Monday, July 29, 2013

New York

Wow!  Just realized our last post was no. 300!.  Is that all? I can imagine some readers muttering.  Seems like more.

Sunday morning, July 14.  We (Mandi, Paul, and we two-zi) drove from our campground down to Hyde Park, the village that is home to Franklin Roosevelt's home, Springwood.  He was born here and is buried here.  It was his favorite place to be.  His presidential library - he was the first to have one - and a newly refurbished museum are also located here.  The museum has many displays and videos that tell the story of the Great Depression and FDR's programs to overcome it.  And, they describe his life before the presidency.

I didn't know the story of his polio. He contracted it in 1921, when he was 39 years old and active in NY and national politics - he had been the Democratic candidate for VP in 1920!  One evening at the family vacation retreat on Campobello Island in Canada, he complained of chills and fatigue.  Two days later he was paralyzed from the waist down.  He struggled mightily to cope with and overcome the effects of the disease - Eleanor cited it as his greatest demonstration of courage - and resumed his active political life. He was elected governor of NY in 1928 and of course, President, in 1932. 

Our museum tour was cut short by the start of the home tour.  I found out later that there were two other floors in the museum that I had not gotten to.  So, if you're ever in the area, check it out and send me a report.

We had a good guide for the home tour.  Several of his anecdotes pertained to FDR's mother, Sarah Delano.  She lived at Springwood with Franklin and Eleanor for many years after her husband's death and pretty well ran things.  As a result Eleanor never felt at home there.  At one point during FDR's presidency the king and queen of England were en route to Hyde Park for a visit.  Franklin had a collection of political cartoons, several of which, critical of England and the royal family, were prominently displayed in the foyer.  Mom told Franklin to take them down.  Somehow, that didn't happen.  The royals arrived.  The K espied the cartoons and went over to take a closer look.  After a while, he turned to FDR and said, I see you've got a few that I don't have.  No offense taken.

Here's a picture of the house.


There are two wings on either end of the house, not shown, that Franklin had added at some point.  The upgrade improved the facilities from two bathrooms to 15, or so.  The White House-like portico was an FDR addition before he became president, so maybe that was a clue to his ambition.

Oh, look who just came out those doors:


It's Paul and Mandi!  The Venable First Couple!  (FDR and Eleanor were the Venerable First Couple.)

Here's Roosevelt's grave site, backed by an impressive-looking carriage house.



(Technical detail.  I complained earlier about Blogger not uploading pictures.  Among the suggested remedies I found, one was to change your browser.  I switched from Firefox to Explorer and that took care of the problem.)

After a late lunch we went a short ways up the river to tour the Vanderbilt mansion.  This stretch of the Hudson was known as millionaires row because of the estates that lined it - Astors, Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, Rockefellers, ... .  The Vanderbilt who built here was Frederick.  His mansion is not as grandiose (excessively so, IMHO) as that of his brother, George's, in Ashville, NC - the largest home in America - but it's still pretty impressive.

Here's the exterior of the Vanderbilt home facing the river.  Nicely understated.

 
And here's the view.



It's interesting: these homes were generally just occupied by their owners in spring and fall.  Hot and humid here today, Monday, as this is written, so summer was not a good time.  You've probably seen headlines about the East Coast heat wave right now.  Weather news from home, though, is that the summer rainy season is in full swing.  That's a relief.  The neighbors are still reporting bear sightings, though.

Paul and Mandi headed back to the city on Monday.  Because no campground is complete without ants, they left us a couple.



Big-uns!

On Wednesday we moved only about 40 miles north to a campground near Earlton, NY, which is only about 15 miles from the site of the very big Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival which occurs, very handily, this weekend.  This is another hilltop campground.  After we turned off the highway, we started up a hill on a road better than the one once traveled before, but still eerily reminiscent.  I sensed tenseness to my right.  How do you come up with these campgrounds, Susie asked.  I said this is the closest one to Grey Fox. I'd seen pictures and knew we didn't want to camp on the festival site - pictures below.  The Earlton Hill campground turned out to be substantially nicer than the previous disaster.  Plenty of power for A/C, primarily. It's mostly year-round sites either owned or leased, with just a few slots for traveling-through folks.  That seems to be the pattern here: park your camping trailer in one site for the year or season.  Visit on weekends and holidays.  There are not many transients, like us, and we do not meet many RVs on the roads and highways.

Wednesday afternoon we went looking for the festival site.  Turned out not to be as easy as you would think – not very well signed. We stopped and asked directions a couple of times.  Finally, at one intersection we’d seen before, Susie said, I see a bunch of cars over there.  Let’s look.  Lo and behold, we had found the site.

We had tentatively planned that one or both of us could shuttle back and forth between our campground and the festival.  I can do 8-12 hrs. of unrelenting bluegrass; Susie can’t.  Driving time and parking issues made that option a no-go.  Looking at the schedule, we decided I’d come on Friday, Susie might come with me on Saturday; maybe we’d both come again for the Sunday morning gospel set.

 I went early on Friday to stake out a good site for my lawn chair.  Lawn chair strategery is an important festival skill.  Well, the whole hillside was covered with lawn chairs (set up on Thursday, the first day of the festival).  The rule here was that you could claim your lawn chair spot on Thursday and leave your chair there all weekend.  At Westcliffe, CO, where we generally go in July for their bluegrass festival, you’re supposed to remove your chairs each night, then line up the next morning to grab the best spot you can.  Sort of like an Oklahoma land rush.  Very democratic.  In either case you can sit in an unoccupied lawn chair, but be ready to move, graciously, when the owner shows up.  Very civilized.

At Grey Fox there were more rules.  Some areas were designated only for ground-sitting and low-rider chairs, some for regular size lawn chairs, some were OK for umbrellas, etc. Way in the back you could put up your own shades.  With the anticipated heat already evident, I decided not to try to find a spot out in the open, near the stage.  Way back up the hill there were a couple of tents.  I got lucky and found an opening in the front row of shaded seats and plopped my chair down. 

Here's the view from the tent.



The stage is between those two speaker towers left of center.

After the music started it was apparent that the hundreds, maybe thousands, of chairs out in the open were not going to be occupied.  I picked out a chair in a prime location near the stage and sat down.  A couple came along and asked if it was OK to sit in other people’s lawn chairs.  I said, Sure, I am.  I didn’t last long there, though, with the heat.  Really miserable, even with a broad-brimmed hat.  So, it was back to the tent.  Fortunately, the sound system was good.  Here's my view.



The stage is left-center, between those two speaker towers.

 The band that hosts and helps organize this festival is the same one that hosts the Westcliffe festival – the Dry Branch Fire Squad.  The two festivals are just a week apart.  About 12 years ago the group leader, Ron Thomason, moved to Westcliffe.  Wasn't long before he organized a festival there to raise money for the local clinic.  The Westcliffe festival is big, but not Grey Fox size.  Westcliffe has a tent large enough to cover most of the audience.

In addition to Dry Branch, I was especially happy to see that a group from Ireland, that I "discovered" at last Fall's bluegrass convention and festival in Nashville, was appearing here.  I Draw Slow, they call themselves.  Also, the Gibson Brothers who are an upstate NY band that have a lot of recent success in the bluegrass world.

Fortunately, I Draw Slow, on Friday (the day I was there, not when they drive slow) was appearing on one of the satellite stages, tent-covered.  It was a great set.  They acknowledged that appearing last fall in Nashville had gotten them noticed by the Grey Fox organizers, so here they wer

Back at the main venue, a chap sat down in a lawn chair next to me - in the main stage's covered area.  Said, Where's my other chair?  I said I don't know.  This space was vacant when I got here and placed my chair.  Could tell he didn't believe me.  His second chair was a couple of rows back.  Fortunately, by the time his wife showed up, another settler on our front row had left, taking chair, so he was able to put his chairs side by side.

Then, in mid-afternoon, the sun was hitting the first row, where I sat.  There was an open spot just behind me, so I moved my chair there.  Unfortunately, as I was setting the chair down, it bumped against the man's hand next to me - but I didn't know it.  As I settled in, he was shaking his hand very visibly, showing great pain.  I said, Did I hit your hand?  Sorry.  He just kept shaking his hand and scowling.  It wasn't long until I folded my chair and left for the other venues.

Anyhow, after a mere 12 hours on site, the heat and humidity and the bluegrass had me staggering.  Decided not to come back on Saturday just to see second sets by the above three groups.  Would wait until Sunday and Susie and I would come for Dry Branch's traditional gospel music set.  Some people will be amazed that I would skip a day of bluegrass, but there you have it.

For about a couple of weeks we've been skirting the Catskill Mountains.  Friday we drove a loop through those mountains.  Friday turned out cloudy and cooler, but I had no regrets about taking a day off from Grey Fox bluegrass.  Had some CDs.  Here are some scenes along the way.





Next week, Massachusetts.

Susie and Rob

Monday, July 15, 2013

Report 3: VA - NY

From Fredericksburg it was a half-day’s drive on Wednesday (July 10) to Gettysburg where we stayed two nights.  We’d picked Gettysburg as sort of a mid-way stop en route to a couple of sites in NY, where we’ll be for 10 days, rather than for its historical interest – we’d been there, done that before. Also, there was a Passport America campground there, which means half-regular-price camping. 

Our Gettysburg visit was between the week in which the 150th anniversary of the battle had been observed and re-enacted and the upcoming motorcycle-rally weekend – sort of Sturgis East.  Our campground was adjacent to the battlefield and one evening I got pictures of two Pennsylvania memorials.


 


 
This portion of the Gettysburg National Cemetery is actually for WWII casualties

 
And a nearby barn.

I did get into the Civil War remembrance, though, by attending “Road From Appomattox” one evening.  This is a dramatization of the meeting between Grant and Lee the day after Lee’s surrender to Grant.  The play was a half-hour conversation between the two men.  This meeting actually happened, but we don’t have records.  The playwright took what was known and built a compelling conversation.  The emotions depicted ranged across respect, regret, honor, and anger.  Grant and Lincoln very much did not want Lee and his troops to be humiliated or punished and the civility the officers and soldiers displayed was remarkable.  Grant also wanted Lee to pressure Confederate troops still fighting to surrender.  Lee said he wouldn't.  After the presentation, the two actors came out and took audience questions and that was informative and entertaining, too.

After we had made our Gettysburg reservations, we had called Joyce and Jay Rush,  who have appeared so often in these journals that they need no introduction,FYI Manny's youngest sister) to see if they might want to meet us in Gettysburg (they live in State College).  Turned out that they had plans that weekend to be in nearby York for a national Fairlane rally so we drove over there to have lunch and visit with them.  Jay’s restored ’69 Fairlane was in its trailer, so I didn’t get a picture of it, but a couple of days later we found he had won a prize - best in category - and this picture was on Facebook.

 
Jay and Joyce lived in York from 1982 to 2002.  After lunch they took us on a tour of the area.  Did you know York is a center for snack food production?  We stopped at the Snyder pretzel factory store and stocked up – provisions for our grueling trip.

Next day’s trip had some gruelsomeness.  Our goal for the weekend was the Hilltop Farm Campsites near Mountain Dale, NY, on the southern edge of the Catskills.  I had picked this campground out of our Guide primarily for location.  It was about 100 miles from NYC and we had thought we might drive in to the city to visit daughter Mandi and husband Paul, and granddaughter Kaci.  We didn’t want to get Tuzigoot any closer to NYC traffic and this campground would be both cheap and reasonably convenient.  Closer locales were mostly state parks and these didn’t have sites large enough to fit us.   

Now for the grueling part.  PA interstate highways, as we’ve found previously, are not in very good condition.  A lot of rough pavement.  To add insult to injury they have mileage markers every ONE-TENTH of a mile in long stretches of rural regions (vs. the .2 mile-markers we observed in MO).  Money that should have been spent on the roads themselves!  Things got worse in NY.

Just after crossing the state line, I took the exit dictated by the nice GPS lady.  But, at the first intersection, a Y, I was in the wrong lane and had to turn right when I should have turned left.  This led to a 10-mile U-turn.  So, I was a little tensed up when we got back to where we had been and I turned left. 

Just after that turn, Miss GPS said turn right on Maple.  Maple didn’t look like a highway through the town of Port Jervis, NY, but I followed instructions.  Oops.  Immediately, I saw a sign saying Low Clearance: 9 ft and just past that I could see an old, arched RR underpass!  Tuzi is about 12 ft. high.  Luckily, there was a spacious shoulder on my left and I was able to pull over there and get off the road.  Only problem was that the hitch between Tuzi and the pick-up was in a twisted position that made the hitch impossible to un-hitch.  Susie got in the pick-up, with the motor running, and with a little back and forth we got things straightened out and then unhitched.  Plan was that, with Susie directing me and holding back any traffic, I would turn Tuzi around and Susie would follow me through town until we found a place we could re-hitch.  Also, we were looking for a grocery store, so thought surely we’d find one with a large parking lot.  Again, very fortunately, there was room to pull into a parking lot where we were, then, with Susie directing traffic, back out in the road, then point ourselves back toward the road from whence we had come.  (Later Susie complimented me on how calmly I had handled this difficult situation.  Mostly, I was just relieved the situation wasn't much worse - I could imagine needing the help of police to extricate ourselves from this mess.)

Just after I started down that road, another Low Clearance sign – this one 12’ 4.”  I ducked my head and kept on driving, fully expecting to hear a rooftop air conditioner being scraped or removed, but it didn’t happen!  We did soon see signs for route 209, which I knew we wanted, and followed it through town until I found a place to pull over and re-hitch.  No grocery stores, no Wal-Mart, though, so we proceeded toward Mountain Dale.

We had programmed the address, 75 Forest Road, into the GPS, but I no longer trusted Miss GPS (though she can’t be faulted for not knowing Tuzigoot is 12 ft. tall) to plot our route through forests and around lakes and mountains, so I stopped and called for instructions (which turned out to be different from those Miss GPS had laid out), which we followed with no problems.    

However, trepidations resurfaced as we turned into the driveway to Hilltop Farm.  It was a steep, narrow, uphill lane with overhanging trees that slapped and scraped us as we drove in.  At the top we turned in to a fairly decrepit looking campground.  I could sense tenseness in the passenger chair to my right.  This is where you made a five-night reservation?  This is where Mandi and Paul are going to join us for the weekend?!?  (Tentative plans for us to drive in to the city had been changed.  Mandi and Paul would be joining us for a weekend in the Catskills.  Which had seemed so promising.  I pointed out that we would spend a lot of our time touring the area, not hanging around the Hill Top Farm, maybe watching a strange kid play the banjo- that’s a reference to Deliverance, a long way from here.)

The campground owner led us to our site – apparently the only pull-through site here.  Ground was fairly soggy, so I went looking for some boards that I could put under the levelers.  Owner suggested I talk to his son, who was staying in the campground.  The son sort of explained things: Taxes are high, we don’t get the visitors we once did, hard to keep this place going, my Dad’s health worries me, I’m just here for a few days to help out, …  He found some boards and we set up.  Good thing, too, because it rained most of the night and is still raining Saturday morning as this is written.  During the night I heard Susie say something about being mired in a sea of mud.

After setting up we drove back to NY-17, from which we exited to find our way here. Susie had noticed a campground sign at a previous exit.  We were going back to Rock Hill, our exit, for groceries and dinner, so she suggested we try to find another campground.  We looked, but couldn’t find anything – I think maybe the sign was for our campground, because that is where Miss GPS had directed us to exit, but we never found the sign to confirm that or not.  Besides, since Mandi and Paul are looking for some time away from the City, what could be more different from the City than where we are right this very minute!  That was not a winning argument.  Further drawbacks: only 30 amps, no wifi, no TV.  That's more than roughing it! 

I did a little research that evening and found a very highly-rated RV park about a 3-hr. drive to the NE, east of the Hudson River, near the village of Rhinebeck.  Called in the morning and found that they had a spot for us.  We closed up, hitched the pick-up, and left quickly.  (Just before we left, two other RVs were pulling out - one a Tiffin Phaeton model - our Allegro Bus is another Tiffin motor home - and I asked how long he had been here.  Three days too long, was his reply.)  Light rain most of the way.  One trip highlight was crossing this bridge over the Hudson River.



Here's a link to the Interlake RV park we moved to.  It is a very nice park, with all the amenities.  Susie was happy.  Me, too, needless to say. We were in phone contact with Mandi and Paul who were on their way up from NYC.  (Incidentally, road signs in the area say New York 82 miles, e.g.  So, even if you live in NY some place other than NYC, all you have to say is that you're going to New York and people know you're going to NYC.)  We headed to Rhinebeck for lunch and rendezvoused with M and P at a nice sidewalk restaurant there.

Their route brought them through Hyde Park. The FDR home and museum and the Vanderbilt mansion caught their attention and those became our Sunday objectives.  Next installment.

Susie and Rob

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Report 2. Virginia is for Lovers

July 4.  After our harrowing WV stint on US-60 it was back to I-64 and on to Staunton, VA.  We had reservations at a KOA about 10 miles south of town - in a quiet rural area - no trains, no highway.  This farm was across the road.


We checked with a CVS clerk in town about possible fireworks show that night.  Well, there would be one at the city park, but it's really not that good and a bit of a mob scene.  So, we decided not to try to attend that.  The CVS lady, whose name we promised not to divulge to the Chamber of Commerce, also told us that the parade, earlier in the day, was not nearly as good as in past years - all cars, not so many horses, bands, floats, fire engines, like you're supposed to have.

Staunton is also the home of the Statler Brothers.  Until their retirement a few years ago, they would put on a big July Fourth show in Staunton with big-name guest performers.  Alas, no more.  Also a Statler Bros. store that was here closed when they retired.  Here's one of my favorite Statler Bros. songs.

Staunton has a trolley that makes a continuous half-hour loop through the downtown area and you can hire a guide to travel with you and tell you about the history of Staunton, which we did on Friday.  Here's the Wikipedia link to Staunton, if you're historically interested.  First  thing to know is that the u in Staunton is not pronounced.  The town is pronounced Stan-ton.  Second thing is that it is in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.  Beautiful countryside.  Here's a musical link.

Our guide, Diane, told us that Virginia was originally a huge British land-grant "county."  It extended into what are now IL and IN, and to the Mississippi River.  A little later she was talking about the War Between the States.  I asked when did VA become a state with its present boundaries?  She didn't know and got a bit flustered.  Susie took her aside later and said, Don't let it bother you.  He's a statistician and he always thinks in numbers.  The answer is June 25, 1788.

Diane told us a lot about city history and architecture.  E.g., Woodrow Wilson was born here and his Presidential Library is here.  I didn't ask the birth date.  Wilson's father was a Presbyterian minister and they didn't live here long.  If you want to know how long, you'll have to look it up.  While we were told a lot about city architecture and architects, a problem was that from inside the trolley you couldn't see much of the buildings that Diane pointed out.  Next time I'll take the guided walking tour.  Here are a couple of shots from my later unguided walking tour while Susie got her hair done at the local beauty school.



One building where we left the trolley and explored for a half-hour, for an extra $5, was the Trinity Episcopal Church.  It is known for its Tiffany stained-glass windows.  The lighting and equipment weren't right for me to take pictures, but here's a link to where you can see the windows.  Here's an exterior shot of the church.


We took a couple of aimless drives through the countryside, just enjoying the pastoral scenery.


So many shades of green.


Wouldn't you like to know what's at the end of this lane?

Of course, a barn or two along the way.


The reason Susie got her hair done is because we had a big night on the town planned for Saturday night.  First it was dinner at the Mill Street Grille that friend, Donna Eaton, had tipped us on - 'twas an excellent meal in a neat setting.  Then it was on to the Butter Milk Barn and bluegrass music and country dance-watching for us.


Ver-r-r-y interesting people-watching.

It happened that we got back to KOA just in time for their fireworks show.  Much larger than we expected.  Lots of big boomers and bursting shells.


It made for a fitting climax to our Staunton weekend.

Next day, Sunday, we worked our way east across the state to Fredericksburg.  This is the home of Kenny and Vonnie Hinkle and (many members of) their family.  Kenny is the brother of Susie's late husband, Manny.  They let us park Tuzigoot in their driveway and Susie stayed with them while I rode Amtrak into Washington for a two-day meeting.  Very unfortunately, we didn't get any family pictures.  However, from Vonnie's facebook page, here is a picture of Kenny and her at the Washington National's July 4 game.


 Here's a picture Susie took of their house on the outskirts of Fredericksburg.  The lot is large enough to open a KOA, I suggested to them.



We really enjoyed the visit and appreciate their hospitality.

I Amtrak-ed back Tuesday evening and Wednesday we headed north.  First stop, two nights in Gettysburg.  Next installment.

Susie and Rob



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Report 1

Monday, June 24, departure day, we decided to go to Amarillo by way of Corona, NM to see Susie's brother, Charlie, and his wife Sue.  We'd been there earlier this spring to celebrate Charlie's 80th birthday.  Here's Charlie and his baby sister on that glorious day.

 
Had a nice lunch at the local restaurant, then drove to Amarillo for the night.  Had dinner with friends and former Albuquerqueans and St. Johnsans, Sue and Roy Sooter, and a really good visit catching up on everything.

Told you that to tell you this.  When their son, David, was at UNM he was taking a statistics class.  He asked me for some help so I helped him work through some of the junk-statistics his instructor had inflicted on him  (I still use a nonsense homework problem he had been assigned as an example of statistics instruction gone wrong.)  I got a call from Sue about a week before we left home, thanking me for helping David long ago.  She was giving me some partial credit.  David works in a Houston hospital.  He had done a study on the source of infections in the OR and this study had won a prize that includes a trip to Australia.  Sue and Roy are going, too!

We were discussing our next day's drive to OKC.  That's an easy day's drive, Sue said.  Roy had gone there for eye surgery.  She added, That's the road with bridges (or something to this effect).  At the time I was a bit puzzled about this comment, but the next day as I thought about it, I think I understand.  There are bridges in OK.  That's unusual only when compared to I-40 in the Texas Panhandle.  There are miles and miles there where the land is so flat creeks can't form. There's no run-off, so no creeks, or even washes or arroyos, and no bridges. Not so in those Oklahoma hills where I was raised.

However, the bridges in OK troubled me - the winter warning, Bridge Freezes Before Roadway signs were still flipped down!  Should have been flipped up with a warm-weather greeting on display: Have a Nice Day, Please Mess With Texas, Watch for Tornados, or some such pleasantry.

At one time I wanted the job of sign-flipping in TX. (This is the sort of thing one thinks about while driving long distances.)  Start in north TX in late fall, working your way south flipping the sign down to show the freeze warning.  Then, when you got to where it don't freeze no more, you could relax in the winter warmth for a while.  Then when spring comes, follow the retreating freeze line back north, flipping the signs so the freeze warnings don't show.  Spend the summer in cool north Texas.  Or, continue on to the Canadian border, state by state.  Repeat each year.  Either OK doesn't have anyone doing that job (not enough N-S separation to make it interesting, or not enough money to hire someone) or their guy is way late.  I mean, if you're going to have hinged signs, which most states don't, use them!

Got to OKC in early Tuesday afternoon and went over to sister, Connie’s, to visit and sup with her, her husband Tom, and our sister, Verla.  Connie had had cataract surgery that morning, but was recovering quickly. 

Tuesday morning nephew Sterling (Verla’s son) came to our campground to do a little statistical work.  I’ve been inflicting some statistics on him by Skype the last several months and he is working on a term project to compare men’s and women’s college basketball through various statistics.  It will be interesting, possibly leading to an interview on ESPN. 

Next stop, Tulsa.  En route we had lunch at Pop’s.  This is a restaurant and pop shop (meaning a shop that sells all sorts of soda pop) on Historic Route 66, just east of Edmond and just west of the Famous Round Barn in Arcadia, OK.  The walls of Pop’s are lined with glass shelves of pops of many colors.  They look like they could be easily dislodged, but are glued down.  But, the many coolers in the shop have an awesome collection to choose from.  I had the Route 66 Root Beer.  Susie had a Coke. Gotta take advantage of not being in a Pepsi-only shop, as is the case of far too many dining establishments.  Pop's Shots:


 
That large pop bottle is lit up at night with constantly changing colors.  People come from miles around, even Europe, to see Pop's on Historic Route 66.
 
Our Tulsa destination was actually the adjacent town of Broken Arrow where our friend, Connie – previously Lacy in Albuquerque, now Davis – lives with her husband and our friend, too, Jim.  Their driveway was more than ample for parking Tuzigoot, so we pulled in for a two-night stay.  Very hot in Broken Arrow, but fortunately they let us sleep in the house.  Wednesday evening Jim and Connie gave us a tour of some of the poshest residential areas, the older areas built with oil money, the newer areas with new oil money and its friends.    Here are Jim, Connie, and Willie


Thursday we embarked on a quest.  Fifty years ago Susie taught school in Roswell, NM with a teacher named Mary Etta Beaver. They became great friends.  The two have exchanged Christmas letters all these years, but had not seen each other since Roswell days. Unless something had changed since Christmas, Susie knew that Mary lived in Adair, OK, about 40 miles NE of Tulsa.  Susie called Directory Assistance, and gave the address: 208 Main.  No, sorry, nobody by that name at that address.  Cannot connect you. DA did tell Susie that the resident was named Eby.  We decided to drive to Adair anyhow and find the address and see if we could find Mary, or someone who could tell us where Mary might be.  (Maybe she died, we thought but didn't dare say.  We wouldn't know until Christmas.  Mary and her mother have great sense of humor, so I don't think they would object to a little black humor - can you still say that?) 

After some flailing around we found 218 (East) Main.  A friendly man, Leon, who was working on the fence between 218 and the adjacent house, came over and offered to help us.  Where is 208?  It’s that house on the other side of this vacant lot where I’m working.  I don’t know who lives there, but I know who does know – Mary __, who works down the road a little ways at the County Road Office.  She knows everybody in town. We found Mary (not Beaver) who told us that Mary Beaver lives in that adjacent house, no. 208, with her mother, Mrs.Eby.  Back at the house, we knocked at front and back doors.  No response.  Our new best friend, Leon, came hurrying over.  He told us Mrs. Eby’s son was just here and I think they’ve all gone out for lunch.  They probably went to the new (and maybe only) restaurant in town.  He told us how to get there.  Success! We found them. Here are the two Roswell teacher-friends.  They had a great visit.  

 

One story: Mary Etta was driving somewhere with Susie's son Jeff, then a little boy.  Jeff, standing in the seat next to her, back in the day, knocked her glasses off, out the car window.

Jim and I were entertained by Mrs. Eby.  She hailed from nearby Big Cabin, which was where Jim’s late wife grew up, so they exchanged Big Cabin names and families.  Small world, chapter 557.  We had lunch there – an excellent chicken-fried steak sandwich for me.  Chicken-fried steak must be Oklahoma’s State Meat.  In Tonkawa, Mary’s CafĂ©  (no relation to the other Marys we've met today) served an artery-clogging College Special: chicken-fried steak and French fries, covered with white gravy. 

Friday we drove on to Springfield in SW Missouri.  We stayed in a KOA there for three nights. The weather cooled off and was quite pleasant.  Our Saturday agenda was Branson, about 50 miles south, where we saw two shows: the first, a morning show, was a tribute to John Denver.  The performer, James Garrett, had known Denver and had lots of inside stories about songs Denver wrote.  Mostly, they just seemed to appear fully formed as he gazed out his windows at the Colorado Rockies.  Denver just reached out and grabbed the songs as they floated by. 

There was an opportunity to make requests.  I hollered, Montana Skies.  (There were only about 20 of us in an intimate theater.)  Garrett said he hadn’t sung that one for a long time, but on the second try he really nailed it, though he said he made up a few words.  There are a lot of words in that song – it deals with family love and love of land.  Here they are; it's sung at a brisk pace:

He was born in the Bitterroot valley in the early morning rain 
Wild geese over the water, heading north and home again 
Bringin' a warm wind from the south, bringin' the first taste of the spring 
His mother took him to her breast, softly she did sing
 
Oh, oh, oh, oh, Montana, give this child a home 

Give him a love of a good family and a woman of his own  
Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes 
Give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana skies
 
His mother died that summer and he never learned to cry 

He never knew his father and he never did ask why  
And he never knew the answers that would make an easy way 
But he learned to know the wilderness and to be a man that way
His mother's brother took him in to his family and his home  
Gave him a hand that he could lean on and a strength to call his own  
And he learned to be a farmer and he learned to love the land 
And he learned to read the seasons and he learned to make a stand 
 

Oh, oh, oh, oh, Montana, give this child a home 
Give him a love of a good family and a woman of his own  
Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes 
 Give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana skies
 
On the eve of his twenty first birthday, he set out on his own 

He was thirty years and runnin' when he found his way back home  
Ridin' a storm across the mountains and an achin' in his heart 
Said he came to turn the pages and to make a brand new start
Now he never told the story of the time that he was gone 

Some say he was a lawyer, some say he was a John  
There was something in the city that he said he couldn't breathe  
There was something in the country that he said he couldn't leave.
 
Oh, oh, oh, oh, Montana, give this child a home 

Give him a love of a good family and a woman of his own  
Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes 
Give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana skies
 
Now some say he was crazy, some are glad he's gone  

Some of us will miss him, we'll try to carry on 
Giving a voice to the forest, giving a voice to the dawn 
Giving a voice to the wilderness and the land that he lived on
 
Oh, oh, oh, oh, Montana, give this child a home 

Give him a love of a good family and a woman of his own 
Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes  
Give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana skies
 
At the risk of breaking the mood, when I hear the line, "give this child a home," for some reason the line, "give this dog a bone," comes to mind.  A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Here are a couple of John Denver youtube links.  Wild Montana Skies  Annie's Song

We have one firm first objective: Fredericksburg, VA, on Sunday, July 7.  Before we left Tulsa I had counted up days and miles and decided to stay a third night in Springfield.  Sunday morning we drove north, headed for my late wife, Judy’s, sister’s home in Lake Lotawana, near Kansas City, MO, where she, Jan, and her husband, Aubrey, live.  Two of our favorite people.  We had invited them to meet us in Springfield/Branson, but Aubrey has had severe back pain, surgery may be pending, so driving or riding that distance was not for him. 

I was looking forward to driving some of the back country roads we used to drive when we visited Judy’s parents and her grandmother.  The first half of the drive went fine – lots of handsome farms and green hay fields with golden saran-wrapped rolls of hay.  Then, as we turned on to county road H (MO has alphabetical country roads) connecting Eldorado Springs and Appleton City there was a sign: Bridge Out Ahead.  Seek Alternate Route.  Not knowing our alternate routes, we back-tracked and sought known alternate route. By this time we were running late – getting to Jan’s for lunch was a high priority – so we took the main highway north, even bypassing Judy’s home town of Butler.  

Incidentally, in rural MO, along I-44 and what is now I-49 (formerly US 71), the government has now installed mileage markers every .2 miles!!  That's every two-tenths of a mile!  Why?  You may recall my dander being raised on this topic when we drove through rural PA last fall.  This can't be for the public's safety or convenience.  Corruption.  That's the only explanation.  Aubrey shared my indignation  I'll get to the bottom of this - maybe tomorrow, or some day.

After a good ole country lunch, we took a turn around Lake Lotawana in Aubrey’s new boat.  I turned down the opportunity to see if I could still water ski, but I’m sure I could have. It's like riding a bicycle - underwater.  The lake is ringed by houses, docks, and boats.  It is gradually getting more upscale as old cottages are replaced by new mansions.  Aubrey and Jan pointed out several good examples.  A former KC Chief quarterback had a home here.  Wish I could show you some pictures.  Check out this real estate link.  When we got back to the house, I got my phone/camera for this shot of the cove where Jan and Aubrey have house and dock.


 Monday, just one week after we left NM, we drove from Springfield, MO to Benton, IL.  Missed one crucial turn where the road divided three ways as we approached the Mississippi River and the signs only indicated two options: Chicago or Memphis,, and so we trundled along on a freeway through the center of St. Louis, but fortunately, not too much traffic and friendly drivers gave me a break on making lane changes.

Those of you who followed our Fall 2012 Tuzi-trip to the NE may remember Benton.  This is where we discovered that Tuzi’s coolant and transmission fluid had gotten mixed and turned into something like French dressing.  That led to being towed to nearby Marion and a week in a motel while Tuzi was repaired.  Incidentally, transmission is shifting very smoothly now so the repair and repeated flushings of the transmission fluid has adequately restored the transmission.  At first, after the repair, Tuzi shifted very roughly, particularly when decelerating.

Susie thought maybe Benton would be a jinx, but all is still OK with Tuzigoot as this is written a week later.

Next day was a drive to Lexington, KY, where we stayed in a very nice campground at the Kentucky Horse Park.  Beautiful scenery driving through the horse farm countryside of Kentucky.


Sorry, can't expand it.

Next night we were at a campground near Summersville, WV.  I should note that ever since our Corona, NM side trip on day one we've been traveling on interstate highways - 40, 44, 64 - somewhat contrary to our usual practice.  Somewhere, soon after we left, Susie had remarked that it would be nice to spend the holiday weekend in one place, rather than traveling.  So, attentive, responsive spouse that I am, we planned ahead and decided Staunton, VA would be a nice locale for that weekend. Would make for an easy drive on to Fredericksburg on Sunday.  But to get to Staunton from Springfield, MO, would not permit any lollygagging around.  Cruise-control on down the interstate.  Thank you, Dwight Eisenhower.  (Some accounts don't give him much credit for the interstate highway system, but I do.  Don't think he would have allowed mileage markers every two-tenths of a mile, that's for sure.)

My campground/RV park guidebooks didn't show much in the way of RV parks along I-64 in WV, so I picked a WV mountain campground near Summersville.  Which meant leaving I-64.  Moreover, returning to I-64 would provide an opportunity to drive a piece of US-60.  Many years ago, in Tuzigoot 1, we followed US 60 westward from its eastern terminus on the Atlantic Ocean in Virginia Beach, VA.  For reasons I can't recall, we skipped a large part of the WV portion of US-60.  Well, we added about 30 miles of US-60 to our ledger on this trip.  Very interesting miles - twisting, turning, climbing, descending, narrow, no shoulders to speak of. Couldn't see the scenery for the trees.  (Actually pulled off the road once because a sign said Scenic Overlook, but you couldn't see nothin' except the trees and underbrush right in front of you.  Where is Sen. Byrd when you need him?)  Luckily not much traffic.  When cars stack up, even just two or three of them, behind me I look for places to pull over and let them pass.  Not much opportunity on this road, though.

Well, that's enough for now.  Next report - our Glorious Fourth, and fifth, ....

Susie and Rob