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Ping Roadtrip With Purpose – Celebrating Victory

July 6th, 2013 · Tags:Cities

Billie Pingel Long

I used to say any road trip was a good one.  But this one was different. The PingWi-Fi wagon was headed north on US 287 for the funeral of a loved one.  What a long drive, Amarillo by (way of) mourning … apologies for that one, Mom.

Anywho, the road is long … and it seemed really weird/luxurious to be cruising along on four wheels, air conditioned, instead of riding a Triumph … the sound of my iPod rather than the rumble and wind …

As I zoomed toward Amarillo, all long-haired, and said to be “looking somewhat like one of The Allman Brothers” (LOL) …  the irony was not wasted when the iPod shuffled up some “Brothers of the Road” by those Georgia boys. (The second song it selected.)  Does your music shuffle ever mimic your daily life? (If you don’t know the song, it is about life on the road, and the loss of loved ones along the way …)

I drove on …

Forever the “word nerd”  … deep in thought, I marveled at how well the Toyota Highlander corners at high speeds. “Corners?”  Now there’s an interesting choice of words.  Shouldn’t it be “curves? ”


… Silly mind games to keep my thoughts off bereavement.

It was thoughts like those that were interrupted when I saw flashing blue and red lights behind me, just north of Vernon.  Hello!  PingWi-Fi was busted … for living a little too much in the fast lane.


I am embarrassed to say I was doing 87 m.p.h. on 287, but quick to point out I was not texting or blogging, so that must count for something. I have valid, current auto insurance, but of course, I could not find the current card.  I thought I was certainly in a lot of trouble.


But guess what.  The trooper heard my story, quizzed me on the specifics, told me to slow the heck down, and gave me a warning.  Ha … Didn’t see that coming.  More apologies, Mom, yes … I played the “funeral card.”

Mental note:  For future road trips, hang a black suit on the hook behind the driver’s seat …

Ha … as a young adult, I once avoided a speeding citation because the trooper had seen the “Just Married” shoe polished on the back of the car window … I think my Ex and I wrote that on the back of our window for several roadtrips during our early years … as “insurance.”  I digress …


When I arrived in Amarillo, our family reunion obviously was a solemn occasion, and hopefully there was some levity provided by the speeding ticket story.  Everyone was amazed at my luck.  My nephew said he had no doubt he would have ended up in jail, under similar circumstances …

But soon my luck ran out too.  If I believed in karma, I would say the karma scales tipped back the other way.  When I first arrived in the Panhandle city, I parked my car in front of my mom’s house, visited family for a few minutes, unloaded some things, and headed back to my car.  It was time for the viewing across town … A very difficult thing.


I popped the hatch on the back of my SUV and that is when I noticed parts of it were missing … and scattered on the road in front of my mom’s house.  Belpree in Amarillo is a pretty wide street, and mind you, this was 3 p.m. … broad daylight.  Yet, some foo managed to sideswipe my car, which was parked on the side of the street.

Of course the culprit kept going.  Ha … wouldn’t you?  Prolly too embarrassed to stop for being that stu-pid. Even though my luck had apparently run out, I would still wager this was a case of someone texting as they drove … and just as they sent “LOL” to some other schmuck, they heard a little crash and probably said, “OS!”


Interesting.  People  say that since Amarillo has instigated a no cell phone/no texting while driving ordinance, there seem to be more hit and runs.  As the story goes, as soon as someone is in a mishap and the police arrive on the scene, the drivers’ phones are confiscated and a check is run to see cellular activity at the time of the accident.  So … LOL … now more and more perpetrators  leave the scene to avoid penalties for two offenses.


Well … that stunk, IMHO … I waited for 1.5 hours for a police officer to show. Meanwhile the rest of the family was gathered, waiting. Apologies.


I am sure I would have been much more upset about my car, had there not been more important things going on in our family.


Despite the circumstances, it is always good to see family and old friends.  Many relatives made the trek to Amarillo, and later on to Vega.  Lots of friends of the family were there to comfort us.


This is one of the few trips I have made to Amarillo, during which I didn’t even stop for a photo at The Cadillac Ranch.  But I did see one of my other favorite things around Amarillo — one of those bizarre fake traffic signs.  This one — on a street I had never driven on before in Amarillo — said, “We hear what dead people say.”  That was weird …


On the day of the funeral, it seemed like most of us “Pings” were maintaining composure and even feeling more relief than the horrible grief.  More hope, but of course, a huge loss.  Our mom and “Granny” had suffered much in the last few years.  What a huge comfort it is to know there is a heaven and that the loved one knows the Truth.


Three Pings, courtesy Debra Sue Glass McDonald

I “kept it together” for most of the service, until the end.  I mention this only because it is a tribute to my mom.  There were so many friends who came through to say goodbye to her… and a large number of volunteers from the hospital where my mom volunteered for so many years … dressed in their hospital auxiliary, peach-colored smocks … So sweet.  That got me.


Thanks to all the friends who helped us to celebrate the life of Billie Pingel Long.

The service was a good one, I suppose.  Who’s to say?

Mom was a character.


There were stories about her unusual Christmas gifts — gifts she shopped for year round to find “just the perfect thing.”  (It is an inside joke among us, just how “perfect” these things were.)


There were memories of her decorating her home for all holidays, especially Christmas.  Here’s an example.  When I was a young kid, the old Sunset Center mall in Amarillo had the best Christmas decorations.  My favorite part  was an animated pair of figures – a boy and girl on a ladder decorating a tree.  Ha … years later … somewhere … my mom bought that animated boy and girl … and had them set up in her house, decorating her tree. Ha … “industrial strength” decorating.


Seven Pings


I think there was an annual lottery among us … and the loser had to climb up in her hot, dusty attic to get down the boxes and boxes of lights, wreaths, reindeer, plastic or felt poinsettias, nutcrackers, figurines, plastic churches, angels, Santas,  bells, baby Jesuses, elves, props, etc., etc. The most difficult part of the job was keeping her out of the attic, despite her age.


She loved Halloween, not for the dark reasons, but for the candy and the costumes. She always, always made her own costumes … and typically won the top prize for her “originality” in the costume contest of her club.  Spiderwoman/black widow … a milk cow with rubber-glove udders … a can of Pringle’s potato chips … an alien or was it a  Hershey’s kiss? … these were some of her finest moments.


She was a cut up, but she took one thing seriously.  She was a 30+ year survivor of one of the deadliest forms of cancer.  She thanked God for each day she breathed, and she never let cancer beat her.  She volunteered to help everyone who came through the doors of “her hospital” … but most important to her, she spent lots of time consoling and  counseling others afflicted with the same type of cancer … a very humbling way of life and a difficult ongoing battle.


In the end, she won over that dreaded cancer.  In the vernacular, Billie kicked cancer’s ass!, only to be taken by Alzheimer’s and its cruel effects. My heart hurts for anyone who didn’t have the opportunity to know her before the illness’s debilitating symptoms.


Pings Swing


I only heard of one regret from this great woman.  She quit school when she was young and impulsive.  That always bothered her.  She actually loved school, and was very intelligent, but in a rash decision she quit because someone else did.  She wanted to show the world she too could be a bit of a rebel.  I hope she wouldn’t mind me telling this … The point is that she would tell you to get as much education as you can … Nevertheless, she always amazed me with her intelligence and creative leaning.  All five of her children attended college.


Given a few breaks and more education, I think she would have been a marketing genius or an advertising star.  She was always helping students think of clever themes for homecoming floats or slogans for student council candidacy, constructing Valentines Day mail boxes, teaching Sunday school,  … publishing newsletters for her organization … scrapbooking …


She had a slew of kids.  And we had a slew of kids … and in us all, I hope that same creative spark … that love of life … that zany fun … that bravery and that caring for others continues.


Know what I sayin?