Hodge Podge: A smattering of thoughts…

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HodgePodge:
A smattering of thoughts…

By Charlie Hodge.

In true ‘HodgePodge’ format – a smattering of thoughts:

Fed up with winter yet and plugged driveways or difficult driving conditions?

Well rest assured your frustrations are minor compared to those who needed to traverse Highway 97 between Kelowna and Penticton during the past month in an effort to get to work, appointments, or just pleasure travel.

For several weeks the only direct road connection south of Peachland was blocked by rock and landslide debris, and further threats of an unstable mountainside. Highway officials are still not confident on how long full highway access will be available if major bad weather causes more significant havoc on the hillside. The recent blockage left thousands frustrated with numerous businesses and individuals negatively impacted by the isolation.
It is not a new problem and I’m surprised it has not been a more common inconvenience over the decades, despite the relatively new road construction a few years ago through the treacherous tundra.

The narrow winding road contains only two lanes connecting the majority of the distance between Peachland and Penticton and has often been considered inadequate to handle the heavy vehicular traffic between the central and south Okanagan. That frustration has helped add to the perceived need and repeated discussion of a secondary route on the west side of the lake, as well as the desire for a second lake crossing to Kelowna.

I’ve been opposed to both concepts for years, especially since I’ve long maintained a logical solution already exists.

A worthy consideration is to widen and pave the dirt road on the east side of the lake stretching from near Chute Lake Road to Naramata. Some locals are familiar with the route traversed by occasional logging trucks or adventurous residents.

While huge costs would be incurred for road widening, land purchase, and paving of that route – such costs would occur with all other options suggested. In addition the new route would provide a viable travel option to relieve concerns during such emergency scenarios as we are currently facing.

Another debatable argument against the east-side plan is the additional traffic it would add to the already congested traffic heading north through Kelowna from the Okanagan Mission area. That dilemma, however, already needs a resolve in the future if any further development is to significantly continue in that part of town.

I found it interesting (after years of my unsuccessful lobbying for the Naramata route to be improved and expanded) that Penticton and area politicians have now started suggesting the route be looked at as a solution. It seems I am no longer shouting in a box. Better late than never I suppose.

***

Speaking of a long time, the Kelowna Buckaroos Junior A hockey team from the 1960’s and 70’s is planning another attempt at a team reunion. An effort to bring former members together last summer dissolved as not enough preparation time was allotted. However a few ex club members (myself and Shawn Swail) are starting the process again and hope it will be successful.

The reunion barbecue date is set for Saturday, July 20 and a number of players have already indicated their interest in attending including Dave Cousins, Butch Deadmarsh and Gene Carr.

Some Hodge Podge readers may recall a few articles I did last year in advance of that cancelled reunion including a feature column on the career of former Buckaroo and junior hockey super star Carr.

Gene was picked fourth overall in the 1971 NHL draft by the St. Louis Blues and spent eight years in the NHL. In 465 games he collected 215 points. Despite his phenomenal skating skills and ability to score Carr never hit super star status in the NHL, having the misfortune of toiling with teams already deep at centre ice.

He had fair success in L.A. with the Kings and while there became best buddies with Glen Frey of the rock band the Eagles. The band’s hit song ‘New Kid In Town’ was inspired by Gene.

Carr went on to play with Pittsburgh and briefly with Atlanta before retiring. Major injuries from hockey collisions and a horrendous taxi cab crash in New York City while playing with the Rangers inflicted major damage to his back and he played his final few years in agony. To this day Carr’s back causes him pain and restricts his movement. He awaits major surgery to hopefully reduce the agony and help improve his ability to walk without two crutches.

Yet Geno never quit living or loving life. Despite his physical restrictions ‘Geno’ even made the effort to return to Kelowna last summer from his home in L.A. for the planned reunion.
While the hockey team get together never happened, a much more significant reunion did. Gene and former girlfriend Shannon Lavell (from his Buckaroo days) met for a coffee, then another, and another… Within a few months the two were married.

Geno will not have to travel far for this year’s planned reunion as he now splits his time living in Kelowna and LA.

On a personal note the story gets even better as Geno and I have become fast friends since I did that first telephone interview a year ago. We connect as often as our two crazy schedules allow and thoroughly enjoy hanging out. It’s a small world after all.

I have no idea how many former Buckaroos will attend the reunion barbecue next year, but Geno will be there – and that will be good enough for me.

If you know of any former players interested in the reunion then contact me at charliehodge333@gmail.com or Shawn Swail at swailco@shaw.ca or go to Kelowna Buckaroo Alumni on Facebook.

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Charlie Hodge is a best-selling author, writer, a current Kelowna City Councillor, and a Director on the Regional District of the Central Okanagan Board. He spent more than 25 years as a full-time newspaper journalist and has a diverse background in public relations, promotions, personal coaching, and strategic planning. A former managing editor, assistant editor, sports editor, entertainment editor, journalist, and photographer, Hodge also co-hosted a variety of radio talk shows and still writes a regular weekly newspaper column titled Hodge Podge, which he has crafted now for 41 years. His biography on Howie Meeker, titled Golly Gee It’s Me is a Canadian bestseller and his second book, Stop It There, Back It Up – 50 Years of the NHL garnered lots of attention from media and hockey fans alike. Charlie is currently working on a third hockey book, as well as a contracted historical/fiction novel. His creative promotional skills and strategic planning have been utilized for many years in the Canadian music industry, provincial, national, and international environmental fields, and municipal, provincial, and federal politics. Charlie is a skilled facilitator, a dynamic motivational speaker, and effective personal coach. His hobbies include gardening, canoeing, playing pool, and writing music. Charlie shares his Okanagan home with wife Teresa and five spoiled cats.

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