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My travels to California became a focal point in my life, even as I enjoyed teaching and grew accustomed to the pace of doing things in Vancouver/Portland.  I had a chance to meet members of her family and she met members of mine.  We visited with mutual friends who were part of our high school experiences.

Eventually, it seemed to me that the question that needed to be answered was this, “where was our relationship going?”  As I pondered my feelings and my perception of how Linda felt, I came to conclude that asking her to marry me was where I wanted to go, and if she accepted, I wanted to share the rest of my life with her.

When Linda came up to visit me on November 13, 2002, I was ready…..and shortly after that I wrote the following to members of my family and friends.

I have proposed to Linda Hannon Reed, of Bakersfield, California, and she has accepted.  We are planning to marry early in the next year at an unannounced time and place.  We will elope somewhere and be married sometime and then let you all know when it is done.  Neither of us wants to plan a wedding.  :-)

The basics on Linda:  I went to high school with her, but never knew her, although we did speak briefly at the class reunions in 1965 and 1995. :-)   She went steady through most of high school with her husband-to-be, Bob Reed, a wonderful man, loving husband and father and successful teacher who spent much of his educational career in Taft.  I did not know Bob in high school, but I admired the basketball team of which he was a member during The Season of '52, when Taft High defeated Edison High of Fresno to win the Valley Basketball Championship.  They made a movie called "Hoosiers," but it could have been called "Taft."  

Bob and Linda married as soon as she completed high school, and they raised three children.  She worked in various venues as they raised the family: as a bank teller, as a receptionist at the local hospital,  and as a secretary for Bechtal Petroleum Operations, Inc. at the Naval Petroleum Reserve in Elk Hills. Her husband, Bob, died almost 3 years ago from kidney failure/dialysis complications/heart failure and she cared for him throughout his illness.

We met when she wrote to me last summer to ask if she could link my web page to the one that she was starting for our high school class.  We began corresponding and while on a visit to Taft to see a friend of mine in August, I asked her to dinner.  We continued to correspond and later in the fall began dating, which involved a lot of air-travel.  :-)

Linda is smart, tough, thoughtful and resilient.  She entrances me with her calm sense of self and her peaceful way of addressing life. We have a similar sense of humor, laugh an awful lot at life in general and many things specifically.  We enjoy the same range of music, love to read, soak up visiting museums, have a keen interest in the web/internet resources and share a basic enjoyment in a tempo of life that is paced and comfortable.

She quilts beautiful works; I play ordinary golf; she works at putting on weight;  I work at taking it off; she works crossword puzzles; I am learning to; she likes to walk at a pace that is just right; she loves me and I love her.   :-) 

She is a born-again Christian (Baptist) and I have begun to examine religion in a way that I have not throughout my adult life. I enjoy going to church with her, a lot, and find that the sermons of the day have been well done, thoughtful and meaningful.  

Last week, Linda visited with me, and I proposed to her in a restaurant overlooking the Columbia River with the lights of Portland twinkling across the waterway.  She accepted, and much of our time since has been taken up with making plans.  :-)  We have told our children of our decision to marry, and they are all very supportive.  Now, we want to share this news with our friends and members of our extended family.

Linda and I have shared much in life: the loss of our fathers at ages 9 and 10 years of age respectively; growing up in Taft--a unique experience, of course. :-), the loss of our spouses; the raising of children, and now the desire as healthy, full persons again, to seek to share life with someone we love.  That, we are going to do.
Shortly after that letter, I began to plan to move again.  I loved my apartment, but as I looked around at its order and placement, I realized that the one thing that was missing was someone to share it with.  Outside those walls I had a very limited circle of friends and relatives in the Portland/Vancouver area.  Linda’s residence in Bakersfield placed her near her family, friends and life long scenes of her life, both growing up in Taft and working and living in the Taft-Bakersfield area.  So, even though Kern County has the worst air quality of any county in the United States, (except for Fresno County, says Tom Lutton) I wanted to marry Linda, move there and live out my life with her “on the streets of Bakersfield.”

contacted movers to haul most of my stuff down to the San Joaquin Valley, and then Linda made arrangements to fly back up to Vancouver in mid-December.  I finished my class on the evening of December 17th, and we left the next morning planning to visit my sister Joyce and family in Susanville, California; my brother Joseph and daughter Nicole in Sacramento, Linda’s son, Duff and his family, wife Karen, and daughters, Christina, Michelle and Rachel in Stockton and finally a luncheon rendevous with Gary Gerbrandt and his wife, Joanne, and daughter Julie with husband, Steve at Harris Ranch on I-5 about two hours from Bakersfield.   It was a pretty ambitious plan to cover in just four days….and we almost made it. 

Our first day of driving down the state of Oregon, Thursday, December 19, was wonderful.  Fortified with pancakes, we set out from Vancouver, stopped to make a contribution to the Indian Casino Fund at Seven Feathers, and then made it to Ashland easily. The next morning, the 20th, we set out for Susanville.  The Siskiyou Mountains were no problem as there was no snow nor ice, and we arrived a little early, took a nap and then started visiting with Joyce and John, Judy, Darren and their family and Jennifer, Brent and their family. 

We had a wonderful time, enjoying good Mexican food with Joyce and John, and evening tidbits with Judy and Darren.  The warmest part of the visit of course, was seeing all of the wonderful grandchildren that Joyce introduces so proudly and with nary a pause in their names.  Judy Lee and Jennifer Petersen are Joyce's daughters.  Darren Lee and Brent Petersen are their husbands.

Linda and I were especially taken with our inclusion in Darren and Judy’s Family Meeting session, conducted by Christina.  They have these gatherings once a week.  Different members of the family conduct the gathering and they talk about issues and ideas that have surfaced, keep of record of major observations, entertain one another with song or speech, and then top off the evening with some kind of treat.  We had a great time and the pictures below may help you capture some of the fun of the evening.
Then, the next day, December 21st, we headed out for Reno, Donner Pass and Sacramento.  If all went well, we should have arrived in Sacramento in time for lunch with Joseph and Nicole.  All did not go well. 

The drive to Reno was without incident, and our plan of “beating” the storm which was approaching Donner Pass seemed right on schedule. We headed up into the pass, with signs at first saying “no chains required.”  That was great, but after we passed through the Agriculture Inspection station, we were told that chains were required.  So I stopped with some difficulty and got my new chains installed.  I bought them from Les Schwaub just for this trip, and they were the new “easy to install” kind, but even though I practiced with them in the shop, it was a little more difficult out there in the light snow and cold air.  But it got done. 

We drove on for a couple of miles and motorists began stopping and removing chains, and the next sign said, “no chains required, icy conditions.”  So, I got off and removed the chains, again not as easy as in the shop.  We drove on.

We moved smoothly up over Donner Pass Summit and headed down toward Sacramento.  About 5 miles past the summit, traffic came to a halt…for about 5 minutes, then moved about 50 yards, then halted again, this time indefinitely. 

After about 20 minutes, I got out and walked back to a trucker who had a CB and asked him what he knew.  He reported that a semi had jackknifed somewhere down the highway and that nothing was moving on I-80 westbound.  How long would it be?  He did not know….a long time, he thought. 

An hour into our wait, the snow that we were hoping to beat down the mountain showed up and began falling at the rate of about 3 inches an hour.  People began trying to figure out how to go to the bathroom right out there in front of dozens of cars and hundreds of people.  Solutions were no doubt ingenious.  Our trucker carried all the amenities and even offered to share toilet paper if that became necessary.  Fortunately, it was not. 

One family near our car, rolled down the window and asked, “how long a wait?”  I said I did not know.  They had three small, squirming children in the back seat.  Hmmmmmmm.

Finally, after two hours, the line began to move, and it was clear that the roads were now snow-covered.  A CHP officer directing traffic told me to install my chains.  I said, “I’m tired and I don’t want to.”  He said, “o.k., but you will slide down the mountain and they will stop you at the next control point and make you do it.”  O.K. I said and drove on…..for about 300 yards, and Linda said, “maybe we better put on the chains.”  I agreed.  So, out we went again, and with her help, I got them installed, and then down the mountain we went…slowly, slowly.  Eventually came into the “clear at about 3000 feet and took off the chains and got on the cellphone and told Joseph we would not be there for lunch…by this time it was 4:00 p.m.  He understood, and we headed down the road to Stocketon. 

We visited with Linda’s son, Duff, his wife Karen and their daughters, Christina, Michelle and Rachel.  Duff treated us all to pizza (really good pizza) and I got a look at his collection of hats, an amazing array of dozens of “baseball caps” that serve as reminders to him of special moments, special teams and special times.  Karen had her home beautifully decorated for Christmas and the girls were really nice to meet and to visit with.  Rachel treated us all with some of her baked goods and I learned that Michelle loves to snowboard and that Christina is starting a new job. 

Next day, we drove to Harris Ranch and visited with the Gerbrandts.  Gary was a very, very close friend of Bob’s and read the eulogy at Bob’s funeral. He and his family are “doing people”, Joanne recently retiring from teaching, daughter Julie carving out a niche for herself as a recruiter of nurses for area hospitals, especially the rural ones (yes there are small towns in California...), and his son-in-law Steve about to move into a small surveying business of his own.

Then, finally, in the early evening of Saturday, December 21, a mere 3.5 days after leaving Vancouver, we drove into our home, my new home.  We had Christmas Eve dinner with Linda's daughter, Susan and her son, Garrett.   And New Year's Day, we visited with Linda's brother, Mel, his wife Anita and their sons, David and Clinton with his wife, Kim.

Now, I had only to await the arrival of my goods, safely packed away with Global Van Lines and in the wonderful hands of Rod Benson.  Rod has called me every three days to tell me where he was and when we could expect the goods, and when he showed up on January 11, I felt that the baggage had finally caught up with the train.  Hi Bakersfield!
"Freedom is another word for nothing left to lose."
Indian Gaming Casino, Seven Feathers, Oregon
Luke and Ricky Petersen with John Hopkins, Joyce's husband.
Becky and Christina Lee
Luke and Ricky Petersen with Brent, their father.
David, Daniel and Darren Lee
Jennifer Petersen, with son, Ricky
Joyce, who is called GIGI by her grandchildren, and those are "hard" G's.  Christina Lee oversees.
Judy Lee and son, Dallin
l-r: Dallin, Darren, Linda, Daniel, David
Dallin, Darren and Dick
Petersen Family: top, l-r: Charlene, Brent, Jennifer, Luke
below: Ricky, Sydnee  Dawn
Lee Family:  l-r: Christina, Dallin, Becky, Dick, Linda, David, Judy,  Darren, jr.  Daniel, Darren.
Petersen Family: back: l-r: Luke, Charlene, Brent, Jennifer;
Middle: l-r: Ricky Sydnee Dawn,        Front: Linda, Dick
Are We Sure We Need Chains?
Do We Really Need Chains?
Her Husband Said They Would Fit.  They Did Not.
Yep, We Need Chains.
Murray Johnson, Linda, Dick
Three of the Starting Five, Taft High Basketball, Valley Champions, 1952: l-r Charlie Hanna, Don Zumbro, their friend Elvin Urquardt, and Ray Herman
Engagement Photo, November 14, 2002
Reunion of Class of '52, Bob's Class.  I met a lot of people I remembered and we had a great time.
SHARED EXPERIENCES: From the Hills of Taft to the Streets of Bakersfield.
OUT THERE ON THE RIVER OF LIFE: Taft Departures and Return.