Wednesday, December 31, 2014
In all my travels my car has been hit with some crazy things. There is the normal rock to the windshield or the not so normal mattress and box springs hurdle. I've had flattened refrigerator boxes stick to the window and block my view but, until today, I have never been hit with a flying bag of milk. At least I think it was milk. It was white and liquid. The splatters dripped down the windshield until they evaporated in the wind. And, here I was, just minding my own business driving down the road on my way to Orlando. Suddenly a grocery store bag partially filled with milk glanced off the windshield. What was that all about? And, how long was this bag of milk air born? No overpasses in the area. No people along the side of the road. Very unusual. An interesting way to end the year. Stay safe, everyone.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Sunday, December 28, 2014
I was tipped off about a new eatery opening on Washington Street called Rouxster's. They offer sandwiches, baked goods, light lunches and they are the home of Faydra cakes. Ummmmm.....sounds yummy. Always wanting to support local business owners, I wish you much success. Now, everyone in Vicksburg, stop on by Rouxster's and enjoy your lunch! And, be sure to have some cake with that.
Sounds like people, eh? Almost presidential, maybe. Well, it's sort of about people. It's the location of the Highway 61 coffeehouse in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Just go there! Interior: eclectic/homey. Mood: comfortable/inviting. Interactive: chess/checkers. Stimulating: caffeine/books. And people, too. It's on the first floor of an old historic building with an art gallery upstairs called The Attic Gallery. Can it get any better than this? hmmmmm.....nope.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
Washington Street is the main street that runs through the downtown of Vicksburg, Mississippi. It has changed somewhat over the years with various stores coming and going but the buildings remain, old and unchanged in appearance. I never knew what it was like to shop on Washington Street in the 1950's or '60's but I imagine it to be a bustling place. (I have seen the pictures.) I knew the street well in the 1980's and 90's when I lived here. Traces of the former lively days were evident but it was changing. I was always interested in the downtown shopping area and loved to watch the holiday parades march through the center of town. Perhaps it was the architecture of the old buildings and the history that accompanied them that really interested me. There seems to be a renewed interest in the downtown area. I noticed it today as I walked down the main street. A couple of the older vendors were still in business but there were newer businesses that have moved in and offered wares that are more reflective of current times and needs (or wants). There are more small niche eateries and the street has a vibrant current mixed amongst the old historic buildings. It was rainy today. Actually it was rather gloomy. Time to get out of the rain...and into the coffee shop.
Friday, December 26, 2014
The day after Christmas is like the day after my birthday or the day after the fourth of July or the day after...well, you get it. It takes another 365 days for THAT day to come around again. But, today is the other THAT day. It's special, too, in it's own way. It's the first day after the big day. December 26. Here's to you! The day after.
Thursday, December 25, 2014
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
I drove about ten hours today. I left San Antonio and arrived in Vicksburg about nine in the evening. The drive was uneventful which was a blessing considering the terrible weather conditions in the area. I missed the storms by traveling a northerly route through Texas and then cutting east instead of taking the southern route to the east and cutting north through Louisiana. Tornados everywhere but not near me. So, I am here for Christmas and some relaxing girl talk with my friend Tricia. See you in the a.m. 'night all! p.s. $1.99 per gallon gas near Waco. woohoo
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Monday, December 15, 2014
I'm on my way back to Texas. There is a birthday girl I want to see. She turns four this week. And, I plan on being there. I left early enough in the day in order to complete the nearly nine hour drive to Mobile by nightfall. On the way I passed by the log cabin sales lot near Lake City but just as I was about to glance to the left and view the cabins, a big tractor trailer rig passed me and completely blocked my view. So, no cabin viewing this time. Disappointing, for sure. Vicki was working the counter at the fast food restaurant near Marianna today. I said hello. The nicest surprise came in Mobile along I-65 when I encountered a beautifully lit holiday display just as the sun set. The lights were all blues and greens and they stretched the length of a long city block. Delightful! I am here for the night and will probably awake to the sounds of the church chimes emanating from the church steeple across the street. And I believe I will be having french toast for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel next door. Yum.
Sunday, December 14, 2014
I went to the theater today. I saw South Pacific at the Asolo theater in Sarasota, Florida. Wow!!... is all I can say. Very well done. The singing was first rate and the choreography was spot on. This is repertory theater (at the state theater of Florida, no less) and the acting was superb. I sat in the first row and I saw everything...and I mean everything. So, here's the thing. I worked in theater for many years. I'm not doing that full time anymore but watching the production today brought on that old excitement I felt when building costumes and mounting a show. It's hard work, of course, with long hours, deadlines, cranky actors and budget crunching. Tech weeks are killers but then...there it is, right before your eyes...opening night. The reward. I remember standing in a dark corner in the very back of the auditorium watching--not the story on stage but the people in the audience. I could feel their excitement. And all the hard work was worth it. I felt that excitement today as I sat in the auditorium and watched this show. And, for a fleeting moment I wanted to be a part of this again. I loved the researching, the designing, the building, the whole picture. I wanted it. But, then again, I didn't. I loved being a part of the process but not a part of the politics. I like problem solving when there is a distinct possibility of a solution but I don't like the uncertainty and anxiety that comes from too many opinions, no distinct solution and an uncertain outcome. So, I was very happy today to see this wonderful production. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and when I left the theater I knew there was no clean up involved, at least for me. I just drove away. To Applebee's. But, that's another story...
Saturday, December 13, 2014
...has come and gone. It's over. Until next year. Wow. We packed, wrapped and decorated 55 cookie baskets and they are ready for distribution. Things went smoothly. Next year we'll do it again. But for now, it's time for sleep. (... and visions of sugar plums danced in my head ) Oh, by the way, it's 12/13/14 today. Just thought I'd mention it.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Ah, what a mess!! That is, I make a mess when I bake my special bread. I baked today and made my mess but I also made several loaves of the most delicious breads in my favorite flavors of chocolate chip, lemon and cinnamon. And the smells wafting about the kitchen are heavenly. Sampling is a must, after all I need to know if everything is tasty good. And tasty it is!! Success! I'm done. Now, all I need to do is give the breads away. And watch the smiles.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
It's Wednesday and that means it's weed pulling time at the Jesse Knight memorial cemetery in Nokomis, Florida. Yup, that's what I do. Every Wednesday. It is one of the ways I volunteer my time. And I'm OK with it. I accomplish two things at the same time. I am clearing out the weeds around the shrubbery row with my hands and I am thinking, planning or just making to-do lists in my head. The time passes by quickly. And when I'm done for the day I can step back and look at the weed free shrubs with satisfaction. Then I'm on to whatever I was thinking/planning to do next. I can jump start the next action because it's already been well thought out in advance. While pulling weeds. On Wednesday.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Last night I attended a Christmas concert performed by the Venice concert band. It was a sold out performance and it gave me the opportunity to see the inside of the new performing arts center at the high school. What a beautiful building. Massive arched windows in the oversize lobby and seating for well over a thousand people in the auditorium. The music was wonderful and, of course, the highlight of the evening was the audience participation during The Twelve Days of Christmas. With all the jumping up and down and the loud singing and laughing, the people in the audience had a great time. Later, as I was leaving, I drove by the new mall in the area and I was able to see the lighting display that stretched for blocks in several directions. The palm trees lining the road were decked in green. There was a pond with lit sculptural boats with animated rowers aboard. Colorful displays lined the sides of the roadways. The neatest thing was the blue colored lights strung in the oak and willow trees that flickered on and off in a sequential pattern that gives a "dripping" effect. I hadn't seen anything like that before. It's too bad I was driving. I would have liked to stop and just stare (take it all in) at the lighting displays but the traffic was heavy and I could not. It's funny but I drove by that mall earlier in the day and didn't even notice the displays. It takes nighttime and electricity to bring it to life. It was wonderful. Thanks for the gift!!
Saturday, December 6, 2014
Today was pancake Saturday at the church. The men's fellowship puts on a pancake breakfast on the first Saturday of the month and every month I enjoy a plateful of these tasty pancakes (and eggs and sausage and orange juice). Yummy! The pancakes are light and fluffy and delicious. 'nuff said!
Friday, December 5, 2014
This is more about the signage than the actual interchange. I have travelled along I-65 south in the Mobile, Alabama area many a time as I made my way back and forth between Florida and Mississippi. The best part about driving south along this segment of the highway is looking at the directional road sign marking the end of I-65 where it merges onto I-10. The sign basically makes the highway division look like a giant Y with two lanes swooping to the left and two lanes swooping to the right. There are only two words written on the sign---Florida (to the left) and Mississippi (to the right). This part of Alabama is very narrow and there are no major towns, other than Mobile, in this southern portion. So the sign gives the traveller all the information they need to make the decision as to whether to go left or right at the Y in the road. I like the look of the sign. I guess it's just that. I like the look. It's like structural art work. Very nice.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
An eleven hour drive is too much...and I really like driving (as I have stated many times). I drove into Mobile, Alabama last night from San Antonio, Texas. I've taken this drive many times before so there were no surprises. But it is almost winter and the days are shorter. It was dusk as I entered Louisiana and dark by the time I crossed the long bridge over the bayou. I was tempted to stop in Baton Rouge but I pressed ahead. If it had been summer I would have had 3-4 more hours of daylight That makes a difference. But, no. So I drove on. Doing 70 mph. Eleven hours on the road. All in one time zone. Eleven hours. And then I was done.
I am staying at the same motel in Mobile, Alabama that I stayed at two weeks ago. I mentioned before that there is a church across the street from the motel that plays chimes on the hour and at certain times of the day the chimes will play hymns. This morning the chimes are playing Christmas hymns. It is lovely to hear. Very lovely.
When I lived in Vicksburg, Mississippi I travelled on I-20 a lot. Not only was it the main route through the area connecting the exits into the town but it was also the long distance connector to all points east (Atlanta) and west (Monroe) and beyond. I knew the road eventually merged into I-95 to the east in the Carolinas, as I have travelled that route. But I hadn't given it much thought as to where it ended in the west, beyond Dallas and such. I now know. I-20 merges with I-10 in western Texas and there it ends it's 1,500 mile or so run across the southern U.S. Why is this important (to me)? Because I am a map reader. That is I have always been fascinated by where things are located on a map and their relationship to other things. Maps (and family trees) are like ongoing puzzles and who doesn't like solving puzzles? So, I-20 begins and ends in the middle of the desert in Texas. When I passed this interchange while driving west a couple of weeks ago it was night. I saw the signs and the lights directing the traffic in this area but I did not see the actual interchange because it was so dark and I was in the middle of nowhere and somewhat intimidated by the darkness of the night and the loneliness on the road that came with it. Traveling east, however, I was able to pass this area in daylight. There are curves in the road and the speed limit is 80 mph at this point so I am hesitant to look around but as I am about to leave this area I am able to get one quick glance at the interchange. Quite an engineering feat, I would say. To merge two major highways with all the fly overs, underpasses and entrance/exit lanes involved is noteworthy. Strips of concrete in the desert moving traffic in all directions or converging into one. And not a gas station or quick mart in sight. Nothing but the road. No stopping. Just keep moving. Fascinating, to me. But then, again, I like reading maps. And driving. And seeing through my own eyes the reality of what the maps are showing on paper. Seeing the specifics after seeing the whole picture.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
I've been driving back east along I-10 from San Diego to Florida. I'm in Texas now. Since I have been primarily driving in day light hours I have been able to see the desert terrain and the changes in the look of the land. The mountain peaks are jagged in Arizona and New Mexico and become flatter in Texas as I approach the area just prior to the hill country. The desert vegetation takes on a different look in each state. I passed the continental divide along the way. I'm back in Van Horn, Texas for the night. This time I decide to investigate the main street and find a restaurant for dinner. It is already dark and the main street is very wide and not well travelled at this hour. There is a lit Christmas display in the city park and the lights are very colorful against the pitch black sky. So pretty! I drive on a block or two and find Chuey's Mexican restaurant and decide to stop there. Excellent home made food! I recommend highly! The atmosphere is casual and a football game was on the big screen. I'm glad I stopped by. The next morning I decided to drive the main street one more time, this time in day light. I saw the Christmas display in the park without the lights turned on and thought about how nice it would be at sunset to see the lights turned on again. I passed Chuey's and I passed all the small store fronts along the street. The main street extends several blocks in a very straight line and at the end there is a quick turn to the right and I'm back on the interstate. But what about the bakery, you ask? Me, too. What about the bakery. I didn't see it. I didn't smell it. But I thought about it. Memories from childhood family trips through many a small town brings back thoughts of us sitting in the car as lunch time approached and we were sniffing the breeze trying to locate the local city bakery. The wonderful aromas were wafting on the breeze tantalizing us. The bakery on main street. FOUND!! And Dad went into the bakery and purchased the doughnuts and other pastries that were to become part (the main part) of our lunch when we stopped at the city park for running and eating. Yum! I loved the butterfly doughnuts with the two swirls of jam (that's two different flavors, mind you, not one) and anything with powdered sugar on it. So, I was thinking about the city bakery today as I drove through the town of Van Horn, Texas on my way to San Antonio. I didn't find the bakery. Is there a bakery in Van Horn? I may need to come back some day and make that my mission--find the bakery. I miss a good old fashioned bakery. And the smells. m-m-m-m-m But I drive on. and on. and on. And then I'm gone. p.s. Did you know that Van Horn, Texas is THE one and only town in the U.S. that is located the farthest west in the central time zone? Yes, that's true. The time zone sign is located on the western outskirts of the town. Nice, huh.
Monday, December 1, 2014
...but much bigger and yellow. That pretty much describes the appearance of the dust storm signs standing along the side of the highway in New Mexico and Texas. Every so often as I travelled this route I passed several large yellow signs lined up in a row along the shoulder of the road. The first one warns that this is an area that is very prone to blowing dust/sand storms. The next signs give instructions to follow if you are caught in a storm. "pull off the road and stop" "turn off your lights" "don't block the traffic lanes" Things like that. The signs were very visible due to their bright color and size. And they are necessary warnings. I saw a lot of blowing sand and there were small dust devils dancing around sandy areas right off the highway. I mention these signs because they bring back a memory from my childhood. As a family we would take cross country trips to various destinations. As we drove along the smaller state highways and the even smaller county roads we would occasionally pass the Burma Shave signs. These are small red colored signs placed along the roadside in groups of, maybe, six or eight signs. The signs had short humorous poems written upon them and the last sign always had the name of the sponsor--Burma Shave. We could see the signs from a distance as we travelled down the road and we took turns reading them aloud to everyone in the car. (By taking turns I mean someone "called it" and they had the "right" to read the signs. This was not a democratic process. It was sometimes based on seniority, sometimes it was just your turn and sometimes a few elbows to the ribs settled the matter. Back seat fights. In a station wagon. Oh, yeah. Good times.) Anyway, it is a funny memory and these yellow signs brought them to mind. I don't think there are many, if any, Burma Shave signs still planted along the roadways. They may be collectors items now. I'm not sure. But, how's this... read this sign it is a must protect yourself from all the dust Burma Shave
Sunday, November 30, 2014
I've been in San Diego for seven days now and it is time to turn around and head back east. I have eaten my way through pre-Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving and post Thanksgiving. I should POP soon. Loved visiting with family. Wish I could stay longer. After limited driving for the past few days, it does feel good to get out on the road. Today's journey took me from San Diego to Tucson. Really easy drive up through the mountains and back to the flat lands. The wind mills were really moving fast today and the car was buffeting in the wind in the mountains especially in the wind tunnels between the mountains. There was only one border patrol stop in eastern California. The border wall is very close at this point. I passed the sand dunes just west of Yuma and saw the dune buggies racing around in the sand hills. It looked like a lot of fun on a Sunday afternoon. There were a lot of RV's on the roadways today pulling an extra trailer loaded with ATV's. fun,fun I pulled into Tucson at sunset. Beautiful night. Tomorrow, on to Texas.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
I made it. I'm in San Diego. Right now. As we speak. The drive from Yuma to San Diego was short, about three hours. I started at sea level, climbed to 4,000 feet crossing the mountains and then back to sea level. I was able to take the right turn off from the 8 onto Sunset Cliffs Drive in Ocean Beach and find my destination on Cape May Avenue. I will be here for a week before I start my drive back east and I am not planning on doing a lot of driving while I am in town. The traffic is big city crazy and not to my liking. But, I need to step out of my comfort zone and do this. I shall. Starting tomorrow.
Monday, November 24, 2014
I-10 has been described as the loneliest highway in the U.S. The stretch of road through western Texas, New Mexico and into Arizona has the fewest cross roads of any highway in the system. After nearly two thousand miles of driving west between Lake City, Florida and Casa Grande, Arizona on the I-10 I turned onto interstate 8 which should bring me into San Diego. Along the way I stopped in Yuma for the night. The name Yuma conjures up thoughts of the old west. Set in the middle of the desert next to the California state line Yuma sits alone, yet offers the traveller and resident everything they need. Then and now. My stay is short. One night. Today I will drive parallel to the Mexican border. But not before I gas up the car. You never know. I don't want to be caught short on the highway. Onward to SD.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
Van Horn has a population of about twenty five hundred. That's hundred, not thousand. And it sits by itself, along I-10, miles from anywhere. I found this out from the woman who worked at the front desk in the motel where I was staying. She agreed that there wasn't much to do there and it was the kind of town where the young people grew up and left for a while and later in life, they may return. I think it takes courage, strength and guts to live there--so far from everywhere. That's just my opinion, but then again, I grew up near a large city. Maybe there is true peace here. Certainly no distractions. I topped off the gas tank and proceeded to drive toward El Paso and onward through Las Cruces, New Mexico until I reached my destination of Tucson, Arizona. This trip was done entirely in daylight hours and I was able to see the terrain clearly. The table top mountains of the previous day had given way to the jagged peaks of the mountains I saw today. The mountains were always in the distance, never close up. This looked like cattle drive country. There was cactus and sagebrush and lots of sand. The land was flat with the mountains in the distance breaking up the landscape. All three (3!) of the cities I drove through today had public art attached to the highway supports. I call it public art though some might say it is just decorative handiwork. It is there for the public to see and enjoy. The theme is southwest desert with stylized lizards, swirl patterns (the wind?) and native designs in turquoise and earth tones. Very nicely done. I appreciate it. I have been to Tucson before and I am looking forward to seeing it again.
I stayed in San Antonio for two days. I had a very nice time visiting with family. Time to go and I know I am traveling farther west on I-10 than I have ever travelled. The rolling hills through the Fredericksburg area are lovely to view. The vegetation is low and very green. I am hoping that this topography will last a longer time and distance but it slowly gives way to the wider expanse of flat desert conditions that will take me into west Texas and further into New Mexico and Arizona. My destination for the night is Van Horn, Texas. For some reason I was thinking my drive was going to be about five and a half hours but I was mistaken. The distance covered between these two points is about 450 miles so at that rate I would have to drive 90 mph to accomplish that time schedule. I didn't, of course, but I must say it was easy to hit 80 mph (the posted speed) without any trouble. The driving was fine with just minor buffeting from the wind but the loneliness was creeping in since vehicles were few and far between. I dared not think what would happen if I had car trouble out here. I had a full tank of gas in the car when I left San Antonio and I made sure to stop in Fort Stockton to refuel when the gauge started to dip below half. I had another 120 miles to go at that point and I really didn't care to "chance" it. I have never driven through a total radio dead zone before but now I was in one. I popped in some music to keep me company. The road was very straight and level and the desert terrain stretched on forever (or as far as I could see). There is beauty in starkness. There is also an overwhelming feeling of smallness. For all the times I think I am in control of whatever I am doing at the moment, I now feel like a very tiny part of something. Very tiny, indeed. As daylight gave way to darkness I began to see lights dotting the landscape. I was not alone out here. In daylight, although I could see everything, I saw nothing. I was by myself (or so I thought). But at night I could see lights and movement and this gave me comfort. I saw only the road before me, the lights beside me and the stars above me. And I was comforted. And contented. I was a part of something. There was beauty in the light and comfort in the dark. Both were welcome.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Throughout Texas there is a chain of stores that operate along the highway called Buc-ee's. They are a gas station/convenience store like none I have ever seen. They are huge; about the size of a large grocery store. As I travelled along I-10 between Houston and San Antonio I stopped at the Buc-ee's near Luling, Texas. I have been here once before and I know what to expect. The store has every food item you could possibly want. There is a large sandwich counter where all the sandwiches are made fresh and to your specific order. If you want a pulled pork sandwich, there is a counter for that. Gourmet fudge? Got it! Ice cream and dipping' dots? Got that, too! Massive selection of cold drinks lined up in a larger than life wall refrigerator. ummmmm...carmel corn. Everything you want is here. The place is very busy and I'm thinking the local people support the store as much as the highway travelers. Gas up, fill up (your tummy) and go. That's what I say. But before you go, please admire the brightly painted oil barrel animal sculptures adorning the indoor entryway. A must see place to be. See ya' next time. Now, on to San Antonio.
Docked in the Houston shipping canal across from the San Jacinto war memorial lies the battleship USS TEXAS. This ship was in service during both WWI and WWII. It was built in 1912 and is of the dreadnaught classification. If you like exploring old battleships, this one is for you. You can climb the narrow stairways to the gun turrets and descend steep stairwells to see the small city of rooms along the maze-like corridors. Below deck you can get a glimpse of what life was like for the sailors. The commissary, sick bay, laundry, eating facilities for both enlisted men and officers, chart room, radio room, library and even the soda shop look as though they had been untouched for decades. Today a large group of school kids are visiting the ship and the stair wells and gun turrets are quite congested. I believe I saw several kids riding on the canon barrels and I know I heard "Get down from there!" followed by "Where's (fill in the blank)?" spoken LOUDLY by the chaperones. Busy times! Lots of fun. All in all, I'm glad I stopped and took the tour. Ongoing restoration efforts are keeping the century old ship afloat and available for all of us to see a part of our nations history. Please come visit.
Friday, November 21, 2014
I have seen the exit sign many times along the highway on my way to Houston that directs people to the San Jacinto war memorial. The memorial is located on the site of the definitive battle for independence by the Texans from the Mexican government fought in 1836. It is here that the Mexican general Santa Ana was defeated by the much smaller band of soldiers lead by Samuel Houston. Today is the day I decide to stop and see this memorial. There are three parts to the site visit that are covered in the admission price. This is not a part of the National Parks service so no discount admissions apply here. It is run by the state of Texas. The museum and theater cover the first floor. The movie gives a full explanation of the events leading up to the battle and the ensuing victory on behalf of the Texan army. Very good overview! The museum is filled with artifacts from the battle and enough pictures, hand written letters and military equipment/soldier uniforms to give the visitor a good picture of what went on during that eventful day. An elevator ride takes you to the observation tower high above the battlefield and provides a very good opportunity to see the lay of the land as well as a very good view of the Houston area. There are nature paths that surround the memorial and picnic facilities, as well. This memorial site is well worth the stop. Now heres the thing. If you are driving west on I-10 and you get off the highway at the appropriate exit you will drive approximately 21 miles to the site over smaller state roads, across expansive bridges and through small town streets until you come to Independence Boulevard and the monument. However, on the way back to I-10 (as I found out by asking an attendant for directions back to the main highway) I was told all I needed to do was drive about two blocks, get on the ferry and after leaving the ferry I would be within a mile of the I-10 entrance. It's a straight shot to the highway. Hmmmmm... What!! How did I not know this before?? A SHORTCUT!! Oh, my. The laugh is on me. hahaha Go anyway. Go anyway you can. It's worth it.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
I left the Infinity Science Center in the middle of the afternoon and drove west through Louisiana toward Texas. (side note: The gas prices are cheaper in the eastern half of the state than they are in the western half of the the state with Baton Rouge being the central dividing line. So, gas up early if you are planning on driving west or hold off if you are going east). Between Baton Rouge and Lafayette is the 22 mile long bridge that crosses the bayou in that area of lower Louisiana. Nice ride, lower speed limits and a big ol' drop off from the bridge to the swamp below. As I drive over the bridge today the lowering sun is blinding and the wind shield visor has a hard time holding back the rays. I bear with it as the sun seems to be lowering quickly. I have a local radio station playing zydeco music mixed with local news and community banter and as the sun sets and the zydeco music fades and the radio picks up the tejano music, I know I am leaving Louisiana behind and entering Texas. Beaumont is 25 miles down the road and a bed awaits me there.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Many times during my travels along I-10 I have seen the highway sign announcing the John C. Stennis Space Center. It is located in the vicinity of the Mississippi welcome center at the first rest stop area along the western border of the state. Although I have stopped at the welcome center a number of times I have never taken the time to tour the facility. This is the day that I decided to make that stop and take that tour. The visit is broken into two parts--the information center and the bus tour. I started at the information center, named Infinity, and viewed the exhibits which pertained to the history of man's explorations. Starting with man's first exploration of his immediate environment to the voyages to new territories and global discoveries and ending with space travel and moon missions, each exhibit was well done entertaining and informative. There is a very large children's interactive room and the entire facility, including the outside exhibits, walkways and picnic area, is well suited for school groups. The forty minute bus tour took us to the government facility a mile or so away and we were able to ride around the secured area and see the test areas where rocket engines are put through pre-launch testing. All of the rocket engines for the NASA space program are tested here before being installed in the rockets that are launched from Cape Canaveral. There are a number of different launch/test pads at this site and all are enormous structures. The viewing stands and parking lots are set back a substantial distance from the launch pads because of the burning heat generated from the engines. According to the guide, wildlife in the area sense the impending tests and scatter prior to the blast. (No wildlife was injured or destroyed in the testing of this engine!) About a half hour after the testing is over the wildlife returns to the area and all is well as life goes on. If you are ever traveling along I-10 at the western border and care to take an informative rest break, I suggest you stop here. I did. And I'm glad I did.
I woke up to the sounds of church bells. It isn't Sunday but I am staying across the street from a lovely church with a tall steeple and this church plays hymns at the top of the hour. So peaceful! Every time I hear church hymns I start to sing the words to the songs. Having grown up in the church gives me a jump start in hymnology. I can't help breaking into song. It's just in me and I love it. My drive today is a simple one. Just drive west on I-10 from Mobile to Beaumont. The drive should take about five hours. I have one planned sightseeing trip along the way and that's about it. So, off I go.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
I have traveled I-10 many times over the years. It started some time back with road trips between Mississippi and Florida. I became very familiar with the 296 mile stretch of highway along the panhandle between the western state border and the southern turn onto I-75. The route is flat. Live oak trees line the highway. This is a road filled with pockets of radio silence. I come prepared with CD's and occasionally cassettes (yes, my car is equipped for both!) but I also enjoy catching the small town local radio stations I pick up, though fleetingly, along the way. The programs are filled with local news, primarily the actions of the local high school athletic teams, and upcoming events such as pot luck dinners and swap meets. I think of the closeness of the communities and the feeling of belonging. I sometimes 'wish I were there'. Today as I turn onto I-10 I know I am heading straight into a brewing storm. A major cold front is coming preceded by a storm front. It is coming in from the west and I know it is better to just drive straight through it than pull over and wait it out. Visibility became poor and the hazard lights came not. The speed dropped to 30 mpg and I assumed the white-knuckler grasp onto the steering wheel. Staying in the far right lane I kept an eye on the white painted line marking the outer edge of the road and just held on. I could see the sky getting lighter in the distance and I literally just road out the storm. Not fun, at all. The rest of the drive across the panhandle was rather uneventful, thankfully. I stopped for gas at the same truck stop outside of Marianna that I have been to every time I travel this route. After gassing up the car I went next door to the fast food restaurant for some simple road food. That's road food for me but for people who live in the area it is a local dine-in restaurant. Families, couples and workers were all taking the time to sit and enjoy their meals. Interestingly enough, if you visit the same places over a period of time, you begin to recognize people you have seen in the past. Even if you don't really know them, it feels like you do. Vicky took my order. I've seen her before. She is in her late 20's or early 30's and has braces on her teeth. For some reason I tend to focus on people with braces partially because I had braces at one time and I know what they are going through. Also, adults with braces impress me because they have made a conscience decision to correct a situation that may have been bypassed in their teen years. I noticed Vicky was in the rubber band phase of treatment. I had asked her about a food item and she had to admit she had never tried the item due to her braces. She quietly laughed. She is so sweet! I asked her how long she has had her braces and she said thirty months. Not ABOUT thirty months but exactly thirty months. She knew. The clock was ticking! She had had some trouble straightening her teeth but she was in the home stretch. We joked about occasionally breaking the rubber bands and the surprising snap they make. Ouch, the memories. I left the restaurant thinking of Vicky and suspected we would meet again someday, with or without braces. Go Vicky! I drove on toward Mobile, my destination for the night. Just before leaving Florida I passed by Pensacola. It is known for it's naval base, among other things. Now highway infrastructure may not be all that special with the basic concrete grey color scheme built into the overpasses but every once in a while you pass a town that treats the driver to a visual art gallery display in unexpected places. Pensacola is one such city. The overpass columns are painted a light cream color and emblazoned on the columns are mini sculptures of six jets in the flying formation. The jets fan out across the columns and give them character. Very nice. I appreciate that. Thanks Pensacola. Onward.
Monday, November 17, 2014
I left Venice, Florida this morning. Perfect driving weather. I drove north on I-75 on my way to Lake City. My actual destination was the intersection of I-75 and I-10, just north of this city but I know when I see the highway sign for Lake City that I am close to my destination. This drive usually takes about three hours but today it took longer going around the Tampa area because a tractor trailer truck had dumped a load of steel beams on the highway and northbound traffic was basically at a stand still. I popped a Christmas music cd into the dashboard player and let it run two cycles while I crawled along with the traffic. Very soothing, considering. After that...smooth sailing. The reason I mentioned Lake City earlier is because there is a log cabin sales lot along the highway near exit 427 and several model homes are on display. I like the modern rustic look of the buildings. I can just picture these cabins moved onto private lots, perhaps in the woods near a stream or in the mountains with a view of a valley. Anyway, I always look forward to seeing these log cabins as I drive by. Maybe someday I will stop and see for myself what the interiors look like. But today I must press ahead. I have "miles to go before I sleep" (thanks, Robert) and I keep driving.
I really like to drive and I drive a lot. Driving around town does nothing for me but give me an open road and I'm gone. Just gone. I've always been this way. I may have been born in the dead of winter on a snowy, freezing day but I do believe I was born with a heavy dose of spring fever in my blood. I have this urge to keep moving and driving my car plays a major role in how I move. Perhaps it is my desire to see what is around the curve in the road or what lies just over the next hill. Maybe it is my restless spirit. I don't know. But I do know I like to drive. So, this blog is all about my travels and my thoughts on what I see. Read on and enjoy.