A journey to Tibet
by Ron Swift | Patterson Irrigator
Aug 22, 2013 | 908 views | 0 0 comments | 215 215 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ron Swift
Ron Swift
As the saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

Or as the frog says, “Time’s fun when you’re having flies.”

It’s hard to believe that it was 20 years ago this fall that we took our first “adventure trip” out of the country. But it was in the fall of 1993, as I was reminded just the other day when browsing through our bookshelves.

I ran across a small volume written by Terry Cummins, a fellow adventurer on our three-week trip to Tibet, the mystical Himalayan area claimed in dispute by China. I’m currently reading Terry’s book for the second time – a rarity for me.

Sixteen of us, plus our American guide Susan, several Nepali Sherpas who superbly served as our staff, and Tibetan drivers who manhandled our several 4-wheel drive vehicles, had what I consider to be the time of our lives. We felt fortunate just being allowed into Tibet, which had been closed to outsiders for decades.

We tent-camped, ate delicious camp food, used freshly-dug pits for toilets, visited numerous back country monasteries by slow-going motoring over horrendously bumpy single-lane dirt paths, and finally arrived at the base of the Tibetan side of Mt. Everest. There we spent two nights camping at the staging area for climbing expeditions – at 16,900 feet – and met an international team of climbers. The full day at Everest was spent getting up at 4:30 a.m., having a hot breakfast, and setting off in freezing weather to pant our way up a draw to about 18,000 feet.

From there, we looked upward at about a 75 degree angle, attempting to get a glimpse of the awesome mountain peak which was shrouded in cloud cover, as it usually it. (We did enjoy a momentary look at the peak the next morning, which was glaringly sunny as we stood in several inches of snow that had fallen throughout the night. I treasure the photo I took with Kay in the foreground and a gleaming Everest high above us.)

But back to Terry who resides in Indiana, seemingly a world away.

With one exception, Kay and I were the youngest paying travelers on the Tibetan trip. Terry is only two-and-a-half years older than me. A retired school administrator born and raised by his grandfather on a farm in Kentucky, he has gone on in recent years to run marathons in Washington, D.C., New York and Paris while in his 70s. He’s climbed high peaks in South America and up to the advance base camp on K2, hiked across the Grand Canyon, and found time to attend a tea with Princess Diana in London. That’s what I call using your retirement to the fullest.

We’ve stayed in touch over these 20 years (he’s visited Patterson for a few hours) and we have cherished his friendship these past two decades.

Terry has written several books and hundreds of humorous newspaper columns, and now I’m enjoying one of the former that is a collection of the latter. And it certainly brings up 20-year-old memories of our unique adventure together in Tibet.

All these fond memories dredged up, and I never had to leave the family room.


A recent blurb in this column told of the possible printing of a 2014 community calendar for Patterson. It’s apparently going to happen.

Boy Scout Troop 82, of which I am most familiar, will tackle the task as a fundraiser. Hopefully it will become an annual project – one that will be of value to our many organizations, our governmental agencies, and of course our 20,000 residents.

Its idea is to get input from the Apricot Fiesta, churches, schools, service and specialty organizations, and of course City Hall and other governmental agencies on the dates of their annual activities, meeting nights, etc. All 2014 listings would be placed on the calendar at no charge.

The printed calendar would then be sold by the Scouts at a rather nominal fee.

The success of the project will depend solely on the organizations setting the dates for their 2014 projects no later than this fall. Don’t worry, you’ll be hearing from me, but think it over and get yourselves prepared. When I get to you, time will be of the essence.


Mr. Swift: Are you intentionally picking on Irrigator reporter Maddy Houk? Fast Talk has been mentioning her regularly in recent weeks. – Protective

Dear Pro: Maddy? I wouldn’t think of it.


Some readers may have caught a recent news brief about the father-son mountain climbing team of Marty and Denali Schmidt being swept to their deaths on Pakistan’s K2, the second tallest peak in the world. Marty, 53, whose family lives in New Zealand, was recognized as one of the world’s elite climbers. Their bodies were not recovered.

It seems that Marty’s mother, Metilda Schmidt, was the Girl Scout leader of Patterson’s Shirley Borchardt, herself a longtime GS volunteer. Metilda lives with her husband in Castro Valley, where Shirley grew up, and in her day took her Scouts on many a hike. She was an avid bird-watcher and is still in touch with Shirley.


Every so often, Fast Talk switches into Reminder Mode. (I know, it’s a technical term. But my computer told me to use it.)

Those who use El Circulo Avenue in their address are reminded that it is simply El Circulo and not an avenue (hello Rick over there at McAuley Ford).

And referring to the West Side as an area, it is two words and capitalized. Use west side when referring to that area of our city or even the west side of a street.

Businesses, of course, can call themselves whatever they wish and spell it accordingly. Thus Westside Animals for Adoption (bless ’em) can spell it as one word, which is acceptable.

Now to the unreturned shopping carts that “grace” Patterson streets. Do you suppose our residents who don’t return those carts are the same ones who post signs around town advertising their yard sales, then don’t take down the signs when the sale is over? It’s possible.

Spotted the other day: a truck belonging to one of our larger businesses, being driven around Patterson streets looking for shopping carts. A definite waste of time and money.


I embarrassed myself the other day. And then I chuckled about it.

I parked in front of Patterson’s downtown museum and went inside. When I came out, my key wouldn’t work to open my old white Dodge caravan. As usual, all my junk nearly filled up its inside, but the dang key wouldn’t unlock the door. I fiddled and fumbled and my blood pressure rose.

I was about ready to blow off steam when I realized I had driven our car to the museum. There it was, parked just behind the van.

Have you ever done that? OK, so I’m not alone.


Those following the saga of our new dog, the attack of our old cat, HM’s (Housemate’s) intervention, and her subsequent visit to the hospital are informed that she is now recovering at home.

Severe infection hospitalized her for five days, but she came home with the hand intact and thankfulness for good medical care. Fortunately I find she can run the vacuum with one hand, as well as water the plants, do the laundry, feed the cats, etc.

Of necessity, I’ve learned how to change fitted sheets, and find it’s darned more difficult than it looks. In fact, I could use three hands.


Attention, pro scouts: Keep an eye on the current Little League tournament. A 13-year-old Chula Vista pitcher threw an extra-inning no-hitter late last week to lead his team to a 3-0 victory. He’s 6’4,” weighs 166 pounds and must be scary looking to batters only 45 feet away.

But wait. The opposing pitcher was 6’3” and tips the scales at 219 pounds. And he’s only 12. Yikes!

Sign ’em up before they wear out their arms in high school.


With the economy the way it’s been, we’re all concerned about employment. Thus let be pass along comments recently received via email.

“My first job was working in an orange juice factory, but I got canned. Couldn’t concentrate.

Then I worked in the woods as a lumberjack, but just couldn’t hack it, so they gave me the axe.”

There’s more, folks, many more.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet

We encourage your online comments in this public forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a forum for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Readers may report such inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at news@pattersonirrigator.com.