Al's Journey

Al's Journey
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WEEK 698
Week Ending Saturday 27th of September 2014

Day 4887 of My Journey
Weight Watchers Goal
(the top of my normal weight range)
200.0 pounds

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Week 698 Update

Weigh-In Date: 09/27/2014
Weight: 217.2
Body Mass Index:27.1
Average Weight for week: 216.63
Average Points Per Day: 30.43
Miles Walked for week: 5.00
Aerobic Points* for week: 9.30
Exercise Calories Burned for week: 638
Miles Walked in 2014: 238.31
Pounds +/- for this week: 1
Pounds lost total: 25.8
Pounds From WW Goal (Normal Range<200 lbs)17.2
Pounds From My Personal Goal (185±2lbs.)32.2

Week's Data
   Weight216.2 217.0 218.0 215.2 217.4 215.4 216.2
   Points21.0 21.0 25.5 33.0 38.0 26.0 48.5
   Miles0.00 0.00 2.00 0.00 0.00 3.00 0.00
   Time00:00 00:00 47:24 00:00 00:00 48:33 00:00
 Aero. Pts*0 0 2.15 0 0 7.15 0
Cal. Burned0 0 315 0 0 323 0
   +Elev0 0 327 0 0 73 0

My Girl 1974

At home, I stepped up on the scale at 3:50 a.m. and it said, "217.2 pounds!"

Forty years ago today, it was a Friday, and I had duty on the ship, after one crazy week. And I was looking forward to "tomorrow," because on that Saturday, I had my very first date alone with the beautiful girl who had taken over my whole world already.

Last week I left off, Friday night, September 20th, after a wonderful evening of ice skating and fun, and getting to know Dotti, and an evening of guitar, singing and apartment cleaning, in view towards the departure of our ship, on the morrow.

That night after the girls had gone back to their apartments, and the clock had rolled over past midnight, into Saturday the 21st, I sat at the kitchen table and wrote Dotti a little letter, my first of thousands to come.

Everything was packed up and ready to move to the ship in the morning. So, I had to hunt around to find something to write on. I found an envelope, but no other paper. So, I carefully pulled the envelope apart and I wrote on the inside of it. I was afraid to say too much, because I didn't want to scare her off, but I wanted her to know how much she had impacted my life already. I apologized for the "stationary" and I made a promise: "While I'm in San Diego, I guarantee that I will write at least one letter for every one I get from you (and more if you don't write often enough)."

This promise was a sign of one thing that was to come: later, we made commitment that for every day we were apart from each other, we would write at least one letter. And we lived by that commitment for all the years I was in the Navy and continued it when my job took me away from home occasionally even as a civilian. (Whenever possible I always took Dotti with me when I traveled, and there were many such trips as well over the years, but letters filled in when that was not possible. And we have a huge collection of them as a result!)

I closed with the statement, "Now you owe me one. Love, Al" And that wasn't just a phrase either, I was already in love with this beautiful, sweet, wonderful creature who had entered my life out of the blue.

I closed up the envelope, and sealed it, and wrote "Dorothy" on the outside. She told me later, that when she opened the envelope, she found it was empty and thought it was a joke at first, but then she figured out what I had done, and got a good laugh out of it.

The ship untied from the pier, and we pulled away, moving off from Swan Island and into the Willamette River, turning about, and moving downstream towards the confluence with the mighty Columbia River. The landmarks we passed as we went along meant nothing to me then, but since have become embedded in my life. We moved away from the Fremont Bridge, which I have driven over hundreds, if not thousands of times, in commuting to work, and we cruised under the St. John's Bridge which was such a big part of my life for years on my drive home from work. We moved by Sauvie Island, where just this week, for the second time, in as many years, we went to a corn maze. (More on that later.) Finally, with Sauvie Island off our port side, we eased out into the Columbia.

I had a job to do on this part of the voyage. I wrote to Dotti later that evening, "All along the river Bob [the guy who was in my division and invited me to that first volleyball game—see last week)] and I were taking bearing readings on all the markers along the river, so the navigator could plot our course. Sounds important huh? It's not. I could have been replaced by a monkey, but don't tell anyone."

By way of explanation, the river is marked all along it, with sets of markers, usually bright orange with a vertical black stripe down the middle. There is one marker sign in the river, and one on the shore a distance behind it, raised up, so the two of them defined a line which ran across the river, and through those two signs, and the black lines, would line up exactly only on that one line. I stood out on the catwalk by the bridge, with a set of head phones and mike, and every time a marker came up the navigator would tell me to take a reading. There was a stand welded to the deck, with a scope mounted to a large compass wheel, and I would look through the scope, and the exact instant that the two lines of the markers lined up in the scope, I passed along the compass reading to the navigator. He verified the number with me, and then I went back to sight seeing the beautiful scenery going by.

I remember the cooling tower of the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, standing tall and proud on the southern shore of the Columbia River. It didn't actually fire up until December 15, 1975, when I was half way around the world on Diego Garcia. Today it is gone but you couldn't miss it in 1974.

I went on to write, "Tonight I will get a full night's sleep. I don't know if my body can handle that. It's been a few days. Well spent however."

From that Wednesday volleyball game, I had been one busy guy. Thursday, I had 24 hour duty, with the accompanying watches. Since I had the mid watch on the previous Sunday, that meant I probably had the 16 to 20 and the 04 to 08 watches on Thursday night and Friday morning. I then made the mad dash down to Tiller, over to Medford Airport, and then flew back to Portland, went ice skating that night, and was up until after midnight writing a letter to Dotti, and here we were underway. I was one tired puppy.

We made it over to Astoria, Oregon, where we on-loaded ammunition. (While in Portland, we were not permitted to carry our big shells for our guns, for safety reasons.) We did it by hand, forming up a line and handing the large shells from man to man. The shells were 5 inches across (38 caliber) about 21 inches (20.75") long, and weighed 55 pounds, and of course, no dropping allowed. Each shell was like passing a 55 pound baby from man to man: I put two arms under the shell, taking possession of it, then turning 180°, and handing it off to the next guy, when he got his two arms under the shell. Over and over again. The shells moved from the pier, down the line and into the magazine storage, down below. There was no fooling around going on during that evolution. Everyone was serious and sweating, with sun and 80° temperature adding to the process.

And then we hit the "Graveyard of the Pacific" the Columbia River Bar. It was my first case of seasickness, and I had it bad. I had to lay down to keep "the worst" from happening. The destroyer lived up to its nickname, a "tin can" because it was all over the place, and that is some of the roughest water you will encounter outside of a major storm. A lot of ships have been lost on that bar. It is a rough one. (It had to have been to still leave such an impression on me 40 years later.) But then we got out into the Pacific and all was well. The sun was shining and it was beautiful out, as we "hung a left" and headed south. San Diego, here we came.

I had spent boot camp in San Diego, which took just over 11 weeks. I was there from Friday August 31, to Monday November 19, leaving just in time for Thanksgiving. I then returned immediately thereafter, and did my Basic Electricity and Electronics Preparatory course. It was self instruction, very much like this: NEETS - Navy Electricity and Electronics Training Series, although it was 1973 technology and didn't include such things as fiber optics back then.

It was supposed to be a 6-week course but I was in a hurry and did very little other than work on the course. I finished it in 10 days, even though I had never had electronics training before, and scored in the high 90s all the way. I was home for Christmas, and that was the last time I had been in San Diego. I thought it would be different coming in as part of the fleet, rather than as a recuit or seaman going to school. But, I didn't get to find out!

We had a problem with our fresh water feeding our boiler, and the ship was in danger of simply breaking down. Just about as we hit the California border, we had to turn around and head north, back to Portland! I wrote Dotti, continuing on the same paper I had started the day before, "We passed a large school of dolphins today. The whole ship's crew was on the deck watching them leap. We were moving the same direction as they were, and they stretched out left and right (port and starboard...) as far as we could see. It was really beautiful.

"Right now I'm on the fantail watching the water go by. The sea has its own unique beauty. The sun just went over the horizon, leaving a patch of pastel orange, which I'm writing by right now.

"It gets darker as I sit here trying to put my thoughts down on paper. There are a couple of things else I'd like to put down, but wording is tripping me up. So, since all things come to the man who is patient, I'll close for now and wait for my thoughts to jell, until later.

"I'll mail this in the ship's post office now and start a new letter next time. Love, Al"

I probably should have just held on to it and hand delivered it, because I saw Dotti before she saw the letter. Big Smile

Monday we got back into Astoria, and things were up in the air. I wrote to Dotti that we didn't know if were going to go to Portland, or could fix the ship enough to head back to San Diego again. We spent the night in Astoria. I had a typical Navy event hit me when the ET1 Barker, the LPO (leading petty officer) of the division asked me if I had 10 minutes to spare, about the time we were scheduled to "knock off ship's work." Nearly 5 hours later we finished up installing a two way radio set on the bridge, along with the antenna aloft. The entire ET gang was involved and that made it kind of a social event, as well as a job task, and that didn't happen often. (The Electronics Technician shop was divided up between radar and communications, so we often were working quite different jobs. I was radar at that time, although I would help up the comm guys if they needed a hand. I was junior guy in the group.Big Smile)

We still had time to watch a movie on the mess decks that night. They showed a Disney movie, The World's Greatest Athlete, a movie that came out that year, and from what I wrote I must have enjoyed it.

And then I went on to say, "You wouldn't believe how much you've been on my mind since I saw you last. You really captured my heart for such a short period of acquaintance. From your dimples to your mental processes you are truly a beautiful girl. You've brightened my life. I hope I've added something to yours."

I closed, "If we aren't there when you get this, we will be on our way to, or already arrived at San Diego. "I know you are writing, right? I just wish I could receive your letter(s). I know, patience. Love, Al

"PS What does the 'R' stand for?" She hadn't told me her middle name yet.

Before I could write another letter, we got good news for me, the ship was heading back to Portland. We off-loaded the ammunition we had on-loaded earlier and headed back home. I was smiling. Big Smile

When we pulled in, Tuesday evening, September 24, they called liberty call, and my duty day had been the day before, so I could leave the ship. My friend Bob and I, were in our civvies, and we walked over to the phone booth on the pier, and he called up Dotti and Linda's apartment, to let them know we were heading over. Dotti answered the phone, and Bob said that we were on Swan Island. Dotti replied, "I didn't know they had a Swan Island in San Diego too!"

"No, Swan Island in Portland. And we will be heading over now."

There was a squeal on the other end and the girls scrambled to get dressed. They were already settled in for the night, and not expecting company.

There were some church things and visiting in groups, and after one of these I kissed Dotti for the very first time. I don't remember the day, or the circumstances leading up to it, but I remember the kiss, and how! We were standing on the balcony in front of the door to her apartment. And it was wonderful!

The way to #68. The stairway leading up.
Dotti's Door was on the left.
The landing.
Where it happened.
Looking across the grounds
from the bottom of
her stairway.
Dotti's balcony
from behind
the apartments.

Dotti and I finally scheduled our first solo date for Saturday, September 28, and tomorrow will mark the 40th anniversary of that day. We hope to celebrate that event, but that will be tomorrow, and for next week's update.

I had duty on Friday the 27th, but I had made arrangements with a friend, Bob Yarbrough (not the same Bob), to borrow his vehicle for the next day. I have been forever grateful for that bit of generosity!

So many things were on the verge of happening. A whole new world, a world I had never known before, of joy and exuberance for life that just poured out of Dotti. What an amazing girl! She was 17 years old, and I was 23. She had just graduated that year from high school, and I had been married and divorced, with a 2 year old son. And yet she was wise beyond her years and we synchronized like we were made for each other right from the start.

Dotti had been in charge of the household where there were 8 kids, whenever her mom and stepfather were out of the house, which was a great deal of the time, because they were Amway distributors. Dotti had been as responsible as if she were a mother, when she was 13 years old, and she had a full time job as a file clerk in an office of engineers, at 17, and fully supporting herself. She was more than 5 years my junior, but we were on the same mental plain. She was mature, moral and mine! And let me tell you, I had never been so happy in all my life as I was when Dotti become my girl, 40 years ago! We are working on the second 40 now, and they are going to be even better! Big Smile We will be kicking them off tomorrow with a reenactment of our first date! Thumbs Up!

This week we had another anniversary, besides Wednesday the 24th marking the end of our Alaska Cruise, and getting back home. Sadly, yesterday marked the second anniversary of my mother's passing. Dotti and I are both still healing from the trauma Mom's Alzheimer's put us through, but we are growing stronger as time goes by. I find I can look back past the bad times and remember some of the happy times with Mom and that helps.

On the upside, today marks the day that our little Emily took her first steps, the day after Mom passed away, and Emily took those steps to Grammy Dotti! Big Smile

Moving forward to the present week, Monday morning, I walked a couple of miles on the treadmill (getting ready for that Multnomah Falls hike) and went up 320+ feet.

At 8:44am we hit the half way point in our orbit around the sun between the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice, and the Autumnal Equinox hit. This was the day, where all over the world the the light and dark portions of the day were equal in length. From now on, until about Christmas, days will shorten a little each day, and naturally temperatures are on the way down. (Of course for those in the southern Hemisphere, it is just the opposite as the days will get longer until the December Solstice.)

Monday afternoon, I spent 2.5 hours walking around a corn maze with Dotti, at the Bella Organic Pumpkin Patch & Winery.

On Sunday, October 14, 2001, Dotti and I visited our first corn maze, and the Hoffman Ranch and it was wonderful! Ever since then we have enjoyed corn mazes.

They had several boards mounted around the property, with cutouts for faces, and there were cartoon characters painted on them. Our little Emily loves Minnie Mouse, and so I took a picture of this one, and then later inserted photos of Dotti and I.

This location was near the parking lot area. Dotti and I had our rain coats on just in case, but the only rain we saw was on the drive home. In fact for a lot of the walk, the sun came out and we both tied our coats around our wastes to cool off.

Here is Dotti sitting pretty on a bale of hay, surrounded by beautiful pumpkins.

This farm is a pumpkin patch as well as corn maze, and since we officially entered the fall season that day, pumpkins were definitely in order. Big Smile And I was resting comfortably while Dotti snapped this photo.

Dotti is standing at the entrance of the tent set up at the start of the maze. To make the maze walk more interesting they set up sort of a "Clue" game where you had to find the villain, weapon and location where the dirty deed was done. You did this by eliminating items on a card, which you punched whenever you reached a station with clues.

And this is the entrance to the maze. From here on we were on our own. However, it is impossible to be completely lost in a maze. If you put your hand against one wall of the maze and walk, you will walk right out of it. It may not give you the shortest route out, but you will get out. The challenge was finding all the little clues they had planted around the maze.

Pretty early on in the maze we ran into a bridge. The path led up over the top of the bridge. Later on I took this picture of the bridge when we got to the point of needing to go under the bridge.

Dotti was all set to go up the steps to the top of the bridge. She can do them, but stairs are still a challenge for her with her new hips. But we made it to the top with no problem.

Dotti took this photo while we were up on the bridge in the middle of the maze.

Can you tell that Dotti has newer glasses than I do? Her photo-gray processing is way better than mine. She gets real sunglasses from bright light, I get some purple haze. Big Smile

This is the down stairway for us, and the direction we were going next.

They had a number of scarecrows scattered around the cornfield as land marks in case you got lost and had to call for help.

We saw a lot of variations of this view for the next few hours.

Dotti caught me alone up on the bridge as well.

This sign is very confusing. They handed us a map before we started and I assumed all the 6 checkpoints listed were where the clues would be found. And if you read this sign, it appears to back up that assumption.

You will find that it states this is checkpoint #1, and we need to find all the checkpoints to complete the puzzle. It stated that each checkpoint has a unique punch, and when you used it on your card they gave you when you purchased your ticket, you prove that you found all the checkpoints. However, this checkpoint was marked by a scarecrow on top of the pole, and there were no clues or punches at the checkpoint.

We spent our entire time working on finding those clues, but we only found 4 of the 6 punching stations. The map marked the checkpoints, and finding all the scarecrows was fairly easy, but none of the scarecrows had punching stations. They did give us some easy to spot landmarks, but the stations were always off by themselves, not at the scarecrow location. The only checkpoint I found by following the map directly, was number 5. The other three were just out there and we had to find them. The map gave us little or no help.

When we left the maze at the end, we ran into an employee of the place, and he said the numbers on the map were for the scarecrows only, not the punching checkpoint stations. But the sign at Checkpoint #1 said all checkpoints had card punching stations, even though it did not have one itself. So, even now I am not sure what the real story is. But I can say we walked all over that maze, and most of it we walked more than once.

The punching stations themselves, once we found them, were not labeled with numbers, and neither were the other scarecrows. I kind of wonder if it would have been less difficult without the map. I never had a map given to me before when entering a maze.

This punching station had 3 clues to help eliminate an animal potential perpetrator, a location, and a weapon.

Dotti is showing the card we were punching, as well as showing the checkstation table.

Dotti was eliminating the 3 items shown on the picture on the table, using the special punch attached to the table.

When we finally got tired and gave up looking for the other two stations, Dotti went into the farm store to buy something to drink on the drive home. Meanwhile, I walked around the building and I found this little pig was out of his pen. Dotti told the guys inside that the pig was out, but they said he was the smart one and kept getting out, but they claimed that he always goes back in. Dotti told him that we just wanted to make sure someone didn't take him home to make bacon. Big Smile

Driving home we hit rush hour and Dotti asked, "This is what rush hour is like?" I said, "Welcome to my world." And we took the back way, avoiding most of the bad stuff. Driving home from work, I always drove the back way, and it made it at least tolerable. But as I pointed out to Dotti, it is infinitely better having someone to talk to while you are driving in that mess, than stewing in your own juices all alone. I was so thankful for audio books back then, and I don't miss that commute one little bit. I had to drive a long way just to get to the point where we start from the corn maze on Sauvie Island, to get back home.

Tuesday, Dotti had a group interview at a local department store. (It is like Walmart a bit, but the chain predates Walmart.). She had filled out an online application for a part time job at the store, and I was surprised she did that. She needs to be around people, but I thought maybe a craft or sewing group would be less demanding. They called up and she had an interview at 3pm, where the assistant HR lady runs through some information about the positions that are open and then asks the ones there about their qualifications, taking notes. The notes she made, and papers brought by the candidates are forwarded on to the one who would be doing the actual hiring, to see if any of them would merit a personal interview.

It must have gone well because she got called in for a personal interview with a manager on Monday the 29th.

She would like being around people for sure, so I hope she gets it, but on the other hand it will play havoc with making plans. (Part timers can get called in at anytime, and so if you make plans they will often be overcome by events, when the store calls up, because someone else didn't show up for work or something, and you are dependable to be available. We'll see.)

It has been 19 years since she had a job outside of the home. With the new hips and all, I hope she is up to it. I have mixed feelings about it, but I felt the same way in Massachusetts when she worked at a grocery store, while LeRoy was in school. (She was almost always home whenever he was.) It turned out to be a positive thing for her there, so I hope this is too.

They do have medical coverage, and that would be awesome for us, because we are paying a very large fee for our medical right now, and it really comes down to catastrophic coverage, leaving us with large copays, and a huge deductible fee, that has to be paid before the insurance kicks in to cover things. Even if we never see a doctor, that monthly fee is tough to handle. It is really expensive. So, if she can get free medical, even if they didn't pay her a penny in salary, it would save us a ton of money. That is the only part of it that I am sure is positive. I am pretty sure that interfacing with people will be positive for her too. I will feel guilty if she goes to work and I am at home. Of course more of the web page stuff would fall to me, and that would help. I would love to land a teaching job, but I doubt I could find one around here.

Dotti has some incredible references from the past, in fact every job where she has worked has loaded her up with praise as she left it, they are all very old, because she was mostly a stay at home mom, and then did DWLZ for 16 years now. We left Massachusetts in 1995, and she left Shaw's supermarket that year, which was her last job outside of the home. She won three awards while she was there, and one of them included a free large screen (for the time) color TV as a reward. Associate of the Month twice and regional associate of the quarter, if memory serves. She did the fish counter, and it was very difficult work, setting that counter up every morning, loading up all the ice for all the displays, and moving the product out, checking dates and reject codes, and then dealing with customers. (She also worked the bakery and subbed over at the Deli from time to time.)

One of the benefits at the time, which we got to enjoy, was that she had a cake decorating class for free, and she was able to create very professional looking cakes after that class. It was amazing. You would think you got her cakes from a bakery because they looked so nice and well done.

With the new hips and still not fully recovered from that, along with all the rest, this is a gamble. I just don't know how big a one it is.

We will see, first off if the job is offered, and then, if it is, whether or not she can physically do it okay. (I do think she will be okay on that score. She is moving around much better than she was before.) I don't know what managers are even like today. Are they hungry for a good, hard working employee? They should be, but who knows?

This sort of fell out of the blue on me a couple of days ago. I still haven't absorbed this thing, and processed it emotionally. I am not sure what to think. I guess I will just wait and see what happens.

13 years, 139 days on my journey; a lifetime to follow.

6′ 3″ / 243.0 / 217.2 / 185.0±2.5 /BMI: 27.1 /WK- 698

Maximum weight: 243       Target Weight Range: 185.0±2.5 pounds

*Aerobic Points shown here are calculated from the walking data directly. They do not include additional points earned through hiking at higher intensity for extended periods of time or other forms of exercise (which may or may not be noted in other tables or my updates text for this week) . My goal is to earn 30 Aerobic Points per week, for cardio-vascular health.

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