July Road Notes, Day 22: Too Slight a Twist, and then…Sizzle

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July 26, 2021, York, NE- The auto heating and cooling technician took a hard look under Elantra’s hood, then a hard glance at me, and went to work on the grizzled grey one, having set aside a few other projects, that I might go on towards home, by day’s end. It turned out to be a simple matter.

The day started tamely enough, with continental breakfast at the Super 8, Fairmont, MN and a serene drive through the prairie of western Minnesota, to Sioux Falls, with the INTENT of taking in the Queen City’s signature Falls Park, and heading on to Nebraska. Wouldn’t you know, though, that in checking the water level of Elantra’s radiator, I managed to not put it on as tightly as I thought?

The piper came calling, as I drove out of Falls Park, towards I-229. The radiator’s warning signal came dinging (not silently, like the “Check Engine” light, but earnestly. I managed to turn the blower off and found an auto body shop parking lot, let the receptionist know why I was there, and called AAA. An hour later, I had added water to the radiator, determined there were no leaks and Elantra was loaded onto the tow bed. Four hours after that, the good folks at Twelfth Street Auto Care, on the west side of Sioux Falls,had squeezed Elantra into their already impossible schedule, determined that SOMEONE had not tightened the radiator cap properly, and that there were no other problems with the grizz. Properly chagrined, I thanked all concerned, profusely, and headed out.

Now, back to Falls Park. It was discovered by early settlers, in the 1850s, though the Yankton Sioux people had long celebrated the beauty and bounty of the cascades along the Big Sioux River. https://www.siouxfalls.org/parks/parks/locations/falls-park

Here are some scenes of my meanderings that followed a fine picnic lunch.

Foreground, Falls Park, Sioux Falls
A view of the lower Falls, from an observation deck
Local volunteers clean up algae and debris
The upper Falls
Ruins of the Queen Bee Flour Mill, destroyed by fire, in 1956.
The bed of Big Sioux River

It is not the Big Sioux at its fullest flow, which suited the many families who came to visit, just fine. Falls Park is a marvelous place for whiling away hot summer days-at it is expected to hit 102, in Sioux Falls, on Wednesday.

Thanks to Alex and Josh, I won’t be there. Instead, on towards Nebraska I rolled, through Elk Point and Jefferson, taking care to give a little girl on her bike, a slow and wide berth. (Jefferson is still the type of town that many of us knew, growing up, where such activities were the norm.) Sioux City came next, along with a casino town, to tis south. In both cases, restaurants were shuttered, due to lack of staff ( a temporary, but still nettlesome issue). I finally hit upon an Applebee’s, in Fremont, NE, getting a satisfying meal, despite the laconic and distracted bar tender/server.

Yorkshire Inn, in this I-80 town, became my resting place for the evening. Tomorrow, it’s on to North Platte, Sterling, Denver and as far beyond as I can get by 7 p.m. MDT.

July Road Notes, Day 18: Raging Cascades and A Thriving Work Ethic

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July 22, 2021, Du Bois, PA– The earnest young lady seemed not to take more than a moment’s rest, as the crowd in D’s Diner enjoyed their somewhat late Thursday evening dinners. I got there around 7:30, having decided to take I-80 West, instead of New York’s Southern Tier-as it was getting towards dusk-and familiarity counts for something, at night. I enjoyed a dish I have not eaten in 35 years: Chicken croquettes-and they were every bit as good as I recall. The AC issue has been fixed, and both of the owners were in the dining room, reminding me of my friends at Zeke’s. The hostess/all trades person, whom I mentioned at the top, was also making sure that the operation was top shelf. She has “cover girl” good looks, but it is always personality and ingenuity that stay in my mind, when encountering a new person, anymore. That young woman is going to go places; initiative matters.

The day started in Concord, NH, with a walk around the Capitol District. The seat of government is undergoing some renovation, as you will note.

New Hampshire State Library
New Hampshire State Capitol, from an alley.
New Hampshire’s pre-eminent statesman
New Hampshire State Capitol, Concord

After leaving Concord, it was time to head towards Vermont. I made a drive through Hanover, NH and Dartmouth College, briefly noting the Ivy League institution’s architecture.

Summer classes ar ein swing, Dartmouth College
Main Chapel, Dartmouth College

Then, I stopped in the small towns of Springfield and Bellows Falls, as it was around lunch time. I went into Flying Crow Coffee Shop, complimented the owner on the touch of class that her shop brings to Springfield, and shared her joy at the lovely park, behind the shop, that celebrates the Cascades of the Black River.

Comtu Cascades, Black River, Springfield, VT
Flying Crow Coffee Company, Springfield, VT

As there was no food being served at Flying Crow, and since none of the restaurants she mentioned were open, I headed to Bellows Falls, and came upon Little Lisai’s Corner Deli. It is a smaller operation of the Lisai family, who have been in Bellows for several years, and who once had a larger market. Brent Lisai and his small crew offer top notch salads, soups and sandwiches, in the tradition of the great delicatessens of New England and Upstate New York mill towns. Yes, I grew up in such a town, and this deli passes muster.

Crossing southern Vermont and into the TriCities of the Hudson Valley, I made note that Albany, although the butt of many hipster jokes, is full of exquisite architecture, and would be a great place to spend a day or two, in the near future. Maybe it can be on the return leg of an anticipated Cross-Canada & northern states jaunt, next May and June.

After the aforementioned dinner, I drove across Pennsylvania’s northern tier, and ended up at Du Bois Mansion Motel. The titular mansion is seen below, a remnant of Du Bois’s paper mill days.

Du Bois Mansion

July Road Notes, Day 14: Drizzle and Sizzle

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July 18, 2021, Saugus- I woke, surprisingly refreshed, at the Econolodge, in Sharon, MA, this morning. With a clearer sense of location, the route was south to Red, White and Brew Coffee House, which shares a space with a local artists’ venue, called The Budding Violet, in North Smithfield, R.I.. A young Exceptional Abilities man, and his parents, are the driving force behind RWB. I first learned of this establishment in 2019, and planned to visit it last summer, but we know how things went.

The family was pleased that their shop was included on this itinerary, but I can’t envision not going there, and certainly will do so, in subsequent trips to New England. I will be more careful to make reservations at a reputable place of accommodations, next time.

Red, White and Brew Coffee House/The Budding Violet Gallery, North Smithfield, R.I.
A planter, offered by The Budding Violet
Words of Wisdom

The weather here has been rainy, over the past few days and will remain so, tomorrow, it is forecast. I should like to move some of the rain that both the Northeast and the Southwest have been receiving lately, and share it with the sizzling, burning Northwest. The heartbreak is palpable, as some are going through their third and fourth summers, in a row, of being on Ready, Set, Go status.

I will be here in Saugus, for another two days, and am pleased that Mom appears well, is asserting her independence and has adopted a “Don’t worry, be happy” outlook. Being a nonagenarian does allow for such liberties. She was the consummate social conscience for a great many years. That social conscience was transferred to me, early on, and so it continues.

July Road Notes, Day 13: Happiness Is A Cold-Water Flat

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July 17, 2021, North Smithfield, RI- My visit with Dave Glick brought a different, but equally enjoyable, cast to this stop at the family’s greenhouse. Usually, Dave is busy with the operation, whilst Beth spends time with this visitor and fills me in on the family’s doings. This time, she was out of town and Dave was host. He happily explained the next phase of the operation, which will see centralization of the currently sprawling, and outdated, series of houses. This will bring the thriving enterprise forward, for the next several generations.

The springhouse will remain, and be renovated.

Glick’s Springhouse
One of Glick’s Greenhouses

I left Dave and the crew, around 10:30, and headed, in a zig-zag manner, northward. At one point, along I-78, a semitrailer blew a gasket and sat in the right hand lane, resulting in the rest of us waiting for 45 minutes, as the blocked lane cleared, one vehicle at a time merging with those in the left lane.

I got to D’s Diner, in Wiles-Barre, in time to have Linner, around 3:30 p.m. The two servers were clearly struggling in the warmer than usual dining room. I was most concerned about my waitress, Ann, a slightly built, older woman, but she was plowing through and encouraging her much younger co-worker, who at one point seemed ready to faint. I added my own words of encouragement, bringing a smile to the young woman’s face. I like D’s, but they need to do better, by their workers.

The traffic was lighter than usual, through the Hudson Valley and Connecticut. I was surprised to see a huge amount of traffic, coming the other way, exiting New England for the weekend-or maybe just trying to beat Sunday traffic. I got to what I THOUGHT was my room for the night, Quaker Inn and Conference Center, Uxbridge, MA, around 8:30 p.m. I was immediately told by the “attendant” (who was standing around outside) that the place was closed for renovation, that the hotel booking services were flooding him with guests and that I would have to somehow find another room somewhere else.

It was dark and rainy. I was tired and in no mood to either argue or surf my phone for the Hotels.com number and my confirmation code, so I left him and his two female friends- seeing as he would not let me into the Main House, for a source of light. Remember this place: Quaker Inn and Conference Center, and be forewarned. I will get to the bottom of it, tomorrow when I arrive at my more trustworthy next venue.

Five filled-to-the-brim motels later, I came upon an Econolodge, which had two available rooms. The rub was that the water heater was out, and would not be fixed until Monday. I took one of the rooms; the couple behind me took the other. Cold water is a mere trifle; after all, there were generations of urban dwellers in North America and Europe who made do with cold water flats, in the years before, and during, World War II. People in East Asia still bathe in cold water, during the summer months-and God knows how many people, across the globe, have no running water at all.

The day ended quite well.

July Road Notes, Day 9: Windy Road Out of Town

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July 13, 2021, Crossville, TN- Some places are easy to get in, and rather a stretch to exit. I-40, in the Memphis area is one such.

I woke fairly early, at the Super 8, near the National Museum of Metal and the Old French Fort, in Memphis’ Riverside District. Despite the rough and tumble veneer of the area, the place was actually quite safe. I had managed to get to this crowded and lively motel, last night, by taking the circuitous I-55 south-Riverside Drive detour, made necessary by the collapse of I-40’s bridge over the Mississippi River, between Memphis and West Memphis, earlier this year. The bridge is due to re-open around July 30, but here we are. The view of Old French Fort, from my balcony, was at least rather enchanting.

Old French Fort, near President’s Island, Memphis

Wanting to locate a comfortable coffee house in Memphis, to get at least a small bite of breakfast and some good java, I came upon a place listed as Bluff City Coffee and Bakery, diagonally across from the National Civil Rights Museum. It turns out to now be called Hustle & Dough– on the first floor of ARRIVE Boutique Hotel, serving Vice and Virtue Coffee. The vice is the delectable coffee-and maybe one or two of the shop’s richer pastries. The virtue is its line of teas, or so the story goes. “Hustle & Dough” is a play on the name of the 2005 film on Memphis life: Hustle and Flow.

Entrance to Hustle & Dough Coffee House/ARRIVE Hotel, Memphis

After breakfast came the fun part: Getting to I-40, headed east. It took about 45 minutes, through not-unreasonable traffic, to find an entry ramp to the eastbound 240, via U.S. Routes 78 and 72, and the business district of Memphis’ east side. The long and winding road set me eastward, finally and along with a front of storm clouds, producing a healthy amount of rain, I drove over to Wildersville, and Patty’s Southern Eatery. Ginger tried to get me to go with their mixed plate of the day which, as scrumptious as it looked, would have been much more than my capacity allowed-so Classic Southern Burger, it was. The lovely lady knew better than to even breathe the word “Cobbler”, and after a leisurely hour at Patty’s, I was headed back towards my friends’ place in this Appalachian foothills town, almost equidistant from Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga.

It is not a hard route, though, with I-840 as a wide by-pass of Nashville, or the main road through the state capital, with all of Music City’s diversions. I got in to Crossville, shot past the driveway to R and C’s place, opted not to try and turn around at a horseshoe drive, a bit further-as a sign said “No Trespassing” and the look on the face of the teenaged girl watching me underscored that warning. Rather than incur the mouthful of sass and vinegar that would surely have followed, I simply turned around in a nearby cul-de-sac. My friends, their three cats, rooster and Muscovy duck were waiting. Homemade pizza was not far behind. (I will take Miss Ginger up on the Plate of the Day, another time.)

July Road Notes, Day 8: Reconciliation

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July 12, 2021, Memphis- Over the years, I’ve been in places which have shaken my conscience and sense of justice: Wounded Knee, Silver Creek, Bosque Redondo, the Holocaust Museum of Jerusalem, Donjon de Jeanne d’Arc, the Concentration Camp at Berga. This morning’s visit to Greenwood District, on Tulsa’s North Side, had a very similar effect.

I began the morning in the Cathedral District, on the south side of Tulsa’s downtown. It is majestic, in a physical sense, with spires abounding-and not so much competing, as complementing one another. I present a few of these:

First United Methodist Church, Tulsa
Holy Family Cathedral, Tulsa
First Presbyterian Church, Tulsa
No spires, but still impressive: Church of Christ, Scientist, Tulsa

One must eat and drink, so I looked a bit, in the Cathedral District, and found this gem:

Foolish Things Coffee House!

Interior of Foolish Things Coffee House

After giving downtown its due, I headed to the sacred area that drew me to Tulsa, in the first place: Greenwood Historic District.

The signature mural of Greenwood District
Greenwood Cultural Center

The whole point of Greenwood’s emergence, in the early Twentieth Century, was to promote the very self-sufficiency, among Black Americans, that capitalists claimed to want. Yet, Oklahoma Governor Robertson, and his minions, including the commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, were complicit in the plan to put an end to “Black Wall Street”. All they needed was a spark. On May 31, 1921, it was reported that a black shoe shine man had brushed up against a white elevator operator, leading to allegations of attempted rape. Further, the founder of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, seeing a chance to destroy his competition, accused the Mann Brothers, who operated a highly successful grocery store, of fomenting a riot, when a group of black businessmen went to the Courthouse, to seek the shoe shine man’s release. The allegations of D.W. Gurley led to a white mob’s attack on black-owned businesses. These allegations were later shown to be false, and Gurley fled to California. Ironically, the Mann family had come to Greenwood from Sherman, Texas, which later itself endured an assault on black-owned businesses. National Guard General Charles Barrett, as well as the editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Tribune, stoked white anger from behind the scenes. It is not verified, but there is circumstantial evidence that Barrett gave the go-ahead for the use of airplanes, which did fire on blacks who were trying to flee Greenwood.

Scene of Greenwood destruction, June 1, 1921

Dozens of Greenwood residents were killed, and most of the rest were rendered homeless, by the destruction. The bottom line, though, in all this is: Greenwood is coming back. The block which earned the title Black Wall Street is small, but vibrant.

Fountain, on grounds of Greenwood Cultural Center

The Vernon African Methodist Evangelical Church was a key gathering place in Greenwood, and is so again.

Mural, on south wall of Greenwood Open Air gathering space

Wanda J’s Restaurant is also a gathering place for the Greenwood community. It was closed for renovation today, but the sign says it’ll reopen tomorrow.

Mural on berm of overpass, Greenwood District

After walking around Greenwood District, I paused to watch several children who had climbed up the overpass berm, and were now helping each other down, flip-flops and all, under their father’s watchful eyes. When the kids had descended, I noted this mural, of jazz musicians.

Tulsa, and Greenwood, are still here and the city is making amends. Reparations for the families of the victims are actually being discussed. Reconciliation Park, and Street, are set aside, to remind everyone that, when one group prospers, all may prosper.

July Road Notes, Day 6: In Good Repair

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July 10, 2021, Grapevine- Today started off undefined, which is suitable for a summer Saturday. We opted for a short walk along the paved trails of Heritage Park, in nearby Flower Mound. There were wildflowers aplenty, and a large number of families about. The water slides, practice fields and disc golf courses were very popular, as they should be. The northern suburbs of Dallas seem to take good care of their public, recreation-wise. Disc golf, for the unitiated, is a sport that involves throwing a disc at a wire basket. The rules are similar to those of golf, but it reminds me somewhat of horseshoes. It takes serious focus, in any case.

The day turned, after a fashion, towards attending to the inside of Elantra. The Galloping Gray One was looking a lot shabbier than I have cared to admit, so Aram and I set about wiping the dashboard, doors, compartments and rear ledge. The windows got treated, as well, and Son vacuumed the seats and carpeting. The day concluded with a round of online trivia games and a trip over to an East Asian shopping center, with a variety of ethnic cafes, stores and restaurants. We chose a place called Too Thai Street Eats. The food hold its own, in quality and portion size.

I am in good repair, other than the bump on my face-which has a limited time left. I did a plank for a minute, and could have gone longer-but this was a trial run. I know that some parts of this septuagenarian frame need more individual work, and will do better by them, as the year progresses.

Tomorrow, this family time will come to an end, and I will head north, to Tulsa-for an homage to those who tried to embrace the American Dream and found that those around them were far from ready to embrace them.

July Road Notes, Day 3

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July 7, 2021, Grapevine- There is no such thing as a 1/3 life crisis. That’s my assessment of the son whom Penny and I raised to deal with both the sweet and the sour of life. A topsy-turvy process, initiated by COVID restrictions and aggravated by bureaucracy, was pretty much resolved through his attention to detail and the energy of proactivity that attracted the cooperation of others.

So went the day, celebrating thirty-three years of life, of my sole offspring. There was brunch, a short hike around the perimeter of the apartment complex that Aram and Yunhee call home, a ninety-minute series of bowling rounds (my first such activity in over twenty-five years), a hamburger dinner at the local branch of a quality nationwide burger and shakes establishment and a walk around Grapevine Mills shopping mall.

The man has shown himself capable of handling even the nettlesome matters, about which he vents to me. He is a spouse dedicated to his wife’s career progress and happiness. He is about balance, between the people in his physical world and those with whom he communicates and interacts digitally. He appreciates the people he meets, on a daily basis and honours truth, from wherever it comes. He has a set career goal and entertains alternative game plans, in the event reality makes his Plan A unwieldy.

Aram Ferdinand Boivin will remain a force with whom to reckon, for a good many years. He will make a fine father someday, and a stellar worker for the public good, in whatever field he settles.

Happy Birthday, Son.

July Road Notes, Day 1

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July 5, 2021, Moriarty- I am in a more relaxed frame of mind, this time around-as compared to the “get there and get it done” mindset of May’s out and back. Departure out of Home Base was fairly early: 7 a.m., and I did have one Baha’i Zoom meeting this afternoon, but my flow was fairly even-between 65 and 80, most of the way (A few construction zones called for 45-55, but no workers were on the highways today, as it was a Monday Make-up, for Sunday’s Independence Day.)

I made a coffee stop at a Maverik, in Dewey, AZ, about 40 minutes into the drive. This is of note only because a poor soul, just trying to get a cup of joe, found the lid on his cup didn’t quite fit-the third time in a row, he told me, that this has happened. We agreed that he probably was not the only one to whom it occurred. I wished him a better day, and was glad that the lid on my cup was sealed.

I kept an eye on the roadsides, in an area between Camp Verde and Winslow where wildfire had wreaked havoc, in late June. There was a burn scar on the ground cover, in several spots, but no tree singeing. The road between there and Gallup was serene and, as mentioned earlier, no construction work. Going through Albuquerque was also no big deal-save that, when a Jeepster decided he wanted to “tandem race” me, on the Duke City’s east side along I-40, a state patrolman in an unmarked car flashed him to move over one lane-then looked over at me and told me to get behind his car-no pull-over, no citation, no warning-just “get out of the passing lane”. As I was essentially minding my own business, when the Jeepster became Jerkster, the officer’s command was easy enough to follow. They both left the freeway, at the next exit, and I continued over the mountain, to this eastern suburb.

I had stayed at Sunrise Motel, once before, under a previous owner. The current management is on a strict pandemic protocol: Phoned check-in, outdoor document reading and signing-with a six foot distance-though masks are not required outside, and key to be left in the room at check-out. The room is the same as before, complete with a rubber duck by the bathtub-as well as a plug that fits the drain (less common than one might think, in the days of drought and cutting costs).

Tomorrow, I head over through Texas-to my family in Grapevine.

Lytton

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July 2, 2021- The couple felt certain that they would be safer jumping in a hole they had dug, for another purpose, than trying to outpace the wildfire that was engulfing their small village, in British Columbia’s Fraser Canyon. They did not figure on a collapsing live electric power pole. The pole fell directly into the hole and the pair were electrocuted.

There will be other horror stories, no doubt, as the fire which destroyed most of the village of Lytton continues its march through the canyon. British Columbia and Alberta have suffered as many wildfires as any given U.S. state, over the past twenty five years. The increase of heat and lack of moisture, throughout all four seasons, is indeed subjecting just about any temperate forest on the planet, along with many desert landscapes, to risk of wildfire. Add to these, the desperate slash and burn attacks on tropical forests by people encouraged to settle the regions, by their own governments-in a short-sighted effort to relieve urban overcrowding. and we are looking at destruction that will far outstrip any conflagration yet seen.

There are those who point out that ancient peoples, on all continents, used fire as a tool to clear scrub and naturally occurring debris. Those fires were carefully monitored, however, much like today’s controlled burns-which are set and extinguished, by forestry professionals, who are following the evidence of careful forest management practiced by the Algonquians of eastern North America, for example. Willy-nilly techniques were never part of the toolkit of the ancients, nor are they advocated by their descendants.

The extent to which the burning of fossil fuels is exacerbating the present rise in temperatures and destruction of habitat is open to debate. That does indicate, however, that the beginning of the process of building a technology, that is not dependent on fossil fuels, is in order. I get that people need time to wrap their heads around the changes that will come. There will need to be training and demonstrable proof that these new methods will bring about a mitigation of weather extremes. Some of that proof is already here: The country of Greenland, facing the loss of its icecaps, by 2050, is successfully using wind energy- even through the northern winter. There are far more people now, than there were when we transitioned from animal-led transportation to its motorized successor-and there was much resistance then. The five-fold increase in population, however, has been matched by an increase in the overall level of education, across the globe.

We can move on through the present crisis. We can reduce the number of Lyttons, Fort McMurrays, Paradise (CA)s, Yarnell Hills. If the human mind can conceive a technology, human ingenuity can construct it.