Much Better


I finally rushed to the library to drop off the terrible book that took me ten weeks to read. It was time to change-up and get back to reading enjoyment, instead of pain, suffering and intellectual torture. I cruised the book racks looking for something to jump out and yell, “take me.”

Three rounds of staring at covers, titles and authors set a new record for me. Usually I find something within a round and a half. I finally decided to read Steven King. I have avoided him for years. Mostly because of all the things I have heard about his books being weird. It was time to break through the barrier of ignorance and decide for myself what he was like as an author. I know he is a progressive nut job in his politics which puts him on my hit list of people to avoid.

The book I picked up is “Elevation.” A mere two hundred and fifty-eight pages of very large print. It took me three hours to finish. What a joy it was to read a story and not some obnoxious author’s brain dump about a genius mathematician. Elevation is a story about real people with real problems except one who has an exceptional problem. The problem is so weird that the character is afraid go to a doctor to learn what it is. I guess this is the weird Stephen King coming into play. The story has a sad but happy ending which I loved. Elevation is a good short read well worth the time.

Late Summer Evening In Frankfort

Old Plank Road Trail

Old Plank Road Trail (Photo credit: reallyboring)

Yesterday, after supper I took a long walk into town. I went by way of the mushroom water tower on route thirty and then south to the Old Plank Road Trail. I arrived in historic Frankfort and saw the remnants of cruise night. At least what was left of cruise night. It was after seven when I ambled into town and the sun was only a glow of pink in the western sky. There were still a few die-hard car guys sitting around chatting in front of their hot-rods. There were about six in all. Too dark to take pictures I thought. I kept walking to Oak Street and Kansas. There across the street was Francesca’s Fortunato restaurant lit up with mini-lights. Patrons sat on the new sidewalk seating area enjoying the warm humid evening while eating and drinking with friends. Neat, I thought to myself as I continued to walk. Then the same scene unfolded in front of the Smokey-Barq restaurant on the opposite corner. I’ve got to take a picture I told myself.  I will be  sorry if I don’t at least try. Besides, what have I got to lose, a few electrons? The only camera was in my phone. What the heck, point and shoot. Surprise, an image froze on the screen. That started me thinking about another photo essay on Frankfort.

Here are the few pictures I took.

You may read my writing about Frankfort, many times I whine about the high cost of living and the latest infra-structure improvement we don’t need, but overall I love this little (16550 souls) town, and will most likely be buried from here.

The Thief Got Away With the Crime

Photo from myoldpostcards' photostream

During one of my jobs in high school I served as a soda jerk at the Woodlawn Café.  The owner, Joe Fejes let me work evenings.  My job was to make shakes, malts, sundaes, ice cream sodas, pour coffee, and serve pie. Near closing time, I cleaned the fountain and took out the trash.

On this particular night I drove Dad’s green Buick to work. This Buick was the newest car he ever owned even though it was ten years old when he bought it. The nineteen thirty-nine Buick became his favorite.

Woodlawn Cafe sat on the corner of Ninety-fifth Street and Woodlawn Avenue, less than a mile from home. On this dark, cool October night I got permission to drive to work. I wasn’t old enough for a license, but I was driving around the neighborhood on special occasions.  I parked the Buick on Woodlawn next to the restaurant, right in front of the back door.

The Buick had a defect which we tolerated.  The ignition did not work with the key.  All we had to do was turn the knob on the key port, and the starter jumped to life. We continued to stick the key into the switch as a security measure and as a place to keep it while driving.

That evening, business was normal.  It was never super busy at night, but a steady stream of customers came in for coffee and pie, or an ice cream soda.  I also filled some orders for banana splits and sundaes.

At eight p.m. it was time to take the garbage out to the alley.  I opened the door fully expecting to see the Buick standing there, but  it was gone!  My heart jumped into my throat.  Where was it?  I ran to the alley and to the parking lot around the other side of the building, but there was no car.

I rushed into the building and told Mrs. Fejes what happened.  She told me to call the police to report it stolen.  I ran home to make the call.  How would I tell Mom and Dad that someone stole the car?

I fumbled through the phone book to find the number for the Burnside Police Department and dialed. It seemed like forever before I got an answer.  The officer asked me a lot of questions about the car to get a description.  One thing they asked which I couldn’t answer was the license plate number.  I had to get Dad to find the number in his papers.  The police said they would keep their eyes open for it, but until I called them back with the number they couldn’t do much.

At nine o’clock, Mrs. Fejes called us from the restaurant. She saw a car like ours parked by the back door of the restaurant.  I ran all the way back there to check, and sure enough the Buick stood  right where I had originally left it.  I drove it home and parked it in the garage. Early the next morning, before I left for school, two detectives came to the front door. They were following up on the stolen car report.  I told them the story, and showed them the car in the garage before they closed out their report.

I never did find out who took it or why. The only story that makes sense to me is that someone who knew the about the quirky ignition switch took the car for a joy ride and quietly brought it back. They may have enjoyed the ride, but I sure as hell didn’t have any joy that night.

A Bicycle Ride Around Nova Scotia

This account is the companion piece to my web page on Nova Scotia. It is written by my good friend and cycling companion Lou Dini. We shared many rides together, and have many great tales to tell, some of them are tall; this one is Lou’s. Mine is on the tab under Bicyclist. The photos are mine.


A Bicycle Ride Around Nova Scotia, Canada

The First Half of the Story

By Louis A. Dini

The time had arrived! All the training, (rides to Dahlonega, big hills in the development, rides on the Silver Comet Railroad Bike Trail with a good friend Jeff Daxson, my daughter and grandson) and work to get in shape are past and the day of truth has arrived.

We met Joe Rohaly and his wife Barbara this morning on the “CAT” in Bar Harbor Maine. The “CAT” is a hydrofoil ferry that took us across the ocean to Yarmouth Nova Scotia. The Ferry speed was forty-eight miles per hour and the trip took less than three hours. The water was rougher then I expected but we made it without any incident or seasickness.

Yes, we arrived at our starting point and were anxious to get moving. The ride was to start in the morning and we had all day to load up on food and prepare our bikes for the ride. Joe was smart and had a bike rack allowing him to do very little assembly work. I, on the other hand, had disassembled the bike and stuffed it into the trunk. Surprisingly, I remembered how it went together and everything worked once it was assembled.

Joe had made reservations at a small motel in mid-town Yarmouth for both of us. (strangely enough it was called Mid-Town Motel). At night we found that many of our soon to be fellow riders also stayed at the motel. We tried to meet as many as we could and of course it was fruitless for me because my worst attribute is names. Anyway, we met many and exchanged some of our experiences. Joe was the topic of the conversation with his recumbent bike. Everyone wanted to look it over and have their questions answered to learn all the details about its operation. Of course Joe didn’t ham it up or anything. Ha! I on the other hand would have my turn to find out about it as the ride unfolded. That’s another story and later you will hear about it if you want to or not.

It was extremely hard to sleep that first night with all the adrenaline flowing. We woke early or should I say we gave up on sleep at 6:00 a.m. Guess what? The weather was horrible, rain had moved in and there was so much fog that one could not see across the street. We proceeded to go to breakfast hoping that the weather would break before we had to start riding. Now what do you think a person in training should eat for breakfast to have a good start on the ride. Wrong! It was McDonald’s scrambled eggs, sausage, and hash browns with lots of coffee (and all the grease I could get).

We returned to the motel and joined others that started to put their gear together. About 9:30 am we moved from the motel to the visitors center where the ride was to start. Okay, we are ready to go! But the weather is still horrible and the fog has not lifted (talk about adrenaline, no I think it was just fright). Remember the song about the soldier not wanting   to follow Custer (Hey Mr. Custer I Don’t Want To Go), well that is how I felt. I was not ready to go! You guessed it stupidity won over common sense and we (thirty seven of us) left for our destination, Villagedale. Amazingly the first historical site we came to was St. Anne’s Catholic Church. Guess what? I went in and said a prayer hoping that the good Lord would over look my stupidity and protect me on this ride. I guess He listened because that day and the rest of the ride went without any serious incidents.

I quickly learned to take Joe’s estimate of the mileage and add about one hundred percent. Joe insisted that he try the popular Acadian dish rappie pie. He led me off the trail, supposedly a mile, to indulge in the special dish. Well, Joe’s mile turned into almost three and we added another five plus miles to our daily ride. After that detour, when Joe would say it was a mile or two, I would ask if it was a U.S. mile or a Joe mile. By the way, Joe agreed the pie wasn’t worth the ride.

The weather slowly cleared but not fast enough to afford the luxury of good scenery and photo opportunities. By the time we arrived at the campsite the sun was out and that was as good as it was going to get that day because the fog started to roll in early in the evening. Along with the rain and fog we missed the food stop, so after we set up our tents, if we wanted to have supper we had to ride seven miles back and forth. Okay, so you say what is fourteen miles anyway? It was horrible as it brought the ride for the day to eighty miles and before we got back the fog had become very thick.

Well, that is day one (80 miles). We rode long and hard, missed our food stop, I broke a spoke, we got to the campsite and the black flies ate us alive.

The second day started out with full sunshine and the black flies that were still very aggressive. Sleep came easily last night after the hard ride yesterday. The first thing on the agenda was to repair the broken spoke and dry out the rain fly as the dampness was extremely heavy last night.

Well, I completed the repair even though there were millions of black flies trying to carry me away. Joe was all packed and we started out at about 10:30 am. Guess what? We were the last ones to leave the campsite. We soon became known for being the last ones in and the last ones out each day. The others were nice about it and ribbed us at every opportunity.

By the way I forgot yesterday to explain that our wives (Delores and Barb) did not stay in the campsites or should I say they refused to stay in the campsites. Joe did an excellent job of finding them motels along the route. He planned it so they would be in the same town we were every other day. This gave them a chance to enjoy our company and take us to supper (ha!). The ladies fit right in and were on first name basis with most of the riders. In short order Joe and I got ribbed about ladies picking us up for supper. As they came in sight the crowd would say here come the girlfriends, it must be date night.

The ride was better today, because the weather stayed mostly sunny. Of course we had some pretty good head winds. I suppose this is a good time to explain how familiar I became with Joe’s recumbent. I literally saw nothing but Joe’s back all day and then not at any close distance unless we had a tail wind. Damn that bike flies! In the whole trip I think I led or stayed close to Joe about forty miles out of four hundred miles. With my weight and the way I tune my bike, I have been known to leave people behind when there are steep down hills. I found out how people I used to ride with felt. I would start down a hill and reach about thirty-eight miles per hour and Joe would fly by me reaching some fifty miles per hour. I could not even stay close to Joe going down hill! I gained a lot of respect for the ability of the recumbent and am giving strong consideration to purchasing one myself.

Once again Joe led me off the trail to find lunch. This time it was a total of three Joe miles or about a detour of seven miles. For this effort we found a very nice little restaurant with very good food. The only problem we encountered is that, with most of the bikers finding this same place, the restaurant ran out of some of their popular items. We found the world to be very small when we started talking to the owner of the restaurant. Our sag driver, a young lady from Australia, and the proprietor’s daughter were from Australia and even lived in towns that were very close.

We made it to Shelborne in the daylight but still we were the last ones in and the forty-two mile trip turned into fifty-five today. Of course we were late and the wives were there before we could get set up and cleaned up. We hurried with set-up, went to the wive’s motel to shower and then to supper. Do you want to know what we did the rest of the night? We went to the Laundromat to do some riding gear because we didn’t have time to do that task the night before (some sight seeing!).  We made it back to the campsite in the dark again.

That is it for day two (55 miles). The weather was better and we were able to get some pictures. The ride was easier, however, we continued to add up more miles then the map designated. We had supper in good company (the wives) and turned in less tired then last night. By the way this tour followed the lighthouse route. The funny part is that in two days we still weren’t able to see a lighthouse because of the fog along the ocean.

The third day started out overcast and gloomy and before we got into town to meet the wives for breakfast, it started to rain. We were not the last ones out of camp today. However, after we ate breakfast we were the last ones to leave the town. The good news is that while we ate the rain came down very hard and all those poor souls who hurried out got soaked on the road. We on the other hand stayed dry and luckily we managed to do that all day.

The head winds grew stronger through out the day and at one point I had a very hard time sustaining ten miles per hour. We came to a turn in the route at the Little Harbour Country Store and decided to have a snack. The store obviously had been closed for some time and it was good that we had snacks in our bags or we would have been out of luck. The wind was very strong and cold as it blew across the ocean that was less than a quarter mile away. The old store provided us shelter from the wind as we ate and rested.

Well here is what I have been waiting for! We now turned with the wind at our back and I had the first occasion to experience what it was like to ride with a partner in over two days, in fact I even led for a period of time. We thoroughly enjoyed the wind at our back and we did eight miles in about thirty-five minutes. What a joy!

We found a place to have lunch on the actual route. I didn’t know if I was going to be hungry, as we didn’t have to travel all those extra miles to find lunch. I guess I was hungry I sure did eat a lot.

Oh! Oh! The first real hills we had to encounter. The legs really burned and of course we had to be on a road with cars going sixty miles per hour. The good news is that this condition only lasted for about six miles. Of course, if you ride a bike, you learn that with every up hill there is generally a great down hill. Yes there was! The only problem is that we had to turn left at the bottom of the hill. I pulled on the brakes as hard as I could and just made the turn. Of course, I could have passed but then I would have to pedal back up hill. My mother didn’t raise any dummies!

The road that led into the campsite was gravel and two miles long. This is not the best road to ride on with a road bike. Fortunately the road was packed pretty well where the cars had traveled back and forth. We were able to ride all the way without any tire problems.

We had a new experience tonight. We actually had to cook something to eat for supper. We had made instant coffee and even some instant oatmeal for breakfast but this was first supper (you have to know that we only had a four-cup coffee pot to accomplish this task). I had picked up some Lipton soup mix and a can of white chicken meat. I made soup and put the chicken meat into the broth (not too bad). Dessert was some fruit and nut mix and I was full. Well believe it or not, we broke our string. We were not the last ones to the campsite. We actually got in early enough to retire early and read a little.

Well that is about all there was for the third day (55 miles). The weather cleared in the afternoon and we were able to get a couple of pictures, however, there was not much to photograph as we travelled in an area away from the water and through a lot of forest areas. We had a good breakfast, missed lunch and cooked a marginal supper.

The fourth day started off with a little rain early. It rained just enough to get the rain fly wet and it was overcast enough so it would not dry out before we had to pack up. We had another hearty breakfast of oatmeal, tea and fruit. These breakfasts didn’t last long in my stomach and with luck I would make it out of the campsite before I was hungry again. Today is another long ride and scheduled to be about sixty-four miles. I am sure we will make it seventy before we reach Lunenberg.

The sky was covered with clouds and it kept the sun from burning us up. It was clear enough to get some more photographs along the shoreline. We had a lunch or a second breakfast early in the ride at the White Point Lodge. This was a neat resort on the shoreline with a golf course and all. The food was good even though we had to go up and down some pretty steep hills to get to the lodge. Speaking of hills today was one of those hillier days. I think that each day picked up in regards to a hill size or I was just getting weaker with each day. Well, I guess I made it, as I knew that tomorrow was a lay over day. Joe made it because we visited a terrific bakery in La Have just before we ferried across to East La Have. I don’t know what he had, but he kept talking about it for the next couple of miles.

The wives were already in Lunenberg since yesterday and we decided that they should just pick us up in the morning. We therefore needed to find supper and of course we found a restaurant on the road to Lunenberg. What a novel happening, we had the luxury of another restaurant where we didn’t have to travel five or ten miles out of the way. Joe found a parking spot for his long bike right up against the wall of the restaurant. There were twenty bikes there and yet no one had parked against the wall of the restaurant. Joe thought he was smart but found when he came out that no one parked there because there was a bird’s nest right above his bike. This is a good news bad news story! The bad news was the birds crapped all over his bike and the good news is that they somehow missed his seat so he didn’t have to ride in it.

The weather had cleared even more and there was a slight wind as we entered the campsite. Guess what! We weren’t the last ones to the campsite again, that’s two in a row. We set up early for a change and the wind dried the tents very fast. This campsite was in the open and there weren’t any trees to hang a rope to dry out the clothes that I washed yesterday. I laid them across the tent and they finished drying before nightfall.

That’s about it for the fourth day (67 miles). We started with wet gear and cloudy skies, found the route had more or larger hills, good food, a great bakery and enough sun and wind to dry out the equipment.

The fifth day we chose not to but rather to go sightseeing in Lunenberg and Peggy’s cove. Lunenberg was a very colorful town on the water. By colorful I mean the actual colors of the building. There were buildings of bright yellow, green, red, and many other colors. We found that the reason for the bright colors is they are easier to see in the fog when the ships are coming in.

We took a horse and buggy ride, visited the boat museum, walked along the boardwalk and even shopped for some souvenirs. We had lunch and then met Barb and Joe to drive to Peggy’s Cove. When we arrived at Peggy’s Cove the sun was out in full and we took some very beautiful photographs. These are the sights and memories we had thought we would bring back from the lighthouse route. This made the trip worthwhile. Peggy’s Cove is the most photographed location in Nova Scotia and we certainly could see why.

There was some sadness there also. They had a monument along the shore for the crash of The Swiss Air Flight 111 in which all aboard were killed. It was a very somber moment as we stood and looked out over the water. The only other moment I have felt like this is when we stood in the monument for the Arizona battle ship lost in Pearl Harbor.

We ended the day by having supper with the whole group in Lunenberg. It was good to be together in one place to talk to and get to know each other more. Yes we were all in the campsite together but we didn’t really come together in a group and mingle. That night we found that the people were from all walks of life, all professions and from all over the North American Continent. Thirty-eight people came together and somehow we will all remember one another through the experience of this bike ride.

So that’s the fifth day, good weather, good friends, and beautiful scenery!

The sixth day was supposed to be a very hard ride. That is why the day was only twenty –seven miles. We came to a very nice town called Mahone Bay. We had breakfast and looked around the main street, which was set up for a sidewalk sale. Joe and I both bought a souvenir cap which, we didn’t know at time, would come in handy in the future.

Because we expected the ride to be the hardest we had encountered, we left fairly quickly and made our way toward our destination. As it happens, what you think will be may not always be correct. The day was indeed easier than we thought and we arrived very early at the campsite. This campsite had a very steep hill entrance and the road was made of a very sharp shale type rocks. We decided to walk the bikes in to avoid any tire problems.

Arriving at camp early allowed us to have a day of relaxation. We set up camp and Joe pulled out his lounge chair and proceeded to read his book. I on the other hand decided to do my wash so I would have dry clean clothes for a couple of days. One of the ladies on the ride wanted to play cribbage. I didn’t know how so she took the time to teach me. This brought back fond memories as when I was a child and we went to my grandparents house for a reunion, my grandfather, uncles, and dad would spend hours playing cribbage. I never had the opportunity to learn so this was something I enjoyed.

Well, this was another cooking night as there wasn’t a town for miles. This night we would enjoy beef stew and beef soup. I can’t decide if it was good or if my being hungry would have made everything taste good. After that delicate cuisine we turned in early and read for a while.

Well that’s day six (30 miles). This was a relatively easy day with plenty of relaxation time. I learned something new and reminisced about days of old.

The seventh day turned out to be what we expected on day six. Talk about hills! Yesterday the hills were Michigan size hills, and today they were Dahlonega size hills. Today we used a lot of energy but the ride was in such an area that there was nowhere to get food or to recoup what we lost.

Darn, I hate that loud ping! I broke another spoke early in the ride so we stopped to true the wheel as good as possible until I could get time to replace it. It sure is nice to have good friends with you on a day like today. Joe played the part of a bicycle rack and held the rear wheel up so I could do the truing job.

We had climbed a hill for what seemed like an eternity. At the top of the hill we found a campsite store. We turned in to the campsite and purchased a snack, sat on the porch and enjoyed one another’s company while we discussed life in general.

We probably stayed longer than we should have, as both of us were stiff when we got up. We resumed the ride and in about a mile the road went into a serious downhill. We were enjoying the downhill when all of a sudden the fog and clouds opened into an awesome view of bright sun, green earth as I have never seen and a blue sky. One breathtaking scene that plants unforgettable memories in one’s gray matter is what riding on a tour is all about. That experience wipes out any memories left by hundreds of hard miles.

We arrived early at the campsite again (this is becoming a habit). We set up our tents and then went about our business. I repaired the broken spoke, which was harder than the last as it was on the free wheel side. I was lucky to find a spoke long enough in Gary’s supply (Gary is our tour leader). I found one that just threaded and I hoped it would last the next three days.

Well that’s day seven (42 miles). Tonight is supper again with our wives early to bed and ready for another rough day tomorrow. This was a hard day, my legs needed to have icy hot applied to relax the muscles. With any luck at all, the bike wheel and my legs would hold up for the rest of the ride.

The start of the eighth day was horrible. It rained all night and it was still raining as we tried to break camp. What a mess! Everything was soaked including the sleeping bag. We packed up the best we could and prepared for our journey today. I switched to using only one pannier in order to reduce the weight I would have on the bike. My hope is that it would help the spoke last the rest of the trip.

The ride started out very easy with tail winds making it easy to maintain eighteen miles per hour. We went about ten miles and then it was decision time. We had a choice to go up steep hills to see the Bay of Fundy or take the valley route that had fewer hills. We decided to take the valley route, as it was so foggy in the high country that we wouldn’t be able to see the beauty of the Bay of Fundy. (Because there were huge hills had no bearing on our decision. Ha!)

The valley route turned out to be the most picturesque on this particular day. The ride was initially hilly and very busy. We found a detour to avoid traffic but the hills remained. The route we took allowed us to continue viewing and enjoying the same view that we found yesterday. We came out of the detour route in time for lunch and after lunch we remained on the main highway all the way to the campsite. This road leveled out and was not very hilly. The wind kicked up so we now had a head wind to make the ride just a little bit harder. We had lunch in a restaurant on the route again (is this becoming a habit?)

After lunch we headed to our destination arriving at the campsite early again (another habit?). We set up the tents and proceeded to dry out all our gear. The wind and the rain made short order of the drying process as we waited for our wives. We were having supper again with them (another habit?).

We ate at a restaurant that was a restored two-story building called Fat Pheasant. This place had it all, great food, ambiance, and great service. We really pigged out (this was the best meal of the trip). We arrived at the campsite at dark and turned in early because we were to have another hilly day tomorrow (another habit?).

Well, that is day eight (60 miles). The ride was not as hard as it could have been, and the day ended with good weather and excellent food (both lunch and supper).

The ninth day started with no major rain only light drizzle early in the morning. The morning stayed overcast and it looked like rain most of the early hours. We broke camp early, which was unusual for Joe and I. I guess I was up early because my watch stop working yesterday and I didn’t really know what time it was.

There was no breakfast cooked this morning just coffee as town was only two miles away and it had several good eating places. After a good breakfast we tackled the ride for the day. I was sure glad we had a good breakfast because the hills started almost immediately. These hills were bigger than Dahlonega hills and probably more like Blue Ridge Mountains. They seemed to go for an eternity!

My legs would not perform well today and Joe stayed way out in front of me. He occasionally would stop to wait for me to make sure I didn’t give up. Believe me, on this day, if there was a way to get the ride over faster, I would have paid to do it (this thought may have been an omen, as you will read later).

Suddenly, there was a downhill and it had to be the downhill of all times. The road was horrendously steep, had lots of tight curves and pot holes everywhere you looked. I knew this would not be fun! I had to pull on the brakes harder than ever before on this ride and I still could not get below twenty miles per hour. I pulled even harder and only hoped the tires would not blow for the intense heat of the friction on the rims. I reached the bottom at last and the road opened into the nicest little town called Bear River. It had many neat stores with all types of unique things to ponder over.

Our wives happen to come into the same town at the same time so we had lunch with them. Lunch again at lunchtime for sure this is a habit I can get used to. We ate and then decided to attack the rest of the day’s ride.

There is an axiom in bicycle riding that says, whenever you over eat at lunch there will be a big hill to try and navigate. Try navigating a steep incline on a full stomach one time. Well sure enough the hill stared us in the face. We started up the hill and after about one third the way up something slipped on my bike. The next thing I knew was it was slipping more then finally would not go any more. I had stripped the free wheel right off the hub. Luckily the sag driver and my wife had not left town. I flagged down the sag driver loaded the bike and went back for my wife. I needed her to drive me to a bike shop to try and get repair parts. As we started to leave for the bike shop the sky opened up and the rain came down in buckets. Joe was somewhere out on the road in the middle of it.

After driving around for several hours, we had no success in finding necessary parts to make the repairs. I decided to hang it up for this tour and we went to the campsite to get some of my gear. I ended up in Yarmouth with the wives in the motel for the evening. That by the way was a very smart decision on my part even though I didn’t think so at the time. That night a severe electrical storm came in and I was glad not to be in a tent.

Well that’s day nine (20 miles). This was the worst day of the ride with horrible hills, high winds, torrential downpours, an electrical storm and a broken bike.

The final day found me up early. I guess I was anxious to wait for the riders to come into Yarmouth. I surely had mixed emotions today. I was sad that I couldn’t be riding in with the group on this the tenth and final day but was glad I didn’t have to be in a tent in an electrical storm or riding in a fog the storm left this morning.

We had breakfast, then I went to the visitor center to wait for the riders while the ladies made one more round of stores to see what they might have missed before. The first riders arrived about eleven o’clock and the last about two o’clock. I took pictures of the individuals as they crossed the finish line. I was sad I was not one of those crossing the finish line, but happy that I had an opportunity to talk to each as they came in. I would not have been able to do this if I had been able to ride on this day (another memory to treasure).

We had lunch, went back to the motel, dried out my gear, packed the car and left for the ferry and our return trip.

Well that’s the tenth day (0 miles today but 404 for the trip). To sum it up, I had some real fears (fog and steep down hills), some dilemmas (equipment breakdowns), some great moments to remember, and 37 new friends to think about for many years. I love this sport and can’t wait until the next trip.


My Side of the Story

One Day in a Life

My day started out great yesterday. The opportunity clock rang early, and I dragged my sorry butt out of bed to get ready for the Lions food distribution. This was a special day for me because Grand Elf Three was assisting me with the delivery. The temperature when I got up was fifteen degrees,but it would get warmer later in the day. Yeah, right.

The sun shone brightly with a few scattered white clouds. I arrived at my Grand Elves house to be greeted by Grand Elf Five.  I hugged her. She looked up at me sheepishly with a marvelous grin. I said, “What?”  Her little hands came out from behind her and presented me with a couple of genuine hand painted Christmas pictures.

She disappeared for a moment and returned to shove a certificate under my nose. I said “what is this?”

“I won,” she answered.

She won second place in an art contest for kids her age. Proud Grumpa hugged her again.

Grand Elf Three was slow getting ready, but finally managed to wear clothes appropriate for fifteen degrees. Thankfully, his mother stopped him dead at the idea of wearing shorts, a tee-shirt with a hooded sweat shirt, and his brand new basketball shoes.

We were off. The conversation in the car was somewhat difficult. The banter between two men with a sixty year age difference takes a bit to warm up.

I tried my best to answer questions like: Why are we distributing food? How come  Lions are always old men? Who started the Lions?  Why are we delivering food? What kind of food is it? Thank God we arrived at the distribution center.

Lion Al signalled me to back up to the garage door, and asked if I would mind delivering early. Grand Elf Three and I went into Lion Al’s house to meet several other “old men” Lions who were having coffee and kibitzing. Grand Elf Three spied the coffee cake and looked around to see if anyone was watching before he took a piece and swallowed it whole. I introduced him to several Lions and then we left. By the time we got to the garage, the trunk of my car was loaded with groceries destined for two families. Grand Elf Three’s eyes lit up. He finally realized what we were going to do.

The delivery went quickly, and the families we visited couldn’t express their thankfulness enough.

The conversation was easier now, and Grand Elf Three was more communicative. He mentioned to me at least three times, “that coffee cake was really good.”

I dropped him off in front of his house and waited for him to get into the house.

Same Day, Part Two.

At noon a van pulled up with Grand Elves One, Two, and Four with parents. A few seconds later another car pulled up with Grand Elf Three and his mother. Grandma Peggy and I bundled up and we departed in two cars. This was our annual Christmas under the Tree event at the Walnut Room. Grand Elves Five, Six, and Seven were sick and had to miss.

I led the caravan into the downtown flawlessly, then screwed up on Michigan Avenue. I spotted the entrance to the Grant Park underground garage and went right for it. As I passed the point of no return, I realized it was the South Garage. That was a full four blocks away from Macy’s. Grandma Peggy was not a happy camper, but she managed a painful smile and braved the bitter cold walk. By the time we swung through the revolving door of Macy’s she was limping, and there was an icicle hanging from her nose. Like I mentioned above, she was not a happy camper.

All this talk of recession is a myth, if all you do is observe the crowd at Macy’s. It was the most crowded of any year we have been making this pilgrimage. Our troupe got  tired waiting for an elevator and decided to hit the escalators instead. Seven escalators later we arrived at the Walnut Room. Fantastic, there was no line. Instead there was a desk handing out pagers. We waited a few minutes to get a pager only to hear that  the first opening they  have a table seating nine is 6:30 p.m. It was one thirty. My son and daughter looked at me and said, “are you gonna wait?”

“NOPE, lets just truck on upstairs to get a good look at the tree, take some pictures, and then head for the golden arches across the street on Wabash.

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The scene that unfolded in Mac Donald’s was amazing. All nine of us lined up at the order counter and clicked off the orders in about nine seconds flat. It looked rehearsed, and was. How many times have these Grand Elves been at a Mac Donalds and have been hustled by their parents to move it along?  Each elf knew his order by number, and rattled off anything special like it was their everyday meal. This occasion also marked the first time I used a charge card at a fast food place.

The meal was a fun event as it always is with the kids. We relaxed and took our time. When we finished, the group split. One family went back to Macy’s to shop, while the other hiked along Michigan Avenue to the Art Institute to where the car was.

This was certainly the most expensive Big Mac I’ve eaten when I add the parking fee of $24.00 to the experience. Not to be beaten, I drove around the loop until I got a good look at the City of Chicago Christmas tree. A beauty it was, even though we saw it through the car windows. I wasn’t going to waste the gas and parking and not see that tree.

Fabulous Bar and a Good Menu Too!

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Today, I ate lunch at a landmark restaurant in a town southwest of Chicago. Today’s lunch marks the third visit to this eatery in the past month. Do I like it? No, I love it.

I learned of the place from my friend, Bob. He loved antiques, and he dined there regularly with his lady- friend. They drove the forty miles on Interstate 80 to exit 112: Morris, Illinois. He spoke of the tasty food, the good service, and the ambiance that the bar and the antique furnishings created. It took five years before I finally visited the Rockwell Inn on U.S. route six just west of Morris. All I can say is this: What took me so long?

The Inn sports decor from a turn of the century (1893-1906) motif. Budweiser commissioned the magnificent bar in 1893, for their pavilion at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Made from mahogany and rosewood, it has a history of its own. The light fixtures represent a collection from 1900’s vintage hotels. Beveled glass windows divide rooms and allow prisms of color to flow into the dining area from the garden. The unique brass door handles came from a business that suffered the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The walls sport a collection of Saturday Evening Post covers featuring Norman Rockwell paintings. There are also a few signed Rockwell prints scattered about. The cover art gave birth to the name Rockwell Inn over thirty years ago.

I tried different entrees at each of my visits. In every selection, the food was of high quality, in generous portions, and prepared to satisfaction. The steaks are juicy and delicious. A bread bar compliments the salad bar stocked with an ample variety of veggies and prepared salads. The bread bar has freshly baked loaves of white, wheat, and dark rye. It invited me to cut a generous slab to enhance my loaded salad plate. A barrel filled with pickles sits in the corner almost hidden from view.

After the wonderful repast had me loosening my belt, the server tempted us with the desert tray. I should have eaten desert first. Peggy and I shared a specialty of brandied vanilla ice cream. The desert came presented in a wide rim wine glass filled with a heaping swirl of ice cream blended with Christian Brother’s brandy, and topped by a flaming sugar cube.

If you still have some disposable income, treat yourself to a meal at this fabulous restaurant. Enjoy the art, the bar, and the great cooking. * * * * *

Needed Downtime

Barb's Orchid CollectionThis BLOGGER took some needed downtime. Peggy and I went south and east until we hit some serious water, then followed the coast further southward. We were seeking warmer weather, and some colorful spring flowers. We got it all.  Along the way, we stopped to visit friends from another life.  I have a list of friends I want to visit before I die, and I got to see four of them.

We also got to see a section of the country that we’ve never seen before, i.e. the North and South Carolina coast. Peggy lived in Columbia, South Carolina during the nineteen fifties. She was with her husband Ron, while he was in the army.  Our sight seeing began in the small hamlet of Sneads Ferry, North Carolina, on the Atlantic ocean. Sneads Ferry is a fishing town located on the southern border of Camp Lejeune, a U.S. Marine training base.

The couple  we visited built their dream home on Everett Creek  which winds into Stone Bay, then  into the Intercoastal Waterway, and finally the Atlantic Ocean. Barbara, the Lady of the House, is a Master Gardener. She took her training in North Carolina, and was a encyclopedia of horticultural knowledge about local plants. She has been building her new garden for five years. It continues to expand. Inside the house she sports a collection of orchids. Many are in bloom, and are gorgeous.  Gary, the Master of the House, designed and built the home. He is an engineer and it shows in the construction details of the building, and layout. He also added a greenhouse for Barb, and a walkway from the house to the creek . 

White Orchid

 Time flew by rapidly, and the visit lasted longer than we had anticipated. Gary and Barb drove us around Sneads Ferry, and Topsail Island. The town is a blink of the eye, while the island, and beach stretches for miles. The weather was cool and drizzly, so there were not too many hardy souls on the beach; it was empty. We quickly gathered a few shells to bring home, then moved on. We lunched on softshell crab at the Sears Landing Grill in Surf City, and talked about times we spent together.

Gary and Barb recommended we see Charleston, so onward down the coast we drove to Charleston, South Carolina.  The city founded in 1670 is one of the oldest in the United States. We checked into the Mills House Hotel in the heart of the historic district. Built in 1853, it stands as one of the oldest hotels in North America. It was totally remodeled, and updated in 1970. Without doubt, this is a five star hotel.

Peggy and I arranged to take a carriage ride around town in the morning. We passed homes and churches built in the seventeen hundreds. All have been meticulously restored. The entire historic district is on the National Registry, and will remain so in perpetuity. Even though the district is historical and old, it is houses many private citizens, and commercial enterprises. We ate lunch in an old building, once a cotton warehouse, and now a modern sports bar.

Rainbow Row-Charleston, SCCharleston in BloomCharleston HomeCity of ChurchesAfter lunch, we sauntered to the harbor and took a cruise around the bay for a waterfront perspective. One of the porters on the ship lives in a house boat at the dock . He is retired, and fortifying his income working on the cruise boat. He commuted by taking a thirty second walk from his tiny float home across the dock to the sightseeing boat. Peggy and I got sun burn while basking on the deck. She was white knuckling the chair the whole time, not being one for taking boat rides.

Very Large Old HouseBridge to CharlestonMills House LobbyAntebellum HomeWe arrived at the Staybridge Suites in Savannah, Georgia on Bay Street early. Our room was not ready yet so to kill time, we booked a trolley tour of the historical district. What a city! I always wanted to see Savannah, but somehow this part of the country eluded me. Savannah was founded in 1733, by General James Oglethorpe. He was also the architect of the city layout.  The historic district is a beautiful grid of streets  divided into districts by squares or parks. Twenty four distinct little squares define open spaces between congested avenues of row houses and mansions. Twenty two of the squares still exist. Two have fallen prey to civic center development. In between the streets with the squares are larger more elegant boulevrds. The median dividers on the boulevards are filled with pink, white, rose, and red azaleas. Shading the streets are giant oaks, three hundred years old, and dripping with dainty  Spanish Moss. 

Wisteria Laden Home in Savannah, GAPeggy and I roamed the streets from square to square taking house tours, and visiting museums.  Among the more notable homes we visited was the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace. Juliette  founded the Girl Scouts of America In 1912. The house has been preserved, and is in excellent condition. It contains many pieces of the original furnishings. In the Telfair Museum of Art we saw two wxhibitions by black artists. One of them by a man named Robert Colescott has a series of contemporary paintings on display. It is my opinion that this man was on some serious shit while he painted. The second artist, Elizabeth King, displayed a ceramic mannekin head the size of an apple and with infinite realistic detail .  She photographed the head from various angles against a black background; the photos are magnificent. She is a true artist, while Colescott seemed to paint only while high, or maybe he just can’t see too well.

Red Azaleas on River Street, Savannah, GATypical Savannah SquarePre-Civil War Funeral Parlor Pink AzaleasWhite AzaleaReally White Azaleas

Home of Juliette Gordon Low, Founder of Girl Scouts







White CameliaRelaxing in a Square, Notice the ShoesThe Savannah river front along River Street is a string of shops, and restaurants, converted from old cotton warehouses. A Green and Yellow Trolley runs along a track laid in the center of the cobblestone street, reminiscent of streetcars I rode in Chicago during the forties. A container ship passed by as we shopped. Savannah is the second largest container port in the US.  Here is a piece of useless info, the largest export out of the port is chicken; shipped to China.

More to follow.


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