My Idea of Family

We’ve had a lot going on the past couple of months. We went through some really personal stuff that I’m not going to discuss publicly, we’ve been bouncing around with work, and it’s just been an emotional time overall. What I am going to talk about is how living on the road, being in the tall tower industry specifically, gives you a different perspective on family. I’m specifying tall towers as opposed to cell towers because the industry is so small in comparison, and it’s what we do. It’s how we live.
Being on the road for work, and especially in this line of work, we move a lot. We are in cities and small towns and sometimes in the middle of absolutely nowhere. We stay places for a day, a few days, weeks or sometimes months depending on the job. We are in really awesome places with great weather and our friends and family at “home” think we are living the dream. Then we are in North Dakota in November and Minnesota in January and we can’t wait to move on! Regardless of all that, these guys go to work every day and have each other’s backs. They work up to 2,000ft off the ground and they count on each other. They trust each other. I trust them to watch out for Allen and I know he does the same for them.
When we need something, anything, we turn to the guys Allen works with. His brothers. My brothers. Our family. We depend on each other.  When we go out to watch the game on Sunday, we go with them. When we tie one on Saturday night, yeah, we are with the same group of guys. When I feel like trying to make a giant pot of seafood gumbo, we have them over to help eat it all! And if we are stuck on the road for holidays, everyone comes over and we celebrate together. Because we are family. This line of work isn’t easy. I don’t do it, but I live it. I’m lucky enough to live in Allen’s world and to get this extra family. My tower family.
On September 27, there was an accident in Miami, Florida and we lost 3 great tower hands. The industry is going to be hurting for a while. Even more, we lost 3 brothers. And our family will be hurting forever. BJ Anibal Rodriguez, Marcus Goffena, and Brach Barber. They were some of the best guys in the business.
I had the privilege to get to know BJ and Marcus personally over the years. Here’s a post I shared on Facebook last week…
“Family is family. On the road you get an extra family. You have a blast, you help each other, you do crazy things, you do boring things, you fight, you make up, you fight some more, you drink too much, you laugh. It’s family. These guys depend on each other every day. Every single day. I’ve gotten to be a part of this family thanks to Allen. The first time I made shrimp fried rice in Robertsdale, Alabama, Marcus said it was delicious. I shaved his back before we went to Panama City Beach and swore I’d never do it again! I got to witness the after wisdom teeth getting pulled, totally out of it, talking nonsense, like videos you see online, in Oklahoma City. I bought him soup and dropped him off at home to go to sleep. He was willing to fight for me when someone made fun of my karaoke singing at a tiny bar in an out of the way campground and he told the bartender at Outback that it was my birthday when Allen slacked on his boyfriend duties so I was surprised with some free ice cream. I watched him eat way too many medical pretzels in San Francisco and laughed when his sewer hose spewed shit all over the campground, because what can ya do?! I met a couple girlfriends who came to see him and witnessed him in action with pickup lines that I rolled my eyes at. I met his family and absolutely loved his mom Deborah Goffena. The first, and last time, we stayed on a cow farm in Oxford, North Carolina (the home of nothin’) BJ Anibal Rodríguez bought a ton of food from the store, along with some bud light platinum and huge bottle of wine for me, so I would make them lunch every day. I made my first bacon-wrapped pork loin and BJ and Allen cut it in half and finished the entire thing. BJ broke a camping chair one night, just totally fell through the seat and we laughed our asses off. He went running to his van (I called it the predator van) that night, I guess he was leaving and I didn’t want him to, so I ran after him. It was pitch black and the load line was running waist high from the hoist to the tower. We ran straight into it. He flipped over and I flew backward. Allen saw the whole thing! We had some snow days in Oklahoma City so of course we were drinking. I made two giant trays of nachos and we made BJ come help us eat them. He taught us, or tried, how to play dominos the right way. I went to pick him up from Home Depot in Palm Beach because his keys fell out of his basketball shorts and he couldn’t find them. I got some free Mexican from a food truck that day. We had AMFs all day at a Chili’s in Vacherie when it seemed like it would never stop raining and his camper turned into a house boat. These guys were family. I know these are just words, but for me I can remember all of these moments clear as day. My heart is breaking for everyone who got the joy of knowing these two men, and the realization that we will never be able to make more memories.”
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We attended Marcus’s funeral this past week. It was hard. Really hard. It absolutely sucks to lose a friend and a brother. But then there’s this added layer… Like I said before, these guys were some of the best out there. I still have to kiss Allen goodbye in the morning so he can go to work and do the same thing they were doing. It’s scary. I have to trust that he is going to be as safe as he can possibly be. And I have to somehow put my faith in whatever there is out there that he’s going to come home to me that night.
We love hard, work hard, play hard, and grieve really hard. And we do it together.
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If you would like to help the families of BJ, Marcus and Brach, donations can be made to The Hubble Foundation. They are an amazing organization and I highly suggest learning a bit about them.

 

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Leaving Lynnville

We left Lynnville Park Campground in Indiana this morning. We had a really nice spot this time, and rent is only $130/week for a 50amp FHU pull thru… Allen has to start work in Jacksonville on Friday so we have a couple days to get there.  Continue reading

Work, play, and more work!

I left off with a post before the Super Bowl. I can’t believe it’s been that long! But we’ve been busy, each in our own way…

The Xenia job was a mess from the start so what was supposed to take 2 weeks, actually took 5! We stayed at Frontier Campground in Waynesville, Ohio for the 2nd time. Waynesville is about an hour from our hometown, so we had our friends come up for a night to hang out. That was a blast!

We’ve all been friends for about 20 years! (Katie, me, Allen, Brandi)

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Thanksgiving Dinner in an RV 

Thanksgiving dinner was a success! When we went shopping, we were planning on it only being Allen and I for dinner.  Obviously we bought WAY too much food because we wound up feeding 4 adults & 4 kids… with leftovers!

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Grand Teton National Park

Leaving Nebraska on Monday, we stopped in Dubois, Wyoming at the KOA for two nights. It was a nice park. You can read more about it here. We had a spot on the Wind River where I spread some of my brother’s ashes.  Continue reading

Stateline, NV/South Lake Tahoe, CA trip!

I’ve never seen views like we saw here. It was literally breathtaking! I’ve never been to a mountain town before and I was impressed. Everywhere you look you just see amazing natural beauty.  
We checked into Harvey’s Casino Resort on Friday afternoon and then hit the casino. We played some video poker and took a free craps lesson. There was a camera crew making a commercial at the video poker bar and then also at the craps lesson so I guess we will be in two commercials we will probably never see!

The craps teacher

The hotel was right on the corner, at the line between California and Nevada. So we technically lived in Nevada for two nights.

After that we headed outside to daylight (very shocking to our casino adjusted eyeballs!). We got some drinks and food at Mc P’s Taphouse Grill. Then walked around a bit to check out the area.   image1-3
We went to a comedy show after dinner. It was pretty good. I’ve seen funnier. It’s the second comedy show we’ve been to together. The first was somewhere in Florida a couple of years ago.

After the show we stopped at this sports bar in the casino. The bartender was from Cincinnati (like us!) so we chatted with him for a bit and had some beers and late night pizza. He suggested we go to Emerald Bay to scatter some of my brother’s ashes. It turned out to be a great tip!

the bartender’s map for us

an actual map

 

Saturday morning we had breakfast at Artemis Lakefront Cafe (crappy, slow service but delicious food-especially Allen’s biscuits and gravy!).  image1-2

 Then we headed over to check out Emerald Bay. It was about a 25 minute drive from the hotel but traffic wasn’t too terrible. Once you get close to the bay, the road gets super steep and winding and I get super nervous and nauseous.

 We finally found a place to pull over and get out. Completely breathtaking! We scattered my brother’s ashes, most of which blew back on us -oops- and took some pictures then headed back down.

  
We hit the pool for some recovery drinks and suntanning then got dressed and went looking for dinner.

Here we are looking all fancy

We checked Friday’s Station on he top floor of Harrah’s (across the street from us). The least expensive steak on the menu was a 6oz filet for $70! What?!?! So then we walked back over to our hotel and checked the menu at the top floor restaurant of Harvey’s, 19 Kitchen and Bar. Same thing, just a wider selection.

We checked a couple other places but weren’t impressed so we headed to Stateline Brewery up the street. It’s a brewery, in a basement, and the average entree is around $25 so it’s more our style for sure! Allen tried the Acclimator IPA which was pretty delish! We ordered the artichoke dip. It was a big loaf of Sourdough bread with half the loaf hollowed out and filled with dip, then the top was brushed with super yummy garlic butter. Yum! So the artichoke dip was the entirety of our dinner! We had a couple more beers and called it a night.

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Looking up the mountain, at the ski lift… No way could I have handled that! Allen said it’s about 9000ft elevation at the top… Yikes!

This morning we had a couple of breakfast burritos from a cafe up the street, spent our last $20 in chips, cashed in our tickets and checked out.

The obligatory huge chair vacation photo

On the way home I saw my first California grass fire (there was one in the campground in Oklahoma City but this was a lot bigger).

 Overall, our Tahoe trip was really fun, and the best part was sharing the experience with my love. Now I’m just happy to be back home with Charlie! We missed her! And, a special thank you to Carmen for puppy-sitting!

Getting to Say a Long Good-Bye

In my last post I talked about losing my brother Adam. Thanks to a lot of very generous, kind people, we’ve raised a lot of money on GoFundMe to help pay for the funeral expenses.
His funeral was Thursday evening. I thought it was beautiful. We didn’t have a reverend or pastor or preacher. (We didn’t want anyone to look at Adam negatively and judge him, especially the fact that he was gay)  Instead my Aunt read a poem from my mom and then we invited anyone up who wanted to share a story or memory about Adam. I think a lot of his friends got up and said something. It’s all still mostly a blur.

 We had pictures of Adam playing the whole time on a slide show and then when everyone was finished speaking, we played some of his favorite songs. He would’ve loved it. Missy Elliott “Work It” was the first one to come on!

Adam playing dress up through the years

We had been planning to bury his ashes next to his dad in a cemetery close to my mom’s house. But the other night my mom and I walked over to see where we would put the marker. We were both thinking, but not saying, that we weren’t sure if this idea fit Adam.

We eventually said, almost simultaneously (we do that a lot even when we don’t see each other for months) that his ashes should be spread, not buried. Adam has always wanted to travel and never really got the chance. The last conversation we had, he told me that Charlie was the luckiest dog ever because she got to go everywhere and see everything.

So I’m going to bring him with me. It’ll be his first time on a plane and the first place I’m taking him is San Francisco. I think he would love this. I’ve started compiling a wish list of places I’d like to scatter some of his ashes. But, as with the rest of my life, I know all of this has to stay a tentative plan. We will just have to see where the wind blows us.

I just read an article that gave me some really useful tips. I’m glad I found it. Thanks to the author.

On another note, Allen and Charlie made it to Candlestick RV Park in San Francisco safely on Friday afternoon. Our super nice neighbor Carmen watched Charlie while her husband Doug helped Allen squeeze into our spot.  

Photos from Carmen to me during the action

Allen said we arent moving the camper until we leave for good. No NHRA at Sonoma this year. 😦


He took notes and pictures for me, well, for the blog. So when I get out there, I’ll post about their super slow trip from Dallas to San Francisco. (He couldn’t check into the campground until Friday so he was doing less than 500miles/day)  Allen also wrote some Google reviews of the campgrounds they stayed in on the way out. I’m so proud of him! My mom joked that he’s going to become known as the angry blogger. I love it.