Letter From Grandma

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Grandma is eighty-eight years old and still drives her own car. She writes:
Dear Grand-daughter,

The other day I went up to our local Christian book store and saw a ‘Honk if you love Jesus’ bumper sticker.

I was feeling particularly sassy that day because I had just come from a thrilling choir performance, followed by a thunderous prayer meeting.

So, I bought the sticker and put it on my bumper.

Boy, am I glad I did; what an uplifting experience that followed.

I was stopped at a red light at a busy intersection, just lost in thought about the Lord and how good he is, and I didn’t notice that the light had changed.

It is a good thing someone else loves Jesus because if he hadn’t honked, I’d never have noticed.

I found that lot of people love Jesus!

While I was sitting there, the guy behind started honking like crazy, and then he leaned out of his window and screamed, ‘For the love of God!’

‘Go! Go! Go! Jesus Christ, GO!’

What an exuberant cheerleader he was for Jesus!

Everyone started honking!

I just leaned out my window and started waving and smiling at all those loving people.

I even honked my horn a few times to share in the love!

There must have been a man from Florida back there because I heard him yelling something about a sunny beach.

I saw another guy waving in a funny way with only his middle finger stuck up in the air.

I asked my young teenage grandson in the back seat what that meant.

He said it was probably a Hawaiian good luck sign or something.

Well, I have never met anyone from Hawaii, so I leaned out the window and gave him the good luck sign right back.

My grandson burst out laughing.

Why even he was enjoying this religious experience!!

A couple of the people were so caught up in the joy of the moment that they got out of their cars and started walking towards me.

I bet they wanted to pray or ask what church I attended, but this is when I noticed the light had changed.

So, grinning, I waved at all my brothers and sisters, and drove on through the intersection.

I noticed that I was the only car that got through the intersection before the light changed again and felt kind of sad that I had to leave them after all the love we had shared.

So I slowed the car down, leaned out the window and gave them all the Hawaiian good luck sign one last time as I drove away. Praise the Lord for such wonderful folks!!

Will write again soon,

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The Good Old Days?

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
Since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow . . .

Today, Peg and I sat and watched the snow blowing outside our front window. We commiserated about winters past. My thoughts returned to 1961 the first winter I had as a married man. Barbara and I rented a three room apartment in Chicago on West 87th Street. The front of our house faced the border between Chicago and suburban Hometown, Illinois. We both worked and had long commutes. My drive(11.4 miles)took me to Danly Machine Company in Cicero, Illinois, Barb’s (12,5 miles)took her to the Westside VA (Veterans Affairs) Hospital in Chicago. I spent every dime I had to buy a used Volkswagen, and Barb did the same to buy her Uncle Tony’s 1954 Chrysler New Yorker. The apartment provided parking spaces perpendicular to 87 street which is a CTA(Chicago Transit Authority) commuter route for busses.

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Winter snow began in December with regular snowfalls followed by very cold temperatures. It snowed in January, February, March and April too for an accumulation of over 50 inches for the season (avg. Chicago snowfall is 39 inches). What I remember most was digging the cars out after the CTA snow plow pushed the snow off 87 street into a mound behind our cars. It seemed like every morning I’d be exercising by shoveling snow from behind two cars. In the evenings when returning from work we had to turn sharply and gun the car to plow through the mound to get back in. Many times my VW lifted off the ground and I had to shovel snow from under the car to get the wheels back onto the ground.

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The joy of owning a Volkswagen to save gas which was selling for under 2o cents per gallon at the time, was the German engineer’s idea of efficiency. VW’s used the air that cooled the engine to heat the car and to defrost the windows. It didn’t take me long to use my knowledge of thermodynamics to conclude that air-cooled engines don’t make it for heating in a Chicago winter. When it is thirty degrees outside and the engine transfers thirty degrees to the air, the passenger compartment gets sixty degree air. When the outside air is zero degrees the engine still puts in thirty degrees, and the driver gets a chilly thirty degree breeze blowing into his face. That winter we had ample days with sub-zero temperatures which meant scrapping ice off the inside of the windshield to see the road. I took a blanket with me to wrap my legs for warmth.

When the temperature dropped below fifteen degrees, I removed the battery from the bug and took it into the house to keep it warm and charged. How did I learn to do that? Trying to start a VW with a six volt system in sub-freezing temperatures is next to impossible. There was not enough power in a cold battery to turn over the engine. I learned another trick from the German mechanics when I complained about the terrible starting situation. “Did you put five weight oil in the engine? No, well no-wonder you have trouble, we always use five weight oil in the winter.”  Duhuh.

By the end of that winter I became proficient at dealing with both cars, what worked for the VW also worked for the Chrysler, and we somehow managed to survive.

“Why didn’t you take public transportation,” people would ask? I tried taking busses and the elevated, and learned that waiting for, and riding CTA buses in sub-zero was not fun. Even if I caught the buses without waiting, it took me two and a half hours to make it to work, and that was in an era when the CTA service was better than it is today.

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Yes, I sang the song lyrics above while looking at the snow swirling about in a thirty mph wind and recalling the “good old days.” The only thing good about them is that they are old and gone forever.

GPS Gypsy

Ever since my first real job, I began to travel. As a kid, mom and dad took me from Chicago to Covert, Michigan to visit my grandfather. In college, I travelled to Rensselaer, Indiana, and then to Urbana, Illinois. The college travel was not hard to plan, buy a train ticket, get to the station in time, then board. My venture into planning trips began just before I married Barb. We went to Florida.  I bought a road atlas and layed out the route. We decided on each overnight stay near the end of the driving day. Usually, we found nice and clean places to stay. That trip taught me to make an itinerary, with driving mileages and destination towns. My driving routes were always major highways like U.S. 41, U.S. 66, or U.S. 30. Motels were always on the side of the road as we enetered a town.
Soon our kids came, and we began a new form of travel. Most of the planning involved keeping the kids happy. I planned the routes, and accommodations.  Barb did the rest.
In the last forty seven years, alot of miles have rolled by, and I still plan the trips. Except for the times that we visited Europe and the far east, we drove. After Barb died, I traveled alone.
A couple of years ago, my son showed me his latest toy. It was on the night before my new wife Peggy and I were to leave for Arizona. He demonstrated a Garmin Street Pilot G.P.S. Oh the wonders of this new tool! The technology is great.  How in the world the little lady inside the box knows all the routes and street names is beside me. I don’t really care, she does a great job, and I have come to trust her a great deal. I went out and bought a Street Pilot the very next day before we left.
Global Positioning Satalites are placed into orbit above the earth at a distance that maintains their relative position stationary. Unknown to most of us, the government has been spotting these satellites around the world for many years. A typical GPS unit will receive signals from as many as six satellites at one time. I don’t need to tell you anymore about the science of how they work. I do want to tell you that they do work well.
At this very moment I am on a trip, and I left the route planning to the GPS. I did decide ahead of time what my destination cities would be, but that’s where my planning ended. I pre-programmed the unit with the towns I would stop in. The machine did the rest. I just followed Lisa’s instructions after that. Lisa is the name of the girl inside the box. If I use her advice she is quiet. If I make an error and miss a turn, she gives me attitude and tells me that she is “recalculating.”
So far we have driven from our home in Frankfort, to Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, Van Couver, Victoria, Olympia, and now Portland. She has not missed a single city, or hotel.
In fact, while driving to our hotel in Van Couver, she took a route through the middle of town because I had programmed her for the “shortest distance.” Well we were on side streets through some really interesting neighborhoods. Eventually, we left town and were into the outskirts judging by the amount of farms we saw. I kept thinking that she finally lost her way. We were driving farther away from the city through corn fields. Suddenly, a large building appeared ahead of us. It was our hotel. She announced “arriving at Holiday Inn Express on the left,” in her finest computerese dialect.
Today, I spent about five minutes looking at an Inter-State highway map of the U.S. Just to get familiar with the states and the general route we will follow next. Tomorrow, I will program her with all the hotels we have reserved.
There have been other times, when Peggy and I have taken trips without hotel reservations. When we reach a point about thirty miles from a town we want to stop in, I ask Lisa for hotel info. She provides a list of hotels within the radius. I select a place, and hit go. She takes me to the front door. She even has the address and phone number for the hotel. I use my cell phone to call, and make a reservation from thrity miles out.
Need fuel, ask Lisa. Hit the button marked “fuel.” She will display every gas station within close range, display the name, miles to get there, and points an arrow in the direction.
I never worry about getting lost because all I have to do is hit “home,” and she will lead me to my front door.
In the three short years Peggy and I have travelled we have used Lisa to takes us to Arizona, California, Quebeck, and all the cities of this current trip. We also use her to take us into the city for plays and concerts. She is great for finding parking garages in downtown Chicago.
Between Map Quest and the GPS, my trip planning time has been reduced tremendously. I use the time to research what I will see and do when I get to my destination. If I’m not sure what there is to see at a destination, I ask Lisa for “attractions.”

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