54 AND 6: DOWN THE ROAD TOGETHER

Robin Brownlee
August 16 2012 01:12AM

I used to take stock of where I was at in my life by the size of my pay cheque and how many stories I'd break during any given season on the beat covering the Edmonton Oilers for the local dailies. I was doing fine on both counts and everything else was pretty much secondary.

That means of measure changed when I met Analyn Agustin and it shifted further and forever at 7:11 p.m. on August 16, 2006, when Samuel Charles Robin Brownlee came into the world -- three months early, and on my 48th birthday, no less.

I've told Sam's story here before, including last year, so I won't repeat it for those who weren't interested then and might want to click through now in the absence of statistical analysis or any real hockey talk.

A year ago, most of what I wrote focused on how my life had changed since Sam made his dramatic entrance at the Royal Alexandra Hospital as a two-pound preemie just eight weeks after the Oilers unlikely run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final ended in defeat against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Today, with Sam and I celebrating 54 and 6 and Freedom 55 long ago shot all to hell, I'm looking ahead and contemplating what's next and about changes to come, as they always do. There are many. These are exciting times, indeed, for the boy and the old man.

DON'T CALL ME BABY, BABY

Sam's at the age where he gives me the hairy eyeball when I call him "baby boy," as I'm prone to. "I'm not a baby. I'm a big boy now," he insists, striking a pose and flexing his pipe-cleaner thin arms. With Grade 1 looming, a new bike to be delivered today and his training wheels retired, he's right, of course.

With his baby teeth falling out, a mop of hair I vaguely recall and his ability to fart on command (like-father-like-son), Sam's come a long way from when Analyn and I would be camped out at neonatal ICU convinced that if we prayed enough we'd will his lungs to develop to the point they'd unhook him from that ventilator. "Just breathe, son. Breathe." When that day came and the odds swung in his favor, we celebrated. When we explain that exact moment, to him now we just say he's "Lucky Sam." He doesn’t understand. One day, he will.

Sam prefers riding his bike or cruising in my 1960 Biscayne to little boy toys now, which makes him a bonafide chip off the old block. At a show and shine for hotrods in Beaumont this month, Sam got his first ticket. Proud papa? You bet, even if the ticket was fake. In May, Sam and returned home from a drive when he proclaimed, "Mom, the police were after us, but dad is too fast. They couldn't catch us." Never happened. Honest.

While Sam's talent at passing gas and ability to fabricate stories make him a candidate for a journalism career, he's got plenty of time to find a profession with shorter hours and longer pay. So far, his stated career goals, in no order of preference, are policeman, race car driver and to be just like his big brother, Michael (not sure what that pays). For now, a full day of school in Grade 1 in September instead of half-days in kindergarten is the challenge.

"Am I six yet?" Sam asked the other day. "Not yet. Not until Thursday," I said. "I want to be seven and then eight and then 46," he said. "Soon enough," I said. "Finish your cereal." Forty-six? Advanced stats tell me I'll be 94 then. I changed his diapers, so . . . Fair is Fair. My wife and I laugh out loud. Sam, not knowing what we're on about, scowls. "What?"

As I write this, Sam is hauling ass up and down the block on his old bike, racing a friend from down the street on his skateboard, hooting and hollering. They don’t seem to care who wins or loses. When you're six and your whole life is still ahead of you, that's the way it should be, no?

CHANGES COMING

Like I said, there was a time when chasing the story, whatever it might be, was pretty much everything that mattered. I did it well, and I did it for 25 years or so at the expense of family, friends and my health. Why not? Sports writing is a great scam, especially if you’re reasonably good at it and find your way into one of the good gigs, which I did when I got bumped up from carrying Jim Matheson's notepad to primary beat man at the Journal in 1998 or so.

What's not to like? Charter flights. Great hotels. Getting paid to watch hockey games. I used to love strolling around Times Square, usually in the hunt for knock-off Rolex watches. There are worse things than hanging out in L.A. or Tampa Bay or Dallas in mid-January when it's 30-below here. Chicago and Montreal? Chasing the story wasn't so bad. It's not a real job. Problem was, it wasn't just what I did, it became who I was.

Sam changed all that. For all the perks and laughs I had on the road with friends like Matheson and Rod Phillips and an entourage that included Kevin Quinn, Gene Principe and Kevin Karius over the years, the buzz of beating the keyboard on deadline and running for the bus on the way to the next stop, I found I wasn't looking forward to jumping another jet in the name of chasing the story nearly as much as the return flight home.

The Sun took care of any angst about that when I was fired in January of 2007 in the name, I was told, of cost-cutting. Being 48 and out of work in a shrinking business with tightening budgets wasn't a good place to be. Staying home with Sam and watching him grow was. I've stayed in the business with freelance gigs since – Metro, Canadian Press, NHL.com and Oilersnation. Thankful I am. Likewise, I'm grateful to Bob Stauffer, who gave me a chance to work his radio show, and Jason Gregor, who still allows me into the studio at TEAM 1260 twice a week to do his show. Damn good men, both.

Truth is, though, I've been gravitating away from the media game, partly because of circumstance but mostly by choice. And, while I enjoy keeping my hand in it by contributing here and flapping my gums on Gregor's show, at least for the time being, I'm taking another step away as I blow out 54 candles on the cake.

LUCKY SAM, LUCKY DAD

I'm returning to my car guy roots. Starting Oct. 1, I'm opening a shop in the west end of the city – I've purchased a distributorship with a national chain, Crackmasters, specializing in windshield replacement and repair (no more bitching about busted glass in the Biscayne). It'll operate, I'm happy to say, as part of Lucky Sam Enterprises.

While it's a significant departure from what I've been doing for a living for almost 30 years, it's exciting (and scary as hell). It's a return to the car business that many of my lifelong friends have stayed in since I made a left turn for that white collar gig toting a notepad. I've missed having dirt under my fingernails.

At 54 and 6 nothing is status quo. What I know for sure is Sam is going to love that new candy apple red bike when he sees it today. He'll say, "Cool," just like he does when I put a little right foot into the Biscayne on a Sunday cruise. Sam is going to whip that kid on the skateboard with his new wheels. What I know for sure, this August 16 and however many we have left together, is he is the greatest gift of all.

Happy Birthday, baby boy.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 Tyler
August 16 2012, 01:49AM
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Congrats on the new business. October 1, eh? You probably picked the right year to be sinking yourself into a business at the start of hockey season.

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#2 OilDoug
August 16 2012, 05:52AM
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Happy birthday Robin and Sam!

Best of luck in the new business and the business of managing the life of an active 6 year old!

Finally, from a selfish point of view, please keeping writing about the Oilers on this site. I respect all the writers here but your pull no punches style along with the banter in the comments section is something I look forward to reading multiple times a week.

God knows Oiler Nation needs a voice of reason!

Doug

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#3 pelhem grenville
August 16 2012, 06:48AM
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Mr B...show us your crack!

all my best to you, your 'little man' and all your family...wodehouse

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#4 Krusher
August 16 2012, 06:53AM
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As a thankful but stressed business owner I appreciate you reminding me about what's important in life. Time to go hug my daughters.

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#5 DaveChamp
August 16 2012, 09:44AM
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That's great news! I work as a windshield repair technician, and if I can do it, I'm sure you'll be a riveting success! Congratulations!

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#6 Dapper Dan
August 16 2012, 01:40AM
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Robin,

Happy Birthday to both you and Sam! I know you do awesome at the new venture. Selfishly I hope you drop in on this board and whenever you can on my radio as it is always refreshing to hear your view of things.

Dan

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#7 Devolution
August 16 2012, 05:52AM
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Nice article Robin and good luck on your new venture and phase of life. I am sure your new business will be supported by the community that has valued your other talents for so long.

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#8 sizedoesmatter
August 16 2012, 05:59AM
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Good luck

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#9 Di-Hard OilFan
August 16 2012, 06:01AM
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Congrats Robin. Best of luck on the new venture. I am sure you will do fine. Never bet against a man whose motivations are family driven.

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#10 Dipstick
August 16 2012, 06:27AM
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Best Wishes Robin. Those darn kids sure do change things. Being Dad is the best job ever. Enjoy and appreciate it (I'm sure you will).

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#11 yawto
August 16 2012, 07:24AM
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Great read RB, While I may be younger I know exactly how you feel. 6 months after Sam was born ( on Smytty's b-day nonetheless) my first of two premee's was introduced to the world in pod I at the royal Alex. 48 days later when she finally got to come home I knew what finally matters in life. I spend day in day out searching the interwebs for articles on my beloved Oil. Love all the great reads I get out of the oilogisphere, especially here. But nothing is greater than a HNIC Saturday night when the game is about to start and a 2 and 5 year old come running into the room to sing their favorite song. Used to be the game was the best part, now it's singing o' Canada with my true inspirations. Happy birthday Mr Brownlee Sr and Jr. Godspeed on the new venture.

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#12 ray
August 16 2012, 07:49AM
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robin...please reconsider...you and matty are really the best two in the business...gonna miss you and your articles...first the ed.journal is not going to be delivering to my door because i live in rural alta(st.paul) and now this!...depressing end of summer....good luck Robin and family!

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#13 Oilfan69
August 16 2012, 08:02AM
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I hope you'll still be on here quite a bit robin or a significant part of the community will have evaporated. However I thank you for making it an easy decision as to where the Oilers Nation should be getting their wind shield work done.

Please let us know once things are up and running.

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#14 GLoKz0r
August 16 2012, 08:24AM
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What the hell? This is Oilersnation, not some happy-fun-time-let's-share-our-feelings blog! Where's the hockey?!

Hehehe, couldn't help myself. As always, this was a great read Mr. Brownlee. Reading stories like this makes me look forward to fatherhood myself, and I'm always glad to follow along in the lives of the writers that churn my love for Hockey.

Happy Birthday to you and your son, and here's hoping it's one of many many more as you set off on this new adventure. In fact, my car windshield is looking pretty haggard, when do you open up shop?

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#15 The Soup Fascist
August 16 2012, 08:40AM
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Amazing how much clearer the road looks ahead of you with a new windshield. You think, wow I never realized how scratched and pitted the other one was.

There is probably a metaphor there somewhere.

Happy Birthday to the Brownlee boys.

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#16 Jonathan Willis
August 16 2012, 08:52AM
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I hope everything works out with the new business; I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

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#17 Glenn (headpins) Schwarz
August 16 2012, 09:14AM
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Happy B-day to both of you Robin and many more. Can't wait for your new venture to open i can't hold off on all this glass for much longer lol. Kepp Sam out of the drivers seat of that car or those fake tickets can turn real in a hurry.

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#18 Boourns99
August 16 2012, 09:26AM
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Robin,

You and Matheson are the voices of the Oilers I grew up to - from that first cup on. Congrats on the new venture - I'm sure that if you take the same passionate, no-BS, direct and honest approach you will have nothing but success. Looking forward to hearing about it,

Please do come back time to time. We need you to keep these young bucks in line...

Happy Birthday to you and Lucky Sam.

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#19 mayorpoop
August 16 2012, 10:09AM
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as much as i love hockey and the banter about it on this site, it is genuinely nice to read about life. hockey isn't near that.

congratulations and best success on your new challenge. happy birthday to both.

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#20 michael
August 16 2012, 10:11AM
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At 47/9 I have some of the same issues. I'd rather spend time with my son than bust my ass for the man. Gotta pay the bills but I don't envision myself eating Alpo in my retired years either. My dad just passed away last month at 73. When your Mom and Dad are both gone it sure brings your mortality into focus. Love my son and enjoy the moments I share with him.

Good luck on your new enterprise. Hope it goes well. Are you considering a total cutoff from the world of media? Or a gradual letting go of the strings? Gregor just ain't got that Old man power thing just yet. He may have the naked dome but he ain't got your style and grace. Perhaps if he owned a Biscayne it might improve his style.

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#21 Velo
August 16 2012, 10:48AM
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Robin, I hope that you will be multitasking and still contributing here. is that the plan? I thought you were going to let us all know that you had come to your senses and were moving to a beach in the Philippines to retire! You can still blog from there you know.

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#22 Archaeologuy
August 16 2012, 11:03AM
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@michael

Sorry to hear about your Dad

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#23 2004Z06
August 16 2012, 11:06AM
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First time I met Sam he came up and gave me a big hug. I was a little taken aback to say the least. In this day and age it is still nice to see that unblemished, innocent view of the world through a childs eyes once in awhile. Reminds us of what is truly important in life. Here's to many more candles in the years to come. For the both of you.

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#24 vetinari
August 16 2012, 11:10AM
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Congratulations on the new gig... and happy birthday to the Brownlee men!

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#25 Dan the Man
August 16 2012, 11:33AM
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Best of luck with the new business Robin, looking forward to showing you my crack!

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#26 D
August 16 2012, 11:56AM
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A big congrats on the new business RB. It's going to be a fun challenge.

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#27 Souby
August 16 2012, 11:57AM
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Happy Birthday to you both. I wish you nothing but success in your new business venture. I have always enjoyed your take on many subjects so if time allows, every now and then it would be nice to hear you on Gregor's show or read an article from you on Oilernation. All the best to you and your family as you open this new chapter in your lives.

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#28 Hazel Benson
August 16 2012, 12:26PM
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Congratulations!! Lucky Sam!! Happy Birthday to a couple of great guys!! Analyn you are so blessed, even though you have to make your way through clouds of gas at times, lol, guys what can I say. Robin I really enjoyed reading your article, felt like I was on the journey with you all. God Keep you in his care always. Cheers Hazel

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#29 michael
August 16 2012, 02:17PM
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@Archeology. Thanks. The path we all take is different but the end result is the same for all of us rich or poor.Black or white. The older I get the more I appreciate that which in my youth I thought was frivolous. Remember the Dead Poet's Society staring Robin Williams.Sieze the day. The hour. The moment. Robin has done that in his own way and I am glad for him. We all should be so blessed to do be able to do the things we love and be able to share that joy with others. Take care and enjoy the day.

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#30 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
August 16 2012, 02:54PM
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Happy birthday I wish the best for your whole family.

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#31 ubermiguel
August 16 2012, 03:08PM
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Happy birthday Brownlee men! Hope you'll still have time to write for the Nation on occasion.

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#32 Rama Lama
August 16 2012, 03:22PM
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Great read.......one of the best articles by RB. It sure puts our obsession of hockey into perspective.

In life there is only one constant.......change.

Best wishes in your new career and growing old with lucky Sam.......enjoy every moment.

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#33 TigerUnderGlass
August 16 2012, 05:16PM
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Ever think of setting up a car shop in the Philippines?

No stupid environmental restrictions so you can do almost anything you want to your vehicle. It's awesome.

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#34 DrDave
August 16 2012, 05:59PM
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I love hearing about lucky Sam, really helps keep things in prospective. As a young man hoping to start my family in the next few years, it really speaks volumes to me about how much what I stress about everyday is so small in the big picture.

HBD guys and best of luck in the new business RB.

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#35 Pouzar99
August 16 2012, 07:35PM
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I am happy to see that you seem to have found some peace in your life Robin. It is a lot more important than how many stories you break or how macho you think you are. Don't take it the wrong way when I say you needed to find some peace. You are hardly alone in that respect. Bravo to Stauffer and Gregor for helping out and to you for realizing that nothing is more important than family.

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#36 David S
August 16 2012, 07:39PM
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#BitchinBrownlees

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#38 David S
August 16 2012, 08:38PM
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Too bad your shop isn't open now Robin. I could use some of that Crackmasters windshield love.

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#39 Butters
August 16 2012, 08:53PM
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Happy Birhday RB and Sam. We have two cars and drive the Henday a lot. We will be throwing some business your way.

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#40 Austin Ayala
August 17 2012, 02:39AM
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Reading this reminds me why you're my favourite writer in Edmonton. (For all hockey talk for that matter). You've got so much heart and it really shines through in your work.

You are an incredible person and I hope you and Sam have a fantastic day! You sound like a wonderful father!

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#41 Reg Dunlop
August 17 2012, 02:42AM
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RB thank you for this. Wonderful read, in fact the first article I had to read twice. I christen you 'Big Daddy', just like that other ratfink Ed Roth.

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#42 pelhem grenville
August 17 2012, 06:07AM
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...brownlee staying on = awesome

knuckleheads notwithstanding...

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#43 Blake Havard
August 17 2012, 07:39AM
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Lucky Dad and Son. Good on ya man!

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#44 Oilcruzer
August 17 2012, 07:15PM
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Nice. Spent the day with my grandson who turned 6 today. He's in from Edmonton and it's 33 today. Sweet day at the water park.

(I'm still south of 50 tho)

RB YOU HAVE TO KEEP YOUR MEDIA PASS AND CONTRIBUTE HERE REGULARLY.

Who else would be the voice of reason?

Best of luck.

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