The entertainment industry shuts down from December 22nd through the first week in January every year. I usually take a few trips during that time. I spend a few days around Christmas with my family in Oklahoma and then the rest of the time I have traveled to many different destinations throughout the world, but the last few years I have mainly stateside and spending more time with my family. Is a nice change, but I know it won’t last. Eventually I will find somewhere else to go after I spend Christmas with them. This year I decided to see old friends. Some I had not seen in 15 years. I would do a loop. Two guys I had not seen since the military lived in Denver Colorado. Since I was in Oklahoma I wasn’t to far away. Also, at the bottom of the state of Oklahoma was my friend Dusty, another old friend from the Navy. I have kept in touch with Dusty since I got out and we have spent much time together as well. I decided I would do a 6 state loop. I spent some time planning out my route and also to shoot some old and abandoned places. I rented a car in Oklahoma and then drove west. First stop was Cheyenne Wyoming. I stayed the night and the next morning ventured out to Laramie and then Centennial. I could only go so far up the mountain road after I passed Centennial. Too much snowfall and the road was blocked off by the park rangers. I snapped this picture near the closure point. Snowmobile heaven.
After I came to the end I turned around and headed for Denver. I took Highway 287 through the mountains.
I had not seen Todd and Lenny since October of 1997. We had just finished a 6-month deployment around the world and for many of us, this meant the end of our 4-year enlistment. We were all just kids then. Excited to finally be able to get out. Wondering what lay ahead for us. We were what they called “short” as in short timers. I had 4 months left of my enlistment when my ship, the USS Constellation pulled back into San Diego. On the drive down I wondered what their lives would be like now. All I knew was their youth. Now these guys where men.
When I got to Todd’s house he came out and we met mid way on the sidewalk. We hugged instantly and shook hands hard. A lot of feelings came rushing back to me. I saw a montage of my time in the Navy and our fun times together. The best part about seeing someone from your past is that they remind you of things you did. Memorable moments. I had forgotten all about the memorable hot-tub moment with my then girlfriend Arian. We were getting naked, drunk and laughing way too loud in our little hot-tub party. We were at Todd’s apartment complex where he had just moved in. Luckily the landlord was cool about it all and just made us get dressed and go back in the apartment. Seeing him now he looked older but still the same. Gone was the boy and now a man had taken his place I lost touch with Todd after we both got out. Things happen and my life after those first few months of being out where chaotic. We didn’t have cell phones then or even Facebook. Keeping touch meant writing things down. On paper. Papers get lost. Years later after many searches and finally with the invention of Facebook, I found Todd and then Lenny. It was really good to see them. Lenny looked older but still the same. Both where doing well. How much they both had changed. We talked for many hours about the good old days.
I spent a super tame new years eve with them. We drank and laughed for most of the night. The next morning I got up early and Todd and I sat and talked for a while before I had to leave. We had a great time and it was great to see them both.
On my way down to New Mexico I found this ghost town called Ludlow Colorado:
I stopped in Whiteflat Texas outside of Amarillo and snapped this old school:
And then I found this church in Electra Texas. A huge owl lives there so I didn’t venture too far into the church.
When I finally got to the Oklahoma state line I drove to Dusty’s house and stayed the night. Dusty was also in the Navy and we were also roommates in an apartment condo we shared near the beach in San Diego. By the time I made it to his house, I had logged close to 2,000 miles on the rental car.
It was a great trip. Dusty is the one vet I’ve mostly kept in touch with all of these years. We were roommates back in San Diego too. We lived in a condo that was close to the ship and also close to the beach. We had so many good times back then. It’s always great to see these guys. We all have the same stories and we all relate to each other on a deeper level than most people who have never experienced wartime situations on the front lines. These guys had my back and I had theirs. Its what you do when you’re in the military. After all of these years, the bonds are still strong between us all. For nearly four years these men where my neighbors, my friends, my brothers and my protectors. Experiencing traumatic events with others brings you close. It’s different to see it on the other side now.