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How I Spent My Christmas Vacation January 3, 2007

Posted by gregquill in Uncategorized.


Over the Christmas break, Lacy and I travelled to visit with my aunt’s family, and then to home base in North Carolina.

There was no reason to haul the fifth wheel trailer, Big Easy, down to North Carolina. I was concerned that it might freeze up in the Chicago winter while I traveled to North Carolina. It has great insulation, and a very good hot air furnace run by propane. In moderate weather, with temperatures above 40°F, one of the two 40 pound propane tanks will last two weeks. But, if we get a cold snap with daily temperatures below freezing, that drops to four days, and the empty tank does not automatically switch over to the full one. To prevent freezing the water and waste tanks (which would be a very costly problem), I called a gas company to deliver a big tank of propane. They brought this monster, hooked it up to my system with copper tubing, and filled it with 400 pounds (100 gallons) of propane. When Lacy and I left two days before Christmas, I set the trailer temperature to 50°F, and it was surprisingly warm when we returned just after midnight on New Year’s Day. It took only 15 minutes to get up to 73°F.

Stew Magoo from Get Stewed invited me down to St. Charles, on the Fox River in Illinois, where he and his wife Jen were visiting from Atlanta with Jen’s parents. I had met Stew last year, but not Jen, so Lacy and I headed down to St. Charles. It’s a great 1800’s town about 20 minutes north of my high school. We met not only the lovely Jen, but also their two Old English sheepdogs, whom the Magoos refer to appropriately as “muppets”. Lacy did her best “bark-bark-BARK” speech, over and over again, during our little walk along (and into) the river. The Muppets are veddy propah English upper class doggies, who kept their comments to themselves. They never barked, woofed, or growled, though there was the occasional sniffle (as Winston Churchill and Maggie Thatcher were wont to do). I can imagine their muppet-to-muppet discussion after we left: “Rawtha excitable Labrador retriever, don’t you know?” “Well, yes, those foreigners, you know, from a lower station and all that. Shedding yellow HAIRS everywhere, after all?!” “Rawther!” The muppets were very well behaved, and delightful; and the lovely Jen is truly a Saint-in-Making! It was a much too short, intensely fun evening. I had to leave much too early to get 60 miles north to the restaurant where my sister, her two daughters and her young grandson waited for me.

When it was time to leave town, we packed up the truck, and attached the six-by-twelve foot cargo trailer to the hitch. I had to take the trailer to North Carolina, to move my stuff out of storage in downtime Durham. The storage place was being “eminent domained” by the city, to build a new courthouse. I’ve been using the trailer as a garage, so I had to unload some stuff from it into the RV, and reload it with some stuff to drop off at home.

Two days before Christmas, we settled in at my aunt’s house in south surburban Chicago. Unfortunately, the bedroom I stayed in has a through-the-wall air conditioner, and one night the winter cover blew off. I have had a terrible cold, which started that night, for the last ten days. I hope that the Robitussin and Sudafed companies don’t file bankruptcy this week.

I got a great bunch of Christmas presents for my kids, brothers and sisters and their familes, as well as my aunts, uncles and cousins. UPS got the distant ones delivered on time, and I handled the local ones.

We had a very nice Christmas Eve with my aunt and cousins, and a great Christmas Day at the home of another aunt and uncle. I was able to go to church at my childhood parish, both for Sunday and for Christmas Day, and it brought back a lot of memories.

We left Chicago on the 26th, and drove into Tennessee before stopping for a nap. The Big Ride is very comfortable with the diesel engine idling, the seats tilted back and a pillow under my head. We got a good five hour nap, and an early start the next day. We pulled in at home by 8:00 am.

There were a couple of problems to get fixed – the upstairs furnace was down with a bad igniter, and the water service had been shut off at the curb without the knowledge of the utility. Maybe my brother got someone with a special wrench to do that when he left, under the cover of darkness last August. I don’t know; he didn’t even call me. We may never know. Anyway, by 5:00 pm everything was working again.

The house was not in bad shape overall. I am facing quite a bit of work to dispose of my brother’s leavings – furniture, clothes and trash. He unplugged the refrigerator and propped the doors open as I had asked; I just wish he had also remembered to throw out the food inside the ‘fridge. He apparently left in some hurry, without cleaning his rooms or bathroom. He had just turned 50 years old, and he felt his biological clock calling him urgently back to Chicago. He said so. No kidding. Ah, well.

On Thursday, I unloaded the storage room in Durham, and filled the back of the truck and the trailer. I moved it all to home in one trip, and had it stored by 4:00 pm. I was really happy to get that all done so quickly.

That left Friday to relax, and to get ready for the Navy – Boston College bowl game on Saturday.

Navy had a pretty good football team when Roger Staubach played for us in the 1963-1964-1965 seasons. I got there in 1966, and Navy football was poor from 1966 until about 2002. Now, we are good enough to get bowl game invitations again. I went to the Navy – Colorado Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego last December, and now to the Meinecke Car Care bowl in Charlotte, NC, this year.

BC is ranked 23 in the nation, and they played a much better game of football than Colorado did last year. We won last year (51-30), and we led BC for three quarters this year. In the fourth quarter, three seconds left on the clock, BC has the ball on the Navy 37 yard line. The score is Navy 24 – BC 22. BC kicks the field goal, and wins 25-24. I hate to lose, but let me tell you, that game was some fine football! I am glad that I didn’t have to defend against Navy’s triple option. Neither team had much of a passing game, but I got dizzy trying to watch all of the laterals, flips and handoffs! I met some other alumni and classmates, and we had a great time.

Before the game, the Navy Brigade of Midshipmen marches on and welcomes the opponents by tipping their hats to them. Then, they about face to the Navy side and they give a Navy cheer. All of this time, cannons are firing, the Navy band is playing, and to everyone’s surprise, two Navy F/A-18 jets flew over the stadium at 500’ altitude, 600 mph! Man, your heart jumps up into your throat! To the alumni standing near me in the stands, I exclaimed, “Man, this is such a shame!” They looked at me as if I had lost my mind – what a proud, patriotic moment; how could it be a shame? I explained, “Such a clear day, such pagentry – SADDAM IS MISSING ALL OF THIS!” Yes, he had been executed that morning in Baghdad. It took about 1.5 microseconds for the stands in my area to dissolve in uproarious laughter. THAT was fun!

Lacy and I left the next morning for Chicago, and we drove through North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois without a nap, arriving at 2:00 am.

Monday was, of course, a serious day of rest.



1. kenju - January 3, 2007

So…..you were only 20+ miles away from here and you didn’t let me know you were coming??!! I have to think of a punishment….maybe you should undress and stand out in the snow in your red skivvies for a while?

2. Stew Magoo - January 3, 2007

The girl. In the snow. Red. I think you wrote something too but uh, the girl in the snow…

Brain not functioning.

3. Greg Finnegan - January 4, 2007

Kenju, been there… done that… *sigh*. [She must be COLD!]

Stew, I somehow knew that you would appreciate her picture!

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