The Lost Phone

One last roller coaster before we get ready to leave Michigan’s largest amusement park, Michigan’s Adventure, and head back to our hotel for our last night’s stay in West Central Michigan. 

I stepped off of the inverted, steel suspended roller coaster, Thunderhawk, where I’d been flipped upside down five times and hit speeds of over 50 mph.

The Thunderhawk.

My right hand reached for my right pocket to make sure my wallet was there. Check. Next, my left hand reached for my left pocket to make sure my cell phone was still safety tucked away. Instant panic struck me because I didn’t feel it. I double checked.

You have to be freaking kidding me. IT WAS GONE!

I told one of the girls working the ride that I lost my phone while riding. I was told I could look for it from the walkways and that’s it. She told me to go to lost and found to leave my personal information and description of my phone. The workers search the grounds every night when the park closes. If they find it they’ll notify me.

I look up and down the walkways entering and exiting Thunderhawk but I don’t see it anywhere.

I’m screwed!

Now, for the walk of doom. As I trekked through the park to find Bobbie and Harlie and let them know I lost my phone, I was full of dread and stress. A couple things were in my thoughts.  One: My phone is locked with a passcode so, thankfully, no one can access my information. This was by the skin of my teeth. Until we left for vacation I had not used a passcode to lock my phone. Thank God, I decided to add a passcode lock for the extra security while vacationing out of state.  Thought two: I knew from checking the weather forecast that rain was coming. I knew that if my iPhone was not found that evening, it would drowned by morning. And – speaking of damage – having been tossed from my pocket and thrown who knows how far and having landed on who knows what type of surface, in what kind of condition would my phone even be in at this point?  Likely, shattered. Hundreds of dollars signs is what I saw in my mind; a new iPhone purchase would now be added to this vacation budget.

I found Bobbie and a worn-out, red-faced Harlie. There, in the middle of the thoroughfare, I immediately, informed them of the bad news. We headed to the front of the park and filed the lost and found report. Then, although I had already looked everywhere I could, Bobbie decided that we needed to go back to Thunderhawk and look more.

The three of us searched every nook and cranny of the underbelly of the roller coaster that we could get to. But spotting a black iPhone case on the black mulch with a covering of bushes and other vegetation was impossible. Bobbie tried calling my phone but the loud roar of the roller coaster drowned out all other sounds.

If you have an iPhone chances are pretty high that you have the app, Find My iPhone, on your phone. Bobbie and I both have the app but neither of us had ever used it. It was worth a try. The app sent the sound signal to my phone but since my location setting was turned off on my phone, it’s exact location cannot be determined.  DANG IT! Unless we can hear the tone, we are out of luck. We divide to conquer, walking along the sidewalks near the ride listening for a high-pitched tone. No success.  

By now, Harlie is exhausted and it’s showing. She’s done! I had resolved that my phone was gone! Bobbie was not quite willing to give up yet. (She, too, was seeing several hundred dollars slipping through our fingers.) We decided I would take a break with Harlie while my wife went back to cell-phone hunting.    

Not caring a bit how nerdy or weird she looked, she slowly and carefully began covering every inch of the walkways under and near the ride. Alternating between crouching low to listen for the tone and standing on her tiptoes for a better visual, she looked and looked.  

Enter: Two young teen boys who changed everything. The outgoing, taller of the two young men who had just finished their ride on the coaster stopped and said to my wife, “Are you, by any chance, looking for an iPhone?”

“Yes!”, she exclaimed. “Tell me you know where it is!”  And they did. Those two boys were nearly as excited as she. They, practically running, led her to the spot where they had seen and heard my phone from the ride itself just a few moments before. See, as the roller coaster comes to the end of it’s couple-minute thrill, the car stops completely and dangles above the ground for about 30 seconds before moving into the unload area. There is where the two helpful teens and many other passengers heard the ‘Find My iPhone’ tone and saw it from 15 to 20 feet above. It was reported that the phone looked to be in perfect condition with not even a cracked screen.

Bobbie thanked the boys over and over again as she headed back to find Harlie and me. She made her way back to us with with a big, Cheshire Cat grin on her face.  Wide eyed, she hollered, “Found it!”

“No way!”, I said ecstatically.

“Yep! I swear!”  She led me and poor, worn-out Harlie to the location of the found iPhone. It had come to rest in a double fenced-off “Restricted Zone” which is strictly off limits to anyone during park hours while the roller coaster is operating. Although we could not actually see the phone, we could hear it ring when we dialed it. I was in total disbelief. Just then, a roller coaster-car-full of passengers stopped above and one girl points down and says, “I see an iPhone down on the ground.”  

Somewhere, right over there is my poor, lost iPhone

“That’s ours!” We yelled and then asked her to use her Go Go Gadget arm to reach down and get it. But since that was an impossibility, we waited a few more hours until the ride shut down and the park closed. A park security guard and Bobbie ventured through the dark, deserted amusement park and asked a highly perturbed ride worker who was on her way out to unlock, enter and check the restricted ride for the phone. The operator swore she’d already checked the area. Bobbie dialed my phone and the three of them heard it. Only then did the worker agree to go in after it. It had fallen into a briar bush which had apparently broken it’s fall. My phone was in perfect condition.

Reunited! And it felt so good!   

My trusty iPhone.

Lessons learned:

  • If you’re going to ride roller coasters, DON’T have anything on you that you don’t want to lose!
  • Turn on your location setting for the Find My iPhone app and test it out every once in awhile to be sure it works.  
  • There are still good, helpful people in this world  – even TEENAGERS are helpful.
  • Totally dark amusement parks are creepy.
  • Your spouse is your partner and two is better than one. As I very often say, “Teamwork makes the dream work!”



Our hotel advertised free breakfast. Cool! That saves us a little money and hotel breakfasts are usually decent.

Monday morning we walked down to the little hotel lobby not knowing what to expect but hoping for something good to start the day: Maybe some cereal, toast, scrambled eggs, sausage or sausage and gravy with some biscuits or make-you-own waffles.

Well, we greatly overestimated.

On the little counter we saw the exact same spread each of the 4 mornings of our stay; (right to left) tiny slices of cranberry walnut and wheat bread, little prepackaged cinnamon rolls and donut holes, 1-inch squares of cake with frosting on them, misshapen hard boiled eggs from God only knows where and a small tray of… CHEESE –  cheese slices and cheese cubes.

Cheese???? cheese

Cheese on an omelet or on a sausage sandwich or melted over a breakfast casserole I can understand but I don’t ever remember laying out cheese for breakfast or ever being offered cheese for breakfast by someone else.

Is this a Michigan thing? Or is it a thing everywhere that I’m just not aware of?

I love cheese but I honestly don’t know what to make of the whole cheese-for-breakfast thing.

Anyone want to chime in on this? Is it just me or is this strange? Cheese (alone, sliced or cubed) for breakfast?

Now, THAT is breakfast!

His Truck


I hop into my truck, turn on the CD player to disc one, song one and I hear “Moved on down to sweet home Alabama in 1974. Had to get out of Music City and I had to get off the road”, the opening lines to Hank Williams Jr’s, “Feeling Better” from his New South album released in 1977.


When people see me driving my dark gray 2005 GMC Sierra, crew cab, 4-door, 4×4 pickup truck I’m sure I look like any other guy driving any other truck.

What they don’t know and I, of course, wouldn’t expect them to is that this truck was my brother’s.

My brother, Jason, was my only sibling. Jason passed away February 16th, 2010 of a rare illness. I’ve written about my brother, his illness, being his caregiver and his passing several times over the past few years.

After he passed away the executrix of his estate, Julie, believed that Jason would have wanted me to have his truck. Julie was Jason’s first wife and the mother of his three beautiful children. Julie knew and appreciated the relationship between my brother and I. I think Julie was right; I think Jason would have liked for me to have his truck.

Jason and I were extremely close to one another. We could finish each other’s thoughts and make each other laugh till we wheezed and cried. We had our own shared sense of humor and inside jokes. We shared a love for America, politics, sports and country music. We were brothers. We were buddies.   

Me and Jason in 2005 in New Orleans. One of my favorite pictures of us. 

To say that I love this truck is a understatement. It means the world to me. Its value to me has nothing to do with Kelley Blue Book. I really do understand that this GMC is just a truck. Someday it will rust or maybe have too many mechanical problems to repair and eventually I’ll have to get a new vehicle. I can tell you, though, I’m trying to care for, maintain and ‘baby’ this truck as much as possible and keep it operational for as long as I can.

Why do I work so hard to keep Jason’s truck mechanically sound and spotless inside and out? Because it’s a piece of him. I can sit in it and know he sat in this same driver’s seat. Sometimes I catch a scent that smells just like it did when I first rode in it with my brother in 2005 and how it must have smelled when he last drove it in 2008. I have many, many memories of being in this truck with Jason: Conversations. Laughter. Singing along with the music. Kids in the backseat. And many more.  

Some standout moments:

Jason had a problem with Kenny Chesney. While riding along in his truck, he explained to me that Kenny needs either sing country music or what my brother called “boat music”; you just can’t combine the two styles. Kenny’s bare feet, tight jeans, tank tops and cowboy hat on the beach wasn’t something that sat well with my brother. Note: My brother was apparently wrong in this instance and would be disappointed to know Kenny Chesney has made a very good living blending country and beachy, boat music styles.

I can remember the drive when my brother introduced me to Shooter Jennings music. The song “4th of July” was cranked up loud and Jason’s young daughter, Madeline, was belting it out from the back seat.

I still smile when I think about times we listened to Tim Wilson’s comedy CD called “It’s a Sorry World”. And  Roy D. Mercer CDs where he prank calls unsuspecting people. Jason and I laughed our wheezy, out-of-breath laughs until we had tears rolling down our faces.

I drove his truck to take him to doctor visits when he was sick but the memories that I cherish most are the ones that are still vividly clear in my mind from when he was healthy. The last time he and I were together when he was healthy we drove around contemplating getting matching tattoos but we couldn’t decide what tattoo we wanted to get and where to go to get it. All the while, disc one in the CD player is playing in the background. It’s Hank Williams Jr.s’ album, New South.  We both sang along with Hank, Jr. when he sang, “Moved on down to sweet home Alabama in 1974. Had to get out of Music City and I had to get off the road.”

The picture of Jason that I keep in the truck.  


Gilbert2Our 6-month-old Maltipoo puppy Gilbert is just a little fella. He weighs approximately 6 pounds. He’s as cute as can be with short, curly, tan hair and little, dark-brown button eyes and nose.


He loves to play whenever you want to play, but when it’s time to relax, he’s more than willing to sit on your lap or snuggle right up next to you. In the three short months we’ve had him, Gilbert has been an excellent puppy.


My only complaint about little Gilbert is his over-eagerness when company arrives. He jumps and plays and nips and rips around the house at warp speed in order to be sure he’s getting everyone’s undivided attention. Our visiting family, neighbors and babysitters can attest to this.


One thing in particular we like to do with Gilbert is take him on walks around downtown Millersburg, just down the little street from where we live. My Fitbit tells me I get about 2,500 steps in during the Gilbert walks. Based on his tiny legs, I’d guess Gilbert’s steps number about 10,000. Needless to say, the little guy is pretty tired by the time we get back home.


Each and every time we walk with Gilbert, a phenomenon occurs. This tiny fluff ball has the ability to make everyone smile. People walking by and even those driving by take one look and grin.


I’ve noticed several different levels of smiles that Gilbert evokes.


The first level of smile I tend to see is what I would call the standard smile. Someone spots our mini dog being walked by big ol’ me, and I happen to look up and catch them looking at him with a simple smile as they move along.


The second level consists of the standard smile, but then another component is added. The person sees Gilbert as they drive by, and they smile, then glance again, rubber neck it or hold their gaze, and take a longer look at his cuteness.


The third level is one that’s happened only twice and has really surprised me both times. This is when the passerby spots him, smiles and then alerts the others in the vehicle who then look out the window at Gilbert and smile as well.


To round out the progressive Gilbert effect, there are those times when folks have noticed him, smiled and then interacted. People walking by have stopped to talk to Gilbert and pet him and then conversations start between us.


Those who know me know that I have no problem making conversation with people, even strangers. So I particularly enjoy chatting about Gilbert and hearing stories of the poochie dogs of others.


Once a car load of tourists stopped us along the street and rolled down their windows to reveal their own little dog. We talked for a few minutes and walked away smiling.


Another time an older fellow slowed down and then stopped right along the street to holler out his window, “What kind of dog is that?” A short interaction resulted, and he drove away smiling.


It’s pretty cool that an adorable little dog can so consistently bring about a smile. Having said that, I give Gilbert credit for only about 90 percent of the smiles we get.


I mean let’s be honest. Don’t you think about 10 percent of the smiles are a result of seeing a big, 225-pound, 6-foot-tall, bald-headed, tattooed-up man being led around by a tiny fluff-ball prancing puppy? I’d be foolish not to think it looks a little silly.


Regardless of why, it is nice to see people smile. No matter who you are — a light-hearted person or an old grouch — somethinghas got to make you smile. It seems like puppies and kittens can usually make people smile.


Kids, especially babies, seem to be almost everyone’s kryptonite. You have to smile at kids; they give us so many opportunities to smile.


Kids are cute. They are silly. Kids and babies have the best laughs and giggles. Their filter hasn’t developed, so they tell things they shouldn’t and say words they shouldn’t.


I admit it. More than once I’ve laughed when my child or grandchild dropped an unexpected and shockingly naughty word.


A few years back my wife and I used to go with the residents of the Holmes County Home to area parades. We’d walk along and pass out candy. The small kids were cute to watch as they excitedly gathered the parade candy, but the smiles I enjoyed the most were the ones from the older silver-haired ‘kids’ when I handed them a sucker or a Tootsie Roll. It made me smile when I got them to smile.


“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” — Mother Teresa.Gilbert1

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