A walk-off Saturday courtesy of a really nice family


I found my milk.

I just want to put this to bed. Apparently, some jackwad thought it would be funny to go to Fareway and stick it in the dairy counter right next to a bunch of other bottles…that looked exactly the same. Wow.

Here’s the kicker, I tried to tell the nice girl at the register that it was a hoax and that the milk was really mine. She shot me a really, really weird look. I smiled at her with lips closed, no teeth.

I had to pay $2.59 to get the damned thing back!

But at least that’s wrapped up tightly.

I tell you the world’s going to hell in a handbasket. Honestly, I don’t even know what a handbasket is.

But one of the really great parts of the world right now is this family that lives on High Point in Fort Madison.

Since my daughter passed away three years ago, these folks have been in our corner. Hugs and thoughts and flowers and food and friendship. It brings tears to my eyes. But this weekend the Pothitakis family went above and beyond.

Mark Pothitakis sent me a photo via text a couple weeks ago of a metallic blue Mustang convertible that he, Kara Pothitakis, and an absolute rug of a poodle, were tooling around Fort Madison in.

The story is that the Mustang was once owned by his father, who had to sell it because he couldn’t get afford to get it fixed. Someone bought it and restored it. Not too long ago that person wanted to sell it and reached out to Mark, who quickly and appropriately, snatched it back up.

Fast forward to the picture of a couple weeks ago. I returned the text saying something to the effect that it was a wonderful looking vehicle, but I would have to take it for a drive…ya know….to be sure.

Mark, and this will be a surprise to no one, quickly replied. “Come and get it.” I replied, “That’s an offer I can’t refuse.”

So this weekend, I took him up on his offer and drove to High Point to take this 60s-something beauty for a test drive. One thing I forgot…I didn’t know exactly where the Pothitakises live. I knew it was up there somewhere and started driving around looking for where I thought his house was.

You don’t really do that kind of “casing” in most places in Fort Madison, but you really don’t do that on High Point. I sent Mark a text asking him which house was his. He didn’t respond right away so here I am driving my F150 down people’s driveways getting a little sweaty about the whole deal.

I didn’t see a response and I knew former Mayor Brad Randolph lived in the area, so I texted him. No response. Now I’m driving around waiting for Capt. Carle to pull in behind me, “Chuck, what the hell are you doing!?”

Fortunately, former City Councilman Chris Greenwald happened to be aware that someone was apparently casing the joints and sent me a text. “Are you driving a brown Ford truck looking for Mark’s place”

“YES, AND I FEEL LIKE A DAMN CRIMINAL OUT HERE.” (Caps are legitimate. I all-capped it.)

When I looked up, there he was coming down his driveway where I had encroached uncomfortably. That was pretty courageous all things considered. I coulda jumbo rolled him.

His sweet wife Linda came out after and said Hi.

“Mark said I could take the Mustang for a ride.”

“Really?!,” Greenwald said.

“Yeah, here’s the text,” and I showed him the exchange. So Chris and Linda helped me get into the garage and start the motor. It gave me chills. Linda tried to get it started to no avail as Chris and I were sharing a conversation. Chris kept looking over his shoulder at Linda and finally said. “I’LL GET IT!” I smiled, she got out and walked back to us. “Start… the… car. So he can go for a ride.”

I smiled again.

Chris worked the accelerator pedal magically, while tinkering with the choke under the really big steering wheel. After about three tries, he got it running. I was now full on nervous that I was going to kill this vehicle.

But I backed it out coolly (I don’t know why Snoopy comes to mind here…) and pulled out of the driveway on my way into Fort Madison.

Now, a test drive is usually a couple miles through town where I could turn my hat backwards, put on the shades and get my arms a little “sun-kissed.”

But nooo. I decided to take this historic piece of history down the bypass to West Burlington and take my mother, who I remember once saying she always wanted a Mustang, for a drive. We loaded her, my niece, and my niece’s friend into the thing and drove about five miles to where my mother grew up and slowed down to take in some history. It fit perfectly in the day.

We turned and went back to town and picked up my brother, my nephew, and the McGee Bee (see previous Beside the Points for reference) and headed on the same path. About four miles in, the muscle car started to choke up a bit. We were able to get it started about three separate times limping back to the house. I don’t know what it is about Mustangs, but that thing will coast FOR-EVER!

We got to my brother’s house and went in. I let old Blue Steel sit and breath, cool off a bit, and shake off this dysfunctional operator who doesn’t have the chutzpah to be driving a 60-something Mustang.

I asked my brother to follow me back to town just in case things didn’t go well. His wife wanted a ride, too, so I took her with me.

About two minutes into the ride, it died again. I got it going right away. A simple slip into neutral and a turn of the key, I looked like I had it under control all without even coming to a stop. But about a minute later it died again.

Well, I pulled over in a parking lot and tried several times to start it, but nothing. I had been watching the oil pressure gauge, the temperature control, speed, and saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Sitting there with my sister-in-law Susan, I started doing a differential diagnosis on the issue.

“Could be the linkage causing an issue in the distributor. Not much electronics and no fuel injector, so could be the carburetor.”

“I think it’s out of gas,” she said without looking at me. I looked at the gas gauge and my head and shoulders immediately dropped.

I had literally run this car out of gas.

My nephew came with a gas can and we added fuel. Then we pulled the air filter housing off to pour some gas in the carburetor. Somebody once told me that was a good idea.

The engine was really hot, so I got scared and didn’t do that because I thought it would SET ME ON FIRE!

I stood there wondering how to get it started. My nephew, who I love dearly, said let me sit in the front seat. So I did. He got in turned the key, pulled the choke all the way out and pushed the accelerator to the floor. Car jumped to a hum and he stood up and got out.

“Sometimes you have to do that with farm equipment,” he said as he walked by knowing that Blue Steel likes him more than me.

Farm equipment.

We went to Casey’s and filled the car with gas and the rest of the trip to Fort Madison was uneventful. I quietly pulled the car into the lot with hat turned around, shades on and, arms more than sun-kissed.

Linda was there and said the Pothitakis boys like to get in the Mustang with their hats turned around and shades on and head out for fun.

I felt like I was 20 again.

Mark said I could drive it again any time. Not sure I will, although I love the sentiment and generosity. This one might have to be a walk-off.

There are good people in the world, and then there are absolutely superior people in the world. I think I would box with anyone who said the Pothitakises are anything but absolutely superior people with an absolutely superior Blue Steel Mustang convertible that I spent a little time with on Saturday, but that’s Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

Beside the point, editorial, opinion, mark Pothitakis, Chuck Vandenberg, Sunday, mustang, history, memories, Pen City Current,


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