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Posts tagged Travel

A Houseless Life

72  bar rises 29.73  0mph WNW dew-point 62    Summer, pleasant

Waxing Crescent of the Thunder Moon

“It is not how old you are, but how you are old.” – Jules Renard

Elizabeth Odegard has West Nile virus.  She’s lethargic, stays in bed.  Not much to do, but support your body and wait it out.  Mark thinks she may have gotten it in Thailand when they stayed on a houseboat.  Mark has the most unusual current lifestyle among the Woollies.  He and Elizabeth, then real estate agents, sold his house in Marine of St. Croix, pooled their retirement funds and began living a houseless life.

He often refers to himself as homeless, but what he actually is houseless.   His home is the Twin Cities and he’s rooted here.  He and Elizabeth went to Hawai’i three years ago and got the Cambridge certification in teaching English as a second language.  With that credential and a cash flow generated from investments (managed by Scott Simpson) they have moved from spot to spot:  Buenos Aires, Peru, Shanghai, Bangkok sprinkled with returns home.  Here they housesit for folks they know.

They leave for France later on this summer, where they will spend time with Mark’s brother and his family before heading off Morocco or Turkey or Chile.  Sometimes they work, sometimes one does and the other doesn’t.  It’s been all ESL.  Mark worked on a healthy sexuality exhibit in Thailand, for example.  They ponder a commitment in Japan, where the English language jobs require a year contract.  Most of their stints have been four months or less.

We talk about travel often at the Woollies.  We are a well-traveled group.  Paul and Sarah made a round the world trip early in their marriage.  Paul jets off to Africa, Syria and Cuba now and then.  Frank is in Ireland right now for the eight or ninth time.  Bill spent over a year in Japan building a nuclear power plant.  Tom travels the US every week.  Charlie Haislet and Barbara cruise in Europe, go to Africa now and again.  Stefan has been many places.

Last night Stefan talked about a childhood trip to Egypt.  “It made me want to be an architect.  Karnak.  With those great pillars shaved back and sloping upward.  And the details on the gate.”

We are atypical as a group in so many ways:  level of education, diversity of employment, life paths dominated by values, intimacy among men that has lasted over two decades.  Our level of income is high.  We lead lives of privilege in the most powerful country the world has ever seen.


63  bar rises 29.95  0mph NNE  dew-point 54  Summer, night and cool

                           Waning Gibbous Flower Moon

Back home.  The corn is past knee high; the garlic has finished its growth; the tomato plants that began from heritage seeds have fruit; the beans have begun to bush out and the onions have sky rocketed.  A wonderful pastel copper/brown bearded iris has bloomed and the Siberian iris have thrown up dark blue flags all over the garden.  There is, of course, the occasional weed, but that’s Monday’s task.  Perhaps Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s, too.

Driving as I did, a bit over 3,000 miles, movement dominates.  Even in Montgomery I drove to Maxwell four times, an equal number of times out for meals.  In the car.  Out of the car.  Stop for gas.  Now the movement slows down.  A walk in the garden.  Up and down stairs.  To the refrigerator. 

Here Kate welcomes me.  At the various motels slightly aware receptionists said how can i help you.  Here I get a hug, a meal, a smile.  An “I missed you.”  “Me, too.”  The dogs jump up and down, lean against my leg.  This is a place I know and where I am known.     

Swollen Muddy And Fast

90  Sunny, hazy   Airquality alert in Nashville.  Suggested:  Limit trips.

The deep south is close.  Tennessee was one of the upper slave holding states at the beginning of the civil war and did not secede with the lower south states of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and tomorrow’s destination, Alabama.  

Murfeesboro, Tennessee has the Stones River Civil War Battlefield. 

Today’s journey was and is hot.  As the road pushed further into southern Illinois, there were signs for college majors in coal mining.  Carbondale, home of Southern Illinois University was in the vicinity.  These are also unglaciated limestone hills sitting atop layers of plant life from the Carboniferous, now black and concentrated into veins of coal.  Heat and coal and the underground, the cthonic realms go together.

The Ohio river, the mighty Ohio, flexed its muscles today, swollen muddy and fast.  It was over its banks and looked like it would get higher.  This is a big river and where it feeds into the Mississippi multiplies the river we call the Father of Waters. 

Kentucky, which never seceded and therefore allowed Union access to the south side of the Ohio, continues, in the main, the rolling limestone hills in southern Illinois.  

Paducah, home of the National Quilter’s Museum and the only place in the US creating nuclear fuel for electricity generation from out of date Russian weapons (literally swords into plowshare), is not far from the bridge over the Ohio.

At Russert’s, a woman named Keeum (Kim) took mah ordah.  Cahtfeesh.  She was real nice.  She gave me a to go order of iced tea.  Good food.  Boy, the folks must like it down here, it’s roly polyville.

Nashville had a freeway down, but there was a quick way around the bottle neck and I found it.  Cities do not draw me in as they once did.  I find myself more interested in the quiet, secluded setting and Murfeesboro, though a city, does not intrude too much out here near the Stones River Battlefield.  I’ll go there in the morning, then scoot on down to Prattville and the Plantation Bed and Breakfast.

I finished a 24 lecture course on the American Revolution in the 11 plus hours I drove yesterday.  A nice setup for the 48 lecture course I began today on the Civil War.  Fits right in with the trip.

A Summer Meander

                      67 bar steady  29.75  2mph NW  dew-point 53  Beltane, sunny

                                           Waxing Gibbous Flower Moon   

On the road again.  In under an hour I’m off to hotter, wetter, more flooded climes.  Traveling in the summer has many thing going against it:  high gas prices (this time, Yikes!), crowds, heat and stormy weather.   The shoulder seasons are optimal for travel:  March-May and September-October.  Summer does have two things going for it.  Life slows down a bit and school is out.

The two teacher family of Jon and Jen planned their kids so the births would occur at or near the end of the school year.  That put Gabe’s bris in June.  The Ellis cousin reunions are always in July.   Joseph’s OTS graduation could have been at another time, but it isn’t.  All this means three trips during less than optimal travel conditions.  The destination is the key, though I try to make the journey count, too.

Sometime in the next year or two I plan a third circle tour of Lake Superior.  This is nice to do in October, resorts have closed and crowds are minimal.  The air is cool and in the more southerly parts of the trip autumn provides great background color.  Also, I’ve decided on a dedicated trip to Gettysburg and a couple of the other battlefields I’ve not seen, like Bull Run.  This will be a fall trip as well.

Today though is for the south, a drop almost straight south, a bit of veer to the east, ending very close to the Gulf of Mexico.  Mobile is the site of a naval engagement during the Civil War, the Battle of Mobile Bay.  The way I have it paced I’ll take two days plus to get to Prattville where I stay at the Plantation Bed and Breakfast. 

After that, don’t know.  I may wander a bit through Mississippi, perhaps stop in New Madrid, Mo. again, epicenter of the largest earthquake in U.S. history.  It flattened buildings in St. Louis and was felt as far away as Boston.  Church bells rang throughout the center of the country.  Part of the fun of this kind of trip is the unknown destination, the freedom to meander. 

BYW  The Meander, a notoriously winding river, ran from the Turkish (then Greek) countryside near Ephesus to the Aegean.

Sugar Cream Pie, Cornbread, Grits and Barbecue

Finished the movie Gettysburg.  Sad, tragic.  A battle in a war with few true winners.  The Great Courses lectures on the American Revolution and the Civil War came a few days ago and they will occupy the bulk of my listening on the way to Maxwell AFB and back. 

As I’ve written here before, summer is the season of American history and culture for me.  It starts off with Memorial Day  and the Indianapolis 500.  Reaches a high point on July 4th, then slowly winds down toward Labor Day when my inner scholar turns more toward the arts, philosophy and religion.  The activist in me this year will work with Sierra Club to steer local and national races in a way more compatible with a healthy earth for a healthy humanity.

Joseph’s commissioning ceremony fits in well with my American season.  I’m sure it will brim over with American traditions.  The south itself carries a special part of American history and his completion of OTS in the south seems somehow appropriate.  I enjoy traveling there and look forward to sugar cream pie, cornbread, grits and barbecue.

Ancientrails will continue on the road.  It may be spotty depending on the availability of wireless connections, but we’ll see.  I’ll write each day as I do now and I’ll post when I can.  At some point soon I’ll write the first posting from south of the Mason-Dixon line.  Ya’ll come.  Ya’ hear?


                             65  bar rises 29.73  2mph WSW dew-point 49  Beltane, sunny

                                                       Waxing Gibbous Flower Moon

The places I have visited stay with me, sometimes like ghosts, haunting my dreams and intruding on waking life.  Angkor.   Singapore.  Bangkok.  Ephesus.  Delphi.  Santorini.  Rome.  Pompeii.  Venice.  Florence.  Crete.  Delos.  Istanbul.  Bogota.  Cartagena.  Mexico City.  Merida.  Oaxaca. Vienna.  Salzburg.  Paris.  London.  Hawarden.  Anglesey.  Conwy.  Edinburgh.  Bath.  Cities and towns, states and countrysides in the US and Canada too many to name.

Angkor drapes vines over me, inserts vast tree roots into my memories while the howler monkeys and the cicada scream.  It’s hot and it doesn’t let up, just gets hotter, too hot in the midday.  The stone rises and rises, carved by artists capable of rendering the delicate and ephemeral in stone.  The astronomical, astrological, theological pandemonium of it all causes reverberations deep in my soul, beyond my Self and down into my links with the collective unconscious.  I was there when the stone masons cut the block, shaped Vishnu turning the great turtle in the sea of milk.  My hand carved the apsara and fitted stones into the great western gate of Angkor Wat.

Delphi sends music to me, pan-pipes and Apollo’s lute.  The cedar scented sacred way winds it way up the side of Mt. Parnassus past the Athenian treasury, up to the Temple of Apollo where the Delphic Oracle met questioners and answered their questions with questions deep in its subterranean precincts.  Here, too, is the omphalos stone, the center of the world.  The Castalian spring.  All round Mt. Parnassus are echoes of divinity, cries from the Pythian Games, honoring Apollo’s defeat of the cthonic serpent Python, still resound throughout the rocky hills.  The Delphi Oracle still speaks today and she says, “Beware, Stranger, of forgetting your past for in it lie secrets to your future.  Without your past you will wander the earth always an infant in your understanding.”

Merida and the Casa del Balam, house of the jaguar, bring heat, heat so intense that as the afternoon rains came there was no relief, only a suffocating rise in humidity.  To escape the locals do much of their business in pre-dawn and dawn hours, sitting together in the main park around the confidenitales, small curved benches made so dating couples could sit beside each other, yet not touch.  Here Mayan women sell blood oranges in front of the Cathedral, their roots at Chichen Itza and Tikal, not Jerusalem or Rome. 

Hawarden resonates with my genetic past.  On the trains in North Wales most of the people looked like they could be my cousin short, thin, dark eyes and hair.  The town with its residential library (where I stayed) and its brick and stone streets and buildings had Victorian written in its architecture, public and private.  It also had a bookish quality, an Oxford don would not have felt out of place.  The church graveyard, just behind St. Deniol’s Library, had slate markers covered with moss and huge trees hanging heavy bows over the graves.  Behind it the stone building of St. Deniol’s parish church sat calm and iconic.

There are others, many others, but these places live within me, never absent.  They are the great gift of travel and one I cherish.

The Wild Man

71  bar steady  29.66  1pmh ENE dew-point 49  Beltane, sunny and warm

                 First Quarter of the Flower Moon

We have had only 3 days above 80 this year.  The weather stays cool, which is fine, but the plants don’t like it.  They grow slowly.

Tonight is the Wild Man meeting of the Woolly Mammoths at Charlie Haislet’s pent-house condo overlooking downtown Minneapolis.  Not exactly the abode of a wild man.  Still, most of us would have trouble with it, too.  

This week feels compressed since I leave on Saturday for Maxwell AFB and Gettysburg.  It means I’m on the kind of work attitude I get into before a trip.  This time it will last a week.

Thankfully this time I head out on Hwy 94 not 35.  I will skirt Chicago by heading down the middle of Illinois, then on south, into the heat.  I can only hope that the hot weather will subside, at least a bit, before I get into Tennessee.

Trees and Thermonuclear Weapons

65  bar steep rise 29.43  0mph SSE  dew-point 54   Beltane, cloudy and cool

                 Waxing Crescent of the Flower Moon

On the way out to Denver

The Leid Conference Center at the Arbor Day Foundation farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska.

The first night I spent at this conference center.  Here is the main entry hall:


All round this beautiful entrance area were quotes written on the borders.   Here a few of them: 

Holy Mother Earth, the trees and all nature are witness to our thoughts and deeds.  Winnebago Nation

The clearest way into the universe is through the forest and wilderness.  John Muir

Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the heavens.  Rabin

Arbor Day began in Nebraska and the man who started it, J. Sterling Morton, donated his farm as a park and research facility.  The conference center is set on it.

This place gave me a sense of peace, a feeling of having come home.  I get that same sense in Hawai’i and here in Andover.  A place dedicated to trees is an Ent temple, as this lovely entrance might actually be.  A nice place to unwind.  Good food, too.


I also visited, the next day, the SAC museum outside of Omaha.


This is a Titan rocket parked outside the entrance to this museum related to the old Strategic Air Command.  It has a collection of planes and NASA related rockets and vehicles that will  entrance you if you’re into this kind of thing.  Which I am.  I visited this time to find a present for Joseph for his graduation from OTS on June 18th.  I found an Air Force insignia photo frame with place for two shots and a history of the AWACS plane.  If he gets an air assignment as an air battle manager, this is the plane he will use as a flying command center.

Here’s an interior shot.  The really big plane in the background is a B-36, the largest bomber ever made by the US.  It never dropped a bomb.


In case you thought the anti-war guy got submerged in all this military display, here is a shot that sobered me up.


This is a Mark-36 Thermonuclear (Hydrogen) bomb.  It chilled me to the bone just to be near it.  It is empty, by the way.

Their Lawlessness Got out of Hand

57  bar steep fall 29.94  7mph  ENE dew-point 52  Beltane, cloudy and cool

                       Last Quarter of the Hare Moon

Can this possibly mean what it says?  “While cities are hot spots for global warming, study finds people in them emit fewer gases.”  Washington Post, 5/29/2008   In this same vein I watched part of a National Geographic Program on an outlaw biker gang, the Mongols.  The narrator made this surprising statement, “Their lawlessness got out of hand.”  Hmmm.

When I travel by car, I spend more time picking reading material, movies and audiobooks than I do clothing.  This will not surprise some of you who know my fashion sense, late sixties college student unregenerate, yet it always surprises me. 

Each trip has a theme.  Don’t know when that started, but it helps me make decisions on the road and to deepen the experience.  This trip to Denver, in addition to the obvious theme of tribal initiation (the bris), nature writing and trees will occupy my time.  Not hard to figure out where this came from.

My first nights stay is at the Arbor Day Foundation in Nebraska City, Nebraska.  I’m taking along a book I bought awhile back called Arboretum America.  It tells the story of trees in the history of the US.  Also a book of nature writing.

Air Conditioning

33 bar steep fall 29.69  7 mph NE dewpoint 32  Spring

                Waxing Crescent Moon of Growing

Just got a call from the Sierra Club inviting me to my own party.  I said, “OK.”

The rain turned to part snow around 4:50PM and looks like it’s mostly snow now.  As soon as the temps drop, it will transition to full snow and if it comes up this rate, it will accumulate.

Checked out airfare to Dallas/Ft. Worth in July.  Only for family would I go to Dallas/Ft. Worth and only for a family reunion would I go in July.  Once, long ago, I took the train from Indiana to Ft. Worth where my Dad’s brother, Charles, lived.  On the way I got molested while taking pictures with my Brownie camera, but I said, “Don’t do that.” to the guy who put his hand between my legs and he went away.  It was not a big deal then or now.

I hit Ft. Worth just as the temperature racked up 107.  I didn’t know the temperatures in the world really got that hot.  I knew it theoretically, but empirically?  No way.   This would have 1956/7 and I’d only experienced air conditioning on rare occasions.  I remember repeating after I got back:  I went from an air-conditioned train, to an air-conditioned car, to an air-conditioned house.  This was remarkable.

What the temps will be like this time I have no idea, but air-conditioning has gone from a comment-worthy rarity to a personal necessity.  I have no doubt we’ll be well cooled. 

That weather seems a long way from the winds today, which hit 34 at 2:10pm, and the driving snow that builds up on our lawn as I write this.

October 2018
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