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.

IMG_7133
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

Kicking off the dust and beginning again…

Hello again, everyone! I plead guilty in all respects for having not posted anything since April. There’s absolutely no excuses, either. I’ve simply battled so many months of being uninspired to have the desire or the patience to sit at my desk and be serious once more with my writing. 

That being said, I’ve hadIMG_7448 a pretty good year so far. My health has improved greatly, although there are days when I think I’m going in the wrong direction, a leftover from the open-heart aortic heart valve replacement surgery one year ago today.

I am a devoted member of the Jump Start Your Heart exercise program at the Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital Health and Wellness Center,  where I had the surgery. I’m feeling good during the workouts and afterwards, and my overall wellness is so much improved. 

Now, I’m not certain that my health ordeal the past year is the total reason I’ve been too lax in being that writer I’ve longed to be for so long, but I believe that the whole situation changed a lot of things in my way of seeing my life.

As always, I’ve found it way, too convenient to pick up the current book I’m reading and settle in, losing myself in the story, instead of creating my own tales!

And I could sit here right now and announce that I’m going to once again dedicate myself to a disciplined course each day and finish that novel, which sits mouldering away. But I won’t, as I’ve let myself down in that regard so many times before.

We just returned from a 3,000-mile-plus drive down and back to Florida. It was a short trip for all those miles, but there’s always been something refreshing and stimulating to “hit the road” and break the same old routine of life at home.

On the way home, we spent four days in the Smoky Mountains in Western Carolina. Just the difference in the terrain and topography was a delight, yet when it was time to head back home to Illinois, I was eager. 

Now, it’s mid-August and life here once again is tied to routines and “what’s on the calendar.” The grandsons’ football games will begin in a week, and we’ll be into autumn sooner than later.

Have my feelings about writing changed? The fact that I’m actually sitting here typing this seems to be a first step back to believing that I have something relevant to offer in posting. I hope so. As the expression goes: “The ball is in my court!”

My goal today: I’ll try not to wait several months between posts!

Moment of truth: The interview…

And so it began!

The one-story school building had that “summer-cleaned-ready-to-start” look and smell, which I quickly picked up on the moment I scurried inside out of the downpour.

It was nighttime now, and the interior of the place was dark, with the exception of the small office directly ahead of me, and the library a couple of doors down. It wasn’t hard to figure out that this would be where the board meeting would be held, and the sound of voices from there confirmed this for me.

I didn’t have time to stand around and assess the situation, as a short, slightly balding man approached me from the school office. He smiled and introduced himself and said that he was glad I’d made it all the way from “up North.” He told me to make myself comfortable in his office until they were ready for me, and he’d come get me when they were.

Like waiting in a doctor’s office, a million thoughts coursed through my mind as the minutes seemed to plod on like molasses. Finally, the principal came and got me, and we headed the short distance to the library where the superintendent and the entire board of education were seated around a couple of long tables in the center of the room. In front of them was a single chair, no doubt for me to sit in and perform to the best of my ability, if I wanted to secure a teaching position—my first—in their school. And as I managed to put on a “happy” face and look relaxed (I was anything but), I eased myself into the chair and took a couple of deep breaths, all the while noticing that each member seemed to be studying me very closely. A few friendly nods of heads were extended my way, but most were stoic, serious demeanors.

I don’t recall after all these years exactly how long the interview lasted, but it seemed as though it was much longer than it really was. Throughout the whole ordeal, I could hear the rain pounding unmercifully on the roof, which made hearing difficult. When the interview had come to a close, and I was still a functioning human, I had a pretty positive feeling about it all. I seemed to have handled all of their questions–unexpected ones as well as the “usual” type. If nothing else, I had gained a valuable bit of experience in the interviewing process—and with the whole school board, superintendent, and principal, to boot! 

Afterwards, the principal told me that he thought I’d done well and that the board seemed to be impressed. Of course there were other candidates to interview in the days ahead, but I could expect to hear from him—one way or another—by the first of the next week. He wished me luck and reminded me to travel back home safely that night. 

And so, I returned to the car where dad was waiting, and the rain had eased up a bit. I gave a quick rundown of all that had taken place and how I felt about things. I knew I’d spend many miles on the ride ahead, rolling things over in my mind of how I could have done better, and I was awfully glad that my dad was with me on that dark and stormy night.

But now, we needed to get ourselves northbound, as it would be very late when we got home to Western Springs. Without further delay, we pulled out of the school parking lot and turned back to the interstate to head a short distance eastward to Vandalia where we’d connect with another old and famous highway to begin our travel north.

Until next time…

Iconic roads & parts unknown…

 ( In my previous post, I wrote of my attempts to land my first teaching job. The story continues here.)

My dad, God rest his soul, offered to take a day off from his work and spend the day with me visiting Munster, Indiana, and then down through “parts unknown” to the Mulberry Grove, Illinois, School Board meeting that same night!

And that’s exactly how it went, on what turned out to be a very memorable and important day and night in my life. As for the morning interview at the Munster school, I never heard from them again afterwards—although the experience seemed positive, unlike my first one a few weeks before. I didn’t have time to stew about anything since we had a long trip ahead of us in order to reach the 7:00  p.m. school board meeting that night.

While I’d been with the Munster High School principal, Dad had planned out the route we’d take to get to Mulberry Grove. The closest and most convenient route from where we were at the moment was US Highway 41, at one time the major route between Copper Harbor, Michigan, and Miami, Florida. Of course, it would later be replaced by Interstate slabs, but at the time, Highway 41 would serve us well, getting us to Terre Haute and I-70, where we’d turn west to get to the town of Mulberry Grove way down in Bond County in south central Illinois.

With the Munster interview finished, we set out on the next leg of our “job interview” adventure, southbound on Indianapolis Avenue—U.S. Highway 41—through a drizzly, dreary July morning. Dad drove; I sat back and closed my eyes, pondering what lay ahead miles down the road, hoping that the rain that had set in that morning, as we made our way south, was not a harbinger of things to come.

Down through the rural Hoosier land we travelled. I dozed, off and on, and finally was fully alert and awake by the time we reached Terre Haute a couple of hours later. At this point, we’d leave one of the nation’s old, iconic roads and hop on I-70 and travel west. Being the first time that I’d ever been in this portion of either Indiana or, soon, Illinois, the surroundings took on a rather new and special meaning for me. It was my first introduction into south central Midwest. I had only heard or read about many of the towns and places we came upon.

Before too many more miles clicked off, Dad stopped for gas and a “necessary” visit to the facilities. Afterwards, I took over driving so Dad could nap a bit. If all went as expected, we would be in the Mulberry Grove area by mid-afternoon in plenty of time for that night’s meeting.

Of course, I had no idea that the Interstate on which we were driving was the replacement for another famous highway, U.S. 40—The National Road. As I later learned, the majority of its route through Illinois, follows this road. However, on this day I wasn’t at all concerned about any of that; my focus was on getting to the school board meeting on time that evening. Eventually, I’d appreciate the historic importance of these roads I journeyed on at the moment.

As we neared our destination in early afternoon, the rain had abated, leaving a hot and humid day in its wake. Dad and I were both eager to exit I-70, and the large, green sign couldn’t have appeared ahead at a better time! 

“Mulberry Grove Next Exit”

As I slowed the car to leave I-70, Dad said, “Well, we made it with plenty to spare. I think we need to find somewhere to grab a bite.” Although I was in complete agreement, that was easier said than done, since we had no way of knowing where anything was–or, if there were any restaurants nearby.

On first driving into Mulberry Grove, I read the sign that indicated that the town was comprised of 700 people. As it turned out, there was a gas station/restaurant just outside the town, which seemed to be the center of any activity. We took a quick drive through the town–didn’t take long!–and I had a rather sinking feeling in my stomach. What a difference from the hustle and bustle of the world we’d left up north that morning! Two words came to mind: Tired & Worn.

I now had thoughts of turning the car around and finding the closest road running north and forgetting this whole idea of going through with an interview in an unfamiliar area in front of total strangers. Dad had a feeling that I was thinking this, and he broke the spell and calmed my churning insides: “You’ll feel better after you relax and get something to eat. You’ve come this far, and you’ll do well.”

Although I was inclined to think that Dad was just trying to put me at ease, I agreed to give it a chance and to get myself ready for the upcoming interview that night. Besides, I was hungry, and we needed to find some place that offered a decent meal. And so that was our next objective!

Until next time…

A long-ago teaching job interview “adventure” . . .

I have now been retired from teaching middle school kids reading and English since June of 2007, yet I still can recall—with vivid clarity—the  job interview back in late-summer of 1973 that helped me get the proverbial “foot in the door” and eventually secure a teaching job. It had become rather a hectic and frantic “scramble” that summer to overcome the loss of a position before I even had the position! 

None of this helter-skelter would have been necessary had the job I’d thought was mine had acutally been offered to me. Alas, it wasn’t, and the whole unforeseen experience was a colossal wakeup call, one I very much needed, mind you! How naive I had been to believe that my first teaching position was a foregone conclusion. . . in the bag. . . a sure thing, etc.! I even had delusions of spending most of that post-graduation summer lazing around and taking my sweet time gathering up whatever I would need for my new life in a different town.

Oh, how wrong I was!

When June turned into July, and I still hadn’t heard from the superintendent, who’d previously “unofficially” assured me that I’d have a job in the school system back in my old hometown following my graduation, I began to worry. As much as I hated it, I called and spoke with him directly. After the general run-around, he informed me that the job was no longer vacant and wished me good luck on my future career endeavors. Thus, any thoughts of “lazing around” for the rest of the summer quickly flew the coop!

After a period of disbelief and shock, I came to my senses and knew I had to figure out a way to jump start my situation and get going on a now-crucial job search. During this near-panic-driven stage, I saw an ad in the local paper for a teacher employment agency.

Without hesitating, I contacted the agency and signed up to receive vacancy notices each week, even though I understood that any job I took would require me to pay a fee out of my first contract. At this point, I wasn’t too picky and didn’t rule out any opening that came my way. It was imperative to find something before the new school year was to begin. July didn’t offer me much wiggle room in that regard!

Soon, I began receiving the “vacancy” bulletins, with job listings and contact information. Had we had our computers and iPads and the Internet then, all of this probably would have been solved before it really got going!

Although I was not very familiar with much of Illinois outside of suburban Chicago, I was willing to go just about anywhere if there was job security and a pathway to a worthwhile career in the mix. I think it was kind of the beginning of my interest in setting off to previously unheard of spots. Of course, being twenty-three, I’m sure I didn’t always think things through all the way, but I had to go about things a different way now.

The first opening that looked “possible,” was at a high school in a small town in central Illinois, not far from Champaign. “Might as well get things going,” I told myself. I arranged for an interview with the principal there. I’d like to say that the two-and-a-half hour drive through the cornfields in typical summer heat a few days later, paid substantial dividends.

Quite frankly, it was a complete waste of time from the very beginning. The lethargic principal seemed merely to be going through the motions, not really showing any interest in what I might have to offer as a member of the teaching staff. Disappointed, I went back out into the hot and humid air and headed back northbound, thinking about what my next opportunity would be, or, perhaps, what other field of work I might consider.

I didn’t have to wait long to find out. The next job bulletin I received included a couple of potentially rewarding positions, and I quickly contacted the appropriate people at the two schools to arrange interviews.

The first one, in Munster, Indiana, just southeast of Chicago and not a far drive at all from home, would be with a high school principal on a Tuesday morning a week from my phone call.

The second one, in a place named Mulberry Grove, in south central Illinois, would take place the same evening of my Munster interview.

Two interviews in one day. . . Hundreds of miles apart. . . Could it be done, realistically? 

I had no idea, but at this point, I was willing to give it a try. After digging out my Rand-McNally Road Atlas, I figured that it would be about 350 miles between the two places. When I mentioned this situation to my parents, they were glad I was getting some leads for a job, but they thought my plan wasn’t a wise one to attempt alone.

Stay tuned.

Until next time

Discovering a highway & unexpected career direction. . .

I don’t really recall where I first became intrigued with all things “Route 66,” but I’m thinking that it probably came about during the many times I actually drove lots of miles on a great portion of the Illinois segment beginning back in the 70s. Of course, at the time I really didn’t realize the significance of the highway’s history between Chicago and St. Louis.

Upon graduating from Kent State in the summer of 1973, I was ready to head home to the suburbs of Chicago and while away the days until I heard from the superintendent of schools in an Indiana town in which I was certain I’d be teaching in one of the middle schools.

After all, I’d met with him a couple of times, and there had seemed to be a mutually good feeling between the two of us, and, more importantly, that he seemed eager to offer me the position—sooner than later—as soon as I had all of my requirements and a degree all secured. Now, everything had finally come together. It would only be a short time before I received the call with all of the details, the contract would be in the mail for my formal signature, etc., etc. 

I’m still waiting!

The famous line, “The best laid plans of mice and men, oft’ go astray,” was about to be perfectly illustrated as the summer wore on. I didn’t worry too much through the rest of June, but when the 4th of July came and went, I began to have that queasy feeling that things weren’t quite right. What was going on?

Realizing that teaching positions were probably being filled  pretty quickly in preparation for the new school year, I had to step up and find out exactly what was going on. I placed the long distance call from my parents’ home in Illinois to the superintendent back in Indiana.

When I reached him, I didn’t want to sound overly concerned—although I was all of that—so I simply told him that since I hadn’t heard anything pertaining to the teaching position we’d discussed earlier, that I was calling to find out where I stood in being offered the job.

The silence on the other end seemed to extend for a long, long time. In reality, it was only a few seconds before the superintendent replied that the position was being given to another candidate, and I wouldn’t be offered one.

Even though my stomach now had churned itself into a total maelstrom of sickening nausea, I managed to eke out a question as to why I had been passed over, especially since I had been led to believe that I would be getting the job during our previous two, positive meetings.

His answer was something about my student teaching evaluation (another story for another time, by the way!) and that I wasn’t right for the English teacher position after all. He didn’t care to go any further to clarify for me any of this, and when he wished me luck in my future endeavors, I was left confused,  shocked, and worried.

This late in the summer, would I be able to find something, especially since I was pretty much unfamiliar with any of the school systems in the state of Illinois? I only had lived there during summers after we’d moved from out of state after high school graduation. Whatever lay ahead, I knew I best get cracking and begin a search for SOMETHING.

And so that’s kind of where my travels on Illinois’ stretch of Route 66 comes into the picture. I vividly remember that  first time out there, in unfamiliar territory, driving the five-hour trip back from southern Illinois through a steady rain storm with my dad, following a job interview with the principal, superintendent, and the entire Board of Education earlier that evening. 

At the time, I didn’t pay any attention to the road or what it eventually would come to mean to me. I was only focused on landing a job. Would the one I’d interviewed for that night, the one so far from familiar surroundings, be where I’d begin my career?

After what had happened with the Indiana job falling through, I wasn’t willing to speculate one way or another as we clicked off the miles through the rain on Route 66 to get back to Chicagoland.

In the next post, I’ll explain how that distant job interview came about and how things eventually came together and just how The Mother Road would weave itself through it all.

Until next time. . .

Travel and new adventures…

IMG_5608As I’ve mentioned many times, one of the truly enjoyable things in my life is travel. And since I retired in 2007, I have been able to experience many, many miles “out there” on the road!

Of course, a good number of the travel adventures haven’t come about until we gave up our summer cottage rental a few years ago. We always knew that we wouldn’t be able to afford to do both: a summer cottage and the expense of nice trips. So, after several summers spent on Magician Lake in Sister Lakes, Michigan, we opted to give it up beginning in 2017 and take those trips to places we’d longed to see and visit.

And 2017 was certainly a memorable one for our travels. In mid-August, with a group of friends and otherIMG_5251 acquaintances, we embarked on a Holland America cruise to Alaska’s Inside Passage by way of Vancouver. I had been on one other cruise previously, and it couldn’t hold a candle to this cruise in terms of elegance, comfort, and amenities. It certainly whetted my appetite to “go cruising” in the future! There was never a time on the trip that I was bored or disappointed in the itinerary or the cruising life in general. My one regret for the whole trip, though, was my health (heart valve issue and A-fib) which hampered my ability—or desire—to walk and enjoy the ports of call: Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, Denali, and Anchorage.

The smoked salmon we had in Ketchikan, the trip to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, the train ride through history on the White Pass & Yukon Route out of Skagway and sampling Spruce Tip Ale afterwards, the stark beauty of Glacier Bay are all “moments” forever etched in my bank of memories.

Leaving the ship for the final time in Seward, we made the long bus ride up to Denali National Park where we spent an overnight, leaving little time for any real exploration of the area. The next morning we boarded the IMG_5375McKinley Explorer train, with domed cars for glorious views en route to Anchorage. As luck would have it, it was a crystal clear day, with visibility unimpeded, making Mt. McKinley/Denali as clear and close-up as anyone could have hoped for.

Through all of the miles, the only wildlife we saw other than birds and small game, was a black bear cub scooting back into the forest as we zoomed past. The ubiquitous moose failed to show, leaving me just a bit disappointed.

After spending the night in Anchorage, we had all of the next day free to sight-see and enjoy the beautiful sunshine of an Alaskan summer. The colors were out everywhere the eye could see, provided by flowers larger than we were used to back in the Midwest!

As night approached, and our bus hauled us to the Anchorage Airport, most of us were ready to get back home. Of course, our flight didn’t leave until midnight, so it would be a “red eye” special, of a full airliner, that took us back to O’Hare International.

Weary and travel worn, we made it back safe and sound and recalled all of those terrific moments of our group’s fun days just past.

But that wasn’t the end of that summer’s travel. In September, Carolyn and I would set out on the next adventure—driving Route 66! 

Until next time…

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Happy birthday to me…

I’ve been away from this blog for far too long, and what better time to jump back into posting some poignant and cogent thoughts than on my birthday? Yep, I’ve reached another milestone in this life, and it’s a terrific day outside to add to the occasion. At this writing, a few minutes past 10:00 A.M. Central Time, it’s sunny, clear, and 73° with a most delightful breeze. To say the least, it was perfect for my early-morning coffee on the deck, one of the few times I’ve been able to do so this “spring” with all of the chilly and rainy weather that’s been the rule rather than the exception here in northern Illinois.

The farmers have been desperate to find a “window” to be able to get their fields prepared and planted in time for a fall harvest. Usually by this time each year, corn and soy beans are sprouting up from the good, rich soil. It is doubtful if the field directly behind us will even be planted this year. It has become pretty much an overgrown wasteland. With the warmer dry weather lately, I look out each day to see if any tractors are getting going to break it up and get it planted. Alas, nothing yet!

Weather issues aside, we have spent several weekends “out and about,” mostly for family events: High school graduations in Omaha and West Lafayette; a three-day visit to see my mother in Ohio. 

In early May, I set out one Saturday and took part in the Illinois Route 66 Association’s Red Carpet Corridor event between Joliet and the central Illinois town of Towanda. The gorgeous day provided a wonderful backdrop for driving from town to town along the famous old Mother Road. The day brought back many memories of 2017 when we drove the whole route—Chicago to Santa Monica Pier in California.

And, of course, there have been the grandsons’ baseball games to attend, and the annual NASCAR weekend over in Brooklyn, Michigan. Again, it was a fun time, with the exception of having the big race rained out on Sunday. As always, that’s the chance one takes. Seems as though we’re hitting more rain issues every year. Mother Nature enjoys playing spoiler with us.

With summer about to bloom again, it’s time for me to get a move on and finish my writing projects that have lain dormant for too long. It’s time to continue my water exercise program I began in May at the YMCA three days a week. It’s time to go for walks and find those smiles once again. It’s time to bring this blog back to its original intent when I launched it a few years ago. It’s time to make this birthday one of re-emphasizing that life is good.

Happy birthday to me!