July 28, 2021- When stopping for a meal, traveling alone, I like to sit at the counter, if one is available. It often gives a chance to converse with the server(s) and anyone else who happens to be sitting nearby. This evening, dropping into The Wiggly Pig, in Cortez, it gave the young server, who was fairly sweltering, a chance to express her feelings about the “Swamp Cooler” A/C system. The rooftop box set-up is financially efficient, but does little to provide comfort to anyone doing physical labour, within. I noticed the cook didn’t look too happy, either, when he emerged from the back, momentarily. He did, however, serve up a fabulous bleu cheese burger.
The journey back to Prescott was serene, and comfortable, offering a chance to recap.
Amarillo: Wes was a bit quieter than usual. I was the one yakking away, though I forget what about. Smoky Joe’s did give me a chance to give back to him, for all the times he has been a gracious host.
Grapevine: It’s always relaxing to be with my little family. Son has reached his “Third of a Century” mark, and is growing into something of a paternal role-even if the children are still in the future. He looked after me, and got my Bluetooth installed in the car-and made certain Elantra was not a toxic environment. Life in this apartment complex seems more satisfying-with more families than single men, clustered in groups.
Tulsa: Approaching my Greenwood District visit, by stopping first at Sherman, TX, offered a prologue to the study of the 1921 Massacre-as one of the key families in Greenwood had moved there from Sherman. The little north Texas town would, itself, have a few days of infamy, in 1930. Greenwood’s slaughter has, thankfully, not prevented people of colour from rebounding-and those who have gone on to succeed in life are less likely to suffer depredations than their predecessors of a hundred years ago.
Memphis: Many people wonder why I stop here. It’s about the heritage-and making note of the pockets of vibrant culture that sustain what is actually a wonderful hub of art and musi: Beale Street, Sun Studio, Cooper-Young District, and the area around the Museum of Civil Rights. Yes, the parking lots are scruffy and Super 8, by the river, was a bit on the rough and tumble side, but I’ll take those as trade-offs for the cultural richness and youthful energy that transcend the heat and humidity.
Crossville: Another place of extended family, who have my well-being in mind. The pond, the unique pets, the interesting conversations that flow from talk of travel, independent businesses and the history of people of colour in Massachusetts-these made for a sweet two-day respite. The hike to Fall Creek Falls, in the rain, no less, just accented how soothing the little plot of paradise can be.
Harrisonburg: Two years away from another of my homes away from home made only a slight difference. I miss Jess and Mike, but Duke’s has taken up where Artful Dodger left off. Dan and Naomi are doing just fine-and there is Village Inn, to provide comfort after a long slog up the Appalachian spine. Any number of interesting small cities and historic districts may be found, either south or north of “H”, as well. Though I could have done without encountering the voice from the past, at White’s Fort, in Knoxville, one does need to remember that such people are not uncommon, and patience is still needed, to a degree.
Oley: Glick’s is undergoing quite a transformation-Next Gen horticulture is going to be as fabulous as what has come before it, if not more so. As much as I enjoy visits with Beth, it was a pleasure to get to know Dave and the crew better. My D’s stopover, this time out, left me concerned for the well-being of the “May/November” crew, in a rare period of swelter. I tend to be very concerned for the young people, especially the women, I encounter- being patriarchic and avuncular comes naturally, after my upbringing.
Saugus: The town of my childhood is no longer “hometown”, per se. Mom is in the next town northward. Family still abounds, nearby, though, and I had a long overdue visit with dearly cherished cousins, in nearby Lynn. It was a pleasure to honour my brother and sister-in-law, for all they have done, and are doing. Mother herself is adjusting to her “new apartment” and still has the spunk that inspired me to achieve. Hammersmith Inn is still there, serving great breakfasts-and I noted a competitor, uptown’s Iron Town Diner-maybe next spring.
Maine and New Hampshire: Another long overdue visit, with cherished cousins, and along a beautiful stretch of Maine coast, highlighted this day. Stonewall Kitchens is a fine place to stop, perhaps for a breakfast, but definitely for gift shopping, ahead of any visits further afield. The solemnity of my visit to the graves of an aunt, uncle and cousin, who were veterans, was broken by the sudden cold rain that had me rush back to the car. What’s past is prologue-and seemed to be a short-lived trend: I had my third dinner, in five days, at a Ninety-Nine Restaurant, as the place in Augusta was just outside the cemetery. Maine’s and New Hampshire’s capitols grace two fine historical towns: Augusta and Concord, respectively. I just wish Concord had few more places of accommodation-though Holiday Inn filled the bill nicely.
New York and Pennsylvania: I will definitely make time, in the future, for a day or so in Albany, if for the architecture, alone. D’s was much more comfortable this time around, and a very strong-willed and proactive young lady seemed very much in charge, even though the owners were present, and interacting with the regulars. DuBois is a nice little town for an overnight stop.
Mishawaka: It’s just good plain fun to stop and visit with Val and Mark. That I took a wrong turn, abetted by a balky GPS system, and ended up just over the line, in Michigan, was a non-event, though it made for a late dinner. I learned to turn the phone off and back on, thus picking up the WiFi that WAS available.
Chicagoland and Wisconsin: It is ever a joy to stop at the Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, north of Chicago. The price is always to participate in the Windy City’s eternal rush hour, but no matter- I have an EZ Pass transponder now. I only need to plan ahead and load the account. That the Temple is as much of a draw for visitors as ever, brings joy to my heart. Madison offers a shimmering and impressive Wisconsin State Capitol-easily accessible.
Twin Cities: What a joy it was to meet members of the family’s Minnesota branch-and to learn of their Arizona connection. Family is family, and being blended just adds that much more strength to the unit. I feel a tight bond with cousins Darah and Amarah, and their crew.
St. Paul has an impressive Minnesota State Capitol-and Cathedral. George Floyd Square- in honour of an unassuming man, who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, has brought disparate people together- and has brought focus onto the underlying shared humanity of us all. This was easily the most interesting experience, on a most interesting journey.
Great Plains Highways: Fairmont is Anytown, but it was special to meet Tericca, an engaging soul who came here from the Phoenix area, and who has a special appreciation for the back country of the Plains. Why I didn’t take more time to make sure the radiator cap was on properly, I’ll never know, but it was a good reminder-even though I had to sit for four hours, while a skilled mechanic, named Alex, gave my car’s cooling system a complete once-over. Falls Park is a fine reason to visit Sioux Falls, and a great place for locals to spend the three-digit summer days. Making it as far as York, NE, after the car service, was indeed a near miracle.
Castle Rock: It was a sublime surprise to find Max’s Diner, near the junction of I-80 and I-76. Navigating detours and road construction is just part of the deal, in summer travel. Max’s, with hand-made burgers, is a true gem, in a place called Big Springs, NE. Castle Rock, south of Denver, has experienced explosive growth, in the five years since I was last through this way. It was joyful, though, to be surrounded by young families, even to be next door to three very chatty and outspoken little boys.
Down the 160: This route feels like home to me, in so many spots. I could stay in Walsenburg, Fort Garland, Del Norte, Pagosa Springs, Mancos, or Cortez, and feel right at home. Alamosa, Monte Vista and Durango are a bit congested, but are also fine places to visit for a day or so-maybe longer, in the Fall. Del’s Diner (Fort Garland) is an unassuming spot, with plain fare, but the ladies are supremely gracious to all who stop for a meal. I miss the old “hippie” spot in Del Norte, and didn’t see anything that has taken its place. The drive over Wolf Creek Pass featured rain, in buckets. In Cortez, it’s always a coin flip: Wiggly Pig or The Farm Bistro. This evening, Wiggly won the toss. Love that Blu Burger! The rest of the road, through Dinetah, Flagstaff and the Verde Valley, just required that I stayed awake. Even with no place to get a cup of coffee, I found it easy to manage.
Tomorrow is S-Day (for Snip) and I will be well-rested for it.