Summer Trek 2009

Summer Trek 2009 – Part I

Once again, happy to report that Master Po and Mrs. Po complete yet another adventure – this time a train-bus-plane adventure through the west with 25 other bold vacationers, and three guides - one head tour guide (Phyllis) and two trainees (Kathy and Kippy).
As usual, trip not start out good. Master Po want to sleep in motor coach ride to Pittsburgh airport, but tour guide lady in bus want to make many announcements, and once she get started, she not want to stop telling us things. More about Phyllis later in story.
When we get to airport, we learn that our plane is delayed for four and a half hours. Some flights to and from Chicago are cancelled. We hear many disturbing words like, wind shear, turbulence, down-draft, updraft, lightning and vertical winds. Mrs. Po once again pop Xanax as she do on other flights, but this not help while landing in Chicago.
Airport there called O’Hare Airport, but not for famous WWII pilot named O’Hare. It called O’Hare because all passengers get O’Harrowing experience. During one deep dive during descent, all passengers and items suddenly float in air, like magic show in Buddhist temple. This very scary for all. Mrs. Po not happy, and Xanax not do job. She squeeze fingernails into Mater Po’s arm and cause severe pain and bruising. She almost bump head on ceiling of plane. This dangerous, not because of head injury, but Mrs. Po spend many hours before flight fixing hair just right, using many hot irons, and blow dryers and other high tech equipment. If Mrs. Po ruin hair style, no one is safe aboard plane. Master Po begin to pray that hair not messed up, and that we land safely.
We all have Brazil flight over Atlantic on our minds as it was big news days earlier. When Master Po look out window and see wings on jet flapping like butterfly in temple garden, he too poke his own fingers into his own arm and cause more bruising.
We notice young flight attendant in rear of plane. His eyes are as big as Tibet temple cymbal used to call meetings. This not help anyone feel any safer. He admit that this is the worst turbulence he ever experience. It get worse as we land - raining hard, water on runway – hydro planing a new word heard on plane. We rock back and forth, and hit fairly hard, but do land safely. Shaolin Priests and God are no doubt with us as we come to stop, Buddha too. Phyllis too.
We learn that we are the last plane to land. O’Hare shut down ground operations for one and a half more hours. And we sit on runway till storm dies down. Mrs. Po again not happy, and wants to run out of plane with umbrella and run into airport and not wait for gate to open. I convince her that this is not a wise choice.
Later we hear that honorable Billy Mays suffers injuries to head when luggage fall on him during other flight. He later die from injuries. This make sense to us as we happy no luggage fall on our heads.
Summer Trek 2009 - Part II
We all calm down on motor coach ride to motel, and enjoy very good, albeit late, dinner in the Windy City. Phyllis give us plenty of directions too, about everything from city to motel to train ride to bus ride to plane ride back home. This very hard to remember, and we old vacationers need plenty more reminders. Some get confused and need more reminders. Master Po one of those that need constant guidance.
In Chicago motel, Master Po run through available channels on TV in room. He somehow start some adult porn movie by accident. He admit he see nothing wrong with watching adult entertainment, but we dead tired, and Mrs. Po not ever want to watch such stuff – so this is an accident, it is not intentional. He want to sleep and get some much needed rest, as he still groggy from bus ride to Pittsburgh. He call desk to hault this movie, but they mess up, and tour guide trainee has to help cancel the fee the next morning. This is a little embarrassing with all other older people around front desk. I feel everyone believe Master Po is a liar and perv.
In morning, we take tour of city. It is very good tour, despite Chicago guide giggle after every phrase. Before we pick up guide, Phyllis feel urge to break into song while holding mike. She sing all 18 versus of “I’ve been working on railroad” complete with chorus after each verse. One man in group named Gary Hollen, yell at Phyllis, “Don’t quit your day job.” Everyone laugh, but Mrs. Po gives me customary poke in ribs and give me evil eye, meaning not to say or add anything to Gary’s comment. I admit it’s tough to do, but I try not to add much, just a little. We all having fun now – and Phyllis talk on…
We board train later in day and spend three days on choo choo. This is very amazing adventure – we learn many things, as Phyllis is authority on everything. Seriously, she is – we start to think she is not annoying anymore and is a great tour guide. And she talk on…
We ascend the Rockies in Denver and the view is better than from window in Temple located in Himalaya Mountains. We drink beer, eat good food, meet many good people and enjoy watching scenery from observation car on train. Despite cramped quarters and bad knees, and old bones, we all enjoy this trip. Walking from car to car while moving is an adventure in its own. Showering over closed commode lid next to shower drain also new to travelers. When going to potty, commode lid up – when showering, commode lid down – always hard to stand straight during trip - train going up to 85 mph at times.
In upper end of Colorado River, we are told that this section is called Moon River. Sure enough those that are enjoying the water there, shoot us the moon, as we travel past river. This odd because men and women and kids of all ages do this. We get a hoot out of this moon shooting. Later in cramped private rooms, more moon shooting occur. When one bends over to put socks on, he get a moon in face from partner who also bending over from towel drying following shower. We learn there is much ass-kissing on this train – but it is not intentional.
Passengers see much wild life along rail trip. One man named honorable John Shambaugh tell us he see many antelope, deer, elk, turkey and one mountain lion from observation car. We not sure Honorable Johnny tell us truth. We learn he good joker as trip goes on. Wife Charlene admit that both she and Johnny share little bottom bunk bed during night in cramped rooms. We laugh so hard, Master Po about pee himself when we hear this. Mrs. Po and I not try such drastic endeavor. We all have good time And Phyllis talk on…
Summer Trek 2009 – Part III
When we get to Reno, we leave train. We learn from Phyllis in advance that we will have “train legs” and we do. We can’t walk normally on solid ground for two days or more. Watching 28 older people wobble around remind Master Po of Penguins on floating iceberg. Mrs. Po surprisingly not poking me too much about antics, cause many other people including bus driver Mark, also have great time and make many jokes. He tell us he not pass out while driving now for over two weeks. We laugh and have great time and Phyllis talk on…
As tour designers mandate, we supposed to change seats each time we get on and off bus. Phyllis remind us all the time, yet we still pretty stupid. Finally after the 5,280 reminder, she make us all make own name tags to place on seats. Despite her directions, no one’s name tag looks the same as the others. They all look different – we confuse easily. We then have to place the tags on different seat as we rotate around. This not easy for old people to do. This frankly become biggest pain in ass in whole trip. But Phyllis is relentless and she talk on…
Next stop is Virginia City Nevada, where Cartrights live on Bonanza. We gamble there, eat great ice cream and meet many new people from all over, including the east. When ordering ice cream, Master Po point to red raspberry flavor and call it chocolate. His color blindness becomes apparent once again. When he finally get order right, it is the best chocolate ice cream he ever have. And he carry stain on shirt and shorts to prove it.
While here, Honorable Johnny and wife Charlene Shambaugh take guided tour of old city. This man in town take old tractor from his barn, and hook up hay wagon to back, and then give tours of city. He may not always know what he talking about. He try refer to one big time business man in city as a mogul. He call him a mongrel instead. Johnny and Charlene laugh as he also misses the date that the city caught on fire by 100 years. He say city burn down in 1975. His humor is free of charge, and like other happenings is not intentional.
We warned by bus driver and guides to not wear name tags around neck while walking the streets. We don’t want to look like tourists too much is the reason. Master Po roar out loud at this suggestion as he wear bright new, white tennis shoes while walking. They glow like radio-active uranium isotope 238 – name tag not needed to indicate he is tourist. We laugh on, and Phyllis continues to give directions and much information.
Mrs. Po stops in first shop she sees to make souvenir purchase. She buy heavy colored stones for grand children. And then hauls them in purse across the entire country to bring them back home. Master Po must say, kids are happy with this surprise. Mrs. Po start therapy soon for injured shoulder from torn ligament in socket.
As Mark drives bus on steep, winding road along Sierra Nevadas, we notice No guard rail along road. Mrs. Po, who request window seat, minutes earlier, now want away from window. She also want away from cliff so we move to other side of bus. This mess up name tags and set rotation, but Phyllis understand Mrs. Po need to be away from cliff. And no one want to see Mrs. Po get sick. This might mess up hair and she not happy when hair messed up. Mark very good driver and we not fall off cliff once. He also not pass out once along this part of highway.
This trip very educational. Master Po learn much. It feel like he back in temple learning again. We learn that Nevada is strange state. Cat houses ok - gambling (to lose life savings and house) ok - smoking in casino ok - but don’t dare smoke in the casino restrooms. Must not mix up rest room fragrance with smoke! And don’t chew gum and throw gum or wrapper in Lake Tahoe.
Summer Trek – Part IV
We continue to California west coast – learning much along way. Phyllis see to that. Master Po can’t figure out how it all right to steal all West land from Indians and to take away Texas and California from the Mexicans – yet today, US government feel right to poke nose into other country’s business every time there is land dispute in world. This not make sense to Easterner like Master Po.
We safely get to San Francisco where we meet again with daughter Kelly Po. Mrs. Po keep secret from me for long time, but finally does tell me. Kelly Po have nose pierced, and Mrs. Po reluctant to give me information. Had Phyllis known about piercing, she would have said something to group, but Mrs. Po wait till proper time. Master Po surprise everyone when he find out. He not get mad at all. He join Kelly and get nose pierced too. This make many on bus laugh, and honorable Johnny Shambaugh sends photo home of Master Po via cell phone. This end up on face book, and daughter Amy, (in Altoona) need explanation of what is going on. Mrs. Po explain to her that Master Po was not drinking when piercing occur. He simply joining daughter with new style of body mutilation.
In restaurant, Master Po can’t find napkin, but is told by other Po’s at table that it is the large RED item folded in glass on table. Once again, color blindness come into play for Master Po. He locate cloth napkin size of large Chinese Dragon kite and eat very good meal, and eat much too.
On way back, Mrs. Po start to walk across street when green “T” light is lit – She think “T”rain signal means ok for “T”erri to walk. She out of it as much as Master Po at times, and has to be pulled back from crosswalk.
Adventure continue, along coast south to LA. Bus driver Mark, play “On the Road Again,” by Willie Nelson many times. He also look up on I pod, “The Pennsylvania Polka” and play it for us Easterners. We sing along - have good time, and Phyllis talk on…
We learn of the demise of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcet and Billy Mays but we not allow it to spoil good trip. We see Michael Jackson’s and other stars in Hollywood Sidewalk Hall of Fame.
When lining up for directions before Kodak tour, Phyllis continue to give announcements. She instruct all to go to lav and for older people, we not pass up chance to get in there. Trouble though - line for Ladies’ Room is long and Phyllis’ voice is heard loud and clear in MEN’S ROOM.
She poke face close to entry and yell, “THE LADIES HAVE RETURNED TO THE START OF THE TOUR – THEIR LINE IN THE LAV IS TOO LONG.” Honorable Jack Johnson of St. College hear her so clear, and almost pee himself thinking haunting voice is very close to us. Master Po immediately check to see if he is in correct rest room. For a split second he think he in Ladies’ room but other upright toilets confirm that we are ok. Phyllis only doing her job and she walk and talk on…
We gradually discover in trip that Phyllis is one awesome and talented lady. She swim in motel pool, sings, tell good jokes, hand out candy, dresses very professionally and never stops talking. She is very passionate tour guide who love her work and love other people too. We grow to like her much. Phyllis mention that she ready to retire and turn over guide duties to other ladies and spend more time with family. Then it all make sense to Master Po. Phyllis apparently has developed a vaccine to prevent laryngitis and intends to retire with millions of dollars of royalties. She never LOSE VOICE – not after swimming, singing, talking, air conditioner running, or telling us to change seats. I discover her secret. She will be very rich someday. And her successors will forever enjoy the vaccine so they too, can talk on…
Adventure story way too long – we all have good time, and reach East safely. Master Po recommend this kind of tour for all. It was good for Master Po to get away. He still sad because of demise of former student in temple Kwai Chang Caine – David Carradine – alias Grasshoppa who recently play around with auto-erotic asphyxiation. He learn of this ancient Chinese secret while spending many lonely times in temple. We warn all future Shaolin Priests to not mess with this kind of activity. He not listen – kids will be kids, but he in seventies and should know better.
Till next time, sincerely, Master Po of the East

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA