23 January 2019 – From English Jack (Keating)

So we come to the end of another year and start a new one. Looking back it was a rather uneventful one . . . as far as I can remember.

We went on a short cruise around September which did not go well. I bought a mobility scooter because Kate was having trouble with her breathing. We took it with us and when we got to the ship I got it out of the car, assembled it and found I had left the ignition key at home. Back it went into the car and we hired one; it cost $310 for five days! Parking the car cost $90! So the cruise got off to a bad start and went downhill after that.

As far as the weather went we got away without any bad hurricanes which is more than can be said for other parts of Florida. Hurricane Michael landed on the Florida Panhandle on 10 October with catastrophic winds measuring 155 mph. It became the strongest storm to hit the continental U.S. since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It was the strongest hurricane on record to strike the Florida panhandle. It was the third-most-intense hurricane to make landfall in the continental U.S. on record in terms of central pressure (919 mb) and the fourth-strongest in terms of maximum sustained winds (155 mph).The damage to Mexico Beach, a small town near Panama City, was apocalyptic. I had to drive down through Panama City and other small towns a month ago and was amazed at the amount of devastation. Thousands of trees snapped off like matchsticks; homes with no rooves (or should that be roofs?); homes flattened; businesses with no rooves or no sides. It was heart-breaking to see it months after the hurricane hit.

In January I went for some sort of scan, MRI or CAT, I’m not sure. I got a call a few days later to say that there was a cyst on my pancreas. I saw a specialist who showed me the scan. I was sent to another doctor who shoved a camera and a needle down into my stomach. He put the needle through my stomach, into the cyst and drained it. The result was that it was pre-cancerous. I had another one a few months later and was told he would only need to check it every six months. Generally I am keeping well. I still do not take any medications whatsoever. Long may it last.

I am still driving all over the country delivering and picking up cars, trucks and vans of all shapes and sizes. Before the end of this month I should be doing the longest drive I have done so far – delivering a Ford F-250 truck to a soldier in San Diego, California and bringing back an F-150. This is a journey of some 4,860 miles and should take me five and a half days. I will be driving through eight different states. Apart from a hundred or so miles most of it will be on one road—Interstate Ten, which makes it easy.

While driving I’ve often thought what would happen if I broke down, especially in the middle of nowhere. Well it happened just over a week ago. I drove to Vidalia in Georgia, about a 500-mile round trip, to drop off a car to a customer and bring back their car. The customer had been having a few problems so I was to bring it back to be checked. I got just eight miles and the engine stopped. I was on a two-lane country road on the approach to a hill. I was told a tow truck would be with me in half an hour. Five hours later I was still there and it was by now pitch black. A local sheriff parked behind me for a few hours with his flashers on to warn other drivers. In the end he said if it was not moved in twenty minutes he would have it towed. I told him to call a local towing company and have me towed to the Ford dealership back in Vidalia. They did this and I booked into a motel for the night. About 12.30 the next day a tow truck from Ford in Daytona Beach, the company I work for, turned up and took me and the car back. What should have been an eight-hour round trip turned into a two-day eighteen-hour jaunt.

Winter tries to come but keeps on being beaten back by some beautiful sunny days. I did wake up one morning to find frost on my car but it didn’t last. The first four days of the month it was in the low eighties then it dropped into the sixties. The average this time of year is about seventy degrees. Suffice it to say that I am still wearing shorts.

During October I had a friend Andy come and stay with us. While he was here we took off and stayed in Savannah, Georgia for a couple of days. The city is very old and quaint with lots of small parks and pedestrian walkways. Horse-drawn carriages roam the streets. Some of the streets are still paved with cobble stones. It is on the Savannah River which is the border between Georgia and South Carolina.

I trust this finds you in the rudest of health.

Best wishes, Jack

Hello Jack, My word, if that was an uneventful year, then mine falls off the scale of uneventfulness! Good to see that the old spirit is still there, and that you are not laying back and thinking of England. Not to be recommended at the moment, should you be unfortunate enough to listen to BBC World Service News – but we won’t go into all that. You take care over there – and tie a knot in something to remind you to always take your ignition key!

Best wishes. Reg