Saturday, June 29, 2013

Our trip thus far

DAY 1 (Sunday, June 23, 2013): It was almost 2:00pm before we really got on the road, and we were exhausted.  It is generally not a good idea to leave the day after a big concert. There is so much to do before leaving. But we managed to do it. We headed down to the Mass pike and then across to the Taconic Parkway, down to the Saw Mill and then across the Tappen Zee Bridge to the Garden State Parkway, and we reached the Montvale Plaza at 6:21pm. From there it is 2 ½ hours to Swarthmore and sure enough, we arrived at Wallace's at 8:50pm and immediately went out for pizza. We talked until pretty late.

DAY 2 (Monday, 6/24):  Happy Birthday Betsey!  We left Wallace's before 9am and went over to Sarah and Harry's for breakfast. They treated us to "Scott's Emulsion" with fresh blueberries and raspberries. Good conversation and a little tour of the gardens and grounds that Harry looks after.  We stayed long enough to be given a little lunch as well -  cheeses and fresh bread. We a bit after noon and what with traffic and all didn't get up to the PA Turnpike until about 2pm.  Then it was just "go West" on I-76 until we hit I-72 south of Pittsburg and took that to Wheeling, WV and on into Ohio. I had made a reservation at a Red Roof Inn in Hebron, OH, near Columbus, so we knew we had a place to stay - we just had to get there, which we did by about 10pm. I had formed the idea of giving Betsey a book of photographs I had "discovered" of  The Harris Family" (more on that below), and I just had to figure out how to do it. One way would be to have it done at a Walgreen's or CVS drug store which offer that kind of service. But when I got online, I found that anything near Bartlett, IL, where we were staying, only offered limited options, and I also discovered that I could create the book in iPhoto and order it through Apple and have it shipped to Betsey express with some hope of her getting it by Friday. So that's what I did. After we got to the motel, I stayed up pretty late putting together a photo album book for her birthday.

Let me explain further what I did. Earlier the week before, at home, I had made a kind of discovery. I had a box full of old negatives going back to the 1920's, 30's and 40's, mostly from Shirley family - negatives of photos of her parents, Shirley and her brother Ladd when they were young, other relatives. I didn't really know what I had because it's hard to read a negative. I thought there must be a way to turn them into positives with software and soon learned that my own scanner had that capability - something I hadn't realized. So I started scanning these negatives and was thrilled to discover beautiful photos, many of which I did not remember ever having seen before. So on top of everything else, those final days at home before we left, I was scanning like crazy whenever I had a chance. By the time we left, I had a couple of hundred photos gleaned from those negatives in my iPhoto file. Many of them were just wonderful pictures of a bygone age. That's what I had to select from to make Betsey's album. Here are some examples of what I had:

Fred and Florence Harris, early 1930's

 The car is a 1929 Hupmobile.

The Harris Family: l. to r.: Ladd, Fred, Florence, Shirley. 

 This is taken at Morrill Beach, Lake Winnepesaukie, NH, abut 1939.

Shirley, Fred, Florence, Ladd
 This one was taken on the walk in front of the Harris home, 57 Fort Hill Circle, Staten Island, NY, c. 1949.

Fred and Florence, c. 1922

Fred, Ladd and Florence, c. 1927.
 DAY 3 (Tuesday, June 25th):  My brother, had he lived to see this day, would be 86 years old. We traveled from Hebron, OH to Bartlett, IL, going via Indianapolis, IN. That took us by Richmond, IN, and we stopped to look over Earlham College, a Quaker institution I had long wanted to see. It's very nice - just what a college campus should look like. 

Lindley Hall, Earlham College
We went on, arriving at Maggie & Jerry Hochbergers house a little after 6pm. Damon Crockett, my great-nephew, and his woman friend, Karen, were there to join us for supper, along with my niece Becky. D & K live in San Diego, where Damon is a grad student in philosophy and Karen an undergrad. We had a good chance to catch up on their lives and thoughts for the future. 

DAY 4: This was spent in Bartlett, a quiet day. Ellen and I walked to the P.O. We talked with M&J, Ellen read, I worked online, we had pizza in the evening with Becky and with my nephew Daniel. I very much missed seeing my brother, who, of course, in the past would always be part of these occasions.

Jerry, Larry, Maggie & Ellen
DAY 5: We drove to Columbia, MO, arriving at about 4pm, in plenty of time for a 5pm concert that Katie was appearing in. It turned out to be a performance by the University of Missouri "Summer Singers" of Schutz's Musicalische Exequien, a lush choral work that I had performed with the Chorale a couple of years ago, so it was great to get to hear it again.  It was a very nice performance and Katie had a couple of solos in it which were beautiful - she has a great alto timbre. After the performance we all went to Kampai, a sushi restaurant that we had been to before.

Katie after the concert
DAY 6: Friday, Ellen and I had a relaxed morning since everyone was at work or at class. We met Betsey and Katie for lunch at the Main Squeeze - a vegetarian restaurant which had a very varied menu, and I think everyone enjoyed their food very much. After lunch we followed Katie to the house where she is house-sitting and dog-sitting. She herself has acquired a chihuahua, rescued from a puppy mill, named Gertie, and the dogs she was sitting had been rescued from the same place. So we got to meet Gertie and the others. Then we went by the Macaroni Grill where Katie has a summer job as a hostess, and also saw the town house where she'll be moving in with two other women (also voice majors at Mizzou) in August.

Katie with Gertie

The house/dog sitter
Where Katie works as a hostess

The Harris Family photo album mentioned above was delivered by FedEx before lunch! Amazing - instant book! Assembled and ordered late Monday night in Ohio, printed in Oregon and delivered in Missouri on Friday morning. It was a very handsome hardcover book. So I was able to give it to Betsey Friday evening as part of a birthday supper, and I think she was thrilled to get it.

DAY 7: Saturday morning we met Betsey at the nearby Upper Crust bakery for breakfast, said our goodbyes and were on our way. A short but very satisfying visit!  We were headed ultimately for Wyoming, but we like to find interesting place along the way. This time we headed for the John Brown Museum in Osawatomie, Kansas. If you have followed this blog from the beginning, you'll remember John Brown from the summer of 2010, when we visited Harper's Ferry, I read his biography, and reflected on the implications of his life and actions for the horrendous Gulf Oil Spill. John Brown is America's first home-grown terrorist for a just cause.  A radical abolitionist, he and his sons were involved in "Bleeding Kansas," the war in Kansas in the period before the Civil War between pro-slavery people and the anti-slavery free-staters following the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. We never made it to the museum because the road was closed for construction and we didn't have time to figure out an alternate route. We had sort of a consolation visit when we later went right by Lecompton, KS, and were able to visit the Constitution Hall Museum where in 1857 the "Lecompton Constitution" was drafted - a pro-slavery constitution that was later nullified.  It was such a turbulent time that between 1854 and 1861 there were ten governors of the Kansas Territory, and frequent violence. John Brown was mixed up in all that too. Brown went on to lead the raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859, intending to incite a slave revolt and end slavery once and for all.  He was hung for his trouble and become a martyr to those in the north and an absolute villain to the South. His life and actions raise all the issues being raised again today by people like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. Americans should know more about him.

Constitution Hall in Lecompton

10 Kansas Territory Governors in 7 years
It was late afternoon by the time we left Lecompton and we still had a 250+ mile ride to Hastings, NE where we had a reservation at the Rainbow Motel. But it was a lovely evening. We ate supper in the car out of our box of food which seems never to go empty: Triscuits or Ak-mak crackers with Cabot cheddar cheese or string cheese,  Effie's oatcakes with peanut butter (a fave), almonds, cashews, dried apricots, chips, chocolate - filling and satisfying. We sort of zig-zagged our way north through Kansas up to Hastings and got there after 10pm (the motel actually called to see when we were going to arrive. 

We're doing two things on this trip to pass the time: I'm reading aloud from John Dominic Crossan's The Birth of Christianity, which is a fascinating, almost detective-like attempt to reconstruct the decades which immediately followed the death of Jesus. The earliest datable documents of the Christian religion are the letters of Paul, beginning about 50 C.E. That means that the 30's and the 40's are a period for which there is no documentary evidence. The canonical gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - were all written late in the first century C.E., which means that they inevitably reflect developments that took place between the time of Jesus and the time they were written. They purport to tell about the life and teachings of Jesus, but they do so from a later perspective, and that means that buried "between the lines" so to speak, are hints as to earlier developments. Crossan has been a member of a group of scholars that has been meticulously trying to reconstruct that earlier period. It is controversial and speculative work, but of great interest to me both because it ties into my own doctoral work on the Gospel of Luke, and even more because a very new portrait of Jesus and his teachings is emerging from this study, offering a fresh understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

The other thing we are doing in the car is listening to Teaching Company lectures on the Third Reich - Hitler's rise to power in Germany.  These lectures are of interest to me because my mother was born in Germany and emigrated to the US with her family in 1910. My grandparents lived in Germany through the period after the unification of Germany in 1871, and I must have had relatives in Germany - unknown to me but relatives nonetheless - who experienced the Weimar Republic after WW I, the rise of Hitler, and  WWII. What was life like for them? Moreover, key events in Hitler's career took place just at the time I was born, events which led to WWII, which decisively shaped my life. So all of this has a personal significance for me, and I know very little about it in any detail.  I wish I knew more about how much my mother was aware of events in Germany in the 1930's and what she thought about them. There are also immense lessons to be learned from what happened in Germany under Hitler. Could it happen again, and could it happen here?

The Rainbow Motel in Hastings, NE was a good deal - $40 + tax. It's hard to find a decent motel for $40. The Rainbow was more than decent - it smelled ok - a big factor - and was spacious, clean, comfortable, had a frig and WiFi, and good towels. The continental breakfast was pretty much a loss for me - all sicky-sweet stuff out of boxes that looked like they came from the dollar store, no decaf or juice. Ok, I understand that at that price you can't put out a costly spread, but why not just plain old oatmeal? Can't get much cheaper than that. But I would still recommend the Rainbow.

 Rainbow Motel
DAY 8: Sunday morning, June 30th. A beautiful, cool, sunny, day. Since the breakfast at the Rainbow was a bust, we decided to look for a restaurant at the next town, Minden, NE, about 30 miles down the road. When we got there, we found no restaurant,  and also discovered that we had left our little coolpack in the frig back at the motel.  Bummer!  We hated to lose it, so we went back.  That in effect got us off to a late start. To redeem the day we played a tape of a service from the Guilford Community Church, dated July 4, 1993. We usually try to do this if we are traveling on a Sunday - we have church in the car. I was a little skeptical about what a service would be like on July 4th,  but actually it was great - a lot of good shapenote music - like  William Billings' Chester - which Tony Barrand said was #2 in the national anthem sweepstakes (could that be true?). It failed to be #1, he said, because it contains the line, "New England's God forever reigns." Shirley's children's story was classic Shirley. She had remembered a painting called The Spirit of '76, the original of which resides in Marblehead, MA, where her Harris ancestors lived, and in that painting is a boy beating a drum, whom she transformed into "Jed" who inspires the weary colonists on their trek to Fort Ticonderoga to surprise the British. Margaret Dale Barrand also read a lovely story, which substituted for a sermon.  We also learned from the announcements that that day was the first Town of Guilford Fourth of July parade.

The Painting Spirit of '76 by Archibald Willard of Ohio
Our travel took us past Chimney Rock N.H.S. Chimney Rock is a striking geological formation, created by the deposit of millenia of volcanic ash subsequently carved by erosion. It was also a landmark on the Oregon Trail, which could be seen from a distance, and was much remarked on in diaries. The original immigrants to the West, we learned,  dubbed it "Buck Penis Rock." I guess you really couldn't have a "Buck Penis Rock National Historic Site." What would you say to the children? So Chimney it is. One neat activity at the visitor's center was an invitation to draw a portrait of chimney rock on a card and deposit it in a box. The staff had pinned up hundreds of such drawings on the wall. It was fun to see the wide range of interpretations of that single shape.

Chimney Rock N.H.S.

A drawing of Chimney Rock
A depiction of the Mormon Trail at Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock is near Scottsbluff, NE. We had been to Scottsbluff before, so we went around it and took Rte. 26 across to Wheatland, WY where we had a reservation at the Wyoming Motel. But we decided to take sort of a back road to Wheatland, and were glad we did because it took us by Fort Laramie N.H.S.

Originally founded in the 1830's to support the fur trade, Fort Laramie became a U.S. post in 1849 and in the 1850's was a very important stopping place for migrants on the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail and, during the gold rush, the California Trail, all of which came by this point before crossing the continental divide and diverging to their respective western destinations. It was a "refueling" station for the Pony Express during its brief existence. It was also important during the Indian wars, and was the site of several treaty signings. Today it is a place of remarkable calm, quietness and loveliness - belying its military history (though it never was attacked, so no fighting ever actually took place there). I don't know exactly why it felt so peaceful - perhaps it was the spacious and well-kept grounds, the simple whitewashed buildings, the lack of crowds (a few families were strolling around), the light breeze, the beautiful evening light . . . whatever . . .  we didn't want to leave. John called while we were there and I had a very nice talk with him while I sat on a verandah with a lovely view. Two technological developments made the Fort obsolete - the transcontinental telegraph in 1861 made the Pony Express unnecessary, and the railroad made the wagon trails obsolete in 1869. Most of the original buildings, which supported 1000's of personnel in its heyday, have disappeared. But some remain - a large enlisted men's barracks, some officer's quarters, the ruins of the hospital, and other sundry buildings, some restored, some in ruins, and above all, the spacious grounds. It is sited on a raised knoll so the views are lovely. It's a great spot.

Hospital ruins at Fort Laramie, N.H.S.

A great spot for a picnic

The lovely grounds

Visitor's center

Enlisted men's barracks

Bunk room

We left reluctantly after out little picnic and went to Wheatland, to the Wyoming Motel. It was just $5 more than the Rainbow, but not as nice. It lacked some amenities it should have had. But it was ok. One plus: there were postcards in the office. Ellen is always on the lookout for postcards.

Wyoming Motel
We had never been in Wheatland before. It is attractive and we actually found a nice bakery/restaurant within walking distance of the motel, which  is located "downtown" - not out on the highway strip (one feature in its favor) -  where we had breakfast. 

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