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Our Anniversary: Birth of an Adventure

Posted by johnnieraz on May 17, 2019 at 12:20 AM

PHOTO: Our summer home for 85 days and 8,000 miles in 2005.

By John Rezell

     When folks learn about our amazing adventure of the summer of 2005 that is chronicled in my book "You Can't Cook a Dead Crab and Eat It" they often ask exactly how one arrives at the decision to take such a grand leap of faith. This excerpt helps explain. Also, I just live an interesting life.



Birth of an adventure

     (A few weeks after our trip to Georgia to watch Lance Armstrong's first final race in America)

     Today is the birthday of our latest adventure. In the next three weeks we will sell as much of our Earthly belongings as possible via that American standard — the Moving Sale/Garage Sale. We'll pack leftovers into storage, close on the sale of our house, and head out on the road in search of our future.

     That's right, Debbie and I are packing up Sierra and Taylor, and heading off for a summer of exploration throughout the Western U.S. in search of the place we plan to call home.

     I'm sure you note a change in my tone. You're no doubt wondering just exactly how we got to this point, this point of knowing, without question, it's time to roll. I mean, the signs have been coming and going for a while now.

     How do you know when you know? The answer is that you just do. I know it's time to move on from this mess as surely as I knew it was time to get into it. That was just a little more than four years ago, when we rolled out of Loveland, CO, in our Ford Explorer with everything we owned packed in storage and a 4-year-old and 2-year-old in the backseat.

     Debbie looks at me and says, "You know, most women wouldn't allow something like this to ever happen."

     I say, "What? Driving out of town homeless and jobless with two young children in the backseat?"

     We hedged our bet that time. We just sold our house in Colorado for a nifty profit, thanks to a nutty home market. I had been a 2000 dotcom casualty, but after three months of searching for work while collecting unemployment, we were driving out for a job interview that I knew, instinctively, I had in my back pocket.

     I knew it from the moment I applied for the job. After sending my resume and cover letter via email, I went, of course, for a bike ride, came home, and said, "We're either moving to Knoxville or Birmingham. I'm not sure yet which one because I applied for both jobs at the same time."

     The next day I get the call from Knoxville. Ironically, my resume in Birmingham went to a woman who previously held the position I would take in Knoxville. If this all sounds strange and bizarre, well, you know it's all part of my world. The world that we put on hold for a while. Tennessee became elevator music; a trance to pass the time. To prepare a foundation for the girls. To get ready for this, the time, once again, to rock n' roll.

     Before I go any further, let me point something out I should have 'fessed up to long ago. I'm Gemini. Say what you will about Astrology and whatnot, but this much I know is true. I'll be cruising along through life as I know it, as I live it, and then, BOOM!

     Suddenly something comes rambling out of my yapper that even causes me a moment of pause. That there little tidbit about moving to Knoxville is a prime example. Understand that I had been unemployed more than three months at the time, and had applied for countless jobs (okay, not countless. It was more than 300, since Colorado unemployment forced me to keep track). As Debbie walked away after hearing my Knoxville prognostication, I scratched my head — literally — and wondered where in the hell that came from.

     But, I digress. (BID)

     Knoxville became a pit stop for us. We pulled in, changed drivers (Debbie went to work and I stayed at home), milked every drop of fuel from that tank, and realized it's time to go. I mean really time to go. Things started to happen.

     See, we have been trying to sell our house "For Sale By Owner" for about two years. Well, trying might be too strong of a word for a lazy ass such as myself. We had a sign out front and at the end of the road for about two years.

     Every time Debbie got antsy and said that we should get a realtor, I balked. I said it wasn't time.

     One time when she pushed back harder, I snapped: "When the time comes for us to sell," I said, that mystery voice at the helm and most of my conscious essence listening in deep anticipation of what we would hear next, "we'll get a realtor and sell it. Just like that."

     I didn't actually snap my fingers. I'm not one of those guys. But you catch my drift.

     After near misses on job opportunities in the previous few months that would have moved us on in life — one for Debbie in Memphis, and one for me back in our native Wisconsin — we got a realtor. A budget realtor. All I will say at this point about that is that you get what you pay for.

     The day we officially went on the market, my horoscope went something like this:

     From the time you wake up this morning, every bit of your energy will be focused on a very particular objective: making a fantasy become a reality. The good news is that you stand every chance of doing just that.

     Just one week after watching Lance Armstrong in Georgia and igniting my inner fuse, we had our first showing. A couple of former San Diego police officers. That's strange enough, to find someone from heavenly San Diego in the boonies of East Tennessee. A little more bizarre when you know that we lived outside San Diego, in Carlsbad, for 10 years before heading to Colorado.

      (How'd we get out to Carlsbad? All together now: Quit our jobs and drove out with our belongings in storage — homeless and jobless. The only difference back then was no kids in the backseat. As I recall, it was a cooler full of beer.)


     There isn't anything too different about their viewing, aside for one thing. They ask to see if their car fits into the garage. That sounds serious to me. A realtor once told me if the woman can tell you where she'll put her Christmas tree, your house is sold. I suppose a car is like a Christmas tree for a cop, no?

     So I pull our '95 Mustang out of the garage and park it on the side.

     The Mustang is like everything else in my life. A story in itself. My mother bought it for herself on her 70th birthday back in '95. She always wanted a Mustang. She's Gemini, too. You can't keep the four of us from our appointed rounds.

     She barely drove it, not that it matters. She got her satisfaction from it through the looks on people's faces when she'd tell them proudly that she bought herself a red Mustang for her 70th birthday.

     It spent most of its life in the garage, protected from the ice, snow and salt of Wisconsin winters. She finally sold it to me last year in mint condition with just 19,000 miles on it shortly after I had totaled Debbie's favorite car, her beloved Honda Accord, while delivering newspapers on a rainy morning. That’s another story in itself for later.

      The Mustang now has 31,000 miles. It's a great car. A real looker. Bright red. Mint. Debbie drives it to work. She fell in love with it in a heartbeat, having driven a ‘69 Mustang fastback in college. I sneak the Mustang out for long drives on Saturdays. Instead of going to the grocery store five minutes away, I head to one 35 miles away. Takes me about 20 minutes. Nice cassette stereo, too. Yeah, I said cassette.

      After the cops couple leave, I go out to put the Mustang back in the garage. With morning rain sprinkling down, I figure it's as good of time as any to put out the signs for our open house on Sunday, this being late Saturday morning. Hey, I guess we are finally really trying to sell the house.

      I slowly approach a very sharp corner not far from our house, attempting to determine the safest place for me to stop and put up the sign. Then I see a flash.

     It's a VW Rabbit heading for the corner — and thus, toward me — much too fast for dry conditions. With the slick pavement, well, time would tell how bad this will be.

     The last time I saw someone head into a 90-degree turn that fast was back in college, outside Whitewater, WI. Two farm boys in an ol' water truck so full that it was sloshing out the top as they bounced down the highway. I was coming from the other direction with my 35mm camera — telephoto lens and all — sitting on the seat next to me. I knew immediately they wouldn't make it. I reached for the camera.

      I cradled it in my hands as I watched the truck flip and tumble a few times. I was just finishing journalism school — actually spending summer school as editor of the student newspaper so I could graduate on time and get on with my career, certain I was ready for the big time.

      I realized at that moment I was a reporter at heart, a photographer in my wildest dreams, since I watched the crash with my mouth hanging open like a dolt. I missed a great shot, or rather, series of shots, since I did have the motor-drive on and ready to roll.

      Instead, all I have are the fond memories of pulling the groggy driver and his buddy from the smoking wreckage before it burst into flames. Okay, it didn't burst into flames like you see on TV or in the movies. But it did go up in smoke and we had a nice fire raging by the time the volunteer fire department arrived. I never did get my car blanket back. I didn't have the heart to take it from that shivering kid with the faraway eyes.


     Back to the Rabbit. I immediately begin braking the Mustang, muttering expletives to go along with the words, "No, no, NOOOOO! That @#$#$^# isn't going to make the !@$^$#*%^ TURN!"

     I'm correct.

      As I slow to a near stop, I enjoy a slow-motion treat of watching two eyes the size of ostrich eggs as he spins his steering wheel frantically attempting to regain control. He doesn't regain control. He swerves out and a collision with his driver's side rear appears imminent. Then he over corrects in a greater panic, and spins completely around — smacking my front end with his passenger side door.

      The door folds in like a beer can on my college roommate Bergie's forehead. It takes most of the impact. For a moment — a very brief moment — I think, "Hey, that wasn't too bad ..." Then the airbags blow. If you've never had the pleasure, well, hope you never do. I'd rather tangle with a hornet's nest. I get airbag burns on the arms and chest.

     In the end, here's what you need to know: He's 16. He gets his license Thursday. He gets his car Friday. He totals our Mustang on Saturday. A few hours later, the cops from San Diego call to make an offer on our house. The stars begin aligning.

     The nester in Debbie immediately starts thinking about renting a house for the summer or buying land cheap — all sorts of temporary possibilities that avoid the hippo farting in our Jacuzzi. We don't fit in here, living in Tennessee. This isn't us.

      "Hey," I say, remembering that the biggest obstacle of packing everything into storage on our move from Colorado to Tennessee was squeezing her Honda into our 10x20, "how often do you sell your house, liquidate your spare vehicle and face the onset of summer vacation?"

      Bite your tongue on your maturity smack. I've come a long way, baby. At least I didn't just scream, "Tramps like us, Baby we were born to run!" which, by the way, is what we sang to when we bolted for California, toasting with two glasses of champagne. That, and, saying, "I know pretty little place down San Diego way, where they play guitars all night and all day..."

      I didn't quote any lyrics this time, but Debbie got the message. She jumped onboard immediately, without hesitation. So, here I sit on May 18th, 2005, watching the local hillbillies dig through our treasures at another day in our endless Moving Sale. Do you know how depressing it is to see Tennessee trailer folk thumb their noses at your stuff?


     This always has been an important date for my family, May 18. My father, Reinold — aka Reiny or Rein-babe — was born on this date in 1918 in Milwaukee, WI. On his 27th birthday, he married Doris Jane Killian — otherwise known as Jane or Janeybelle.

      For those into numbers, you should probably know that Jane's birthday is June 18. That is 1925, to be exact. On her 57th birthday, I married Debbie Krueger. We wanted to follow their lead and be married on my birthday, June 11. But we couldn't get the blood tests done in time. One of the hurdles of eloping. So we got hitched in front of a judge in Galena, IL, a week later, on June 18.

     That's right, we eloped. We had Friday night for a honeymoon since I had to work Saturday night at the newspaper in Dubuque, IA. So we drove the orange Datsun B210 along the Mississippi River up to LaCrosse, WI. We had dinner at Taco Bell after being chased by some yokels all around town at terrifying speeds — at least terrifying given the amount of Reunite Lambrusco pumping through our veins. By the time I ditched them, real restaurants were closed. That was fine since, well, we had spent two weeks at the end of May in Arizona, when I burned up my vacation for the year, eating at nice places and enjoying a wonderful time together. That was my college graduation present to Debbie. An unknowing advance on her honeymoon.

      Her parents didn't approve, of course, of us traveling together unwed and all, which, of course, prompted the elopement. Debbie had just graduated from the University of Wisconsin, and didn't have a job immediately lined up, so she moved back home. They pulled the antiquated, "Under my roof" crap. Boom. She came to Dubuque, IA, to live with me. We were on the move.

     I guess this union is based on blowing with the wind. Doing things our way, that is, you know, honeymoon first, marriage second. Making our own rules.


      Back to the significance of May 18th, 2005. Today we bought a Starcraft 1707 popup camper. That's a whopping 10 feet of trailer when folded. So I'll consider this not only the birthday of the trailer, but that of our adventure. Good thing, too. Reiny would have been 87 today. He loved camping.

      The camper, of course, was paid for with the insurance settlement money from the Mustang. I intend to bolt the silver pony from the grill of the Mustang to the trailer. Sierra suggested, since we're buying it on Reiny's birthday, that we call the trailer "Reiny."

     Hmmm. Maybe Mustang Reiny!

      If that isn't enough for one day, Debbie also gave her notice at WATE-TV, where she's a commercial producer. There's no turning back now. Full steam ahead.


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Reply Nespressozgr
6:42 AM on May 24, 2019 
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