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.

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 21: What Matters Most

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July 25, 2021, Fairmont, MN- The passing driver fairly screamed at me, through a closed car window, as I stood on the grassy median of the quiet secondary road, waiting for the traffic light to turn in my favour, as I brought breakfast back to my motel room. I could see his scrunched up face, long after his car had passed by. An old veteran, sitting outside the motel, witnessed the whole thing and muttered something about some people not having enough to do with themselves. Such was the morning in Hudson, Wisconsin, where “morning people” seemed to consist of the energetic truck stop counterman, the cheerful motel owners, said old veteran and yours truly. Everyone else I met was either strung out about something, or just not ready to wake up fully.

Once I got on the road again, it was with a plan to visit the Minnesota State Capitol, in St. Paul, then go to George Floyd Square, in Minneapolis, and connect with a second cousin who lives in the area. I drove to the Capitol area, finding Minnesota has kept pace with its eastern neighbour, in terms of the majesty of its seat of government.

The Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul
The Quadriga, or Progress of the State

https://www.mnhs.org/capitol/learn/art/8857

The above link describes the gilded copper figures shown above, and called The Quadriga. The four-horse chariot is driven by the male figure, who represents the State. The female figures represent Minnesota’s agriculture and industry. The four horses represent earth, fire, water and wind.

“Winter” garden, east side of Minnesota State Capitol
Minnesota State Capitol, viewed from State Veteran’s Memorial
Cathedral of St. Paul

It was upon driving to the majestic Cathedral of St. Paul, some six blocks southeast of the Capitol, that I got a call from my cousin. She and family live on the St. Paul side of the Twin Cities, so my visit with them was moved up. What a delightful group! They met me at an area coffee house and spent about thirty-five minutes, before we all had to move on with our days. I’m ever grateful to be able to connect with far-flung family. D and her mate have each done well in life. Their daughters will follow suit, from all I noted this morning. Teenagers often go through periods of self-doubt (as do the rest of us), and their feelings deserve to be taken seriously, yet I see a very solid drive in both girls. This little unit is going to be just fine.

Gathering at a Caribou Coffee Shop (above and below)

From family reunion of sorts to honouring sacrifice, I drove to George Floyd Square, on Minneapolis’ south side. Parking well away from the square, I spent about an hour in prayer, listening and carefully contemplating the faces and descriptions of each shooting victim whose death is commemorated there. There was only concern and compassion being shown, by both those visiting and those who are tending the site.

The late John Lewis called for “Good trouble”.
Amanda Gorman had it nailed.

George Floyd Square, Minneapolis

Call it untidy, messy, or even inconvenient, if you will. I would say the events that led to this site’s establishment were very untidy, extremely messy and most inconvenient-for the people who have suffered, and, ultimately, for those who brought about their suffering.

Say Their Names Memorial Cemetery, 37th Street, south of Chicago Avenue, Minneapolis

A dedicated crew of volunteers was busy, at this collective memorial for African-American people of colour killed, under questionable or objectionable circumstances, over the past sixty-six years. One of the earliest such victims, Emmett Till, would have turned eighty years of age today. When he was killed, I was four years old, and he was fourteen. I barely remember, the very next day, one of my cousins mentioned that a “coloured boy”, not much older than he, had been killed by “some crazy people” in a place called Mississippi. I didn’t know who coloured people were, nor where Mississippi even was, but I knew it was wrong for one person to kill another. It was also strange to me that a child should have died. Death was for old people, like my paternal grandfather, who had recently passed away-and he was not all that old.

It is still strange, and I still regard such atrocities as crazy. It would be the same, were any group of people to be subjected to such treatment-regardless of age, or of “race”.

July Road Notes, Day 20: Majestic

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July 24, 2021, Hudson, WI- The clerk sighed as she noted that the bar code on the tag of the book had faded. The bookstore had been physically closed for nearly fifteen months, before the Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, re-opened on July 1. The staff are re-tagging items, as time allows, but I was buying one of the outliers.

I could have sat and talked with my friend, Val, and her husband, Mark, had he returned from his morning exercise, but there was the re-visit to the House of Worship, and crossing the city of Chicago en route, so I left Mishawaka around 9 a.m., crossed into Central Time, and found that, mostly, Chicago had relatively light traffic. In the Windy City, that means the traffic flows at 15 MPH, there are few horns blaring and any complete stops are limited to twenty seconds or less.

I got to Wilmette at 11 a.m., a first! That left time for lunch, in the village center, for which I chose a lovely little brunch establishment called Hot Cakes Cafe. Many stand alone eateries in Wilmette are cash-only, as is Hot Cakes, so I stopped at an ATM first.

The House of Worship and Visitor Center were very popular, as usual, and there was a wedding photo shoot in progress, outside, which is not uncommon. I had to wait a bit for the bookstore to open, as it was still lunchtime when I arrived. Then came the finding, regarding the bar code, which simply led to the clerk punching in the number manually. That would not be a sustainable practice, over time, so the staff will have their work cut out for them, over the next few weeks.

The Temple, or Mashriqu’l-adhkar, as it is properly called, remains as stately as ever, and is increasingly a place of pride for the North Shore of Chicagoland. I have posted many photos of this sublime treasure, in the past, but here are a few from today’s pilgrimage.

Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, South Face
Courtyard, outside Visitor Center, Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette (above and below)

After praying a while, in the temple itself, it was time to head north and west, into and across Wisconsin. The rolling hills and glacial moraines of the “Dairy State” passed easily by, until I came to the state capital, Madison. There are several people, in Wisconsin and across the Midwest, whom I could call on and see if they are up for a visit-and that was the original plan. Then came my medical appointment on July 29, and thus, the week shaved off this jaunt. The Wisconsin State Capitol, though, is majestic in its way. So, when I stopped at a convenient Panera Bread, for dinner, and saw the edifice shimmering in the late afternoon glow, it was time for another walkaround.

Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, north view
Wisconsin State Capitol, Madison, east view

I walked completely around the structure and its grounds, then determined it was time to head as far west as possible, before calling it a night. As it is a Saturday night in July, I found motels were booked pretty solidly-until I got here, on the Minnesota state line, and at Regency Inn and Suites was the perfect room.

Sunday’s business is to pay my respects to those who were killed in confrontations between police and civilians, over the past several years. In my case, I include both parties-as whoever misuses firepower, to get their own way, is at fault. Law and order are important-and being necessary for a society to function, must be based on equanimity of justice. So, I will go to the George Floyd Global Memorial-not because George lived a saintly life (he didn’t), but because his transgressions did not warrant his death.

I saw majestic sights today- the Chicago skyline, the Baha’i House of Worship and the Wisconsin State Capitol. Can we not strive towards being majestic in character?

July Road Notes, Day 19: Slow Slogs and A Road Mis-taken

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July 23, 2021, Mishawaka- There is something about ending up in a state that was not on the itinerary. One learns, anew, that basic goodness transcends any physical boundary. Another lesson is that, by turning off and restarting one’s phone, the annoying “You’re offline!” message from GPS disappears, and the more sensible Google map (or WAZE) pops up and gets the job done.

I enjoyed a comfortable shower, at Du Bois Manor, then a simple, delightful breakfast at the Hitching Post, one of two dining establishments on Du Bois’ east side. It is comforting to be among locals, at a morning meal in a small city.

The road west, through Ohio, was fairly straightforward, but very slow in places. One Service Area, just west of the Pennsylvania state line, appeared to be a work in progress. There were none of the usual restaurants, and no WiFi. I kept on going, and thankfully did not run into REALLY slow traffic, until just shy of the Indiana state line. We sat, about 200 in number, for almost an hour, though we did inch forward-usually at about the time my GPS tried to kick in, for directions to my friends’ house in Mishawaka.

By the time I reached the Mishawaka exit, the GPS had decided to call it a day. Heading somewhat blindly north, it was not long before I found myself at a corner gas station-in Niles, Michigan. As that little town was not on the itinerary, I got re-oriented southbound, with help from a very detail-oriented local resident. Calling my friends, the rest of the route came through, very clearly. By now, though, I was in downtown South Bend, and was not accepting the “You’re offline!” nonsense- in a Free WiFi zone, no less. So, restart the phone, it was- and a scant two minutes later, I was en route, directly, to Mishawaka.

Val and Sparky are always gracious hosts, cordially waiting for my arrival, before dinner became a fait accompli. A summer salad is always welcome, even at a later hour than usual. So, here I am, enjoying the last scheduled visit with friends, as my trip westward will gear towards the Baha’i House of Worship, in Wilmette, newly re-opened, after a year’s pandemic protocol.

There is always a positive lesson, even when it looks as if misfortune chuckles.

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 17: Long Trails Winding

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July 21, 2021, Concord, NH- Sam sensed my solemn mood, and honoured my relative silence. It was partly due to where I had just been, and partly due to being a bit worn, by the full day I had just enjoyed. The effervescent young lady continued to make sure I was well-served, while engaging more cheerful patrons in banter and laughter. Thus went my third meal, in five days, at a Ninety-Nine Restaurant. This one was in Augusta, Maine’s capital city, where I had just visited the gravesites of a paternal aunt and uncle, along with the as yet unmarked grave of their eldest son, in Central Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

I left Saugus, the town of my formative years, around 8 in the morning, heading up towards Maine, via I-95. It was a smooth enough drive, near the coastal regions of New Hampshire and southern Maine. I first stopped at Stonewall Kitchen, in York, to pick up gifts for the cousins I would visit first and for friends I will see on Friday evening. Next came the drive, past Portland and its exquisite Casco Bay, to Boothbay Harbor, home to a paternal cousin and his family. I hadn’t seen Tom in nearly 35 years, but had communicated with him recently, about a matter of mutual interest.

Tom and Jamie seem to be doing well, have wonderful children and grandchildren, and a lovely home.

View of one of Boothbay Harbor’s many coves

We talked of each other’s families, for about 1 1/2 hours, over lunch and photo albums. Both of our family branches have had their share of triumphs and tragedies. Both have had wondrous people enter their lives and share all they have-and then some. Tom and Jamie are solid people, who have served children, over the years, on paths similar to those that Penny and I took.

Extended family, Boothbay Harbor, ME

I left the family to their afternoon, which included a well-crafted blanket fort, that the little boys had made, as part of their imaginative use of the living room, and headed towards Augusta, where I would pay my respects to our departed aunt, uncle and cousin. A brief stop in Boothbay Harbor’s west side was in order, for ice cream and a few photos.

Boothbay Harbor
View of Harbormaster’s House, Boothbay Harbor

The drive to Augusta was fairly short, but it took stopping at two places to get directions to the cemetery, as my GPS was pulling its “You’re offline!” tantrum. Once there, I found a well-tended expanse of lawn, with year-by-year indicators of who is laid to rest, and where. I spent about twenty minutes at the gravesites of my family members.

Central Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Augusta

Almost on cue, after twenty minutes, a cold wind whipped up and the dark clouds gathered. I got into the Ninety-Nine, just outside the cemetery gates, just before the rain started. Samantha, the server, kept watch on the skies, as well as on us patrons, and noted after fifteen minutes that the sun was coming back out. She seemed quite intently watching over us all, which I like in a public servant.

I spent about an hour after dinner, walking about downtown Augusta. The city has made great strides in celebrating the Kennebec River and its own heritage, since I was last here, in the late 1970s. Here are some of the scenes, therein.

Olde Federal Building, Augusta, ME
Kennebec Riverwalk, Augusta
Old Fort Western, Augusta

Old Fort Western tells the story of early Augusta and its environs. https://www.augustamaine.gov/old_fort_western/292_years_of_maine___new_england_history.php.

It was closed, and I needed to make further progress westward, so as to not overload myself tomorrow, so after a brief visit to the grounds of Maine’s State Capitol, where I took a few photos, under the watchful eyes of the Capitol Police, onward it was.

Maine State House, Augusta
West entrance, Maine State House, Augusta

Along US 202, I passed through the fields and cities of central and southwest Maine: Winthrop, Lewiston, Auburn, Gray and Sanford, before crossing into New Hampshire, at Rochester, then over to this fair place- New Hampshire’s capital city, which has two motels, cityside. Thus, I stopped into my first Holiday Inn, in over thirty-five years. (I am usually one for the Mom & Pop establishments, but in New Hampshire, those are limited to resort areas.)

After looking around Concord a bit, tomorrow, the itinerary is to cross western New Hampshire, southern Vermont and New York’s southern tier.

July Road Notes, Day 16: Family Never Fades

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July 20, 2021, Saugus- “It takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile.” This was an admonition that my mother gave to anyone whose cup was always half empty. Now that she is ensconced in an Assisted Living facility, in a comfortable apartment, with caring souls looking after her, 24 hours a day-but not overbearingly so, I came back here for a few days, to ascertain her well-being. She’s doing very well-just being herself and either staying in the apartment or going out, as she sees fit. My mother will never be anyone’s fool.

I spent a few hours, this afternoon, with a cousin and his wife, having not seen them in person, since March, 1994. I keep up with their lives, via Facebook, but it is hardly the same. Family never fades, though, even as some choose to differ in their view of society or of their concept of faith. The people with whom I spent the afternoon are of fine character, and have no insuperable animosity towards those of like character, who see the world differently.

Nonetheless, we chose to focus mainly on catching up with family stories and our memories of the generation who raised us. It is always instructive to hear different accounts about people whom you thought you knew well. In the end, it was also reassuring to hear that “the world is a better place, with you in it.” It had been a tough day or so, with regard to how some view my position, on how best to fight poverty, with disdain. Family, though, is bedrock, a foundation, which the criticism of relative strangers cannot shake.

I spent one last evening with Mom, before I head north, and then west, tomorrow- visiting briefly with a cousin who is family historian, paying respects to another, recently-departed cousin and possibly visiting an aunt. I gave Mom two bouquets of roses, and placed each bouquet in it sown vase, trimming the stems of the longer flowers. Keeping her company, while she enjoyed dinner, and covering her with a blanket, afterward, were payback for a lifetime of love. Family never fades.

Extended family, in Lynn, MA

July Road Notes, Day 15: Reckonings

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July 19, 2021, Saugus- It was bound to happen-after 1 1/2 long journeys, my sad old tires had to be turned into road filler. I purchased four new replacements. The days when retreads or used tires sufficed are long gone. So are the days when I took a chance, and dealt with blowouts.

Laundry got done today, also. The small local laundromat was different. A single, harried attendant mans a cramped facility, with good machines-but unlike the coin laundries in the west and south, this one had no waiting area for patrons, save a couple of chairs outside. That said, it is an agreeable place, and the attendant has plenty of regulars who offer kind words and help him-and each other.

A maternal aunt-by-marriage passed away, late last week. She was a paragon of elegance, and one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. If I were to follow the example set by Sabina LaSala Kusch, a lot of the now occasional conflict in my life would be expunged. We didn’t see much of Aunt Sabina, growing up, but her demeanor was always pleasant.

There remain the constant appeals for money, from Africa. I know that others have life far tougher than I do, but what if a large number of people were to band together and offer small donations, instead of assuming that one person can take on a project, start to finish, by self? As it is, my own debts are coming due-and I intend to meet these, honourably-even if a few people regard my refusal to keep donating to THEM-as treachery.

Reckonings are tricky. Karma may strike, even when one sees self as justified in one’s actions. I will take whatever consequences come about, but will not put energy into attracting negativity. I only wish for the best for others, even if I cannot provide it by myself.

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.