The Motor Vessel "Once Around"

The Motor Vessel "Once Around"
The Motor Vessel "Once Around" in the Florida Keys

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Farewell to RATs

We are returning home today from New Orleans, Louisiana.  We have been on a five day mini-vacation with four other couples enjoying the weather, the food, the music and most of all the time with good friends.  It is our annual "RATs with Wives" trip.  With only a month to go before we leave on the Loop, this trip could not have come at a less opportune time, but we just could not miss it.

RAT is a group of seven CEOs from companies in the Sacramento area that have been meeting for nearly fifteen years now.  We meet all day every other month or so and share common business problems along with performing business reviews annually on each individual company.  Sounds pretty boring, huh?  Well an interesting thing happened over the years as the seven (originally eight, we lost Hal to cancer in 2004) of us spent so much time together.  We developed a very deep friendship.  We began early on inviting our wives once a year on one of these mini trips, and soon they too became close friends.  All of us have shared not only the ups and downs of business, but we have also shared the trials and tribulations of raising children and watching as they grew up and began to make their own way in life.

Sometimes we think we should have named our group CATS, (as in difficult to herd), as no matter how far in advance we plan these trips, it always seems that one or two couples get pulled away by the press of business or family issues.  So sadly Steve, our fearless leader and Jim, our guiding optimist, and their wives were unable to join us this trip.  We missed them.  Nevertheless, the five of us remaining (Todd, Robbie, Stan, Buddy and yours truly) and our wives did our best to sample as many of the fine eating (and drinking) places as possible in this craziest of all American cities.  It is Sunday morning and my head is aching despite three cups of strong New Orleans French roast coffee!

Two of the funniest episodes this trip both (not surprisingly) came from Carolyn, Buddy's bride. 

After our "Swamp Tour" which involved watching alligators being tempted to show themselves to the tourists for marshmellows and hot dogs, along with some beautiful backwoods scenery, several of us decided we needed a beer and some munchies.  Carrie and I caught up with them just as their order arrived:  Deep fried onion rings, deep fried calimari, deep fried artichoke hearts and yes, deep fried crawfish...mmm good.  Just as the food arrives Carolyn quips, "Buddy, this looks like dinner at your grandma's house!"  You see, Buddy's family hails from Alabama, so he takes Carolyn's jab as a compliment!  We proceed to clear the plates...

Shortly after being seated at our second group dinner (this one at K-Pauls), I told Eric our waiter to be sure to keep an open bottle of red wine close to Stan all night, I didn't want to have to listen to him whine like he had the previous night about slow wine service.  Eric takes me seriously and looks askance at Stan, but breaks up completely when Carolyn adds, "And if you have a little bag of Cheerios and maybe some color crayons, that should help keep him quiet, too!" 

Unlike my grandchildren, the RATs and their wives understand what a year away means and a lot of the discussion was us schooling them on our loop route, as well as some of the logistics of our trip.  They are all supportive of our insanity, and I imagine some, if not all, of them may join us for a visit.  I even floated up (no pun intended) the idea of a "RATs with Wives" trip for early to mid-September in Chicago.  They seemed to like the idea and will run it by the others.

This weekend may be the last we see of many of these great friends before we leave for the east coast.  To us they are like "the family you choose", and we will miss them sorely.  Farewell my RAT brothers.

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