Saturday, June 8, 2013

America Summarized

Some simple observations are in order to summarize my month long exploration of our United States of America. As mentioned before in one of my segments, I didn't quite know what I was looking for when I set out in early May. Secretly I wanted to test my mind as to how the images in my memory compared to as they really are or were, albeit any changes or total demolition of fifty two year old childhood memories tucked away in my brain never updated or corrected. I relied only on my thoughts and intuition when I was 9 years old.

I could easily say my 20 minutes of conversation and stories in the garden with farmer Bill Thompson was worth the 30 days, 324 gallons of fuel and 6000 miles of driving in itself.  The stories were tangible to me because they were based on my people, my kin. The feeling I had driving away seeing those smiles reflecting from my rear view mirror were too sweet to properly describe, especially since our meeting was pure happenstance. It just doesn't get any better in life.

All the time I was gone I never got into a fight, didn't lose anything, never felt like anyone cheated me, no road rage, never saw a gun (except stickers of rifles in shape of a cross on the back of a pickup in Texas) and no one yelled at me except Minnie, my GPS.  I experienced more rain in three weeks than I have in 30 years in Arizona but stayed comfortably dry. I did endure quite a bit of mediocre or sub standard food and coffee. People were more than accommodating, friendly, and kind. Only once did I hear a discouraging word at a truck stop in Indiana but it wasn't directed at me. The nasty old fart was just a grumpy sot looking for a reason to yell at someone other than his obese discourteous wife blocking the hallway to the restrooms.

Experiencing such a variation in flora, fauna, and geological formations along my trail, I can confirm our country is flat out beautiful and worth exploring. I say this because for decades I've traveled to remote areas of the world looking for exoticism yet here in America we really do have it all. If our citizens would just turn off their electronics and walk about this country they too would appreciate it's natural beauty and just maybe become more active in making certain it's resources are saved for future generations.

I have a few other spots outside of the US to check out but I certainly have many more within our borders to see and experience. Where and when do I go next?...Not really sure, I've never been much for advanced planning.

Play for Peace,

One Last Night

Bryce Canyon
My morning to move on we hugged, kissed, and thanked just before I slid into Cheeky. I didn't have a real destination in mind to have my last camp out of this trip but I knew it had to be near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Everything between that was a flexible option. I'd been to Zion, Grand Staircase, and Bryce National Parks a few times before but I decided to stop at Bryce to play around with making some panorama fotos yet have time get to the North Rim before the sun set.

Perfect time of day at the Grand Canyon
Along the way on my entire trip I would occasionally stop at thrift stores to escape from the driving doldrums and strike up conversion with the local colorful clerks. A couple hours on the road I came upon a small town (can't remember the name it was so small) and stepped into the store noticing the huge amount of books. I thought maybe they might have some books on tape to freshen up my drive and sure enough the selection was great. I brought six audio books up to the counter when the nice young clerk said that everything was 75% off today. I asked why they had so many books. She regrettably told me their town's bookmobile no longer had funding and they were instructed to destroy everything. "The first day I began throwing away books it made me so sad so I had them brought here in hopes the community would buy them." She continued writing up my sale and announced my total would be 78 cents. "Your kidding I exclaimed". I told her I couldn't pay her that for such a trove of entertainment and asked if this shop supported a charity. "Our hospital gets all the proceeds to pay for care of those who can't afford it". I gave her five dollars and said it was a donation and left still feeling a bit guilty.

A panorama from the Lodge
Late afternoon the shadows began to lengthen as I turned at Jacobs Lake towards the Grand Canyon National Park. I gave Cheeky a bit more of the gas pedal so as to arrive in time to catch light at the canyon's edge. Within a few miles the thick forest turned into a stark graveyard of trees ravaged by a huge fire a few years ago. I remembered when Sharon and I spent the night at the entrance to the canyon while it burned. Smoke laid low everywhere. Now I was seeing the destruction years later. It's natures way and that's all one can say about such devastation.  A couple further miles I was engulfed by thick growth again and came upon the ranger station for the park. I asked the ranger about camping in the park and he said everything is filled but if I go back a couple miles onto forest road 610 there is some good camping with a possible view of the canyon. I thanked him, paid my $25.00 entry fee and within 20 minutes pulled up to the parking area. I shot some fotos and sat back to take in the grandeur and boldness of the canyon walls. It brought back memories of my hiking trips and river rafting through this natural cut.
Devastation of a forest fire years earlier
Back to Cheeky, she whisked me back past the ranger station and soon we were bouncing along the raunchy rutted road until a small bit of flat within a stand of aspens looked like home for the evening.With the tent perfectly pitched,  I didn't feel like cooking dinner so I prepared a nice bowl of Shredded Wheat with fresh fruit, cleaned up and slid into my sleeping bag to get rest for the last day of my sojourn.

It was still dark when I broke camp and by the time I reached the paved park road the warm dim light stretched over the herds of deer in the long meadows tasted better than any breakfast.  Speaking of breakfast I decided to drive the forty miles to the Vermillion Cliffs to catch the long shadows before my first feed of the day.

Marble Canyon with the Colorado River below
I wasn't disappointed drifting down from the high plateau onto the rolling hills at the base of the bright red walls of the Vermillion Cliffs. This long stretch of mountains to my left kept revealing itself like the pages of a book. I was able to stop on the two lane road at will because no one was up and about. A drove slowly along savoring pace and the beauty before me. I've driven this road many times at every interval of the day but usually under a time constrain and always wishing I could be here at this moment and at this pace....I've now arrived and it feels great. Soon an unmarked dirt road leading off to the right towards where Marble Canyon plays host to the first set of rapids for the rafters putting in at Lee's Ferry. I steer Cheeky along the deep rutted road though fairly flat. We come to the end...a cul de sac affair with signs telling you to venture no further by vehicle. I grab my camera and Ipad to hike out to the edge of the canyon. At the end of the precipice the sun reflected off the Colorado River and the Marble Canyon rapids below. Again I have to smile knowing I'm the only person at this point in time enjoying this view and as I turn 360 degrees, I fill my lungs with the fresh surroundings.

The Vermillion Cliffs panorama
Returning to Cheeky, I retreated towards the highway and pulled into the Marble Canyon restaurant for a breakfast burrito smothered in home made green chile. This recommendation by the waitress sparked many of my delight triggers. Soon I was walking out across the Navajo Bridge spanning the Colorado River when I saw two large wing spanned birds begin to fly under the bridge. I walked to the other side and saw two eagles slowly catching the wind drafts gliding parallel to the river. They too were enjoying this beautiful morning.
Navajo Bridge spanning the Colorado River

I knew once I returned to Cheeky it would be most likely the last time on this journey I'd open her door for adventure. Now it was all business to return, wind down, and soak in all that we'd scene and experienced. Soon I will be en route to some where else but for now I will kick back, listen to some music and sneak back to Bisbee.     

Mountains and Canyons

The Family together

Refreshed, the pre-sunrise start to my short drive day (400 miles), and the thought of driving to visit my friends, Daphne & Carlos maintained my energy and excitement as I twisted through the Rocky Mountains with the sun beginning to peak over the sharp crests. Down the west slope and onto the desert floor past Capitol Reef National Park brought me a feeling of being very close to home. The ranches, farms, and the desert open range were much different than my visions through my windshield for the past three weeks. One more gas stop and I would be pulling into Mount Pleasant, UT.

Lovely vintage house in Mount Pleasant
Once I dropped off the western slope of Colorado I gave a courtesy call to my friends and told them my approximate time of arrival. Carlos said they had a veterinarian appointment around 3PM at a ranch just out of town to look over their new quarter horse Daphne rescued. I promised to do my best so I could see "Holly".  At 1PM I pulled off the interstate onto the state road pointing directly north. The road was populated with small Mormon communities linked together with large grassy sheep and cattle ranches. Surrounding the valleys were the massive Wasatch Mountains crowned with snow. Just after 2PM I came upon the "Maverick" gas station signalling me to make the next left turn, count three houses on the right and look for my friend's cars. With pin point accuracy, I pulled up to a nicely maintained ranch style duplex, the home of Daphne and Carlos Peinado. Together this couple wrote, produced, directed, filmed, and edited the heart wrenching documentary "Waterbusters", a story how the US government relocated the Mandan tribe by dissecting and scattering it's residents throughout the US with not much more than bus tickets to destinations totally unfamiliar losing their identities and strength.
Winter still biting away

I was warmly welcomed by Daphne and soon after Carlos exited from his Volvo station wagon having just come from finishing out a day of winding down his school year. Carlos is a multi-media instructor for a private international high school where most students don't have English as a language and only about 10% are local students. It's been a learning experience for him to teach without a common language. I learned a new term..."Project Based Learning" is the vehicle used to teach these students. 

Winter revisits top of Horseshoe Mountain
Jumping back into his car, I got a quick tour of Mount Pleasant and soon we pulled onto the dirt road dividing the tall grass pastures populated with horses of many colors and markings. The horse docs had just arrived ready to check out Holly and give her a couple vaccinations. Carlos approached the fence while most of the herd curiously walked over to meet Carlos to which he lead Holly through the gate.

Within minutes the examination was done and we returned to the house where Carlos and I caught up on each others adventures, experiences, and the daily hum drums of life. It's fun to enter into Carlos' world of tech and creativity for he is always looking to be experimenting with ideas and equipment for photography and film. He has a great opportunity to create another film and was excited to share this news with me. We had some dinner and shared more stories then it was time to turn in for Carlos still had a long next day of meetings and reports to complete. Daphne and I planned to take a drive into the mountains the next morning.
Zie Brat ist Wundervar

Before departing the house, we all agreed to meet for lunch around noon at a German cafe in a town south of Mount Pleasant. Carlos took off to school and Daphne got to ride in Cheeky, who I could tell was excited to test herself in the Wasatch Mountains. We drove north out of town through the small community of Fairview, then turned east on SR31 and began out assent up into the Wasatch Mountain range. The aspens were just beginning to leaf out but old mister winter didn't seem to want to leave today. The dark deeply bruised clouds had a menacing threat of snow and once we reached the summit of Horseshoe Mountain, the icy snow began to fall creating such a wonderful drama, I couldn't have asked for better weather. Both Daphne and I were quiet with awe at the beauty that was offered on this day. We could only venture so far because of the time limitation to meet Carlos for lunch so I turned an invigorated Cheeky around and descended the same way we came. In our short drive about we came upon a sign explaining this was the site of a recent discovery of the remains of a Wooly Mastodon that is now housed in the Fairview Museum. The researchers said the beast was frozen so solid for thousands of years that when they excavated the animal, the flesh was still intact and let off a rancid smell of rotting meat.
Professor Carlos  and Miss Daphne

Now for lunch...retreating south through Fairview and Mount Pleasant we turned off to the left to a quaint little community of Spring City. The early settlers in this town were mainly of rough Swedish decent and soon were directed by the Mormon's to change their ways and they could have multiple wives and have as many children as humanly possible. This was most likely an easy sell to these pioneer Scandinavians. Oh yes, lunch...we all met up at the "Das Cafe" where I had the traditional bratwurst that satisfied my inner heritage.

Horseshoe Mountain
Later Carlos showed me about his campus classrooms stocked with the most advanced lighting, cameras, sound studios, and editing equipment. He then had me view a film project his students took ownership of called "The Classroom". This made for TV sitcom was based upon the style of "The Office". It was quite cleaver and well done. His students wrote, filmed, and acted in each segment. For Carlos this was a brilliant breakthrough regarding how to get kids interested and participate together in a project. Soon we returned to his house for dinner where afterward we all began packing for our journeys. Both Daphne & Carlos were leaving in a couple days to spend the summer in New England.  One last note about this part of Utah. Colorado may have the Rockies but for pure scenic beauty, Utah is much prettier.



Friday, June 7, 2013

775 Miles Sez It All

This roadside sign needs no explanation
Dark and raining is how I entered the Fort De Moise Hotel so I wasn't really thrilled to leave the hotel in the same conditions though I had hope of driving out of the storm that seems to have covered all of America for days now. I forwent my first light of day coffee in lieu of gaining an early start to my marathon drive. Hoping I'd have the stamina to drive the 750 miles to the Denver area I took a deep breath as Des Moise Iowa disappeared in my rear view mirror.

 The rain and wind became relentless through the undulating farmlands, the breadbasket, of our great nation. I'm sounding a little patriotic because this day, Memorial Day, the towns will be filled with trappings of honor to those who gave their lives so our nation can remain free. This is a mixed emotion for me...I am saddened by the tens of thousands of families who lost a loved one in the prime of their lives yet I harbor a flame of disgust for the individuals who profited from such hideous wars. The world wars seemed to have a much purer intent and need but our contemporary conflicts are questionable.

It almost seemed like the storm contained itself along the state lines. Crossing the border from Iowa to Nebraska I drove through Omaha in search of a breakfast stop. Even Minnie, the GPS, couldn't come up with anything open so I ventured a few miles further west to Council Bluffs and though they had an impressive display of bronze sculptures portraying the early settlers in search for a new life, my search for the land of breakfast wasn't fulfilled. Like the pioneers who pulled away from Council Bluffs 150 years ago, I too went west for my quest. Within minutes a mirage like tower with a campfire style coffee pot perched on top appeared on the flat horizon. I slowed as approached my morning mecca yet I was so enthralled by the coffee pot two hundred feet above the ground I missed the exit. The next exit I wiggled my way back using the side roads to the Sapp Brothers Cafe.

With CNN (I requested they change the channel on the screen at the counter) and Fox News on the flat screens competing on who can be more patriotic, I reviewed my map and was happy with my progress. Since the weather was clearing, this allowed me to drift from the ribbon of the most direct route and explore the back roads of Nebraska.
Cheeky running with the Big Dogs

I dedicate this Nebraska barn shot to Maralyce
Tummy full and metabolism jacked up on caffeine I looked across the parking lot and spied Cheeky with a slight grin across her grill. I looked a bit to my right and saw a group of semi trucks lined up perfectly with one empty slot in the middle. Cheeky wants her photo running with the big dogs. I backed into the spot ready for someone to give me some grief but it was early and I pulled off a sweet panorama of a proud little 4Runner among the big 16 wheelers.

I drove down the highway until I spotted church steeple in the distance off to the right. The next rural exit had me driving the dirt roads delineating the farm fields with short arteries leading to homes and barns. I was fascinated with the style of vintage barns in Nebraska unlike any other design I've encountered. After photographing the barns I doubled back towards the sharp steeple. Driving up to the church, an adjacent cemetery with display of the United States flags all unfurled at attention thanks to the constant wind, made a moment for me to contemplate and be thankful. Three to four generation families pulled up into the cemetery, piled out of their suburbans and surrounded grave markers of their loved one.  This sincere rare display of respectful recognition reinforced the hope our society isn't unraveling.

It doesn't get any more Midwest than this
Back to the fast pavement, my focus was to reach the Denver area, camp the night and reach Utah by the next day to visit with friends Daphanie  and Carlos for a couple days. The same time zone issue that plagued me for weeks is now working to my advantage. As I crossed into Colorado, I saved an hour so I adjusted my day's destination to Vail, Colorado which would shorten my next day drive by a couple hours.

Turning south it felt as if my direction was going downhill. The extra hour and the diminishing winds once I entered into the Rocky Mountain passes gave me a deeper strength and endurance. Winding and cutting through the mountains via tunnels gave me hope I would reach Vail before dark though the jagged peaks had only a dash of light highlighting their western tips. Along the way I kept a vigilant look out for a state park to camp at but nothing appeared plus I began to think whether it would be wise for me to camp in these mountains with snow still dotted on the ground. A quick change in weather could lead to a miserable night after a 775 mile drive. OK...I caved and pulled into a Holiday Inn Express in Vail. The young man behind the hotel desk checked me in and then he asked what I was doing for dinner. My mind was caught a bit off guard until he explained the hotel has a sushi restaurant and Mondays are half off night. A perfect end to a long day behind the wheel

Tunnels cut through the mountains save alot of time

Not much daylight left

. I dropped my bag in my room, made an about face, stepped into the restaurant and within minutes was being entertained by the artistry of two Japanese sushi masters. The saki, beer, and miso soup was a great beginning to a fine sushi dinner. Once the sushi was finished...I felt finished and soon was in deep recovery mode for the next day.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Midwest in a Blurrrr

The Frank Gehry designed building across from my hotel
The morning I left Cleveland the wind ceased and the sun shone. I can't stay another day because I have to cross two thirds of the United States, visit some friends, drop off the Interstate for a few miles, and make my drive seem casual all in five days. No problem...a walk in the park, a can of corn. But first I had to get one more photo of the Frank Gehry building with actual sunshine before moving on.

One last breakfast d'elegance at the Glidden, finish stuffing my meager belongings in my duffel, run down the back stairs, jump into Cheeky and drive. This time I really have no direction home other than west. I poured over a map of the US and had three rough out choices for a camp. Potato Camp near Lake Michigan seemed like a good start. If I make it fine...if not....well...there's always a motel.  Leaving Cleveland the sun continued to shine and did so throughout the morning. In the beginning I stuck to some backroads that lead me through Amish communities but soon I needed to make some quick miles so I drove onto the "Toll Road" and drove fast out of Ohio into Indiana. As the sun began it's decent I began to pay more attention to the GPS as I approached New Liberty, Indiana.

Wondering through Amish country was peaceful
I made one slight error before leaving the Glidden House. I programmed Minnie to a town near the state park where I thought I should spend the night since the state camp ground wasn't recognized on my GPS. Not a problem but I forgot I programmed a close address when I got to the area and only realized it when I made my fiftieth turn in the rural farm lands of New Liberty. I programmed the local state park, Potato Camp and quickly discovered I went about 30 miles out of my way. Oh well I got to the Potato State Park and the girl at the front gate said they had a tent spot but it would cost me $7.00 and then proceeded to the actual camp ranger station to get my site pass, vehicle pass, and the set of camp rules and pay an additional $32.00 because because it was Memorial Day Weekend. It was late so I continued to drive on to my $39.00 camp site along with the 200 other family campers. The only difference between me and my fellow outdoor seekers was my tent verses the rest being in RV's. I drove to my site that had a nice large shade tree and a grassy area and erected my tent.

Next to me was a nice young family sitting at the camp supplied picnic table next to their older RV having a crockpot dinner. With my tent complete with sleeping bag and Therma Rest, I began digging around in my provisions box to see what I was going to prepare for dinner. I must have looked pretty pitiful because the dad walked up and offered me a hot plate of scrambled eggs and potatoes nicely mixed together. I thanked him and as he walked back, I pulled out my salsa to spice up this midwest delight. After cleaning my plate I pulled out a box of Bisbee chocolates and walked over to the family and gifted them the sweets. The whole family thanked me and it wasn't till the middle of the night that I awoke and realized I neglected to warn them that one or two of the sweets could have chili powder in them. Oh well what do they expect from an eccentric old fart from Bisbee (where ever that is)

Rain all the way across Iowa
It was just past seven when I climbed in my tent to read. Within minutes I was asleep and didn't wake until 5:30AM. Refreshed I went to the park bathhouse,  took a hot shower, had some cereal, broke camp and was on the road by 7AM. I knew this time I had to make 600 miles to Des Moise, Iowa but as I left Indiana, the sky turned dark...I mean it was like someone turned off the light switch. The coal black clouds began to dump rain and it didn't let up even as I entered Des Moine, a town much larger than I had ever expected. I stopped at a pub that served cajun food.  Ordered dinner, a beer and then came to the realization there was no way I could camp in this storm so once again I searched for a hotel room and this time it was The Fort at Des Moise Hotel, a large vintage hotel with a history of playing host to a number of presidential candidates. I schlepped my bags to the 5th floor, did some writing and quickly hit the sack for the next day was going to be my longest reach across the Midwest.

The Fort Hotel overflowing with political heritage

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Rockingly Overwhelmed

Even though I had a great satisfying dinner last night, I was looking forward to breakfast at the Glidden House. An array of hot cereal, croissants, juices, fresh fruits, and coffee delighted my soul for looking out the sun room's windows I could see I was in for another nasty speaking of course.
I will insist on chandeliers at breakfast from now on

The morning weather didn't improve when I left the fact it was worse. Cold chilling winds thundering off Lake Erie cut me to the bone. I wanted to get to the Rock and Roll Museum early to allow me time enough to take in all that had to offer and to get ahead of the crowds. After programming Minnie, I was off to the lake front district of downtown Cleveland. I must take back all the disparaging things I've said about Cleveland in the past...this is really a very nice city and if you haven't had the chance to visit it would be well worth catching a cheapo flight to the city for a few days.

After a quick park on the pier I stepped out from Cheeky to be blasted by the bare freezing winds off Lake Erie. Hunched shouldered, collar up, and layered up, I briskly made my way to the museum. On the way a plaque addressed why Cleveland was chosen for the Rock & Roll Museum. OK..This is for you Aunt Geri...Alan Freed in 1951 was the first DJ in the country to broadcast Rock, Blues and Rockabilly music to the masses. His syndicated radio show served up this new form of music across America and He was the first promoter to stage a Rock and Roll concert. So I can understand now and hopefully Geri can too why Cleveland has the museum.

The Rock and Rock Museum
There were only a few people so I was soon escalated down to the first of 6 floors of exhibits. I instantly became overloaded with massive amounts of rock memorabilia. It took me about 30 minutes to slowly understand and absorb the showcases full of handbills, guitars, costumes, and set lists by about every musician you've heard of plus many others that I'll be researching later. No doubt it's a phenomenal museum...a must see for everyone. After five hours of strolling down memory lane I thought I'd better see a bit more of downtown Cleveland.
The interior of the museum

I walked out of the museum and was immediately assaulted  once again by strong bitterly cold winds. I made it a couple blocks and did an about face back to the car. Cold and hungry I remembered the art museum had a cafe. I fired up Cheeky, asked Minnie to direct me back to the Glidden House and with 30 minutes I was walking through the doors of the museum into the atrium and into the cafe. I made a quick pass looking at all the incredible options but decided on a New England Clam Chowder, a quinoa salad, and a Thai Shark Steak wrap. Yum.... After lunch I walked a bit more around the museum taking some photos and then decided to explore the Botanical Garden across the street. These venues are widely separated by large landscaped grounds making the walks pleasing.

With the condition of the weather I asked the young information assistant how to get to the large glass enclosed rain forest. She also said butterflies were released only a few minutes ago so I should have a good look at them. I pushed through the double door entrance and soon transported from 40 degree weather to a tropical 80 degree jungle with hundreds of colorful butterflies flitting about. Once I warmed up and actually began a sweat, I explored the grounds around the building. Because Cleveland had warm weather in the high 70's before I arrived, some flowers began to bloom so it wasn't all bleak.

A mossy grotto inside the botanical garden
I returned to my hotel and because of the large late lunch I didn't need any dinner and focused on writing, watching some basketball playoffs, and hitting the sack early knowing I had a long day of driving ahead of me.

Janis Joplins 356 Porsche Speedster

Les Paul's 1946 first electric guitar

Mick Jagger's set list

Inductees Hall of Fame Theatre

Lunch at the art museum

It's Not Only Rock & Roll But I Like It

I was jubilant leaving the farm for the last time. My quest was complete and now my next destination was Cleveland, the home of the Rock & Roll Museum. Earlier in our travels we stayed with Sharon's Aunt Geri and when she heard I was going to Cleveland to visit the Rock & Roll Museum she strongly vocalized her disgust with the museum not being located in Memphis...the birthplace of Rock and Roll, Blues, and Rockabilly. She flatly believed the decision was wrong. I couldn't think what the reason was either but I soon found out.

The Glidden House was comfy and elegant
Because Cleveland is a large city and the weather being cold, windy, and raining I opted for finding a hotel to spend the night. I had no idea what exit to take or what part of the city I should look for a room so my decision was to find the art museum and then look around that area. Usually art museums are placed near the happening parts of a city so I programmed Minnie to take me to the museum. I exited the interstate and traveled a distance on Martin Luther King Blvd that wound me through a series of beautiful lush green forested parks all the while the rain poured down. Making a few quick turns I arrived at the entrance to the museum, parked at a meter space and programmed hotel into Minnie. My choice was based upon a close small non corporate hotel close called The Glidden House. I called to find they had a vacancy and parking as well.

Panorama of the Cleveland Museum of Art atrium
The hotel turned out to be a fantastically beautiful former estate of the Glidden paint family. I pulled Cheeky up to the front of this elegant chateau and unloaded my bags, then checked into my room. I still had some daylight left so I went exploring the neighborhood retracing my route back to the Cleveland Museum of Art. On the way I passed the Cleveland Botanical Garden and the Museum of History. Looking at my watch, I had a couple hours to see the art museum before it closed.

The sound installation ushered me to a different world
At the front desk of the museum, the docent gave me a quick rundown on what to see within the limited time before closing. I took the guide pamphlet and quickly made my tour throughout this impressive building and incredible collection of contemporary work, classical works, and medieval collection plus a sound installation comprising of a classical chorale in a room surrounded by Baroque masterpieces. I couldn't have landed in a better spot after a long drive. Upon leaving the museum, I inquired at the information desk as to where the Rock and Roll Museum was located. The woman explained that it was down on the lake front about 5 miles away. At first I thought I made a wrong choice for a hotel location but later discovered I happened upon the best area to stay.
 Medieval Display
Spring tried to break through

Gardens outside the museum
Returning to my hotel, I inquired at the front desk about a recommending a restaurant within walking distance. The desk clerk smiled and insisted I walk about 20 minutes to the Little Italy section of Cleveland to Mia Belle Restaurant. I cleaned up a bit and within a half hour I was walking in the continuing rain to the restaurant. Across the street from my hotel I noticed a building that looked like a Frank Gery contemporary design. It was incredibly bent, twisted, and metallic. Later I found I was correct in my assumption. Onward sloshing along the boulevard I came to the Mia Belle, a small family owned corner bistro. Sitting a the bar, I ordered a Mia salad, scallops in red sauce, and a glass of Italian white wine. The salad was crisp with a nice variety of veggies and the scallops were the most flavorful tender bites of Neptune that ever slid over my tongue. Dessert was a caramel custard ending my full blown Italian culinary experience.

With the rain now accompanied with a strong wind, my walk home was a bit challenging but the lingering flavors of Mia Belle and the thoughts of the Rock & Roll Museum for tomorrow occupying my mind, I was soon at the doorstep of the Glidden House.


Monday, May 27, 2013

1 Turn, 2 People, 3 Stories

Leaving Greenville felt like I found the items I wished for but I wasn't feeling complete. Something was missing so my hopes hung on my going north a bit more to the Ohio and Pennsylvania border.

Main Street Linesville PA
The evening and early morning brought a solid rain but I was comfortable and dry inside Big Agnus (the tent) but the rain creates extra work in the morning trying to dry the tent before packing it into it's stuff sack. I made some coffee and ate cearal to reduce cooking and clean up. The morning began sunny interspersed with big clouds so I quickly assembled everything, packed, and drove east about 3 miles on to Main St. I saw the post office and remembered Sharon had left a book on tape for the Bisbee Library in one of provision boxes. The tape would be way overdue if I didn't send it so I walked up and down Main Street until 9AM when the Post Office opened. Besides if I got to my Grandparents farm too early it would be a bit rude of me knocking on the door asking for permission to poke around.

I got some ice at the small market, bought some lubricating oil and a "hide a key" at the hardware store, mailed the package, and drove north about 15 miles when I came to a "Road Closed" sign just before my Grandparents farm, or the best that I could remember where it was.  I took the detour  routing me to the Ohio border. This time I ignored the detour sign and doubled back slowly looked for the farm.  The distance from the farm to the border was the only clue I had in my mind. As I slowly drifted down the pavement, a dirt road that looked kind of familiar on the right side of the road caught my eye, I turned and began driving on it, first passing a farmer on a tractor, we both nodded giving each other mutual recognition as I continued up the road. Next about a 100 yards further a good sized man was working in a newly planted garden. I spied the buildings behind him and the garden but none of the structures were my grandfathers.

Bill and Jean new cousins.
You see, my grandfather, Paul Batory was a tall strong craftsman and construction foreman for large projects such as dams and road building so when the original two story farm house caught fire in the 1940's, my Grandpap built the new house himself around the damaged one while they still lived in it. When it came time to remove the old house, Grandpap had everything ready to complete the interior in a couple weeks.

The farmer turned and stared at me from the middle of his garden wondering who I was stopping at his property. I got out of Cheeky, smiled and introduced myself and then explained that I believe this property was my grandparents one time. He asked their names and said the Batory's farm is about a half mile further towards Ohio and believes the renters moved out quite some time ago so the place may be empty. He seemed very comfortable and relaxed then continued on about his property at one time belonged to Billy Gilroy. He began Story One..."Billy was quite a character. He had a 600lb. razor hog and he would slip an ear of corn in his back pocket and that hog would sniff that ear of corn following Billy around the perimeter of his property. That's how he walked his hog." Story Two..."He had a brother Jimmy that wanted to buy a farm about a couple miles down from here. Now this was in the 1930's...He worked for Ferguson Tractor and had saved up $2,000.00 for the down payment for the farm. Remember this was the 30's so $2,000.00 was a lot of money then. Well Jimmy had sat on a tractor and plowed a field and the wide tractor seat dislodged his wallet from his back pocket somewhere in the field. Jimmy borrowed a plow horse and rake implement and walked behind that horse until dusk when he decided the wallet was lost forever. He began to unhook the horse when the horse stomped kicking forward a tuft of dirt and Jimmy saw something fly across the ground. Walked over and reached to his disbelief, it was his wallet with all the money. He said he never felt more like kissing a horses ass in his life"

Grandpap Paul and Granma Esther's house
When he finished with the two stories I began to put together the lineage of characters in his story and when he told me his name was Bill Thompson and that his daddy's name was Merle, I became elated. First off....the two people in the stories were brothers and those brothers were my uncles. Not the sharpest boys but hard workers. The farmer, Bill Thompson's father, Merle was my Uncle Merle because my grandmothers sister married Merle. It was said Merle was half American Indian and he and my Aunt Ruth lived across the state highway from my grandparents. Merle and Ruth had a large farmhouse with wooden floors. Story Three...One Saturday when I was about 6 years old I walked over to my Uncle Merle's to sit in his living room and watch professional wrestling with him. Merle thought the wrestling was real and every Saturday you could hear him across the highway yelling at the Philco black and white TV. I sat and watched both the wrestling and Uncle Merle rolling a cigarette from the can of Prince Albert next to his wooden chair. He had the cigarette almost done but a piece of tobacco left the paper and went up his nose causing Merle to violently sneeze and behind the sneeze came Uncle Merle's teeth flying from his mouth and skipping across the wooden floor in front of the Philco. I honestly thought my uncle had sneezed so hard that he blew out all his teeth so I ran home to my grandparents screaming "Uncle Merle blew out his teeth". That's when I learned about dentures and that they are just like stars...they come out at night.

I explained to Bill that we are related only by marriage but it was sure great getting to meet him and his wife Jean who smiled so sweetly. I asked to take their picture and Jean said she isn't pretty enough and Bill told Jean it isn't too often that a girl gets to have her photo taken with such a handsome man.

Barbers family grave site
We said our goodbyes and I now was off to finish up my business. I drove down the highway and looked for the block house out on the road Bill explained to me. I saw the block house up ahead and sure enough way back off the road was my grandparents home where I spent most of my weekends growing up.  The house was empty and in need of a little care but I had full run of walking about reliving in my mind so many warm memories. I turned away from the house and walked into the thick woods to where I remembered the Barber family grave site. This family was involved with the underground railroad hiding black slaves and assisted them from the south to the north. I walked with my memory as my only talisman then bingo there were the graves.

Walking back to the farmhouse I felt a sense of total satisfaction. My memory served me pretty well and the happenstance of meeting my new far removed cousins was a sweet surprise.

I returned to Cheeky, fired up Minnie, programmed in Cleveland, Ohio. This time not only was I on my way to the next roadside attraction but I felt completely joyful not only finding the farm but stumbling upon Bill Thompson and his wife was the really Holy Grail.

Geneva on the Lake.
 PS: On my way to Cleveland I saw a sign for Geneva on the Lake, a beach community on Lake Erie. my mother used to talk about fondly so I stopped by to see what turned out to be a stunted version of the Jersey Boardwalk

Sunday, May 26, 2013

North To My Birthplace

Main Street Greenville
The next couple days are the reason for this trip. The journey has  been great but real sweet stuff for me is to visit my birthplace, Greenville Pennsylvania to reacquaint myself with the houses, the neighborhood, school, and surrounding areas. I wanted to smell the dirt, taste the air, feel the light, and get a real sense where my life began. Youthful eyes are pretty silly and when connected to the mind, a memory can become easily distorted. Houses looked much larger and the length of the streets are much shorter than I remembered.

Holy Trinity Church where Mom taught Sunday School
Information regarding my early life is limited to a few photos and my memory. My parents are both gone as well as my only sibling. Surprisingly enough my memory was fairly accurate having to search 55 years of past data. Only a couple things I couldn't find and I didn't try to connect with any people. First of all, I attended my first three years of school there and all my parents friends are long gone. The only person that is a direct relative that could lend any help is my Aunt Nita but she is working through some memory issues. So it is up to me to glean what I'm looking for and I'm not certain what is driving me.

The Kidd Covered Bridge where I used to play Huck Finn
Monday morning I left my hotel near the airport in Pittsburgh and drove directly north for 70 miles. Again, I left Greenville when I was 9 but when I reached Main Street I drove directly to the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church to get my bearings. This is where I was baptized and spent every Sunday listening to Pastor Brath, fidgeting in the pews, and attending Sunday school doing a variety of puzzles all with a religious undertone. This repetition allowed me to find the church and park next to it without hesitation. With some help from a woman inside the church I found my first school that no longer is part of the school system, the old covered bridge, and our third home which was the prize of my mother's dreams. It was brand new and the only house they purchased in their life. The first house was out in the country and I believe was leveled and the second one near my first school, I just couldn't remember.
Late Afternoon lunch stop at Paxtons

I was quite satisfied with what I had found leaving me with a warm feeling. More daylight was available for me to move a bit further north to search for my Mom's parent's farm but first I had to get something to eat. I remember the first time I ate in a restaurant with my mother. We were shopping on Main Street and she suggested we have lunch in a restaurant. I was about 4 years old and when we entered through the doors I took a close look at the line of stools with chrome rims lined up along the counter that was about as tall as me. Mom helped me up on one of the stools and she ordered a hamburger for me. This was quite a joy and obvious I never forgot.

I walked down Main St a saw a colored awning advertising Paxtons Family Restaurant. The thought of finding the same restaurant ran through my mind as I pushed open the door. When I entered through the second door the line up of stools with chrome rims weakened my knees. I felt as if I entered a time machine. I could feel my Mom walk with me to the counter only this time I didn't need her help and yes I ordered a hamburger plus it was one of the best I've ever tasted.
The fish try to jump up the concrete spillway

Leaving Greenville a bit late I decided to camp at Lake Pymatuming located only a few miles from the town of Linesville, very close to my Grandparents farm. The road leading up to the lake runs atop of a spillway or causeway where the ducks walk on the fish. This is true, the carp are so plentiful, if a casual visitor throws bread in the concrete gathering point for the fish, the ducks will walk on them to get the piece of bread.

The sky was gray with clouds ready to burst so I was the only one there and I didn't have any bread to feed the ducks but they were both poised ready to perform. This place was a great thrill when my parents would stop a few times a year.
I never saw one make it into the lake

Looking up into the sky I knew it would be best to get my camp set as quickly as possible before the rains came. I stopped at the small store and picked up some breakfast supplies and scooted out to the lake campground to hunker down for a very wet night.

The search for the farm would have to wait til tomorrow.

The my parents sold before relocating to Arizona

Home for me after 50 years was dry and comfy