The birds, a squirrel, and a “writing day”…

Spring has “officially” entered the picture—finally! Yep, the robins have showed up again, and I’ve witnessed them busily pecking away for worms in yards and lots all over the area the last few days.

I’ve even restored the bird feeder way out back and filled it with sunflower seeds, hoping to attract cardinals and other lovely members of the avian ilk. But of course it’s the big, squawking black birds that seem to monopolize the feeder throughout the day. Regardless, I have spotted the male cardinal and his mate, from time to time, able to grab a quick bite when the other glutinous birds aren’t around. Another “guest” in our backyard is a gray squirrel, whose thick, fuzzy winter coat makes him appear as a bouncing ball when he scoots from tree to ground under the bird feeder and then back up another tree nearby.

It was a very rough winter around these parts. Lots of snow in January and on into February, punctuated with days of intense winds and wind chill warnings. I can’t recall a winter when I chose to remain inside for most of the day as I did these past couple of months. The accumulation of snow and ice prevented any “getting around” the yard. I did, however, put the snow thrower to good use in keeping the driveway clear.

Now, looking out  my writing room window, over the snowless back yard and the farm fields to the east, it gives me a good feeling that we’ve turned the corner and soon the grass will be green again; the trees will be budding, ready to shoot forth their leafy beauty.

Sometime, after the fields are dry enough, the farmer will begin another growing cycle—this year it will be corn—and I’ll get to watch the seeds grow into green sprouts and then into healthy stalks and then a golden harvest in October.

The last few days have been sun filled with temperatures in the 40s. Not quite warm enough to grab the chair and sit out on the deck or the driveway to bask in the goodness that spring is, but it’s getting closer. Oh, how I anticipate being able to dress for the day in shorts and t-shirt!

 Today, a gray, chilly, and wet one, is my “writing day.” The ear buds are in, as I listen to Cinemix on Internet Radio while I write away, attempting to catch up after another stretch of time where I’ve failed to dazzle the keyboard with my magic. The novel, needing much work, awaits, and I probably should take advantage of this “writing day” to seriously get to it.

On another tack...

I recently finished reading a novel I’ve intended to get to for quite some time: Bernard Malamud’s The Natural. Most people are familiar with the 1984 movie by the same title, starring Robert Redford. I had frequently heard that Malamud’s award winning novel, published in 1952, takes a very drastic turn from what is portrayed in the movie. Without giving things away, I’ll simply say that main character, Roy Hobbs, is a very flawed human being. 

For those baseball fans who thrilled to the heroic tale that was the movie version of The Natural, it might be of interest to check out and read the true tale of The Natural by Bernard Malamud.

Well, I see that the black birds are at the feeder once again, and the gray squirrel has put in an appearance, awaiting any “freebies” the birds manage to drop from their buffet above. A couple of robins are hopping around, in search of the mysterious worm, concealed somewhere beneath.

Ah, spring has come to life once more in our back yard!

Catching up and some “Super Sunday” thoughts…

OK. It’s been way too long since I actually sat down with the sole purpose to write something to post on Down Many Roads—my long-standing blog about various topics of which I’m interested. And I’ve frittered away so many opportunities to do that very thing during the past several weeks and months. Reading, rather than writing, has still been my “go to” activity when I’m up before dawn most mornings, and I feel rather guilty about that—but not that guilty! Recently, I have enjoyed reading the following books: Beneath a Scarlet Sky, by Mark Sullivan; The Russia Hoax, by Greg Jarrett; The Saga of the Pony Express, by Joseph J. Di Certo;

Since I last posted regarding our wonderful adventure on the Oregon Trail with our grandsons, I have been busy with a few road trips to Ohio to see Mom and my older sister and husband. Mom turned 90 last month and is doing remarkably well. We had just returned from an 18-day Panama Canal cruise, and our intention was to make the six hour drive to northern Ohio to celebrate her birthday on the actual day—January 22. But a nagging viral infection entered the scene, as did the return of the Polar Vortex, preventing me from making the trip to the shores of Lake Erie.

About that same time, we had been inundated with continuous snowfalls, accumulations mounting daily. As such, I’m planning a trip out in a couple of weeks, hoping that this sudden thaw and this stretch of very pleasant weather will hold on for a while. Fingers crossed.

Our aforementioned cruise began on January 2, when we flew out of O’Hare to San Diego. From start to finish, the whole trip was wonderful, particularly the warm and comfortable weather all the way along, where we ended up in Fort Lauderdale and flew home from there. I will be writing about the highlights of this adventure in future posts.

Watching the Super Bowl yesterday left me in a total state of “the blahs.” Not only was the game a complete flop, the commercials—usually the highlight of Super Sunday—were non existent. There is definitely something going on in our world and society that has changed things that are supposed to be fun into anything but. Too much preachy content that caters to a generation I find difficult to comprehend much of the time. The outcome was not really surprising, and I’m not a Patriots football fan. However, I do admire their achievements and their adherence to off-the-field obligations. Enjoy your White House visit, Patriots!

Now, it’s time to focus on getting through February. Good to be back and writing! See you sooner than later…

“There was”…and “What’s ahead”

It’s already the middle of May, and this is the first piece of writing I will have posted since way back in February. No excuses! No rationalizing! No nothing! I’ve just been totally and completely uninspired to sit myself down in front of my Macbook on a regular basis to crank out words and thoughts. It’s not as though I haven’t had plenty to write about. Quite the opposite.

Since that last post, there was…

…my serving as an election judge here in our county.

…the usual list of mundane duties to attend to right around the old estate.

…a large number of books to read for the two book clubs I’m in.

…a visit to our good friend, the travel agent/coordinator, to book a cruise on Holland America Lines to the Panama Canal next January.

…a White Sox opening week game to attend with my son, as we so often did when he was young and I was younger, too.

…a long weekend trip to Nashville with another couple who had never been there before, and one they thoroughly enjoyed!

…a regular schedule of trips to Ohio to see my mother as she deals with being 89 and the “joys” of health issues surrounding that realm. Now that it’s Mothers Day tomorrow, she is particularly in my thoughts—now, more than ever.

… a celebration of birthdays for family members, and memorials for some friends who have passed. 

What’s ahead for summer?

There are plans for upcoming auto trips to quaint and remote places for Carolyn’s genealogy research and an annual NASCAR “race weekend” over in Michigan in June, the weekend, a day after which I’ll celebrate being another year on this earth!

There is the week in July when Carolyn and I will take the grandsons out to Casper, Wyoming, for a three-day covered wagon adventure on the Oregon Trail. Stay tuned for reports afterwards. There will surely be much to share here on this blog!

So there’s still much ahead, and my desire to once more write and blog and offer up thoughts, perhaps, is slowly re-kindling. I’m hoping it will. In the meantime, to all Moms out there, I hope you have the very best day ever tomorrow—wherever you might be. None of us would be anywhere without you!

Until next time….

Day 2 on the Mother Road…

IMG_5887Thursday, September 14, 2017

Lunch and gas in Springfield, Missouri. (Not a very pleasant sounding combination, if taken in the wrong context!) Nevertheless, we took care of both “necessaries” and worked our way through the city that held quite a bit of early Route 66 history.

And soon we were once again out on the old highway and traveling through lovely bucolic surroundings.

This delightful stretch of road offered old barns and remnants of various businesses of yesteryear. The “Modern Cabins” neon sign caught our attention at Greystone Heights, where we pulled into the lot and said hello to the nice lady who told us to take as many photos as we’d care to.

A few miles from here, we came upon Gay Parita Sinclair Station at Paris Springs. This stop was another of the many like it where we met the folks in charge and were appreciative of their generosity and overall kindness. Carolyn enjoyed cold watermelon, while I refreshed with cold ice water. The photos here show what a wonderful piece of Route 66 it is. A must visit for travelers!

Our first detour came a little later as a bridge was completely out, routing us several miles south. Nothing to do but follow the orange detour signs and enjoy the ride.

We worked our way back north and rejoined Route 66 just outside of Carthage at a Flying W Store and gas station. We stopped here to snap photos of the unique piece of art on the corner of the lot: the “Crap Duster,” a flying manure spreader! We learned that this unique artwork had been done by artist Lowell Davis, a local guy known for creating wonderful things!

The entire area seemed to be full of terrific Route 66 “stuff.” Old motel signs, remains of motels themselves, gas stations, etc. And we couldn’t wait to see what was ahead in the town of Carthage.

And sure enough, we were soon face to face with a classic Route 66 motel, Boots Court, famous for its neon and architecture. We could see that it was open for business and even gave a thought to get a room there for the night, but we still had plans to make it to Joplin before stopping.

We rolled on, and were in Joplin by the time we’d designated our daily stopping time: 4:30. By this time, we were both a bit road “weary” and ready to stop and unwind and update our writing. Carolyn was sending daily “update” e-mails to a large group of friends from home, and I was scribbling in my little orange notebook. (Which rests beside me as I put these blog posts together.)

After some reconnoitering to get our bearings in another new city, we found a nice place to spend the night. The Econolodge offered just what we needed. Clean room, swimming pool, complimentary breakfast, and good location to where we’d pick up Route 66 in the morning. After a wonderful steak dinner at the nearby Longhorn Steakhouse, we returned to our motel. Carolyn wrote her update; I swam.

Realizing that we were really and finally doing this trip, I felt a sense of adventure as to what lay ahead, while at the same time thinking back to the wonderful places, people, and things we’d come across these first two days. What a wonderful trip it is—and will be!

Gettin’ our kicks westward on ’66…

Continuing west…

Thursday, September 14

Checked out of the delightful Wagon Wheel Motel at 8:30. Another splendid comfortably pleasant sunny morning! We were in for a very wonderful day discovering the roadside treasures along the winding and rolling Missouri route.

Our destination for the day was Joplin, near the western end of the state. We had no lodging reservations, but we trusted that there’d be something once we got there.

IMG_5785After breakfast of our usual egg and muffin and coffee breakfast, we were once more westbound. Soon, we were treated to a giant rocking chair near Fanning. It was way too big to climb up and “sit a spell,” but we did capture some fine pictures of the big creation.

As was the case in Illinois, the interstate super slab was never too far away from old Route 66. Fortunately, there would be very few occasions on this day for us to be on I-44. Instead, most of our miles involved traveling along the “outer” roads, what “frontage” roads are called in Missouri. And so onward we wound.

As the road and landscape around and ahead of us opened up, we came upon more “big stuff.” A giant dripping neon faucet near St. James, and across the way at the Mule Trading Post was the Big Hillbilly.

When we came into Rolla and the Missouri University of Science and Technology, we learned that it is the home of the first nuclear reactor in Missouri. Nearby, we passed a small replica of Stonehenge that had been carved with high-speed water jets. Those techies are quite proficient with their skills!

IMG_5820After a short—but necessary—drive on the interstate, we once again exited and drove through some of my favorite stretch of Route 66 roadway. This 4-lane 66 through Hooker was the very first on Route 66 in Missouri. “Hooker Cut” had been built in 1941-45 for wartime traffic to Ft. Leonard Wood. It was a delight to see and drive this stretch and enjoy the gorgeous hilly landscape.

IMG_5821Before long, we’d come to “Devils Elbow,” named for the bend in the river that caused frequent logjams. Tucked way down below very tall tree-lined bluffs, Devils Elbow featured a neat looking BBQ and Bar, a narrow steel bridge, a small market, and post office. Up the hill lay an old Route 66 pullout where we enjoyed the scenic view to the river valley below before continuing up this original piece of Route 66.

On we traveled, through Buckhorn, where another roadside treasure greeted us: The giant bowling pin, right next to the sign for the ADULT SUPERSTORE! A good morning chuckle for the both of us.IMG_5858

A good portion of the rest of the morning was given over to simply enjoying the countryside and the numerous twist, turns, and hills we came to. On into Lebanon and some wonderful old businesses and signage. The Munger Moss Motel (1946) is an outstanding example of what old Route 66 was—and is—with its wonderful vintage sign and motor court behind. Would love to spend a night here next time through.

And so on we went, passing a couple of old Meramec Caverns Barns and a 1926 railroad overpass, through Phillipsburg, Conway, and Niangua. Soon, we entered Marshfield, home of Dr. Edwin Hubble, Astronomer, and famous for the Hubble Space Telescope.

A quick tour around the town square to see the model replica of the telescope, we decided it was time to find a place for lunch, and Springfield wasn’t that far ahead and would certainly have much to choose from. It would be a good place to stop for a while, have lunch, and fill the tank up once again.

Next: Springfield to Joplin

 

Segment 3 of our Route 66 adventure through Illinois…

July 26
Bloomington to Worden, IL

A beautful sunny day greeted us as we were up and out and on I-39 by 8 a.m. to make the two-and-a-half hour drive down to the south end of Bloomington, where our previous Illinois “segment” of driving Historic 66 left off.

So far, in our previous two “day trips,” we’ve enjoyed many portions of the “old highway,” various remnants of motels and businesses, and we would definitely encounter much more of the same on today’s drive. So by 10:30, we were back to the point where we’d
broken off the drive a few weeks before.

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IMG_2635.jpgSouth of Bloomington-Normal is one of Route 66’s most iconic stops: Funk’s Grove, famous for selling maple “sirup” for generations. We’ve driven I-55 past this spot so many times without ever actually getting off and checking it out.

Today, however, our drive on the original road goes right past the place, and we pulled in and visited the little store and the pleasant lady behind the counter. Of course, we couldn’t escape without purchasing a small jug of their famous maple “sirup.” (Yep, that’s the way they spell it!)

After that, we continued on down a short distance to McLean, home of the Dixie Travel IMG_2638.jpgPlaza. After a “pit stop” there, we drove to nearby Atlanta, a town that has really gotten into the spirit of preserving Historic Route 66. A clock tower, a giant “muffler man,” and the Palms Cafe are all worth visits.

Rolling on, we found our way into Lincoln on the 1930-1940 Route 66 alignment. Following a quick IMG_2669.jpgdrive around the town square, we re-joined the route past The Mill on 66. For years it was a popular restaurant, but now has been restored and serves as an information center/gift shop. It was closed on this day, but we managed to capture some good photos before continuing south through Broadwell, Elkhart, Williamsville, and Sherman.IMG_2668.jpg

 

 

Just outside of Sherman is an original Route 66 Rest Area, complete with the original pavement. “Rest Areas” during the Route 66 heyday were much different than the modern-day facilities we’re used to. Mostly, these areas were picnic areas or for walking the dog or for just getting off the road for awhile.IMG_2687.jpg

Just past Sherman is Springfield, obviously full of wonderful Abraham Lincoln attractions (which we’ve done many times), and our focus was on the remnants of old businesses and hotels along the road through the state capital.

IMG_2701.jpgAt this point, we both were hungry, and we just so happened to be close to another Route 66 icon, the Cozy Dog Drive In (1949). It’s famous for inventing the corn dog. So it was inside to the air conditioned comfort and a Cozy Dog and a cold Route 66 root beer for each of us. The memorabilia on display was well worth the time we spent looking it over.IMG_2702.jpg

After our Cozy Dog repast, we headed off toward the next part of today’s trip south on 66’s 1926-30 alignment. (We would pick up the “other” alignment when we set out on September 13 for the long drive.)

IMG_2706.jpgFollowing the brown Historic 66 signs, we found several very worthwhile remnants to enjoy, such as the brick road that was hand laid in 1932, covering the original Portland cement of the old road. We enjoyed a slow drive over this 1.4 mile strip of old 66, and then it was on through Auburn, Thayer, Virden, and Girard–mostly country roads and farmland. Very peaceful and pleasant!

Then, we came upon another stretch of original road, which included wild turkey tracks embedded in the road, dating back to the 1920s when the road was poured.

From there, our southbound trek took us through the neat towns of Carlinville, Gillespie, Benld, Sawyerville, and Staunton, and the small area near Worden. This was to be our stopping point for today before we got on the nearby interstate to return home.

And that’s exactly what we did, turning north back up I-55 and I-39 to home. Like all of our other day sojourns, today had been a good day once again, experiencing the Mother Road in south central Illinois. With only a tiny section of Illinois Route 66 now remaining, we were ready for the upcoming journey all the way out to Route 66’s end in California, beginning September 13.IMG_2724.jpg We’re ready!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Made it!

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Yours truly on the end of the Santa Monica Pier
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Happy “Road Warriors” at journey’s end…

Yep, we made it all the way out here from start to finish on Historic Route 66, from Chicago to the end of the pier in Santa Monica, California. It’s been a wonderful couple of weeks on the road. Almost forgot what home looks like these days! Hot, I understand.

But there are so many stories about our road adventure that I’m going to be sharing in the days ahead. For now, though, let me just say that Carolyn and I have had a terrific time, are healthy, and haven’t clawed each other’s eyes out (up to this point, anyway!).

I have been keeping a daily journal of this trip as we move from town to town, state to state, motel to motel. Now, we’ve completed the whole thing and we’ll be turning around and heading back east in a few days. We’re spending the next couple of days here near Disneyland (not going there) because we got a really good rate at the hotel and we wanted to be out of the Los Angeles scene. Driving through there today was an adventure all in itself, particularly since it was my first time ever in the area. And what they say about traffic there is absolutely true!

As I type this, I’m still worn out from the long day of  wrong turns, missed streets, and not knowing where I was going! The cold beer I finally procured at the hotel bar earlier was soothing and calming.

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That cold beer never tasted better!

So tomorrow will be a non-travel day. The car will rest–as

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Carolyn enjoying a refreshing margarita!

will we–and we’ll take full advantage of the wonderful pool and other amenities this place has to offer. At that point, I’ll go back to the morning of September 13, when we left Illinois, and got on the road–The Mother Road–and write about those wonderful miles across this wonderful land of ours. What a journey it has been!

Right now, it’s time for rest and reflection. The bed beckons. See you all very soon on these pages.