December 13th, 2013 | tags: Oklahoma, on the road, route66, USA |
I stopped looking for an all day breakfast. All the food places close at 2pm, reminiscent of Britain in the 1980s.Instead of a late lunch I browsed the local antiques mall and walked up to the drive-in ATM (UK = cash machine).
USA small town antiques malls are fascinating glimpses of everyday life in days gone by.
Learnings for next time:
- Eat lunch before 2pm
- Hire a car with a big boot to carry purchases of strange thing’s found in antiques malls
- Buy an extra suitcase while travelling to carry all the antique mall purchases
December 12th, 2013 | tags: Dad, mourning, sad, Sampo |
The cats at Mum’s house are calm and carry on. Some of their habits have been disrupted but they don’t seem too put out.
Sampo is so glad to have me home she’s sleepy smiling. The cats don’t show sympathy, they appreciate here and now and get on with being a cat. I find their being around very grounding and comforting.
I’m getting increasingly tired, everyday has less sleep than I normally need and more stuff to fill the day. The funeral wasn’t a relief and I just want this to stop. It’s only been 3 weeks since his death. I’m hoping that being patient keeping active and engaged with normal life will bring back restfulness and a background of good cheer. I need to be more patient.
December 11th, 2013 | tags: Oklahoma, on the road, route66, USA |
Within a 5 mile stretch of road
While on one of many unintentional detours off route 66
I encountered 3 roundabouts.
That’s all the roundabouts that I saw on my journey, all together.
December 10th, 2013 | tags: being wendy, boiler, Dad, engineer, fix it, mourning, sad |
Pseudo Shakespearian, myth-making, coincidences emerge. For example, my boiler broke in
- February 2013, the morning my mother had her first stroke. insurance fixed it by replacing the fan, mother recovered.
- November 2013, the morning my father died. Insurance fixed it by replacing a valve.
Just in case the myth created by coincidence has any basis in reality I thought I’d head-off the proximity of the next boiler breakdown by paying for a thorough overhaul and upgrading a few elderly components. I didn’t replace the boiler because all the Heating Engineers I’ve seen have said that it is an excellent, well designed boiler that should last for decades yet. Evidently “they don’t make them like that anymore“. Like my parents.
December 9th, 2013 | tags: Chelsea, Oklahoma, on the road, route66, USA |
Blue skies with no airplane trails. this was the way across most of the trip. The silence and ‘size’ of the skies were awe inspiring and made me remember how noisy, grey, crowded and obscured the skies are in England. Take a deep breath. It feels good.
I don’t seem to have gotten far in my 5 days on the road. This Chelsea sign doesn’t mention Kansas, understandable, I guess Dorothy found her own way home to the farm.
Chelsea is quiet.
I guess everyone is indoors cleaning their guns and stuffing things
December 8th, 2013 | tags: being wendy, Dad, family, inappropriate, mourning, sad |
Wake attendee: Are you (mum’s name)’s sister?
Mum’s only sister is more than 40 years older than me, I was a bit thrown by the question and thinking of myself in relation to Dad:
Wendy: I’m (Dad’s name)’s youngest daughter
Wake attendee: But he’s only got one daughter
Wendy: that’s me, youngest and oldest daughter, at the same time
Many of the people at the funeral remembered me, from when I’d baby-sat their kids, or some other event that my memory had filed somewhere too dusty for me to find. Mainly the guests seemed like strangers to me. They enjoyed the PowerPoint slide deck we’d put together illustrating Dad’s different passions, it prompted conversations across club members as the Gloucester Richard the III society started talking the Retired Professional Engineers Club (Bristol) members about history.
December 7th, 2013 | tags: bicycle, Kansas, on the road, route66, USA |
It was in Kansas that I realised that I’d seen more cyclists on the route than Motorcyclists. This trend continued for the whole of the route, with the one exception of the village of Oatman in Arizona. These cyclists often appeared to be going somewhere, rather than ‘just’ exercising, with backpacks or paniers. Route 66 is often cyclist-friendly because of the lack of cars, large patched shoulders, and directness of route between towns.
The cyclist below is crossing Kansas where farming appears to be a major industry:
December 6th, 2013 | tags: being wendy, Bristol, cat, Dad, family, funeral, mourning, religion, sad, wardrobe |
Dad’s funeral was just right for him. The funeral directors were excellent. A man from the funeral directors in a top hat with a silver-tipped long cane walked in front of the hearse as it approached the crematorium. Something wonderfully reverent, respectful, about this little show. I couldn’t deal with the physical presence of Dad’s body. Being in the same room as the body that no longer hosted the dad I knew was overwhelming. From the moment the hearse pulled out in front of our cortege car I was in full mucus-soaked tears, unable to pull words together.
Despite dearly wanting to say some words at the ceremony, I opted put, unable. I hadn’t anticipated being the blubbiest of the family though I was well prepared with multiple thick white cotton handkerchiefs. Everything went smoothly. The funeral was a very traditional, Christian, event. The archaically expressed Christianity didn’t speak to me, the sentiments and shared respectful kind words were good to hear in the company of so many people who’s lives he’d touched. My brother’s tribute was spot-on, as was Dad’s ex-boss’s.
I didn’t wear a hat (Mum’s request), I didn’t wear black. Mum requested that I wear my new dark-blue tailored suit, she wanted me to look good and talk bout my new job with the guests. Only a couple of people wore hats, they looked good.
I wonder how the funeral process will change over time? Live twitter feeds with hashtags projected on the wall relaying condolences from those who can’t be present? Live camera shot of the coffin moving to the incinerator?
The wake made much more sense than the funeral. It was good for me and I hope for the guests. More emphasis on the wake please.
December 5th, 2013 | tags: Kansas, on the road, route66, USA |
During the journey I lost Route 66 on multiple occasions. Illinois and Missouri provided well placed, easy to read and understand signs. Things started going wrong in Kansas where I would get to a road junction that had no sign for route 66 so I’d choose to keep going in my current direction.
This proved to be a poor strategy. In this photo you see the view a couple of miles after a junction. I could be on an unsurfaced part of route 66 or I could be off track. Your guess is as good as mine. I was using a hire-car provided Satnav (GPS) who was later named ‘Francine’. Francine only wanted me to use Interstates to get between towns, even nearby towns. I tended to program a route through towns and then ignore her until I got lost. I was also using a set of essential maps which numbered the interstate exits where route 66 crossed the interstate. I used these junctions to rediscover the route.
Different States label the route on different ways. Kansas was my first, not last, experience of poor signage.
In Illinois I learned that the route often forked, taking different roads during different time periods. Often I’d have to choose between different roads based on when they were officially route 66.
Learning for next time: find an App or SatNav service which has been designed to enable traveller to follow the many route options for route 66
December 4th, 2013 | tags: being wendy, Bristol, Dad, funeral, mourning, mumzie, Portishead, sad, wardrobe |
No-one slept well that night. All awake and dressed before the alarms chimed.
I took mum to the hairdressers and wandered around town trying to think of Christmas, stay warm, share the apparent normality of the other pedestrians.
No rush, everything sorted, I just wanted to get it over with. I think we all expected the funeral and wake to bring a closure that might release deep sleep and remove what feels like a physical hangover as if mild alcohol poisoning were running through my blood, amplifying noises, emotions and bringing a feeling of physical sickness.
Mum’s hair looked good. Later she showed me dad’s tie collection. Did I want any? I wanted them all, I wanted to look at them and imagine him wearing them, I wanted to tease him about his taste in ties.
Wendy: ”No, I don’t think I’ll wear them and I don’t know anyone who wears ties. That one’s nice“
Mum: “It was your dad’s favourite”
If mum hasn’t given them to charity by the next time I visit, I think I will take some and wear them. Clearly we have a similar tie-design sensibility…
December 3rd, 2013 | tags: cultural curiosities, on the road, route66, USA |
Towns and small cities proudly display their name on their local water tower. 3 examples from 3 States:
December 2nd, 2013 | tags: Dad, falling over, mourning, sad |
My tear glands have sprung a leak
I believe (based on some psychologists having studied crying and healing in rats) that crying is a good thing. It speeds-up the healing process. I’m not trying to avoid crying, I’m embracing it
I’m not hit by the sort of crying that mass-produces mucus, interferes with your breathing, prompts wailing and schlurping. My crying comes as overactive tear glands, not necessarily prompted by memories of dad, they seem to come from no-where with one common theme. If alone I let them fall, if in company, I take a rest-room break to let them fall. Short leaks, that feel disconnected from thought as if my body is trying to regularly remind my mind that I am really, truly living in being upset no matter how much I laugh and chatter about reliable, everyday, things
My tear glands like to pump when I’m in a car or on the bus. Driving to and from work, visiting mum, two weeks after his death this is still the way of things though I cry for shorter periods, the frequency remains the same. The bus is tough because, despite my efforts, passengers do notice and deal with the dilemma of whether or not to intrude and offer help. Dark glasses aren’t a realistic option during this cloudy British winter. I’ve got a hanky stuffed up my sleeve, like I used to have when I was a child prone to crying after I’d fallen over (often). I use this to surreptitiously wipe the spillage away
December 1st, 2013 | tags: Kansas, on the road, route66, USA |
The Kansas leg of route 66 is very short, cutting a corner between Missouri and Oklahoma. I stopped in a small town called ‘Commerce’ to enjoy some of the well maintained services for travellers, before I lost the route
November 30th, 2013 | tags: being wendy, Dad, mourning, religion, sad |
I expected to have difficulty sleeping. 3 nights of gaining consciousness every 90 minutes, looking at the clock then falling back asleep. Only 3 nights?!
There’s a sense of guilt about not being sufficiently disrupted. Tired from reduced sleep, yet I seem to have so much more energy than normal. Energy that is helpful for thinking through what needs to happen, double checking things after being easily distracted, making arrangements, making lists.
This energy seems to be swept along and shaped by what’s happening around me. My family, and work, are calm so this energy is mainly good but it could easily go off track.
While driving to work I sang along with Joe Jackson’s “Is she really going out with him?”. My emotions so quickly got wrapped up in the anger of the song. I’m not really angry, but I wouldn’t recommend including me in religious or political discussions for a while…
November 29th, 2013 | tags: Missouri, on the road, route66, USA |
Driving in to Carterville I’m looking for a BIG breakfast, I found one in the Carterville cafe where the staff are cheerfully friendly and even gave me an extra t, on the bill:
The Carterville website is worth a visit to see photographs of the old town and hear how the township sees itself. Here’s an extract copied from their website describing the town’s history:
Visitor’s from the U.S. and overseas seem to be especially interested in the older and smaller towns that reflect the values of America’s Main Street and Route 66, and Carterville, Missouri is just such a place.
Having celebrated it’s 125th. Anniversary, Carterville’s colorful history was born in the early 1870′s and later prospered during the lead and zinc mining boom of the turn-of-the-century. In those days, the town’s population soared to over 5000. Two trolly tracks ran down the middle of Main street, and business thrived. Overcrowding and wealth, full employment, social clubs and the rowdy miners were common in those days, but the city did not diversify and depended on the mining industry for it’s survival. By 1920 the boom turned to bust, and Carterville’s miners moved on, leaving a dwindling population to deal with closing businesses and fewer income opportunities. The Great Depression would have finished the town off, except for one thing, a new federal road known then as Highway 66.
Carterville’s Main Street bustled once again with automobile and truck traffic. In spite of losing over half of it’s population, the town now had ten filling stations in operation. Old buildings that once housed department stores, newspaper offices and banks were converted in hotels, auto service garages and cafes. Even though the town suffered another set-back when Route 66 was decommissioned in the mid 1980′s, Carterville had evolved into a quiet, friendly community…and seemed to be content. It can also be said today that Carterville owes it’s very survival to the Mother Road, Route 66.
Today, interest in this most famous of all American highways is surging, and Carterville wants to show it’s pride in, and respect of, Route 66. Local residents display the symbol of Route 66 on their homes, businessmen have placed Route 66 banners on Main Street poles and painted the shield on the pavement for all to see. A Route 66 flag flies beneath Old Glory and events are held in the Fall to celebrate being a part of America’s Main Street.
Carterville is now home to “Superman on 66″, a Superman memorbelia museum and ice cream parlor. The first Route 66 Visitors Welcome Center in southwest Missouri opened it’s doors this year in a 1937 era filling station, and several other old buildings have been purchased for a Route 66 themed Bed and Breakfast and restaurant. Plans are also underway to purchase a city block for use as a Route 66 Festival site to attract more regional visitors, and other Route-themed activities are being considered by the new “Festival Committee”.
Everyone seems to be jumping on the Route 66 bandwagon, including the town’s police officers whose uniform shoulder patches sport the Route 66 emblem. Could it be that Carterville has the same spirit as the fictional town residents of “Radiator Springs” in the Pixar movie “CARS” had?
November 27th, 2013 | tags: being wendy, Dad, family, mourning, mumzie, sad |
wendy: my parents live down a small country lane...
As soon as the phrase ‘parents live’ left my mouth a mental autocorrect screached ‘WRONG! should be – mum lives - mum, mum, just MUM, you don’t have parents now’. I just continued without adjusting my mistake, hoping that I was the only one who noticed this inaccuracy. Mental autocorrect is overreacting slightly. It should be a bit kinder in it’s correction message, I’m not deaf or stupid, just prone to a comfortable, life-long used reference habit.
I’ve noticed mum using the current tense, talking about ‘we‘ in contexts where ‘I’ would now be more accurate. I hope her mental autocorrect is kinder than mine.
November 27th, 2013 | tags: Missouri, on the road, route66, USA |
A lot of the drive through Missouri was like driving through south western English woodlands. Except for the almost completely deserted roads. To drive on such empty roads was a real luxury, I could drive as slow or fast as I wanted without worrying about irritating the car behind me….
5 days on the road and I’m only in my 2nd State, despite not exploring St. Louis or Springfield Missouri. It feels like slow progress and missing way too much….
Learning for next time: plan at least half a day each day for stopping to enjoy and photograph the local nature and small towns
November 25th, 2013 | tags: Missouri, on the road, route66, USA |
As sundown approaches, driving west becomes more difficult
- the low sun obscures the road with its bright golden glare
- I’m getting tired as we reach the early hours of the UK morning
I’ve taken to rising early and getting on the road at day break with the sun behind me. Missouri is already feeling like it belongs in the wild west. I pulled-up in the small roadside town of ‘Halltown’ to enjoy the morning light and architecture.
The small, sleeping town, captures much of the feel of Missouri. The strong church presence in everyday life with multiple churches and a large cross on a store-front. A mix of old decaying buildings and modern immaculately presented buildings. Trees, telegraph poles and empty roadway…
November 24th, 2013 | tags: being wendy, Dad, family, mourning, mumzie, psychology, sad |
I take out the bins at the Wendy house, I think of dad because he always took out the bins at home, it was his job. Not an activity that prompted this thought during his life.
I go to the local Chinese take-away for some lovely food, I think of Dad because he liked to treat mum to a Chinese take-away meal on Friday night. I smile. Not an activity that prompted this thought during his life.
Goodness, so many things prompt thoughts that affirm who dad was, things he did. I notice the way I stand when I’m listening to a story, I stand like dad. I’d never noticed before. I hear my voice as I laugh and I hear the faint echo of his intonation. I never noticed while he was alive.
I welcome these spontaneously intrusive thoughts, they are beautiful intrusions, it’s as if my mind is trying to let me know how alike we are, how together we’ll always be. It’s saying,
“don’t worry, you have always been together and you always will be. He’s part of you”
The thoughts often arrive when I’m in the company of others. I say nothing and let the thought roll. I suspect my continually adding “My dad used to…..” to conversations would upset and begin to bore the people I’m talking with. With family it’s different, mumsie happily chatters about dad which I find comforting and I happily join in. My brothers are relatively silent on the topic, their silence makes me suspect they are finding the experience more painful than I.
November 23rd, 2013 | tags: church, Missouri, on the road, route66, Springfield, USA |
For the first 3 nights of my road trip I treated myself to staying in USA ‘Bed and Breakfast’ accommodation. Each night I’d look online to find a place to stay at my next destination, then phone them using my USA SIM in my unlocked Nokia Lumina. This worked well for the first 2 nights. In Springfield Missouri I was one of 2 guests staying at the Mansion at Elfindale. The other guest was a visiting Pastor, I never saw him. The mansion seemed deserted apart from a very friendly kitty. It was very impressive. Before disappearing the receptionist gave me a full tour of the building replete with historical comment. Beautiful. In it’s lifetime the Mansion had been a private home, convent and a boarding school. It’s currently owned by a church, that has a church building behind the Mansion. They’ve raised money to refurbish and keep the mansion in good condition.
My room was above the main entrance way, with a balcony, and en-suite bathroom with original brass fittings and a claw foot bath. The floor-space on my room seemed larger than the floor-space in my UK Wendy home! Huge and luxurious.
It was another beautifully sunny day, but the ‘storm warning’ sign with directions on how to find the basement suggested that Springfield has more dramatic weather than the UK.
Tired after a long day driving, I didn’t drive into downtown Springfield, I took a long bath enjoyed the room and looked for a place to stay tomorrow night. Not easy, it seems as if Oklahoma city is full. After contacting 7 places, none of whom were ‘able’ to recommend an alternative, Rachel had a space for me in a town south of Oklahoma city, Norman. Maybe I should be pampering myself less and staying in Roadside motels? Maybe later on the trip…
November 22nd, 2013 | tags: Dad, family, mumzie |
10 Jan 1932 – 18 Nov 2013
Dad passed-on quickly on the morning of my first day back at work after 4wks leave. We’d had a good weekend before where I’d shared photographs and stories of my fabulous vacation. He’d talked proudly of how he’d worked out why his email was working sporadically and how he’d sorted some deals on internet service to make sure it worked. A good weekend.
Mumsie wants to have the Monty Python theme tune accompany the coffin moving into the incinerator. I love mum for her surrealist humour, which dad shared. The funeral’s going to be a full House production, wonderfully bizarre, I love my family.
November 21st, 2013 | tags: Missouri, on the road, Ozarks, route66, USA |
Driving through the Ozarks was like driving through the Wye Valley. Gentle, rolling, tree covered hills with rocky outcrops and winding rivers. Incredibly beautiful. I wanted to take a couple of days break to just hike along the rivers and through the forests. Warm sunshine and autumn foliage, a fabulous combination.
Learning for next time: plan at least one day not-driving to hike in the Ozarks
This river bend is called the “The Devil’s elbow”. The road was ‘closed’ so I walked over the bridge. Several local(?) drivers ignored the ‘road closed’ sign and drove over the bridge while I walked it. The whole bridge shook and freaked as if the Devil’s elbow had a very bad case of arthritis.
I stopped at Cuba for my first and um, last, genuine local BBQ. The flavour is very strong, rich, overwhelming. I couldn’t finish this BBQ filled baked potatoes.
November 19th, 2013 | tags: Missouri, on the road, Ozarks, route66 |
Mobile homes are not just caravans and RVs.
They are much more substantial here in the USA. People quite literally have their houses and house extensions delivered.
November 17th, 2013 | tags: Missouri, on the road, route66, USA |
I arrived late at night and drove past the large Missouri arch in the dark, while trying desperately to follow my Satnav directions to find a cute little B&B, the Brewers Inn, that I’d booked for the night.
As I check my route for the next day and upload the days photographs I realised that I’m too tired to want to go out and explore the city and I won’t have time to do it tomorrow morning. Darn!
This trip is quickly becoming a test run for doing it again, properly. Setting myself the 270 mile daily goal, that most the organised trips use, is not enough time to really appreciate the bigger cities that I’m passing through. Next time I’ll aim at staying at least one day with no travelling in each of the big cities. Next time?! Hooray, probably for my 66th birthday….
Learning for next time: plan at least one day off from travelling to explore the larger cities (St. Louis, Oklahoma etc)
My host at the Brewers Inn was a wonderfully friendly old man who’d retired from working at Macy’s and ran this business to supplement his pension. He commented that the English hunting scenes on the wall in my room should give it a homely feel for me! He said this was the best time of the year to see the ‘Ozarks’ because of all the fall colour in the trees.
I was the only guest, previously he’s mainly had guests from outside the USA and mentioned how they appeared to come in waves from different countries… …I very much enjoyed his fabulous collection of stylish things, the quaint old house and his easy company. It was like visiting an elderly uncle. The soft tones of his Missouri accent were very pleasing.
November 15th, 2013 | tags: Illinois, on the road, route66, USA |
I’ve crossed the Mississippi 3 times today. The satnav instructions seem last minute, or am I thinking slowly….
One of the advantages of travelling this route out of season is the relatively empty tourist attractions, including the road itself. It doesn’t always hold true, but it did for the outstanding Ariston café in Litchfield. They gave me a guest book to sign, other guests came from all over the world. People from Finland, Australia, Italy on just one page of the very full book.
One downside is that some attractions are closed, like the 1950s style Route 66 museum opposite, and a nearby drive-in movie theatre. At least this helps me to manage my time. I’ve quickly realised that one week per state would be a more realistic time to spend exploring. I’m leaving wanting more, always a good way to leave…
November 13th, 2013 | tags: Illinois, on the road, route66, Springfield, USA |
Home of President Lincoln.
Cold, windy, raining.
The woodburning stoves with long black flu’s rising into the air/walls of the old State buildings fascinated me. Somehow they didn’t seem to ‘sit well’ with the other furniture. They are definitely needed. A volunteer in the Lincoln museum talked to me about the winter snows and getting snowed in/out of her home.
I decided not to join the very long queue to enter the current, impressive, State capital. The locals were demonstrating in the rain with rainbow-coloured umbrellas for equal marriage rights outside the Capital. The speeches and musicians playing for the demonstration were inspiring, clear and intelligent.
I joined in.
November 11th, 2013 | tags: friends, Illinois, on the road, route66, USA |
Finally getting over my jet lag, with a little help from my friends we worked out how to get the top down on the convertible. Not a trivial problem!
A day with pumpkins and corn mazes, Mexican food and wonderful home made gifts – 3 useful bags decorated with route 66 icons. I’m feeling homesick for the USA
Corn grows high, almost as high as the yellow school busses that supplied the excited children (other than me)! It looked about 8-10 foot tall.
November 9th, 2013 | tags: friends, Illinois, on the road, route66, USA |
Route 66 runs alongside a major Interstate, the I55. To the left are traintracks and telephone wires. To the right is the Interstate. The road is flat, and on Sunday afternoon near deserted, unlike the Interstate.
I left home at 4am UK time, I’m on the road in a (Chevy Camaro convertible) hire-car by 4pm enjoying the Illinois sunshine and autumn colours. Too tired to really take time to explore I drive to my friends home stopping only at the small town of O’Dell that calls itself a “Small town with a big heart”. It was beautiful and strangely deserted…where have all the people gone…?
On to my friends home in Morton where there was some serious barbeque preparation underway, I learned that BBQ is very complicated and time consuming.
The local cicadas were serenading the early evening. Some PG tips welcomed me and they found a shredded skin of a cicada for me to see what they looked like:
November 7th, 2013 | tags: being wendy, birthday, holiday, on the road |
I haven’t gotten to almost 50 without learning a thing or two light-weight, easy, yet stylish travel packing:
- Avoid buying new shoes before, or while on holiday. I like to do a lot of walking when on holiday and this can lead to new-shoe breaking in blisters….
- Never buy new clothes in advance of travelling (except shoes)
- Pack stuff that you know you won’t bring back like teabags, sanitary towels, gifts for friends – this gives you space to bring-back different things without overpacking for the return journey
- Pack your tatty old underwear, wear it, chuck it. Buy new underwear while on holiday. Always an entertaining experience, especially if there’re significant language barriers and sizing differences
- Under pack on ‘nice’ clothes and pick yourself a treat while you’re there, as a holiday memento. If you’re travelling outside of the UK it’s likely to result in cheaper, better quality and much more interesting clothing additions
- Only take one pair of spectacles and one hat (I normally fail at doing this)
I managed to get all my gear (technology and chargers included) for my 3 week 50th birthday USA tour into one bag, hand luggage size. There was some sitting on the case involved. Will the case survive the journey… …will it get a friend?
October 26th, 2013 | tags: holiday, route66, USA |
Apparently, I can’t write remotely readable blog posts while I’m on a road trip. Hopefully I’ll remember the details when I get back and start posting again in Mid-November.
Meanwhile, route 66 photo set on Flickr is expanding on a daily basis. Please ask questions about any photographs that baffle you. For example,
- these are twin towers, but not THE twin towers
- that is the sun behind the cloud
- this is arriving in Amarillo, Texas
- that is the bonnet of the sports car I’m driving (of course I’m parked to take this photograph…)
Cheerio for now…