The Struggle Was/Is No Hoax

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October 14, 2021, Albuquerque- The themes expressed in the New Mexico History Museum are common, in their presentation of the call for rectification of all that has been done wrong, between one group of people towards another, over the centuries. Simply put, there is no person, group of people, ethnicity or nation that has a corner on purity, kindness, love for the Earth, etc. Any time people feel backed into a corner, they lash out.

This is true, no matter how privileged and well-off people are, in actuality. “The reality of man is his thought”, said ‘Abdu’l-Baha, on His visit to Paris, in 1911. If a person feels that he is a victim, then no amount of explaining from someone else, even grounded in real time, will change the afflicted one’s perspective. it has to come from within. Before Europeans came to the Americas, there were times when the various Indigenous nations would quarrel and wage war. Usually, this was sparked by natural disaster, combined with population growth, resulting in scarcity. The influx of large numbers of people who came from other parts of the world, and who had different values and practices, did not exactly ease the situation.

The solution, though, is never to deny another person’s reality, as some intellectuals are trying to do with regard to social justice movements. The conservative who refers to the claims of a progressive as “that hoax”, and vice versa, brings no peace. Everyone has a piece of the truth, and deserves to at least be heard, so that the feeling of being backed into a corner does not arise. I came to this realization, again, after visiting the section of the New Mexico History Museum that deals with the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The rebellion succeeded, initially, because there was unity of purpose across the various Indigenous nations. It failed, in the end, both because that unity did not hold and because the victors did not see fit to treat Spanish civilians, especially women and children, in a humane manner. It was the generating of extreme negativity that sucked the energy out of the otherwise worthy campaign for relief and equanimity for maltreated Indigenous people.

The songwriter Pete Townshend warned, after experiencing callous behaviour from some attendees at the Woodstock Music Festival, in 1969, that “parting on the Left” could change to “parting on the Right”, in his song “We Won’t Get Fooled Again”. It happens when, as the initially victorious have so often found, their views on holding power turn out to be unimaginative, merely copying the practices of their former oppressors-and thus either paving the way for the return of those oppressors, as happened in the late Seventeenth Century, or worse, hard-wiring the succeeding generations in patterns of socially maladaptive behaviour.

I have paid close attention, especially lately, to the interactions of people, across ages and ethnicities, in the latest stages of COVID19. I have heard of incidents of line jumping and people flailing at each other, over masks vs. no masks. I saw nothing of the sort, anywhere in mask-mandated New Mexico, these past four days. People appear to be making an effort to get along, on a very basic level. even when, as one conservative friend said, they regard the mask mandate as inane.

Everyone’s struggle is real, and though that struggle does not become everyone else’s God-given burden, we can at least wish the bedraggled soul the best, and not actively make the onus heavier, by denying that it exists.

I left Santa Fe, around noon, after the museum visit, making brief stops in the artistic havens of Galisteo and Madrid, before settling in at the avant-garde, minimalist Monterey Motel, near Old Town, in this sprawling, but still rather charming metropolis on the Rio Grande.

Here are a few scenes of the day.

Learning, with some satisfaction, that the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has sufficient rock star status as to require a fair amount of advance planning, before a visit, I made a note to wait until next time.

After leaving Santa Fe, a drive to quiet, artistic Galisteo introduced this adobe church: Our Lady of the Cures.

En route from Galisteo to the artist community of Madrid, I drove past some badlands.

Once in Madrid, I found this little gem, in the Gypsy Plaza. Mr. Shugarman carefully packaged two of his signature chocolate bark squares, for my gradual enjoyment. He also ships his wares, so some beloved friends may expect an occasional surprise, direct from Madrid.

Madrid, on the east side of Sandia Crest, is another reason for me to return to northern New Mexico, soon. After tending to a critical business matter in uptown Albuquerque, I settled into Monterey Motel, about two blocks west of Old Town. The avant-garde ambiance was welcome this evening.

Santa Fe Spirits

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October 13, 2021, Santa Fe- The serene and beautiful teenaged girl looked as if she could save humanity, at the same time looking as vulnerable as she must have felt, in that long-ago and far away place. The depiction of Mary, mother of Jesus, by an unnamed artist, is both the most heart-rending and the most hopeful likeness, of a woman of whom no one has any real idea, as to her actual appearance.

People back then were used to solving problems that we can only dimly imagine. As I walked the grounds of the Stations of the Cross Meditation Garden, adjacent to the Garden of the Saints, where the above statue is situated, the harrowing nature of Christ’s suffering and death-and the Great Being Himself, are depicted in a way I have seldom seen. Here is not the beauteous, blond-haired superman of legend, but the embodiment of pain and sorrow. Jesus appears to literally be crying out for the collective soul of humanity.

The pain and sorrow that Christ, His family and His disciples endured, would later be mirrored by the horrific sufferings brought to bear on Indigenous peoples, in the Americas and around the world, in His very Name, by those whose blinkered understanding of His Message was clouded by their own material greed and lust for power. Clergy, even the most pure-hearted, are only humans like the rest of us, and bring all their prior life experiences into their service to God.

I drew some comfort from reading the account of St. Francis of Assisi, a personal favourite among the Catholic saints, preaching to the birds.

“My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky,” Francis said, “you are bound to heaven, to God, your Creator. In every beat of your wings and every note of your songs, praise him. He has given you the greatest of gifts, the freedom of the air. You neither sow, nor reap, yet God provides for you the most delicious food, rivers, and lakes to quench your thirst, mountains, and valleys for your home, tall trees to build your nests, and the most beautiful clothing: a change of feathers with every season. You and your kind were preserved in Noah’s Ark. Clearly, our Creator loves you dearly, since he gives you gifts so abundantly. So please beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and always sing praise to God.”- The Little Flowers of St. Francis

https://www.learnreligions.com/saint-francis-assisi-sermon-to-birds-124321

So was capped a full-day in Santa Fe, my first visit here since 1994. The city was packed with tourists, as always, with most of them being older people like me, taking advantage of the cooler weather and relatively smaller crowds. I enjoyed French crepes and the comfort of meatloaf, as bookend meals, and added the state Capitol of New Mexico to the photo library. How simple, and understated, is this place, when placed alongside the grand, ostentatious state Capitols of various other states! Nonetheless, it serves New Mexico well.

The state and the city have made considerable progress in both real and symbolic treatment of Indigenous peoples, fully acknowledging the heinous conditions that led to the revolt, by both Puebloan and nomadic nations, against Spanish rule, in 1680. While that rebellion was eventually put down by a superior military force, the Spaniards never really regained an upper hand, but were forced by the Unseen Hand, to grow into a gradual coexistence with the peoples who surrounded them. This has created New Mexico’s unique culture-on that is indeed enchanting.

It is at once sorrowing and gratifying, that St. Kateri’s statue greets the visitor to the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. She lived only to the age of 24, a victim of smallpox and of small minds. Kateri practiced self-abnegation and refused all attempts by family to wed her to a Mohawk warrior. She was devoted only to God, as she saw Him.

My heart, at the end of the day, was both humbled and gratified.

The Daughter of Pedernal

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October 12, 2021, Santa Fe- The rough-hewn log cabin greeted several of us who pulled into Ghost Ranch around noon. It’s given name is City Slicker Cabin, though BYOB (Bring your own bedding) is the obvious message for those who take a look at its plank-floored emptiness. Needless to say, the present owners of the property take care to lock it, each night at 5 p,m,

The day had started wet and cold, as I enjoyed a homestyle breakfast at Cuban Cafe, across the road from Cuban Lodge, both owned by the same family, in Cuba, NM. Rain changed to snow as the road took me over Sierra Nacimiento, and to a brief stop at Abiquiu Lake, a reservoir built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1963. The earthen dam which secures the lake was raised in 1986.

Having made a reservation at Ghost Ranch, for a day pass, I was told rather apologetically by the attendant in the Welcome Center that I would not be able to eat in the Dining Hall. Since that was not one of my expectations, I thanked her and went into the theater, to watch a brief video about the property and its history. Imagine my surprise to see a treasured friend among those who was on a group hike, a few years back.

Ghost Ranch has attracted many of us, well-known and obscure, alike. Ansel Adams, Nelson Rockefeller, Del Webb and Robert Wood Johnson (the founder of Johnson & Johnson, and the second part-owner of the property) have all treasured its serenity and beauty. Perhaps most famous of all, however, were Max Roybal, the Santera (carver of wooden saint likenesses) of Ghost Ranch, and Georgia O’Keeffe. It was Ms. O’Keeffe’s association with Ghost Ranch that first prompted me to want to pay a visit. There is much about her simple artistic style and love for basic black and white backgrounds that has appealed to me, since my teen years. She had a passionate love of desert and mountain alike, regarding nearby Cerro Pedernal as “her” mountain. In many ways, Georgia was a daughter of Perdernal. She is also regarded as the “Mother of American Modernism”, relative to painting and sculpture. She lived on Ghost Ranch from 1934-1984, when frail health prompted a move to Santa Fe, where she passed on in 1986, at the age of 98.

With Ms. O’Keeffe’s long and cherished career in mind, I set about exploring the grounds of this fascinating property. Carol Stanley moved to the former Archuleta property, in 1930, recording the deed to it in her name, after divorcing her husband, Roy Pfaffle, who had won the property in a poker game. A frequent visitor, businessman Arthur Pack, bought the property from Ms. Stanley, in 1935. It was he who developed the land to its present rustic, but economically viable, state. Mr. Pack and his wife, Phoebe, being childless, sought a non-profit entity to purchase the land, after he became infirm. The Presbyterian Church was given Ghost Ranch by them, in 1955, and uses it as an educational and spiritual retreat. The property was damaged somewhat, by a flood in 2015, but has largely been restored.

Here are five scenes of Ghost Ranch.

I spent about thirty minutes walking the nearby Labyrinth. Being in a deep state of meditation after leaving the Labyrinth, I decided to not photograph it, this time, but looking at the Medicine Water Wheel, one can get a fair idea of the appearance of the maze.

There are two museums, south of the Welcome Center: The Anthropology and Paleontology Museums. During the height of the Covid Pandemic, these were the only museums in New Mexico to remain open! Even so, only four people at a time could visit each one. I spent another forty-five minutes between the two.

When it was time to say farewell, for now, to Ghost Ranch, I was bid adieu by these two sentries:

Enchantment, Preserved

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October 11, 2021, Cuba, NM- The message was unequivocal, as I drove past the highway that led to Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and towards Farmington: “We are giving you THIS day, to honour the ancestors!” I turned around, and drove towards Chaco, promising myself that I would not continue along the unpaved road that led to the place, if there were any spots with high centers or jagged rocks that would reach up and take a bite out of the rental car’s oil pan or gas tank.

I needn’t have worried. There were spots with mild washboard, but nothing that harmed the Chevy Malibu. My new friends, Michael and Pat, were less fortunate, losing a water jug to the one spot on the road that had a hairline rupture and shook their vehicle. I think I went over that spot at 10 mph. Probably, the harbinger for what turned out to be an excellent observance of Indigenous People’s Day was this sight, along NM Highway.

Another half-mile along, a friendly rancher had arranged this greeting.

Today’s visit brought me to Hungo Pavi, Chetro Ketl and Pueblo Bonito. The above, and the next two photos, feature Hungo Pavi.

I moved along to Chetro Ketl, one of the four clusters of buildings in Chaco that use a mix of round and square.. Chetro is located directly west of a fine collection of petroglyphs. Here is one of these.

As large as Hungo Pavi and Chetro Ketl were, they were mere suburbs of Pueblo Bonito. The central community was also the major trading hub for the Four Corners region, and likely as important to the commerce of at least the western half of North America, as Cahokia and Serpent Mound were to the east. Here are three views of that enormous place.

I will be back in this phenomenal place, perhaps as early as December. The spiritual and historical significance of Chaco Canyon, to both those who settled here and those who came after, is still being realized.

Constitution Day

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September 17, 2021- It is fairly pleasant in Philadelphia, in the middle of September, as summer winds down and the gradual presence of autumn begins to be felt. Temperatures inside the hall, where the beginnings of a Federal state took root, also began to cool and on this date, in 1787, the United States Constitution was signed by 39 men, representing 13 states and collectively called “The Founding Fathers”. Later that year, the states of Delaware and Pennsylvania became the nucleus of what would become 50 states, and were followed by the eleven other entities, whose representatives had signed the document, and which ratified the Constitution between 1788-1790.

This constitution has been a model for both state constitutions and for those of nations which have come into being since 1790. It is a testament to the people of this country that, both attempts to subvert the Constitution, in 1861 and in January of this year, have, thus far, come to naught. That these actions were on behalf of those whose philosophies of governance and of social concourse were restrictive and reactionary perhaps made the matter more straightforward. That the second attempt mirrored the first shows, however, that elitism is a clever and persistent mind set, with the ability to appeal to people-of all ethnicities, creeds, generations and of both genders, and the capacity to oversimplify complex matters, in the course of making that appeal.

We are gradually moving away from elitism, of both the right and of the left, and as slow and painful a process as that is, our Constitution, with its amendment clause, is helping it along. Happy Constitution Day to all who honour the document and the ideas which it safeguards!

It Was A Beautiful, Calm Tuesday Morning….

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September 11, 2021- I went to a Fry’s Supermarket, five blocks from my home, on the morning of September 11, 2001. I had no firm plans for the day and so, just picked up some bread and milk, before Penny had to go to work and Aram, to middle school. It was 6:10 a.m. MST, and the morning disc jockey on the rock station, whose call letters I don’t even remember, announced in a voice dripping with equal parts shock and incredulity that someone had flown an airplane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, in New York.

An inner voice immediately told me that this was an act of terrorism. Getting home, I felt and looked shaken, and when Penny asked what was wrong, I told her, the TV was switched on, CNN fumbled a bit before acknowledging that there was an incident-and shortly after my loved ones dutifully left for their daily routines, footage of the second plane hitting the South Tower and the implosions that, as intended, prevented even further devastation and loss of life began to be shown, continuously throughout the week and month ahead. Then, there was the crash into the west side of the Pentagon (real), the crash into the back 40 of the Lambert family’s property in Shanksville, PA (also real) and the reports of fires on the National Mall and attacks on Sears (now Willis) Tower (imaginary).

In the days that followed, I paid a visit to the gas station that was operated by the Singh Sodhi family and paid respects to their slain husband, brother and father, Bubrik-killed by an angry Nativist, who thought Bubrik was Muslim. I then bought lunch at a cafe operated by Palestinian Christians. There was a job interview, at which I praised Rudy Giuliani’s leadership, drawing an eye roll from the interviewer-and no job offer. There were my own eye rolls, when a French conspiracy buff publicly stated that the whole series of incidents, especially at the Pentagon, were actually a series of holograms and that we would “know soon” the whereabouts of those reported dead-and when Ward Churchill described the dead as “little Eichmanns”.

There would be other attempts at terror, later in 2001 and over the next ten years. 10 weeks after the horrific events, a plane went down just east of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and into a neighbourhood near an apartment block in Queens. It was reported then as a crash, due to pilot error, but the apartment complex was home to many of the First Responders who had been called to duty on 9/11. This did not help any, in our national recovery, regardless of the actual behaviour of the Japan Airlines crew, in the plane that had taken off in front of American Airlines Flight 587, or of the AA 587 crew themselves. Subsequently, Richard Reed tried to bring down a plane, mid-ocean, by lighting his shoe on fire and Charles Bishara (aka Bishop) attempted to crash a stolen small plane into the Bank of America Building in Tampa. Both of these became tragicomic footnotes to the horrors of this day, ten years ago.

Today, I spent 12 hours helping with various aspects of Hope Fest, a Faith-based community service event on Courthouse Square. I go there as a jack-of-all-trades, serving in whatever capacity the various coordinators need done-from hauling pushcarts of equipment and materials for the various vendors to manning a Raffle Ticket booth. Then, there was helping with the breakdown, at day’s end-folding chairs and loading the sandbags that held canopies down, onto other pushcarts. I am grateful for the good health that allows me to still do such tasks, knowing full well that such strength won’t last forever.

Managing to fit in a grocery run for my temporarily disabled hiking buddy and leaving Hope Fest a little early (to the mild annoyance of the director) so as to greet a friend from Phoenix who was staying with me overnight, did not take away from the feeling that this event was another successful one-and that my own small role in it helped maintain the group spirit that has sustained our nation, throughout all manner of attacks from without and from within.

Adversity, of any kind, will only strengthen human resolve-if that resolve is genuine.

Tritina for the Masses

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August 24, 2021- Beneath the façade of shouting lies a fear. Both genders, and all ages, are shown to stand in the crowd. The trigger is often the very thought that the other side has truth.

A reporter keeps eyes and ears trained on the crowd. Her greatest challenge is to sort out the truth. Making it hard for her is the pile of blankets of fear.

The gathering maintains its own rendition of truth. The sight and smell of this, however, is the soil of fear. The intrepid woman works hard to find a crack in the crowd.

In the end, she convinces some in the crowd to face their fear and to smell at least a bit of actual truth.

As is evident, a tritina is a truncated sestina, with three tercets-verses of three lines each, and each line ending with one of three words. The tercets proceed with ending word order 1-2-3, 2-3-1,3-1-2 and a fourth stand-alone line, containing all three words.

What we’ve seen recently, in many lands, are large groups of people who are seemingly easily manipulated by wirepullers. A caveat, from the French Revolution: Sooner or later, the masses become disillusioned with, and turn on, their controllers.

First Class

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August 13, 2021- I finished reading “Caste”, by Isabel Wilkerson, this evening: A magnificent work, by a stellar human being. For the first time in my adult life, if not the entirety of my life span, I felt that here is someone who understands my point of view-that there is, simply put, no group of people, anywhere, who deserve to be cast aside (pun intended) or downtrodden, so that others may rise to the top-either through privilege or through through benefitting from the efforts of those held lower than themselves.

It is human nature to want to pull the wagons in a circle; to exclude those one dislikes or whom one sees as a threat. It is spiritual nature, more reflective of the higher self, what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”, to at some level, at least, regard others as equanimical to oneself; to keep the wagon secure, but somewhat ready to receive the visitor.

Let me take stock, of just who could be a second class citizen, given what is apparent in the Divine Teachings, and in the common origins of humanity. No European person is a second class citizen; no person of East Asian or South Asian ancestry can reasonably be seen as such; no person of Indigenous American (North or South) or Pacific Islander descent, nor any person of African or Caribbean ancestry; no Jews, Arabs, Turks, Persians, Afghans, Australian Aboriginals, Central Asians, Saami, Finns, Estonians, or their cousins, the Magyars (Hungarians) who even claim to “whiteness”. None warrant second (or lesser) class status.

There are other classes of people, sometimes regarded as children of a lesser god. People who are unable to walk, speak, hear, see, think clearly; men who are attracted to other men, women who are drawn to other women, people who are drawn to both sexes; people who have undergone gender transition, or who just like to wear the clothing of their opposite gender; people who are mentally ill; those who prefer to live in tents or those who feel the need to live in mansions; one-time law breakers who have served their time and are making a bona fide effort at living a righteous life; ectomorphs or endomorphs; conservatives, liberals, reactionaries or progressives; Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, Sikhs, atheists, agnostics, Naturists, Baha’is; NONE of these deserve to be placed in the “also ran” category.

So, it appears that there is, in the end, no one who warrants less than first class status- in terms of citizenship and access to opportunity. We can’t all be financially wealthy or all be in charge of the community. We can’t all do the same work.

We do, however, deserve a shot at realizing our dreams.

July Road Notes, Day 24: Connectivity

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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.

July Road Notes, Day 23: Heat? What Heat?

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July 27, 2021, Castle Rock, CO- That kind of arrogance would be sure to get me into hot water, with my little family and anyone else who suffer the 100-degree plus days that seem to be in store for nearly the entirety of the Great Plains and South, over the next two weeks.

Elantra’s cooling system certainly worked like a charm today, and work it did-even in Denver, the readings were as high as 102,in late afternoon. The main function of the day was to get as far along as possible. Not before, however, I had a small breakfast at Yorkshire Inn, listening as a teacher of Authentic Bible Studies was explaining why it is important to know the original words of Scripture-to which I say “Amen!”. So much of the division we see in organized religion has stemmed from the personal interpretation of words, and differing from the personal interpretation of words, by others. Baha’u’llah says that every word, in Scripture, has “one and seventy meanings.” The teacher, this morning, gave his students the example of a passage where, in Old Hebrew, it is mentioned that certain people used a “wheeled vehicle”. This passage has been interpreted, by some modern scholars, to mean that certain people used a car!

My remaining stops in Nebraska were at Coffee Cabin, in Lexington, where I needed to sit and tend to a business matter; North Platte, for gas; and Big Springs, where Sam Bass and his gang robbed a Union Pacific train, in 1877, whilst on a foray from Texas. This little village, the last stop, westbound, in Nebraska, before I-76 presents itself as a road to Colorado, has a fine Service Area, with Max’s Diner as an especially fun surprise. The food is excellent, and healthful. There is banter aplenty, between staff members, and it’s obvious the servers and cooks are enjoying themselves.

Denver emerged out of the haze, in time for its rush hour slog. My method of going around it is to exit the freeway at University Avenue, turn on any given side street that is southbound, go east on Evans Avenue, then follow either Yale Avenue or Parker Avenue southbound to I-225, thus getting past the slowdown. From there, the feeder connects to I-25 itself.

Thus, I found the way to Castle Rock, home of Red Rocks Amphitheater. That it also falls along a direct route between Boulder and Colorado Springs is a plus. That the direct route is a toll road, is a minus. Overall, though, the day was a plus-as is being among a very pleasant group of travelers, vacationers and hospitality workers, at Castle Rock’s fairly new Day’s Inn.

Just about everything here is new, at least since I was last in Denver, in 2013. The tiny Castle Rock of that era has grown exponentially. Life sure has a way of keeping us on our toes.