Gassing up in Albany

Our attendant in Albany. In gassing up in Waldport, an attendant greeted us in red uniform.
Our attendant in Albany. In gassing up in Waldport, an attendant greeted us in red uniform.

In Oregon, law has it you can not pump your own gasoline.  You must have an attendant do it.

We recently filled up our rental car, a little Chevy Sonic, at a Mobil station in Albany. The attendant soon appeared and took over.  Even washed the windshield.  She had to hustle, taking care of three other cars at the same time.  Took our credit card and read it via a hand-held computer and had time to chat.

This was like in yesteryear when it was the common practice.  This layed-back form came easily with me, having lolled through life having a gas jockey pump your gas while you slipped inside station to buy a Root Beer.

Our attendant in Albany said she also manages this one-person operation, and her husband manages another. Not only that, Her son also recently entered the field. She is convinced the Oregon law was meant primarily to create jobs.  Her family seems to be the living proof.

Maybe this is a good idea, a government solution to more jobs for workers displaced by computer world and obsolete and environmentally destructive industries like coal mining.

Let your mind wander.  Surely you can come up with some weird, unnecessary jobs to help the economy.



Layover at DWF

Beatrice Lebreton's

Beatrice Lebreton’s “Celebration.”

You can’t get to Alabama by standing still.  Unless you live there.  In our case, we took a morning flight from Phoenix to the state capital in Montgomery.  That required a layover at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.  DFW for short.  It was a long day.  A long day made shorter by wandering this, the second largest airport in the U.S. behind Denver.  Believe it, 30 square miles.

Although the actual flight time to Montgomery is only three hours, it took twice that to reach our destination.  That’s counting the layover and taxing time from gate to lift-off.   You have to make the best of it.  Even if it means trying to find stuff to do during the layover in DFW.

Utitled.  Viola Delgado.

Utitled. Viola Delgado.

Not long after we arrived and got settled at our Gate in one of the two E terminals, I set out with my camera while Nebra guarded our carry-on bags and dealt with her email.  By the way, all major airports now have Wi-Fi and free charging stations for electronic gadgets.  At DFW, I’ll add, there was a constant tug and pull for rights to the stations.  Drop a bomb near one of them and there’d be plenty of seats on all those sold-out flights.

You’d think at such a large airport, you’d spend most of your time traveling the elevated rail called Skylink to get to your destination.  Not true.  A very efficient transport system it is.  Or stumbling over fellow-passengers.  After all DFW is the third busiest in the world.  Only Chicago’s O’Hare and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson see more plane traffic.  The fast-changing digital Arrival and Departure boards can send you into a swoon.

But there I was finally, shuffling along looking for unique stuff.  It didn’t take long.

Failed to catch the artist's name.

Failed to catch the artist’s name.

I soon discovered colorful circles of floor art in the long hallways.  Each design was different, each had a different artist.  My favorite, “Celebration,” was done by a 60-year-old French woman by the name of Beatrice Lebreton who now lives in Texas.

The sad thing is that many walked over these little masterpieces without looking at them, heads buried in smart phones or eyeballing the little screens.  A minor disappointment.

Soon, I went back to the gate and continued reading Thom Hartmann’s depressing “The Crash of 2016,” while Nebra took off for a while.  By then I was ready for the next lap, the flight to Montgomery on a little regional airline plane, American Eagle.

Come on, Dixieland.

In the land of cotton

State flag.  Motto:  "We dare defend our rights"

State flag. Motto: “We dare defend our rights”

Nebra and I returned a few days ago from a week in Alabama.  The trip began a long time ago, at least in my mind it did.  It was to be a search for my family’s history.  The clan of my father’s came from The South, that often-maligned land in America which was home to slavery and the racism that still exists today.

It all began with “Peter” in South Carolina.  He appeared in the first U.S. census in 1790.  “George,” his son, and “James” who was George’s son, were farmers in Alabama.  In particular James, my great-great grandfather, was near the center of my blood-line radar.

My idea was to stand on the land of cotton that once belonged to George and James.  I did not know precisely where this land was. I just knew it was near Montgomery, somewhere to the southeast.

But as our first excursion into this part of Dixie unfolded, there was much more to this beautiful state than originally met my jaundiced eye.

In the days ahead I hope to publish a few posts of our adventure “way down yonder,” as the song goes.

Inside the crater, among the masses

My first obligatory photo, this of downtown Honolulu and Waikiki.

My first obligatory photo, this of downtown Honolulu and Waikiki.

We hiked to the highest point on Diamond Head yesterday, its stunning views all but ruined by swarms of other visitors armed with cameras and camcorders and ushering along noisy and sometimes unhappy children, up the short but steep trail of slick tuff that includes three sets of metal stairs, two tunnels and a final spiral staircase to the top.

At the Fire Control Tower on the Le’ahi Summit, it was elbow to elbow, so much togetherness in fact that I sat down a couple of times with my camera and trekking pole and just looked at the simplest thing I could find.  My feet.   It was not surprising to see so many Asian faces.  After all, Hawaii is truly, and thankfully, America’s foreign country.  I shot my obligatory photos, downtown Honolulu, Waikiki and the Diamond Head lighthouse, then descended with Nebra on the now less busy trail as the 6 o’clock closing time loomed.

Looking down on another obligatory photo, the lighthouse

Looking down on another obligatory photo, the lighthouse

The hike had started with a pleasant surprise as the Elantra emerged inside the crater from the narrow Kahala Tunnel and paid the $5 admission fee per vehicle.

Unlike Haleakala, Diamond Head’s  smoky, arid big-brother on Maui, we found the inside of dwarfish Diamond Head lush with trees and tropical plants.  And birds.  I added two avian creatures to my life list here by the trailhead.  One was the Brazilian Cardinal, a dazzling red-head with a white border for a neck, the other a black-crested Red-Vented Bulbil, an invasive that gobbles up orchids like pie, causing growers havoc to the tune of $800,000 annually.

The right idea:  Getting away from the masses.

The right idea: Getting away from the masses.

Inside the crater it is idllyic.  A hush of the outside world.  The cacophony of Honolulu and the residential areas that snuggle up to the sides of Diamond Head, vanish.  You think for a moment you are in another world.  Another world, anyway, until you hit the cement walkway that starts the 560-foot rise to the summit over 8/10 of a mile.

If nothing else, we chose the right time of day for the hike.  When we left the parking lot and trailhead, it was 4 o’clock.  The trail was mostly in shadow, and we missed baking in the sun of morning and early afternoon.

A proud Nebra on the descent.

A proud Nebra on the descent.

Diamond Head, I found, is not a hike I would want to repeat.  Good physical exercise, but mentally aggravating.   Tourists ae loving this place to death.  Statistics show 800,000 visitors annually.  That’s an average of 2,192 a day.  I think we passed every one of them today.

On vacations, though, there are some thing you have to do.  And reaching the summit of one of the world’s most-recognized landmarks was one of them.

Inside the crater:  Tranquility.

Inside the crater: Tranquility.

But on vacations like this, you have to do some of the obvious stuff. And reaching the summit on Diamond Head was one of them.

Two days and a night in Canton, NY

Scene of my research, the county courthouse

Scene of my research, the county courthouse

The first time I heard of Canton, NY, was a few weeks ago, when I got serious about my research of a former Territorial governor of Arizona.  Alexander Oswald Brodie was born and lived for a time in Edwards, and I wanted to find the family home there, should it still exist.  That led me to the deed books at the St. Lawrence County Courthouse in, ta-dah, Canton.

It was in late afternoon of the 4th when we arrived.  Nebra and I had started about noon after picking up a rental car in Syracuse and driven steadily north, by-passing Watertown for the misadventure into Canada and then up along the U.S. side of the St. Lawrence, passing the Amish village of Heulveton, and finally crossing the Grasse River into downtown Canton.

I did some work in the Clerk’s office at the courthouse while Nebra strolled around town.  I can’t remember seeing old deed books in such grand condition.  Some of the books I was interested in went back to 1820.

We stayed at a B&B six miles south of town.  It is called White Pillars.  It was originally the family home of John and Donna Clark, but when their kids grew up and moved away, they remodeled the place for guests.  John was wrestling coach then athletic director at St. Lawrence University, in Canton, for many years.  He is writing a book about recent adventures.  It is tentatively title, “Journey to Daybreak:  Crossing Canada by Bike, Kayak and Foot.  Donna recently did a month of spiritual training in India.  So they may be a retired couple, but not really.

A pleasant night's stay at the Pillars.

A pleasant night’s stay at the Pillars.

The Pillars is a wonderful place, and we stayed in an upstairs room called the Meadow View.  Two big beds, a reading desk, couch and a well-fitted bathroom, all with free Internet access.  And a low ceiling on the sides which my head got to know intimately.   Toward evening, before we went back into town for supper, we saw two white-tail deer foraging in the field to the north.

That night, we ate at a large restaurant and bar on Court Street called The Club and afterward walked down Main Street to the Grasse and back.  I was surprised how dead it was at 9 o’clock.  Unusual for a college town.  Not just St. Lawrence but a more recent addition to the northwest, a State University of New York (SUNY) campus.

John cooked up a nice breakfast at the Pillars, and it was then we learned of an amazing connection.  He too had researched Brodie and written a piece on him.   In fact, John drew a map for me of how to locate the old Brodie “mansion” south of Edwards.

After eating, we drove back into town.  While I finished research at the courthouse and the attractive St. Lawrence County Historical Society across fromt he park with the Civil War Monument.  while Nebra hiked out to the St. Lawrence campus.

It was mid-afternoon when we left Canton and toward Edwards to look for the Brodie house.  I had that sinking feeling again, that, sadly, I would likely not be coming this way again.  But who knows?

Upcoming trip to Upstate New York

We leave in the morning for a two-week trip to the Adirondacks and Finger Lakes.  Fly into Syracuse, rent a car there and do a loop, mostly to the east.

Some people plan the hell out of their trips.  We largely wing it.  I think the novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux does the same.  We’ve only gotten into a bind once.  That was on a trip several years ago to New England and the Maritimes.

Coming into New Brunswick late one night from Quebec City, we could not find lodging to save ourselves.   So we car camped about 100 yards away from a large motel in Riviere du Loup, near the St. Lawrence.  It turned out to be one of the trip’s highlights.   It was a pleasant, moonlit night with a light breeze shuffling a row of aspens.  The sounds of the wind blowing through those leaves has stuck with me to this day.  Pure serendipity.

On this trip, we do have reservations for our first two nights.  But after that, nothing.  Just vague ideas.  Computers make finding places to stay a snap.

The one thing I hate about this trip is leaving my young male cat, Ares.  Sure, we have a woman coming over every day to check on him and the other indoor cat, O.B.  But somehow it’s a bit of a damper leaving Ares.  He’s such an affectionate little guy.  I’ll miss him.

Notes from behind the wheel

For many years now in short bursts, I have jotted down notes as I drive along the roads of America.  I balance a notebook on my right knee, the foot below firmly pressing the accelerator.   I scribble quickly with a pen, my head bobbing like a crazy cork to check traffic.  Dangerous, I know.   It is the Old World version of texting while driving.

There is no rhyme or reason to do the note-taking other than personal quirk.

The notes mostly deal with mileage between various places along the way, data in most cases you could pull from a Rand McNally.  It’s a habit that probably originated with the monotony of driving.   The note-taking somehow makes me feel good.   And that is the main thing.

Here is a sample taken from page 45 of my “Kansas Trip 2013” notebook.

“Welcome to Flint Hills” [sign] 15.7 [miles from Topeka] — Fort Riley 55.0 — Smoky Hill R 57.8 — Jct City 59.5 — Abilene 81.1 — (2 fires N of Salina) — Dole-Specter sign re boyhood home (Russell) 165.5 . . . . ”

The notes are often put aside on returning home, but always preserved, languishing for years untouched in a filing cabinet.  But once in a while datum finds its moment in the sun.  It happened just a few days ago.

A Facebook Friend, Marlene, recently posted her disgust of Kansas rest areas. She was “appalled at how run down, poorly maintained and dirty the KS facilities were. They did not make me proud of our beautiful state, and they do not reflect a positive image of our state to people passing through.”

I remembered stopping once at a rest area in Kansas during my trip last month and finding no such disgusting facilities.  Trouble was I couldn’t remember where.  I began searching my notebook, hoping to solve the mystery.

Being of a certain age, I note the all-important rest areas with an “R.A.”  As I flipped through the notebook pages, I found the R.A. I had in mind.  It was on the back of page 48:  “R.A. 78 [degrees F.] 105.0 [west of Hays].  The item was circled which meant I had used the facilities there.   The location was 5 miles west of Colby, KS.

That little note jogged my memory.  I remembered the stop.  Two men, possibly a father and son, coming out of the men’s toilet.  Nearby, college kids, traveling in two cars, milling around the place, some snacking, laughing, loud talk.  I assumed they were headed to the mountains of Colorado for holiday.  I had no clear picture of the men’s restroom, but I’m certain if it had been horrible I would’ve made a note.

So I was able to reply to Marlene’s lament, though I doubt she appreciated my input that seemed to contradict her assertion.

Anyway you never know when a note from behind the wheel will come in handy.