Thursday, February 18, 2010

Meat on a Stick Time!

What is that smell I smell?  Is that the visceral and distant calling of the wild upon my modern intellect, or is it simply the ancient practice of cooking meat over a campfire that brings the tendrils of feral game and burning wood to my flaring nostrils?


I am excited about camping and camping we will do next week.  Last year about this time the idea came to me to form a group to promote fellowship and inner development for young men who were buddies of my son, Nick Marshall and to honor his memory and I did, but this is the first chance we have had to exercise or execute an activity.
I called it the Baytown Hiking Fellowship and it is defined thusly on our website: 

"Fellowship is offered to qualifying men through referrals by members to both young and older in support of their efforts to pursue mental health and higher ideals through fellowship with other men while hiking and camping within the borders of Texas. As a general guideline, members are those who have demonstrated a desire to better themselves through hiking, camping, men’s fellowship, hard work, personal devotionals, self-improvement, sharing and mentoring and again, must come through a referral by an existing member".

This month we will make our way to Pedernales Falls State Park, close to Johnson City for our first fellowship.  It will consist of four days of camping, hiking, fellowship, and personal development.  I am also requiring each attendee to bring a skill to share.  My skill will be GPS orienteering and operation with geocaching as an objective.

Many of those attending have lost one or more parents, close friends, or sibling(s) and are in desperate need of a certain amount of healing and this is the real goal behind our fellowship. Some just need others around them who care about their future and we will supply this as well and then there is the very real need for all of us to simply get outside and rediscover our American pioneering spirit.

Over the last year, I’ve been scouring the area for sleeping bags, old tents, blankets – anything I could find to ready us for this day, as well as looking for sponsors.  It’s my goal that the fellowship will grow beyond me and become self-sufficient and by this I mean that it will not revolve around me, but develop those we mentor so they will carry this into their own maturity.
In our group we have an age range from as young as six to my age of fifty-seven.  We have two Dads with sons, a number of very stable adults, and quite a good number of twenty-something younger men - and all of us are very excited.  It’s a grand time for all concerned and we are beginning to amp up.Me?  I want to “do like Zog do” and hold meat over the fire, albeit on a stick instead of holding it in my hand and I want to do it in the company of those who are more used to holding a game controller, than a hiking pole.

Last week I inventoried my camping gear and it’s all setting beside my desk as I write this.  One of my nephews, Andy Tallant is coming by today to practice setting up his tent.  We plan to set it up, tear it down and then set it up again.  I’ll do the same with mine.

We are expecting the weather to be anywhere between 25 degrees F. to 60, so we are preparing for anything and everything and that is the luxury of Park camping over back-packing.  We can carry a lot of gear.  After all, our goal is not survival training, at least not at this juncture, but to get away from our routine and enjoy the outdoors, a roaring campfire and best of all – men who care enough about other men’s future to help them along.
*cartoon from The Far Side by Gary Larson

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Girl in the Swing

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be married to just one woman. I had and still have no desire to play the field in search of some green pasture which incidentally does not exist and to my credit I still believe this.

In my immature late teens and early tweens I dashed to and fro like my peers, checking out this flower and that, but always in the back of my mind I had it in me to settle down and prove my worth to one and only one lady. In 1976, I met her. I was 24 and she was just 16.

Now before you break your jaw as it slaps your knee, let me explain. I met her in church and we did not begin dating until she was 17 and then a “date” meant getting a bite to eat after church and then I would drive her home and ne'er a kiss was exchanged until we were engaged. We both embraced fundamental Christianity and still do to this day and because of this, we practiced restraint.

On Valentine's Day in 1977, I asked her to be my Bride and this is how I see her today. I would love to say that I rode up on a white steed, or did something terribly romantic, but the truth is, we were both under the weather and I asked for her hand on the telephone.

Although I have uttered a lot of words in my life, both good and bad, I had reserved “I love you” for the woman I truly loved and after telling her those words numerous times the day before, I realized she was “the one” and while chatting on the phone that night in 1977, I unexpectedly blurted out that I wanted to marry her and that’s the rest of the story. She accepted and 7 months later, 2 weeks shy of her 18th birthday, we stood at the altar inside Peace Tabernacle on N. Main Street and became husband and wife.

On our first “date” we left service kind of late (as Pentecostals are known to do) and being hungry and thirsty and naïve, I thought I would impress her by taking her to Alexander Drive to the new drive-through hamburger joint named “The Varsity” located where Knowlton Ave. intersects with N. Alexander Dr. Now at this time I was jogging about 5 miles per day and with all the singing and “amen’s” at church service, I was powerful thirsty...and ravenous for some burgers and fries

Wanting to impress this young lady with my ability to drink large quantities of soda, I ordered Varsity’s largest drink, a 44-ounce full sugar Coke and 2 cheeseburgers and large order of fries, to her small diet-drink and no food order. I owned a sub-compact car at the time, as I do now and as the window employee handed the extra-large drink down to me, it tipped and landed topside down in my lap. Ice cold, sugary Coca-Cola quenched my bravado, my ego and my pride in one exaggerated nanosecond.

That was our first date and now 32 years later, we still laugh about it. In our purity, we met on a regular basis in her front yard and she would sit in the large tree swing her Dad built and I on the ground and we would talk about our future, or rather I would talk and she would listen (that pretty much went out the window about 20 years ago).
She is still my girl in the swing and my Bride. I am a clod and she is my Princess. I have many detractors, but to my knowledge, she has none. May God have mercy on me if I ever find myself in the single mans shoes again, because I will need supreme guidance to recover from the loss of her and hopeless to find another...girl in the swing.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Lindsey Zeb Wilcox USS Indianapolis survivor

Mr. Wilcox is our Baytown survivor of the USS Indianapolis disaster.  He is doing poorly and I fear for his health. He is now in assisted living at Remington Park on W. Baker here in Baytown.  Please say a prayer, spread the word and send him a card. Baytown Bert

Lindsey Z Wilcox
901 W. Baker Rd;  Apt 147
Baytown, TX 77521

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Do Kuhmo OEM Car Tires Even Carry a Warranty?

Thanks to a national representative of Kuhmo Tires named “Will”, I was educated on the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) obligation for tires on new cars with original owners concerning their tire obligation when something is not right with the tires on your new car.

Back in March of 2007, I bought a brand new KIA RIO5 hatchback and it was and still is the perfect little commuter car.  I haven’t had a problem at all with this car and recommend it.  I bought it right here in Baytown where I’ve bought my last 6 new cars.

The tires on my little car are for all practical purposes hazardously bald at 24,900 miles and after a trip to Discount Tires on Garth Road yesterday and consulting with Assistant Manager Jordan Arnett, a Marine and an Iraqi Freedom veteran, it was decided I should upgrade my OEM tires to a higher-rated Yokohama brand tire, which carries a real mileage warranty of 60,000 miles.

I asked him about the OEM warranty on my Kuhmo P195/55R15 Solus HP4 OEM tires and he suggested I check with the dealer on the warranty.  Well, being the kind of guy that I am, I had the original Warranty brochure which came with my KIA, but I also went onto the Internet to Kuhmo USA’s website  and downloaded the warranty .pdf file, located the appropriate person to call (Charles.  I was informed he handles literally all the OEM warranty calls across the USA) and called him.
After I left a message, called 3 more times until I got his personal number, he answered and handed me off to “Will” (last name not mentioned).  Will informed me my OEM tires did not carry a mileage warranty at all and furthermore, the reason Kuhmo’s aftermarket tires of the exact name, size and make carry a 50,000 mile warranty and these do not, is because the aftermarket tires are completely different materials than the ones shipped from Korea (that came with my car) and are actually of higher quality. 

They are not apples to apples and the (OEM – not the aftermarket) warranty brochure plainly states that if the tire fails due to workmanship within the first 25% of tread wear (only) then they will be replaced free of charge (minus mounting, balancing, etc. etc.), or prorated according to tread wear. 

In other words, it appears it is almost impossible to collect on an OEM Kuhmo tire warranty, due to the many sub-clauses, unless you have a major blow-out in the dealer parking lot as you drive off for the first time and one of the employees witnesses it and is willing to admit it to a Kuhmo Rep.

I asked “Will” a question.  I said this was false advertisement and akin to buying 2 boxes of identical cereal, one from the maker and one from the store – both in identical packages, but with different quality standards, but being passed off as identical products.  He told me “No, it isn’t, that’s just the way it is done in the auto industry.  These cars came from Korea anyway.  Do you expect them to live up to our standards?” 

I said “Yes, I do.”  OEM tires aren’t really meant to last at all it seems.

He told me the aftermarket tires are made of better materials and carry a mileage warranty so people will buy them over another tire.  I asked him to consider the fact that since Kuhmo is going to lose me as a customer for the rest of my life, would this alter his course of dealing with me as a consumer.  He said “No, it would not”.

If “Will” was my employee, he would find himself in a soup-line somewhere pronto, but maybe this is truly Kuhmo Tires USA attitude towards people as long as they can get the tire contract from the manufacturer of automobiles.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Baytown Bert? Meet Dance Baytown!

I found out about a month ago, that I was scheduled to learn a few fancy dance moves with Steve Divekar, of Dance Baytown, so I wouldn’t look like Frankenstein’s monster at my daughters wedding reception.  Last night was that night.
Steve Divekar teaches Two-Step, Polka, West Coast Swing and the Jitterbug.  Last night in an hour and a half lesson, my beautiful Bride Sandra, brother TJ Bustem and his lady Debbie, brother and sister in law Big Ray Tallant and little Tammy, nephew RJ and groom to be Michael Sievers and bride to be Melody all were greatly educated by this skilled dance, Steve Divekar.

Steve operates a web site called dancebaytown.com and I encourage anyone aspiring to cut a rug to check it out.
I figured TJ Bustem and I would breeze through this dancing stuff, as we are both longtime practitioners of the hard-style martial arts and Black Belts, but, uh, I was naturally a product of karate training and it appeared I was chopping my way through every move.  I was too stiff and even I thought I looked like a zombie.  It was hilarious.
Steve was very patient and tossed out encouraging words with a generosity the others deserved, but I, being my own worst critic knew the sad truth…I have two left feet.  Never-the-less, I am encouraged that I will stumble through and my bride has promised me we will practice, practice and practice until we look like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I figure it will be closer to Frankenstaire and Ginger Rogers, but we will see.

Anyway, if anyone acts up on the dance floor, TJ Bustem and I can always fall back on our “other” training.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Camping in Texas in February

I am posting this for future reference and for anyone planning a camping trip in possibly very cold weather and especially if the people are novice campers.

1. I would like each person who attends to "bring a skill to teach" to the camp-out and I would like a commitment asap. I know this sounds demanding, but we are not just camping, we are having a fellowship and workshop. Your skill can be how to prepare a simple food item, or how to make a homemade tent peg - I don't really care. However, you have the option of providing the necessary items for all or posting a list of things we need to bring. Search the Internet or youtube.com for ideas.

2. My selected skill is going to be teaching everyone how to use a GPS device. Please bring one if you have one, or purchase one immediately. The Garmin eTrex H GPS is an excellent choice and is $86 shipped on Amazon.com. I plan to teach Geocaching also to everyone who is interested. The park has many caches alongside the trails and this is a lot of fun to boot. Make sure to bring your manuals if you bring a GPS unit and you are unfamiliar with its operation.

3. Next item is transportation. Who is riding with whom and when do you plan on arriving? Two vehicles only are allowed at the campsite with additional parking not too far away. You can drop your gear at the campsite - we won't know which one we get until we arrive.

4. Each person is responsible for whatever food and personal items you need. It's the best way and proven course of action. Do not get too elaborate or it may be come difficult - due to weather conditions.

5. Footwear: Boots and no ankle socks. Ankle socks may be cool in town, but they are flat cold when camping and your ankles will get scratched to high-heaven while geocaching. Cotton socks are cold, so buy hiking socks and if you can afford wool, then get about 3 pair. Bring extra socks anyway and a second pair of shoes for around the camp area, so you can dry your hiking boots if they get wet. There is a water crossing or two on the trails. A small towel in your kit will help if you have to wade barefoot then put your boots back on. It happens.

6. Hot showers and warm toilets: The park has first class showers and restrooms. Bring flip-flops or water shoes for the showers and all necessary toiletries in Baggies.

7. Fees for the park per person: $3 per day, per person 13 and older, staying overnight- unless you have a park pass, which I do. It's $60 per year and well worth it.

8. Fishing: Fishing is limited to a small area, but you do not have to have a license to fish in a Texas State Park. The park will even loan you a pole, etc.

9. Activities: All group activities are optional, but encouraged. I personally plan to hike the 4 mile trail and the 7.5 mile wolf Mountain trail on separate days. All are welcome to come along and the 4-mile trail is a casual walk, but the 7.5 mile trail is a no joke no fooling around hike.

10. Cameras, IPOD's, chargers and batteries: Bring plenty of everything, but my personal experience concerning IPOD's, et al, is they alienate a person from the group. I have 2 and I'm not bringing either one on the trail. I have a camp radio that has an IPOD connection, which is perfect for sitting around the campfire for all to enjoy. Austin radio, which is excellent will also be available. Electricity is available at the campsite, as is potable water.

11. Firewood: One of us has committed to bringing a lot of wood, but we need back-up in the event that they have to opt out at the last second. The more wood, the better.

12. Containers: Rubbermaid makes excellent locking containers. You can get one of these at Target for about $35 and it will keep the raccoons out of your stuff. Rubbermaid 1172 Action Packer Storage Box, 24-Gallon

13. Raccoons:  Raccoons WILL get into your stuff if you do not secure it. Count on it.

14. Tents and sleeping bags. You must prepare for very cold weather. 20 degrees F. or possibly colder. Hopefully we will have moderate weather. Since we are sleeping in a State Park, we have the luxury of taking extra blankets, so bring some. Bring a pull over knit hat for your head while sleeping, or you will freeze to death regardless of how good your sleeping bag is. Trust me on this.

What, me read? Isn't that a 4 letter word?

I had an appointment this week at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center to have an echocardiogram, which by the way is an EKG ti...