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Thursday night I got a call from Dad saying He and Mom were in Oxnard. They are headed back home… The trip in the RV has turned out to be a little bit more than they expected and so they are going to take it home to Oregon and consider alternative means of transportation to visit friends and family. The Beast has been….well….a beast. It is getting far less mileage then expected and while totally comfortable to stay in, not so fun to travel in…it keeps causing Dad tension that he just does not need. So it is going to be parked and probably sold when they get back to Oregon.

So…they parked the Beast at Zeb and Cara Claytons house here in Ventura and came back to my house. I was thrilled….so here is a review of their week in the Beast in Southern California.

When they left my house the Friday before…they went down the Coast, the one with the bikinis..Dad says there were people everywhere. Lots of surfers were out, sitting on the boards waiting for their next ride.  They drove down the 10 Fwy, and through LA…But then he made a mistake and got off on Alameda…and drove through bumper to bumper traffic to get in to Huntington Park to see Joe and get the RV diagnosed. 

They parked the RV and walked a couple of blocks to have lunch at a “delightful” place…chili relleno, rice and beans for five bucks. Quite a buy and good too. They had some difficulty communicating with the lady, who spoke only Spanish, so a Lieutenant in the Salvation Army, a young man, served as interpreter.

After Joe worked on the RV, replacing all the headlights, found a shorted wire and corrected it along with a number of other things, including the ignition module, they hit the road.  As previously reported, the City Ordinances on Parking, caused them to leave South Gate without visiting anyone.  They stayed in Santa Fe Springs, had dinner at a “joint”…fast food and spent the night in Lowe’s parking lot.

They got up the next morning and headed to Riverside. Visited Donna and Pete, saw some of their children, stayed with them and totally enjoyed their visit.

From Riverside, off they went to MiraLoma to visit Glorine Quidor. Glorine is a true blue friend from our Covina days. When they left Glorines, Dad reports that it was “so dang hot” that the smoke alarm started screeching in the RV. There was no smoke, no fumes, just heat. They ignored the thing and it finally quit. I am sure that did wonders for Mom’s blood pressure…not.

Down the 60 FWY…and the Beast started acting up in heavy traffic, chugalugging and finally quitting when they got near Rubidoux. Dad pulled over alongside the freeway and it just did not want to start again. Finally, after 10-15 minutes, it finally started…but the traffic was so furious, so he had to wait to move on over. As Dad started away, he said he looked behind and there was a tow-truck parked behind him and the tow truck driver was coming towards them…but Dad kept going. He says the tow truck driver followed him down the freeway like a vulture, waiting for the Beast to lay down and die again. That must have scared the Beast, because it stood up straight and ran beautifully.  The vulture passed them and found another piece of road-kill…there was a stalled pick-up truck in one of the center lanes that had caused the traffic to jam. When they cleared that, the Beast was on her best behaviour and they moved on down the road.

They arrived in Cathedral City, pulled into a strip mall and parked. Called Ruby Fitzgerald and left a message. Mom and Dad went to a Chinese Cafe and shorthly after that, Ruby joined them for dinner. They followed her to her home and caught up where they left off…back in 1967. Lot’s to talk about. Old times revisited.  They were thrilled to see her again.

Ruby arranged for Mom and Dad to park the beast at the Spa Casino where she you had a nice and quiet night.  Dad and Mom went into the restaurant the next morning and had a nice buffet breakfast. Dad said the Casino was opulent and beautiful. After their breakfast…they headed out to see more great friends.

Helen and Bob Nudo also live in Cathedral City. They are friends from South Gate. The Beast proved to be to big for their mobile home park. 91-year-old Bob came and picked them up from down the street and took them back to their home for their catch up session. They did not get to visit with Bob very long, he had to head out for his dialysis session. Helen was delighted to see them, but when it was time for them to leave…they walked back to the RV..Helen thought the heat would kill them. So she went and wet some papertowels and made them wet neck collars to save them from the desert air from Hell. By the way…Bobby is you ever read this…you and me gotta talk buddy.

So back into the Beast, they turned back North, headed to Covina.  Doing things the Ray-Way, he parked right in front of our old house on Fairvalley in Covina, without calling ahead to warn he was coming. Mom went next door and knocked on Allison (Whittaker) Sanchez house. Allison ran out and had a happy reunion. They also visited with the owner of our old house, a Deputy Sheriff for L.A. County. He had bought the house, did a bunch of upgrades and now is upside down on the morgage, just like a whole lot Californians. He replaced the roof, put in a new driveway, put in French doors….got new windows…etc. Looks much better than when we lived there.

Don’t you think it is ironic that Allison lives right next door now from where she used to hang out as a kid?  They had a wonderful few days with Allison. They attended Allison’s Congregation…and saw some of our old friends,:Joyce Whittaker, Sister Wedde and Laurie Spalino, Verda Potter, Cindy Barella. Darlene Behr and more, whose names slip their mind. Mel Behr came to visit them at Allisons. Bob Santoyo also dropped in with his two grandchildren. All in all, a very nice visit with the other Cook girl. Allison spent enought time at our house to qualify as the sixth child.

From Allison’s they travelled back to Joe Alvarez’ shop to try and find out what the heck is going on with the Beast. It runs good and then starts cutting out again. Joe found a bundle of wires that were lying on the manifold. He repositioned them. He replaced the oil pressure sender unit and did a few other things and they thought they had the Beast subdued. Joe would not accept any payment…he’s a real sweetie. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad were dining at the same restaurant where they had the great lunch, “La Quebrada de Acapulco”…The Cliffs of Acapulco. Mom had a shrimp tostada and Dad had a repeat on his former lunch.

After lunch, back over to Joe’s where the Beast sat waiting all nice and polite, with a promise to behave. Casi Saldana’s car was also receiving attention from Joe and Casi was supposed to be headed in to pick it up. Casi is our dear friend from South Gate. He was one of Randy’s groomsmen in our wedding. Mom and Dad hung around for a while so they could see him. He was sure suprised to see Mom standing there. After a brief visit…Mom and Dad climbed into the Beast and headed my way.

The Beast ran smoothly all the way up here, but then it scared the living daylights out of Dad. They got off the freeway and the beast died, and so did the power to the brakes and Dad almost took out the truck in front of him. Fortunately, he pulled the hand brake and squealed to a stop before biting the butt of that truck. Whew. He reports that his heart almost stopped. NOT GOOD!

Dad and Mom came to my house and on Friday, I took the day off work. (Thanks Joe…my boss.) Dad replaced something else on the beast and hopefully that will resolve the problem. Everyone bend your heads in prayer.

Friday night, Chris and Liz invited us over to dinner for a beautiful dinner. Micheal had set out paper and crayons so we could draw and we sat down to color while Chris and Liz performed magic in the kitchen of their new place in Camarillo. Soon, wonderful smells were wafting out way…Little Chris sat down and just started writing his name for the very first time. Not only did he write his name, he started writing the names of everyone in his class and then he started writing his numbers. I have to tell you, it was quite exciting and we were thrilled to share that memorable occasion. Mom and Dad loved their visit with Chris and Liz. Fine food, Fine Wine and Fine Family…what more could you want….except of course Everlasting Life and Peace?

The next morning, we met Dustin, Kate, and Kate’s mother, Brenda (visiting from North Carolina) at Cafe Neuvo…a favorite place here in Ventura. Carlos the Owner is a sweetie and the place has such a great atmosphere and the best bisquits and gravy around, along with home-made syrup, and omelets from Heaven. YUM…We had a great visit and then headed back to my house, while Kate and her Mom went off to the Spa for some much-deserved pampering.

Back at home, I made brownies and then some guilt-inducing, sky-rocketing calorie loaded, gooey, yummy macaroni and cheese for the Congregation Picnic we had to send Liz and Chris and the McDonagh on their way and say so long. The picnic was at a local park and it was well attended and FUN. The kids and adults alike had a great time playing ball, flying a kite and eating some good ole fashioned picnic food. Mom and Dad had a nice relaxing day visiting with all our Ventura friends.  GREAT DAY!!!  I’ll post some photos in the album…go see.

That night, Dustin brought over a tri-tip to BBQ and Chris and Liz brought the kids and a crisp yummy salad. The boys were thrilled to be able to spend so much time with Mom and Dad…We had a great evening.  Mom watched Mama Mia with me and we giggled at sexy Pierce Brosnan trying to sing…Somehow it just did’nt work watching 007 blow it on the tunes…but he is still a hottie.  We had a great time…missed Kate though, who was at home with a high fever. (She’s better now)

Mom and Dad got up the next morning and ate the pancakes I prepared for them…but they had the nerve to say they weren’t as good as Art’s Corner Cafe..OUCH!!!  I guess I should fry my pancakes in butter so they can be crispy.  Anyway, Dustin drove over and followed us over to the RV to see Mom and Dad off on their way…OUCH again.

I am gonna miss them hanging around my house…they are pretty good decorations. We had a great time relaxing and laughing and lots of really good hugs.. They could give lessons on hug-giving.

So the Beast is now rumbling toward home with it’s precious cargo eager to park it in an Oregon driveway.

Dad reports that He and Mom are safe and secure at Pete and Donna Dover’s home in Riverside, CA.  After leaving Ventura, they travelled down the Coast and went to Huntington Park, where Dad entrusted the Beast to our very good friend Joe Alvarez, who is also a Mechanic.  The Beast was examined, prodded and diagnosed and things were replaced. Dad told me what things, but I forgot…I will try to work on being a better reporter. Anyway, off they went, hoping to visit friends in South Gate…but as it got later in the day, they discovered that all the cities surrounding them had ordinances on parking RVs overnight.  So they had to move on down the road to Santa Fe Springs, where they parked where the Big Rigs park. Mom is getting some nice views of industrial parks.

The next morning they started out, but the dang Beast threw back it’s head and decided that smooth sailing was not going to be the mode for the day. It started acting up again…so they got down to Riverside, are with the Dovers, and the Beast will be taken in for another diagnostic session. Nothing is ever easy…dang it!

Meanwhile, on the global scene, Teri reports from Germany that she is having an amazing adventure. She traveled to Europe to attend an International Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Teri was visiting one of our Branches in Germany and she saw a man with a lapel card that she thought said he was from Corona, California; however, on closer inspection, it turns out that he was from COVINA, California…WOW.!  Now it gets even more ironic. After exchanging pleasantries and comparing who they knew in common, turns out that Teri was talking with Frank Padilla. Frank Padilla lived across the street from Mom and Dad when they all lived in South Gate…and Frank has known my husband, Randy, since he was a tiny little boy. Now, Frank and his family have moved to Covina, where we grew up and went to school and attends the Kingdom Hall with some of our dearest friends. Small, small world. 

Anyway, globe-trotter Teri is having the best time. My green eyes have turned a deeper shade of green. You know that shade…the jealous shade of green..I AM SO JEALOUS!!!  Truly, I am thrilled for her.  My sister Teri remains one of the best people I know.  But then again, she comes from some pretty good stock.

Back to the stock-makers…Dad and Mom are surely having a great time with Donna and Pete.  I will check in again. Oh!  Dad did not take a camera, so we are counting on you to help out with this….if Dad and Mom knock on your door, take a picture of all of you and send it to us so we can post it in their album.  Thanks to all of you who are making this a great trip for Mom and Dad.

Today…Friday, July 10th, Mom and Dad climbed up into the Beast again and started rambling down the road, headed down the Coast towards Huntington Park. Yes, they went down  Highway 1…but this section of the “1” is far tamer than Northern California. Southern California shoreline is beautiful and the beach-goers tend to be more interesting. Dad better keep his eyes on the road…and not on those bikini’s. Today is sunny and warm, so I am sure that they will have plenty to see.

Mom and Dad have been staying with Randy and I here in Ventura. I will always cherish these past few weeks, spent with Mom and Dad. I sit here, tears rolling down my face, my heart feels swollen and it aches and I cannot focus on anything I am supposed to be accomplishing today. I have plans to see them again real soon, but watching them drive off today made a wreck out of me. Several hours later and I still have this gigantic lump in my throat…and am amazed at how my tears have not shorted out my laptop. Have I told you lately that I am so blessed to have that wonderful man and woman in my life? I really had trouble letting that last hug end. I have gotten really use to them again these past few weeks.

Coming home from work and finding my Dad puttering around my kitchen has been great. Randy has been eating some things out of our normal diet….but Dad cooked some great meals. I offered to hire him, but he declined. He did leave some Okra and Turnip Greens in my refrigerator.  He told me he wanted me to cook them up for Randy. I’m sure he cannot wait. I love eating with Mom and Dad…they cook things that I grew up on, but somehow have not remained recipes that I prepare for my family. Good Ole Southern Food.

Dad and Mom were welcomed warmly by our Congregation here in Ventura and Dad complimented our friendly spirit…but remarked that we are not very good singers.  That is true…we have to work on that; however, last night, the last song was sung withgreat spirit. Somehow, I think they were all following Dad’s example. He sure belts out those Kingdom songs with heartfelt joy. I have to report that holding my Dad’s hand during the prayer brought back a flood of memories of being a child and attending the meetings with him. I love the way my hand feels in his. (More tears). How do you thank your parents for providing a foundation of truth, for teaching you to love Jehovah, and building a life that includes the best friends possible?  What a gift they have given their children. I am so proud to know that my father and mother have dedicated their lives to doing Jehovah’s will. Their endurance is an example for all of us…what a legacy.

My boys have sure enjoyed their Poppy and Nana’s visit too. Chris was in the middle of moving his family to Camarillo, so he was really busy…but we were all able to get together a few times. Christopher and his wife, Liz brought Micheal and Christopher over and they really took to their new Nana and Poppy.  Dad thinks my boys know how to pick their women. He was quite taken by Kate and Liz. Of course…they are beautiful women and they sure make my boys happy…what’s not to love?

Dustin work schedule allowed him to spend a lot of time with Mom and Dad. He squired them around town and took Mom and Dad to breakfast and lunch a couple of times…and he took them to Sals in Oxnard!  Our family has gone to Sal’s for Mexican Food forever. Dad used to work across the street from the restaurant. He knew Sal and watched his family work along side of him for years. Sal has died now, but his family has expanded the restaurant and has maintained all the old recipes. It is one of the first places Dad and Mom head to for a good meal and good memories.

While I worked, Mom and Dad took my car and drove all over Oxnard, their old stomping grounds. They drove down the streets where they lived and where Dad worked and past their old houses, where they raised their babies…good times. I find it so ironic that I am right back where I started….the rest of the kids are defectors…spread out all over the map. I say it’s time they all head back to California…where the COOK family belong; although I am sure that all of you over in Georgia have different thoughts on that one.

Mom and Dad went over to Lancaster for a couple of days to visit Mom’s sister, Annette and her daughter, Bunny.  They really enjoyed their visit and came back with a cool picture of them when they were younger. They have maintained their good looks over the years. I always tease Dad that he never smiles in pictures, so he was quite happy to prove me wrong with this picture. I will be sure to scan it and post it here.

One night, we were looking on the web and started searching for old friends and family. Mom and Dad had great old time friends, H.P. and Ruby Faye Fitzgerald. Over the years, they lost track of each other. Thanks to the good old WEB…we found out that Ruby Faye lives right here in Southern California in Cathedral City. Sadly, Ruby reported that H.P. died five years ago. Mom and Dad took turns catching up on the phone and have plans to visit Ruby in a few days. How cool is that?

While I am sitting here having a little pity party that my parents have left Ventura…I am thrilled that they get to go and touch base again with the people that have been so important in our lives…YOU. Over the years, we have made friends that have remained life-long, true companions. Just bringing up your names causes us to smile and laugh with some of the memories of great times. So let’s make some more. 

 BE AWARE…there might be a knock on your door soon….Dad and Mom are on their way… and the Beast is on a roll.


No not the human kind….we got some bad gas in the RV.

The day started good enough…Leaving Petaluma Monday morning, we tried to avoid the morning traffic jams and decided we did not want to take the BEAST across the Golden Gate Bridge…so we headed over to the not-so-intimitating Bay Bridge.  I HATE BRIDGES, so I thought it was interesting that Dad said I probably inherited that from him. He reports that when he was a child he had a fear of even walking across a bridge and made his sisters carry him. Well, we made it across the bridge and stopped for breakfast in Albany, just next to Berkley.

Dad had me check on my laptop to find the least expensive gas around…it turned out that San Jose had the cheapest gas. We headed to Moe’s Gas Stop and waited our turn to get “cheap” gas. The Gas Tanker was just leaving and the place was packed.  After putting in $200.00 worth of gas (if you can say that any gas is worth $200), he headed towards Ventura down the 101 …not the curvy Hwy 1. Straight roads, how nice.

We passed through Gilroy..the Garlic Capital of the World.  It was warm outside and the aroma of garlic was definitely up front and center. It was like driving through an Italian restaurant. We passed all kinds of crops; afterall, Central California supplies a whole lot of veggies. The valleys were golden, the crops were green and the wind was warm.

Then….it started.. We were traveling smoothly along in this beautiful RV, when all of the sudden the gas just cut off and we lost speed…then it would chug-a-lug, burp a little and take off again. At first it happened just every now and then…no real problem.  Dad decided I should drive the beast, I mean RV…Of course, with my vast amount of experience propelling large, gigantic, boxes on four wheels, I was thrilled to show off my skills, hmmm.  Mom was of course totally supportive and confident in my abilities as well. NOT!…So I climbed behind the wheel…prayed sincerely and started down the road. No problem! Well at least for a little while and then the Beast decided to show me who was boss and started burping and losing power again, and again. So I pulled over and let the expert take over..Dad started down the road again and it started happenening even more frequently. We decided it had to be bad gas, because we had no problems before we fueled up. It kept happenening, so we pulled off the road in Paso Robles to give the Beast a rest.

I love Paso Robles. It is the home of some mighty fine wines…like Turley!! Good stuff.  Yet somehow the experience was nothing like my previous forays into the wine country. The air was hot, the mood was irritated and we were tired. After a spell, we started off again…got to Templeton and the Beast started burping again…We got off the highway, drove down the side streets and stopped at a Mechanic, who said it was probably bad fuel or a gas filter…etc and sure he could fix it…tomorrow. It was close to five p.m. and he had a two year old and his wife was 8 months pregnant and he promised her he would not be late.  What a great husband!!!  Of course, that did not help us any.

Well long story short…we nursed the Beast along … slowly, mile after mile; through the land of grape vines, ranches, cows, goats, horses trapsing through golden hills, then broke back out onto the Coast, through Santa Barbara, Montecito where Oprah lives, Carpenteria, past famous Rincon Beach where surfers play…oh so very slowly, with multiple stops along the way. We finally got into Ventura at 9:30 p.m. I must say, I was very impressed how cool, calm, and collected Dad remained throughout the day, with only a couple of expletives..which were well deserved and appropriate considering the aggravating nature of the Beast.

Now another dilemma…where to park the Beast. I live in a condo, up a very steep hill and the HOA would have a fit if they saw the Beast in front of our condo. We called my son Chris and his wife and they graciously let us park it in front of their house overnight. Mom and Dad gathered what they needed, Randy came and picked us up and we drove away, free from the Beast and it’s burping problem.

I am home. Mom and Dad are fine…The Beast is parked and for now all is well. Dad will get a few things taken care of. The Beast will be tamed and then they will be on the road again.

July 2009
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