Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chasing a Dream

This is a continuation of a series of writings about my time in the Navy. The first in this series of posts can be found here or go here for the most recent.

During my enlistment I was very good about sending money home to be put into a savings account which wasn't readily accessible to me. I'd managed to squirrel away over $5000 in that time on wages that ranged from $5000 to $7500 annually. However, my days of living debt free and being able to easily add to my savings were coming to an end and I knew it. I'd soon be on the hook for rent, utilities, car, insurance and I could only imagine what else; and what sort of work would I find to pay for all that? For the past four years I'd not had one monthly bill. But still, I had one last purchase to make knowing that if I didn't act on this impulse now I'd be hard-pressed to justify it later. 

With all the cash I'd spent building up my Eisentraut frame over the last year I would've thought that I wouldn't want for anything more but that wasn't so. I loved my bike but I'd also been eyeing a Colnago Super frame at California Bicycles, one that would fit me even better than my Eisentraut. Most of the components would be interchangeable so I'd only be out the cost of the frame to allow me to have a choice of two bikes to ride. I put the frame on order but within a week of getting it and building it up I was sending it off ahead of me with the rest of my possessions to meet me back in Minnesota when I got out. My Colnago would serve me well over the next 20 years and would be my main ride, in fact, one of the last big rides I did with it was the Headwater's 100 road race in 1997 where I finished with the pack in 3:57.  It's still a part of my collection of bikes.

November 4th, 1979, the U.S. Embassy in Iran was overthrown by students and our embassy personnel were taken hostage. The end of my enlistment was drawing near but I couldn't help but be a little concerned that there may be a moratorium of sorts on departures from the military with all the saber rattling that followed. Although the situation was a serious one my personal concerns were for naught.

As I got closer to my release date I got more serious about my return to civilian life. I limited my trips with friends to the clubs and found myself becoming more of a loner which also gave me time to reflect on where I was headed. College for sure but to become what? And what about integrating back into my family after four years away? This, taken from my diary 11-6-79, "What's the relationship going to be? I've got the subtle feeling that they really don't have a lot of confidence in me back home. When I left, I left a lot of doubt within them but even as I've made it as I have I can't help but think they still don't know me."

Stan Whitmarsh was getting out the following summer and we were kicking around plans for buying motorcycles to tour the west coast together. Our rendezvous never materialized but a Yamaha XS 850 Special did; my first bike. Stan would eventually leave Navy life for work in the mines in upstate New York. We briefly connected online a few years ago.

Sylvia McGregor was my first crush. She was cute, 12 (I was 11), tomboyish and lived two doors down from where I grew up in Bloomington where we spent a good part of 1968 hanging out together. I called her Sylve.  I remember being in her basement playing pool when news broke of Bobby Kennedy's assassination. She entered middle school a year ahead of me and from that point on we'd see less and less of each other.

A few weeks before my enlistment was up I had the most vivid dream that I was down on the pier where our ship was tied up. I was using the pay-phone talking with directory assistance trying to locate Sylvia. I couldn't get the dream out of my head. The last address I had for her from my former girlfriend's sister was in Davis, CA and without much hesitation I found myself down at the pay-phone on the pier just like in the dream following this whim. Within minutes I had confirmation that she was still at the same address. I wouldn't have tried to contact her but the dream was so real. My crush on her was ten years removed but I at least had to write to say hello; I didn't feel comfortable calling her.

She responded to my letter with one of her own and an invitation to fly up and see her before I left for Minnesota. I had no idea what to expect but I'd be less than honest if I didn't admit that I had my hopes up for something more than a passing friendship. This had to be destiny I thought. She met me at the airport in San Francisco and commented that I'd just missed Graham Nash as he was walking through the terminal. We spent the day kicking around the city and reminiscing before leaving on the 90 minute drive northeast to Davis where she lived with her mother and where I'd spend the night.

We went out with her sister and brother-in-law to see the movie '10' starring Bo Derek. Unfortunately whatever romance was playing out on the movie screen didn't transcend to us. There were no sparks. I don't think either of us had regrets about meeting up again. I at least had to know.

I returned to San Diego to finish out the last week of my enlistment and the cold reality that there would be no soft landing back into the civilian world to distract me from getting on with my life.

I can do this!

To be continued...

2 comments:

Steve Saeedi said...

It's amazing that California Bicycle is still in business. Unheard of in this day and age.

Kevin said...

Yes, they're still there. I believe Kevin and his father took over the shop in 1977. I was a regular there while stationed in San Diego

On a sad note; Kevin lost a son to the war in Iraq a couple years ago.

I have a couple of their jerseys and often wear them...I sported one on today's ride.