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Wine Master

Mary and I arranged a flight to Steamboat Springs when she was asked to sing at a wedding in for Ed and Mary's daughter. We arranged our tickets to fly out of San Luis Obispo on a commuter jet into San Francisco where we would transfer to the bigger plane to take us to Denver. It was in the fall after we had married, but I needed to finish my grape crush.

Mary was working at a vineyard in San Luis and, a few days before our Steamboat trip, she called me one afternoon to let me know one ton of Chenin Blanc grapes was available for me at no charge. The grapes had already been picked, but there was a problem connecting the grapes to the potential buyer. I had been making homemade wine since vet school and had continued the hobby when I moved to Paso.

I readily accepted the gift.

My Zinfandel took third place at the prestigious Mid-State Fair in 1984, although at the time the wineries were just beginning to show up en masse in our area, which meant I had little professional competition. Nonetheless, I was encouraged to push on with my vintner skills and arranged to get the ton of free grapes. Because I was driving a vehicle with a vet pack on it there was no room to place a one-ton collection of grapes.

Mary suggested I borrow Joe's truck. Joe and Mary Kay were old friends from Steamboat. Now they were here on the central coast; Mary Kay was Mary’s superior at the vineyard.

Joe agreed to let me use his truck, an early 1960’s Chevy pickup. When a person lifts up the hood on a modern vehicle, the hood is relatively flat. Joe’s truck was an older model having a hood formed into a half circle. It had no seatbelts, and stick shifts instead of an automatic transmission. It also was drafty and noisy, but this didn’t matter because I needed a grape transportation device and not a comfortable leisurely ride. I collected and processed the grapes the weekend before we were to leave.

The day before we were to fly away I was finishing up office calls in Paso. My friend Richard, whom I had gone to high school with, called the office. He heard from brother Mike I was flying out to Colorado, and Richard wanted to see if we could meet up. I ran out to my truck to retrieve the tickets to let him know my itinerary, and we made tentative plans to meet up. I completed the day early, drove home, and finished packing. Mary and I spent the evening in San Luis at a hotel, so we were within 15 minutes of the airport. We drove Joe’s truck so he could pick it up at the airport parking lot.

Mary and I checked into the hotel, dined, and visited a bar in downtown SLO before heading back to the hotel. We got to bed early. We wanted to be at the airport by 5:30 am because the plane was to leave at 6:00 am. Lying in bed, I remarked to Mary what a smart idea this was. Our packing was done, and we enjoyed the evening stress-free. The front desk woke us up at 4:30 am. We showered and dressed, and were at the terminal a little past 5:00 am. I parked Joe’s truck in short-term parking; he would be there in a few hours to get it. Mary and I waited in line. When it was our turn for check-in, we placed our bags on the scale between the counters, and I went to get the tickets out of my wallet. There were no tickets in my wallet.

A feeling of panic rose as I frantically searched my shirt pockets, my pants pockets, my jacket pockets. We pulled our luggage back from the scale and went through the bags, still unable to find the tickets. Then I realized I'd forgotten them; I left the tickets on the counter in my Paso office. As my chest was constricting and my breathing rate elevated I blurted out to the attendant I had left the tickets in Paso, thirty minutes away. The attendant told me they would try to hold the flight for us.

Mary and I ran out of the terminal, leaving our bags with the attendant who told us they would load them onto the plane. We ran to Joe’s truck and began one of the most agonizing rides I have ever experienced.

Driving the truck out of San Luis Obispo onto the 101 Freeway I began the long climb over Cuesta Grade into the north county. Mary and I had nothing to say to each other. Our eyes were focused forward, and my hands tightly gripped the steering wheel. The truck slowly crept up the grade. Sounds were enhanced from the adrenalin coursing through me. The wind sounds from the drafty truck combined with the loud engine noises filled my head. With agonizing slowness, the truck made its way to the top of the grade. I drove another twenty minutes into Paso to my office. I ran from the truck, unlocked the front door, and flipped the lights on.

There they were! The tickets were lying on the counter just as I left them when I was talking to Richard. I gathered them up, locked the office door, and we started our drive back to San Luis Obispo Airport in the same state of apprehension and anxiety.

When we reached the airport, I drove the truck right in front of the terminal and braked it hard and fast. We ran to the counter with the tickets to find the flight had been held for us but was about to take off. We were needed on the tarmac immediately!

I ran back to the truck to move it to short-term parking, but it wouldn’t start! My hard braking caused an electrical cable to pull free. Anguished, I got out and lifted the hood.

Mary ran out and yelled at me. “What are you doing? We need to go right now!”

“The truck won’t start!” I shouted.

“Just leave it there!”

I dropped the hood down and rushed into the terminal. We ran down the stairway, onto the tarmac, and made our way into the plane. I left the truck in a no parking zone directly in front of the terminal with the keys in the ignition.






Audiobook coming soon



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