About Me

I feel the wanderlust and the call of the open highway. Which is good, because I drive cars for a living. But I'm a writer, and someday hope to once again make my living using my writing skills.

Monday, July 26, 2010


As I travel around the USA I can always count on meeting a lot of strange and unusual people. But there are also the good and kind people, the interesting and intriguing folks who I get to know who really make my days brighter. And there is no more of a bright and shining star than JC Cramer.

Oddly enough, we met on the Internet. JC is a lady who read my blogs and became fascinated by A DRIVING FOOL. She was generous with her comments, such as "You are one helluva good guy Bill. When that guy got into your face, I would have been throwing punches, but you just roll with them. There's some good karma to be learned from you." I read this and all of her other comments, and I thought that THIS LADY GETS ME. So I wrote to her, and she wrote to me, and for the first time in my life I had made a real, true friend without actually meeting face to face.

Next thing you know we became friends by phone, and she wanted to keep up with all of my travels. I began to learn that she was a pretty special and wildly outrageous lady, who spoke her mind and damn the consequences. She told me that she has homes all over the USA, including a farm in upstate New York, a penthouse in Las Vegas, a beach cottage in Panama City, a ranch in Montana, and an estate in Dallas. Plus a place she refers to as "the mansion" in Orlando.

I asked JC many times what her initials stand for. Every time I ask, or anyone else asks, they will get a different answer. "I am Joe Cool, don't you know?" Or once, "I was named after our nation's greatest President, Jimmy Carter." No really, JC, what do those initials stand for? "I am named after the son of God." The fact is, she legally changed her name to just her initials, so JC is officially her name.

She is one spitfire of a woman, a real whirling dervish. She will keep you on your toes and always keep you guessing. She comes up with the most unique sayings. Once I heard her talking to a girlfriend, and she said, "Just keep right on giving your man good wild sex, he'll follow you anywhere and do anything for you. For him, you'll be the cat's meow!"

JC has a big emotionally challenged dog named Jonz, who I find lovable but who has been known to bite folks unexpectedly. "You know Bill," she told me one day, "Jonz is a perfectly normal, wonderful dog, except when he snaps and goes nuts and starts biting people. But other than that..."

I wrote about my time at the Census bureau, and I needed a place to stay long term during that job. I mentioned it in passing to JC, so she asked where I'd be working. I told her it was Miami, and she said "Perfect, I have a condo there and its sitting empty. You'll live there as long as the job lasts. This will give me an excuse to come over and spend time working on it, painting and doing repairs and such." So I was treated to just over a month in a luxury 3 bedroom 2 story condo, with the added pleasure of her frequent company as she'd come and visit what she dubbed our "love nest."

Which leads me to the confession that No, we don't have any rolls in the hay. She is a very attractive and very fit woman, with energy to spare. I should be so lucky! But she is mostly attracted to much younger men, finely chiseled specimens with recent college degrees. Alas, this does not describe A Driving Fool. Frankly, I don't know if I could keep up with her level of energy, either. She is a non-stop work machine whenever I'm around her. Her daughter's friend dropped by the "love nest" in Miami one day while JC was busy cleaning, and the girl said, "Gee, is there anything I could do to help?" JC just stared at her, then waved the rag and said, "Well, you see a rag in my hand, don't you? Get a clue, sister."

I have now stayed with JC as I travel in 4 of the 10 homes I know of that she lives in. We both keep saying how strange it is that I happen to be headed where she happens to be staying at any given time. Its like its meant to be. Just recently, I visited at the farm in upstate New York for the first time, and it was amazing. She has a 150 year old farmhouse with clapboard floors and an old iron tub, a big red barn out back and green rolling hills all around.

We took a ride in her new tiny Honda, as she traversed the back roads and dirt trails in a fashion that would impress the Duke boys from Hazzard County. After sitting out by a roaring bonfire that night, JC made another round of White Russians for us, and then we came inside and settled down for what she calls "VHS theater." None of those modern DVDs for her. We watched ON GOLDEN POND and we laughed while Jonz growled softly. And we celebrated finding each other and having such a warm and loving friendship. I know that I am truly blessed to have friends around America who open their hearts and their homes to me.

But there is none other quite like JC.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


My first assignment back on the road was picking up a car in Maryland to drive to Bonita Springs, Florida. I flew to Baltimore, then took a train way outside of town, nearly to the northern Maryland border. There I was met at the train station by elderly Mrs. Sherman, who lived in a nearby town that no trains, buses, or rental cars ever visited.

"Climb in, and be quick about it. We have a long ride ahead of us," she told me. This was confusing, for I had measured the distance at 14 miles from the train to her town. And for someone who seemed to be in a hurry, she never drove more than 30mph, even though the speed limit was 50mph.

As we pulled into her small, quaint town, she announced, "I am going to give you a tour of my little town now, which you will want to thank me for. Tell me your name again?"

"Bill Thomas."

"First name?"


"One more time?"


"Bill, of course. Bill, I am 92 years old and I still have a lot of years ahead of me." She paused and nodded.

"That's great, good for you."

She looked at me with a hurt expression. "Please don't interrupt me, Bill, I'm trying to give you a tour. Now, over there is where someone very famous once gave a speech during the Civil War. Do you know who that was?"

"No, Mrs. Sherman."

"Oh dear. I was hoping that you would know, I seem to have forgotten. Now, if you look out your window to the right, you'll see the spot where General George Washington crossed the Delaware. Do you know why he crossed there?"

"No, ma'am."

"Because it was the most narrow part of the river. By the way, George Washington went on to become our first President of these United States." We drove past a park where a large group of geese were congregating. "Look over there, Bill. Those are Canadian geese that you see. Now I know what you're thinking, they look like ducks, but they are not. Those are Canadian geese."

"Yes, ma'am." Moments later, we pulled into her driveway, and she said to come inside the house so she could give me a tour.

"Bill, I have a nice home here and one in Florida. And the reason is that I married three very wealthy men and outlived them all. Of course, I didn't plan it that way, it's just the way things turned out. They died. But I am still very much alive."

I had her sign the paperwork, then began my journey down to Florida. It was rather uneventful, except for her phone calls to me once an hour. "Bill, where are you now? And how is my car doing? Do you have plenty of gas?"

On the second day, she called to see when I would be meeting her in Florida. I asked what time she'd get to Bonita Springs.

"Well Bill, I am flying into the Ft. Myers airport, so you can pick me up there and drive me to Bonita Springs."

"I'm very sorry Mrs. Sherman, but the company will not allow me to take passengers when I'm driving a car. It's an insurance issue."

"Don't worry about it, Bill. Your boss said it would be OK."

So I called the boss Riff to verify this, and he laughed and told me that they never had any such conversation. Then Riff said, "She's just trying to avoid taking a cab, that would run her nearly $100 for that distance. You know what, go ahead and pick her up at the airport, help an old lady out."

"I don't mind, as long as you've cleared it."

The next day, I timed it to be at the airport exactly as she came off the plane, and drove around and around until she walked out. She seemed very surprised to see me, and asked, "How in the world did you get here just as I walked out?"

"I'm good at my job."

"Yes you are. You certainly are. And no one can say differently. Now, let me show you some of the interesting sights on the drive down to Bonita Springs." There was not a lot to see on the Interstate highway we were on, but she pointed to trees and told me what kind they were. And she also kindly identified some birds she saw, or perhaps thought she saw. Though she swore she saw a flock of pink flamingos crossing in front of us on I-75, I did not see them.

As we pulled into the driveway of her condo complex, she asked me how I intended to get out of Bonita Springs. "I'll take a city bus to Avis rental cars, then drive to Miami to pick up my next car."

"OK, Bill, well you just unload my car for me and then you can be on your way."

"I'm very sorry, Mrs. Sherman, but we aren't allowed to ever touch a customer's private belongings. It is a very strict rule, so the company won't be liable for anything."

"Oh now don't you worry, I spoke to your boss and he said it would be fine."

Well, I didn't want to pull out my cell phone and call Riff. So I made an executive decision there on the spot. For goodness sake, this lady was 92, and I do have a heart. And that heart was tugging at me.

What I didn't count on was just how much stuff she had. The backseat was loaded, but then I opened the trunk. A big Cadillac can have lots of trunk space, and she had some huge suitcases fully loaded. And one steamer trunk. Snowbirds pack heavily. I started with the first load, and she told me that her unit was on the third floor, just next to the elevator. When I arrived at the elevator doors on the first floor, I found a large sign "OUT OF ORDER." Which of course meant that I had to carry all of her stuff up the stairs. It was a rare hot and humid day in south Florida, and I was sweating enough to fill a swimming pool.

After ten trips, I was drenched, and my clothes were plastered to me. I went to Mrs. Sherman to have her sign the paperwork so I could go. As she opened her purse, she said to me, "Thank you so much. Now Bill, I can tell that you are a man of integrity, and that is why I will not insult you by offering you a gratuity." She pulled a tissue out of her purse and dabbed her forehead with it. "Have a grand and wonderful day."

I picked up my duffel bag and started to walk to the bus stop. And I wondered if when she told me that she wouldn't insult me with a gratuity, maybe I should have said, "I spoke to my boss and he said it would be OK."