Tuesday, February 28, 2017

On The Road East, But First South!

We left Monterey yesterday morning, avoiding the damaged roads and possible delays without difficulty.  We arrived at Edwards AFB in the late afternoon where we found one RV site left in the park.  Aren’t we lucky!  The Mojave Desert was quite chilly when we arrived!  Deserts are not always “hot!”  Once again I enjoyed the drive down through the Central Valley (Salinas) and then eastward from Paso Robles on route 46 to Bakersfield (San Joaquin Valley)—through the vineyards, the orange, pecan, and walnut groves, and then driving over the Tehachapi Pass (4000 feet) and into the desert again.  

Today we will continue southward seeking warmth and sunshine.  Several years ago we visited the Imperial Valley (El Centro) California.  We will visit the area again today. Harold Bell Wright (one of my favorite authors) wrote a story (“The Winning of Barbara Worth”) about how this dry desert land was nourished into life by re-directing the water of the Colorado River.  The name of the valley was given by the Imperial Land Company which developed the area.

We’ll travel through the Coachella Valley which is almost entirely below sea level (235 feet at the edge of the Salton Sea).  This so-called Sea was created when flood-waters (1905-1907) destroyed the irrigation channels—What? A flood in California—No,  it can’t be?  “It never rains in southern California.” 

We will overnight at the Naval Air Facility near El Centro—the home of the Blue Angels.  The last time we visited, I enjoyed watching the Blue Angels practice all afternoon while basking in the sunshine of a 80° day.  I remember it well—it was February 8th—my birthday!
Old Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey, California

Monday, February 27, 2017

“It Never Rains in California”

Albert Hammond sang, “Seems it never rains in southern California, seems I often heard this kind of talk before.  It never rains in California.”  Well, it does rain in California and it is raining here in Monterey this morning as we prepare to get on the road again.  Our hope is that Albert had it right when he sang, “Seems it never rains in southern California,” which is where we are headed today.  (But even that lyric is a falsehood this year in California!)

I would enjoy traveling down the coastal highway again (US 1) but there is a bridge “sagging” at Big Sur, large sections of the highway have begun to crack and sink, and mud slides are still happening.  No estimate has been given as to when all these issues will be resolved and traffic can again use the road—for now it is closed.  I guess it might be wise to go some other way.  California route 68, which takes us from Monterey to Salinas, also has some “sinking” issues and road crews will be working on that this morning, creating 30-minute delays because of the one-way traffic situation.  We encountered this situation as we drove in to Monterey last Wednesday afternoon. I will try to find a detour to avoid that delay today, even though we are not in any great hurry.

It is difficult to leave Cher’s mother, who at 93, continues to live in her little home (with “day-care assistance”) just one block up from Cannery Row, but we must go.  We will come again!
Helen, Paul and Grandma Nita in Monterey

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Last Day in Monterey

Today is my oldest son’s birthday! He is 51 years old.  I could act stupid and say, “How can that be?”   Or I could say something dumb like, “It seems like only yesterday!”  But I know, and those of you reading this know, and Paul knows, that it wasn’t just yesterday!  I am aware of this reality whenever I see my two “grown-up” grandsons (Paul and Helen’s sons) Austin and Nick.  Happy Birthday, Paul!  Enjoy your special day.

Tomorrow we will be “On the Road Again.” My life of loafing about like a “harbor seal” here in Monterey will come to an end.  My daily walks along the bay will be over.  I will miss both!  But with Douglas McArthur, I am promising myself, “I will return.”

The big question now is which way shall we go back home.  Shall we go as far south as possible to avoid wintry weather and stay warm?  We shall see and I’ll let you know.  

Yesterday I walked on a sandy beach where once, in 1879, Robert Louis Stevenson walked.  It was here that he pondered writing his famous book,  Treasure Island.  Stevenson, while in Monterey, was also curious as to how the many fires started in the California forests.  He wondered if it was the moss growing on the trees that ignited them.  He decided to experiment and set some moss on fire.  The fire spread rapidly up the tree and Stevenson is credited with starting a forest fire.  Fact or legend, I do not know.  Unlike Stevenson, I did not conger up a book to write and I certainly didn’t start a forest fire while here in Monterey.  Like Stevenson, however, I can say, “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel’s sake.  The affair is to move.” Tomorrow we’ll be on the move again.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Life of A Harbor Seal

Harbor Seals-Photo from the Monterey Aquarium
How fortunate I am to have a mother-in-law living in Monterey, California!  It is a beautiful place to visit and while here I am living the life of a harbor seal.  I’m basking in the sunshine, walking along the wondrous Monterey Bay everyday (harbor seals swim in the Bay) and loafing about in comfortable surroundings (harbor seals loaf on the rocks in the Bay).

Our son, Paul, and his wife, Helen, have  been vacationing here during the past week, visiting with Paul’s grandmother, doing wine-tasting tours and having a great time.  They are flying home today.  What a treat it has been to share a few days with them here in Monterey (it has been many a year since Paul traveled with us to visit his grandmother!).

We will visit a few more days and then, on Monday, be on the road again, traveling back to our home in the East.  Meanwhile, there are a few chores to be done, but for the most part, I’ll be living the life of a harbor seal—enjoying the bay, basking in the sunshine, and loafing all day long on my comfortable rocks!

Like the seagull (who struts on the beach in awkwardness, and then soars through the air with grace) the harbor seal is awkward and cumbersome on land, but maneuvers with grace and agility in the water.  They can even sleep with their bodies nearly submerged in water, exposing only the tip of their nose to the air.  This is called “bottling.”  Sometimes I wish I were able to simply “bottle” in the waters of life, but alas, I am only going to live the life of a harbor seal for a few more days!

Cherie and my mother-in-law having a laugh!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How Green Was The Valley

We left the Mojave Desert yesterday morning and ascended 4000-plus feet through the Tehachapi Pass, then descended into the brilliantly green San Joaquin Valley.  Never have I seen the valley so green!  A little rain fell as we crossed over the divide, but the valley below was full of sunshine and the huge cumulus clouds in a blue sky created shadows on the hillsides.  

We drove through Bakersfield (home of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard of Country music fame) and could smell the garlic in the air.  Turning westward on route 46 we passed almond, pistachio, and citrus trees all in blossom.  What a beautiful sight!  Further west, near Paso Robles. the vineyards bordered the highway as far as eye could see.  How green was the valley!

Green indeed, with the exception of the area of Lost Hills, where the Lost Hills Oilfield cast an ugly scar upon the landscape for about ten miles along the highway.   

At Paso Robles, we turned northward on US 101.  The Salinas River was in flood stage.  I’ve never seen that before in my 50 years of traveling to California.  Over the last several years driving through some of these drought-stricken areas, there were signs saying: “No water, No jobs!”  Some of the orchards of citrus and nut trees had actually been bulldozed down due to the lack of water.  Yesterday, those bulldozed fields were full of new tree plantings.  Rain has brought the green (new life) back to the San Joaquin and the Salinas Valley.

After 3,415 miles on the road, we have reached our final destination:  Monterey.  Our son, Paul and his wife, Helen, are also here vacationing.  We enjoyed a nice birthday dinner last night on Cannery Row with Cher’s mother (93 years old this month) and with Helen and Paul (whose birthday is also in February).  How green is my Valley?  Very green!
Coastal Hwy 1 in 2016--Now closed due to the heavy rains.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Desert Rain

Yesterday I wrote that the average life expectancy for a male in the US was “79 point something or other.”   You can imagine the relief that flooded my spirit when my friend Bill responded , telling me that the life expectancy of a 74 year old male is 85.85!  What great news—I have a whole decade to keep on going on!

How I wish I could express what I feel, see, and think when I drive through the desert, whether it be the Sonoran, Great Basin, Mojave, or even the Sahara.  There is just something about the barrenness, the way plants and animals have adapted to the harsh landscape, and the expanse of sky overhead that appeals to something deep within me.  Yesterday, driving through the Mojave it rained!  I’ve never experienced rain in a desert!  Apparently the Mojave has received more rainfall than usual this year as has all of California.  This extra rain changes the whole character of the desert.  It turns the usual brown vegetation green and gives the desert a brand new look—it gives the desert new life.

 Perhaps this was the experience of that wandering group of Habiru (Hebrews) who found meaning and purpose in their desert journey so many years ago.  They experienced a new kind of desert—a living desert.  It was not as barren or harsh as they had assumed it would be, for in the desert they found quail and manna to eat.  In the desert they came to know the value of water and what that meant for life.  They found something else too.  They found that human beings survive only as they develop together in community. 

Perhaps we need a similar “wilderness experience” (wilderness is the biblical term for desert) these days as we wrestle once more with what it means to be human and what it means to be in community.  The desert is not just a geographical phenomenon—the desert is whenever and  wherever we forget the sacred worth of people—any people, all people!  The world needs “Desert Rain” so it too can gain new life.  Then, as Isaiah proclaims, “the wilderness and the desert will be glad; and the desert shall rejoice,  and blossom as the rose; like the crocus.”

We, too, become barren as the desert
 when we forget or ignore one another,
or when we cast out those "different" from us.
 Beware of the desert that has come back to life in our time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Into The Desert

Why we wait till the last minute (after a full day is done, when the kids are sleepy and the adults are worn out) to take photos is beyond me!  It happens every time.  “Oh! yes, we need to take the pictures before we leave!” Eyes are drooping, bodies are crumbling, and exhaustion shows in every face—but “we need to take the pictures before we leave.”

It is always difficult to say, “good-bye.”  It was more difficult last night than in previous times.  Will I visit Arizona and see my son, Kim, and grandchildren again?  It is a question.  It is a question I have to live with at 74.  Some ignore the question or tuck it under the rug and pretend that reality isn’t real.  It is real.  The median life expectancy for men here in the US is 79 point something or other!  This reality only makes life richer.  Every moment and how I use it and live it is so important to me now.  I sometimes wish this “wisdom of reality” had come to me 50 years ago!!  Live the present moment to the full!  Each of us must choose what the “full” part of that statement is for us. 

Today we travel into yet another desert of the southwestern states—the Mojave. Once again, I’ll see those strange Joshua trees.   Again, I'll feel the mysterious pull of the desert upon my spirit. “The Arizona desert,” wrote David W. Toll, “takes hold of a man’s mind and shakes it.”  So the Mojave, as did the Sonoran desert, take hold of my mind and shake it, move it, and fill it with new glimpses into the meaning of life and of this universe in which we live.

“God takes everyone he loves through a desert.  It is his cure for our wandering hearts, restlessly searching for a new Eden.” (Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life:  Connecting with God In A Distracting World, 2009)

“The desert tells a different story every time one ventures on it…”  (Robert Edison Fulton, Jr, 1937)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Last Day in Flagstaff

We had a fantastic “Party Day” yesterday with Ethan and Eleni—and with Luke and Kim.  Today we will enjoy yet another special day (all days are special at 74!) here in Flagstaff and then tomorrow be on the road again for California.  Our son Paul and his wife, Helen, are in California now and we hope to connect with them by Thursday, before they return east on Saturday.  

I did enjoy a little walk “by my lonesome” out into Luke and Kim’s back yard on Saturday—their backyard includes the Coconino National Forest.  Walking under the towering Ponderosas and through the Gambel Oaks, watching the birds and squirrels (not buffalo and antelope) play was a real treat.

Tomorrow—we will be traveling through the Mojave Desert, a distinct contrast from Flagstaff and its high elevation, stately trees and majestic mountains.  A traveler from Ohio described his visit to Flagstaff this way:

“Flagstaff... situated in the grand pine forests of Arizona. The beautiful scenery from this point at sunset, snow-capped mountains whose sides are all clothed in tall pines upward of one hundred feet high, and the soft light of the setting sun in the distance, form a view which must be seen to be appreciated.” (E.E.A. from Ohio, "Some Notes of a Trip to California).

I “ditto” that…..
Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff AZ

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Party Time

We took Ethan and Eleni to the Aqua-Plex for a swim, but it was packed with both adults and children.  Both took a little dip, but found the noise and the crowd a little overbearing, so we came up with an alternative party solution.  We went back to the campground to party in Odysseus.  The TV is an attraction (the cartoon channel) as well as the chocolate-covered pretzels, apples, and other goodies.

In an hour or so we’ll take in a movie at the cinema and close out the day with a pizza party.  What fun—partying all day long!

“Looking At The Clouds”

Flagstaff AZ this mornng
“Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”  And it is snowing here in Flagstaff this morning! Fortunately we do not have to be on the road today or tomorrow.  We can simply relax, enjoy, and watch winter’s artistic touch upon the pines here in the Coconino National Forest and on the slopes of Mt. Eldon.  Our adventuring RV (Odysseus) is cozy and warm and has within it all the amenities we need to be comfortable.  It is 29° at the moment and 1-3 inches of snow is expected throughout the day.  Not all that bad! The snow will not prevent us from visiting with Luke, Kim, Ethan and Eleni later on.  Our campground is only about 5 minutes from their home.

When Eleni heard in January that we would be coming to visit in February, she became very excited. In her excitement and anticipation of our visit she drew a picture of us together.  (I’m glad her Dad saved it for us to see). I was very impressed with her artistic ability (after all, she is my granddaughter) and just had to take a photo and share.

Eleni's Drawing: Grandad, Eleni, Ethan & Grandmom
When Nikos Kazantzakis was a young man, a neighbor said to his father, “…I think your son’s going to become a dreamer and visionary,…He’s always looking at the clouds.”  His mother responded, “Don’t worry, life will come along and make him lower his gaze.”  And his father had the last word, “Forget the clouds.  Keep your eyes on the stones beneath you if you don’t want to fall and kill yourself.”  In spite of life’s stoney paths and the necessity to lower one’s gaze so as not to trip, there is must always be room to look at the clouds. 

One of the benefits of being liberated (retired) and coming into senior maturity is the ability to look back (and most older folk look back far too much, including your’s truly) and realize that you spent far too many days gazing downward at the rocks, and too many years letting life lower your gaze, when you should have been “looking at the clouds.” In this chapter of my life, my grandchildren have helped me look more at the clouds and to look forward at threescore ten plus four rather than backward.  My advice to the following generations is to be “always looking at the clouds,” even while “gazing downward at the rocks.”

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Wonders of Arizona

It was a short drive yesterday of about four hours (but a high and lifting one—from 1398 feet elevation to 7000) from Casa Grande to Flagstaff, AZ.  We settled into our KOA campsite where we will be living for the next four days while visiting with and being visited by our grandchildren, Ethan and Eleni.  Luke, Kim, and children came to the campground after school.  Ethan and Eleni knocked on the RV door as is their custom, prompting their grandad to sing: “Who’s that knocking at my door.”    We were given a tour of their school and then went to their home, enjoying special time:  a great dinner, listening to Eleni practice her piano and Ethan play his trombone.  Snow is expected today and tomorrow in Flagstaff, but it should not interfere with our visiting plans.  

As a young boy I read Zane Grey’s western novels of Arizona and New Mexico and dreamed of one day visiting this romantic southwest he described so eloquently. (Never did I dream that my son and family would one day live here). I can remember my first encounter with this American west in 1962 and whenever I return to it, I am caught up in its magnificence. While it is true that the land has been mismanaged, damaged, and despoiled by nature’s worst enemy (us) it still retains a beauty beyond words (or at least my words).  This morning I have enjoyed reading the words of others attempting to describe this Arizona where I am privileged to be at the moment.

“Arizona is a land of contrasts geologically, racially, socially, and culturally. Its mountains tower a mile or more into the air; the rivers have cut miles deep into the multicolored earth. Snow lingers on the peaks while the valleys are sweet with the fragrance of orange blossoms. Here are sere deserts and the largest pine forest in the world. Here are fallen forests turned to stone, and forests of trees that have survived the slow change from jungle to desert by turning their leaves to thorns.” (Arizona: A State Guide, 1940).

It is doubtful if any other area of equal extent in the world has greater diversity of natural phenomena than Arizona. From desert tracts to valleys of extraordinary fertility; from torrid heat to frigid cold, from lowland to highland, from plains as level as a floor to a succession of frightful gulches and caƱons that amaze the beholder; from solitude to populous cities; from savage squalor and filth to civilized purity and refinement, from the simplest plant to the giant cactus, from rainfall to brightest sunshine... almost anything that can be imagined can be found in this delightful clime.” (A Historical and Biographical Record of the Territory of Arizona, 1896).

And here I am—in Arizona!  And far better still, I am here visiting our son and his family!  Who could ask for more at 74?
Grand Canyon (North Rim) - 2016

Friday, February 17, 2017

Never A Dull Moment

It was 28° in Las Cruces, New Mexico yesterday morning.  A light frost covered the ground.  By 4 p.m. in the afternoon, we arrived in Casa Grande, just a few miles north of Tucson, Arizona.  The temperature was nearly 80 degrees. Who could ask for more?

As we drove through Deming, New Mexico, I thought of John and Reola (my brother and his wife).  They have spent time camping at the Rock Hound Park near Deming.  My brother has exercised his passion for collecting rocks there!  

Driving into Arizona we passed by Cochise’s Stronghold and I thought of the Apache people.  It is always sad to recall the history of native Americans and how they were treated (and still are) by our government.

As we drove through Tucson I thought of Harold Bell Wright, one of my favorite authors.  He lived in Tucson for many years and some of the streets in the city are named after characters from his novels.  Tucson is Kim’s (our daughter-in-law) hometown.  I thought of the day when I had the privilege of officiating at Kim and Luke’s wedding as we drove through the city.  All these thoughts fill my mind as I drive along the highway.  There is never a dull moment. My mind whirls around the particular thought and carves out new understandings of my soul’s journey.

In every mountain stone, in every wood’s gnarled log,
Antelope Canyon AZ-2016
the huddled spirits smother and cry to skillful hands
The one who cries is not God, demon, or the wind’s sound,
for it’s your own enslaved soul that cries out for freedom!

One night while sleeping in my workshop all alone
I heard a marble block cry out in the still night;
it was my own enslaved soul crying, choked in stone.

At once I leapt from sleep, seized all my sharpest tools
and in the lamp’s dim light began to hew the block
and crash through the thick prison walls to free my soul,
till finally at dawn the godly head emerged,
cool and rejoiced, and deeply breathed the crystal air.

Slowly I freed its breast and shoulders, its lean loins,
and as it rose from stone to light, my own jailed head,
my shoulders, chest, and loins were also slowly freed;
and when my soul had from my hands wholly emerged
it raised its eyes to the sky and soared like a giddy bird!

(The Odyssey, A Modern Sequel, Nikos Kazantzakis)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Land of Enchantment

Finally, we are out of that B-I-G State of Texas after driving 300-plus miles yesterday to Las Cruces, New Mexico.  As we passed through El Paso, Texas, we played the CD of Marty Robbins’ singing his famous “El Paso” ballad and tried to pick out Rosa’s Catina, without any luck, I might add.  I thought too, of my friend, Alma from Air Force days, who claims El Paso as her hometown.  Every place reminds me of a person—making that place a sacred one.

We are on schedule to be with Luke and family over the weekend in Flagstaff, AZ.  Oh, I can’t wait to see Ethan and Eleni! I wonder if they are excited as I am?    I bet they have grown several inches since our last visit in September.  Just two more days and we’ll be there!

New Mexico’s nickname is the Land of Enchantment ("Tierra del Encanto”) and it certainly is an appropriate one.  But like my “Alabama” people (hospitable and friendly people who are not just in Alabama, but in every state) so I find every place in this great land enchanting.  

Enchantment means “being under a magic spell” or a “feeling of great pleasure or delight.”  Both definitions apply to traveling the “ribbon of highways” anywhere here in the USA.  Human beings have lived in New Mexico where I am now since 9200 BC.  Just think, Billy the Kid use to roam around the village of Las Cruces!  The Spanish Conquistadors visited here in the 16th century and wrote about their discoveries and experiences just as I am doing this morning in the 21st century. 

From the 16th century onward New Mexico was part of the Spanish Empire, eventually becoming a part of Mexico.  Mexico made a huge mistake, however, back in that day.  They didn't build a wall to prevent the hordes of white Anglo-Saxon immigrants from infiltrating their land.  So it was, in 1912, that New Mexico became a state of the United States.  

“Tear down this wall!” was the challenge issued by President Ronald Reagan to Mikhail  Gorbachev in 1987 in reference to the Berlin Wall—yet here we are in 2017 wanting to build another wall!  Reagan said it much better than I can:  “There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”

Tear down the walls that constrain the human mind, remove the barriers that would diminish the human spirit, and break down the obstacles that separate people.  Tear down these walls and do not build any more!
Ethan and Eleni--March 2016

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

“If Thy Heart Be As My Heart…”

The severe storms and tornado warnings yesterday morning delayed our departure from Columbus, TX.  The tornado threat quickly passed us by, moving on toward Houston with a fury.  The weather front also brought cooler temperatures and strong winds as we drove on across this B—I—G  State of Texas.  Even though we were traveling at 75 mph all day long we ended up in Texas!  We stopped for the night in Fort Stockton, about 260 miles east of El Paso. Fort Stockton was established around 1867 to provide protection for the pioneers of the western expansion.  This protection was provided by the Buffalo Soldiers.  Do you know their story? 

Since it was Valentine’s Day we decided to forego my cooking and have a “down-home” Texas-style dinner in the little cafe right here in the RV Park.  I think we might enjoy breakfast there this morning as well, before we get on the road again.

Wherever we go, we find “Alabama” people (you may remember that I wrote of the people of Alabama as exceptionally hospitable and friendly).  All along our gypsy way we are encountering hospitable and friendly people—in Louisiana,  Texas—everywhere.  America may be divided politically, but politics is not all of life, and our politics do not prevent friendliness.  Texas is a so-called “Red State,” and I’m sure the friendly people I encountered last night think quite differently politically than I do.   This thought got me to thinking this morning of John Wesley’s famous sermon, “The Catholic (Universal) Spirit,” wherein he writes that we may not all be of the same opinion, but we can be united together (whatever our differences) in our hearts.  “If thy heart be as my heart, then give me thy hand.”  We all have a “human” heart—a heart meant for hospitality, friendliness and love.  It is this “human heart” I am discovering again and  again as we travel along through this “already” great and “getting” greater land and people called America.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cann “ ot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” (Mark Twain)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Repentance: Changing the Way We See Reality

I was awakened this morning by lightning flashes and sprinkles of raindrops falling on the roof here in Columbus, TX. Those sprinkles have since turned into a deluge of rain, terrific lightning and rumbling thunder.  You know or have heard, I’m sure,  that every thing in Texas is bigger—and this is a big, big Texas rainstorm.  I think we’ll linger over a Valentine Day breakfast until the rain diminishes before getting on the road again.  I cannot see the road ahead, but my trusty cell phone tells me that this weather pattern is passing quickly toward the East.  We are going West!

What will our destination be tonight?  What new sights will we see along the way?  Will the shift lever freeze up again or will faithful Odysseus develop some other mechanical problem?  Will we drive into any tornadoes, or Texas-sized hail?  Who knows?  Any of these events or situations are or can be a part of the reality of traveling. How our eyes see these possibilities and what actually happens along the way makes all the difference.  I am not referring to “Positive Thinking” or to God giving some kind of special protection.”  That’s a lot of rubbish.  I’m referring to Kazantzakis’ comment “let us change the eye which sees reality.”  I happen to believe this is what Jesus meant when he said, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is upon you.”  Change the way you see.  Change the way you think.

Yesterday when the shift lever was stuck—we worried a bit, quite naturally.   It was real!  There was nothing we could do to undo it.  We had no idea what it might mean (a new transmission, perhaps?).  We had to change our eyes which were seeing the wholly negative side of things in order to see the other realities which surfaced throughout the day.  Changing our eyes to see reality, we were able to see four fellows at the repair shop, who were there for us and took care of us and our vehicle.  One even provided us with popcorn and soda while we sat in “theater-like” chairs in the lounge watching TV on a giant screen in an air-conditioned room.  With “changed eyes” we saw reality differently. This “repenting” business goes on and on—it is not a one time deal.  I don’t think there is ever a time when we are finished “repenting.” We cannot change reality—it is what it is—but we can change our eyes which see that reality.

Monday, February 13, 2017

“Going to Houston, Houston, Houston”

We had a nice lunch with Cousin Tom in Alexandria, LA on Sunday.  As we walked to the restaurant together, Tom said, “No politics today,” and I quickly and heartedly affirmed that decision.  After all, there are so many other things for cousins to talk about when they only meet every other year or so. 

From Alexandria we drove south to Lake Charles and then west to Beaumont, TX where we found a nice RV park to spend the night.  As we pulled into our assigned site, however, something went wrong with the shift lever.  It would only move to Neutral and Drive—resisting the shift to Reverse and Park.  After nearly six hours of driving there wasn’t much we could do about the issue at that point.  We set up our little house on wheels up for the night with the key in the ignition (it won’t come out unless the shift lever is in the Park position). The shift lever was left in Neutral and I made sure the emergency brake was on so we wouldn’t roll into the road during the night.

After several calls this morning to find a Sprinter repair place in Beaumont, we were advised to go on  to Houston (88 miles further west).   The shift lever on our Odysseus just loves being in the Drive mode!  Bye Beaumont, we’re “Going back to Houston, Houston, Houston,” we hope. 

P.S.  Monday evening report:  We are in Columbus, TX (70 miles west of Houston) tonight.  Houston came through for us and we are on the road again. The shift lever is in Park tonight and the key is out of the ignition.
Blizzard of 2016--It was 73° in Houston today.  It's a good life.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


The full moon IS following me all along the way. It is just as full and bright here in Vicksburg, Mississippi as it was in Alabama on Friday night.  What I’m trying to say is that we live on a small speck of this universe and the vastness of our surroundings above and beyond are incomprehensible.  This thought reminds me of one of my favorite hymns, sung by Ray Price many years ago:  “How big is God?  How big and wide his vast domain?  To try to tell these lips can only start.  He’s big enough to rule his mighty universe, but small enough to live within my heart.”

We enjoyed our drive from Birmingham, Alabama to Vicksburg, Mississippi yesterday.  The sky was cloudy and a few drops of rain fell along the way.  We spent the night at the  Ameristar Casino campground in Vicksburg.  We’ve stayed here before and find it very comfortable.  A shuttle bus runs all night long for those who wish to visit the Casino—to throw away their hard earned cash or to enjoy a sumptuous seafood buffet.  We didn’t do either one of those things, but the same friendly woman who drove the shuttle last year is still driving it this year and the hostess at the campground office is the same woman who has greeted us since we first started visiting Vicksburg some six years ago.  

Today we will cross the Mississippi River as we drive to Alexandria, Louisiana to visit my cousin Tom for lunch and then onward—maybe into Texas by nightfall—and then again maybe not.  It depends on how long we visit.  I connected with Tom fifty-four years ago and then we lost track of each other until just seven years ago.  Since then we try to visit him whenever we take the southern route.  Tom is what I call an “ironclad ultra-conservative” and I’m what he calls a “flaming liberal.”  In spite of our political differences, we are cousins and our kinship and love for each other will trump our differences.  I hope!  
South Carolina Sunset, Thursday, February 9, 2017

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Spring In Alabama

Yesterday we enjoyed a “spring-like” day (71°) as we drove out of South Carolina into Georgia and Alabama.  We ended up in an RV Park on the shore of Lake Martin, thirty miles east of Birmingham.  The full moon observed in Maryland on Wednesday night and again in South Carolina on Thursday was showing its face in Alabama last night.  Funny, how that moon just seems to be following us! The moonlight over the lake was an inspirational sight.

My nerves became a little frayed as we drove through the center of Atlanta, Georgia during Friday afternoon traffic.  Interstate 20 became a motor speedway.  The posted speed limit was 55 mph.  Very few were obeying that law.  Most of us (including the truckers) were driving at 70 to 80 mph as a means of self-preservation.  Atlanta is a beautiful city, but I was so occupied with my desire to live to be 75 years of age, that I barely managed a glance or two at the city skyline.

For several years I served at the Air Force Chaplain School in Montgomery, Alabama.  It was a great experience and I have many fond memories.  I remember particularly the warm hospitality and friendliness of the people of Alabama.  I discovered yesterday that that hasn’t changed a bit.  A large part of the joy of traveling is encountering the people met along the way.  If you should happen to travel through Alabama, don’t miss the beautiful and friendly people who live here.  The truth is that everywhere I’ve gone whether here in the USA or in the wider world, I have found beautiful and friendly people!  Don’t miss them where you are!
Lake Martin, Pell City, Alabama

At our "resort" in Pell City, Alabama

Friday, February 10, 2017

Heading South & West

We began our journey south and westward yesterday morning in the snow.  Within an hour we were out of the snow and driving on dry roads under a sunny sky.  We stopped at a rest stop in Virginia and later at a rest stop in North Carolina.  A total stranger came up to me at the North Carolina stop and told me he was glad to see me again! I had never seen the man before in my life!  I wondered if I had encountered a strange character as often happens for me, but, no, that was not the case.  He told me that he had seen us at the rest stop in Virginia.  I responded by saying that I hadn’t seen him and jokingly told him that I didn’t realize how much I stood out in a crowd.  He quickly responded by saying it wasn’t me, it was our little RV that had captured his attention!  

It was a long day on the road yesterday, but we finally arrived in Sumter, South Carolina where we enjoyed a restful night with the light of the full moon filtering through the window shades and the heater keeping things cozy in our Odysseus.  We’ll be on our way again this morning—hopefully into warmer temps and more sunshine.  We are heading south and west—Georgia, Alabama—one or the other today, and it doesn’t really matter which one as long as we keep going south and west.  

Yesterday morning--We will not be deterred!
Heading South and West Yesterday Morning

Thursday, February 9, 2017

On The Road Again

I’ve been looking forward to this day.  It is my birthday gift to myself—to get back on the road again and drive across this great country in our Odysseus (a very little RV).  For days I’ve been preparing for it, planning for it, dreaming of it!  The RV was serviced, the tires rotated, the interior cleaned, and over the last few summer-like days (70°) loaded up.  We are ready—all ready to go!  

But alas, winter has descended with a vengeance.  Snow is falling this morning in Maryland.  The schools in our county are closed for the day and those in neighboring counties north of us are also closed.  The only sign of hope is that the county schools south and west of us have only two hour delays—and Virginia has rain instead of snow.  That’s the way I’m going…SOUTH!

So we will be on our way shortly.  We will not be deterred.  It is California or Bust!  I am  on the road again TODAY!

We've done it before...We can do it again!
Camping in North Carolina, 2015

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Birthday Thoughts

Any student of physiology and anatomy can tell you that metabolism consists of two parts:  “anabolism, building up; and catabolism, tearing down.”  During the early years of life anabolism exceeds catabolism.   We grow and glow with health and exuberance.  As the years go by, however, catabolism exceeds anabolism.  Today, on birthday number three score ten plus four (74) I am conscious of the fact that I am not what I used to be.  The smoothly running machine  I once was (well, I thought so) is now showing signs of used-car-ness.  The odometer confirms that I’ve traveled many a mile and one can assume (as with any used vehicle) that some collisions (call them accidents if you like) and engine wear and tear and breakdowns have occurred.  With a used car, you can be sure there will be issues.  On this 74th birthday, I am aware that my used-car-ness will probably include gallstones, arthritis, and sagging jowls.  As one elderly gentleman, referring to the catabolism  of age, once told me,  “My prostate glands are a’swelling.”  This male phenomena is almost impossible to escape and creates new nocturnal habits, including frequent trips to the bathroom.  All this is natural and a part of that catabolism business.

Life is short.  Growing older cannot be avoided.  Catabolism is inescapable and is part of God’s creation. There is no way out of it.

However, mind, spirit and soul abide (so far).  These are greater than the body with its many infirmities.  This is what Jesus was trying to tell us when he encouraged us to seek first His Kingdom (love, mercy, justice, sensitivity, concern for others, etc.).  There is no evidence to suggest that chronological age brings greater Christian maturity.  In fact, age may bring spiritual hardening of the arteries.  (Have you met any  grumpy old religious men lately?)  Growing old may be the time when we stop caring as much as we should about those kingdom values, and we discover a heart problem unable to be cured by the doctor.  In growing old we may even learn the truth that we don’t have the truth.  We must learn to overcome catabolism of the body with our mind, spirit and soul, in order to continue to grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God.

God, I thank you for this body, ugly as it is and as feeble as it may become.  Help me live your dream rather than becoming a grumpy old man!  For only then shall I really live.
My mother saved the birth announcement of each of her 7 children--including me!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Keeping Up With the Times

I am old now.  I’ll be seventy-four years old tomorrow—that’s three-score ten plus 4—nearly three-quarters of a century old! I still try to keep up.  With the help of my grandchildren I am managing the new technology.  I read new books  (though I prefer old books tested by the passage of time) and I pay attention to what is going on around me.  I am trying to keep up in this ever changing world.  I think I’m still sound of mind, though that issue has been debated since the time I began to express myself, and is probably still being debated by many of my friends today.   My social media friends probably no longer even debate the issue.  They think I’m crazy and over the past two years or so they have considered “unfriending” me or at least “unfollowing” my rantings and ravings.  I don’t blame them a bit! 

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” I read a book called “I’m OK—You’re OK” (A Practical Guide to Transactional Analysis) written by Thomas Harris. The book distinguished three active elements in each person’s makeup and operative in our relationships:  the Parent, the Adult, and the Child.  The Parent personifies the “don’ts” and the “do’s” implanted in each of us in our earliest years.  The Child represents spontaneous emotion.  Both Parent and Child must be kept in proper relation to the Adult, whose function is that of dealing with reality—“to make possible freedom of choice and the creation of new options.”  We all have the Parent, the Child, and the Adult in us—creating unconscious behavior in our relationships:  “I’M NOT OK—YOU’RE OK”  (the anxious dependency of the immature); “I’M NOT OK—YOU’RE NOT OK” (the  “give up” or despair” position); “I’M OK—YOU’RE NOT OK” (the criminal position) and finally,  “I’M OK—YOU’RE OKAY” (the response of a mature adult, who is at peace with self and others).   

Keeping up with the times—I just read the following post on Facebook:  “Their words back to back…”

“I pray that our leaders will always act with humility and generosity.  I pray that my failings are forgiven .   I pray that we will uphold our obligation to be good stewards of God’s creation—this beautiful planet.  I pray that we will see every single child as our own, each worthy of our love and of our compassion.  And I pray we answer Scripture’s call to lift up the vulnerable, and to stand up for justice, and ensure that every human being lives in dignity.” (Barack Obama, Nat’l Prayer Breakfast, 2016)

“We had tremendous success on The Apprentice.  And when I ran for president, I had to leave the show.  That’s when I knew for sure that I was doing it.  And they hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place.  And we know how that turned out.  The ratings went down the tubes.  It’s been a total disaster and Mark will never, ever bet against Trump again.  And I want to just pray for Arnold if we can, for those ratings, OK?” (Donald Trump, Nat’l Prayer Breakfast, 2017)
Yosemite National Park, 2016