We did something different this time and flew in through Amarillo. The distance is just about the same as flying in to Oklahoma City and the fares were a little bit cheaper. We had originally planned to do some site-seeing on Monday, but I found out that I needed to be back for a college class I'm teaching. Thankfully we did find that out soon enough to change our flights without it being too expensive. We have decided that we will only fly Southwest for these trips, since I lost about $150 with another airline when I had to re-schedule my November visit - and would have lost the entire fare if I hadn't really advocated hard for myself. The only disappointing thing about this decision is that I can't take advantage of airline mile transfers. We had the offer of using airline miles from a friend for this trip, but we are too afraid that if something comes up the trip will be cancelled and we'll lose the miles completely. Bummer.
We did get to see a couple of things after our visits on Saturday and Sunday. We drove out to the Washita Indian Massacre site (one of Custer's attacks), and we also saw some of the Route 66 historic section of Amarillo. I wanted a steak for dinner since we were in Texas so we were looking for a steakhouse, but then I saw Cracker Barrel -- so we compromised! I love Cracker Barrel! (And they had great steak!)
The visit itself was good. Nate looks good physically & sounds good when he talks about his classes, etc. My dad had been able to see Nate for a one-day visit at the end of May, so he was glad for that, as well. We resolved the issue that I had mentioned in the last blog by agreeing not to discuss that particular subject. He got his grades for his classes last semester (2 B's & a C) but doesn't think the extra credit he did for the classes has been accounted for, so I will be checking on that for him this week. He's really only a few classes shy of his AA, and mentioned that he doesn't think he would have been able to do this if he weren't in custody. At least he is seeing something positive from this ordeal.
Visiting continues to be an exercise in patience. When we arrived Friday night the guard at the front desk was turning several visitors away for clothing issues. The lady in front of us was turned away & I didn't see anything wrong with what she was wearing except that she had on mid-calf capris, similar to what I was wearing. So I asked if there was a problem with what I was wearing (the rule only says no shorts) and he said it was "questionable" but didn't go into any more detail, so we didn't know whether we were going to be allowed in or not. It turns out he thought our jeans were too tight. At one point he told us all that we should wear clothing that we would wear to one of our children's school events. I don't think he's been to many school events in California -- I think most everyone was dressed up compared to that! One young woman had a baby about a year-and-a-half old who was wearing shorts that would have been long pants if they'd another inch or two longer. She was told he couldn't come in because the rule said no shorts. She said she asked the visiting coordinator twice on the phone what the rule was for kids and was told that the rule was mid-calf, which she followed. Turns out girls can go in with mid-calf clothing (capris) but not boys. It seemed to me to be a case of rules vs. common sense. (Keep in mind that it's 102 degrees outside, so it's also easy to forget to pack long pants). He also turned away a woman who had her 5 grandchildren there to visit their dad. They had driven all the way from Missouri and had been allowed to visit the night before, but on this night he didn't allow it because it was over the limit of visitors and none of the kids was old enough to stay out in the lobby by themselves so that they could rotate through. He was allowing the clothing violators to go out the front gate & get appropriate clothing & then come back in (which wasn't allowed before when I wanted to go get a sweater out of the car) and he recommended the Dollar Store down the road if anyone needed to buy new clothing. (We laughingly wondered if he owned stock in the Dollar Store!) We waited patiently until our turn to see what he would decide about my pants, but after all that we were allowed in without any hassle. Those of you who know me know that I come from a pretty conservative background. I don't think I've ever been accused of wearing too-tight pants before! It's frustrating because we all come from so far (most of us from California) for these visits, so we're not deliberately trying to push the rules - we don't want to do anything that would jeopardize the visit! I know the guards have seen/heard every excuse in the book and a few more besides, but they seem to have set a "moving target" of standards. The hoop earrings I wore on Friday and Saturday were not OK on Sunday. We were also told on Sunday that our car keys were supposed to be kept at the front desk, not in the locker (as we had done the previous days & on previous visits). No wonder the inmates get mad at the guards!
It's good to be home, even though we don't know when our next visit will be. We have learned that Nate is eligible for parole a month earlier than we were originally told (now May 2014) and there are rumors that California is in the process of bringing all the out-of-state inmates back to California. There are some downsides to that for Nate, but at least then we would be able to visit more often.
Thanks again for your friendship, prayers, and support. We also appreciate the donations that covered our rental car and food costs for this trip. We are glad to know we are not alone in this battle.