Beryl’s Journey home to Ottawa 2012

Our pal Beryl is off again – this time on her way back to Ottawa.  We will follow her and of course enjoy her escapades.  As with past journeys we will place each new version on top of the last.

Enjoy the voyage, and read along safely as Beryl takes us on the Journey home to Ottawa for summer 2012.

MARCH 23.

I don’t think I could have stuffed anymore into this day than I have.
 
The Mississippi River is wider than wide. I’ve read numerous books about folks who have travelled it from top to bottom, and I think that would be a huge adventure. I’ve had travelling it on my bucket list for a number of years, but suspect it won’t get any further than that. Maybe there is another way?
 
The National Civil Rights Museum was interesting. It’s information confirmed for me stuff I already knew. Then they sent me over to their second building, which is currently housing a special exhiibit about King’s assassination from the perspective of James Earl Ray. The 2nd building is the actual rooming house lived in by Ray when he shot King….although now it is cleaned out to look like a museum. The exhibits collected by the FBI were on display with a recounting as to how they handled the case. In a way it was an unusual exhibit, but it appeared to try and respond to questions that folks still bring up about the case.
 
Thanks again to K – who suggested I go to the Stax Museum. I always thought Soul music came from Motown in Detroit, but there was Stax Records in Memphis, who made the hits in the south. Although the company is gone, their museum was like a mini version of Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Museum I saw last year !! This was an outstanding experience !!  And as long as there have been celebrities, there have been wild and crazy car purchases !!  Nothing that Elvis had is as flashy as Issac Hayes’ 1972 Cadillac. Everything on the exterior is gold-plated, including the windshield wipers. The interior has white shag fur in the floor, the along the insides of the doors, and it looked like a small TV on the floor in the front seat. The museum has it on a rotating turntable with the doord open, so you can see it all !!  This even beats the car that used to be in Roy Rogers’ Museum. It had 6-shooters as door handles, and a huge set of steer horns on the front grill.
 
As I was driving through Memphis toward what I thought would be a home used to help slaves on the Underground Railroad, I found myself staring at St Judes Hospital for Children and Danny Thomas Blvd. All of a sudden I had a lightbulb moment (they come now and again). I’ve seen those appeals done, first by Danny Thomas and now by Marlo Thomas my entire live. Down here, raising money for St Judes is huge !!  And now I’ve seen the hospital – it is also huge !! It is built next to a pyramid, that was supposed to be a sports arena for Memphis, but it’s not used at the moment.
 
Once again, the afternoon was getting late, so I set Gert to go east to Corinth MS. I was able to do some exploring in anticipation of tomorrow at Shiloh Battleground. I am so pumped for this one. When I located the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Centre, the parking lot was filled with vehicles (turned out there was a special event happening).  The walkway from the parking lot to the building, goes up the slope in four diagonal sections. I thought it was to accommodate wheelchairs, but not necessarily – I noticed what appeared to be bullets in the cement, and when I really began paying attention, I realized there were footprints, mens hats, a shoe, a bayonet, revolvers, the tamping rod for a cannon, a powderhorn, horseshoes,  – some in the sidewalk, and some in the ground next to the walk. Such a clever and engaging idea – you don’t notice the climb up the hill. I can hardly wait to go back tomorrow and explore the grounds more !!
 
When I had arrived in Corinth, I drove the length of the main street, and spotted a local restaurant with lots of cars outside, so later I stopped there to have supper, but the lineup was so long, that I asked some other folks in line where the 2nd mot popular place was in town, and that’s how I went to Taylor’s for BBQ. Its parking lot was also filled with cars, with a line of folks out the door, but my wait seemed shorter. They offered a baked sweet potato, that I didn’t order, just as I didn’t order the deep fried pickles.
 
I can hardly wait to get back to the battlegrounds. There are more of them in this area than I will ever manage to see in one trip !! 
How lucky am I !!!

Thurs. March 22, 2012

From Winona Mississippi this morning to Memphis Tennessee this evening !!
 
Memphis TN is my new favourite city !!
When I stopped at the Tennessee Welcome Center at noon, I had no idea what fun I was going to get into !!
And – a lot of the tourism info is geared to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War – and since so many battles were fought in this area, every town has a claim to some event that occurred.
First thing was to collect as many pamphlets as possible.
Second thing was to go to Graceland – just like the Paul Simon song.
 
Where or how to begin !!  First, you have to park (charge for that) and then walk to the ticket building. Of course there are several price points, depending on your level of fan-adoration. I went for the package that would allow me to see just about everything, and still have gas money. Everyone gets an audio set as they board the shuttle that will take us on to the Graceland property across the street. The famous gates with their lines of music, are actually only wide enough to allow one vehicle to enter. They have always looked much larger to me. The house, which I had been told was small, I felt was much larger. You are allowed to look at everything at your own pace, and there is lots to look at. The shuttle brings you back across the street, so one can tour the automobile museum, the custom jets, and three new limited time exhibits. I had not known that 2012 is the 35th anniversary of Elvis’ death. The three new exhibits were –
ICON:the influence of Elvis Presley  – was a fairly short walk through with exhibit cases on both sides, with costumes of other stars accompanied by declarations as to how Elvis had influenced them in their careers.
“68 Special Exhibit” – was a look at Elvis’ 1968 Tv special that turned his career, which had been on the wan, back to popularity. Although small, this exhibit had a series of boards on one wall outlining what was going on in the world then – the Vietnam War, Yuppies, the murders of Martin Luther King Jr and Robt Kennedy – and indicated how these events had also affected Elvis. It was well done.
Elvis on Tour exhibit – was set in a small room. Opposite side walls had cases with costumes Elvis wore (this was when the jumpsuits got flashiest). There was seating so one could watch one of the four TVs relating the making of a documentary of Elvis on tour in the 70s. It was edited by a very young Martin Scorcese, and  won a Golden Globe award for best documentary.
Of course, each museum had a similarly themed gift shop. I had no idea there were so many different ways to put Elvis on a tee shirt.
And everywhere all you can hear is the Sirius radio cahannel – Elvis all the time. I wonder how the employees manage ??
 
Best of all was my chat with K – really nice woman, who gave me tips on where to go for supper and to see the Stax Museum. Due to the lateness in the afternoon I couldn’t visit anywhere else, but took advantage of the daylight to locate the National Civil Rights Museum. I must have known at some time, but was caught off guard by it’s location at the former Lorraine Motel, where Reverend King was shot to death. A breath-catching moment.
 
A few blocks further on was Beale Street, touristy to the max !!  It has a restaurant/blues club owned by BB King, the original  Coyote Ugly bar where one lone cute coyote was dancing on the bar, a Hard Rock cafe, Hooters one block over – but in between were small wonderful bars and restaurants offering wonderful southern food, music and conversation. I found the only place that had beignets, and also got to try jambalaya, shrimp creole, and chocolate bourbon pecan pie. Make a note to go to Aunt Polly’s Soul Kitchen and Alfred’s when you’re down here. And bring your buffet  pants !!!
 
I also learned that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the University of Memphis. Their teams are called the Tigers, and I saw a beautifully painted tiger, much like the polar bears in Winnipeg MB, lambananas in Liverpool Eng, and cows in Calgary AB. (just googled it, and there are 100 painted tigers around town) Looks like I have something else to do while I’m here. I love these initiatives – it allows artists to go wild, and create fanciful objects that they might otherwise not have the opportunity to do. I’m including the link to see them online. – http://www.memphis.edu/alumni/tigersaroundtown/database.php 
 
I think I have more pamphlets than time to see it all !!!

TX / MS Tues. March 20

Be careful what you wish for !! 
Yesterday as I was driving through all that rain ( and listened to it all night, then drove through it again all day today) I wondered how much rain had to fall to fill those dips in the road – the ones with signage “don’t enter when flooded”  !!
And today I got to see water in the ditches, in the fields, in my shoes causing me to change into my rain boots !!  Tiresome !!
To add insult to injury – I wasn’t as far east of Dallas as I thought, and apparently I mixed up the maps and have been looking at Mars instead of the southern United States – because I kept thinking I was cutting across a corner of Louisiana to get to Mississippi – and I was actually driving across the entire state of Louisiana !!  And they have the very worst drivers in the world…at least all of the world I have travelled in so far !!
Fortunately, when I pulled into the Louisiana travel center, I got sorted out, picked up some more maps and info and carried on to Vicksburg.  The guys working there were history grads, so we had a great conversation.
 
A half hour off the Mississippi state line, the rain quit, and the clouds stayed behind me. I stopped for coffee, picked up a lotto scratch ticket and won $5.00, and got to the Mississippi travel center before they closed. Asked a few pertinent questions, and got some great maps and information. It was still light out, so I figured I would drive around a bit to get my bearings before I explore the battle field tomorrow.
 
To back up for a moment – Vicksburg is a community built on a set of high bluffs on the east side of the Mississippi River. Its location on the Mississippi River played an important role in the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln called Vicksburg the key to the south.  Major General U. S. Grant attempted to build a canal system that would allow Northern troops to circumnavigate Vicksburg, and access the Mississippi River further south. The canal idea didn’t work. An ironclad ship, the USS Cairo, on its way to Vicksburg hit two mines in the Yazoo River, and sank with all on board. There were several land battles between the armies of the North and South, but it was the Siege of Vicksburg that finally won the area for the North. The siege lasted 47 days!!
Thirty years after the end of the war, veterans began the mapping and organization necessary to preserve the entire battleground. 
 
In 1964, the Cairo was raised and restored, and is on display.
The cemetery alone is almost 120 acres, and has over 18,000 internments.
There are a couple of museum buildings with films, exhibits, artifacts.
One can drive the grounds, and see over 1340 monuments and markers honouring the various state troops who fought there.
            I think someone should win a lottery so we can take a road trip down here  !!  This place looks like it should be phenominal to tour….I think even more than Gettysburg!!
 
Jefferson Davis was living just south of Vicksburg when he got the letter informing him he had been chosen to become the President of the CSA. 
 
And I’m only about 5 hours south-west of Shiloh !! 
 
And I’m only 40 minutes from Jackson MS – which was the location for the movie “The Help” but more importantly to me – it was the home of Medgar Evers. He was the first field secretary for the NAACP in Jackson  back in 1963, when he was assassinated in his driveway. He was coming home after a day of work. The killer was initally arrested in 1964, but it wasn’t until a 3rd trial in 1994 that he was found guilty and sent to prison where he died in 2001.
 
I lived in Windsor Ontario in 1967, when the Detroit riot occurred. For 5 days, we would go to Dieppe Park in downtown Windsor, and watch the fires, the army tanks patrolling the streets, and listen to the gunfire. The border was closed, so folks who lived on one side and worked on the other side had a forced vacation. To this day, many of the burned out buildings remain in ruins. It was one of those “where were you when…” moments.
 
To end this on a less serious note – I’m going to Graceland !!  Everyone needs some kitsch in their lives !!  
 

Mon. March 19

To finish off yesterday – I was only held up in Lordsburg for two and a half hours. Lordsburg has two exits – one on the west end of town and one on the east end. It was at the east end that the cops were pulling vehicles off the interstate. McDonalds was located at the west end of town.  When I finished being on my laptop, I got on to the interstate to see if I would get pulled off again. As I approached the east exit, I could see the cops there with lights flashing, but traffic was being allowed through – so I carried on !!!
AS I travelled along I-10, I kept looking for evidence of the sand storm, but it wasn’t until I stopped for gas at Las Cruces New Mexico that I saw what can happen.  The plaza area looked like a truck had lost its load of sand, all over the place and it had been blown everywhere. The guy at the counter said they hadn’t been able to see 50 feet away.
 
I was coming through El Paso Texas in the dark, and suddenly there was a large star off to my  left. Then I saw the group of communication towers, so have to assume there was a mountain there – and someone has installed a huge lighted star on the side of the mtn  – which looks really cool, because when I first saw it I thought it was floating in air !!!  Jokes on me !! 
 
A few days ago, I received an email about discrepancies at the gas pumps. Either consumers are being more watchful, or the weights and measures inspectors aren’t doing their jobs, or the gas companies are trying to rip us off !!  The test is to pump ten gallons of gas into your tank, and see if the charge is ten times the price per gallon(litre). I have now tried this three times, and each time the gas pump was accurate – bt it is certainly something to check.
 
I think I can relate to Dorothy, when she wasn’t in Kansas anymore !!  Driving through west Texas has been a wonder – for several hours, all I could see (and smell) were oil wells pumping, oil derricks, oil refineries, and oil storage tanks. Then all of a sudden, there was an invisible line, and I was looking at green fields and herds of black Angus cattle.  Another invisible line and twenty miles of windmill farms (I counted).  I wanted to say I saw a kajillion wells pumping but then I wanted to say I saw a kajillion windmills !! Another invisible line, and the landscape changed again to trees, hills, and nothing in particular !!
The sky has been threatening rain since this morning, and it finally began.
I just stopped in Eastland Texas, and am so happy to be inside – thunder and lightning and an even heavier rainfall.
 
As I came east on I-20, I passed through a small community named Sweetwater. Doesn’t that make you think of something gentle, kind, lovely ??  They have two claims to fame – world’s capital for quail hunting, and have the wrorld’s largest rattlesnake roundup.  To explain this process – in the fall, the cowboys gather and begin rounding up the rattlesnakes. This requires long rides on the plains looking for the strays that have broken away from the herd. They drive the snakes into a feedlot, where the snakes are fattened up before being put on trains and sent to slaughter. After slaughter, high priced restaurants vie at auctions for the tenderest cuts of rattlesnake steaks.
WAIT – I may be confusing that process with beef……
I do know (for real) that rattlesnake steaks do exist – but anyone who wants me to try one, is going to have to come up with a long line of Loomis trucks filled with cash, to pay me to do so !!!!!
 
Something else I saw when coming through west Texas was a sign for a town, whose name I have already forgotten – but not their sign.
“Home to 3000 kind souls, and a few grumpy ones”.
 
So – I drove all day through rain and more rain; (showed a guy in a Porsche convertible how to change lanes); I’m still in Texas but near the Louisiana state line.
 
I’m really hoping to get to Vicksburg tomorrow !! 
 
I had to come off the highway early tonight because it is the start of the season for Dancing With The Stars – ’nuff said !!!!!
 
 

Tucson AZ & Lordsburg New Mexico – Sun Mar 18

This morning I was awakened early to the sound of pelting rain, and gusting winds that had the trees at 90 degrees to the ground !! Then I turned on the weather channel.  I love the weather channel – when you are in the United States, the weather never shows north of the 49th parallel  !!  Considering that most Canadians live within 100 or 200 km of the 49th, you would think they might include us in their weather reports – but NO !!! Anyway, today it was sunny in Chicago – so sunny, that people were wearing shorts and suntanning on Lake Michigan!! Meanwhile, lousy weather was going to be in the Tucson area, and in fact further north along Interstate 40, the highway was closed due to snow.   I got ready to leave town, but went back to the Tango Festival to ensure I was on their email list for next year.  In the lobby I ran into a guy I have been dancing with for the past 4 months. Turned out that yesterday, he happened to get a seat on the Guerilla Bus – so the following adventure is second hand !!  The bus went out to the Pima Air Museum, then back into town and stopped at an Art Gallery, the median of a bridge, and one other artsy section of town before calling it a day. He said it was fun but crazy, because most of the dancing surfaces were pretty uneven !! And last night’s performances – they transcended dance demonstrations !!  One couple multi-tasked – the guy was playing a guitar, then his partner came towards him singing, then he (and apparently never missed a beat) put his guitar around the back of her, and they danced tango to the music (and she kept singing).   Departing Tucson – I can’t see the mountains, that I know are out there because of the low cloud cover.

Fort Bowie in 1893.

About an hour along, I saw the sign for Ft Bowie National Historic Site.  Fifteen miles of paved road in the middle of nowhere, and the last mile was not paved, and once again I was on the side of a hill, but there were very specific signs to where I was headed, and there was s sign warning that the last mile was gravel/rock. (and the road was wide enough for 2 cars)  Now I’m in the mountains, the cloud ceiling is low, it’s raining, and I get to the Ft Bowie parking lot.  There are washrooms and some signage there – and a sign indicating the 1.5 mile trail to the fort remains !!  Really !!!

So I turned around and went back to the highway. But that’s not quite all – when I was heading to the fort, I saw a cow and then a second one crossing the road ahead of me, so I slowed down, but there were only the 2 cows, and they were actually Texas Long Horns.  For those of you who have never seen one before, they make a regular beef cow look very small…

Ft Bowie’s signage was informative…..I learned why it was built where it is. I would have thought somewhere out on flatter ground would make more sense for the pioneers travelling west – but I was wrong. Apache Pass, the location of the fort and in its day several other buildings, was built because there was water and grazing land for those early pioneers. I guess the fact they had to wind their way through mountains was not as important??

I continued down I-10 heading east with my MP# player plugged into my ears.  Progress was being made. Then I saw the flashing lights on one of those highway signs that tells you to turn to radio #.  I listened and didn’t understand the message, until I was a bit further down the road, and saw the cop cars. The interstate was closed east of Lordsbug.  I have been on the road a total of 3 hours.  Apparently, my best ? adventures seem to happen when I am in my vehicle !! So, I found the local McDonalds, and plugged in !!!

All I can say at this moment, is that I can expect to be kept off the road for several hours, and once I am allowed back on, I will be staying eastbound on I-10. In the meantime, I am going to look for some other snowbirds, and see if I can’t scare up a card game to pass the time !!!

Tucson – Sat Mar 17

Happy St Patricks Day !!  I have heard that this isn’t a holiday in Ireland, so once again mass marketing prevails !!  

I don’t want to harp on the weather, but snow is expected tomorrow, and as I make my east to Texas, I will be getting into strong rain storms.  It should be interesting how this affects my drive home.   Tonight was my 3rd and final tango class. Part-way through the class, one of the festival organizers came in, and invited us all to join in the all night milonga. There is a live band playing, and I am sure it will be an experience for those who attend. I popped my head into the milonga room, and it looked quite inspiring – lots of dancers. I am going to spend my time planning the next part of my route. I’ve got a long list of things I want to see, and need to whittle it down.   I’ll be leaving Tucson in the morning, and expect to be on 1-10 somewhere in Texas tomorrow night. First back to the computer, then sleep.Sorry this is so short, but tomorrow should be interesting !! G’night all !!

Sat. March 15

The weather today was phenominal !!!  Blue skies and warm, warm, warm. At the same time, the weather channel has the most amazing snow warnings that will likely hit this area. Good thing I have my winter parka with me.   I suppose the taco trucks I saw today will go into hiding.  I don’t recall seeing any in Mesa this season, and passed several today. I haven’t had the nerve to stop and try the food. Tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day, and it should be interesting to see how that gets worked into tango !!! Has anyone seen a leprechaun dance tango?  There’s probably something on Youtube !!!!! Erin Go Bragh !!!

Arizona – Wed March 14

This morning Mesa, AZ, and tonight Tucson, AZ – a mere 2 hours drive down the interstate.   The process for closing up my winter home is fairly easy.

One has to protect against termites, extreme heat, and dust. This involves tucking dryer sheets into cupboards and shelves. Apparently the smell repels insects. The hot water heater has to be drained of hot water, but left filled with cold. The fridge is filled with crumpled newspaper and coffee grounds. Windows and doors are covered wtih insulation to keep out the sunshine. Furniture covered in plastic sheeting. Neighbours and friends get good-byes, and wishes of “safe drive home”. 

And this year a couple of new things – when I arrived last November, my century plant was dying. It is an odd process whereby a large stalk grows out of the middle of the cactus  (15 feet high), the lower spines lose their colour and shrivel up ( but the points don’t lose their sharpness or ability to slice your hand open), and at some point the blossoms on the top of the stalk scatter in the air, and theoretically re-plant whereever they fall !!  My stalk was leaning over, and I was concerned about it falling so last night at 11:00 pm, my neighbour and I were outside with rope and a stepstool tieing off the cactus using the palm tree and one of my porch braces to hold it. It looks a bit crazy, but hopefully I’ll get to see the cactus in the next process of its life/regeneration !!

The other change to the closing routine was the addition of a pair of quail on my roof. We aren’t sure where they came from but boy are they noisy !!  First they went across my neighbour’s roof, then managed to hop over to mine. I had always thought quail stayed closer to the ground, but apparently they can fly very quickly (especially when being hunted!!).  These guys were safe enough !! They certainly did look comical enough peering over the roof edge at me.   The drive to Tucson was routine until I spotted the crop duster. The last time I saw one of those guys, the pilot was flying an open cockpit WW1 type plane, somewhere in North Dakota. This time the plane looked more like an ultralight with a very small single cockpit. It was so cool watching the plane swoop down over the fields spraying, then pull up and make a turn to come back around , and do it again.

I got to the hotel hosting the Tango Festival. I have been waiting for this for about 3 months now, and did not realize how pumped I was until I found out I couldn’t go on the Guerilla Bus because I haven’t been dancing for a couple of years. This small detail was never brought up before !!  The Guerilla Bus is going to be heading out on Saturday and doing some “flash mob tango” at various locations in Tucson. It sounds like such fun !! Fun that I won’t be having !!  But everything happens for a reason – I’m just not sure what that is yet !! However – there are 2 Argentinian shoe companies on site, with lots of foot candy !!  Oh yes – it’s all about the shoes !!  And I am taking a series of classes, so it should be a good weekend.