The 2018 Road: Honours, Learnings and Observations- Part 1

12

September 2, 2018, Prescott-

The forty-day journey, whose chronicle I have just completed, is now well-past the reflection stage.  The longest trip I have undertaken, since 2015, has passed without controversy, among those of my family and friends who have viewed my travels in the past, with some consternation.

There were mostly good things that happened, this summer that is nearly passed.  I want to first note those who have honoured me with their presence, in the deepest of ways.  Then, I shall note the learnings I picked up from the trek. Finally, some observations are in order.

Honours-

The first of these always goes to my family: Being in Christ Church, Philadelphia, for the wedding of my beloved youngest niece; having my son, Aram, and his girlfriend next to me during the service, throughout the reception and for much of Father’s Day.  I’m grateful to her, for having given him much happiness; being with all of my siblings, nieces and nephews and nearly all of my extended family.

My northern Nevada family has always been there for me, as well.  This year, over Memorial Day weekend, was no different.

My sister in spirit, Corina, drove an hour each way to visit with me a bit-once I got to Wilmette, but to no avail.  My arrival was way too late, so back she went, to spend Sunday afternoon with her beloved. I feel honoured, nevertheless.  Just being in the embrace of the Baha’i House of Worship is a singular honour, in itself.

Having dinner with friends in Mishawaka, IN, was a sublime blessing.  Thanks, Val and Sparky.

I cannot say enough, for the staff and fellow hostelers at Auberge Bishop, Montreal, for confirming my worth as a human being, in the aftermath of a serious loss.  I am also grateful to the agents at USAA, for mitigating that loss.  It was a joy to take lunch at one of  the restaurants of a friend’s establishment:  La Panthere Verte.  I would feel similarly honoured, again, at hostels in Baltimore and in Memphis.

One of the greatest honours is to connect with the spiritual energy of one’s ancestors. My maternal grandmother’s hometown, Plattsburgh, NY first welcomed me, and a few weeks later, my sister and a maternal cousin connected with some of Grama’s grandnieces and great grandnephews.

Penny’s family will always be my own, as well.  They helped me greatly, in the wake of Montreal.  A few days’ respite, in the family home, in Spring Hill, FL helped me rest before the home stretch, and reaffirmed our bond.  Paying my respects to her departed cousin, a few days before, in Maryland, was essential.

There are many, across the nation and world, who I regard as spiritual family. They are of all Faiths and of no Faith.  Connecting with a woman who is like a daughter to me, in Virginia Beach; an immigrant friend who is like a brother, in Salisbury, NC; and my Tennessee brother and sister of the heart, in Crossville, have made all the difference in healing a part of me that still grieves, somehow.

Being in Memphis, and feeling the pain that all of us who are of good heart experienced, the day Martin Luther King, Jr. died, was cathartic.  I had not cried in a good long while, and this overwhelming sadness brought out a lot.  Later in the day, walking along the banks of the Mississippi and along Beale Street, felt like a dirge was playing.  Dr. King honoured us all.

NEXT:  Learnings

 

The 2018 Road, Day 8: A Day of Being Blocked

6

June 3, 2018, Lowell, IN-

I set out, in earnest, for the Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette at 9 a.m., fully intending to meet a mentor- friend who lives north of there, in a timely manner.  The problem was, I left at 9 a.m. from Carthage, on the west side of Illinois.  I stayed within the good graces of the law, clear to a point about 20 miles south of Rockford, getting there about 1 p.m.

Inching eastward, using a variety of state highways, I got to Wilmette way too late to visit with said mentor-friend.   So, takeaway # 1:  Never stay more than 2 hours from Chicagoland, if the goal is to meet someone in Chicagoland, the next day-even from Saturday to Sunday.  In fairness, the same holds true for New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and even Philadelphia, where I will stay in the center of the city, in two weeks’ time.

Other things got done, spiritually. It is my eleventh visit here, and this is the first-and last-time that I have tried to make a same day visit to the Temple, from outside the 50-mile radius.  I also had a lovely full meal at Ridgeview Grill, a wonderful place on the west side of Wilmette, served by engaging and attentive Lisa D.  I think that will be my dining place of choice, in future visits to the House of Worship.

Needless to say, there are no photos from this Day of Being Blocked. I made it to a campsite here, in Lowell, IN, around 9 p.m.  Amen!

Not Throwing In The Towel

3

Towel-Dog-760x500May 25, 2018, Prescott-

An erstwhile friend has decreed today as Towel Day.  I will stay on the fringes of these festivities, as that’s how she and her significant other seem to want things.  Besides, my schedule, these next two days, is packed- as I will be, by Sunday morning.

School ended yesterday, and for me, it was as successful as 2015-16, and a far cry from last year.  I did not limp to the finish line this time.  The kids, and my co-workers, will reconvene in a week’s time, for Extended School Year.   I will sit that one out, having a major family event in mid-June. The wedding of my youngest niece will bring us all together, and will be one for the books.

As always, I have taken the steps to certify that both my car and I are ready for this year’s long road trip.  Vehicle has taken its lumps, but I have repaired most of what’s gone wrong and will tend to the cosmetics over the next day or so.  Ditto for yours truly, and while my cosmetics are showing their age, my health care providers aren’t putting me anywhere near the scrap heap.  I’m content with what I see in the mirror.

After two, and maybe three, important events here in town, today and tomorrow, I will head northwards, to Carson City, for an annual reconnect with one or more members of my extended spiritual family.  From there, the route looks like Utah, Colorado, Kansas, central Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ontario, Montreal, Plattsburgh, NY, Vermont,Massachusetts, Connecticut, West Point, eastern Pennsylvania (especially Philadelphia), Baltimore, Delmarva, Hampton Roads, across Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, southern Missouri, Oklahoma, Amarillo and Albuquerque’s Old Town, before getting back to Home Base-somewhere around July 4.

In spite of all this seems to entail, I have built in a goodly number of daily rest stops, visits with friends and family and good clean fun.  My main mode, rain or shine, will be camping along the way and relying more on picnicking, than the heavy restaurant visits of past adventures.  There will be a few of those last, though, when I can at least treat those who have been so caring to me, over so many years- and special places in my heart, like Artful Dodger, Cupcakes & Cravings, et al.  Porthole Pub, in Lynn, MA., is slated to close soon, making way for some sorely needed luxury condos. (Wonder how we’ve gotten along without them, all these years!)  I ought to prevail on a few family members to pay a last visit to Porthole.

Whether here or there, my Faith is essential to keeping me going, on a daily basis.  So, one of the events this evening is faith-based, several of the people with whom I will visit, in the coming weeks, are my fellows in faith and the Baha’i House of Worship, in Wilmette, IL falls into the middle of my outbound itinerary, as is only proper.

One way or another, I will maintain a daily presence here- letting all my peeps in on what’s going down, as in the past.  After all, there are plenty of coffee houses and such, along the way- and Good Sam Parks are reliable with WiFi, to boot. Instagram, a gift of the above-mentioned erstwhile correspondent, remains on my network.  One keeps the baby, while waving farewell to the bath water.

 

Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part XLVII: A SunFlour Doppelganger and A Room On A Bluff

9

July 8, 2017, Lake Bluff, IL-  Today was sunny and the Ozarks gleamed brightly, after last night’s paltry drizzle.  I drove out of Joplin early, as there was no Internet at Tara Motel, and I wanted to get to the Chicago area by nightfall- with an urge to find a campground, somewhere in the northwest suburbs.  I also didn’t know, at that point, whether any northern Illinois friends would have time to visit a bit, on such short notice.

Rolla is one of my favourite towns in Missouri, and became more so, when I found Cupcakes and Cravings.  Here is a coffee house and lunch counter that is a dead ringer for SunFlour Market, which two friends run, in Superior, AZ.  Since one of SunFlour’s owners is from the St. Louis area, maybe there is a connection with this lovely spot.  I had coffee and a sandwich, then bought a cupcake, for later on.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

It’s another fun place to browse and pick up a gift, for the lady who has everything.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI can think of a few, for whom this would be the right special occasion cake.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Once lunch was done, it was time to get back outside, so that Amanda could clean up and go home.  Rolla has a large community park, just off I-44.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

There is much to recommend this beautiful town, whether passing through, or settling down- but enough of the doggerel.

The rest of my drive was peaceful, even in Chicago, where the multitudes practice what my brother calls “the zipper method”- drivers take turns, when consolidating traffic lanes.  This keeps a slow crawl from turning into gridlock, especially at the choke point, on the southwest segment of the Dan Ryan.  One hour after entering the DR, I was looking for a campground in Lake County- but to no avail.  I was just too beat, and By The Way Motel presented itself, at a reasonable rate.  So it is, that I am here, and getting ready for a special event at the Baha’i House of Worship, tomorrow, without having to go further- to Waukegan, or North Chicago.

NEXT: Further reflections on a Holy Day, and camping at Indiana Dunes

 

Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, Part XXIII: Great Lakes and Muddy Rivers

4

April 12, 2017, Prescott-  Every major transportation route, from airlines to roads, seems to lead to Chicago, or at least within its magnetic sphere.  For me, there is an added draw:  The Baha’i House of Worship for North America, in Wilmette, north of the city.  The House of Worship’s location, overlooking Lake Michigan, highlights the fascination I’ve long had, with the Great Lakes.  I would frequently visit “the Temple”, regardless, but the lake is a draw, in itself.  A few dips in its waters, as well as at Indiana Dunes and Fruitport, MI, have been a tonic, on a hot day. I have also been alongside Lake Erie, in Toledo, Cleveland and Erie, as well as Lake Superior, at Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The lakes are only part of what I have enjoyed about the east central region, between the Great Plains and the Atlantic Coast.  Chicago, as problematic as its internecine battles have been, remains a majestic city.  So, too, does St. Louis, especially with the Gateway Arch, and nearby Cahokia Mounds, highlighting the importance of the confluence of two great rivers.  Speaking of which, Cairo, IL has a special place in my heart, marking the union of the Ohio and the Mississippi.  I have prayed at Trail of Tears State Park, in Missouri and at Scioto Hills, Ohio, for the recognition that mankind is one, and that the Aboriginal nations feel vindicated of their long ago suffering.  I have felt intensely welcomed in Des Moines , in Cape Girardeau, New Madrid, and Rolla (MO), Quincy (IL), Francesville (IN) and Fruitport (MI).  Two of the best meals I’ve ever had, were in Dixon and in Vandalia (IL).

The Indigenous People of the riparian region may have irritated Abraham Lincoln, whose heritage I have honoured, in New Salem and Springfield (IL) and in Hodgenville, KY.  There would, however, not be as rich an overall heritage, for the Midwest, were it not for Cahokia, Chillicothe (OH), Pipestone (MN)  and the remaining nations that grace nearly every state in the East Central swath.  Too bad  that Honest Abe didn’t get to know the Native peoples better.  It may have made a great difference in the fates of their descendants.

I have plenty of family in this vast region- in Avilla and Blue Springs, MO, plus  Jeffersonville, IN.  Friends abound here, as well, in northern Illinois, the Twin Cities, Wisconsin, several parts of Missouri, eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, across Indiana, Little Rock, New Orleans, and eastern Alabama.

There remain many parts of the mid-section that pique my interest, from northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to bubbling, revitalizing cities, like Kansas City, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Detroit.

I will be back across, on the way to/from a family reunion, in mid-summer.  It’ll be a fine thing to feel the water, and the warmth of Midwest welcomes.

Looking Back- Part 2

2

December 31, 2016, Chula Vista- As the Year of Upended Routines winds down, and has already passed, in the areas immediately west of the International Date Line, I find it meet and seemly to give 2016 its due.

The goodness of it all:  I was embraced by Prescott Unified School District, and brought into a position where positive differences can be made, in the lives of troubled children.

One car served me well, then died, on the road.  Two members of my family stepped up, got the first car through its final duties and the next car into my possession.  Thankfully, I am able to repay these kindnesses, in full.

It was an amazing series of  visits, with friends in Amarillo, Enid (OK), Columbia (MO), Indianapolis, Oley (PA), Knoxville, Boulder (CO) and Dana Point (CA); family in Avila (MO), Saugus and Wakefield (MA),  Newnan (GA), Brooksville (FL) and Loveland (CO)- to say nothing of my Baha’i family in Carson City and Reno, and all who nourish and support me, throughout Arizona.  Most important of all, though, is the strength and constancy of my closest:  Mom and siblings, in Massachusetts, brother, in Georgia, in-laws, in Florida and son, here in southern California, but soon to be in Korea, the land of his birth.

The warmth of new friends, in Fallon and Pioche (NV), Fort Sumner (NM), Ponca City (OK), Salina and Hays (KS),Florissant (MO), Wilmette (IL), Francesville and Kokomo (IN), Bedford and Bushkill (PA), Port Jervis and Middletown (NY), Newtown and Danbury (CT), Martinsburg (WV), Harrisonburg (VA), Register (GA), Chattanooga, Nashville, Marion (IL) a Colorado Springs and Mancos (CO) just reinforces my belief that there is a universal love, which only needs to be tapped and nurtured.

How blessed the natural beauty of the forests, deserts, plains and mountains that gave me solace, this year:  Prescott Circle Trail, which brought the totality of my adopted home into focus; Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, which transcends Arizona’s Central Highlands and the northern reaches of the Sonoran Desert; Arcosanti, an intriguing blend of ancient desert rock, seasonal water flow and nouveau architecture; Juniper Mesa, a stand-alone promontory, which once sheltered Yavapai warriors; the shimmering lakes above Zion National Park, a reminder that the Earth is a changing creation, which will outlive us, despite our illusions to the contrary; the tall grass prairie outside Boonville, MO, a fine place to just lie down and think of childhood days, spent in the grasses of summer; Bushkill Falls, PA, as amazing and comforting to me, on a cool, drizzly July day,as it was to my parents-in-law on their honeymoon, in the winter of early 1949, and on so many wedding anniversaries, thereafter; Lake Redwine, and Serenbe, GA, which brought family together, and  help to keep my Georgia relatives so well-grounded.

How eternally comforting it is, to visit the Baha’i House of Worship, in Wilmette, and to gather with my fellows-in-faith, at Baha’i Centers in Phoenix and Scottsdale, as well as the Marriott Desert Ridge Resort.

So,many thanks, 2016. There were breathtaking changes, coming from all this, and from the winds sweeping our nation and planet.  These will impact me, along with everyone else, in the next few years; stay tuned.

 

Tales of the 2016 Road: A Heartland Independence Day

9

July 4, 2016, Francesville, IN- I headed out of Rolla, MO, in the early morning drizzle.  The hapless man who had been asking for sustenance, last night, was sitting outside his room, looking puzzled that I should be heading out so soon.  I had one main destination for the day:  The new Welcome Center of the Baha’i House of Worship, in Wilmette, IL- just north of Chicago.  It would take most of the day to get there, so I was on the road by 8 A.M.

The Missouri countryside is always a pleasure, though while I rolled along I-44, towards St. Louis, it was striking how little traffic there was, headed eastward.  It was also fairly easy to head northward, bypassing the downtown area.  Determined to have my main meal in midday, I stopped around 11, at a Hibachi Grill, in Florissant, near the area that was so much in turmoil, in 2014.  Florissant itself, though, is well-manicured and has a prosperous outer countenance.  I hope the same for the surrounding communities, like Ferguson, while being well aware that a lot of hard work lies ahead, yet.  There were only a few of us in Hibachi Grill, at that hour, while the food was plentiful and varied- with almost as many “American” dishes as Chinese.

Crossing the Mississippi, I knew it would be unlikely that I would see many, if any, of my Midwestern friends, today or tomorrow.  One friend, whom I called, was ill.  Others, I knew, had their holiday plans, so I did not contact them.

Chicagoland always has its traffic challenges, and today’s inbound traffic did not disappoint.  As I expected, it took an hour to get from Bolingbrook, on the southern edge of the region, to Skokie, where I turned off the Kennedy Freeway.  It was easy getting to a gas station, filling up the Nissan, and emptying myself, though there was a line for the latter- not surprising, considering that many of us had been on the freeway for, in some cases, three hours.

The Baha’i House of Worship always rises majestically through the trees, once one gets to the community of Wilmette, and close to Lake Michigan.  I’m always comforted by the sight, and by being in the House.  A particular bonus today, though, was the new Visitor Center.  Here are some views of this fine addition to the complex.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Entrance to Visitor Center, Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Symbols of faith, Visitor Center, Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Mini-fountains, Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Main Display Hall, Visitor Center, Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Garden outside Visitor Center, Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

More Good News for modern man

I knew it would be way over budget, for me to stay in the Chicago area tonight, and the traffic in the morning would be horrific, besides, so after a serene and uplifting hour in the House of Worship, I headed eastward.  Traffic going out of the city was minimal, but I saw an astounding scene unfolding, across the median, on I-94:  Traffic coming from Indiana was at a standstill, for fifteen miles- clear to the Valparaiso turnoff.  It was too late to even think of calling a young friend in Portage, IN, so I headed south on county and state roads, into the rolling farmland and self-sufficient small towns that lie between Chicago and Indianapolis.

Fireworks programs, in many parts of the country, are organized  by cities and towns.  Here in the heartland, as we saw yesterday in Missouri, families set off their own, with the adults carefully monitoring their younger charges.  In Francesville, where I stopped and got a sandwich and some pretzels, for supper, the display was just starting.  I sat and watched, as a few fathers were giving their families and neighbours a visual treat, in a field on the south end of town.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Fireworks over Francesville, IN

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Fireworks over Francesville, IN

In all the years that I have experienced Independence Day celebrations, none have been more hearfelt, or more enjoyable, than this time of nibbling chicken salad, whilst watching competing displays from adjoining farm fields, in this solid little town, in central Indiana.

I would go on to Logansport, and spend the night in Manor Motel.  I did get the feeling, though, that I would always be welcome in Francesville, and other little towns along the way.  The heartland is a very warm place.