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Air Conditioning

It is something lots of people in the U.S. take for granted.

When I was a child, we didn’t have air conditioning in our house or our assorted cars. And I never thought anything about it. The lack of it was not hardship in my life.

Then when I started 2nd grade, my mom and I moved into a trailer (a.k.a. mobile home) in the trailer court. Crazy thing here is that it had an air conditioner–in my bedroom, no less–(and a washer and dryer) when we moved in, but she sold them, with the excuse that they would be too expensive to run. Then she spend the next 16 years that we lived there complaining about how the laundromat was so much more expensive than having a washer and dryer at home. Go figure. A lot of what she does doesn’t make sense to me. But if I ask her, she will double-talk me until it does. Until I talk to another rational human being, who points out the holes in her logic, or lack thereof.

My old hoome was just pulled out to the curb to be sold for best offer.

My old home was just pulled out to the curb, to be sold for best offer, like some used car or piece of trash.

Anyways, if you are not aware, trailers heat up faster and retain more heat than your typical wood-frame house. Actually, you can liken them a lot to the greenhouse affect that happens to your car on a hot day. You know how they say “no matter how far open you leave your windows on a hot day, it will always get too hot to leave your dog in there?” Works the same way with a trailer. No matter how many windows you open or how far, it will always heat up in the midday summer sun to an unbearable level. (And we had the old, slanted crank windows that blocked any potential breeze. And eventually became too stripped to crank, no matter how careful you were each time, and had to be propped open with a chunk of wood.)

I was that dog.

While my mom scampered off to work in an air-conditioned office, I was at home for three months every summer, with nothing but an oscillating fan.

Most days I could ride my bike outside and make a little breeze for myself. With little tricks like aiming the fan to blow hot air out the kitchen window when running the oven, then turning it around to suck in the cool air at night, we managed. Barely.

Do you remember that Married with Children episode where the Bundys were so hot they went to live in the frozen food aisle at the grocery store?

The Bundys camping in the grocery store.

The Bundys camping in the grocery store.

That may be based on a true story. I used to travel to the little local grocery store that was only a four minute walk from my house, just to loiter and absorb as much cold air as possible before my short, sweaty walk home again.

On 80 or 90 degree days, it was just so miserable. Where my current house may equalize with the external temperature, it never gets hotter than that. In that trailer, it was always at least five degrees hotter inside than the temperature outside. There was one summer where the high temp was 100 or greater for four days straight. All my mom and I could do was lay in front of the fans and sweat. Well, she was recovering from surgery, so she couldn’t do much else anyway.

And I realize I sound like I am whining, but I’m not. I actually don’t even like AC because it dries out my sinuses and makes it hard to breathe. And I know some people work construction or road crews and are subjected to high temps for hours. This post isn’t really meant for them.

I want to campaign for if you are going to live in a tin can, you need to provide air conditioning for your child. I used to ride my bike all through the trailer court (there must have been a couple hundred parked in there) and look at each and every home as I went. Some had central air, some only window units, but were all running. MY TRAILER WAS THE ONLY ONE WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING!!!

After that, I lived in an apartment and now I have a house, in both I have had access to window AC units that I rarely use, because it just doesn’t get as miserably hot as the trailer did.

My mom bought a different trailer after I moved out, and guess what it had?

Central Air.

My favorite quote from the movie The Last Starfighter

My favorite quote from the movie The Last Starfighter

I write about things that stood out in my childhood. Being HOT (and not in the leggy supermodel way) and bored and lonely all summer long is something I will never forget until the end of time. It indeed felt like I was in hell.

If I win the lottery, I think it would be awesome to start a fund that would help poor people living in trailers to get an air conditioner, and maybe supply a stipend to help offset the increased electrical usage annually. Maybe that is silly. Food and medicine and such are always looked at as more pressing necessities for the needy. But heat can be dangerous. That is why NOAA has heat advisories and there are community cooling centers on really hot days. It can be a danger as much as any forest fire or volcanic eruption.

Individuals who live in trailers have enough issues to deal with. There is the stigma of being trailer trash, white trash, or redneck. Then their is the fact that Mother Nature has it out for you in other ways as well.

Johnny freaks out over a tornado on WKRP in Cincinnati.

Johnny freaks out over a tornado on WKRP in Cincinnati.

It is funny because it is true.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a Bug ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time
When You Least Expect It AVAILABLE NOW!

Excerpt: Chapter 2 of When You Least Expect It

When You Least Expect It by Jennifer Friess

When You Least Expect It by Jennifer Friess

Here is Chapter 2 from Book 2 in The Riley Sisters Series, When You Least Expect It.

If you want to read Chapter 1, please click here: http://imnotstalkingyou.com/2015/07/16/excerpt-chapter-1-of-when-you-least-expect-it-goodreads-giveaway/

If you read Book 1, The Wind Could Blow a Bug, then maybe you were always curious about what life was like inside the big old Tucker farmhouse. So was I. After all, the Tuckers are like royalty in the tiny town of Oakey. All those hot bachelors living on top of each other. Here is your inside look, courtesy of our protagonist Kiley. And don’t forget that my Goodreads giveway ends 8/15/15. Enter here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/147094-the-wind-could-blow-a-bug

2

Kiley used to like driving, but now she was just sick of it. She wanted to get to her destination and not have to start her SUV again for at least a week. The sun was sinking lower in the darkening sky. She was only an hour out. Being on South 223, headed toward Oakley, she could already feel her body relaxing. She was headed home. Well, to her hometown anyway. The house she had grown up in with her parents and her sisters had been sold after their divorce when she was 15. Kiley and Miley, along with their mother, Helen Riley, had moved in with their Aunt Jamie in Huntington. That is where they had finished high school. Her dad had gone to take care of his ailing mother in Jackson, until her death a few years later. He must have put down roots, because he stayed. Kiley’s older sister Jane had gone off to college. Miley and Kiley’s relationship with Jane actually improved once their parents were removed from the situation. But she wasn’t going to think about all that fucked up shit just now. Jane was the reason Kiley would be in Oakley by dinnertime.

Kiley could see the large farming complex in the distance; all of the grain elevators, bins, barns, garages, and the office that made up the business of Tucker Farms. The fields stretched out on either side of the road. Freshly planted distinct rows of winter crops gave the optical illusion of bending as they reached toward the horizon with the motion of the moving vehicle. Kiley knew it was the right homestead, because there was no other farm this big anywhere nearby. She could just make out the chipped paint of the wedding proposal for Jane that her now-husband Wade had painted on one of the silos. She pulled into the driveway of the Tuckers’ large farmhouse. It is a good thing it was large, because right now there were seven people living in it, and there were about to be two more.

Kiley parked her car behind one of the pickup trucks, not knowing where would be a good place to not block someone. Kiley was used to parking for the night in a parking lot. She was going to be staying here awhile, at least a few weeks, but some things were just not as clear cut as they would be at an impersonal hotel.

She stepped out of the car and slammed the driver’s door. Somewhere from within the house she heard a dog bark. She opened the rear tailgate and slid out her big suitcase. It hit the ground with an unceremonious thud. As she stood it up and pulled up the handle, she heard plodding footsteps approaching on the gravel.

“Oh my God. It is so great to see you!” Jane yelled as she came closer to hug Kiley. Jane’s light brown hair was up in its usual ponytail. Kiley had once read somewhere that how people wore their hair in high school is how they would most likely wear it for the rest of their lives. That would be true of her older sister. Jane had always favored comfort over style. Her current physical state wasn’t going to change that anytime soon. Jane’s blue eyes beamed at the sight of Kiley.

“Wow. It is great to see ALL of you, too!” Kiley exclaimed. Jane and Kiley hugged awkwardly around Jane’s giant, round belly.

“What did you expect? I’m almost nine months pregnant!” Jane said, sarcastically.

“Well, I guess when you put it that way, you COULD be bigger,” Kiley appraised her sister’s baby bump. Kiley had not seen Jane in months. “I am so glad you didn’t have it before I got here.”

“I haven’t had any contractions or anything, so we will see. They may have to go in after the little sucker,” Jane pondered, putting her hand on her belly affectionately. “I am so glad you came to be my nanny.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Kiley’s eyes bugged out a little, “but I will help where I can.”

Wade, who had followed Jane out, came around to grab Kiley’s large suitcase. Wade and Jane had been married for two and a half years. Evan Tucker, Wade’s father, grabbed Kiley’s carry-on bag out of the car. Mr. Tucker owned the house and the farm.

“Any more bags, Kiley?” Mr. Tucker asked.

“Um, in the passenger side. And please don’t judge me by the cleanliness of my car, Mr. Tucker. I have been living in it for six months,” she yelled, as he made his way around the vehicle.

“Please, call me Evan,” he replied.

It was throwing Kiley off, having people help her carry things. All the cheap motels she stayed at she schlepped her bags around herself. This was the first indication that after being on her own for four years, it might be hard to reacclimate to a family environment.

“C’mon. Dinner’s almost ready,” Jane led them into the house. It was kind of silly, as she was slowing everyone down with her weighted pace.

“Did Donna cook it?” Kiley asked, hopefully.

“Of course. You deserve a good, old-fashioned home-cooked meal. There is no better cook in these parts than my wife,” Evan boasted. He was always happy to brag about his wife’s cooking.

A haze of smoke surged out the door as Jane opened it. Walking in the door, the smell of homemade fried chicken reached Kiley’s nostrils. The aroma of grease hung heavy in the air. Her nose told her that burnt stray buttermilk batter bits in the pan had overcooked and were the source of the kitchen smog. Kiley thought she might pass out from the overpoweringly delicious aroma. She had only had Donna’s cooking on a few occasions, one of which being Jane’s wedding rehearsal dinner, but it never disappointed.

Kiley followed Jane through the door. A large, orange dog leisurely wagged its tail as Jane approached. When it got a whiff of Kiley’s unfamiliar sent, the dog went into a crazy barking fit. Kiley liked dogs, but was a little afraid of all the teeth she saw as the dog growled at her.

“Dave, come,” a man called from the living room. The dog barked three more times at her, the hair on his back standing at attention, before turning tail and heading further into the house to obey his master.

Huge hooks filled with coats hung on the wall just inside the door. There was a striped rug over the tile on the entryway floor. It could hardly be seen under the pile of boots and shoes that eclipsed it, mostly men’s. Many were covered with a reddish-brown crust. Kiley was going to hope that it was only dirt. She figured Donna must make them all remove their footwear here. It was the only way that the carpet in the house would ever survive to see another year. There was a door to Kiley’s left that seemed to go directly into the kitchen. There was a short hallway to the right. There were at least three more doors down there. The living room lay straight ahead, filled with bodies. She found herself smiling reflexively at the smell from the food, even though she was entering a room full of people who were virtually strangers.

“Hi Kiley.”

“Welcome.”

The room collectively greeted her as she came in. She knew all the guys were Wade’s brothers. She used to know all their names, but was now fuzzy on who was who. She had met so many new people in the past year. The unknown female must be one of their wives. Jane led Kiley through the living room and in front of the pass-through window for the kitchen, where Donna spotted her.

“Oh, there you are! Give me a hug, honey.” Donna embraced Kiley in a giant hug before she ever had the chance to protest. Not that she would have. Donna was pleasantly plump with a wild nest of curly burnt sienna hair. Kiley didn’t know her well, but Donna was the most genuinely nice person she had ever encountered.

“Sorry about the smoke. Happens every time I make fried chicken,” Donna paused, taking a breath. “Are you excited to become a first-time aunt? Cuz I am SO excited to become a step-grandma-in-law, or whatever!”

“Yes, I guess so. I am interested to see how Jane does with labor,” Kiley said.

Jane held up a middle finger for her sister that no one else could see as she had already snuck into the kitchen.

“Oh, honey. I wanted to tell you what a great book you wrote. Oh, but I bet everyone tells you that. I read it cover to cover. Everyone in town is so proud of you…” Donna could talk a mile a minute, and use more exclamations than anyone could believe possible. Kiley was out of breath just listening to her.

“But one thing did bother me about the book. I never realized Jane was so mean to you growing up.”

“It’s not Jane!”

“It’s not me!”

Kiley and Jane yelled in unison.

That is one thing that Kiley never anticipated would be such a big deal about her book. The main character had an evil older adopted sister. The older sister character was in no way based on Jane, other than maybe that she was adopted. But now everyone thought Jane had been a wicked step sister. Even their mom had called Kiley and Jane to see if there was any truth in the writing to real life.

“Oh, well, that’s good. We are so glad you could come stay for the birth of the bouncing baby and for the holidays. It will be so good for Jane to have family around at this time.”

“You are all my family,” Jane said to Donna loud enough for those in the living room to hear, but Donna pretended not to notice. Maybe the statement had embarrassed her. Jane snatched a biscuit off the counter behind Donna’s back and took a bite out of it.

“Thanks for having me. I know you already have a full house. But it will be so nice for me to be off the road for a while,” Kiley sighed. ‘That is an understatement,’ she thought to herself.

“Hey, people can only check-in if they have a definite departure date,” a loud guy yelled from the couch in the living room.

“Then you are more in violation of that rule than anyone else here!” a younger-looking guy said. Everyone laughed.

Kiley wasn’t used to spending copious amounts of time with loud men. Ted definitely didn’t qualify as a loud man, and he wasn’t into horseplay or games. He was too serious for that. Kiley had grown up in a house full of girls. Her own father had been the quiet type. She would have to stay close to Wade and Jane for protection. On second thought, Wade often seemed a likely target. Kiley would have to hide behind the pregnant woman.

“C’mon everyone, gather round the table. Dinner is ready,” Donna sang. Literally, the words came out like a song.

“It’s been ready for forty-five minutes. We were just waiting for that chick to show up.”

“Shut up, Josh.”

Kiley saw the youngest brother jab his elbow into his older brother Josh’s ribs.

 

 

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a Bug ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time & GIVEAWAY going on over at Goodreads (ends August 15, 2015)
When You Least Expect It AVAILABLE NOW!

What I Learned This Week – 8/9/15

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The creativity of the average, unsung human just amazes me. We are all creative in our own ways. I love it when people put their time and energy into something to make it great! …And share it with the world on YouTube.

This week, by accident, my son and I stumbled upon a great collection of amateur-made (but very well produced–good music, good narration, stop-motion, special effects) Thomas & Friends adventures. And it turns out one of his friends is: Tom Moss, the naughty prank engine.

Tom Moss, the naughty prank engine.

Tom Moss, the naughty prank engine. Photo: youtube.com/user/ianrphillips

My 4 1/2 year old son loves trains and still loves Thomas, but, admittedly, he seems to be tired of watching the same old adventures on Netflix and DVD. Tom Moss is a great addition to the old characters to spice them up. Also, since it is not made by the actual Thomas people, special guest stars show up, such as the Minions & Scooby-Doo.

To check it out yourself, click on the video below.

I went so far as, unknowingly to my son, to make our own Tom Moss and hid it in his room in a tunnel.

My home-made Tom Moss, the naughty prank engine

My homemade Tom Moss, the naughty prank engine

He came downstairs like “Where did this come from? I can see the red. I know it is Rheneas.”

Some thanks I get for slaving away with construction paper and scissors.

Version 2 of a homemade buffer for Thomas Wooden Railway

Version 2 of a homemade buffer for Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway

He was more excited when I made him a new buffer. I was hoping this new design would be more durable than the previous one (read about it here). But, alas, it seems not to be. He does use it in every track set up he makes.

Happy boy & his buffer

Happy boy & his buffer

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a Bug ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time & GIVEAWAY going on over at Goodreads (ends August 15, 2015)
When You Least Expect It AVAILABLE NOW!

M’s Train Station Bedroom (& My New Upstairs)

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When my son was born, his nursery was on the first floor of our house, the same as our master bedroom. We put his nursery in what could be described as a very small bedroom, or maybe a home office type of dealio. As the years passed, we converted his crib into a toddler bed. Soon it became clear that he was ready for a big-boy bed (and also a larger room to house his bounty of toys and Thomas trains).

Our house is about 118 years old. Upstairs are two bedrooms, a large area at the top of the stairs, and the attic. I repainted the one bedroom when we first moved in. For years, that was our guest bedroom, even though we seldom have guests. The other bedroom served as our hobby/craft room. Mostly, in recent years, it was a hoarders paradise. I didn’t repaint the walls because they were covered with wallpaper. Not just any wallpaper, but wallpaper with pink roses on it. Yuck. Not my style.

So, I got brave and decided I would remove the wallpaper and let my son pic the paint colors for his new room. The removal process wasn’t brutal, but it did take forever. And my overall thought while working on it was “why the heck didn’t I do this sooner!” The wallpaper was peeling anyway, and I really disliked it more than I realized. I got a crazy idea in my head one day to make it a “train” room. My son loves Thomas, but he would outgrow that too soon. So, I decided on a room based on real trains. I realized I had a whole bunch of items already that could be used to make a great “train station” room. I have included pictures below. Mind you, most of these ideas I got from randomly Googling, and usually the other people executed it better than I.

Before of the bedroom with wallpaper. Had to use this picture of my skinny puppy. She hasn't been that thin in 10 years.

Before pic of the bedroom with wallpaper. Had to use this picture of my skinny puppy. She hasn’t been that thin in 10 years.

Wallpaper being removed. A peek of the walls being white.

Wallpaper being removed. A peek at the walls being white.

I only chipped off the LOOSE paint!

I only chipped off the LOOSE paint!

Finished bedroom showing bench and train pics.

Finished bedroom showing bench and train pics.

Finished bedroom with lanterns over twin-sized bed. I got those lanterns at a garage sale years ago.

Finished bedroom with lanterns over twin-sized bed. I got those lanterns at a garage sale years ago.

Train arrival board. It is a black magnetic dry-erase board. All the letters and lines are removable for when he gets older.

Train arrival board. It is a black magnetic dry-erase board. All the letters and lines can be removed as he grows.

Railroad crossing sign coat rack. Really pulls the room together.

Railroad crossing sign coat rack. Really pulls the theme of the room together.

Clocks showing the different time zones. We already had the pay phone and rocking train.

Clocks showing the different time zones. We already had the pay phone and rocking train.

The frames I got on clearance in the craft dept at Meijer and painted myself. The pictures are from calendars and magazines.

The frames I got on clearance in the craft dept at Meijer and painted myself. The pictures are from calendars and magazines.

Cute desk I got for $2 at a garage sale I put up there as well.

Cute desk I got for $2 at a garage sale I put in the room as well.

I bought the electric lantern years ago. Almost got rid of it.

I bought the electric lantern years ago. Almost got rid of it.

Made this a few years ago, but this toy box would fit into the room as well.

Made this a few years ago, but this toy box would fit into the room as well.

I also decided to repaint the stairway area as well. I have always HATED that pink-beige color that is all over our house (to cover up all the barn red that yet another previous resident loved). I have worried for the 11 years we lived here how hard it would be to paint over the stairs, where the ceiling is very high. It sucked, but I got it done. And yes, you might have noticed that I have a compulsion where I cannot paint a room all one color. Blame Punky Brewster ;-)

The stairway before.

The stairway before.

The stairway after.

The stairway after.

Top of stairs before.

Top of stairs before.

Top of stairs after. I couldn't resist accentuating all the weird angles.

Top of stairs after. I couldn’t resist accentuating all the weird angles.

Attic hobbit door before.

Attic hobbit door before.

Attic hobbit door after.

Attic hobbit door after.

Also, I have always thought the wood paneling was hideous, but I believe it would be too costly to remove and replace with drywall. I’m pretty sure the paneling covers up crumbling plaster walls. And it goes without saying that I would like new carpet (low pile purple would be my dream), but I will just try to ignore the brown shag as much as possible.

This pic is from when we first moved in. Note the heinous brown carpeting on the shelf.

This pic is from when we first moved in. Note the heinous brown carpeting on the shelf.

Painted. Carpet removed. Signs outside the bedroom keep the train theme, as well as a trunk that could be waiting to be loaded on a train. Trunk was from Family Dollar, under $20.

Painted. Carpet removed from shelf. Signs outside the bedroom keep the train theme, as well as a trunk that could be waiting to be loaded on a train. Trunk was from Family Dollar, under $20.

When I removed the carpeting, what was left was plywood covered in glue residue. I covered it with more paneling, so that now I can use the space for storage.

When I removed the carpeting, what was left was plywood covered in glue residue. I covered it with more paneling, so that now I can use the space for storage.

I started these projects in May. It took me until the end of July to fully complete them. But I wasn’t working on them every day, either.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a Bug ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time & GIVEAWAY going on over at Goodreads (ends August 15, 2015)
When You Least Expect It AVAILABLE NOW!

The One about Jeff Gordon

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Most people probably don’t know that I have any interest in sports at all.

Sports that I actually play myself are limited to only bowling and mini golf. I like to ice skate, but not competitively. And I am not very good at any of those things. I consider it a successful bowling game if I break 100. Mini golf as well. ;-P

The only professional sports I have ever cared about were ice hockey and NASCAR. My interest in both grew around 1993/1994.

My love of hockey grew from my asbestos friend being the spokesmodel for our nearby ECHL team, the Toledo Storm. You can read more about that here: http://imnotstalkingyou.com/2013/04/16/how-i-came-to-be-a-vancouver-canucks-fan/

My love of NASCAR grew from liking to watch cars crash. And also a new driver by the name of Jeff Gordon.

As we were not a household with any males (even the dog was a female), we really didn’t watch that many sporting events. Not even the Superbowl. If not for the kids at school, I never even would have known when that took place. (And I think that I would have preferred that.)

But we would usually watch the Indianapolis 500, because, c’mon, who hasn’t heard of that? But if there is a wreck, the Indy cars just disintegrate. Where is the fun in that? Now a stock car, they take on damage, get duct-taped up, and keep running laps.

The Michigan International Speedway actually resides in the same county I do. One year (1993, I looked it up) Ricky Rudd’s Tide car was supposed to be at our local Walmart. I think we went to look at it. Anyway, that car was already ingrained in our brains when we watched the race that weekend. (Michigan races used to always be on one of the broadcast networks. Not the case anymore.) We rooted for Ricky Rudd. His orange car was pretty and easy to spot during the race. And he actually frickin’ won the race! My mom and I even went to my grandma’s high rise old person apartment building in Adrian to watch the race trucks (now we know the correct terminology is “haulers”) come down M-52 through town.

Also, notable in the race, was another car with a pretty paint job that was very eye catching: the #24 DuPont Chevy, driven by rookie Jeff Gordon. He finished second.

Jeff Gordon show car

Jeff Gordon show car

Shortly after that, we were lucky enough to get cable, so then we could watch the NASCAR races on ESPN as well. Soon that evolved into watching three hours of pre-race shows on Sunday before the three hour race itself. For several years, I could lay in my bed and recognize the voice of which NASCAR Winston Cup driver was being interviewed on TV in the living room. And that is not as easy as you may think, as they almost all have southern accents.

Except Jeff Gordon.

Young Jeff Gordon

Young Jeff Gordon

His accent has always been way crazy. North Carolina, by way of Pittsboro, Indiana (more on this later) and Vallejo, California.

I soon developed a crush on Jeff Gordon, which only intensified after he lost his wannabe mustache and mullet. My mom and I always gave credit to his new wife Brooke for “grooming” him, although NASCAR, realizing his potential appeal to the masses, may have had something to do with that as well.

I would later meet someone (a cousin-in-law) who actually was at Jeff & Brooke’s wedding. He had been dating a sorority sister of Brooke’s at the time.

My mom and I watched almost every Winston Cup race every weekend for a several years. We rode the rise of popularity of NASCAR, along with that of Gordon. We would watch as Dale Earnhardt would be limping around the track after a crash, accumulating laps with a crippled race car, getting lapped by the field. But every time Jeff Gordon showed up in the rear view mirror, Earnhardt raced him as if it was the final lap.

See, in Winston Cup, there is one King, and that is Richard Petty. He won 7 Winston Cup championships.

There is one Intimidator. That is Dale Earnhardt. He won 7 championships too.

I have read where Earnhardt affectionately gave Jeff the nickname "Wonder Boy." I doubt there was much affection there...

I have read where Earnhardt affectionately gave Jeff the nickname “Wonder Boy.” I doubt there was much affection there…

The first Winston Cup race Jeff Gordon ever raced in was the final race of Richard Petty, as he moved into retirement. I am not the only one who feels that race was rich with symbolism. Read more about it here.

I had Jeff pegged to tie or set a new championship record from the beginning. So it was no surprise to me when he won Rookie of the Year in 1993. Or his first Winston Cup Championship in 1995.

Then I got a job and a boyfriend, and no longer had time for such things.

Jeff Gordon's #24 at MIS

Jeff Gordon’s #24 at MIS

Although, said boyfriend did take me to a practice and a Cup race at MIS. I got to see Jeff Gordon’s car in person as it sped around the track. Wasn’t quite the same as being able to actually see or meet him though. And I learned that while I prefer to watch hockey games in person, I prefer my car racing on television.

I still loved Jeff, but I was no longer rooting for him every week. I heard about his divorce from Brooke because it made news for her large demands on the fortune he had accumulated as he rose up in NASCAR. I was aware, but not watching, when the series went from being sponsored by Winston cigarettes to Nextel, then changed again to Sprint. I missed when DuPont stopped being his sponsor. I missed a few more of his championships. I missed fun TV moments like this one below.

I wasn’t watching when Jeff Gordon got married a second time and the happy couple started popping out kids. I was busy getting married and having one of my own.

My own Gordon fan.

My own Gordon fan.

As the holidays approached in 2014, Michigan International Speedway was having a toy and canned food drive. Like, literally. If you brought an unwrapped toy or a bag of food to the race track, they would let you DRIVE on it.

My husband was working, but I took my preschooler son with me. I talked my mom into going with me. She never ever wants to go anywhere. But since there was no walking involved, she had continued to follow NASCAR after I had, and she was intensely curious, she came with me. For more on this adventure, click here: http://imnotstalkingyou.com/2014/12/07/what-i-learned-this-week-12714/

It was so weird to drive on those high banks with my little Jeep Patriot. At the time I reflected, “I felt a little closer to Jeff Gordon that day.” I had trod on the same hallowed pavement that he had. Maybe it was some kind of sign that I should be thinking of Jeff again after all these years…

The view of the track through my windshield

The view of the track through my windshield

Then on January 22, 2015, all that changed. I was actually out on a rare date with my husband at a sports bar. And there, on all the televisions tuned to the various sports networks, was Jeff Gordon announcing that 2015 would be his last year to race. He was retiring.

I feel really bad for my husband, but I spent most of our date watching the interviews with Jeff.

So, this year, I made it a point to rededicate myself to watching NASCAR and rooting for Jeff Gordon. Except, well, that is hard when you don’t have all the channels the races are on. But, I am doing the best I can. I discovered that I could follow Jeff on all the social media that had not even existed when he started racing. I have already pre-ordered my commemorative diecast of the Axalta Chevy for Bristol pimped out in the classic DuPont paint scheme. And I drove 9 hours round trip to go see him in person.

Yes, you read that right.

My son and I (my husband had to work) made the long trip from Michigan to Pittsboro, Indiana for their parade in celebration of Jeff Gordon Day. I figured it might be my last chance to ever see him in person. I am usually a planner. I didn’t plan much for the trip, except to pack lots of snacks for my little guy. I hate driving on expressways, especially in big cities. But, they are the fastest way to get somewhere in a hurry, and Indianapolis was standing between me and Jeff.

My son and I pulled out the driveway at 4:40AM, he still in his pajamas, soon fell back asleep, leaving me to be my own navigator, reading my printed out MapQuest directions inside the dark car. I hate driving (Danica will get no competition from me), but I had been itching to take a trip, so it wasn’t so bad. I watched the sun rise as I drove through Ohio. I passed a deer nibbling in the fields. I saw a locomotive parked on the track. I wanted to point it out to my son, but couldn’t. He slept clean through Ohio. We were just outside Indy when I had to wake him up so that I could use the restroom.

After putting on his clothes in the backseat of the car and fortifying ourselves with granola bars, I attempted to conquer the beast that is Indianapolis…and I went the wrong way on the 465 loop. I drove 3/4 of the way around the city, before finally reaching my exit. Good thing I had added in an extra hour of drive time, just in case.

Downtown Pittsboro, Indiana

Downtown Pittsboro, Indiana

When we reached Pittsboro, all the businesses had signs up in their windows that said “No Public Restroom.” They wanted you to use the porta potties in the town park, where the festivities were. I bought two cookies at Subway and used their bathroom. Best $1.09 I ever spent. Pittsboro is smaller than my hometown of Blissfield. It doesn’t even have it’s own high school.

There was a drawing to meet Jeff Gordon. Only 5 winners were chosen who each got to bring a guest. Winners would be notified by cell phone at a designated time. The guy sitting near me on the parade route won. We all heard the phone call. He picked the chick right next to him to be his guest. He had never met her. Didn’t even know her name.

Yes, it stung a bit that he didn’t pick me.

Jeff Gordon Day Parade, June 23, 2015 in Pittsboro, Indiana

Jeff Gordon Day Parade, June 23, 2015 in Pittsboro, Indiana

Jeff went by in the parade very quickly. I was waiting for his face to be one of those in the passing cars, it was, and then he was gone in a flash. We quickly walked over and got a good spot in front of the stage to watch the festivities. My son was thoroughly unimpressed with it all. I had a demented fantasy where my son would get lost, then find Jeff’s son Leo, they would play together, and then I would get to meet Jeff when I was reunited with my son. But I didn’t lose my kid and never got to meet Jeff. And I didn’t see his wife or kids there either, although I did see his step-father.

But, I got to lay my own eyes on Jeff and hear his voice with my own ears, so that is something.

"Look at my junk!" Not really. He was actually pointing to his new honorary police badge.

“Look at my junk!” Not really. He was actually pointing to his new honorary police badge.

I would have possibly pursued trying to meet or get an autograph from him further is I didn’t have my tike with me. But by the time Jeff finished, both us pale folk had withered in the hot Indiana mid-day sun. We tried to eat in town, but everything seemed to be a bar. So we headed out of town to the nearest exit with more choices.

Now I wish I would have bummed around longer. Driven past his old high school or hunted down the house he grew up in.

I still have hopes for another championship this year. This season hasn’t been the smoothest, but it hasn’t been all bad either.

Even if Jeff Gordon wins this year, he will not tie or break the 7 time Cup Championship record set by Petty and tied by Earnhardt. But he is definitely not going to be forgotten.

Below is actual video footage of Jeff Gordon break dancing. It comes after the 4 minute mark. There is lots of razzing by the other drivers before the 4 minute mark.

Now who will I root for? I kinda like that kid, what’s his name, that won the Daytona 500 this year? Ah yes, Joey Logano. My son even made up a catchy song for his name.

The best I ever did for Jeff was fit his name into that old Lizzy Bordon rhyme.

JEFF GORDON-sign

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a Bug ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time & GIVEAWAY going on over at Goodreads (ends August 15, 2015)
When You Least Expect It AVAILABLE NOW!

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