Archive for June 2018

DELAY . . .

June 29, 2018

Sorry, dear Everyone.  I am home,  wonderful home,  but experienced an abrupt surprising health issue myself. It’s putting normal life on hold,  including writing new posts. 

God willing,  I  will be able to act normal again soon.

 

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TRYING TO LEAVE THE SOUTH BEHIND

June 22, 2018

 

I’ve left the beach behind,  as I said  in the last post, I’ve left some nice new acquaintances behind,  I’ve left unfinished business behind –  and I’ve left my sister behind . . . .

But so far the leaving  hasn’t been easy.  I think this was the worst day of driving I’ve had in my long years of driving.     In all my travel memories,  no other day has come close.

blue car blues

This is a posting that is just for making a record for The Spruce Tunnel –  just so I can remember . . . .  Might not concern anyone else – unless you drive around the country.

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Yesterday I drove through bands of very severe thunderstorms. Tropical, windy, can’t- see-a-thing monsoons.     20 to 30 minutes long,  then nothing,  then another surprisingly severe band of thunder and lightning and heavy downpours.  Three big storms that were hard to drive through, and one pretty bad thundershower tacked on at the end.

As I drove out of each storm,  the view of them through my rearview mirror was pretty frightening!

It was all right.  I’m a seasoned traveler.  Thunderstorms happen.   Just not four really challenging ones in the same afternoon.   After the long day of intermittent white knuckle driving,  I was ready for a night’s rest.

And then today happened.  

With courage and confidence  this morning I was ready to tackle,  once again,  Atlanta traffic on my way home.

Two hours before Atlanta I hit the beginning of a traffic jam that lasted for seven hours and for two states.  Most of my day was spent in bumper to bumper multi-lane traffic at 5 – 10 m.p.h.    Of course I didn’t know it was going to last that long, and indeed just before the city itself  traffic speeded up — a bit.   But then it slowed down again to almost no forward movement.

Slowly moving parking lots

It was like being in among two giant parking lots,  six or more lanes wide, one “parking lot”  facing one direction;,  the other, the other direction.  Barely perceptible movement.  It was disorienting.  Parking lots shouldn’t “move,”  but these did move, in slow motion.

Two hours to drive through Atlanta.    And then came the traffic jam just north of Atlanta.    As all the cars crept along, at slower than walking speeds,   I kept an eye out for just what was causing this slowdown.   All the way to Tennessee I saw nothing.  No construction,  no crashes,  not even any cars parked along the side of the road.

Now,  when you creep along slowly forward like this,   it feels far more dangerous.  And actually is,  because there are sudden stops . . .  and at those slow speeds it’s hard to tell when brake lights mean slower or STOP quickly –  and it cascades down along the line of cars.      And there are incessant lane changes by people who think “the grass is greener in the other lane.”

I thought the turn onto I-24 would be better, but our traffic just merged into a  “thicker,”  slower traffic jam.   There was no discernible cause.    There were a lot more semis in this one.

Now,  I-24 goes through some very beautiful scenery.   The interstate is cut right through the Smokies, and you feel as though you are right in the mountains,  with the trees and the ten-story  rock cuts creating dark tunnels to drive through.   If you ever drive there in October,   the oranges and yellows and reds are so glorious and so brilliant that you’ll feel you need sunglasses just for the fall colors!

Cotton-Ball Storms

But  to my seven-hour traffic jam at 5 – 10 m.p.h.,   Mother Nature added more intermittent  monsoon downpours,  so heavy that at times it felt like I was driving through a cotton ball.     In these storms when the rain and mist is so heavy  I usually follow behind the shadowy bulk of a semi truck,  using his taillights as a guide.    Today,  the shadowy bulk was just about hidden in the heavy rain,  and the taillights were very dim.

We were driving pretty slow to begin with, but I discovered a hidden danger to my method –  the semi I was following had been making a lane change,  unseeable to me – and as I followed him,  I left my own lane –  narrowly missing a car on my side.  Not too narrowly,  but enough to scare me.

As I said,  at really slow speeds there are reasons to be even more careful – and alert – and tense.

The  tension seemed permanent in me today.

clouds in the smokies

I hope I remember that a rainstorm (thunderstorm)  in the Smokies is very beautiful and intriguing.  The thick white clouds appear as a white down-filled quilt rolled up lengthwise and draped across the dark mountains.   Sometimes it looked like pieces of the cloud had broken off and were lying on the road that we had to drive through.

We were headed west on I-24.   West:  right into the sun.   Some day I’ll tell you how the sun has changed over my many, many decades of life.   From the hot yellow summer sun of the Illinois prairie to . . .  the white-hot burning arc light of what we have now.   When the sun lowers in the sky,  that welding arc is blinding,  and the heat of it seems to radiate something within your skin;  not just like a sun shining on it but like you’re insides are being cooked.

(Scientists are measuring this increased radiation,  but now’s not the time to expand on their findings.   The Bible also says something “mysterious”  about the last days of this Age of the World:   “And power was given to the sun to scorch the earth . . .” )

There was something very scorching about the sun in my eyes today.

 

. . . . . beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep . . . .

Just when it looked like things were getting better,  no more rain,  faster traffic, and I was feeling the full fatigue of a nerve-wracking day,   the alarm clock in a suitcase in my back seat went off.

NO WAY should I try to reach my arm around and attempt to shut it off ( at 70 m.p.h.)   It would be physically impossible anyway.

After all,  count my blessings,  it really is a very small annoyance in light of the driving I had had to do.    The worst thing that could happen is I’d need a new battery.

But then,  after fifteen minutes . . .   I made a sudden turn into a little exit ramp and took care of the darn thing.   Much to the amusement of a young man who was putting his dog back into his car parked next to me.

The day didn’t end easily.    The billboard for my upcoming hotel said:  Take Exit 78B and turn Left at the light.    That was informative.   Except when I took the exit and stopped at the red light –  there were signs saying No Left Turn.

Well,  I found it.  I’m here.   I’m writing because I want to put this whole difficult trip behind me and never have to think about the drive again.

Never forget

Except I’ll  have a permanent daily reminder.    Sometime today someone dinged the door of my pretty little blue car with a “big” white scratch, probably from opening their door into mine.

I will always remember the day this happened. . . .

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I  want to be home.

ladder

I need time to think . . . and pray . . .   figure out what happened to me . . .  and rest with Him.

 

 

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Leaving a Brief Visit Behind

June 22, 2018

Come take a very brief visit to the ocean with me.

 

Well, this whole southern trip was long –  almost three times as long as I had expected.  That’s okay,  there was a lot to do.    What the brief visit was is this:

m beach

I don’t live anywhere near the ocean,  and I thought I wouldn’t even have time to go to the beach this time, except for Daughter, who lives  in the mountains,  and who managed a visit to see her aunt – and me –  and the ocean.   With Daughter’s encouragement,  we did manage a brief visit

Over the causeway –

down causeway 390

 

Then on to Merritt Island, to face the ocean.

1 surf

 

Sea shells on the sand   like stars in the sky –

1 shells like stars

 

It was a short visit to the beach, but we enjoyed the water, the surf,  the sounds,  the people,  and the little tiny dog that played in the surf.

Daughter wore her matching beach shoes –

1 shoes matching

And we had the famous pizza experience at Bizzarro’s on the beach –

1 pizza

Daughter’s was a thick spinach-stuffed pizza, mine was plain cheese — my life had become complex enough, so I just wanted “plain.”    The piece was so large I had to “shorten it” for the picture.    Bizzarro’s was opened many years ago by a New York family,  father and sons,  with a rapid-speaking incomprehensible Bronx accent.  But they do know how to make an excellent pizza!

Later we had a serious meal at Squid Lips –

squid and ocean

Very good sea food, but,  coming from the Far North,  I never understood the concept of eating  OUTDOORS in 95 degree heat,  which people smile and say, “Oh,  but there’s such a nice breeze from the ocean . . .”

squid inside

A95 degree breezes doesn’t make it any cooler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOT SO BEAUTIFUL SUNSETS

June 20, 2018

pink 400

 

A couple posts ago I showed you this little pink cloud in the  evening above my hotel down here in Florida . . . .

It caught my attention.    A sunset is attractive.  It’s  pretty.    It could turn us to thinking of higher things.    But it could also get us thinking about  “the sunset of a person’s life.”  The closing of a day/the closing of a life.

sunset

You could write poems about  a person’s life “drawing to a close.”   There are sweet songs,   some  bluegrass songs that I know,  about a man knowing his life is ending . . .   and looking back on his life.

Another song about an older man’s acknowledgment that he will be leaving this world soon,  you know?   And how he wishes his son would come to know Jesus so that they will be together when both die . . .  It’s called   “Father’s Table Grace, ” something like that.  His son was at the table and heard his father’s prayer –  and he changed his life around.  A happy ending.

But I am here in Florida, 1,500 miles from home because my very own young sister has apparently reached the end of her life.  It’s been a kind of difficult day.  I helped her move into a nursing home for hospice care.   We were optimistic and very grateful for the space.

But the reality is . . .  no,  the end of a life has some very ugly, painful,  terrible sensations to endure.

The surroundings can be nice,  but the person’s body is failing.

Not all sunsets are pretty.

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In Catholic evening prayers,  your nightly prayers,  you pray for “those who are dying today” and that God will be with them somehow in their last agony.    It used to be something I  “included”  in  my prayers.    I meant it,  but I didn’t understand it.

Up to now.

praying at sunset

TOKYO

June 16, 2018

I helped bomb Tokyo on the Doolittle raid of April 18, 1942.   I crashed in the China Sea.   I learned the full, deep meaning of the term ‘United Nations’*   from men and women whose language I couldn’t speak.   I watched a buddy of mine saw of my left leg.   And finally I got home to my wife after being flown, shipped, and carried around the world.

And those are the opening lines of  30 Seconds Over Tokyo.

They are simple, straightforward descriptive words of Captain Ted Lawson,  about 23 years old.   For that reason alone this short book is enjoyable to read,  but its also vitally,  crucially informative for us who live 70 or so years later.

Captain Lawson tells us from the viewpoint of a participant what the Doolittle Bombing Run over Tokyo looked like and felt like.  He takes us through the long months of preparation for an unknown mission, and then what it felt like to fly that mission,  and then the long period right after in which the young men were severely injured, aided by a series of Chinese (peasant)  villages in an island jungle where it was uncertain whether any would survive.

As Captain Lawson  crash landed and was being barely kept alive, he realized that  the actual mission, the reason for all the planning, expense,  training, putting young men in danger – that mission lasted only 30 seconds.   It was successful,  but so short!

This is a  book I read in honor of Memorial Day, and I remembered this was my first “adult”  book I ever read, at age 12.    Funny,  the book is so well written, so immediate and personally descriptive that I remember how I saw some of the same passages I was rereading  (*** years) later.        ( Well, I can’t believe THAT much time has passed ….)

Anyway,  I highly, highly recommend this little book to everyone.   Today,  Tokyo is as far away from us as the East is from the West,   but there is cordiality between our peoples,  and the first goal of our governments is to maintain true peace.

I’ll give you one last insight from Captain Lawson:

“You think it was worth while?”  one of the boys asked me before we went to sleep . . . .

I thought it over for a while, trying to see the whole thing objectively .   When I finally said that I did,  I meant it. . . .

I hadn’t thought much about our people  (American citizens)  before that night.  A fellow doesn’t volunteer for something like the Japan raid,  bomb the place, try to get away, lose a leg, and then say, “This is for the dear people.”    You just don’t say or openly feel those things.     You think a bout yourself most of the time;  whether you’ll have the guts enough to go through with the thing, and whether you’ll get away with it.

It’s only later, when you add up things and get the sum, that you think of the people.  And the cause.  And then you hope you’ve done both of them some good.

Captain Lawson,  of the Greatest Generation.

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.*   The ‘United Nations’ he is referring to is a concept,  a hope for peace a nd good will to all the nations of the earth.  The United Nations as we know it did not come into existence until a few years after this mission.

THINKING HIGHER

June 13, 2018

cloud

cloud formation above a Florida parking lot

 

Well, it helps to look up,  look above;  have your head in the clouds . . .   really,  above  the clouds,  beyond the clouds . . . .

I didn’t drive this far south for my own entertainment.  My sister who lives here is ill and will not get better.    She’s way too young for that . . . .  but that’s what’s been on my mind during these last few days of absence from The Spruce Tunnel.

There are a lot of things to consider, decisions to make,  conversations to have, comfort and companionship to give, actual physical help to give . . . .  And all  because a young women has a destination,  “above” those clouds.

Your perspective changes drastically when a lifespan is spoken of in terms of “weeks”  by a doctor who can’t help any more.   It will come to all of us some day, because most of us won’t die suddenly and instantly somehow,  we’ll die with time to think about the certainty of what’s coming.

All of us live here:

earth 390

I don’t mean on that blue-marble earth,  I mean — well, see that very thin blue outline in this NASA photo around the planet?  A very, very thin, solid blue line.

That thin blue line is a photo of our atmosphere.  That’s the whole extent of  all the miles of air we must live in to breathe.    That’s where we live our lives,  between the earth and the bottom part of that thin blue line.

That’s all we’ve got.   A thin blue line around the earth and one short lifespan is all we’re given.   It seems a little precarious.

It just does really  matter that we live with our “heads in the clouds.”  Above the clouds.  Beyond the clouds — all the way to the Creator of clouds, of earth, of us.

pink 400

a random pink cloud floating above my hotel

God thought each of us up,  loved the idea of us, then put us here for a very  short time to watch and see if we are making our way back to Him.    Today I can see for sure what I always suspected:   when you have only months or weeks to live,  your body is too busy working at staying alive and feeling miserable for your mind to be able to think about where you might be going,  and doing something about it.

My sister didn’t wait till the last minute –  that is a comfort to her and to me.    Comfort is going to be sorely needed . . . .

We’re all right now, together.   My sister is just going on ahead of me.

“Up above,”  as we commonly say.

 

 

 

YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE

June 7, 2018

          “Here” is where you are right now

           It’s your present Location.

           “There” is where you want to go

           It’s your desired destination.

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My Dad used to say that the streets of  his little city here on the Space Coast of Florida were poorly designed for so many people:  “They let in too many people in too short a time and they didn’t pay attention to the streets.   Some people got very rich with all this growth and look at the mess we got.”

 

“You can’t get There. . .”

Making a mundane shopping trip can seem like a complicated itinerary to some exotic destination.     There are two obstacles to straightforward travel around this little city:

traffic planning algorithmtraffic planning algorithm

 

One obstacle is the traffic  lanes around here.   Invariably,  going “There”   involves two or more left-hand turns in which you must maneuver within two or three permissible left-turn lanes and an array of multicolored traffic lights.

Well,  red, green, and yellow circles and arrows.   With four-minute cycles, I think.

There is a left left-turn lane;  a right left-turn lane,  and sometimes a center left-turn lane.  That means you have to know where you’ll need to be up ahead a half a block further on.    The lane you’re supposed to stay in is marked with white dotted lines –  when the dots aren’t too faded.

Everyone has his own idea of how wide an arc he must make as he turns –  and sometimes that leads to, not bumper-to-bumper,  but door-handle-to-door handle driving.

There are very narrow lanes for bicycles and motorcycles too — and not always at the edge of the street, but in between the left-turning lanes.     They have left and right left-turn lanes too.

So,  you’ve made your last left-hand turn.  You’d think your destination is actually “on the left.”    But, no . . .

Remember, “you can’t get There from Here” — at least not easily.

Usually, you have been forced to drive past your destination.   That’s the second obstacle.

The median between the two directions of traffic is rather wide and made of solid concrete, punctuated with little openings through which to make the necessary U-Turn, often ducking into another left-turn lane.

Once I found myself driving in a  lane marked  “U-Turn Lane”  for about a half a block.  I thought I was doing something wrong until I realized I’m the one who needs to make a U-Turn here eventually.

After a while I was able to make that left-hand turn,  but I think I would have gotten to that store faster on foot.

I took my sister to her doctor appointment yesterday.

She soothed my frustrations with our Dad’s words:  “. . .  Poorly designed roads . . .  they let too many people in . . .  Someone made a lot of money with all this growth!”

blue car

Which does not make driving around here any easier.

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Beware NASCAR  fans.  Daytona is like that too.

 

UNDERWATER ROADS

June 5, 2018

I received a Thousand-Mile warning today from Son.     More than a thousand miles, actually,  and it was a weather warning.   He probably knew that the Bluegrass Junction channel on Sirius/XM  does not announce the local weather,  no matter where your locale is,  so I was totally unaware of what I was driving into.

This –

Storm Clouds 390

Just beginning to drive into a huge dark tropical storm.     Up ahead of that white truck the storm clouds are dragging the ground.   There was lightning of all kinds, almost constant,  but the camera got this shot between some of the most spectacular thick bolts of lightning.   It was crackling up there.

Then I did drive right into it:

Storm Into 390

The rain really hit;   it got very dark and the wind gusts blew the car around.

The road disappeared under a solid surface of water.  You could not  see the lanes or the shoulder of the road.    Cars slowed down variously to  20 m.p.h.  or 15  or 10.   I put the emphasis on “variously”  because even though the cars were bunching up,  often less than a car length apart,  every driver seemed to have his own idea of how slow he should go.

Cars were stopping in the median or on the shoulder of the road, sometimes down in the grass but they all left their taillights on, so you couldn’t tell if you should follow them or not.       That was the dangerous part,  because, as I said,  the lanes were all under water.

I couldn’t take a picture of the worst of it.  “Two hands on the wheel,”  you know.

I think we drove like this for a half hour or so . . .  Eventually I found my exit and drove out of the worst of the storm.    Pried my hands off the steering wheel and found my motel –  my home for the next several days.

I am dry,  safe,  and “home.”   And there’s a steak house associated with this hotel.

I ate   (and drank)  myself into a coma and slept for the next three hours.

Okay –  I’m not known as a “drinker” —  but when you have this menu staring at you on your table:

Armadillo 200

. . .   and the cranberry, pineapple, and orange juice  sounds sooooo good and healthy,  it’s hard to resist.    That’s an armadillo in the upper left corner  with the light shining on his back;    a shelf decoration, I guess.

You don’t need to see my full ribs dinner,  but   —

Arma glass 360

—  I got the Armadillo Punch.

Two.

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Sweet dreams,  everyone, and me.    I’ll be busy tomorrow.

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NOT SO OPEN ROADS

June 4, 2018

 

Not-so-open . . .       Well,   here:

atlanta bridge390

I knew this was coming.    All through the richly green beautiful hills of Kentucky and Tennessee,  I was thinking about this challenge that lay ahead.

Atlanta.

Seven lanes in my direction,  with another six merging in on up ahead,

atlanta

This one is right after going under the bridge; you can see the merging lanes better.

Now,  usually the challenge is that the traffic is going  55,  60,  70 or more miles per hour and invariably you have to make  several cuts across lanes because they keep switching where your route is.   Big signs, very little opportunity to make the switches.

Today was better, so to speak.     Atlanta radio,  WSB,  750 AM, announced there was an accident, and the two right lanes were closed.    At first I thought,  “Oh, nuts, now there’ll  be severe slow downs and stops.”    And then I thought –  “slow downs and stops?”    Now all the cars will have time to see which lane they’re supposed to be merging into, time to plan the sudden left or right turn in front of another car,  and we can all do it at reasonable speeds –  say,  6 or 8 m.p.h.

It all worked out nicely.   I’ve never been so relaxed going through Atlanta.

And I had two rewards for making it through safely.

One was I got to drive right under the runways of Atlanta Hartfield –  I saw two huge passenger planes,  a few hundred feet above my head!     (Pretty exciting for a girl who grew up a half mile from O’Hare Air Base   (and even after it became  O’Hare International).

And then there was this little reward –

cattails 390

I hope this shows up real well.     After all that urban “alertness,”   it was a treat to be presented with this little clump of natural beauty.    It’s a little arrangement of cattails at the side of the parking lot where I’m staying tonight.

I’m pretty sure they weren’t planted there;  just so attractive and calming.

Stay grounded to Nature, everyone!     Take time to stop and smell . . .  photograph the cattails in your life!

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OPEN ROADS

June 4, 2018

 

“Back in the saddle again . . .”

 

Open Roads

 

Open Roads.

With a Hat Tip to Gene Autry,  I am back in my favorite “saddle” again –  enjoying the open roads!

And with Hat Tips to Cole Porter and Robert Fletcher,  I’m humming along with one of my favorite childhood songs:  “Don’t Fence Me In”  !

 

That’s all.  I’ll check  in later . . . .

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   But just one comment:    Funny thing –  I can pray here,  far from home, with confidence that God knows where I am.    Hundreds of miles from home – I am not lost to Him.     He knows my whereabouts,   the concerns I face of long-distance driving,  and all the other needs I have . . .  still have . . .

I’m  here in time and space,  but I can touch Eternity at any time.

Deo gratias.

 

 

TROPICAL STORM ALBERTO AND OTHER WET THINGS

June 2, 2018

I mentioned in the last post that Aberto was heading our way.     Tropical storm in the Far North!

We saw it coming down our street:

1 Albertoapproaches 311

First the dark clouds above the street;  then the clouds were across the street:

2 A,berto clouds across st 370

With the clouds came strong winds and big gusts of strong winds;   the air was saturated with moisture, a strange “foreign” kind of humidity.   The trees blew noisily, small things flew through the air.

And then the sheets of, rain!   We ran for cover.

3 Not fog, rain 380

That’s rain in our yard,  not, fog!     We have big thunderstorms sometimes,  but this was different, somehow.   A “tropical”  flavor to this storm,   Rather fun.

The  storm passed, but left debris behind.  Those oak flowers we have to deal with:

6 little ones

Masses of these little stringy things come down this time of year,  and they must be swept up, forming many fluffy piles –

7 Big Pile

Ever sweep a 70-foot two-lane driveway?

They come from here:

8 Oak from above

Of course.   Oak trees right above the driveway.

But after our storm they can down wet and sticky.   Unfortunately we had left three cars out in the driveway and they plastered our cars with their “flowers.”  —

4 Plastered

And to my alarm,  after I washed them off,  they had left stains on the finish of my car:

5 stains

Little indentations like the stains were eating into the finish.    When I bought the car, however,  I had a layer of Teflon put over the paint job.

Tip for you:   Always get that Teflon coating!    (I’ve traveled a lot of strange places and I’ve parked under a lot of strange things, including birds.   the Teflon has definitely saved my paint job.)

Son’s car was one of the victims of these wet, sticky oak flowers.

GTO right front first 380

When something like this is parked in your driveway,  it’s a pleasure to wash it!

GTO right side 380

I’m not sure if I was admiring my wash job or admiring  the car!

GTO left rear 370

That’s a (fairly)  new GTO.

Next to bright red cars, I like a gleaming black one.  So how did I end up with a powder blue shiny one?     I just thought it was very pretty.

Son and I did a lot of yard work this hot, humid week, and a lot more today.  We decided about 8:30 that it was time to eat . . .

9 Gas Leak

. . . and that was the sign on the door of the restaurant we had chosen.   Someone’s party had to be moved because of a GAS LEAK in the restaurant!

Well, we found another, all was well:    scallops drizzled with some smoky bourbon sauce  and   crab stuffed salmon.

It’s Friday, after all!

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