Where have all the bloggers gone?

I know I don’t post as much as I’d like—despite promising myself so many times that I would—but I’ve noticed an odd thiIMG_6437ng in recent months: The blog community to which I have been a member for several years, has fallen on quiet times! Maybe it’s just me—it probably is—but the amount of notifications that blogs I’ve chosen to follow, have all but dwindled down to the occasional one…all from the same couple. Of course, I’m happy to hear from them, but I’m curious as to what has become of all of the others. 

My first inclination is that they have abandoned their blogs, or they have changed over to another site or format. Whatever, I do miss reading the thoughts and ponderings from them.

And then I think maybe it’s something on my end that has clouded them out—for whatever reason—and I’m just not “hooked up” with them anymore. I know that WordPress has changed from when I started this whole thing and began to get comfortable with writing and posting on its site. As such, I haven’t really kept up with much of the “new” formats and blogging protocols since the many changes came about, and, perhaps, that could have a lot to do with the lack of “traffic” that comes across on my blog site.

Regardless, I find creating posts a wonderful and challenging exercise in stringing together my thoughts when the spirit moves me, even if I do miss so many of those previous readers, followers, and commenters.

If any of you are still out there, give me a shout! Many thanks…

Fleeting summer and Grandpa’s wise words…

It seems as though it was just May and a nice summer lay ahead. But somehow June slipped in and the days and nights flew off the calendar like so many scattering birds flushed up by a nosey hunting dog! 

That adage that time flies faster and faster as we age sure seems all-too-true. Since June is my birthday month, it has always held a special significance for me. A great time of year it has always been. Baseball is finally in full swing, the weather has finally shed its winter/spring chill, and shorts and t-shirts are the normal fashion.

 Remember when we were kids, and time dragged on and on, and we couldn’t wait to be older and do the things that older kids and adults got to do? Way back, a long, long time ago, I remember my grandpa’s off-hand remark he said to me one day: “Don’t wish your young days away. You’ll be old before you know it!” Of course, I laughed and didn’t really give his words any more thought during all of those younger days that I often wanted to “hurry along” and not dwell in that moment too long.

As I write now, I realize that I’m even older than Grandpa was when he offered his advice all those years ago. And having just added another year to my existence back on June 11, I would enjoy being able to jump back every now and then to those summers when I was playing Little League and Pony League baseball, and spending all the other hours goofing around with friends and kindling a summer romance that would usually be long over with at the start of school in September.

Now, looking in the rearview mirror back to those long-gone days, I realize that I was really wrong to assume in thinking that the time dragged on and on and on. In reality, they came and went way too quickly! It would seem that I didn’t really appreciate everything at the moment and missed out on some things. I realize all of that now and readily agree with Grandpa’s words. If he were here today, I’d let him know that!

Starting Our  Route 66 Journey—In Segments

By Mark Anderson

It had been a long-standing dream of mine to drive Route 66 from its beginning in Chicago to its end in California, and in September of 2017 my wife Carolyn and I set out on that wonderful adventure from our home in Cortland, Illinois. However, we began our journey in “stages” prior to hitting the trail for the long haul.

Because we reside relatively close to Chicago, we found that it was simple to break the Illinois portion of the trip into three segments, picking up each time where we’d stopped on the previous drive. (Day 1-Chicago to Dwight; Day 2-Dwight to Bloomington-Normal; Day 3-Bloomington-Normal to Staunton.) We were accompanied by John Weiss’s New, Historic Route 66 of Illinois (8th Edition), an easy-to-follow guide which made each of our segments in Illinois interesting, fun, and on track.

By doing it this way, we could make a “day” out of each segment, enjoying—unhurriedly—the many places and historic spots along the old highway. And so when we were ready to get out on the Mother Road and drive it the rest of the way to Santa Monica in September, our starting point was in Staunton, a short distance to the Chain of Rocks Bridge and the Mississippi River.

I had been eager to visit the Chain of Rocks Bridge, having never done so before, and I was particularly interested in seeing the odd sharp turn it makes near the Missouri side. Unfortunately, because the access to the bridge was closed to access, we could only see the bridge from a distance as we crossed over the I-270 bridge, westbound to St. Louis and beyond. 

I was disappointed but knew that sometime down the road I’d be able to get to the Chain of Rocks Bridge, which we did in June of 2021, where we actually got to drive over and back on the bridge with our group, The Route 66 Association of Illinois, during its annual Motor Tour weekend.

Once we crossed the river, I had a feeling that our journey was now “officially” in play! So many miles and unfamiliar territory lay ahead. It was a wonderful feeling of freedom on the open road with so many little towns and nooks and crannies for us to see and enjoy on The Mother Road!

Half the fun…

“Getting there is half the fun!”

I’ve always put lots of credence in this old adage of travelers from ages past, and our recent journey from Sarasota to Ormond Beach proved just how true it remains.

Our wonderful couple of weeks at Sun Outdoors Resort in Sarasota had ended, and we were off to the last leg of our Florida winter vacation: The Cove on Ormond Beach, over on the Atlantic Coast, right up next to famous Daytona Beach. And as is our preference, we wanted to avoid any and all major highways and/or Interstates (I-75 & I-4) in getting over and up to Ormond. Besides, there were so many roads and towns and countryside we’d never passed by or through on previous trips, so what better reason than to wend our way through those places on this trip?

And so on this sun-splashed February Florida morning, we set out on a drive that Maps indicated would take about 4 hours. Not bad, since we couldn’t check in before the late afternoon, anyway. 

Soon, we were northbound on nearby Lakewood Ranch Road, through one of the newer developments in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. So much of the previous cattle and horse country has been swallowed up into residential communities, and this is just one of the major ones. 

Before long, we were on U.S. Highway 301 and continuing on past Ellenton, Sun City Center, and Riverview. A quick stop for coffee and a light breakfast “to go” and we were headed on toward the outskirts of Tampa, where we’d split off northeasterly toward Zephyrhills and hook up with Highway-471 north through country that I call “Old Florida.” 

Clicking off the miles, we entered an unexpectedly delightful—arrow straight—stretch of road that took us through Colt Creek State Park and not far from Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve. Traffic was light, and all was right on this day! 

Our drive up to a small town named Bevilles Corner passed quickly. There, we worked our way eastward on Route-27 to Leesburg and enjoyed the many lakes of all sizes. No wonder this part of Florida is such a popular area for sporting folks!

About 11 miles out of Leesburg, we connected with Highway-19 and rolled on through Umatilla and Altoona and joined State Highway-40 near the town of Astor a short time later. This, we soon figured out, was the “homestretch” of today’s trek.

We reached our destination within the hour, and The Cove on Ormond Beach was an easy find, after we crossed over the bridge on Granada Avenue with a welcoming view of the blue Atlantic beyond.

Our studio apartment on the 7th floor was perfect for the two of us, and our week sailed right on past, to say the least. Walking the beach, sitting by the pool, and eating at some wonderful restaurants were definitely highlights. One day we kept our Florida tradition alive by spending it up in St. Augustine, just an hour away.

Like every other part of our Florida vacation, time went way too quickly, yet we were both “ready” to get back home to Illinois, taking our wonderful moments and memories along to remember forever!

Sitting here on a cold and rainy and dreary afternoon in May, I realize that all of the places where we stayed and spent time on this trip were all terrific, but the getting there was still half the fun! 

See you on the road…

Sarasota: Sunshine, Beaches & Delicious lunches

Our month-long getaway trip to Florida continued after we checked out of the Charter Club of Naples Bay after a delightful week’s stay there with our friends, Barb and Bill. Sarasota is about 120 miles north, so we had a nice leisurely drive up the Tamiami Trail, passing through familiar spots such as Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Englewood, and Venice. It was a good “moving day” as it was overcast and rain predicted to set in for the afternoon and into the next morning.

IMG_8067Our next residence was the large and popular Sun Outdoors RV Resort just a few miles east of Sarasota, conveniently located near I-75. The place is truly amazing! Not only is it a wonderful spot for those with RVs of all shapes, styles, and sizes, but it has an abundance of Park Model Homes for rent, which is what we had for our two-and-a-half week stay. 

The place has been there for quite a while, and has been maintained perfectly over the years. This was the first time for us to stay here, and we weren’t certain what to expect going in. As it turned out, we weren’t disappointed in the least. From the moment we checked in and found our nice park model home with an excellent location, we felt comfortable and ready for a pleasant stay.

Late that week, we were joined by Carolyn’s brother, Skip, from North Carolina, and our niece, Kim, from Nebraska. They’d spend a week with us, and it was fun having them join us for our daytime jaunts and tasty lunches at someplace different each day.

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It was an easy choice to make for our first lunch that week as we decided on our favorite place to eat in IMG_7132Sarasota—Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar. Carolyn and I never miss having a grouper sandwich here whenever we’re in or near Sarasota. Kim was familiar with it—in fact, she’s the one who introduced us to it many years ago—but this was Skip’s first time there. It has been a long-standing tradition that we eat there. As always, we weren’t disappointed!

During the course of the week with Kim and Skip, we visited other familiar places and also discovered some places we’d never known of previously. One favorite was to beautiful Siesta Key and its beautiful Beach with the white, powdery sand and endless blue skies and sunshine overhead.
IMG_8020 Another traditional place we always stop at—at least once, often more—is Mixon’s IMG_8040Groveside Market, just north in Bradenton. There’s always cold, fresh orange juice to sample, and the orange swirled soft-serve ice cream cone is a must. 

The four of us enjoyed discovering a spot we’d never been before: Anna Maria Island, near Bradenton. We patiently worked our way through the long, slow line of traffic out to the causeway and to the island and were rewarded with another lunch at another new establishment. The name alone was worth the stop: The Ugly Grouper. It was good to sit under the open-air roof of rusted galvanized steel and enjoy the shade and refreshing breeze that made the Florida heat comfortable.

Of course, when we weren’t out enjoying our old haunts around Sarasota/Bradenton, we spent many delightful hours right there on the Sun Outdoors property. The huge pool and surrounding deck could accommodate many, many people, old and young alike!

Another day for lunch, it was time to visit the Sarasota Brewing Co. Bar & Grill. Kim had left us the day before, and Skip would be leaving the next day, so it was just Carolyn, Skip, and me for that day’s lunch out.

What was surprising about this out-of-the-way establishment was that it was a fine place with a wonderful cold IPA brew and one of the best burgers I’ve ever had! We shall return.

After Skip pulled out to head back home the next day, Carolyn and I continued to enjoy our one remaining week at Sun Outdoors. And after our time was finally up at the RV resort, we packed and took care of all of the “check out” tasks and were on our way to the next leg of our Florida trip: Ormond Beach, over on the other side of Florida, near Daytona. Getting there was half the fun, as they say. I’ll tell you about that next time.

See you then…IMG_8035

Been gone, but not forgotten…I hope!

It’s a glorious morning to be perched at my desk, after a great Friday workout in my Jump Start Your Heart exercise class earlier this morning, and I’m actually inspired to get some writing done today! No appointments or other need-to-do items lurk over my shoulder as I begin here. There is so much to get caught up with, so I probably should just begin.IMG_8126

Not only do I want—need—to get some cogent words shaped into a long overdue blog post, but getting back to editing and rewriting that musty manuscript of that novel I’ve been “resting” for such a long time, beckons! That’s up next after I finish this post.

Such a long time since my last post, and a lot has transpired in my life. The highlight of my time away from posting would have to be our winter journey. On the morning of January 26, with the temperature reading -4 degrees here in Aurora, Illinois, Carolyn and I set off on a month-long vacation to Florida (Naples, Sarasota & Ormond Beach) and it was a terrific time from beginning to end.

Everyone’s first question, How was the weather? is an easy one to answer: Perfect! Getting away from Illinois in February is a good thing, we discovered, and we definitely will be planning to do the same next year.

Our first night out, we stayed with good friends at their beautiful home on Kentucky Lake. We’d left any trace of snow and really cold weather behind, and for the next several weeks, we would live in shorts and t-shirts and no socks. Life is good!

And all during our delightful drive down, we enjoyed everything (gas prices an exception!) as mile after mile clicked off. Even Atlanta didn’t cause too many slowdowns as it so often has, but we must have timed our trip through there just right this time.

Our second night, we stopped in Gainesville, Florida, and continued on to our daughter’s the next day in Cape Coral for an overnight. Up and out early the next morning, we traveled down to Naples to check in to the time share condo, where we’d spend the next week with our friends, Barb and Bill, who we’d be picking up at the Miami Airport that night. They were flying in from St. Maarten. Never having spent any significant time in and around Naples, other than traveling Route 41, The Tamiami Trail, the experience was all brand new—and quite delightful as it turned out.

Anyway, the hour-and-a-half drive over to Miami and the airport was a new experience which  I managed to IMG_7107survive, but I am very thankful for the Maps App and the friendly Siri voice who guided me there and back without mishap. At any rate, Barb and Bill’s flight was right on time, and our wait in the Cell Phone lot was not bad at all. By the time we got back to  our condo at Charter Club Resort of Naples Bay, we were all ready to finish unloading our stuff and to get some much-needed sleep.

IMG_7953As they always do, our week flew right on by, but during that time we managed to enjoy the fabulous Naples Pier and and a trip over to the nearby Everglades National Park for a wonderful pontoon cruise to see wildlife and the friendly dolphins riding our wake for a good deal of the time.

To my liking, I made plenty of time for sitting and reading on the screened-in lanai and some sunshine on the pool deck each day, and even managed to get some longer-than-normal walks in. Without a doubt, we enjoyed some wonderful seafood (grouper!) during our Naples time. It’s a “no brainer” that we look forward to exploring more of Naples on our next visit!

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After our week’s stay there, it was time for Barb and Bill to fly home to Illinois from the much-closer Southwest Florida Airport, and I didn’t mind driving them, despite the very early hour they needed to be there.

Quick goodbyes ensued as I deposited them there in the early hours, and I returned to the condo so Carolyn and I could finish packing the car and checking out to head off for the next “leg” of our vacation: Sarasota, an old and friendly and familiar place for us. We had great expectations for a couple of weeks there, and, as it turned out, we weren’t disappointed!

I’ll tell you all about it in my next post. I promise it won’t be two months from now!

First snow and hope…

Happy New Year!

There is finally snow on the ground here in Aurora, Illinois. It finally arrived on New Year’s afternoon and evening. Though there’s not as much as there might have been (per the intrepid weather forecasters!), there’s certainly more than we’ve had previously this winter. 

There are those who immediately groan at the thought of snow and cold and true winter weather, especially in light of the unusual, unseasonable mild weather that hung around right up until the end of the year.

Although I really liked that pleasant run of weather, I’m not at all depressed with the whiteness and cold that’s outside my window now as I write. And the fact that I don’t have to go out there and clear the driveway or the sidewalk, because the service our Home Owners’ Association provides, handles all of that magnificently, makes it all the more palatable. In short, the monthly assessment we pay for the snow removal in winter and lawn care in summer is well worth every dollar!

The timing of this current winter snow and colder temperatures seems to be a fitting end to 2021 and a kind beginning to 2022, as though some silent, unseen force is saying: “Turn the page, move along with a clean and fresh start, and put the ugliness of last year behind us.”

I truly doubt if a snow storm and it’s remnants can solve the Covid situation, but I do like to think that there is significance in new beginnings and fresh starts. 

What a wonderful thing it would be for all of the political hatred amongst us, and the petty sniping over everything else, to be relegated to 2021 and buried deep, never to rear its ugly head again!

On this second day of a new year, I sincerely believe that maybe the year ahead can have many happier turns and results than 2021. 

I have absolutely not one iota of evidence on which to base this feeling, other than my own determination to stay more positive toward the day-to-day flow of issues, events, and the feelings of others.

Perhaps, this new snow—blanketing the outdoors—is a symbolic cleansing of what has come before and giving us a chance to breathe again and have some hope.

Until next time…

Thoughts for a Wednesday afternoon…

What to write? 

That seems to be the ongoing question that rolls through my cluttered mind each time I sit down to—write! Of course, I should probably sort all of that “mind clutter” into some kind of coherency, and then I might actually feel as though I’ve accomplished something.

For instance, all of my opinions regarding the newsworthy items in our world right now—whether they’re reported on or not—would fill a whole lot of blog posts for the next several weeks! But, as always, I try to avoid spouting off about politics and the injustices and hypocrisies that seem to be the order of the day—everyday—and try to find some other topic  with which to feel comfortable.

I have been tempted to offer my thoughts on how friendships and families have been torn up by all of the pandemic /vaccination debate. For the past two years now, for so many people, what once were joyful family gatherings full of love and smiles and togetherness, have become cold and sterile occasions. Whatever caused this madness needs to be whisked completely out of existence, because a malignant wedge has been driven between friends and families. The saddest thing, however, is that it has changed lives forever—for the worst—and nothing will ever be the same again.

I have no answers for any of this, other than I can only do my best to live my life as best I can and to respect and get along with others—even if I disagree with their beliefs and attitudes. That’s easy enough. However, I’m not so sure I can ever do the same for the media. 

Having sat down for the last several minutes, I have managed to find something (for better or worse) with which to write for this post. Now, it’s time to move on and look forward to the rest of the day in this wonderful world!

Until next time…

November chills, cemetery duties & gas station discomfort…

The chill of a late-November day came calling today, catching us somewhat off guard as we set about doing a task that required us to be outside in an old—very old—cemetery where most of my wife’s mother’s relatives are buried, and that’s when we experienced the not-so-gentle touch of the cold blast carried our way on a pretty strong wind. Of course, I was without gloves and a heavier jacket, but I did have the foresight to bring my stocking cap along. And my good wife had even offered to drive her car so I could sit back, relax, and enjoy the panorama of whatever we passed by. 

 To say that it felt very good to return to the warmth of the car after completing our mission, would be a gross understatement. Even the abundance of sunshine for most of the morning and afternoon didn’t seem to do much for our comfort level. And the fact that we were in the midst of a rather spooky cemetery, didn’t warm us much either. After we were finished in the graveyard, we worked our way back toward home, about a forty-five minute drive.

On the way, the wife needed to stop for gas, and I was “requested” to do the honors of getting out, standing in the cold and gusty winds, and filling her tank! And since the tank was nearly empty, it wouldn’t be a quick fill, either, especially since it seemed to take an exorbitant amount of time due to the slowness of the gas pump. To say the least, it was an uncomfortable chore, and made even worse by the fact that, because of my extra cup of coffee earlier and the fury of the frigid wind, I very much needed to get to a restroom! After what seemed to be an endless stretch of agony, I managed to finally get the car filled up, and then scurried inside to where the station’s men’s room waited.

After that, it was a more comfortable and pleasant ride home where, of all things, I remembered that I, too, needed to take my own car to a nearby gas station to repeat the fill-up duty all over again–this time, though, without holding my breath and dancing about and begging and pleading with the gas pump to hurry up and get it over with! 

Route 66 Association of Illinois…jumping right in!

I had a wonderful time this past Sunday attending the fall meeting of the Route 66 Association of Illinois down in Pontiac. It was a perfect, sunny, autumn morning to set out for the hour-and-a-half drive through the country.

I’ve been a member for at least five years, but this was just the second meeting I’d attended. Anyone reading several of my past posts should recognize my serious interest in The Mother Road. 

When we drove the entire route—Chicago to Santa Monica—in September of 2017, I wasn’t completely sure where any of this would lead. What I’ve discovered is that it only whetted my appetite for all things Route 66! And living here in Illinois, where so many miles of the historic route thread their way south and west, what better reason could there be than to join the Association?

Since I’ve all but sworn off spending my valuable time perched in front a TV screen to watch the NFL, I had not one bit of hesitancy in dedicating my Sunday to all things Route 66. When I attended the fall meeting two years ago—before all of the Covid insanity—I had not met any other members, in person, so I was eager to do so at the meeting. As it turned out, that meeting went well, and I did meet the officers and a few of the other board members. 

Yet, I went away feeling as though I was still really not involved. Of course, I realize that was my shortcoming—failing to make my availability known to all. Instead, at meeting’s end, I headed to the parking lot and my car for the drive back home. I could—and should have—kicked myself for not being more assertive and volunteer to get involved in some aspect of the Association. That’s something with which I’ve always been way too lax.

This time around, however, I told myself on the drive down to the meeting that I was determined to come away with being involved in some way in this wonderful group of people. I didn’t necessarily desire a board or officer position, but there’s always a need to fill out committees. And, as it happened, I gladly accepted the offer to serve on the Museum Committee, although I’m not altogether clear on just what I’ll be doing. Even so, I’ll be happy to help out in the fantastic Route 66 Association Hall of Fame Museum in Pontiac, Illinois.

After the meeting, my drive home that afternoon was much more enjoyable than the previous experience. Having spoken with and gotten to know most of the members who were in attendance, I came away with a feeling of being included and counted on now to be a contributing member.

Sometimes one has to just get past those worries and hesitancies and speak up and jump right in! There’s so many wonderful miles ahead here with the Route 66 Association of Illinois, and I’m recharged and eager to enjoy it all! Anyone with a smidgen of interest in being a member themselves, should visit www.il66assoc.org

“Illinois — Where the Road Began.”