It's been so long that many of you will have forgotten where I left off with the story. And, I'm catching up as my right hand is in a cast and I can't work on the fourth novel in my Father Serra's Legacy series..
After a year as a civilian, I decided to re-enlist in the army. I signed up for training as a truck driver – semis and heavy rigs. I only planned on doing the three years and get out to live the romantic and exciting life of an over the road driver.
I left Fort Ord and drove south on U.S. 101 – the Interstate hadn't been built yet – and settled back to enjoy the ride.
All these years later, I remember the strong aroma of freshly harvested onions in and around Salinas. It's only recently that I've learned Salinas stems from the Spanish word for salt marshes.
The towns with Spanish names passed and I didn't think twice about and remembered the tunnel
I will always remember the hills with towering Live Oak trees.
I think I stopped in Pismo Beach for a pit stop. I wasn't addicted to coffee then, so I'm certain a bought a snack with a soda. There were very few Mickey D's back then so I guess I either went to a drive in or small supermarket.
Driving along the coast – before it was a big super highway – shows one the strength and beauty of our world. I seem to remember pulling onto the edge, just sitting there to savor the sounds and smells of the ocean.
Jack [the man I thought was my father] and Kit, his wife, knew I was coming and put me up in a small trailer in their back yard. I didn't want to go to my grandmother's house as she was furious vat my re-enlisting and abandoning her.
This was before the Peacenik movement and people showed respect for those in uniform. I proudly wore mine wherever I went and enjoyed the smiles and greetings.
My first destination was the card rooms of Gardena. Considered to be a Game of skill,” draw poker is legal in California. There were 2 or 3 rooms near Fort Ord but nowhere like the ones in Gardena. I went directly to the Normandie Club for one simple reason – they served the most fantastic and humongous roast beef sandwich in the world. They also came with generous servings of potato salad. Having played lots of barracks poker, I was cocksure I could beat anyone there.
Little did I know. They only made a minor dent in my bankroll but I left having learned about card mechanics and teaming up. I went to a couple of other rooms during my two weeks at home and managed to hold my own. And with thanks to a couple of room bosses he gave me complimentary meals as I was in uniform. They also served huge tureens of soup.
Most people who have not crossed Arizona on I-10 think this is what it looks like:
Here's the truth!
I was young and didn't think anything of driving straight through from Los Angeles to El Paso. The MP at the main gate handed me a map and pointed to where I as to report in. The Staff Duty NCO led me ta a barracks and pointed me to a bunk – lower – along with the wall and footlocker I was to use. He even issued bedding. I seem to be there too late for the mess hall and ended up going to a Big Boy's off base.
I went to sleep thinking about how neat it would be to drive big rigs.