Tales from the 2016 Road: Harrisonburg, of the Shenandoah

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July 14, 2016, Harrisonburg, VA- The Spine of Virginia is replete with picturesque cities and towns, of various sizes, from sprawling Roanoke and bustling Charlottesville, to compact places like Dublin and Damascus.  I decided to stop for lunch, and a stretch, in Harrisonburg, a city about the size of Prescott, and whose civic life is also centered on the area around its courthouse.  Court Square, west of James Madison University, has a variety of eateries and clothing shops.  I was drawn to Artful Dodger Coffeehouse and Cocktail Lounge.  Being a teetotaller, I was a curiosity to the couple who tend bar and manage the place.  I enjoyed my iced tea and tuna sandwich, regardless.  Jaqie and Rob couldn’t have been nicer.  It was pointed out to me that, if I stuck around until Friday night, I could get free Salsa Dance lessons.  There but for fortune, go I, towards Florida, but maybe on my next pass.

Here are some scenes both inside and outside of Dodger:

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The ethic of Artful Dodger, Harrisonburg, VA

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Party Time, Harrisonburg, VA

 

Once I parked my car, I passed by the town’s Welcome Center, on the way to lunch.

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Harrisonburg Welcome Center

Inside Artful Dodger, Jaqie and Rob were chatting with the regulars- about something going on Friday night, and I busied myself with the accouterments of the house, whilst waiting for my meal.

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The sun shines within; Artful Dodger Coffeehouse, Harrisonburg

 

After a good forty-five minutes out of the heat, I set out for a brief exploration of Court Square.

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Rockingham County Court House, Harrisonburg, VA

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Fountains, in Court House Plaza, Harrisonburg

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Small garden, Court House Plaza, Harrisonburg

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Panels, Court House, Harrisonburg, VA

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Unnamed building, southeast corner of Court Square, Harrisonburg, VA

I will regard this little town as another link in the chain of homes I seem to be building, whilst continuing to connect with friends and family.  it is always about expanding the network.

NEXT:  The Road Back to Florida

Tales from the 2016 Road: West Virginia’s “Pot Handle”

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July 13-14, 2016, Martinsburg-  My processing and purchase of a 2013 Hyundai Elantra became final at 12:30 PM.  I gathered my stuff at Days Inn, went over to Sugar Hill Auto and transferred everything from the Altima, paid up, said goodbye to the Old Trouper and went for lunch at Blue Colony Diner.  It was time to head south.

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Blue Colony Diner, Newtown, CT

The very Russian waitress was rather brusque, and hurried, something to which I’m not accustomed.  The Reuben was nicely prepared, though, so I made do.

Southward became a bit of a slog, at first.  An enormous pile-up, involving three tractor-trailers and eight cars, had taken place on I-84, between Newburgh and Middletown.  I stayed in queue, until the State Police ushered us all off, at Exit 5-A.  I went south when most everyone else headed north.  The road from Goshen to Middletown was relatively empty,and I was back on I-84, in less than an hour. I was in Pennsylvania, a short time later, stopping at a Rest Area in Mountaintop, where my eldest brother and his family once lived, and enjoying the other half of my Reuben.

There was a second pile-up, near Hershey, but it was on the eastbound I-78.  I took the westbound, to I-81, near Chambersburg.  Then, it was a short hop, through a narrow stretch of Maryland, to Martinsburg,WV.

After a very restful sleep, followed by continental breakfast, it was time to spend a bit of time taking in Martinsburg’s downtown.  There are several Federal Period structures here, as there are across both West Virginia and Virginia.

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First Presbyterian Church, Martinsburg,  WV

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Berkeley County Courthouse, Martinsburg, WV

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Martinsburg Arts Centre

The center of town is marked by a landscaped little square.

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Central Square, Martinsburg, WV

The house built by General Adam Stephen, founder of Martinsburg, is preserved on the city’s southeast side.  General Stephen’s residence was built of native limestone.

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Adam Stephen House, Martinsburg

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Root Cellar and Spring House, Adam Stephen House, Martinsburg

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Native Limestone, Adam Stephen House, Martinsburg

The brick house next door was built by Philip Showers, in 1874, and housed railroad workers and their families.  It is called the Triple Brick House, and was divided into three dwellings.  Today, Triple Brick House serves as Martinsburg’s Historical Museum.

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Triple Brick House, Martinsburg

This city was a Western outpost of Revolutionary forces during the War for Independence, and has had a key role in subsequent conflicts, from the War of 1812 to the “War on Drugs”, of the Reagan Era.  It is now home to major offices of the Department of Homeland Security.  Yet, on this quiet morning, it was a place of restfulness and reflection.  There is much in the “Pothandle” of eastern West Virginia to explore and enjoy, so I will come through here again.  It was time, however, to get as far south as possible by this evening.

NEXT:  Harrisonburg of the Shenandoah

Tales of the 2016 Road: Death of An Altima

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July 10-12, Bethel, CT-   I got up fairly early, Sunday morning, as usual.  Somehow, I was a bit like a caged cat, pacing about, doing small chores, none to the satisfaction of Mom, with her plaint of “typical man”, ever in the background. My restlessness, though, had nothing to do with that.  I had had a vision of this being my Altima’s last ride and its being replaced by a small white or gray sedan. Besides,  I am no longer put off by anyone’s criticism, preferring to keep at a task until it is done to my own satisfaction.

The plan was for me to make it to York, PA and there, try to connect with a young artist, who has made Cherokee crafts, for several years.  I bid Mother a loving farewell, after eating the brunch she prepared, and the rain had subsided to her satisfaction.

The drive out, along the Massachusetts Turnpike, to I-84, was uneventful.  I stopped, briefly, at Framingham Service Center, and had no problem continuing down the road.  After a slow, but steady, passage through Hartford and Waterbury, I decided to pull off at Newtown, and fill the Nissan up with gasoline.  I would then go over to Sandy Hook, and pray for the victims of the horrific shooting of 2012.

When I tried to start the Altima, though, smoke began to rise from under the hood.  A generous young man gave me a gallon of coolant, which he said had “been left” in his truck.  I gave him some money for that, and added a fair amount to the overflow tank.

The engine continued to smoke, and I noticed that the coolant tank, itself, was cracked and useless.  A trio of motorcyclists came over and helped me push Altima into a vacant parking space.  One of them cautioned me against trying to take the car any further.  The Altima, and I, found his advice was sound.  Car wasn’t going anywhere, without a tow.

The AAA tow took me to the Days Inn at Bethel, then took Altima to its resting place, Sugar Hill Auto Service Center, on the west side of Newtown.  By then, I had contacted my sister-in-law, in Florida and my brother in Georgia, letting them know of the situation.  Facebook also learned of my challenge.  An hour or so later, arrangements were made for my purchase of another car, by Wednesday, and I made myself at home, in the comfortable second floor room at Days Inn.  Three days of continental breakfast, a walk to/from Target, for a few odds and ends, and catching up on my reading and writing, hardly constituted suffering.

The 2005 Altima, though, had endured enough.  The litany of engine woes, first taught me by my father, when I was 13:  Head gasket leak, valves bent, rings broken, engine kaput swam out of the auto technician’s mouth, at various points along our phone conversation.  He had spent two hours in diagnosis, on Monday.  Tuesday morning, I told him not to do anything further.  I would pay him for his diagnostics and for disposal of the Nissan.

The rest was due diligence on several cars offered by Danbury Auto Group.  After looking at several vehicles, online, and discussing with my best friend, I settled on a 2013 Hyundai Elantra.  It would be ready on Wednesday, so my relaxation continued.

Nissan Altima required quite a bit of me, financially, but it also took me to Vancouver, BC, once, to Reno and Denver, both twice. and to Southern California, about five times.  For an old car, going to the East Coast proved to be the last straw, despite my having had it serviced, just before we left Prescott. Mechanics tended to blame the catalytic converter and a “bad sensor” for the occasional check engine light.  I know, now, that it has to be more than that.  I am glad for one thing:  Its last journey took me to the place of my birth, and at least got me far enough away, that I had to stand on my own two feet, and not place an undue burden on anyone.  BF helped, immeasurably, and I will repay him.  RIP, my gray vehicle.

NEXT:  No York, but Plenty of Martinsburg

Tales of the 2016 Road: My Eastern Anchor

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July 8-9, 2016, Saugus-  I’ve mentioned before about this town of 40,000 people having been the springboard for the American steel industry, as it was the site of the first fully-operating Ironworks in British North America.

For me, it was also a springboard.  Though I was nowhere near as polished or as strong as the iron that came out of Saugus Ironworks, I have thrived, because of what I learned here.

My mother grew up on a small farm, north, northwest of the Ironworks site.  When she was a child, there was no National Historical Park, such as exists today.  The place was unearthed in the early 1950’s, when lower Lynnhurst was being prepared for a housing scheme.  The town leaders were wise enough to see to its unearthing, and preservation- a chance to get some of the Boston-Salem-Gloucester tourism traffic.  This led to Route 1 becoming one of the roads designated “The Great White Way”, for all the neon that reminded visitors of New York’s Broadway, as restaurants sprang up from the Revere line  to Peabody, 8 miles further north.  Yet, I digress.

Mom was the main reason for my visit here.  I would still have spent time with my amazing brother, a legally-blind sailor and bon vivant.  Mom, though, is still a force of nature, in late octogenaresis.  She is actually feeling and doing better than when I saw her in December.  She has always been about independence. She let me know where I need to work on myself, and it’s true that I have slacked off a bit, exercise-wise.  Choosing to spend most of the past several days driving, and not getting out and walking much- except for Bushkill Falls, is a habit I tend to embrace when going cross-country.  Habits can be broken, though.

I, like most people, want to feel my mother’s approval.  She has held the bar relatively high, all these years, but not out of spitefulness or malice.  Had I not been encouraged, at times cajoled, I would not be standing here today as a man of 34 years’ sobriety, or as one who puts the good of the whole above my own comfort.  She is my anchor, on the East.

So, I spent a fair amount of time just being present, watching the same reassuring TV films we saw last December- a fact she found amusing- “Why can’t Lifetime be more ambitious than to recycle the same canned stories, over and over?”  When it came time for me to go back on the road, she was a bit somber-but life for Lila Mae Boivin will go on- and she’s determined it will have quality.  There is no finer example, even for a man in late middle age, than someone who embraces the place in life, at which she finds herself.

Her last words to me were “Drive safely”.  These words proved prescient.

NEXT:  The demise of Nissan Altima.

 

 

Tales of the 2016 Road: Bushkill Falls and Busted Pipes

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July 7, 2016, Middletown, NY-  This is another of those years when I could not be present for my son’s birthday.  He was at sea, anyway.  I rose early, at Glick’s Greenhouse compound, and bid Beth and Dave a fond adieu.  My goal was to reach Saugus in time to visit a bit with a nephew and his family, who were visiting from Indiana.   Some goals don’t get reached.

The day began nicely enough.  I made good time past the Lehigh Valley, and its tough, surviving cities of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton, jumping on Rte. 209, past the Stroudsburgs, to Bushkill Falls, where my in-laws spent their honeymoon, and several subsequent wedding anniversaries.

The privately-owned park retains its magic, and offers a fairly extensive network of hiking trails, some of which are paved.  Families and single wanderers alike were having a fine time, this morning.  Here a few of the scenes I encountered, in this Pride of the Poconos.

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Entrance and concessions complex, Bushkill Falls, PA

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Approach to Main Falls, Bushkill Falls

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Main Falls, Bushkill

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Signs of a rain forest, Bushkill Falls

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Frontal view of Main Falls, Bushkill

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Nice picnic spot, near Bridal Veil Falls, Bushkill

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Bridal Veil Falls, Bushkill

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Cave, at foot of Bridesmaid Falls, Bushkill

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Bridesmaid Falls, Bushkill

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Pennell Falls, Bushkill

Pennsylvania has had copious rain, so far this summer.  Thus, the rain forest ambiance of Bushkill Falls, and other places in the Poconos, make for a lovely vacation stopover.  The sense of peace and tranquility I found there, sustained me through what followed, in the afternoon.

After stopping in Port Jervis, NY, in the Three Corners region of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and enjoying a hearty lunch at Muller’s Diner, I sensed something was awry with Nissan.  Once on I-84, it was worse:  Lack of acceleration reduced my speed to 50.  It was fortunate that I made it up the road apiece, to Middletown, and found a Nissan dealership.  The men took two hours to find and fix what their diagnostics said was the problem:  A clogged front exhaust pipe.  Thanks to them, I was back on the road by 4:30.  It was too late to see nephew and his family, but I made it safely to my mother’s house by 10 PM.   Safety is always first.

Tales of the 2016 Road: Blessed the Family That Stays Together

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July 6, 2016, Oley, PA-  I can’t drive through these parts, without a stop at Glick’s Greenhouse.  It was getting near Dave’s birthday, and Beth was having the family over for dinner, so I got to be a part of the festivities.  Besides, the accommodations are the best in the area.

The day started with a lovely breakfast at Bedford Diner, which has become an instant favourite of mine- first and foremost because of the exquisite breakfast sausage.  The regulars and the waitresses bantering is always a delightful aspect of sitting at the counter, anywhere, and it certainly was there.

My only sightseeing of the day was at Leesport Farmers Market- one of the biggest in the Reading area. I picked up a few things for Beth, and enjoyed the bustling atmosphere.  This event only happens on Wednesdays, but I am sure the pavilions see plenty of use for other purposes.

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Leesport Farmers Market

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Leesport Farmers Market

I found my way to Oley, by the backroad, past the regional middle school, patting myself on the back for having done so.  I did have to get reassurance from Beth, though, that I was on the right track, heading past the one-lane covered bridge, which I’ve shown in previous posts on the Greenhouse.  We had a fine dinner, with a new addition, the Glicks’ youngest nephew has joined the brood, since I was last here, in 2013.  After dinner conversation centered around the stuff of country life- yes, that includes guns, which I regard as tools for hunting and target shooting, as well as for personal safety in an unsafe environment.  We all agreed that guns are not a means of showing off one’s power.  Baling hay also held center stage.

No family photos, this time.  It was a bit on the hot and sticky side.  Some enjoyed the rubber swimming pool, as a result.  The sunset, though, was vintage PA.

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An Oley Valley sunset

 

As I said earlier, the room is fabulous, and I got a fine sleep.  This proved to be fortuitously necessary, for what followed, the next day.

Tales of the 2016 Road: Hoosiers Are Creative

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July 5, 2016, Bedford, PA- I started the day, determined to give the Altima a bit more TLC-so I headed to Kokomo, one of the first automotive industry centers in the U.S., for a stop at the Advance Auto Center.  Just beforehand, I spotted the Seiberling Mansion, off to the west side of this still innovative city.

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Seiberling Mansion, Kokomo, IN

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Seiberling Mansion, Kokomo, IN

It was closed, of course, being very early in the morning.  I had much to do, though, so exterior views sufficed.   In the front, there was a bit of information about Mr.  Monroe Seiberling, one of the energy industry’s first entrepreneurs.

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Information about Seiberling Mansion

Closely associated with Mr. Seiberling was Elwood P. Haynes, who promoted the gasoline engine, and invented products from stainless steel to the first mass-produced automobile model.  Elwood was a true Renaissance man, even though much of what he ushered in has run its course, due to so many recent advances in technology.  Nonetheless, here he is, in front of Seiberling Mansion.

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One of Kokomo’s Renaissance men

I left the historic district of Kokomo, in search of Advance, got what I wanted for the car, then took care of breakfast, at a Kokomo institution:  The Waffle House (not to be confused with the pleasant chain of restaurants that is found nationwide.)  The Waffle House has a full complement of regulars, and portions large enough to suffice someone like me for an entire day.  After picking up a charging cord for my Android phone, at Target, to replace one I had left behind in Rolla, I headed towards Indianapolis.

A young friend, who had moved here from Kentucky, several months ago, contacted me and we set aside a couple of hours, for a Starbucks conversation. We talked at length of the education system, special needs populations and the level of care offered by government. She’s working hard, and I let it be known that I am proud of her efforts.  The little man to her right, below, is also a wonder.  He is intently into his Minecraft- and I admire that focus.

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Friends in Indianapolis

I look forward to visiting with them again, with husband and father present, as well, next time.

With rush hour approaching, I am headed towards I-70, through Ohio and as far into Pennsylvania as my energy level and prudence allow.  Indiana has provided me with a fair measure of re-assurance and homespun wisdom.

 

 

 

 

Tales of the 2016 Road: A Heartland Independence Day

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July 4, 2016, Francesville, IN- I headed out of Rolla, MO, in the early morning drizzle.  The hapless man who had been asking for sustenance, last night, was sitting outside his room, looking puzzled that I should be heading out so soon.  I had one main destination for the day:  The new Welcome Center of the Baha’i House of Worship, in Wilmette, IL- just north of Chicago.  It would take most of the day to get there, so I was on the road by 8 A.M.

The Missouri countryside is always a pleasure, though while I rolled along I-44, towards St. Louis, it was striking how little traffic there was, headed eastward.  It was also fairly easy to head northward, bypassing the downtown area.  Determined to have my main meal in midday, I stopped around 11, at a Hibachi Grill, in Florissant, near the area that was so much in turmoil, in 2014.  Florissant itself, though, is well-manicured and has a prosperous outer countenance.  I hope the same for the surrounding communities, like Ferguson, while being well aware that a lot of hard work lies ahead, yet.  There were only a few of us in Hibachi Grill, at that hour, while the food was plentiful and varied- with almost as many “American” dishes as Chinese.

Crossing the Mississippi, I knew it would be unlikely that I would see many, if any, of my Midwestern friends, today or tomorrow.  One friend, whom I called, was ill.  Others, I knew, had their holiday plans, so I did not contact them.

Chicagoland always has its traffic challenges, and today’s inbound traffic did not disappoint.  As I expected, it took an hour to get from Bolingbrook, on the southern edge of the region, to Skokie, where I turned off the Kennedy Freeway.  It was easy getting to a gas station, filling up the Nissan, and emptying myself, though there was a line for the latter- not surprising, considering that many of us had been on the freeway for, in some cases, three hours.

The Baha’i House of Worship always rises majestically through the trees, once one gets to the community of Wilmette, and close to Lake Michigan.  I’m always comforted by the sight, and by being in the House.  A particular bonus today, though, was the new Visitor Center.  Here are some views of this fine addition to the complex.

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Entrance to Visitor Center, Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette

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Symbols of faith, Visitor Center, Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL

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Mini-fountains, Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL

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Main Display Hall, Visitor Center, Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL

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Garden outside Visitor Center, Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL

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More Good News for modern man

I knew it would be way over budget, for me to stay in the Chicago area tonight, and the traffic in the morning would be horrific, besides, so after a serene and uplifting hour in the House of Worship, I headed eastward.  Traffic going out of the city was minimal, but I saw an astounding scene unfolding, across the median, on I-94:  Traffic coming from Indiana was at a standstill, for fifteen miles- clear to the Valparaiso turnoff.  It was too late to even think of calling a young friend in Portage, IN, so I headed south on county and state roads, into the rolling farmland and self-sufficient small towns that lie between Chicago and Indianapolis.

Fireworks programs, in many parts of the country, are organized  by cities and towns.  Here in the heartland, as we saw yesterday in Missouri, families set off their own, with the adults carefully monitoring their younger charges.  In Francesville, where I stopped and got a sandwich and some pretzels, for supper, the display was just starting.  I sat and watched, as a few fathers were giving their families and neighbours a visual treat, in a field on the south end of town.

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Fireworks over Francesville, IN

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Fireworks over Francesville, IN

In all the years that I have experienced Independence Day celebrations, none have been more hearfelt, or more enjoyable, than this time of nibbling chicken salad, whilst watching competing displays from adjoining farm fields, in this solid little town, in central Indiana.

I would go on to Logansport, and spend the night in Manor Motel.  I did get the feeling, though, that I would always be welcome in Francesville, and other little towns along the way.  The heartland is a very warm place.

 

 

Tales from the 2016 Road: Christmas in July

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July 3, 2016, Avilla, MO- There was a span of 38 years, since I last saw Lisa, one of my younger cousins.  In our family, last has never been least.  Each member of the brood has an essential place.  Lisa followed in the footsteps of her mother, who served as a WAVE during World War II, by becoming a member of the Women’s Army Corps, for several years.  When that was finished, she became a teacher, like her father.   She’s still a teacher- and a farm wife, in this little slice of heaven, in southwest Missouri, between Joplin and Springfield.

I was invited to join their family’s Christmas in July celebration, with attendant fireworks.  People in the Midwest set off their own fireworks, as befits a farm culture.  There was a marvelous spread, to get things started, and as we recalled from our childhood days, such gatherings involve sitting around ad spinning yarns, as well as discussing the topics of the day, in a civil fashion.

It was a lovely day and evening, so here are a few scenes from down on the farm, in Avilla.

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The farm property at Avilla

Lisa and family were busy, setting up the festivities.

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Here are some scenes of the gang sitting around, and of the fireworks.

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Grandkids getting ready for the display.

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Solving the world’s ills

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Fire away!

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Sky lit up!

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Light show!

We then exchanged gifts, in White Elephant fashion.So went a fine re-connection with a bright and loving member of my extended family, which is now extended even further, with her husband, kids and grandkids.

Tales from the 2016 Road: The Other Half Gives

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July 3, 2016, Ponca City-  I spent about forty minutes visiting this spacious northern Oklahoma town’s three major landmarks, all associated with the oil magnate, E.W. Marland, and his family.

Prior to arriving here, I stopped at the roadside memorial to Chief Joseph, logistics chief of the Nez Perce, in the mid-Nineteenth Century.  The captive Nez Perce, native to Idaho, had been brought here, to Tonkawa, in 1877, and made to remain there, until 1884.  They were allowed to return to Idaho, then, and given the choice of becoming Christian and staying in Idaho, or retaining their old ways, and being moved to Colville, Washington.  Chief Joseph and his band chose the latter.  Below, is the photo of the memorial to him.

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Memorial to Chief Joseph, Tonkawa, OK

Ponca City, in Osage country, has among the earliest ties to the petroleum industry in Oklahoma.  It is, nonetheless, among the state’s most spacious and well-appointed communities.  Here is a look at downtown.

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Grand Avenue, Ponca City

City Hall is also strikingly modern.

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Ponca City Hall

There are two homes, built by E.W. Marland, which feature prominently in Ponca City’s civic life.  Marland’s  Grand Home, built by him in 1916, now serves as the city’s cultural center and Indian Museum.

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Veranda, Marland’s Grand House, Ponca City

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Full view of Marland’s Great House, Ponca City

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Original Marland Oil Company Flag Staff, Ponca City

Ernest Whitworth Marland had a sincere respect for the sacrifices made by women, on the prairie, and had this statue built, in their honour.

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Pioneer Woman Statue, Ponca City

The Marland Mansion, where the family lived after 1916, is the centerpiece of a city park, and is maintained in the spirit of the early 20th Century.  I toured the grounds, as the interior is not open on Sundays.

The Marland children, George and Lydie, are honoured with statues, at the northern and eastern ends of the property, respectively.

The mansion itself was built in grand, European style.  Ernest was a generous man, and did not spare himself or his family of that largesse.

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Marland Mansion, Ponca City

There is a wealth of flora on the grounds.

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Rhododendron bush, Marland Mansion, Ponca City

There is an extensive walking trail around the grounds, which I did not have time to explore, given my invitation to a Fourth of July gathering, east of Joplin.

The pond, though, lends a serenity, and a wildness, to this most epicurean of parks.

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Pond, Marland Mansion grounds

The park is a refreshing place for Poncans to gather, so in my view, E.W.’s largesse has had a good long-term effect.  Now, as long as we keep moving towards cleaner energy….

NEXT UP:  Christmas in July