itself, though, when we bumped into one of the motel employees just outside our door who brought us a back-up roll and some coffee that turned out to be as bad as I feared. When we left in the morning it was bright, sunny and windy again. That’s when we noticed that every building in this little town appeared to be brand new with freshly planted trees everywhere. Linda and I looked at each other and said at the same time, “It looks like a tornado went through here.” As we pulled out of town, our suspicions proved correct when we spotted the skeletons of a few remaining big trees that had been stripped clean. It turns out that not only had Greensburg been hit by a tornado..it was an F-5 twister nearly two miles wide that descended on the community in May of 2007 completely obliterating  it. When the dust settled, 11 people were dead and dozens more injured.

Greensville, Kansas a few days after the F-5 tornado in May 2007

Greensville, Kansas a few days after the F-5 tornado in May 2007

Greensburg has been on a rebuilding binge ever since; capitalizing on its name by becoming a model community for being  “green.”  Everything is designed with environmental efficiency in mind. Odd since it was the environment that ripped the city to pieces in the first place..but I think residents were given some financial incentives to go green in their reconstruction.

Greensburg's new business district. Prairie grasses instead of manicured lawns.

Greensburg's new business district. Prairie grasses instead of manicured lawns.

Day two had us crossing Kansas, and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles on Highway 54 toward New Mexico. The skies were mostly clear and the temperature climbed to the mid fifties but we were driving directly into a 50 mile an hour wind, with stronger gusts, that sent huge tumbleweeds cascading across the road. Both driver and passenger instinctively ducked as one by one they slammed into Big Red’s grill with a frightening crunch.  Then, as we reached Interstate 40, one hundred miles east of Albuquerque, the temperature dropped thirty degrees in five minutes and it began to snow.

Phoenix 2011 005

 They don’t do snow well in this part of the world and an hour out of Albuquerque, we came over a rise and had to hit the brakes. Traffic had stopped dead in its tracks and I slid to a stop behind a truck on right shoulder fearing a chain reaction accident that would rival the one in North Dakota. Fortunately, everyone halted safely but there we sat.

Nothing moving for miles I-40 westbound

Nothing moving for miles I-40 westbound

 After an hour without moving, people were taking their dogs for walks in the ditches. Others with backed up bladders said, to hell with modesty, and relieved themselves right there next to their vehicles. I only saw men doing this but everybody knows that women can hold it for days if they have to.

Linda in Big Red uses her down time reprogramming TomTom our GPS

Linda in Big Red uses her down time reprogramming TomTom our GPS

After nearly two hours, our new neighborhood of strandees slowly started rolling again and those folks we’d gotten to know through our shared dilemma were gone forever. Or so we thought. When we finally limped into Albuquerque we met several other “survivors” checking in to the same motel and swapped stories of the hell we’d been through together.  It turns out that a semi had rolled ahead of us blocking both lanes.

Day three..more bad news; near record snowfall in the Tonto National Forest and the mountains around Flagstaff had cut off our traditional route to Phoenix so we headed South to Las Cruses then West to Tucson and up to Maricopa county adding at least three hours to reaching our destination. The wind had switched direction too..now strong into our face from the other way. But the roads were dry and, aside from drivers whose goal in life is to pull out in front of me or never move over, it was a much less stressful trip.

Finally, the mountains around Phoenix. We made it!

Finally, the mountains around Phoenix. We made it!

Normal high in Phoenix on New Year’s day: 66. Last night’s low was 28 degrees. Highs for the next several days will remain in the mid forties low fifties with “gusty winds!”  But, what the heck..we’re here safe and sound and even though we might be shivering,  we have new experiences to share.

To once again quote my pal Dave Dedrick, whom we all miss terribly a year after his death, “Life is Good..My Cup Runneth Over.”

Blessings to you all in the New Year!

 

P.S. Speaking of Dave Dedrick, a Captain 11 uniform found in a closet by his family, recently sold on e-bay for over 36 hundred dollars! The money will go to charity.