Friday, November 30, 2007

Are there odd lights in the sky?

This is odd. We've just crossed the border from Texas into New Mexico
on our way to Roswell to check out the infamous alien landing sites
and we lose our GPS location and our Internet connection goes down.
LOL! If this posts to my blog, then you know we are OK!

Where Kennedy Died

I walk through the past and my eyes well with tears as I hear and see CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite deliver the unbelievable to the American people: “From Dallas, Texas, the flash - apparently official - President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central standard time, 2 p.m. Eastern standard time, some 38 minutes ago.” ... His words interrupt a ''soap opera, "As The World turns," on Nov. 22, 1963. And they resonate through Nov. 29, 2007.

I hear his words as we explore the Sixth Floor Museum at the Dallas Book Depository (bought in 1977 by Dallas County), where an extensive interactive display carries us through John F. Kennedy's life, his death in Dallas and his legacy. It is here, on the sixth floor, alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald crouched behind a sixth-floor window and fired on the Kennedy motorcade, bringing an end to Camelot and to the life of our 35th president.

That window is preserved in accurate detail. Because of security glass, I stand about 20 feet away from the original sniper's nest and feel the coolness of the brick with my hand. (See a Web cam from that window ... odd, though, that the camera angle is wrong. Kennedy was shot AFTER the motorcade turned the corner at the right ... see these pics Allen and I took from the spot Kennedy was shot ... no pics were allowed inside the museum.)

As I stand on the infamous grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza, I pause and consider the few hours I am spending in Dallas before I leave. Imagine blowing into one of the biggest metroplexes in the country (population 6 million) and leaving after a mere few hours. Now imagine a resident of Dallas on a cross-country tour sweeping through Syracuse for lunch at the Dinosaur. Not a bad memory, eh?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Texas: Not at all what I thought

Texas is beautiful, with her gently rolling landscape lush with
vegetation betraying my image of Texas being sandy, barren and flat,
wide open enough to see from Mexico to Oklahoma.

Marhsall introduces us to East Texas culture and kindness at The Pet Place (picture above), a no-kill humane shelter tucked into a woodsy
area behind a Wal-Mart. Sally Socia, a retired attorney, is lead
visionary. Under her guidance, the shelter operates a dog park, free
spay and neutering clinics and partners with the Boy Scouts to provide
free dog shelters to the needy.

Get this: The shelter also partners with Meals on Wheels to feed 300
homebound people AND THEIR ANIMALS on a daily basis. Sally has plans
to start a reading tutoring program, where children with reading
problems can read to the animals.

Sally makes her visions come true. She's an amazing woman.

Also amazing is the Dallas cityscape at night (see pic). Wow. Such beauty. We arrive during 5 o'clock traffic. Not beautiful. But we survive.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Storied Land

Our need for supplies spills us into the northwestern Lousiana town of Natchitoches. It's a clean, middle class place with Northwestern State University and Fort St. John the Baptiste on the west bank of the Cane River. Cane River?

Without intending to, I've stumbled upon the location of one of my favorite books, "Cane River," written by Lalita Tademy. Tademy traces her African-American family tree through her mother line of slaves and free women from the Cane River area. (I read the sequel, too, "Red River." Not as noteworthy.)

While it's a modern-day town, I get quiet and reminisce about the way it was, the women in Tademy's family and the joys and sorrows they endured. It's one thing to learn the history of a town. It's another to experience it.

With God, All Things Are Possible

New Orleans opens her wounds to us today as we explore Katrina's victory and defeat. Three years later, her wounds still fester. Home after home lay in ruin, their roofs punctured where residents escaped to safety, windows blown out, foundations crumbled. Street after street deserted. St. Bernard Parish, one of the hardest hit, remains wiped out. A few residents and stores (Home Depot!) have crawled back in, but not many. Still, God is there (see the pic, taken from inside our tour bus while moving through St. Bernard Parish), which means hope survives. After a three-hour tour of the storm's devastation and the city's efforts to rebuild, we climb back into Otto (after spending $12 on pralines and listening for a few minutes to a steam calliope on top of the Natchez riverboat ... you can, too, below) and head toward Dallas, Texas, through Louisiana's secondary roads. Lovely. So much nicer than New Orleans.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Orleans, Fasoldt style

We're not drinkers, gamblers or partiers, and still New Orleans
welcomes us. The day is stormy, with lots of wind, rain and big X's on
homes reminding us Katrina was no lady.

Until we get to the French Quarter (shown in the pic with modern New
Orleans looming overhead). Nothing looks damaged. Just wet. And
beautiful. (Except for urine-soaked Bourbon Street, where honky tonks
and peep shows outnumber souvenir shops 8 to 1.) Lovely balconies lush
with potted vegetation provide shelter from the rain. Colorful doors
decorate entire blocks. The rain scares away tourists. It's nearly
empty. Perfect.

The rain eases as we make our way to the New Orleans School of
Cooking, where we spend a few hours immersed in talk about Cajuns,
Creoles, gumbo, jambalaya, bread pudding and pralines with a Detroit-
born history teacher turned chef. We learn much (gumbo is brown,
jambalaya is red) and are encouraged (often) to shop in the adjacent

Once fed, we migrate to a dog park on Royal Street, where Josh and
Jake romp in the rain (as do Allen and I with them). For a glimpse of our New Orleans, see these pictures.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Doggone ... almost

In our push to New Orleans, we spend hours watching the scenery flash
by. My 4-year-old poodle, Jacob, is restless. We stop for dinner and
insistently he drops his toy in my lap, begging for play. I toss it a
few times, then wave him off. I should recognize the signal.

When we stop for sleep next to a cotton field (see picture) in the
panhandle of Florida, Jacob calculates his chances and once the leash
is unsnapped, he bounds past us through the camper door and heads into
the dark of the cotton field's night. He's a 90-pound black dog with
the feet and spirit of a gazelle. In my heart, I know he's gone.

Allen follows in full dash. I slam into my slippers, grab the leash
and head out in pursuit of them both. I see and hear nothing. Both are
so far away. I squint. Nothing. I listen. Nothing. All around, tuffs
of cotton dot the landscape like marshmallows in a vat of hot
chocolate. I call. "Jacob." "Allen." "Jacob." "Allen." It is surreal.
"Jacob." "Jacob." "Jacob." Stillness. Then I see him. Jacob. Trotting
toward me. I sit down (a trick I've learned to entice him over). He
skirts the edge of my zone and continues away. "Jacob?" I whine. He
turns, trots back and is ready to snuggle. SUCCESS!

I find Allen way at the other end of the field and he's relieved. Then
worry descends. Joshua! Our other poodle. Is that him barking? Allen
runs full tilt the half a mile back. Joshua is safe.

Time for bed.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Heading up and out

With the holiday festivities behind us., we wave farewell to the
family and head up and out of Florida, turning our noses toward New

I've no clue where we are stopped at the moment, except it's somewhere
near the border of Florida and Alabama. I've had to tug on my shoes
and socks for our nightly stroll instead of just slipping into sandals.

Not bad, though. I'm still in shirt sleeves and it's snowing back home
in Baldwinsville, NY.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No vacancy? No problem!

We finally cross the border from winter back into summer, discard our
coats and long sleeves and relocate our sandals. Our accommodations
all along the way are superb. We stay at (Hotel) Wal-Mart, every chance we get.

Wal-Mart is a fine place to stay for the night. The fee is accommodating (free) and the security is perfect. The scenery? Usually swell. The first picture shown here from our (Hotel) Wal-Mart in Columbia, SC. The wooded scene is what we saw outside our dining room
window. The next scene (with the bank) is our view in De Land, FL.

Most (Hotel) Wal-Marts encourage RV'ers to stay the night. Just be courteous, park in the outskirts and shop in the store. However, after arriving in Port Orange, FL, for the evening, we learn the county forbids overnight parking, Wal-Mart apologizes over and over, gets on the phone and tracks down another Wal-Mart to welcome us 35 minutes away. We are comfy.

Check out the Wal-Marts where you can and can't park overnight:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How I Love Those West Virginia Hills

We ask our GPS (a Tom-Tom we named, ahem, Thomas) to carry us through
West Virginia without using toll roads. We wind along routes 60 and 19
through narrow little coal towns, towns with lovely names such as
Gauley Bridge, Hawks Nest and Chimney Corner. The autumnal colors are
ablaze. West Virginia's winding roads confuse Thomas, who keeps
telling us to turn left and right when, in fact, the road is merely
folding back on itself in yet another hairpin curve.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Unconditional love: Boy, what a gift

Betty Peters White means the world to me. She's my longest-time friend (about 50 years), my dearest friend, my special friend. Her wisdom and unconditional love soften my hard times and chocolate-top my good times.

We were to reach her house in Charleston, WV, by 3 pm, never made it until 7:30 pm and all was OK by her. No stress, no uglies. What a grand woman. She feeds us well (a holiday spread of watercress soup, chicken and rice, broccoli, special stuffed onions, cinnamon applesauce, and, as a treat, homemade peanut-butter fudge) We talk until 1:30 a.m.

I wish everyone had a Betty. I thank God I do. (I'm at left; she's at right.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Asleep in the snow

We are woefully behind schedule, but smiling just the same. Our push
south to Florida for Thanksgiving lands us at a sprawling Wal-Mart for the night in Madison, Ohio. As we drift into dreams, snow dusts the landscape. So beautiful. Otto stays toasty. The dogs love the brisk air outside. The fields that frame the superstore glisten as the dusting melts, unlocking a bounty of new scents for our boys to absorb. Everyone smiles.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Countdown to go

It's below freezing tonight and we are just days away from our two-
month journey. As Otto sits in our driveway, we're praying the heat
pump stays engaged so the pipes won't freeze.

We still have to pack our food, clothing and the doggie supplies. We
also have to outline many legs of the trip! What fun this will be.

We are headed from Syracuse to Largo, FL, for Thanksgiving for
family, then across the bottom of the U.S. and on up the coast of
California to Seattle to spend Christmas with family.

Talk later.