On The Other Hand

Living in the Valley of the Sun is so different from living in Frankfort. The sun is so bright it hurts the eyes, and the sunsets are magnificent. The temperature isn’t bad either. I walk without a parka, balaclava, gloves and muffler. In fact on most days I wear only a long sleeve tee-shirt and shorts.

Last year, when Peg and I stayed here we were reclusive, visiting only the local movie house. We enjoyed the weather. This year I vowed to make it more adventurous. On day one we visited the visitor’s center and picked up a ton of literature of current happenings. Last week we chose to go to live theater instead of to the movies. I found a play we had seen before called “Fiddler on the Roof”, but it has been some time since. It is playing at the Palms Theater in Mesa. The town can’t be that far away I thought, and it falls into the category of visiting another town. So we bought matinée tickets, lunch and the show. The Rec Center had a special tour going, but the tickets were $99 per person. WOW, that is a lot, we can get there for less if I drive.

Normally, we finish breakfast by ten a.m. but on theater day, we had to get up early to leave by ten. The lunch serving starts at 11:45 and I allowed more than enough time to get there. If we arrive early, I’ll cruise around Mesa and tour the new Chicago Cubs Spring Training Center.

Clueless, my slave attendant inside the Garmin, predicted the ride would take fifty-one minutes. What she failed to realize was the major road blocks along the way. Arizona sets up special navigation exercises for tourists by shutting down roads for repair. We met the first such road block at the entrance to Interstate-10. I had to blow by the entrance and wait for instructions from Clueless. She got us to the next I-10 entrance at some cost of time.

The next surprise came at the merge to Arizona 202 from the I-10. The freeway is six lanes wide at this point and the traffic is heavy. Clueless indicated that I should stay to the extreme left lane, but the road sign said “Exit 147 to 202.” I first jockeyed my way into the critical left lane when I spotted that sign. Immediately I trusted the sign and began moving to the far right lane. I had two more lanes to cross over when I passed by the exit. Again, I waited for obnoxious Clueless to tell me she was re-calculating the route for another loss of time.

Eventually, I got on the 202 and it was smooth sailing from then on. The last time I visited Mesa it was smaller than Frankfort is now. Today, Mesa is inhabited by four-hundred fifty-two thousand souls. There are numerous exits along the 202 all leading into Mesa. We entered at number 2, and Clueless told me to drive twenty-one miles to exit 22.

The further we drove, the more desolate the terrain, and the more I thought Clueless was leading me astray again. There were no signs of people, houses, or buildings of any kind when we got off. We saw only mountains and desert. Have faith Joe. Three miles east of the exit, sub-divisions and commercial buildings began to appear again. Clueless told me to turn left at the next stoplight and then to turn right. Have faith Joe, she is correct most of the time. I made the left turn and immediately turned right into the parking lot of the Palms Theater. We arrived just as the doors opened to the buffet. Our drive time was one hour and twenty minutes, or  twenty-nine minus longer than Clueless predicted.

Lunch was edible and typical of fare one gets at Golden Corral. Even with several hundred people to feed, there was enough time for a relaxing meal and conversation with the six strangers who sat with us.

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The play was absolutely delightful and fully worth the time it took to get there.  The cast impressed me with the opening chorus of “Tradition” with the energy they put into the performance. The same energy lasted throughout the presentation. The singers were all on key and in good voice, the musical background was also excellent.

To me, the success of “Fiddler on the Roof” is dependent upon the actor who plays the role of Tevye, the father. Actor Rob Summers was Tevye. He is not a Topal but he was excellent. He looked the roll, sounded the roll, and played the roll very convincingly. Actor Stephen Turner who plays Motel, Tevye’s son-in-law is the spitting image of Actor Leonard Frey who played the same part in the movie.

Peg and I left the theater talking over the characters and the themes they covered. I liked the play because the story, time, and setting reminded me of my own parents who were born during the same period although in Hungary and not Russia.  I asked Peg “what would you and I do if the mayor of Frankfort told us we had three days to sell our house and leave?” Where would we go, what would we take? The people of the town of Anatevka, Russia were forced to do just that.  How would we feel if one of our kids left with their true love never to see us again?  How would we react if one of our daughters fell in love with a person outside our faith or race? We didn’t have answers to any of these questions, we couldn’t even imagine it happening.

On the long ride home, it became very clear to me why it cost so much to see this play with a tour group. It is the extra cost of the bus ride. It took Clueless two hours to guide us back to our digs in the West Valley. It was a two wine night for me.

Burning Gas-River Walk

A few weeks ago Peggy and I took an extended driving trip to points west. My eldest granddaughter was graduating from high school. She is my first, and I couldn’t miss that ceremony.  Dana moved to the Houston area with her parents a year ago. I should say her parents cruelly dragged her out of the Frankfort High School to live in Texas with them. She survived and thrived as did her siblings. They love Texas. She graduated in the top ten percent in a class of one thousand. Not bad, because that is where she was in her Frankfort school. I am so very proud of her, and look forward to more grandpa moments in the future. She is enrolled at the University of Texas in Austin. UT doesn’t understand what is about to hit them; this girl is taking over.

It took us two days to drive to the graduation and my sorry excuse for an ass cannot take those marathon drives anymore. Instead of squandering the driven miles on one event, Peggy and I decided to make something bigger out of it. I planned an even longer driving trip to visit some places I have never seen, and some that I haven’t seen for a long time. I’ll chronicle each place in separate posts.

We departed Houston with the Garmin set on San Antonio.  Nine years ago, I spent a winter in Phoenix and wanted to visit San Antonio on my way home. I tried to book a hotel on the River Walk to learn why San Antonians brag about it so much. I also wanted to visit the Alamo. Much to my surprise there wasn’t a room to be found anywhere in town on the dates I wanted. It turns out I wanted to pass through on the same week as the NCCA March Madness Basketball tournament was happening. San Antonio is a Regional playoff city and the hotels were full. I by passed San Antonio and scooted home instead.

Peggy and I stayed at the Holiday Inn on the River Walk. Most of the hotels in San Antonio are on the River, so it wouldn’t have mattered where we stayed. It was a short walk out of the hotel to the river. We were glad we visited. The River Walk is definitely a cool place to see. I was really impressed with the Venice like bridges and the gondolas taking people on tours. We took the gondola and were not sorry. It is a great way to see everything.  I can spill words all day long, but it is better to watch the video with my photos. The short movie will tell the story much better.

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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