The 2018 Road, Day 39:Plowing On, Through Remorse

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July 3, 2018, Moriarty, NM-

I woke up in Sallisaw, just after 6 AM, which is my usual wake-up, when on the road.  Ed’s Cafe was across the road from Sallisaw Inn, so I headed over for breakfast.  The waitress looked to be a sassy sort, the kind that can handle truck drivers very well.  She plopped a menu down in front of me and took my coffee order, then walked over to a gray-haired gentleman and plopped her cleaning rag in front of him.  I liked her right away.  Turns out, he was indeed a regular, coming by here every two weeks.

I ordered the special, and Sassy Stacey got me to change it to the same plate from the regular menu, telling me quietly that “the boss jacks up the price for the special, when all it is, is more hashbrowns.” So I got a good deal on a very decent breakfast.

I headed straight across Oklahoma, bypassing OKC, and stopping at a Braum’s, in Weatherford, for lunch.  I like Braum’s for their milkshakes and malts, getting one of the latter, to go with my chicken tenders.  Weatherford is a nice little town, so getting in out of the heat there, and giving the Elantra an hour’s rest, made perfect sense.

Next was the Texas Panhandle, a far more magnificent place than many people might see.  My remorse came from not giving old Texas Tidbits enough of a heads-up, as I approached Amarillo.  So, it happened that my only Texas stops were gassing up in McLean and a short meditative visit to the rest stop off I-40, at Alanreed.

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Despite the ominous clouds, I did not get so much as a drop on my windshield today.

After leaving Texas behind, I made two stops in eastern New Mexico, dinner at K-Bob’s, in Tucumcari, taking advantage of the chain’s delicious catfish plate and generous salad bar, then gassing up at a Mom and Pop store in Milagro- just because the young couple are making a heartfelt effort to revive the windswept little settlement.

Finally, the day ended at one of Moriarty’s oldest inns: Sunset Motel.  The widowed daughter-in-law of the motel’s founders runs this place with a velvet fist.  Her business acumen and graciousness do not clash- which I find admirable and reassuring.  She keeps her late husband’s and in-laws’ legacy running very smoothly.

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The 2018 Road, Day 38: Memphis, Part 3-Resolute, Whilst Sitting On A Beale Street Sidewalk

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July 2, 2018, Memphis-

The man to whom I am referring, in the above subtitle, was one of a relative few who were sitting in various spots, along Memphis’ touristy and bustling Beale Street, “Birthplace of the Blues”.  I had no green in my wallet, and so gave him a few quarters-though I generally avoid such donations.  He is a man my age, though, and probably served in “the Nam”, which tends to be more of a bond than many might understand. So, I dug in my pocket.  Of course, it was something of an insult and he yelled in protest, as I made my way back towards my car, parked just off the riverfront.  He struck me as being altogether determined to survive and maintain his place in that particular spot.

There is, in Memphis, a publication called The Bridge, which is sold in tourist areas.  I bought one, from a man working the parking lot of the National Civil Rights Museum.  Ironically, the lead article was about the last regular occupant of Lorraine Motel, who was evicted to make way for its conversion into a tourist venue.  She stands, most days, across the street from the Museum, holding a protest sign and calling for more humane treatment of the very people for whom Dr. King fought.

I did notice, as well, there was a certain hardness about the people, mainly African-American, who were working in the Museum. As cogent and compelling as the subject matter was to me, to them, it seemed like just a job-from the no-nonsense ticket seller to the bored young lady sitting in a nearly empty gift shop, in the annex, across from Lorraine Motel.

I carefully parked my Hyundai in a lot one block from Beale Street.  The place is a sanitized version of the place known by W.C. Handy and B.B. King, and tourists, many of whom perhaps have buried their own Blues, were in full force on this Monday afternoon.  I contented myself with buying one t-shirt, actually one of two trinkets I’ve picked up, this journey.  (The other was a “Moose” t-shirt from Ausable Chasm.) I might have dropped into one of the several restaurants that line the five-block area, but Arcade took care of my hunger, very well.  Beale Street is an area that is worth visiting, at least once. On another trip this way, I would figure to spend more time in places like Sun Studios.

Here are some Beale Street scenes.

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Above, is the west entrance to the entertainment district.  Below, the Orpheum Theater has hosted a good many musical events, for nine decades.

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The name, itself, tells all.

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Here is a view of the heart of Beale Street.

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I got my t-shirt at Beale Street Gifts, an unpretentious and very busy little shop. In the background is the east entrance to the district.

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I came across this sculpture, in Beale Street’s small park, just after my encounter with the leonine man on the sidewalk.

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The widely revered, but tortured, Elvis Presley will always be a part of Memphis.

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Leaving Beale Street, I spent a short time on Memphis’ Riverwalk, paying my respects to the Big Muddy.

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On the river, many visitors took in the sights from one of two river boats.  Here is the Memphis Queen.

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A smaller vessel took visitors further upriver, to the north side of downtown, near Mud Island.

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As I prepared to head towards Arkansas, one last look uptown was in order.  The Pyramid will be on a future itinerary-if for no other reason than that it is there.  Pyramids, even commercial ones, are symbols of hope and unity.

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I crossed the I-55 bridge, wending my way past West Memphis and cruising through Arkansas, stopping only for a light convenience store supper, in Conway.  Sallisaw, OK offered the night’s lodging, at Sallisaw Inn.  The town seems to have grown a bit, since I was here in 2016.

 

 

The 2018 Road, Day 38: Memphis, Part 2- Martin and The Mountain Top

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July 2, 2018, Memphis-

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From the time I was a nine-year-old, trying my best to vicariously understand why Black people were struggling for the same rights my parents seemed to have, I have been fascinated by people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Fannie Lou Hamer.  Rosa Parks and her story came a bit later to my consciousness, when I was in high school, and the works of Langston Hughes were part of our tenth grade English curriculum.

The murders of Emmett Till, the children in the Birmingham church bombing, the Civil Rights workers in both Alabama and Mississippi, Medgar Evers- all hit me hard.  I remember my Dad being pissed about the assassination of Malcolm X- “He was just starting to be reasonable”. It struck me that maybe that dialogue with White America was what got Malcolm killed; that maybe the powers that be don’t want the common folk to get along.  His death turned me from Goldwater youth to angry leftist radical.  The common denominator, for both alt-Right and Far Left seems to be the sense that the poor are just fodder-for those with money to burn.  1968 just added gasoline to my fire.

Time has made me recognize the complexity of the whole ball of wax.  I remain committed to a solid implementation of social justice, though, and visiting the National Civil Rights Museum brought me to my knees, in silent, shaking tears.

Martin Luther King, Jr, indeed made it to the mountain top. While his last physical gaze was at the eastern edge of downtown Memphis, his spiritual gaze saw the heights of recovery from a deeply-embedded misogyny, from a dalliance with classism and Marxism and from narrow focus on the cause of Black folk.  He spoke of, and was moving towards, leaving no one out:  Opposition to the Vietnam War was a part of his new credo, but so was the plight of hardscrabble farmers and miners in Appalachia and the Ozarks. Forging ties with La Raza Unida and Native American activists was a rising tide, but so was listening to the children of European immigrants who were living increasingly precarious lives, in poor urban neighbourhoods and rural slums, alike.

So, my morning was focused, in three museums in and around  Lorraine Motel.

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This establishment had been one of a relative handful of inns, across the country, where African-Americans could stay in safety, whilst traveling.

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In the main hall, there are replicas of key episodes in the Civil Rights struggle. Below, is a depiction of Rosa Parks, taking her rightful place on a Montgomery bus.

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This credo has been, to varying extents, followed by the greatest of those who have sought to bring about meaningful change.

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Those kids were my age, or younger, and that this did not matter to the bombers will forever burn in my heart.

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These two bedroom photos show the room occupied by  Dr. King (top) and by one of his top aides(bottom).

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This museum, across the street from the Lorraine, features two floors that exhibit details and archives of the assassination and the investigation into James Earl Ray and his suspected associates.    The  killings of other key figures of the Civil Rights Era are also examined here.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

My evolution, as a compassionate soul, is far from finished.  Being a “woke white man” is a worthy goal, but I still feel a bit drowsy.  This has nothing to do with my visiting places associated with the Confederacy or pondering conservative statements:  One must know what the “other side” thinks, and why, if there is to be a lasting peace in society, and in the world.

Lastly, before heading to the musically significant Beale Street, I stopped for a late lunch at one of Memphis’ oldest eateries.  The Arcade has been around since 1959.  The crew definitely made me feel at home, at the counter.  I’ll be back again.

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The 2018 Road, Day 37: All The Way To Memphis

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July 1, 2018, Memphis-

With apologies to the campy 1970’s band, Mott The Hoople, the above title just jumped at me.  Driving clear across Tennessee in one day would ordinarily be wasteful-no Nashville stops, blowing past Jackson and no diversion to Shiloh or to the Land Between the Lakes. Time is getting short, though, for my stated intention is to get back to Prescott, sometime on July 4, rest up and then do a few days of service at a Baha’i camp, west of Flagstaff.

In the meantime, though, a day or so in Grind City has been long overdue.  I had contacted a friend in the Nashville area, and she turned out to be busy, so after saying farewell to Laureen and Chuck, and making a snap decision to take lunch at Country Kitchen (cute waitress wanted to go to Memphis with me, but that’s another story), I headed out of Crossville, bypassed Nashville and bore on to Jackson, making a brief refueling stop.

Hostel Memphis is a faith-based center, properly called Pilgrim House, in the midst of Memphis’ hip Cooper-Young neighbourhood, in Midtown.  In addition to the hostel, the organization offers separate programs to assist the homeless and needy families.  No Memphis residents, save the staff, are allowed to stay in the hostel.  Shelters are dispersed, elsewhere throughout the city.

I entered here.

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and was permitted to exit here.

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This evening was well-spent, on a Cooper-Young walkabout.

In the immediate vicinity of the hostel, there is a food bank, with a cafe for low income people.  It would not open until 11, on Monday morning, so I had no chance to visit, with the Museum of Civil Rights being on my itinerary, by then.

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The storage unit of Pilgrim House is right next to a playground, so it is dressed up for the occasion.

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Walking further, to the corner of Cooper and Young, I found a number of inviting restaurants and chose Young Avenue Deli.

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The atmosphere was one of modest young partyers, still all having a great time.  I took a table by a window, watching both the antics of a little girl “feeding” her stuffed animal, on the outside patio, and those inside, teasing one another and posturing for people they found attractive.  I find it life-affirming, to be among the younger generations, making the world over, as they see fit.

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After a satisfying Reuben plate, served by a steel and velvet, tattooed waitress, I strolled further down Cooper Street, finding unique little shops.  This little shelter is devoted entirely to the needs of cats.

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It is neither safe, nor legal, to climb up the berm to this railroad overpass, but it surely is a joy to see from below.

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This mural, across the street from an ice cream parlour that’s attached to Railgarten Diner, is one of several that celebrate Memphis’ diversity.  I felt very much at home here, whilst walking and licking away at a double scoop mint chip cone.

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That, in a nutshell, is, to me, the whole purpose of traveling as I do:  Expanding my feelings of being at home, and of who my family is.

NEXT:  The National Civil Rights Museum

 

Back to The (Changeable) Future

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August 19, 2018, Prescott-

“You’ve lost your shimmer!”- So I was told, this morning.

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Before sitting down for the last four posts of “The 2018 Road”, let me indulge with some reflections on yesterday.  August 18 has been an auspicious day, since 1984, when my then best friend passed on, suddenly, in the midst of getting his truck unstuck-of all things.

I joined a newly welcomed friend, on a hike around Lynx Lake.  We walked at a leisurely pace, from the north trailhead to the south side of the lake.  As it was rather sunny when we got to the small south side beach, I suggested that we continue, counterclockwise, along the more rocky eastern shore.

In all my circumference hikes along the lake, the last being in 2016, the trail has been dry as a bone.  It was not so, today, with three water crossings along the east side-hardly surprising in a monsoon that has been second to none, as Lynx Creek and Salida Creek flow into the lake, from the east and the dam’s spillway has a few inches of water flowing.

So, we each had a new experience, she with the lake itself and I with the different dynamics of the trail, in wet conditions. Then, there was a spot where the trail was washed out and I had to follow a bushwhacked area, much to the chagrin of the five people who were “depending on (my) knowledge of the trail.”  All made it back to the north side safely, though.

In the course of this hike, a long conversation ensued, about who I was and where I was headed in life, as well as the same, to a lesser extent, with respect to my hiking partner.  Most of this is confidential, but I will share a couple of insights she had about me, which explains the remark at the head of this post.

The things I can share are: 1.  I would do well to get out more, socially.  2.  I need to be open to possible sudden, drastic, very specific life changes.  These remarks, she said just by looking at me.  The second has occurred to me recently, given the precarious state of my MIL’s health, and despite her (MIL’s) occasional insistence that she will make it to the age of 100, (she is 92), and to my son and his fiance talking of marriage, within the next ten months (No further specifics yet, so please don’t ask).  As for the former, I am getting out more, socially.   Intuition is a marvelous thing, though, as I’ve found out, some of it puts one at risk of, “Well, duh!”, in response.  No one really likes to be  second-guessed.

 

The 2018 Road, Day 36: A Tennessee Nirvana

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June 30, 2018, Crossville-

I relaxed last night away, binge watching some True Crime series with my host, Chuck.  Being of a similar age and temperament, we get along very well.  His wife, Laureen, who invited me in the first place, was not far away, but was busy with some prep for today’s pool party and barbecue.

As it happened, the event was  attended  by two of  L’s siblings, her sister’s cute friend and the friend’s elderly father.  We splashed around, ate our fill of Chuck’s grilled treats, and various salads and casseroles served up by the ladies.  It was low key, but just the sort of thing that my peripatetic soul needed, after resuming a headlong itinerary, between Spring Hill and here.

The setting was divine.  The ladies, including the comely friend, preferred to either not be photographed or that the photos remain off social media.  As always, I comply with this request.  The property, though, is salubrious, and I am grateful to Laureen and Chuck for greeting me so warmly.  Crossville thus becomes yet another link in my cross-country chain of homes.

Here are some views of the Tennessee Nirvana (my term).

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A party does not have to be huge, to be joyful or memorable.

NEXT UP:  Memphis, for Lovers and Fighters

The 2018 Road, Day 35: One Good Ville to Another

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June 29, 2018, Crossville, TN-

I sent a text message to an online friend in Asheville, who would not have time for a short visit, and another to a friend in Knoxville, thinking she might be joining what I figured would be a gathering of old Xanga friends, tomorrow, in this town in the western foothills of Appalachia.

I spent time in both cities, en route to my destination.  After bidding farewell to W, I headed north to I-40, then west to Asheville, stopping for an hour’s introduction to what is sure to be a key stop on future journeys across the South.  I have said, and meant, that about so many places, that I may as well hop on a Greyhound local and be done with it.  The thought is comforting, though, to say the least. It’s nice to feel welcomed, whether in new places or old.

Here are some scenes of downtown Asheville.   Here is the lobby of Asheville Community Theater, with its stage areas both to the right and extending eastward from the lobby.

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From this spot, near my parking place, on the north side, I walked back towards the city center.  Art deco towers are not common in Appalachia, but the Jackson Building, built on the site of a tombstone shop run by William Oliver Wolfe, the father of novelist Thomas Wolfe, is such a building.

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This braided girl, inspired perhaps by Wolfe’s “Look Homeward, Angel”, is one of several statues that grace downtown.

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Zebulon Baird Vance, like so many figures of the Confederacy, was a mass of contradictions.  He reportedly taught some slaves to read, though that was never confirmed.  A life-long Christian, he strongly advocated for total religious freedom, and fought against anti-Semitism.  He sincerely believed that freed slaves were being manipulated by the Federal government and needed a time of separation from whites, thus his insistence on imposing racial segregation in North Carolina, during his post-war term as governor.  This unfortunate series of actions has re-ignited a debate, as to whether his name should be removed from this obelisk, in Pack Square.  Asheville, in recent years, has been a socially forward-thinking community. So, the Vance Memorial is something of an anomaly.

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One other unique feature of Pack Square is a series of farm animal sculptures, whose purpose is unclear.

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West of Pack Square, there are a number of small cafes. Being in the mood for a Cubano, I chose Bomba Latin Cafe.  The place was a friendly introduction to Asheville’s active foodie scene and the sandwich was all a Cubano should be- freshly shaved pork, with shredded cabbage and small, diced bits of Habanero pepper, on a freshly-baked bun.

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Well-nourished, I got back to my car, with six minutes to spare.  I got in one more full view of downtown, from Pack Square, before heading back onto the freeway. Asheville City Hall is visible, in the background.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I had plenty of company, headed west, as I-40 was packed with People headed to the Great Smokies.  Once past the exits to Boone, Cherokee and Gatlinburg, the sailing was a bit smoother. My primary stop in Knoxville was to service my Elantra, at Big O Tires.  Being expected in Crossville by 5:30, or so, I headed straight here, once the service was finished.  Knoxville has a some places of fascination, not the least of which is my online friend’s art gallery.  These wait for a visit more focused on that area.

Settling in to the serene home of L and C, I look forward to tomorrow’s gathering, however large or small it may turn out to be.

The 2018 Road, Day 34: The Door Never Closes

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June 28, 2018, Salisbury, NC-

I first encountered W, in 2002, when he arrived in Phoenix, from his native Liberia.  At that time, he was recovering from a severe injury and was one of thousands of refugees from his then-war torn homeland.  He had been a journalist, writing for Monrovia’s daily newspaper, when his injuries occurred.

Like more than a few Africans living in Phoenix, he became a trusted friend and we have maintained a correspondence, ever since.  He has left Arizona and is now comfortably settled in a simple home, in this pleasant city of the Piedmont.  Salisbury is about an hour northeast of Charlotte, and seems to not have, as yet, become saddled with major urban sprawl.

I woke to a calm morning, in Timmonsville, about two hours further southeast of here.  As I suspected, there is an unnamed breakfast and lunch counter, inside the Mobil Station.  I walked across the street and discovered The Hot Plate- more than the microwave stand I had suspected would be there.  Instead, an effusive man of about 35 and a shy girl, who seemed to be about 15, were behind a full-service breakfast & lunch counter.  The man took my order and both set to work, he on the sausage and the girl on the eggs and pancakes.  She brought a fabulous breakfast plate to my small table, in eight minutes’ time.  Several other people- mostly customers, plus two women who seemed to have some role in running the show, came in and out during my leisurely breakfast.   After paying my bill, and giving the bemused girl a healthy tip, I reflected that places like The Hot Plate are what keep small-town America connected with the open road.  I would go in there again, were I to find myself in Timmonsville-or, as this sign would have it, in

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I headed, in earnest, towards Salisbury, and arrived at W’s place in a couple of hours.  There, a comfortable bed for the night, and a steaming pot of Liberian pork stew, with heaping portions of rice, awaited.  African hospitality is second to none-even in the simplest of homes.

On the way there, I picked up a few more gift items, as a few families in the small town of Mc Bee, SC were holding a fund-raiser and the bake sale was too good to pass up.  Mc Bee is also notable for this:

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Salisbury has several solid Federal period and Beaux  Arts era architectural gems.  I stopped to note  a few of these, whilst driving towards W’s apartment.

Perhaps most prominent, from the east, is the Bell Tower of First Presbyterian Church.

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Driving westward, St. John’s Lutheran Church becomes equally impressive.

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In Salisbury’s Veteran’s Cemetery, this memorial to World War II dead is at the western gate to the grounds.

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This is the old Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, west of the cemetery.

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I found a most happy W, waiting outside his apartment complex.  It’s been a while since he had any visitors from out of town.

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Here is a view of the park, down the street from his complex.

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After my hearty lunch of stew and rice, W and I walked to a Walgreen’s where I could get a spare dental care kit, as mine was possibly lost. I also got a spare razor and blades, while W talked of his joyful walks along Salisbury’s main commercial street.  He keeps away from the Confederate Memorial that greets the traveler coming in from the East.  Otherwise, he has walked all over the town, making friends as he goes.

I found, however, that there was little evidence of racial tension here, as W’s  White cross street neighbours were quite cordial, and there was plenty of friendly interaction during my own downtown visit.

Rowan County Courthouse is an impressive Federal Era structure.  This block celebrates George Washington’s visit here, following the American Revolution.

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The same detail has kept the County Administration Building in good repair, for over 150 years.

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Away from downtown, the west and south sides feature several older gems.  Below, is Chambers House, from the Revolutionary Period.

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Here is another view of the Bell Tower, as it is near Chambers House.

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This tiny salt box house was the Henderson Law Office, built in 1796.

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I spent a few moments checking out a south side block, from whence there is another fine view of the Bell Tower.

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Here is a three-part look at the south side’s finest mural, entitled “Crossroads-Past Into Present”.  It shows Salisbury life, circa 1900 and was completed in 2001.  The artists are Cynvia Rankin, Earle Kluttz and Raines Thompson.  Ms. Rankin was the primary artist on this project, commissioned by  Rowan Art Guild.

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W and I spent a great deal of time just talking of life in Arizona, as compared to North Carolina.  The latter is certainly a less frenetic and cheaper place to live, by and large.  He also told me much about Liberia, and his journalistic experience during the country’s Civil War.  We watched a lengthy Baha’i video, as well.  Our conversation tended to be more far ranging than those we’ve had over the phone. W speaks at a fast clip, so line of sight works better for me, in understanding him.

It has been another relaxing day, though, knowing I am in a place of friendship.

NEXT:  Across the Great Smokies, to Crossville

 

The 2018 Road, Day 33: High Life in the Low Country

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June 27, 2018, Timmonsville, SC-

Many lovely days, over the years, have been spent in places not exactly mapped out or put on an itinerary.  Today,  I made an early start, out of Spring Hill, with the aim of reaching somewhere in the Carolinas, before calling it a night.   I bid farewell to W and the dogs, with  Mother still asleep.  A stop at Staples was necessary, to pick up a carrying case for this laptop, before heading up the back highway towards I-10.

I stopped on the east side of Ocala, at a Huddle House, getting a loaded burger-a break from the more Spartan fare I gave myself, over the three days at the “Beach House” (named for its Beach Street location, rather than proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, which is ten miles away).  Huddle House is a football-themed chain, found in the South, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions.  It seems fairly reliable and put me very close to Interstate 10.

I also stopped at the Florida Citrus outlet, in Macclenny, to pick up some jars of marmalade- one for a friend I plan to visit, tomorrow, and one for some friends in Tennessee.   Then it was on to I-95 and through Georgia, once again, to the lowland interior of South Carolina.  I would be passing east of Louis Gregory Baha’i Institute, this time, and focusing on a backroads route towards Salisbury, NC, where another Baha’i friend lives.

This route brought me to Walterboro, just in time for a simple, but well-varied Southern buffet, at Olde House Cafe.

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Walterboro has some fine architecture, in its downtown,  but rain was setting in, and I had the idea of getting closer to the North Carolina state line.  The rain got worse, though, the further north I drove, and after another hour of dealing with the elements and the approaching nightfall, I stopped in Timmonsville, at a Budget Inn.  The place is also clean and fairly inexpensive, like its counterparts in Ocala and Elkhart, IN.   There looks to be some sort of breakfast place, attached to the gas station across the road, so tomorrow may well be off to a good start.

 

The 2018 Road, Days 30-32: A Break from Driving

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June 24-26, 2018, Spring Hill, FL-

This is a photo-less,  nearly driving-free post.  I spent Sunday night in Ocala, a good stopping place en-route to/from the Nature Coast and points further down Florida’s mid-Gulf region.  Other than being tailgated around a church parking lot, by an older man who demanded to know what I was doing therpoe, Ocala was a friendly enough place.

I got to my in-laws’ house, in Spring Hill, around 10:30.  Fortunately, W was home and Mother was up and dressed.  These three days were largely spent watching old movies (TCM) and coddling the two dogs.

I did get a couple of dips in the salubrious pool, with Bella (younger dog) happily joining in the splashing and laps.  Her more cautious “older brother” was content to lay around and watch us.

The most momentous thing that happened was that I bought this laptop, its mouse and case. The device is lighter weight than the War Horse was, and thus easier to tote around.  Nevertheless, I found myself missing the Lenovo and hoping it is at least being used for peaceful purposes, if it is even still running.

The weather was a bit on the tortuous side, so none of us spent much time outdoors. W went to visit her horses, but unlike in December, I did not join her.  AC becomes addicting.  We took all of our meals at home.  Mother appreciated that part.

It’s been a peaceful break from the road. I will head out tomorrow again, with my goal being  the middle of South Carolina, by evening.