Tag Archives: TRAVEL

Be On Your WAZE

Just returned from a short fishing trip to Pensacola, FL and several times I thought about what my father would say if he were here today and exposed to the travel technology that exist.

I suppose the majority of smartphones are GPS ready and can make use of Google Maps. I began the trip by telling my phone to navigate to Pensacola Beach and within seconds it told me to take a right turn at the top of my driveway. Every turn thereafter was given me in advance along with the mile remaining and the estimated arrival time for my destination.

Someplace below Nashville I needed gas so I started an app called GasBuddy and it revealed where gasoline was the cheapest and provided a map. Next was time to find a good motel price so I activated the Travel Coupon app and it told me there an a reasonably priced motel at exit 46.

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Stick Snakes & Grizzlies

Back in the 1960s me and some guys I worked with took a hunting/camping trip into the Sierra Nevada Mountains east of Fresno, CA.

We spent Friday and Saturday nights in a very primitive campground at about 6,000 feet. On the first night we built a nice fire and sat around until pretty late drinking beer and telling lies. None of us had a tent so we slept out in the open with nothing but sleeping bags.

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The Late, Great, Howard Johnson

I don’t know how old you have to be to have memories of Howard Johnson restaurants but I certainly qualify. Not sure when I first ate HowardJohnsonsRestaurantin a HoJo’s but it was probably along the Pennsylvania Turn-Pike during the early 1960s. Howard had the franchise for all the food and fuel services along the pike.

They always had a bright orange roof and were famous for their 28 flavors of ice cream. Mel Brooks based a Blazing Saddles joke on the town of Rock Ridge being occupied by lots of Johnsons, one of which was Howard and his restaurant advertised 1 flavor.

At one time there were 800 HoJos in America and this morning I read that today there’s only two and one of those is about to close its doors. It’s in Bangor, ME and one of the waitresses has been there for fifty-years. It’s  the only job she ever had.

The last remaining Howard Johnson’s restaurant will be in Lake George, NY and the owners have no plans to close. They say they’re doing fine and have plans to remodel in the near future.

Oh, the last HoJo I ate in was on the north side of Knoxville, TN in 1978. Janet and I stopped there for a dish of ice cream on our way back from North Carolina. It was across the street from a Cracker Barrel. We walked over and checked out the store and Janet picked up a menu. That evening I had my first ever bowl of CB’s ham ‘n pintos in Corbin, KY. That’s a story for another time.

Dayton & The Golden Boys

We celebrated our thirty-seventh anniversary back in July but weren’t able to do anything special. Then our daughter called with news about a rock ‘n roll show in Dayton featuring Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, and Fabian. I asked Janet if she was interested and she was. So, I got decent tickets, made a motel reservation and on the 6th of August we headed north.

The concert was held at the Rose Music Center in Hubert Heights and it is a fantastic venue. It seats about 4200 people, all under a roof, plenty of parking, easy access, good amenities, etc. The only negative was sitting on the east side of the venue. This event began at 7 pm and half way through the setting sun dropped below the

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Busted for rum running! Advice for cruisers.

While cruises can be an economic form of vacationing the cost of alcoholic beverages are marked up to the max. If you’re a drinker the pressure is on to smuggle some hooch aboard. Most cruise lines permit each passenger to bring aboard a single bottle of wine and whatever soft drinks they can carry. Beer and hard liquor is banned, however.

We took a cruise in 2014 and I sneaked some Scotch on board by transferring it to a couple of 20 oz brown plastic root beer bottles buried in my checked luggage. Worked with no problem and I was able to enjoy my daily Scotch on the rocks with no problem and minimum expense.

rum runnerOn our most recent cruise I did the same thing but didn’t check any luggage. Instead we carried everything on the ship. When they           x-rayed my suitcase, however, they saw the outline of two pop bottles and asked me to open the bag. They reached for one of the bottles and tested if the seal had been broken, it had been of course. I was then informed that plastic bottles were no longer

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Thoughts on Street People

A friend of mine, Stacey Austin,  shared a video of street entertainers (buskers) with me and it reminded me of our recent visit to New Orleans. NOLA is a hot bed of buskers (and street people) and during the high season one might be found around any corner of the French Market.

Some people just see these people as  being on the take or trying to scam the crowd. To me, they’re working people whose job is to further enrich our lives wherever we find them.

Buskers work solely for tips and I have a general rule that I always tip. Whenever I go to places like NYC or NOLA I make sure I have some coins and a pocket full of dollar bills. How much I tip depends on how entertained I am.

grandpaDuring this month’s visit to NOLA here’s where our money went. The street mimes who do little more than hold a pose generally don’t get top dollar. The kids tap dancing or beating out a rhythm on a plastic bucket got some change, unless they were really good and had their heart in it. Then they got paper money. There was a group of five young men who did a fantastic demonstration of break dancing and attracted a very large crowd. I don’t know how much they earned in an evening but they didn’t just have one bucket, they had four and the crowd didn’t hold back in sharing some of their vacation dollars. Musicians hold top spot on my earning list. If you’re singing a song or playing an instrument you’re assured of a tip. On this visit we sat inside the Cafe du Monde, sipping café au lait, eating beignets,  and listening to a sax player doing jazzy renditions of Christmas music. We all tossed something into the bucket.

Now that you know what I do like here’s what I don’t. I don’t like those who are expecting a donation while doing nothing to earn it. Places like NOLA and the French Quarter are havens for those on the make. Street hustlers and beggars are common at traffic

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My mom’s gonna kill me!

I read a post by a former student this afternoon about a young 8th grade student coming to her door and trying to sell her candy for a class field trip to the nation’s capital. She didn’t buy any candy but made a cash donation instead. The story ended with her saying she had chaperoned one of those trips and how meaningful it was, “Many of those kids had never been out of Highland County.”

kentuckyWhile I’ve never been part of taking an entire class on a long-distance field trip I have worked with smaller groups. Back in the 1970s my friend Norman Gingerich and I took a group of six junior high kids to Washington DC for a couple of days and then to Monticello in Virginia. It was a great trip and created life-time memories for both students and adults. It was the longest trip any of them had ever taken, the first time they had been away from their families, and by far the biggest city they’d ever seen.

On another occasion I took five junior high special education kids to Cincinnati for a Reds game. When the game ended I decided it would be neat to drive across the Brent Spence Bridge and take the river route down to the I-275 bridge. For a couple kids this was both their first visit to Kentucky and their first time out of Ohio. This diversion was totally spontaneous and a treat for everyone but one student. Since it wasn’t mentioned on the information sheet I’d sent to the parents the kid became overly nervous because he was leaving Ohio without his mom knowing. As we crossed the Ohio River he vocally announced that he knew his mother was going to kill him when she found out she’d gone to Kentucky without her permission.

Looking back I suppose I did push the liability issue a bit but back then few of us ever worried about such things. Like so many times in teaching you just don’t want to pass up a “teachable moment.” I’m not sure that’s possible in today’s “teach to the test” environment. All I can say is, that’s too bad. Those students who took those trips with Norm and I still mention them when we meet. They may not remember anything else from our classes, but they remember driving under that “Welcome to Kentucky” sign.

Ten Years Ago on a Cold Dark Night, Came Katrina

Hard to believe but it’s been ten years since America witnessed one of the nation’s greatest natural disasters. At least it began as a natural disaster but unfortunately it quickly became a man-made fiasco.

New-Orleans-AerialI’m a big fan of New Orleans, having been there on many occasions. The first visit was somewhat an accident. We took a trip to the Mississippi coast and decided to visit the Cajun country in rural Louisiana. Driving along the coastal road we suddenly found ourselves on Rampart Street with the French Quarter in full view. I had just read a story about NOLA being the nation’s murder capital and had meant to avoid it during our trip. Nevertheless, here we were so we decided to park the van and check it out a little. We ended up getting a hotel on Rue Bienville in the heart of the Quarter. We only spent the night but had a great time and  left with a new perspective.

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A Yellowstone Tale

My friend Justin Johnson and his faithful sidekick Nikki are currently touring Yellowstone National Park. Looking at some of their posted photos on Facebook brought back memories of the trip we took back in the early 1990s.

justin & nikki at falls
Justin & Nikki

Yellowstone being such a special place we decided to invest in a small video camera to record the experience. So, on the way we stopped at Circuit City in Cincinnati and spent close to $1000 on a camera and a couple of spare tapes. Our son sat in the back of our van and  learned the art of video photography as we plowed our way west.

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Notes on Fishing

fishing lineBeen a couple of years since I dug out a rod and went fishing. But in late May a friend and I dragged my boat to the ocean and fed the fishes a little.

I was so busy getting the boat cleaned and ready I had no time left for packing a tackle box. Luckily my rods were still in my van from the last time I went to the saltwater.

During the week I had to stop at a tackle shop a few times and was floored over what has happened to the price of terminal tackle. Lead sinkers are triple what I remember, hooks double, and a spool of good 8 pound line that commonly sold for around $6 was not $15.

Making matters worse, I had everything I bought, and much more, back home in my garage. Where in my garage is another question but before the next trip I’m digging it out.

Who do You Miss?

A friend recently ask a group of people who they missed in life. The answers were what you’d expect, a parent,  a spouse, a child, etc. I didn’t get into the conversation but I gave it some thought.

voidLike most everyone I miss my parents and other relatives who’ve passed on but mostly because I didn’t spend enough time with them when they were living and I didn’t mine them for their wisdom and stories. But, they are not the people I miss. With but one exception they lived long and full lives and when they passed they weren’t enjoying much quality of life.

The people I really miss aren’t even related, they are friends who held a special niche in my life. One is a person who would have driven me crazy if I had to be around him all the time but when I was around him it was a true trip. He could be spontaneous, quick-witted, unabashed, irreverent, independent, obnoxious, vulgar, and much more. He was also a walking encyclopedia of Greenfield’s social history. If you wanted to know who Jane Doe was cheating with in 1957 you just gave him a call. And if he didn’t know there was a woman I taught with who did. Both are gone and no one has come forth to fill the voids they left in passing.

Another unfilled void followed the sudden death of a man I knew from childhood.  After school we went our separate ways but years later our lives touched again. In our lives we had shared lots of experiences. While not together we had both served in the Navy, gotten married, raised a family, and been basically gainful in life. We both enjoyed the outdoors, liked traveling, knew the words to every Hank Williams song, would consume an occasional beer, shared a similar sense of humor, were spontaneous,  and had wives who didn’t mind seeing us go fishing  and leave them to their peace.

Before retiring we had agreed that spontaneity would be our rule. We had both been stationed in New England,  he in Connecticut and I in Rhode Island, and knew that a better sandwich, called grinders, couldn’t be found than what were common in that part of America. He once said, “I’m going to pull into your driveway someday and say let’s run up to Connecticut and get a grinder at Elmo’s.” My response was, “Absolutely!”

We never made it to Elmo’s but we made more than one spontaneous decision. While sitting on a very cold Lake Maultrie in South Carolina one March I suggested we grab a fishing pole and some warm weather clothing and drive south until the thermometer hit 80. Two days later we were sitting in John Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo, Florida eating fresh fruit and drinking a cold Hatuey (Cuban) beer. That evening we spent the night in Key West eating stone crab claws and conch fritters. Next morning the cold front that drove us out of Carolina caught up so we headed back north.

Today I heard a man say we shouldn’t bemoan the passing of such people. Instead we should feel blessed that they once existed and we were fortunate enough to have known them. That’s a comforting thought but the void remains unfilled.

The Axeman Cometh!

chikan johnsonI love music but I’m one of the most unmusical people on earth. It’s like loving to hear the French language but not being able to speak it. I love music but I have no fluency. Over the years, however, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness some of the best. Back in 2010 at the Wheeling Heritage Blues Festival I was first exposed to James “Super Chikan” Johnson and his band, The Fighting Cocks.” The Chikan may have been playing the first homemade guitar I ever witnessed, a real double-edged axe made into a playable guitar.

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A Rose by Any Other Name is Still a Sub

sub-grinder mapSuper Bowl Sunday is just days away and the Mother’s Club will be assembling hundreds of sub sandwiches. As much as any single food, the submarine sandwich has become a Super Bowl staple.

In these days anyone in American can describe what a sub sandwich is. The most common fast food restaurant in today’s America is the Subway chain of sandwich shops. So, as the chain grew so did the use of the term sub to describe that pile of meats, cheeses, and toppings that get stuffed into a long bun.

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Blessed are the Mapmakers

If anyone had watched me in elementary school they may have predicted I’d grow up to become a social studies teacher. As far back as I can remember I loved maps and geography. I loved looking at maps and wondering what life in various parts of the world would be like. All these years later I recall reading stories about a Navajo child in the desert Southwest making ice cream from ice that fell from the sky as hail. Or, a child living in the jungles of the Malaysian Peninsula and tended to his family’s elephants.

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Scotland the Beautiful

I’m not Scottish but I do enjoy the occasional wee bit of their whiskey. Back in the 1960s I had the excellent fortune of spending three months in Scotland, courtesy of the US Navy and I totally fell in love with the land and the people. We were the first American war ship to enter the harbor of Greenock, Scotland since the end of WWII and we were greeted as saviors. The hospitality and warmth of those people will always be appreciated and never forgotten.

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