I learned a lot from Jim Quinzi and Doc Watson. They were both excellent instructors. Jim was very funny and Doc was a little drier. Jim was very good at improvisation. I was sitting in on one of his classes and a student said, "I have a dumb question", then went on to ask the question. Jim gave this big, 3 or 4 minute dissertation about how there were no dumb questions and explained why. Blah, blah, blah. Then he answered the question and finished by asking,"Now, are there any other dumb questions?" He had great timing.
Doc used to have this saying about "wit, wisdom and humor" explaining what a great group of instructors we were on the BAC and how much the students would enjoy the experience. He was right, but for the longest time, I thought he was saying "wet wisdom and humor" and did not have a clue what he was talking about.
Another thing I want to mention is that between the time Doreen and I got married in September and we began our drive to Chico, in December, my friend and the father of one of my best friends, died. Dan Wylie and his father, J.B., were on different trips, but both laying over in Newark. You may remember that these guys kicked me out of my rut at Butler Graham Airport. They were each having a shot of Crown Royal in J.B.'s room, as they were discussing a grain elevator they were planning to buy. They were a couple plow boys, with a farm just west of the airport. J.B. keeled over and was dead before he hit the floor. I talked to a friend of his later who thought it was because of a no carb diet he had been on. The last time I saw him, he did look like he had lost a lot of weight. Doreen was with me.
She and I attended the funeral together. Afterwards we went to Dan's house and had too much to drink. J.B. would have been proud.
And finally, after we were married, Doreen and I shared time between the house in Coraopolis and her apartment in Shadyside. We knew we would be moving soon, so we tried to keep all that work to a minimum and sometimes it was just easier to spend the night at one place or the other. My parents and many of our friends seemed to think there was something goofy about that, but we never minded being thought of as goofy. We had a great costume Halloween party at the house, with all our friends.
We were driving across the country with our rig just before Christmas. We were very lucky to get across the Rockies and Sierras without encountering a winter storm. I was worried about that and was keeping a close watch on it the whole way.
I don't remember the exact route we drove, but most of it was on Interstate 80. The prairie states would have been much more interesting if I had known as much about them then, as I do now. We were closely paralleling the routes of the pioneer wagon trains and the Transcontinental Railroad. I have done significant reading about those subjects in subsequent years.
The only previous drive of similar distance and nature was from Phoenix to Pittsburgh to drive the rental truck for Anita's move. This was my first drive all the way across the country. You may remember that I had flown from Butler to Southern California a couple times in light airplanes.
The drive through the Rockies on 80 is not nearly as spectacular as it is on I 70. Going through the Sierras on 80 is another story. There were some cool mountains east of Salt Lake City, then desert all the way to Reno. From there, we followed the Truckee River into the Sierras and they were spectacular. I remember that Doreen was sleeping and I kept waking her up to see them. She does not enjoy driving as much as I do and got lots of rest on this trip. We drove past Donner Summit, near the site of the Donner disaster. I have been here many times since and always feel a strange vibration. It is an eerie place to me, especially in the winter. Much more about this area, several times, in later chapters.
There was a temptation to stop at many of these places we were passing. This was all a great adventure for both of us. However, we had a tight schedule and I had to report to my new job. As we drove north in the Sacramento Valley, we saw a large, strange looking, black jet flying overhead. I recognized it as an SR-71, the Blackbird, Habu. It was the super secret spy plane. Beale Air Force Base was their primary home. This is still the fastest air breathing airplane ever built, as far as we know. ;-) This was a very cool experience.
On the day we arrived in Chico, the weather was dark and gloomy, overcast, steady rain, with the smell of burning wood. We would learn that this was typical, winter weather for this area of the Sacramento Valley. The Central Valley of California, Sacramento to the north and San Joaquin to the south is one of the world's greatest agricultural areas. What we were smelling was the burning of pruned branches from the walnut farms nearby.
Chico has two seasons, winter and summer. Winter is overcast and rainy with occasional fog. Summer is clear skies and 90+ degrees.
We found a little motel and rented a room. After a restful night, we began our search for a place to live. Our moving truck was on its way. Then I had to check in with the company for the beginning of my new, glamour profession.