It’s Time

This is one of those days when I don’t have a clue about what to write. The words will come as I compose. My life was very different this week, and I wound up driving a lot of miles. The driving only woke me up to the fact that my body has changed since 2015 which is the last time I undertook a major drive of 1850 miles in one stretch. I’m not so sure I would be able to do that as well as I did back then. The last six years have been somewhat stressful on my system. Today, as I took my walk, I decided that I must undertake a vigorous training program to get into shape to take another driving trip. A few months ago, I posted my thoughts about taking one last trip around the United States by car before I hang up my driving gloves for good. Before my post was completed I decided that maybe that kind of effort has gone and left me behind. Driving around the perimeter of the USA and up and down a few times in between to cover all the points I would like to revisit added up to a bunch of miles that would take weeks, no months, to accomplish. It would be the ultimate “Burning Gas” post.

This week I kiddingly told my daughter that this kind of trip would be best taken in a sleeper van, camping along the way covering the warmer southern states in the winter months and then heading to the northern border for the summer and fall. Surprisingly, she agreed with me. Over the years, I have done this trip, mostly camping along the way, except I did it in two week stretches covering a period of twenty-five years. Ask my kids about it. A couple of them have never traveled since, and another took up discovering the world with her girlfriend. None of her trips were by car. She wised up and learned from the boring miles she spent in the back of the van as her father had to make the miles to a new destination. She learned that what took me days to cover by driving she could do in a few hours by airplane. The difference between us is that on my trips, I saw and savored every mile of the country in between destinations. She slept as she flew over the boring oceans between her destinations. I tell people that one has to experience the space of this country by driving across the Midwest. The vast flat plain between our home in Illinois and the Rocky mountains was always a bore that even I would have done differently if I could. I remember very vividly dreaming about how nice it would have been to drive our van and trailer onto a railroad flat-car and to navigate the plains by train. There actually were some services that provided such accommodations between the east coast cities and Florida, but I don’t think they exist anymore.

I stopped driving trips when I neared retirement. It was time for Barbara and me to take the easy way, we flew to dream destinations at home, in Europe, and the far east. That didn’t last very long because she became sick and died within months after I retired. To honor her memory, I took a solitary driving trip to our dreamed about winter residence. The driving alone part I vowed never to do again. During that trip I thought about all the long distance truckers who spend their lives driving their loads from a to z daily logging five to six hundred miles over and over again, living and sleeping in truck stops or the back of their tractors. I decided I could never have made a living as a truck driver.

After a couple of years of living alone I found a new partner who wouldn’t fly. So I took up driving again, and loved it. She turned out to be a very good travel buddy, never complaining about the hours, or the monotony of covering miles. We toured the western United States and Canada east to west over our ten years of good life together. We spent the last five years keeping each other company as she ever so slowly descended into the inner depths of her mind.

I have my first wife Barbara’s advice to me from her death bed embedded in my brain, “it’s time to get on with your life.”

Hangover

Someday’s one wakes up and just drags the rest of the waking hours yawning, and desiring sleep even after eight hours of uninterrupted slumber. It is now four hours since hauling myself out of bed to take on a new day. Finally, it occurred to me that drinking a bottle of wine followed by a vodka chaser may not have been such a good idea last eve. When will I learn that mixing booze is not smart? Or maybe that too much booze is not healthy either.

Sunday, October 15, 1961

Writing should be easy today, but it isn’t. My fingers feel heavy and reluctant to find the keys. My mind seems to be in low gear struggling to climb the hill without any power. I need to downshift and get some torque going or I’ll never get to the peak. A memory pops into mind of my first long car trip in nineteen sixty-two when I drove a Volkswagen Bug across country. It was dark and I was tired, and I was passing through the high Sierras somewhere in northern California. This was before Interstate travel and limited grades. I screamed down hills at full speed headed toward pegging the speedometer at seventy-five. All thirty-nine horses were galloping full speed. Then, the tiny bug reached the vale and began the ascent of the next endless hill that extended into the black sky beyond the reach of the headlights. Passing anybody in the way until the speed dropped to sixty, then fifty, then down shifting into third gear to keep the engine pulling at max effort, then down to second and eventually into first gear and that is where the little bug that could stayed roaring away at full throttle and straining at fifteen mph eventually dropping to five miles per hour toward the apex. It seemed like eternity before reaching the crown, and the process reversed shifting through the gears to pick up speed and then bottoming at max speed before losing velocity up the next hill.

That was a long night driving that road, but I made it through in good shape because I knew how to shift gears and change with the need. Eventually, the little bug that could made it across America and back to Illinois. I learned why I wanted a car with more horsepower on that trip, thirty-nine horses is not enough to pull a lightweight car like the bug up those endless long hills. My gas mileage was great, but I paid for it with time and effort shifting gears. I didn’t learn my lesson too quickly however because I traded my bug for a high powered forty horsepower VW Karmann Ghia.

Hangovers are the body’s way of sending the owner a message about the dangers of pushing life limits too far. Although I am enjoying the solitude of this day my body is screaming at me with a warning to sl-o-o-ow down. My heart pump is working overtime trying to transport oxygen to all the sister components needed to sustain life. No doubt the fluid of life flowing within is also altered with too much alcohol and thus is not as effective as it could be. Brain power is severely limited and response to suggestion is sluggish. Like the little bug that could I feel like I am roaring at max effort to climb an imaginary hill that is seemingly endless. Hopefully, as the day wears on the crest will appear and the effort required to climb will ease a bit.

In the meantime, I don’t think I am going to drink like that again.

Grief Made Me Do It

The Great Last Time Around Tour

One of the things I have done recently that I consider to be productive is to come up with an idea that would take my mind away from grief. This one is fabulous in my mind and my friends get excited for me when I talk about it. I sat at my desk one day and began to think about all my friends and relatives that live outside of the Socialist-Democrat bastion of the mid-west. I started a list. I finally ran out of gas at twenty-four. I’m sure there are more, but I would have to change the rules to include a wider span of friendship and relations. What if I were to visit all of these people on one big trip around the United States? I am also hankering to see some of my favorite sites again, like Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Glacier NP, Redwoods, Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and of course Crazy Horse Mountain. The last time I saw Crazy Horse it was just a scratch on the side of a mountain in the Black Hills. If I remember right, the original sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski was still alive in the seventies when I was there, blasting this mountain-sculpt by himself. As I continued to envision the trip it expanded more and more, and the miles began to add up. Hell, I might even have an excuse to buy a new car for this idea.

The next step I took involved Google Maps. I could plan the trip from person to person and city to city in a way that didn’t waste too many miles. I lost faith in Google Maps when I ran out of space to enter more cities at about Phoenix. Hell, so much for all this wonderful technology that can only go so far. I’m sure if I were still eighteen, I would have figured out how to make it all work. As it was I just started a new map and charted the second half of the trip on a second map. After looking at the route on the two maps I realized I missed a huge part of the country by skipping the northwest and northern states. That’s when I decided I wanted to see the Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier again. Another idea came back to me. As long as I’m driving all around the USA why not visit the four corners. I been to two of them(Key West and Washington) but I missed the point in Maine and the one south of San Diego. The problem with the four points route is that I would miss the entire center of the country. Missing so much started me to thinking of revising the whole idea to one where I visit every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. I don’t have friends in every state but I could fix that by making some.

As I write this I am reminded that Peggy and I traveled extensively in Canada. We took several driving trips. She wouldn’t fly nor take a boat so I said okay we’ll drive. It took three separate trips but we made it from Quebec city to Vancouver. I loved those trips and I wouldn’t mind exploring all the Provinces by car. One of my work acquaintances, Myles Murphy, migrated to the USA from Labrador which is still somewhat primitive compared to New York or Chicago. He often told me some funny stories about his relatives whom he visited yearly. He drove and then boarded a ferry. One of his stories involved his mother. It seems she got into his suitcase out of curiosity and found a grooming mirror. She picked it up and held it to her face. She saw the image of a woman, and said to herself,  “look at the ugly old woman he is carrying on with.”

The bottom line here is that the trip I routed on Google maps involves driving for 130 hours over 8500 miles. Since I am only physically able to drive five hundred miles a day or eight hours which ever comes first that amounts to seventeen days. If I spend a minimum of three days at each location that would add another 75 days. The whole trip would last three months provided I live through it.

Least of all I had to name this venture. I call it “The Great Last Time Around Tour.”

. . . and I still haven’t touched Alaska or Hawaii.

I Have Been In Many Places, But I’ve Never Been In Cahoots

Cover of "The Bucket List"

Cover of The Bucket List

I love to travel, and have visited many countries and most of the United States. I have written about many of my travels under a series title of “Burning Gas-XYZ.” Recently, this recommendation of places to visit came to me from a very dear friend. Many of the cities are strange and exotic, but mostly just strange.

Visit the link below and add these places to your bucket list, and  try to contain your excitement about doing so.

I Have Been In Many Places, But I’ve Never Been In Cahoots.

 

A Public Option Lesson

     Let me start by chronicling an event that just occurred. Two days before I left on a long trip, I went to the post office to change my address so my mail would be forwarded. In past years, I went in, filled out a yellow change of address form, handed it to a local USPS clerk and forgot about it. I left town, and the mail stopped coming to the old address on the date I requested, and it arrived a week later at my new address. Each piece of mail forwarded had a yellow sticker on it with the new address.  I timed my travel to cover the time of the relay. It worked every time.

     This time, I was in a hurry when I went to the post office. I asked a clerk for the form.

     She asked me, “only one?”

    “Yes,” I responded too quickly. I went to the counter to fill it out when I remembered that I have to fill out a form for each name that receives mail to an address. In the past, I was lucky. I got away with one form for my Sur name, and covered my family by checking the family box.  That way, my wife’s mail forwarded also. This time, I had to complete four cards. 1) Peggy is known by her former name, 2) her new name covered by a check in the family box, and 3)a hyphenated combo.  The fourth is mail that still comes for my beloved Aunt Marie. In the interest of time, I got sucked into doing the job on-line.

     The USPS web site is enormous, but relatively easy to navigate. I found the page quickly, and filled out the form. I clicked finish and the damn thing asked for  a one dollar transaction fee. Hmmm, they never ask for that in the PO. I thought a computer was supposed to improve productivity, and reduce costs. Each name cost me another buck on the credit card. I saved the transactions, and went about packing.

     The result of the new on-line system is totally unsatisfactory. Here is what happened:

  1. The mail continued to come to my old address for one week beyond the asked for shut off date.
  2. It’s been eleven days since I left home, and fourteen days since I filed my on-line change, and the mail is still not coming.

     If this on-line system were implemented in the private sector it would have worked like a charm.  The USPS has some of the most sophisticated automation systems in the world. It knows about computers, they have used them for years. So why can’t they get something as simple as changing an address? They did okay when it was a paper system.

   The supporters of big Government argue that the USPS is not a government run service. Why then, does Congress have to approve every move the USPS tries to implement? If they want to change the price of a stamp, it takes a congressional approval. If they try to change work rules to get concessions from the union, it takes a congressional approval, and Congressmen don’t like upsetting unions.

     Imagine a Public Option Health Care System that works like the USPS. I see a nightmare. I see a dollar charge for every on-line appointment I make with a doctor. I see a major delay in getting satisfaction because of the inability of the bureaucrats to run anything. I see the administrators going to Congress to beg for money to continue the job. I see the American people being taxed to death to pay for a system that gives nothing in return but health improving stress.

What do you see?

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