Vietnam Veterans Day 2016 …


Today is Vietnam Veterans Day

… a day for honoring all those who served there, including …

… my Dad, GMCM Lawrence John Reilly Sr. (US Navy Ret) …

Reilly Lawrence John Sr. @ USS Frank E. Evans Reunion 2012

… my brother, BT3 Lawrence John Reilly Jr., one of The Lost 74 of the USS Frank E. Evans (DD-754)

Larry Jr cropped

… the rest of the crew of the Frank E. Evans

USS Frank E. Evans photo 2

… my prospective brother-in-law and West Point classmate, Thomas Havard “Trey” Sayes III (Capt. US Army) …

Sayes Thomas H -- 1968 Vietnam Army

… his Dad, Col. Thomas Havard Sayes Jr. (US Army Ret) …

Col. Thomas Havard Sayes, Jr. cropped

… all of my other West Point Class of 1967 classmates who served with courage and distinction in Vietnam …

West Point 1967 Crest

… and all other American & allied veterans of that war.

Vietnam Veterans Day 2016

—–ooooo—–

Three Dot … 123

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Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Canyon, Texas


No. 3 Son Sean, his fiancee Alyssa Roberts, and the grandkids, Kohl & Cheyenne, spent the day today at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, south of Amarillo, Texas.

Slide1

Duro Palo is second only to Arizona’s Grand Canyon in size … and is made up of an extensive series of hiking, biking & horse trails … campsites & cabins … a zip line … and other natural attractions and activities.

Slide4

Sean, Alyssa, Kohl & Cheyenne hiked the Lighthouse Trail today …

Slide2

2.72 miles in each direction … and Kohl looked a bit gassed when they got to the turn-around near the Lighthouse Rock.

Slide3

All in all, looks like great fun … wish I could have been with them … and look forward to making a trip there with them next time I’m in Texas.

—–oooOOOooo—–

Three Dot … 122

Wheel of Fortune … 2nd Anniversary …


Today is the second anniversary of my appearance on …

Wheel of Fortune

… about which I have intended to blog for some time … and now … two years later … here … finally … is the follow up I promised.

I have been a Wheel of Fortune fan all the way back to the original version hosted by Chuck Woolery. 

My family and I were living in Southern California when Pat and Vanna became the host & hostess on Wheel …

Pat Sajak & Vanna White

… and I remember watching Pat do the weather on a local news broadcast before he moved to Wheel.

We moved to Marin County, north of San Francisco, in 1985. One day in the late 80’s or early 90’s, I was coming down the stairs just as a new puzzle was displayed on Wheel …

… it was an “author and novel” puzzle …

J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye blank… and … much to the amazement of my kids … I knew the answer instantly, with no letters showing.J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the RyeI recognized the answer, in part, because I had written my major English thesis in college on that very book.

From that moment on, I wanted to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune … and, over the past 7 years, as my fiancée Candy and I watched Wheel every night, she often asked, “When are you going to get on Wheel?”

I signed up as a Wheel Watcher … and then, in August of 2013, received an email announcing a Wheelmobile event in Northern California …

Wheel of Fortune Wheelmobile at Jackson Rancheria 1

… to be held at the Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort in Jackson, CA.

Jackson Rancheria

About a two-and-a-half hour drive from home … close enough!

So, on Saturday, August 17, 2013, Candy and I headed to Jackson, hoping that I would be selected for an audition to be a Wheel contestant. I previously blogged about this event here:

https://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/wheel-of-fortune-wheelmobile-event-at-jackson-rancheria/

At the conclusion of this audition, we were told that all of the auditions would be reviewed by Wheel’s producers … and those selected for final auditions would be notified in two to three months.

Just a few days shy of two months later, my optimism was rewarded when I received an email inviting me to a final contestant audition … I immediately confirmed that I would attend … and, on Thursday, October 24th, it was back to Jackson Rancheria for Candy and I.

Contestants only allowed in the auditorium for these auditions … so Candy visited the casino while I … along with about 100 other would-be contestants … participated in a more intensive competition … followed by a further paring down to 30 or so for the final auditions and interviews. I also previously blogged about this event here:

https://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/wheel-of-fortune/

Just a couple of months later I received an email from Contestant Coordinator Alexandra Reeves … advising me that I have been selected to be a contestant on Wheel … and that I had a taping date of Friday, January 17, 2014 (coincidentally, my parents’ 69th wedding anniversary, a good sign, I thought).

So, time to prepare … well, not really. I had been “preparing” for Wheel for more than 30 years and knew that “cramming” was not going to be much help. The only thing I did was review the capitals and other major cities of countries in Europe, in case one of them showed up in a puzzle.

Otherwise, I just watched the show every night and enjoyed the anticipation of being on it myself. Needless to say, my family and friends were excited and gave me all kinds of advice, such as “buy vowels,” “don’t guess letters that have already been played” and, most often, “win a lot of money!”

The day before my taping, Candy and I drove down to Los Angeles and checked in at the Culver Hotel …

Culver Hotel Entrance & Flowers

… just down the street from the Sony Entertainment Studios …

DSC_1331

… for my taping … about which I blogged here:

https://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/wheel-of-fortune-appearance/

and here:

https://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/wheel-of-fortune-appearance/

Wheel of Fortune … March 4, 2014

Now it was finally time for my show to air … Candy & I had kept my performance a closely held secret … none of our family or friends knew the outcome. So, we gathered at #1 son Doug’s house to watch and enjoy the show together.

EUROPEVACATION31HOWDIES_005_crop

Photo by Carol Kaelson, Courtesy of Wheel of Fortune

My fellow contestants … Ashley Rieck & Dominique Washington … were both younger and better looking than I … and, as it turned out, quicker on the toss up button. At home, toss ups were always one of my strong suits … not so much on the show.

The $1000 toss up was a “Movie Title” …

Midnight in Paris blank

… and Dominique pounced on it quickly … with just 5 of the 15 letters showing …

Midnight in Paris 10 blanks

… she buzzed in and announced …

Midnight in Paris solved

… a good start for her.

We then did our introductions … for which I had decided that the most important thing of all was to name my fiancée, Candy … who was in the audience … and our combined six grandchildren, aged 1 through 9. I knew the grandkids would get a kick out of hearing their names on TV … and I actually managed to do it … Kohl & Cheyenne, Hannah & Quincy, and Finnegan & McKinley … without making any mistakes. After which Pat said, “We should give him some money just for getting all that.”

The $2000 toss up was “People” …

Faithful Fans blank

… and Ashley beat me to the buzzer on this one …

Faithful Fans 4 blanks

… but missed the second word of the puzzle, giving me a chance …

Faithful Fans 3 blanks

… and, since I am one … of the Cal Bears football team … I was able to solve …

Faithful Fans solved

This, of course, allowed me to start the first regular puzzle, something from “The ’80’s” … about which Pat said to me … “You & I remember the ’80’s, but I’m not sure about them.”

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go blank

I managed to take advantage of going first on this puzzle by solving it without ever giving up the wheel. I ended up buying four vowels … and got four of the consonants … but was hanging around the low value wedges just past the bankrupt every time I spun … so once I knew the answer …

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go 5 blanks

… I immediately solved it …

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go solved

… had $900 at that point …

Wake Me Up Befrore You Go-Go wof5972_089

Photo by Carol Kaelson, Courtesy of Wheel of Fortune

… so won the minimum $1000 for any puzzle solve … and had a “1/2 car” wedge.

When Pat came over to shake my hand, he said … “I never root for particular players because they’re all terrific, but I was hoping you’d solve this. I just wanted to hear it come out of your mouth.” We both had a good laugh at that.

Next was a “Before & After” puzzle …

Bowling Pins and Needles blank

… and thanks to a missed letter and a “lose a turn” spin, the wheel got back to me with no letters exposed. On my first spin, I was exactly one peg (a third of a wedge) short of a second “1/2 car” wedge … then two S’s got me $1800 … so I proceeded to buy four vowels … O, A, E & I … then spun a “free play” and won $2000 with four N’s at $500 each.

With the N’s …

Bowling Pins and Needles 8 blanks

… I also knew the puzzle … and once again, because I kept spinning close to the bankrupt, I decided to solve rather than spin again …

Bowling Pins and Needles solved

… for a total win of $2800.

The next round, the “Prize Puzzle”, proved to be decisive in determining who would go to the bonus round … in fact, as it turned out, that result depended on the guess of a single letter. This puzzle was an “Event” …The Year of the Horse blank

… and Dominique started out strong with two T’s for $1800 … and three H’s for $1350 … and then, after buying two vowels, she spun and landed on the Express wedge. An S won her another $1000 … upping her total to $4150 … and she jumped on the Express.

Then came the crucial guess. The fourth word of the puzzle at that point was HO_SE …

The Year of the Horse 5 blanks

… and Dominique’s next letter was a very logical U … logical, but crucially incorrect.

Unexpectedly, my turn again … and I once again flirted with bankrupt … stopping just one peg short of it … but this time on the high value side … on the $3500 wedge. At this point, I knew the puzzle … and that it had two R’s … so won $7000 for those.

This time I decided to keep going and spun twice more … with an F good for $900 … and a Y good for a Ricardo Beverly Hills Luggage $1000 gift tag and $500 in cash.

The Year of the Horse 1 blank

With just an obvious vowel left, I solved the puzzle …

The Year of the Horse solved

… for $9400 in cash … and also won a prize trip to China & a digital camera, valued at $9097 … for a total of $18,497 for this puzzle … and $24,297 altogether.

Had Dominique guessed the R instead of the U, she undoubtedly would have solved the puzzle … and gone on to the bonus round … that single letter made all the difference in the final result.

That was my last success short of the bonus round, as Ashley & Dominique solved each of the remaining three puzzles.

Dominique was once again quickest on the final toss up …

Career Counselor blank

… correctly solving …

Career Counselor 7 blanks

… an “Occupation” …

Career Counselor solved

… for $3000.

Then Ashley … who hadn’t had much chance to play … joined in on the next puzzle, category “Things” …

Investment Tips blank

After Dominique had revealed several letters, she missed one … and I whiffed on a guess of L. Ashley then spun the $5000 wedge … correctly guessed P … bought an I …

Investment Tips 4 blanks

… and solved the puzzle …

Investment Tips solved

… for a $4750 win.

We had time for one more puzzle … with Pat doing the “Final Spin” on a “Place” puzzle …

Scenic Overlook blank

… when he spun the $500 wedge … making each letter worth $1500 … I knew that I would be going to the bonus round.

This relatively short, two word puzzle, proved elusive for all of us … before we were done, I missed on three consonants (T, M & G) … while correctly guessing only two E’s … Ashley added an R … but Dominique did the heavy lifting, correctly guessing S, N, L and 2 C’s …

Scenic Overlook 6 blanks

… after which she solved …

Scenic Overlook solved

… for a $7500 win.

After having spent several hours together in preparation, we had been friendly competitors … and I was happy to see that Ashley & Dominique had each enjoyed success in the show.

However, thanks to my fortuitous Chinese New Year solve, I was going on to the bonus round. This gave Candy a chance to wave … and to mouth “Hi Swappers” to her life-long group of Swapper friends … and me a chance to nearly hit Pat in the head with the follow through of my spin of the Bonus Wheel! After which he said, “Missed me by that much!”

The Bonus Puzzle category was “What are You Doing?” …

Window Shopping blank

… and after RSTLNE revealed just 3 letters, it looked like this …

Window Shopping RSTLNE

… not many letters showing! I thought it likely that the last letter was G … and was hoping to catch a second one somewhere else … so guessed G, D, M and O, which gave me …

Window Shopping GDMO

… which prompted Pat to say … somewhat skeptically … “Well, I don’t know. We’ll find out soon, in about ten seconds.”

Then, without the thought ever having formed in my conscious mind, the words leaped immediately out of my mouth … “WINDOW SHOPPING” … surprising me as much as anyone else …

Window Shopping solved

Pat then revealed the bonus round prize of $30,000

Bonus Round Window Shopping wof5972_144

Photo by Carol Kaelson, Courtesy of Wheel of Fortune

… and Candy rushed out onto the set for a congratulatory hug and waves to the audience.

I had a final friendly chat with Pat and Vanna during the filming of the closing credits … and then this most exciting day was over. The taping went by so fast, it was mostly a blur … and I could not even remember some of the puzzles until the show aired and I was able to watch it myself!

This was a wonderful, literally once-in-a-lifetime, experience … everyone associated with the show was great to the contestants … the contestant coordinator team (Alex, Gary, Jackie & Shannon) … announcer Jim Thornton, who regaled the audience during the breaks with Wheel stories & trivia … and, of course, Pat & Vanna … American television icons … who were down-to-Earth and very friendly to our group of nervous contestants.

Candy and I took our two week Collette trip … “The Best of China” … in October 2015 … and had a great time … visiting Beijing, Xian, Guilin and Shanghai … about which I will blog … with many photos … sometime in the not too far distant future.

Three Dot … 121