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"Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us." ~ Oscar Wilde  

25 November, 2013: VMIed OUT!

Thank goodness Fall Furlough is almost here.  We'll have seven full days off beginning Wednesday morning.  I'm ready for that.  This past weekend was Ring Figure and I didn't play.  I didn't go to anything but Parade and the game.  I had to cover the hotel Saturday night.  I was assigned the Howard Johnson's which turned out to be a non-event.  I slept most of the night.  Good thing.  I had OC Duty in Barracks all day on Sunday.

Elise came in on Friday night so she and Kim could go get her puppy from the breeder early Saturday Morning.  He's a beautiful little guy and sweet natured.  He already is doing his business outside and Elise is staying on top of it.

The football game was a bummer.  We were playing well, but then turned the ball over three times in our own territory and Bucknell capitalized all three times.  We could have beaten them. 

 It turned bitter cold this weekend, the Second Class was out partying, and the Rats and a lot of the Firsts were on the Twenty-mile road march, so Barracks was quiet all day.  I watched three movies to pass the boredom.  Other than a little walking around and a few rooms to clear for early departing cadets, there was very little to do.  By 2200hrs when my relief showed up, I was exhausted and ready to go home.

Today I'm readying myself for my first colonoscopy tomorrow morning.  I went into work about 9 and worked till noon, then came home for the purging.  It sounds so exciting.

10 November, 2013: Veterans and Founders Day

Saturday, I took a color guard to Midlothian to post the colors for a dedication ceremony at an American Legion Post.  The veterans there named their post after a VMI alum who was killed in Afghanistan, so we happily took the trip up there to help out.

Sunday, I took a few Cadets to Roanoke and Bonsack Baptist Church to help out with their Patriotic Music Program. We marched in the US and Service Flags at the beginning of the program.  This is always one of my favorite things to do and the music is fantastic.  This year they di mansions of the Lord at my request.

4 November, 2013: A New Favorite Place

It is not often that I post here to rave about a restaurant, but this post has to happen.  While taking care of new ID Cards at UVA JAG School in Charlottesville, Kim and I called Jonathon to see if he'd like to meet for Dinner.  He was free and asked us to meet him on University Avenue.  He showed us where to park and then led the way to Boylan Heights Gourmet Burger Bar.

I like the look of the place as soon as we walked in, starting with the cute little waitress who welcomed us and took our order.  It looked clean, I liked the stainless steel chairs and stools, and, for 1100hrs, and not crowded.   Ordering was taking a test in the Army...with a bubble sheet offering up all the options.  I went crazy, ordering a beef burger, on English muffin, with feta, bean sprouts, mustard, and catsup.  For a side I got fried potato salad.

They need to name this burger "The 505" and put it on the menu; it was fantastic!  So was the potato salad.  As a matter of fact, next time I go, I'm getting two orders of that stuff.

Bottom line: If you're going through Charlottesville and looking for a GREAT burger, this is the place.


3 November, 2013: Puppy Saturday

Elise came in Friday night so that she and I could go to Staunton to pick out her puppy.  She had first pick of six males, so I figured it was going to be a hard choice.  As it turned out, she spotted one puppy and he seemed to spot her as well.  He was the darkest of the males in the litter, had the cutest face, and once she touched him, he sat back and watched her. 

There was one pup, who was the obvious runt of the litter...very small.  I would have chosen him, because I've always been a sucker for the underdog.  There was was a rambunctious pup who went about the cage tearing up all the news paper.  He was out.  There were two who stood on the side of the cage and yelped continuously, and one who just sat in the corner looking shell shocked.  

Without prompting, Elise picked up the little guy I had identified by this process of elimination and he snuggled into her neck, no whimpering or crying.  They both looked comfortable together.  She put him down and that was it, a done deal.  She said, "I think you're it Buddy," and the lady marked Blue next to Elise's name on her sheet for the bit of blue fingernail polish on his back.

She'll go back to get him in a couple of weeks and I'll get to see them at Thanksgiving for a few days.  As much as I argued against this, I have accepted it and am getting pretty excited about playing with and training him.

Back at the house, After Lunch at the new Mex place and Kim's Chicken Enchiladas for supper, we settled in for the Auburn Arkansas game.  This game was the most relaxed I have been at an Auburn game in a long while.  I could tell from the first few plays that Auburn was going to handle them heavily.  Arkansas is better than they think they are, I believe.  They have a good QB who had another bad night, a young true freshman Receiver on his way to greatness, and a couple of Running Backs who just need coaching to give them a chance.  Auburn played a near flawless game...except for bad acting in the end zone.

Goal for today--Car Cleaning.


28 October, 2013: Elise's Place

Kim left for Elise's house the Tuesday we got back from Alabama and I drove there Friday after work.  It was the first long trip I've taken in Bess since making the improvements on the car this past summer.  The radio's Hands-free Calling and iPod controls make driving so much more fun and enjoyable and the sound is crystal clear.  Thank You Alpine!

I took it easy going up so I wouldn't have to worry about the law pulling me over...AGAIN.

I love Elise's new place; it is very smart and beautiful.  Though only a few minutes from the highway, it is super quiet and beautiful. I feel like she is safe there.  We went out to eat at a couple of places, my favorite being Fin Seafood where I got Shrimp and Grits...which was much better than what I had in New Orleans.  That probably should a bit heretical, but I swear it is true. 


22 October, 2013: A Quick Trip to Alabama

I took two days of leave so Kim and I could go home to Alabama for the weekend.  We left after work on Thursday and got in about 1130 hrs Alabama time.  I spent most of the time at my mom's and Kim spent most of her time out shopping with her mom.  We converged on Bill's house to watch Auburn beat Texas A&M in a fantastic game.  Being with a bunch of Auburn fans made all the difference.  I went to see Jim for a little while on Sunday, but didn't have much time to spend there.  We left on Monday, getting a late start, which put us back here around 1730 hrs.

14 October, 2013: Manassas Shoot

George Mason held a shoot in Manassas this past weekend and their shoot has become a huge success.  It was attended by Yale, UVA, VA Tech, Radford, Maryland, West Point, Annapolis, and a few others.  We didn't place, but Ky shot a 93 out of 100 Skeet birds, placing him tied for third, losing the shoot off, and finishing fourth overall.  Most everyone on the team shot in the 80s, with on a few shooting in the 70s.  We beat Army and Navy in Trap though.


8 October, 2103: Missouri Shoot

This past weekend I took the Trap and Skeet team to Rolla Missouri for a trap and skeet shoot held by Missouri State.  It turned out to be a small shoot with only about six small teams, but teams more like us, small numbers and short on practice time.  The Ranges were nice, well maintained, and the match was very well run by a bunch of old guys who pitched in and bought the range. 

This trip, we had a really nice motel, unusual for us, and that made all the difference.  The long drive across half the county went well, a lot better than the last trip to Missouri when we drove through tornado weather.

We came back home with First Place in Skeet and Double Skeet and we had a number of personal bests for the weekend.


15 September, 2013: Bedford. Again.

I went with 2LT Sean and the Rats to Bedford today, but not before I put the new chin spoiler on the front of my car.  The girls came in last night to make part of Elise's ten-year high school reunion and I wanted so spend part of the day whit them, so I got up early and began the job.  I had it done in a couple of hours and then gave her a wash, preparing for the trip to Bedford in the afternoon.  Next weekend I'll need to detail and wax her.

After seeing the girls off, I got ready for Bedford, picked up the LT, and left just before the buses.  I took the James River route which is way more fun than I81, and got there about 45 minutes before the buses, in plenty of thie to make final coordination.  It all went smoothly.  On the way back, I let the LT drive from Glasgow.


8 September, 2013: Jay's Birthday

The kids are here, converging on Lex for Jay's Birthday.  Jay went out with Mike and KP last night, so we haven't seen him.  I'm guessing it was a pretty good night.  Kelly closed in sometime after I went to bed.  Kim, Elise, her beau, and I went to Hull's Drive-in to see a miserable movie last night...The Conjuring.  It was pretty terrible, which was surprising, since it had what I considered a strong cast.  The double feature was Elysium, which, of course, we couldn't stay to watch.  Oh? So we're going to watch the terrible scare-me movie, but pass up a Matt Damon movie.  Got it.

I've been ill since Wednesday.  It's the Barracks Crud, I'm sure.  I've dodged it for the last three years, but I sure as hell caught up to me this time.  Typical Stuff--Cough, sore throat, clogged sinuses, body aches, low-grade fever, but this year, with uncontrollable sneezing.  If it's like the typical stuff we get, everything should go away in a couple of days leaving the cough, which could last another month.

A lot has gone on around here since my last post.  Matriculation Week came and went, then the first weeks of class, last Sunday was New Market Sunday, and Friday was First Parade.  I had OD Friday night, so I took Saturday off after I pushed Hotel out of Barracks for Parade.  I got in bed, hurting from the plague and suffering from about two hours sleep, and slept till 1600hrs, awakened by a wife who was tired of doing everything herself with people arriving for the weekend.  The girl has no pity.

 I'm supposed to take photos of Jay and Kel today, but that's probably not happening; Jay will be late and hung-over, and I'm not in the mood.  They want to use them for their engagement announcements, so I need to do a good job.  I don't think it will go well.

In better news: My Chin Spoiler is beautifully painted and ready to install on Bess.  I should be able to get to that this afternoon after everyone leaves. No Rain Please.

Later: The photos went, but the Spoiler didn't.


11 August, 2013: Begin Cadre Week

This year, we brought in a training officer from the Old Guard to help us refine our sword drill.  We gave him five hours and he did a great job.  What made me happiest, was to hear what I've been telling Cadets for years coming out of the mouth of a young Captain who's sole job in the army is to evaluate the best drill and ceremony soldiers in the world. Hopefully he made an impression on them and they take the time to practice.


8 August, 2013: Almost Done

I installed the sequential wiring harness for the turn indicators yesterday, and that was a breeze.  The Radio wasn't as easy and the work was interrupted by a heavy rain storm.  Luckily, Kim made me stop so we could take Jake to Barracks or all my parts and tools would have gotten soaked.  I piled everything into the car and the bottom dropped out.

After flags and supper, I took the center console radio and radio radio bracket to my room to prepare it for installation.


4 August, 2013: The Day After

Elise's Party was yesterday and last night. 

Most everyone converged on Macados for lunch and it was typically horrible with bland food and the most useless waitress ever.  I have a real soft spot in my heart for waitresses, and usually tip them well, but this girl, who, I find out after we leave, has been working there since it opened, was terrible.  She didn't bring us silverware or napkins.  She didn't know the drink menu.  Not once did she stop by to see if our glasses needed charging.  She got orders wrong, she took forever getting our food from the kitchen.  And...she had the personality of someone who just lost their cat.  I felt sorry for her, thinking someone put her out there untrained, but then B told me the girl had been there while she worked there.

I've put everyone on notice that I will never go there again.

 David and Elise made supper, which was much better.  David cooked up Chicken Kebabs and Elise made a Strawberry and Walnut Salad.  Sister Schubert supplied the key lime pie.

The crowd included the usual suspects: Jay, Kel. Barbara, Mike, Steph, Gabe, Ann, KP and Grace...and Elise brought David, and B brought Erick.  It was a good mix and we played Corn Hole and Croquet in the front yard.  It didn't take long for most everyone to realize why I was always chosen last at sports.

Luckily, there was one thing for me to do where I'm an expert.  Elise wanted to make S'mores over an open fire, so Kim bought a fire pit, and I made the fire.

At 2150hrs, I ran everyone out to the parade ground to watch the International Space Station fly over.  It was right on time, but it tracked much higher than I thought.  I think everyone enjoyed seeing it.  If you'd like to see the ISS in your area, go HERE.

Time: Sat Aug 03 9:50 PM, Visible: 4 min, Max Height: 43 degrees, Appears: SSW, Disappears: E

The we launched sky lanterns, which, if you've never done that, you should.  They are really beautiful and usually get the neighbors pretty excited.

Then I went to bed and left the youngsters to their drinking.

 This morning was clean-up, recycling, and game storage.  To end the day, I took Bess to the shop and left the keys.  I'll call them fist thing in the morning.  Football came back today and I begin FB Rat Drill tomorrow at 1300hrs.


3 August, 2013: I HATE Moving

During a deliberate count this weekend, Kim and I figured we have moved  fourteen times since we've been married.  House to house, state to state, or country, it was always an adventure, but the moving--always a pain in the ass!  And then you get Kids who also have to move.

All of Tuesday was spent in Charlottesville moving Jonathon and Kelly in to their new house...out of a three story apartment, to the truck across the street, down the hill in front, and up the ramp, all the while dodging traffic, front-end loaders, and gigantic fork-lifts.  The Truck we rented was gigantic and became immediately problematic as we tried to get it through the constriction chicane and then when we tried to park it in front of the house...too long, blocked the street. After about six hours of loading, we drove across town and reversed the process, but with no stairs, ramps, or traffic.  We piled everything but the mattresses in the living room, turned in the truck, and went to bed.

I could hardly move the next morning.  My left knee was swollen the size of a grapefruit, my left hamstring was sore as hell, and I ached all-over.  I was worse off than after landing on the taxiway at Andrews Air Force Base in '94.

After putting up the flags this morning and taking care of a short Kim to-do-list, I started ordering stuff for the car.  The money from Summer went in the bank on Thursday, so it's time to do what I want. 

  • I started with an Alpine CDE-148BT CD Receiver from Crutchfield.  That should be here this week and I'll install it myself.  It has iPod controls, should pair with my phone, has hands free calling, and Blue Tooth streaming.

  • I hate the car cover I got from Auto Anything, so I ordered a cover from Roush Performance that made to fit my car perfectly. 

  • I've been wanting to put sequential taillights in the car for years, and have finally ordered a plug-in harness made by Raxiom from American Muscle

  • I upgraded my headlamps to Sylvania Silver Star Ultra which should give me better night visibility. 

  •  Monday I'll take her to Timber Ridge to have my mechanic do a once over and look at a small leak on the right rear wheel, then I'll take the new Chin Spoiler to Goads for painting and installing. 

That should do it for this summer.

Tonight we're hosting a party to celebrate Elise graduating fro Signal Captains Career Course, her assignment to Virginia, and her NOT GOING TO KUWAIT for two years.


27 July, 2013: A Few Days Leave or The Calm Before The Storm

I just got back from putting up the flags over VMI.  It was raining out so I put on a light rain jacket and road my bike down.  Barracks was quiet and empty.  I love this last fourteen days of peace and quiet between the end of STP and the madness that is the first semester.  I pushed all the kids out yesterday and had the place completely locked up by 1645hrs.  To make things even better, Kim came home from Florida on Thursday, so she was in her chair when I got back to the house.

I had a dermatology appointment yesterday to have two red spots on my skin examined.  The Doctor said the were precancerous cells that he could treat by freezing, which he did, and acted as if the were no big deal.  I guess those long days at Cascade and the "panic tanning" in places like PC and Cyprus are catching up with me.  Anyway, He treated them, they were a little painful, then they began to itch a bit, and now look like they are crusting over.  He says they should blister and then heal.  I'll go back to see him for a follow-up in late October.

STP and summer school went well this year.  There were no major problems with the Kids, except for one pre-strain who decide a first class cadet was cute and hit on her in a way she did not consider appropriate.  I think I fixed that with a few "kind" words.  I tortured a room of STPers with a few laps and a detailed lecture for torturing a large beetle that came in their room.  Why they didn't just stomp on it or throw it back out of the window, I just didn't understand.

STP and COW were in Third Barracks and I crunched the summer session Cadets onto the first stoop in New Barracks.  Od Barracks was getting some much needed structural repairs, so it was off line.  We had two adults on duty every night in Barracks.   This may be the reason for the quiet Summer, but made for long boring weekends.  I worked with Wayne, newly promoted to Major, and we were relieved by Majors Chris and Larry. Each team would work about ten days straight, for two stretches, which was a bit painful.  The pay was good.  I'll spend some of it on my car and Kim will get the rest to help Jay and Elise get into their new houses, and to pay for some of the up-coming wedding this March.

Yay for Rockbridge County!  While on duty one night, an friend I haven't heard from in over two years stopped by.  I have never met a more troubled youth in my life, and though "seeking my advice," rejected any idea I tried to give her.  She couldn't cut away from her ex-boyriend in jail who beat her, got her in trouble with the law...again, and deserted her, or go back to AA who turned their back on her, or move out of the house of drug using friends, or get a different job paying more money, or move away from this damn wasn't her fault.  I'd like to help, wish I could help, but I don't think this story has a happy ending.

I finally got around to repairing the gas gauge on my 2005 Mustang.  I tried putting a little glue on the needle , thinking that it was just slipping on the stepper motor shaft, but that didn't help.  Looking at an instructional video on You Tube, I prepared myself for having to de-solder the stepper motor for replacement.  As I prepared to do that, I realized that the little motor could be disassembled from the rear without any electrical work.  Since I had four replacement motors, I took one apart to see what made it tick.  Inside were three small gears, a tiny leaf spring, two coils, and some electrical contacts.  I guessed that if I replaced the gears and spring in the old motor with the gears from the new one, made sure the coils were clean, and replaced the old back with the new, that would do the job.  Correct.  With much less work, my gauge is working fine, though reading a little less than what the tank actually has in it.  I'll adjust it next time I fill up.

Beginning Thursday I'll start work on getting a few things done to the Car: brakes inspected, a new radio with iPod controls, Blue Tooth, and Hands Free Calling, replacing two interior seat parts that I have broken, painting and installing the new chin spoiler, and buying a new Roush car cover (because I HATE/LOATHE/DESPISE the cover I have now).  I spent some time during one day-off cleaning the under carriage, wheels, and wheel wells of the car, and discovered a slow leak around the right-rear hub.  That will have to be fixed as well.  At 110,000 miles you have to expect this kind of thing on a car.  I'm glad I caught it.

Last Monday, I had four of the T&S Team over for burgers.  Not only was I bored and lonely, but they were headed to exams, so thought I'd treat them to a decent meal before that.  Cadets Ky, Adam, Afton, Charles and I have been shooting a bit this summer, attempting to practice in the sweltering heat.  It was fun for about an hour each day, then we just had to stop.  I think I cooked the burgers a bit too long, but the baked beans were yummy and the kids drank a beer or two to relax.  They have been watching scary movies together all summer, so I made them watch The Changeling with me.  Love that movie.  It is my second favorite ghost story...the first being Ghost Story.

This weekend I should have the whole family here.  I'm pretty pumped about that.


7 July, 2013: Searching for Gallant Pelham

Continuing my hunt for LTC John Pelham that I began in May and June, I jumped in Bess and drove to Fredericksburg early Saturday morning.  After the Chancellorsville trip in May, I read the book Colonel John Pelham Lee's Boy Artillerist by William Woods Hassler.  It was an easy read and really interested me in my fellow Alabamian; I had to go visit the history.

I was on top of Afton Mountain by 0800hrs and stopped for the first time at the Scenic Overlook.  It's a pretty nice view up there, but It won't be for long unless Virginia gets out there and cuts down all the Stink Trees (Ailanthus altissima).  The damn things are taking over Virginia.

The drive from Charlottesville along 22 and 20 was, as usual slow, but beautiful.  Arriving at the battlefield, I was a little turned around, though I had been there many times.  Finding Lee Drive is not well marked, and at one tome I was headed West when I thought I was going East.  I doubt the battlefield will last another fifty years; Fredericksburg encroachment is the worst in the nation.

I drove down to the Confederate Right Flank, Jackson's Line, stopping at Meade's breakthrough to do a map check and get my bearings.  Continuing on, I parked the car at the end of Lee Drive and hiked the trail that extended to the Right and Stewarts position, protecting the right flank, at Hamilton Crossing.  The Trail emptied out just past Benchmark Road where I found the Pelham marker at the intersection with Highway 17.  The site isn't much, but it marks the spot where, with two guns, later one when enemy fire disabled one, Pelham and his men held off Franklin's entire Grand Division advance for over an hour. Ordered to retire three times by General Stewart, young Pelham stood his ground against at least four Yankee batteries, finally withdrawing when he ran short of ammunition. 

Sadly, Pelham's position now sits at an abandoned store parking lot and faces a drug store across the intersection, but a cannon is being placed there soon which will make the site a bit more noticeable.

Back at the car, I plugged in the directions to Kellys Ford and , enjoying the air conditioner, let my phone's GPS take me there.  The ford has a bridge across it now.  I could have saved my self the trip had I been a little more informed; this was the same bridge COL John and I used to get on the other side of the Rapidan back in May.  The site, for some reason, is access restricted.  I pulled over for a quick photo and then crossed Mountain Run to look for the Pelham marker I had read about.  Reading the accounts of the battle and doing a satellite recon before I left, I had a good idea where it was probably located.

When I pulled into the  open area, I knew I must be on the right track; the "open area" from the satelite image was called "Rock Wall Parking Area."  There was another sign saying that access was restricted, that I needed a permit to use the area, and that I would be persecuted, but I was not going to let any of that stop me.  As I headed down the trail toward Mountain Run, there was a small sign that said "Free Access."  That's all I needed.  The trail was well defined, extending about three hundred meters toward the river.  I came to a fallen tree across the path, which I made my way around, and then came to a fork as the trail became less defined.  I took the left fork, which took me into the swamp...which didn't fit the description of the battle at all,  Returning up the train, I took the right fork, and ran right into the marker.  This was the spot where Pelham was mortally wounded as he led a charge against the enemy positions behind the rock wall. 

As I stood there, it occurred to me that, had Pelham not been in Culpeper visiting Miss Bessie Shackelford, had he returned to camp, as ordered by General Stewart, he would have been nowhere close to Kelly's Ford.  Pelham's youth and bravery finally caught up with him.

 Next stop was Brandy Station, where now stands the Pelham Marker that once was in Culpeper.  This one was easy to find and I was grateful; I was pretty tired, sweaty, and the day was getting HOT!  I was happy to see the Alabama State Flag flying over it and that there were two other folks visiting.  I engaged them in light conversation, talked a little about Pelham, and then the guy asked me if I had ever served in the 82nd.  When I said yes, he said, "I think you're my old First Sergeant.  Charlie 2-505?"  Well, this is another of those small army small, world stories. He was a young specialist when I was 1SG of C-2-505.  Now he's a Command Sergeant Major in the 101st, just back from his third tour of Afghanistan.

I drove from there to Culpeper looking for the Virginia Hotel, across from which stood the Shackelford House where Pelham died.  I haddn't realized how big Culpeper was, so I didn't do a thorough recon prior to the trip.  I thought there would be historical markers of something.  I couldn't find it and I was pretty fed up with the day to get out of the car and go on foot.  I'll find that next trip to the area.  I go through there a lot.

It was a great day trip until the last twenty miles.  I got a ticket for going 59 in a 45 zone in Greenville.  Guilty. 


20 June, 2013: Birthdays and Fathers Day

It was raining like hell onTuesday.  Kim was driving onher way to Birmingham and Tuscaloosa.  I wish she had waited a day and wouldn't drive in such weather.  Yeah, I married an independent girl.  I'll be batchin' it for the next few weeks while on Barracks Supervisor duty.  I head the team that will cover second summer session and STP.

Weekend before, we celebrated Jake-man's sixth birthday, then we had him staying with us on and off last week. It was a Lego party where we all spend big bucks on Lego Bat Caves and such, spend hours putting them together, and the kids play with the little characters and de-construct what the adults have built.  I console myself by saying that I tool apart Mom's mixer to see how it worked...but I put it back together.

The whole family was at the house on Sunday and we took a trip up to where Kelly and jay will have their wedding ceremony, the Irvine Estate.  Beautiful place! Elise brought her boyfriend with her.  I like this guy...the first one I've actually liked.  The ones before, I've just wanted to take out and bury in Washington and Lee Woods.  This guy is an officer, a grad of a senior military college (not West Point thanks...I detest those little pricks), likes guns, drives a F150, is motivated, and comes with no baggage.  He is a damnyankee, but I've known some decent Yankees.

Last week Kim and I had Jake.  We shared the time with Gail, Barbara's mom, but had him most of the week.  I love these times and I get to do bun boy things with him.  This tike we bought Nurf rifles and the war began.  Finding the little green discs in Kims house, or worse, in the front yard is sometimes hard, but we had a blast.  Kim and I took him to his Mom on Friday.

Sunday, Kim and I drove to Charlottesville to spend Father's day with Jay and Kelly.  We went to lunch at Sultan Kebab (my Fave), went to see the new Star Trek (which was big fun), went to the Ansel Adams Exhibit at UVA's Fralin Museum, then cooked out back at their apartment.

Monday was Kim's birthday and after a breakfast from Hardees, we stayed in Pajamas all day long.  It was a nice relaxing day.

Yesterday, I met one of my Cadets, Afton, and a news crew from the Roanoke Times out at the Trap and Skeet Range.  They are doing an article on her as part of the VMI team for their paper.  It was pouring rain, but I could see the break coming over House Mountain, so I encouraged them not to cancel.  After about fifteen minutes, the weather broke and conditions were perfect for good shooting, good photos, and for Afton to show her skills at Skeet.  She shot a twenty-three. with no warm up.  After her round, she coached two of the reporters through station one, which I encouraged, to show them just how hard what she did actually was.  I know they walked away impressed with her.


2 June, 2013: Birmingham and Back

Kim and I just returned from two weeks in Birmingham visiting her parents and my mom.  I got a lot accomplished.

Mom looks good and seems happy.  At least she is no longer in pain.

I went with a list of thinks I knew I needed to do.  I started out in the garage with the washer and dryer area.  I changed out the electrical socket, and snaked the drain.  I pulled out the saturated sheet rock and cleaned up.  I got a hose for the dryer, which was missing.  Still, the drain was over flowing.  It was just too small to handle the thirty gallon washer.  I called a plumber who put a bushing and a couple of clamps on the drain hose and drain and that worked perfectly. I should have thought to do that.  It would have certainly been cheaper and quicker.

Next I tackled the short in the ceiling fan.  Never got that right.  Everything looked good to me and it worked intermittently after I "fixed it," but would still flicker off and on.  I left that for poor Jim to fix. 

Next I tackled the hall toilet.  It has been leaking for years and patched with putty.  My plan was to completely replace the insides.  Well, that was easier said than done.  I ended up having to cut the damn tank off of the bowl with Jim's reciprocating saw.  THAT was a bastard of a job.  Once the tank was off, it was a breeze to replace everything and adjust the chain.  The last item here was to replace the toilet seat.  Done!

I did a little work in the yard, trimming a few bushes and pulling out the invading redbud trees.  My last item was to replace the cut screen in the door to the back porch.  That was easy enough.  The one thing I just had to clean was the bathroom floor.  Nasty!  I was down on my hands and knees with a scrub brush getting the dirt out of the grout.  I finished up with a good mopping and some bleach.

I talked Kim into coming over and searching for family treasures for me and she did a thorough job, finding amazing bits of family history.  We brought it all home for cataloging and archiving.  I'll pit up a few things here in the coming days.

I finally fulfilled a promise I made to an old friend while home.  Francis has been wanting to go back to what is left of our old neighborhood to see the old cemetery that was in the woods where we played as kids.  The whole trip was a sad look at what once was a happy neighborhood filled with kids playing  and neighbors visiting.  Since the highway came through and split out block down the middle, the little houses have been in a steep decline.  So was the little cemetery.  All of the gravestones have been knocked down and shattered.

I also took the time to finally visit Lynne's gravesite and doubled up on the trip visiting Pelham's grave at the same cemetery in Jacksonville.  Kim and Sil went with and helped along the way in my search.  Finding Pelham was fun and exciting.  Standing before my high school girlfriend's grave was sad, but brought back fragrant memories of those times and the girl with the greenest eyes the world has ever least, to me they were.

The trip home went easily.  It's always more fun with Kim along.  I'm glad we came back a bit early.  I was able to go see Jake's last T-Ball Game on Saturday and now Jay and Kelly are spending the weekend at the house so they can go look at a couple of venues for the wedding.  That'll be coming up in March.

Last night was a prefect night for star gazing, the first one, honestly, since getting my telescope for my birthday.


19 May, 2013: Chancellorsville

As soon as I had my part of barracks closeout finished, I jumped in Brodie's car. We drove to Fredericksburg to begin our Civil War trip for this year.  Friday morning, when we tried to get back up on I-95, the traffic was backed up for miles on Virginia 17 from a tractor-trailer wreck.  To get south of the Rapidan we had to go all the way to crossing on Virginia 3.  It was our own  flank march to the battlefield. 

We began our tour at the Visitor's Center, arriving just in time for a talk by the resident historian.  His talk was spirited, but really didn't offer any new information.  We drove to the Lee-Jackson Night Bivouac to start our tour, then we drove Jackson's flanking march route.  We ended the day at Guinea Station where Jackson died.

It hit me along the way that I had once visited the site where John Pelham, the young Alabamian and artillerist was shot and I bought a book about him at the visitor's center.  You'd think that, as much as I've studied, and being from Alabama, that I'd know more about him.  He was an amazing young man.  I think tracking him down will be next year's trip.

Tomorrow, Kim and I will drive to Birmingham for two weeks.


16 May, 2013: Dead Week

After Finals, I took the 4th Class Cadets out to the national forest for their FTX.  All went well and, even with the changes we put in, we closed on camp in record time.  This year, instead of expecting them to traverse the extremely tough middle section of the course, he had them report to stations for round-robin training, and then moved them to Reservoir road for a rod march to Shady Mountain Camp.

We returned to VMI in good order, just in time for practice Parades.  Everything went well the rest of the week and the 1st Class didn't cause any real big problems.  All we have to do today is Graduation and Barracks Closeout.

My nephew Colin, driving down from Maine, stopped in and has spent the last couple of days with me.  I have enjoyed showing him around VMI at the best time of year.

As soon as the duty day is finished, COL John and I will go to Chancellorsville to walk the battlefield. It is the best way possible to begin my summer.


11 May, 2013: NCMT FTX

I take the fourth class out on their FTX today.  We'll be back Monday by 1300hrs.  It has been a very busy month getting ready for it.  If the weather will just be nice, it should go well.  My main goal: Take a LOT of photos.

Summer is comming.


28 April, 2013: Kim's Home

Kim got home last night from two weeks in Birmingham.  Maybe it was three.  I'm not sure.  I was so busy the time she was gone went fast, but, still, I hate coming home to a quiet house.  She wasn't supposed to come home until Monday, but she surprised me by coming in two days early.  I'll Take That! 

Last Wednesday was Jake's first T-ball game.  It was well run with plenty of coach supervision to explain the rules.  Jake did well, but like all the other kids, he was more into goofing off than really playing the game...but once the ball was hit, the were all business.  The two teams batted around for two complete innings; Jake got a couple of strong hits.  I loved it, but had a time trying to capture it with my camera.  I was too busy watching the game to think about photographing it.  The kids were cute.  I did get one fun shot...which looks like Jake is calling an Out at First Base, though I think he was just dancing.  The boy is such a card.

I ran a Alumni trap range out at McKethan for about thirty guys from '83 and '93 on Friday, and Saturday morning, we had a Parade.  After that I took the rest of the weekend off.  Saturday afternoon, I cleaned Bess on the inside.  My plan we to wash and wax her today, but it has been raining all day and looks like it will until Thursday.  There have been no opportunities this year for the Bess Spring Cleaning.  Work and bad weather have kept me from it.

Next weekend looks open.  Good weather would be nice.


19 April, 2013: Range Days

I'm not sure how it all worked out this way, but the last four days of this week, I'll run  three different ranges, for three different groups, for three different reasons. 

Yesterday, I ran the try-outs for the Trap and Skeet Team.  We had twenty four Cadets come out this year and among those, we had five really good shooters, including one young lady.  She will give me two for next year.  The four guys are solid shooters and should help us fill the slots left open by our top four shooters, all First Classmen, graduation this year.

Tomorrow, I'll run the M4/M14 side of the Fourth Class familiarization range.  We'll fire over 350 cadets on the rifles and the M9 pistol.  This is the final stage of their New Cadet Military Training program.

Sunday, I'll run the Trap Range for the North Post Challenge Competitoin.  One team from each of the nine companies, consisting of four people each, will march out to the range and fire twenty-five rounds as part of their score.  When I'm finished with that, I have OC until midnight.

Good Weekend, right?  Next week should be a bit better.


9 April, 2013: FTX at the Beach

During this past weekend, while most of the Corps and Commandant Staff were conducting the Spring FTX, I took 9 Cadets to attend the funeral of one of VMI's most gracious benefactors.   I got the word of his passing Wednesday night over face book, and advised the leadership on Post first thing Thursday morning.  After about three thousand e-mails and a lot of phone calls, I was able to put together a team of Cadets who are beneficiaries of scholarships from the family.  I also rounded up the last bugler and piper on Post, not going on FTX.  We a ll departed on Sunday and spent the night in Wilmington.

The funeral was Monday, and the Cadets acted as Pall Bearers, folded the flag, played taps, and amazing grace.  It was a VMI show and they did very well.

Monday night, Ken and Alice picked me up and took me to dinner at Elijah's American Grill and Oyster Bar  on the Riverfront.  We started out with the Hot Crab Dip.  That was pretty glorious.  Then, I had the Crab on English which was delicious.  I could have eaten about three more helpings.  After dinner, they drove me, at my request, to Wrightsville Beach.  We got there as the sun was going down.  images The smell of the ocean and the cool off-shore breeze brought back great memories of PC, Turkey, and Cyprus.  We took a short stroll down the beach, swapping stories, before heading back.

The next day I gathereed up the lads and headed back to Lex, just in time to see Kim off the next morning.  She's visiting her parents in Birmingham, helping around their house.


31 March, 2013: Ikea for Easter

Kimberly has been re-decorating my War Room.  Re-decorating may be the wrong room.  Until now, I've been using  a hodge-podge of our old furniture, including the bakers rack as a book shelf, my roll top desk (minus the top destroyed in our many moves), a conglomeration of Turkish rugs, and Jonathon's old chest of drawers from when he was a kid.

Slowly, but surely, we have replaced all that with a very monochromatic display of manliness, with loads of space for my books, and huge table for my computer stuff, a super comfy day bed, a big area rug (which I think is green and Kim says is gray), and tall chest of drawers (which we picked up and I put together yesterday) that is large enough for me to put all my stuff.

Friday, I helped push out all the Cadets as we closed down Barracks for three days.  COL H had it all prepared and organized and it went extremely well, and I had to do far less this time.  Saturday, Kim and I got up and drove to the Ikea store in Woodbridge.  The drive was great until we had to get on I-95...which sucks.  It was bumper-to-bumper traffic at 1030 on Saturday Morning.  We drove right back so I could put it together, which took me about three hours.  Man!  There were a lot of pieces!  I had it done about the time my "Five Hour Energy" and "Frappuccino" from the return drive wore off.


Friday, 22 March, 2013: Spring Furlough

I asked for and received permission from the boss to take a few days on either side of Spring Furlough so that Kim and I could take Bill and Sylvia out to San Antonia.  The reason for the trip was to visit Bill's Sister, Barbara, and her son, Terry, his wife, Debra, and their son, Wes.

With a snow storm headed our way, we left on Tuesday night and got to Birmingham by early morning.  I spent Thursday with Mom, and we got on the Rad to Texas on Friday morning, driving to Baton Rouge the first day. We were in San Antonio by early evening Saturday in time for supper at Barbara's.

Sunday we went to Boerne, to the house of one of Deb's friends, Tracy.  What a sad and brave story she has lived and is living.  That evening we all ate at the Alamo Cafe for some Tex-Mex.

Monday morning we toured the San Antonio Missions, beginning at San Jose' and ending at the Alamo.  Deb began the tour at the visitors center so we could watch the film about the history of the missions.  It was a good refresher to the course I took in the Academy on South West history.  My favorite was, by far, San Juan Capistrano.  The stark white stucco against the bright blue sky and surrounded by desert and cactus was about the most picturesque thing I saw while there.  Of course standing at the Alamo was, as always, inspiring.  We did the river boat tour after the Alamo, and then we ate at Paesano's that evening, joined by Jeanie, another of Deb's friends, and by  LTC Rob, a friend of mine from VMI ROTC days.

Tuesday, we went to Gruene for lunch at Kim's favorite place, the Grist Mill.  It was as good as she claimed.  After lunch we walked the little town and shops, beginning in the antique store.  Man! There was a pocket knife there that I should have bought.  I spent a little time in the dance hall.  This is the place where John Travolta danced in the 1996 movie "Michael."  We were back at Barb's for dinner.

Wednesday, we all loaded up the van and went to Fredericksburg and the National Museum of the Pacific War.  This place was amazing and contains more info than anyone could process in a half-day visit.  We ate at Rathskeller for lunch, a great little place, and I had a good Jaeger Schnitzel for the first time since my last trip to Germany in 1991.  On the way back into town, we stopped at Cavender's and Kim and I bought cowboy boots.  I've lived in Texas and visited many times, and always wanted to buy some boots, but never got around to it.  I figured this was the perfect time, so I spent some money.  That evening we went to Miss Ellie's for some of the best pizza I've ever had.

Breakfast Thursday morning was at Pioneer Mills, downtown.  Try the cinnamon roll they said.  I was thinking, "Yeah, how bad could it be?"  Well, everything is BIG in Texas.  when this thing showed up at my table, it was huge.  It had to be 8-inched in diameter, and at leasr 5-inched thick.  So, I ate it; all of it.  I didn't want to be impolite, now, did I?  Thank good ness the rest of the day was spent walking around the King William Area homes.  We visited Villa Finale and The Mathis homes, then retired back to dinner at Deb's

Friday, I was tired of the tourist scene, so Terry droped me off for a walk around MacArthur Park. I kept looking for deep green icing, but didn't spot any.  I watched a couple of movies while I waited on Kim and Deb to return from shopping.  We all went across the street to Jeanie's for dinner.  Jeanie owns my dream house.  Great place.

Saturday I met Brett and George, from my old Scout days, for lunch at La Hacienda.  That was absolutely GREAT,  I miss these guys and those days.

Sunday, we packed up and drove to Shreveport, Monday we got to Birmingham, and Tuesday we got back to Lexington.  It was a lot of driving but the company of Kim, Bill, and Sylvia made it fun.  We did a lot of things and had busy days, but it was all enjoyable and relaxing.  I love Texas, but it's not a place I'd want to live; I need more green and higher hills.


Saturday, 2 March, 2013: What?  A Day Off?  Wow!

This morning I opened my office at 0630hrs so the Trap and Skeet team could get their shotguns.  We had to store them there until I could fix the safe, which was only a matter of changing the 9-Volt battery.  SFC Dale took them to the Radford Shoot this weekend so I could have a little time off.

I took them to the UKY Shoot this past weekend and, thought the trip went well, we shot poorly.  There was some success.  Curtis shot second in an event and Bullock came in 6th in another.  Sadly, the rest of the team mostly shot below the mid-point cut line.  That is not like us at all.  Hopefully we'll do much better at Radford.  On the way back we stopped at Hooters in Beckley West Virginia.  Picture that if you will.  What do you think the girls would look like at a Hooters in Beckley West Virginia?  Correct.  I have made the team promise to never stop there again.  I don't know why we always drive past the one in Huntington.  That's a good one, usually.

Kim is on her way back from Augusta Georgia.  Elise just moved there for her Captain's Career Course for Signal.  Kim had to go move half the stuff Elise failed to have the movers pack out.  Supposedly, both cars were packet to the brim.  Live and Learn, I guess.

So, while I'm waiting for Kim, I've been watching Season Two of the Big Bang Theory, just finished Taken Two...only "OK,"...and have been washing clothes and cleaning My Room.  It is hard to believe it is March Already.  The Semester is gong fast.

Kim and I will be taking Bill and Sylvia to San Antonio this month.  I'm looking forward to that and the break from VMI.  I get pretty frustrated this time of the year with the kids making the same stupid mistakes, the 1st Class quitting after Breakout, and the miserable weather this time of year.  I think the mood settles in on everyone.  BUT, my goal is not to be the mean old man I have in past years.  Spring is coming.


 Monday, 11 February, 2013: Back from Mardi Gras

Last weekend I went to New Orleans on a quick trip with the Band to march in the Mardi Gras Parade, The Krewe of Endynion

I got up Friday morning about 4, got to work in time to reposition the bus so it wouldn't block BRC formation, and we left around 0735hrs.  We flew out of Richmond on two KC135 USAF aircraft and landed a couple of hours later in Gulf Port Mississippi.  From there we were picked up by two school busses and dropped off at Jesuit High School a couple of blocks away from Canal Street. The school graciously, at the last minute, gave us their gym floor, when the Navy ship that was to house us had rudder problems and couldn't make it.  Go Navy!

After a quick change to civvies, the same buses drove us to Bourbon Street.  The party was already in full swing,  I have to liken it to being at a too crowed bar, where everyone is already drunk when you get there, only they wear stranger clothing.  I wasn't impressed. 

However, things were looking up.  We went looking for food and my mind was set on some shrimp and grits.  We took a street off Bourbon, then went left, and almost immediately a young black guy stepped up to me and said, "You look hungry; you should eat here.  We have shrimp and grits."  It was a sign.  I convinced the lads we should take the hint and we stepped in to a nice place called Creole Cuisine.  We had oysters on the half shell, grilled and raw, and I loved them.  My shrimp and grits were great as well.  After a long day of traveling with only a VMI Box Nasty to eat, I thoroughly enjoyed this meal and the price tag didn't even phase me.

After dinner we walked the streets a bit more, then watched the Parade, and, being pretty bored with it all, I walked the two miles back to the gym about 2200hrs.  I know I must be missing the point, but the whole begging-for-beads thing escapes me.  The Cadets were totally into it and found that doing pushups worked great.  They all returned by 0100hrs decked out in tons of plastic.  I also didn't get the parade.  Float after float looked almost exactly the same, with what looked like KKK members throwing beads.  The bands ranged from Good to not so good, and after a few passed by, they all looked the same too.  I'm sure it would have been a better time if I had been young and with a bunch of my friends.  I just wanted a nap.

That night I found that being sixty-years-old and sleeping on a cold, hard, gym floor was actually painful.  Not much sleep was had that night. 

The next day we got up late and grabbed a bite at a little breakfast place a block and a half from the school, Huevos Coffee and Breakfast.  It was a cool little place with four tables and it was packed with the sixteen people it would hold.  But, the food was good and the Coffee GREAT! 

We formed for Parade at 1400hrs and it was a lot of hurry up and wait.  We never made it to the parade form-up point at City Park, off loading in the street about a block away.  With the Cadets trying to link up, get dressed, and getting in place, that left re-loading the truck with instrument cases up to one poor cadet, SGM Hank, and me.  I was happy I wore ACUs instead of my dress uniform.

My job on Parade was to walk along with the Band and watch for trouble.  There wasn't any.  About all I had to do was to get people out of the way, which only took a quick whistle and a hand gesture.  Everyone was super polite and Hank and I shook hands for miles as people thanked us for our service.

During the many stops we made, I got to talk to the people.  My favorite group was a bunch of LSU fans, who, when they heard my accent, guessed that I was from Alabama, and demanded that I be an Auburn Fan so they wouldn't have to hate me.  They were great. One pretty little girl asked to have her photo taken with me.  COL John grabbed my camera and took a really good shot of that.  Thanks John!  It was like that the whole night.

After four hours and about eight miles of marching, including a lap inside the Super Dome, I got on a bus for the thirteen hours back to Fort VMI.  We got in about 1400hrs and I was in bed and asleep by 1600.  I woke up about 0830 this morning sore all over.  The combination gym floor/bus ride/after an 8 mile walk really did the old body a number.

 I strolled into work about 1130hrs, a day and a half behind on my work.


Sunday, 3 February, 2013: If I could Just Stay Out Of the Cold!

I feel like I'm completely losing the battle to shed this head cold.  Between Trap and Skeet on Thursday, NCMT prep on Friday, and 2013 Breakout on Saturday, I have had to be out in the weather entirely too much.  By night every evening I feel like someone has beaten me with a stick, I'm running a low-grade fever, and my sinuses are clogged's nasty!

Elise, Jonathon, and Kelly came in last night for the Super Bowl Party tonight, while I'm huddled up in my room staying warm.

Tuesday, 29 January, 2013: Ack

BR Jim was in town this weekend and Elise drove up to see him.  Kim was in Tennessee for the weekend.  Sunday I was ill as could be.  I knew it was coming.  All last week I was very tiredafter work, and got in bed early sleeping about twelve hours each night.  I'm blaming it on being trapped on a bus for 15 hours with Cadets on Monday.  The Barracks Plague!

I took yesterday off to recover and stayed in bed all day...Feeling better this morning.

Tuesday, 22 January, 2013: Marching in DC

Monday we took almost the whole Corps to DC for the Inaugural Parade.  It was a long day of "hurry up and wait," but fun and rewarding.   We arrived in 26 buses with around 1500 cadets.  This time I had SFC Bean and SFC Echeverria which made things on the ground go much more smoothly, though the parade staff really has never understood our requirements.  First there was no place to put the Corps when we arrived at the start point.  I had the staff move a band and we used a space next to the Washington monument to form up.  Without permission I moved the Corps from there to a place where we could get on to the Parade Route without too many obstacles.

Thursday 17 January, 2013:  Black Kitty

I had to put BK down today.  He had taken to pooing around the house and in the last two weeks it got worse.  Researching the problem, there seemed to be no fix, and the Vet agreed.  The poor buddy was 16 years old and was probably suffering from kitty Alzheimer syndrome, so I went in knowing I was going to put him down, unless the Vet could give me some miracle cure.

He went quietly and I buried him, in the rain, out back next to FoFo.  BK was the sweetest Kitty of the four, and in the year after Fofo died, he really took up with me. 

It snowed tonight.


Monday, 14 January, 2013: A Three-Day Birthday

Saturday, Jonathon, Jake, and I went to the VMI basketball game.  It was a winner, with the opposing coach getting thrown out and VMI beating the other team by twenty points.  Afterwards, Jake wanted ice cream, so we went to Sweet Things downtown.

 What I didn't know was that, gathering at the house, friends were coming from all over for a surprise birthday.  Kim has never done anything like this before, so I was taken completely by surprise.  Ellie came in from Norfolk, Chris from NOVA and the Pentagon, Kelly came down from Charlottesville after work, Elise and Tori drove up from Bragg, Chris and Sarah made it in the nick of time, Chris Bean came, Gabe came without Stephanie, who popped in that evening with Ann, and Gary stopped by from next door.

Sunday Elise was supposed to make breakfast but everyone slept in.  I, of course, went in to open Barracks for the Cadets.  I unlocked the 4th and 5th Stoops and part of the 3rd stoop.  SFC Bean unlocked all the other doors.  I got the gates and the 24 hour doors and pulled the Bollards.  By the time I was finished, CPT Sarah was there to set up the early return Guard and get the Historians working.  I gt home just in time to see Jonathon and Jake off and to go to Berkey's with Kim, Elise, Kelly, and Tori.

Monday was registration day, so the Staff took Kim, Sarah, and me out for lunch to Don's for my birthday and Sarah's farewell. Sarah has taken a job with the Navy in MWR.  We'll miss her.


Saturday, 12 January, 2013: The VMI Shooting Program

Wednesday, the weapons staff taught our second Basic Pistol Course to about 25 local civilians.  This is an extension of the Corps Marksmanship Program where we teach rifle and pistol marksmanship to the Cadets,  Since building the new Range, we've hired a Director of Corps Marksmanship to run the program. 

The familiarization on the M4 Carbine and M9 Pistol that NCMT has been teaching the 4th Class is now Phase I of the program. 

In Phase II we are qualifying the entire Third Class, including NCAA athletes, on the M4.  To support the program, VMI has bought a number of M9s and M4s for our armory.  That makes the training so much easier since we don't have to use Army weapons.

For the upper two classes, we're offering Range Safety Officer and Basic Pistol Instruction and open range days.  Add to that the Pistol Club, the NCAA Rifle team, and the Trap and Skeet Team, the opportunities to shoot around VMI are really taking off. 

With a little luck, we'll be able to conduct a Historical Shoot this year, firing just about everything you can think of.  We've sought out the ATF guys up the road in West Virginia, and they seem more than willing to help.  They gave us a guided tour through their facility and their Arms Room, so when I say "everything you can think of," I really mean that.


11 January, 2013: Musical Offices

With CPT Sarah leaving, there has been a big shuffle in the duties in the Commandant's Office. 

  • COL LE will now be in charge of S1,2,4,5,6 AND 7.  Crazy. 

  • The two NCOs will be assigned to the S3 to take over from LTC (P) Mitch while he's away, beginning this summer, for a year attending CGSC....still "dash-lined" to me.

  • Club Sports and Cadet Pubs are now under COL L-Train, as are the two folks running those programs and Ms. Monika their Admin Assistant.

So, COL LE is taking Sarah's office, MAJ Larry is taking LTC Kevin's office, he is taking LE's office, I volunteered to take Larry's (great for me, or so I think), and MAJ Chris will take mine.

 I just finished moving over all my stuff and it only took me two hours and four trips.  The new office is HUGE!  Definitely a step up.  Unpacking and hanging my "I Love Me Wall" will take some time.  Basically, I just want to be organized by the first day of school.


6 January, 2013: The Rest of Furlough

Bill, Sil, and I drove to Birmingham on the 28th in their car.  The trip down went well and was a lot of fun.  It really made me look forward to our trip to San Antonio in March.

Saturday morning I had Bill drive me out to Town and Country Ford in Bessemer to pick up Kim's new car.  We bought a new 2013 Ford Fusion Titanium, silver, with the 2 liter Ecoboost engine.  We got it loaded which make it the newest of our gadgets.  I've had the best time playing with all the bells and whistles.  The Cruise Control was a little tricky.  I pushed and held the accelerate button, like I would on my car, and when I released, the car shifted into third and the turbo kicked in.  Lickity-split, I was doing 85.  It seams all you have to do is bump the button for each MPH you wish to increase...or decrease.  I like the station-keeping "radar" or whatever it is, that automatically slows your speed to the pace of lead car when on Cruse Control.  Love the 6-speed Transmission and paddle shifters. Together they make the 2 Liter engine perform like a much more powerful car.  Love the radio and the heated seats.  Love the fuel gauge, tachometer, and MPG readouts.  For the first time, this morning, I used the remote start from the house to warm up the car before going to get Kim a Hardees biscuit.  Best. Thing. Ever.  I even like "Sync with MyFord Touch," which I found very easy to use, even thought people talk a lot of smack about it on the internet.  I chalk that up to people who just won't try anything new...or stupidity.

Sunday was Mom's 84th Birthday.  I set up pizza dinner with Jim, Lynn, and Colin and a small cake.  I'm not sure that Mom realized it was her birthday, but she certainly appreciated the cake and candy we gave her.  I also bought her the first season of My Three Sons, a show we watched as a family on our small Zenith TV back in the 60s.  She and I spent the next day watching the first disk, and I think she really enjoyed it.  Wednesday, we went to lunch at Green Acres Cafe in Centerpoint.  This is mom's favorite restaurant since the East Gate Cafe closed.

New Year's Eve was spent on the phone with Kim as the local populace of Huffman stepped outside and fired their pistols in the air.  It sounded like a pistol range at Ft. Bragg out there.  Maybe Alabama should encourage more firecracker use.

I drove back Thursday morning, and good thing!  I checked my e-mail and the inaugural security guys needed a better photo of me before the Parade.  Luckily, I had a photo from a couple of years ago that, with a little cropping, fit all their requirements.  I also took the guidons to the cleaners so they'll be clean before I put them on the new poles.

 Next, I need to sit down and talk to LTC Mitch and the NCOs about how we'll practice the Corps the week they come back.  I have some good ideas about how to do that, but need their ideas and to make sure we're on the same sheet of music.  Week after next will be a busy-busy week.

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