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Susan Sleggs

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

Day 6 – Rt. 66 trip

Staying with family in a private home certainly has its perks. I made my own coffee this morning and added 2% milk bought especially for my visit. The rest of the day I have been pampered, to the point Lisa did our laundry. Thank you!

For four months after we started planning our trip, Bob was adamant he would do no work while traveling. Two weeks before we left, he told me he would be bringing his computer. This morning he spent about an hour on a conference call with other members of the construction team at Home Leasing and a client, mostly listening to the others, but then making an informed comment. The client’s response was, “Give us a minute.” Silence ensued for about five minutes. When they came back on the line, they agreed his idea was an out-of-the-box excellent suggestion. He claimed later this wasn’t a vacation day for him, except he’s been pampered the rest of the day too.

With Larry driving, we finally went to breakfast at County Bob’s in St. James, MO. We had a chuckle about the name. I put that photo on my Facebook page under the name Sue Carmichael Spitulnik. I had pork chop and eggs again. I have been trying to remember the first time I had that combination and why I like it so well. Haven’t come up with the memory yet.

From there we went further north to Meramec Caverns in Stanton, MO. The Land the caverns are on has been privately owned through four generations. Neither Bob nor I had ever been in a cave before. We got our feet wet spelunking in a well-lit, very safe, cave that has a 50 feet wide and 20 feet tall opening and is over 16 miles long in its entirety. We went in about half a mile, down 332 feet and had our mouths open in awe the whole time. The cave was used by the Union forces during the Civil War as an ammunition factory because they could extract salt-peter, potassium nitrate, from the dolomite stone to make gunpowder. The Confederate soldiers, Jesse James among them, destroyed the factory during the war. Ten years later, in 1874, he and Frank used the cave as a hide-out after robbing a train because it is large enough to hide a whole gang, their horses, and supplies completely from view. It also has a river for water and “side rooms” for privacy or storage. The stalactites (hanging from the top of the cave) and stalagmites (sticking up from the mud) were beautiful as they had such varied shapes and sizes, and some were millions of years old. The experience was well worth the money and they give a military and veterans discount if you can prove your status.

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Frank and Jesse James statues outside Meramec Caverns

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Stalactites in Meramec Cavern

On the way to the Caverns we saw a license plate that said Cherokee Nation. Where we are from in New York state we have Native American reservations who belong to the Iroquois Nation, but we have never heard of a special plate for them. We are speculating the car belonged to a political representative of the nation and has a special plate like members of the House of Representatives and Congress have. But, that is only a guess.

Larry drove Rt. 66 on the way back to Rolla and made tourist stops for us. We drove through Cuba that has lots of murals on the outside of buildings, then on to Fanning to stop at The US 66 Outpost to see the Giant Rocking Chair. The gift shop there is a must. There were hundreds of flavors of pop; we call it soda in New York. Some of the flavors were Barf, Dog Drool, Birthday Cake, and normal ones like cherry cream, grape, and different colas. We bought some socks with silly sayings to give as gifts. Many other things caught our eye, but we resisted knowing we still have 19 more days of travel.

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Mural on side of Fanning Outpost in Cuba, MO. Murals line the route.

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At Fanning Outpost

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Merchandise bag worth keeping

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Another funny bathroom sign. Expect to see more.

Our “lunch” stop was at Soda & Scoops in Rolla. This home-made ice cream shop was opened by a couple so their daughter who has Downs Syndrome would have a pleasant place to work. We met the daughter and saw the Mom. I will be talking about the bourbon spiked espresso ice cream with chocolate chunks for a long time. Its name was Exhausted Parent. To keep the ice cream from dripping out of the bottom of the waffle cone, a Hershey’s Kiss was put upside down in the point. The ice cream is made in Madison, Wisconsin. It will be my goal to find another store that carries it.

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Soda and Scoops menu in the store. Below – a unique table for children.

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We spent the early evening looking at before and after pictures of the house Larry and Lisa have been remodeling for the last three years and then Larry cooked steaks outside for us for dinner. It was a very relaxing day.

Day 5 – Rt. 66 trip

We had a very quiet night, no outside noises, no noise inside except for some joint snoring. It was very restful.

We left Pontiac at 8:45 am. Again, using the EZ66 Guide we headed for Atlanta, IL, in search of Palms Grill Café. In the last five years it has been completely redone in the 1940’s era. It’s a good thing we didn’t arrive any earlier because it only opened at 10 am. Sarah, our server, was dressed in a retro outfit. She made a pot of decaf for me without complaint. I took lots of pictures so will tell the rest of the story in their captions.

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Palm’s Grill Cafe decor and old cash register. There is a zumba class ad under the register that made me chuckle. (So not a 40’s era thing.)

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Sarah behind the counter trying to “talk” to a non English speaking couple from France. My pork chop and eggs was yummy. Notice the mini-creamer. Just the right amount.

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Working 1940’s refrigerator with condenser on top.

Upstairs in the same building is a museum that featured the town history and how Abe Lincoln impacted it and its inhabitants. There is a cast of Lincoln’s face and hands made by a local artist for a statue that was so accurate it was used for many more statues. On display is also a scabbard and sword owned by a Mr. Kenyon that he used in the civil war and wore while escorting Lincoln’s casket after the assassination. On display is a statue entitled the Council of War. It was made by John Rodgers in 1866. Bob and I were amazed at the detail and the fact it had been made so long ago out of plaster and clay. We speculated as to it’s worth, but I have yet to research that.

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Statue in Atlanta, IL. museum. Made in 1866.

There are a number of giant statues along Rt. 66. One is across from the café.

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Paul Bunyan and a giant hot dog. He didn’t drop it on our car.

Next to the café is an arcade game museum. We walked through it and remembered playing Pac man and pinball in pool halls or bars when we were young. They cost money and kept a young person occupied away from home for hours. And today we complain about our young people, and any other age too, playing games on their phone or computer for hours. At least they are home. One of the machines was so old it had no flippers. You just sent the ball flying and were entertained by the lights it happened to make blink on its way back to the starting point.

Kitty corner from the café is the octagonal library building, with a clock tower on the corner. The clock had been moved there when the local high school was torn down after a new one was built. In the Arcade we met Bill, one of eight men that take turns winding the clock. It needs to be wound, by hand crank, at least every eight days, but the men have learned it takes 80 turns of the crank if they let it go that long, so they do it every few days. It chimes on the hour and the mechanism for that has to be wound separately. Bill took us to the clock and opened the door so we could see everything he explained to us. Fascinating. As we walked over, he said hello to two other men that drove by. It’s a perk of living in a small town, knowing your neighbors as your friends. There was also a grain elevator display we passed on for the sake of time.

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Clock tower on corner by octagonal library.

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Clock works. If they need a repairman, he comes from PA with a $500.00 house call fee.

We got on Highway 55 to go south to Springfield, IL, to Lincoln’s tomb. So glad we made this one of our stops. When I first saw the tomb, I wondered how many years after his death was this beautiful tribute built. Turns out the family started it very soon after his death. It’s one of those buildings you must see in person to appreciate. Inside you walk in a circle through pink marble hallways to visit the actual gravestone. There are more than a couple of statues of Lincoln in the hallways each as impressive as the next. The flags surrounding the gravestone represent states his ancestors are from and the states he lived in. There is also a presidential flag. I didn’t know such a thing existed.

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Lincoln’s tomb. Picture doesn’t do it justice.

The EZ66 Guide said Henry’s Rabbit Ranch and Rt. 66 Emporium in Staunton, IL. was worth a stop. We needed gas and I love critters, so that’s where we headed. I’m not quite sure how this stop made the guide. There were three live rabbits in an outdoor cage, Gilbert, a large orange rabbit that liked to have his ears rubbed inside and an owner that would still be talking if we hadn’t been on a time limit. One thing about these shop owners and volunteers in the museums, they like to talk and they like people. It’s very easy to make a quick stop last an hour.

We left there and drove 66 to Hamel, where we had our usual lunch; ice cream at The 66 Creamery. Normally we eat a late breakfast, dairy for lunch and a nice supper. Works for us. Besides, it’s a road trip, calories don’t count.

Because we were short on time, we got back on Highway 55. Bob drove through downtown St. Louis during rush hour traffic so I could see the Arch up close. It’s so big, and it’s just there. Quite impressive. My attempt to get a decent picture was unsuccessful.

We arrived at Larry and Lisa’s at 6:30 pm. Only a half hour late. Larry is Bob’s step-son who is married to Lisa. Lisa told us Bob was in Rolla, MO, 19 years ago last week for her and Larry’s wedding. Time does fly. We were given a tour of the house and their beautiful plant filled yard and greeted their two dogs, Penny and Maggie, before we went off to Dickey’s Barbecue Pit for supper. It was good, but I was more interested in the company and conversation to tell you much about it. I did have some fried okra which is a treat in my opinion. I’m sure many won’t agree.

 

 

 

Day 4 – Rt. 66 trip

I guess there is anger no matter where you go. We were unwilling listeners to a screaming match outside our hotel window this morning at 6 am. If I had a nickel for every time the F word was used, I could have paid for breakfast. It seemed to be between a boss and employee that work for a pilot/escort car company and Bob heard the employee get fired. We saw three enormous “tubes” come through the area today that were being escorted by what I grew up calling “chase cars.” There is a huge, extends for miles two ways, wind turbine farm off Rt 55 (66’s replacement road) between Odell and Pontiac, IL. We think the tubes are the bases of the windmills.

We used a book called EZ66 Guide for Travelers, 4th edition, to plan our trip. Thank you again, Rhonda, for telling us about it. We also have an Illinois Rt. 66 visitors guide magazine. Both of these aids have interesting stops pinpointed, good restaurants listed, and loads of museums and other 66 memorabilia described so travelers like us don’t miss anything. The guide even shows where the original road still exists and where it doesn’t and what roads to use from Chicago to LA. Our breakfast choice, The Old Log Cabin, was listed in both. We can agree it should be. Shannon was our bubbly, informative, attentive server. I had a potato casserole with my omelet and when Bob asked for a bite, I told him he only got one. Shannon brought us their visitor register book to sign. It was actually a large accounting book and our first introduction to how many people from other countries come to experience Rt. 66. We had no idea it was such a big deal all over the world. We figure about 50% of the travelers are not Americans. Some speak English and some don’t. The accents are interesting to listen to. The Old Log Cabin had a wooden quilt block on the outside of the building and inside there was a whole trail shown if you wanted to go exploring. Shannon gave us printed directions to get into Pontiac proper and two pens advertising the restaurant.

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Great restaurant in Pontiac, IL. Make sure you order the potato casserole.

We went into town and found the Livingston County War Museum. (It’s interesting to see the same names repeated in each county and state. I wonder if it will still be happening by the time we get to the west coast.) This museum was like nothing I had ever experienced. They have over 200 mannequins dressed in military uniform with all the rank and ribbons earned of local deceased vets, and a few really famous ones. It was like standing among live troops. I was in awe. The education director of the museum, David Estes, and I had quite the conversation. I told him about the Rochester Veterans Writing Group I belong to and the anthology project we are working on. He wants to do a Skype session with us and buy some of our books once they are published. It was all I could do to keep my emotions in check while we were there. Each soldier has his/her picture attached to the uniform with information about where he/she served. Soldiers and memorabilia are on display representing WWI to the present. I wish every locale in the US would do this to honor their vets. We also talked to a Vietnam era sub mariner who had come from Chicago with two other Navy vets to donate some of his personal items to the museum. This experience will live long in my memory. We also visited the Rt.66 museum and the Pontiac-Oakland (car) museum.

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A room full of local veterans and their memorabilia. That’s Audie Murphy on the right in the sand color uniform.

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Lady veterans from the Pontiac, IL area.

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A Vietnam Veteran

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And guys in their BDU’s.

A general observation has been, once we got to Cleveland the license plate holders changed as to which sports-teams they advertise support for. Now we are in Illinois they have changed again. We have spotted 38 different US license plates. Tonight we have to do an inventory to see which ones we are missing. We aren’t paying as close attention now we are just doing short jaunts in the car.

This afternoon we drove north on the old 66 to a town called Odell. There is a 1932 filling station there. The gas pump doesn’t work anymore, but it’s one of those that the gas bubbled up into the top receptacle then was hosed into the car via gravity. They also sold Licks66 homemade ice cream. Bob had strawberry and I had butter pecan. Both were very good. That was lunch.

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1932 gas pump and station in Odell, IL. Bob with our red “baby.”

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The people who visited the station today. Notice all the foreign countries represented. It’s fun to talk to them.

Next we went a bit further north to a town called Dwight. There is a bank there in a building that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Between the one-way streets and lack of easy to spot signage we couldn’t find it so stopped at the local fire station where some firemen were sitting on their truck out in the sunshine. They gave us more directions we had trouble following. In the end, we found the building. Get this, the back of it was directly across the street from the fire station and there was a big sign stating the fact painted on the side of the building facing the one we were looking for. It gave us a good chuckle and we got to see the beautiful Dwight train station.

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Dwight Train Station

We had supper at DeLong’s. A local café with good food. The prices here are about two-thirds what we pay in Rochester. I had as good a taco salad as ever and Bob had chicken pot pie which was more like a stew in a bowl with a biscuit. The serving was huge and he had trouble finishing the beef sandwich he ordered thinking the bowl would be a cup.

It’s an earlier night tonight. That’s good. Maybe we will get going in a timelier manner tomorrow.

 

 

Day 3 – Rt. 66 trip

Well, that nice quiet hotel without hot water on Day 2, was not quiet last night. We heard slamming doors, yelling, and crying. At 1:00 am a woman decided it was worth it to scream shut-up in the hallway. We agreed with the sentiment, but not the delivery. We heard more human noises but finally went to sleep about 2 am. You ask, why didn’t you vacate that dump? Well, we didn’t want to pack up and move out of a non-refundable spot. We’re lazy and it was so close to the kids. We did give the guy at the front desk this morning a list of “problems.” He said he was the night auditor and would pass them on to the manager. What hotel manager isn’t at work at 9 am? My brother-in-law told me not to skimp on hotel rooms. Now I get it.

Today was a travel day. It was odd to travel west instead of towards home. Regular gas at the Sunoco was $2.259 but in the Mini we use high test which was $3.399. We left Lakewood, Oh, at 9 am with an odometer reading of 61,262. We passed the Duck Tape World Headquarters. Had no idea it was made in Ohio. In Ohio we added four more license plates to our US list and three more in Indiana. Now, it’s a game of what don’t we have. We saw lots of semi’s pulling three trailers. We both thought NY outlawed that, but aren’t sure. The terrain was boringly flat, and the fields were HUGE compared to New York farm fields.

We had dressed for the weather report; mid 80’s, humid and sunny. We got dreary, low 70’s, and on and off rain. So, the top was down and then up. I’m including a very unflattering picture because if you can’t laugh at yourself you might as well hang it up. When we got in the car, I thought my coat would be too warm, but just a denim shirt wouldn’t be enough, so I added my sweater. I felt like a little kid dressed to combat the snow, but had shorts on. Like I said, unflattering, but worth sharing. I was never too warm.

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Too warm with a coat, too cold with just a denim shirt……no comments needed. Village Kitchen in Angola, IN, where we had lunch.

On one of our rest stops we saw one of those machines that flattens a penny for a keepsake. One penny now costs One Dollar! Bob and I both remember when it cost a nickel. I would call that major inflation. If you have money to invest, buy a few of those machines and set them around your work area and home. It’s worth the investment for the current return.

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Penny press now costs ONE DOLLAR

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A Mini the size of ours. Can’t imagine pulling that load, nor staying in it.

So, what does one talk about on a travel day? The people you meet of course. The ones we will remember who probably don’t even know they impacted our life. We found our first “Americana” lunch spot in Angola, IN. The name was Village Kitchen, shown in my unflattering picture. We sat at the counter as we like to do, to enjoy the “floor show,” and because all the tables were full. Siri picked the restaurant for us. Lisa was one of the servers that kept filling my coffee. A good-looking guy came in and sat beside me. Lisa took his order and said she made sure there was some of the lunch special saved for his supper. Another guy asked how she knew he would like it. She responded, “It has spinach in it.” We quickly figured out all the people in the conversation already knew each other. As the guy got up to leave Lisa leaned over the counter and pecked him on the lips. Bob asked if she did that to all her customers. She said, “Only my boyfriend or my husband.” I said, “Do you have both?” She laughed and said, yes, but they both look exactly the same. We had a good laugh and the other guy sitting there told us it depended on how they were getting along on any given day which one she considered him. That opened the door to more conversations with people we will never see again.

During the same meal a workmate/friend of Bob’s texted about work and added to keep me out of the quilt shops. They hadn’t even been on my mind but with another question to Siri I found out there was one four doors away. Off I went. A few months ago, my quilting group called the Clydettes gave me an excellent idea of how to design a Rt. 66 memory quilt. I will be buying fat quarters (an 18 by 22-inch piece of fabric) depicting the locales we visit. Today I got Indy cars and farm fields. Bob joined me and we had a great chat with the owner of the Angola Quilt Shop. She is soon going to celebrate her first year in business. If you travel through Angola, Indiana, it’s worth a stop. After we left the shop, Bob’s friend Mike texted the name to a national book listing all the quilt shops that pay to have their name included. I laughed because he said he was just doing a good friend a big favor. You can guess Bob’s return comment.

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Sign in the quilt shop bathroom. Hadn’t seen this one before.

From Angola, we drove some more to get to Joliet, Illinois to start the actual Rt. 66 escapades. We took a couple of pictures, then a guy on the street took one for us, to show we had found our destination. It is set as our title image today. We are guessing a lot of people take pictures for other people on Rt. 66.

We got back in the car and drove the fastest route to Pontiac, Illinois, arriving just after 6 pm. Our Best Western hotel room is a palace compared to the last two nights. It’s amazing how long one can spend in a hot shower just to enjoy the experience. I feel like a new person. We took the front desk clerk’s, Karen, advice and went to supper at Baby Bull’s just down the street. We had a very unique beer menu which I remembered to take a picture of. Our server, Debbie, was the best. We told her about my blog and then promised to send this write-up to the restaurant, plus go on their Facebook page and leave a nice comment. They deserve it. My liver and onions were cooked the way I like and the home-made bread and butter were more than yummy. Bob had meatloaf that came with lots of gravy and the side salads gave us our vegetables. We had a couple of celebratory drinks to mark the beginning of our real bucket list journey.

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Baby Bull’s food menu and unique beer menu.

Day 2 – Rt. 66 trip

I started the day with a cold-pond temperature shower in the Days Inn in Lakewood, Ohio. I have to say the bed was wonderful, the halls were quiet, but the room cleanliness and repair were the worst ever in our travels. I’ve never felt uncomfortable walking barefooted in a hotel room before. When I called the front desk about the water temperature, they said let it run longer. By the end of Bob’s shower, the water was lukewarm. The refrigerator and air conditioner are both very quiet. A big plus for me. I won’t bother with the details about the condition of the room. Believe me when I say we won’t be staying here again even though it is only five minutes from the kids. I would also advise others to avoid the place. We thought about raising a ruckus and checking out, but didn’t want the hassle of moving. We left the do not disturb sign in the door all day and came back to the room the way we left it.

We had coffee and a pastry at the Blackbird Baking Company for breakfast. The pastries were so good we bought two to have in the morning before we get on the road.

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two unknowns purchasing pastries

When we finished, we went to the kids where I was reprimanded (in a loving way) for not telling you yesterday that I made the fabric passage picture that was behind Jon’s Emmy. I must be getting old. I remember Jon coming to the house one day while he was working at 13WHAM and asking for help making the gift for his then fiancé, Dung Tran. She is Vietnamese by birth, but a US citizen since her teen years. Her name is pronounced like the word young. I don’t remember tracing, cutting and then stitching all the letters onto the grey back ground but both Jon and Dung said I did. I wouldn’t mind being reminded of doing more nice things like that.

We met Dung about the same time we met Jon when they were boyfriend and girlfriend. We have enjoyed our part in their long-distance relationship, then marriage, when Jon worked in Rochester and Dung taught school outside of San Francisco. When Jon left Channel 13 for a job in Bakersfield, CA, they finally got to live together and start their family. Then he was offered the job in Cleveland a year and a half ago, so here we are.

While Dung was still in the Bay Area, she got more education and received a national teaching certificate so she could get a teaching job anyplace in the US without having to be certified in the individual state. She has just been hired full time to teach kindergarten in Cleveland. I understand not a lot of teachers go the trouble of getting the certification. It’s a lot of work, and not very easy to accomplish. We are proud of our “bonus kids” just like we are of our own for their accomplishments.

There was an air show along the Lake Erie waterfront today. I can’t guess at the number of people that filled the parks, streets, condo balconies and restaurant patios. We were among them. We came into downtown Cleveland about 11:15 to get a good parking place in one of the garages then walked into city center for lunch at the Winking Lizard. I had green siracha coated chicken wings that were cooked perfectly. Bob had a burger whose “bun” was a filled quesadilla. On top was a bacon wrapped fire roasted jalapeno pepper with cream cheese inside. He said it was very good. I helped him eat his fries and shared some with the sparrows that lined the next table waiting for a handout.

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Jon Doss – WEWS Channel 5 sportscaster, Theo Tran-Doss, Dung Tran-Doss

I don’t know if you know any TV personalities personally like I do so I will tell what it is like to be seen with them in public. If you are any kind of sports fan you know about the Cleveland Cavaliers (pro basketball), The Cleveland Indians (pro baseball), and Cleveland Browns (pro football). This year the Browns are expected to be very good. Walking with the local sportscaster in crowds is an experience. At one traffic light a man driving a van honked and waved, then yelled out the window, “Channel 5 Weather?” Jon responded with a big smile and wave, “Sports!” The next guy a few streets later got the job description right with a shared grin. Another hundred people and a guy said, “Jon Doss!” and kept walking. He was recognized again and I was able to say to that man, “Seeing this as a parent makes me proud.” Jon and Dung call us their Rochester parents. Jon said someone calling him by name is not very common. It was entertaining to watch people try to figure out where they knew him from without being intrusive. And lots of people were looking at Bob’s handlebar mustache too. I blend into the crowd which is fine with me. We left the air show about 2:00 to take Theo home for his nap. Bob and I took one too. The weather couldn’t have been any better; sunny and in the mid 70’s.

About 5:15 pm we went to Crocker Park, a shopping area like none I have ever seen, west of Cleveland. It’s not a mall per say, but a retail village that spreads four blocks by two blocks with 123 restaurants and stores that have deluxe condos on the higher floors. It is not uncommon to see Porches, Maseratis, Bentleys and other exotic vehicles parked along the streets. Jon says the professional sports players hang out at one particular steak house and some live in the condos. There are expensive, comfy lounge chairs on the sidewalks and beautiful planters full of colorful flowers. The chairs were occupied by people drinking Starbucks. I think I need to bring my daughter and grandson next time we visit. Molly would love the shopping and William could check out the cars and tell me all about them.

We ate supper at Alladin’s, which is much like the one in Rochester. For you out-of-towners it is a middle eastern restaurant. I’ve never had such good humus and my lamb was yummy too. I forgot to take a picture. Afterwards, we went for ice cream at Graeter’s. I am a sucker for good home-made ice cream. Mitchell’s has the corner on ice cream in Cleveland, but I liked what I had tonight. By the time we got back to the Doss’s we all had in over eleven thousand steps. That includes 2 ½ year old Theo. He eats well, loves to run and sleeps better than any of us.

Back home, Jon and I shared a nightcap then we said our goodbyes. Theo will not be happy when he gets up in the morning and Grandpa Bob and Grandma Sue don’t show up. Maybe we should do face time with the little guy more often.

 

 

 

Day 1 – Rt 66 trip

We started our day at our favorite restaurant having a great breakfast and saying “see you in a month,” to our favorite waitstaff. Thank you, Steve’s Original Diner for being our home away from home.

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Just in case you don’t know about RT 66. It’s starting place is in Chicago, and Rochester, NY, is a few miles from there. So, we have to do some driving to get there. Today our destination was Cleveland, Ohio. When you are both senior citizens and you know you have a few hours in the car, you can easily revert to being a child. We wondered if on this trip we would see all 50 states license plates. What a surprise. Before leaving New York state we saw 21 different states, counting our own. Then the highlight of the day, in Pennsylvania, we saw an Alaska plate. We had expected that and Hawaii to be on the endangered list. By the time we got to Cleveland we had seen 28 different plates. This game might not last as long as we thought especially since we still have nine more states to travel through before the end of the month.

We left home at 11:18 am with an odometer reading of 60,976 miles. We paid $2.74 a gallon for gas to fill the tank. We each have a suit case and computer case, one six-pack size cooler, and an extra bag for footwear and swim wear. We used to do nine-day trips on a motorcycle and I don’t carry any make-up, plus we will be staying in Best Western’s that have a laundry room, so we feel we have adequate clothing. Oh, there are two red coats in the miniscule trunk that match the car, in case we need them. I do travel with my own pillow.

We used WAZE for driving directions instead of Google Maps, but when comparing them they seemed very similar. WAZE does warn you about police in your locale, though we didn’t see them. We had the top down for a few miles, but rain forced us to stop and put it up. Had we been on a motorcycle we would have been wet till we got to our destination. There is a lining to that cloud of aging when back and knee issues make you give up a favorite toy for another type.

You are probably wondering why we only went as far as Cleveland. That’s where our “bonus son” and his family live so the stop was a no-brainer. What’s a bonus son you ask. A child you claim as your own, but you didn’t have to raise. He’s been a part of our life for 13 years. He’s now a sportscaster for WEWS Ch. 5, Cleveland, Ohio. His wonderful wife made us dinner and their two-year-old, Theo, kept us entertained until Daddy got home from work. Then we spent a couple more hours catching up on family news. Part of that conversation was about the Emmy Jon won for Hosting and Producing the Cleveland Browns football pregame show. Little side story, a few years back a friend of Bob’s asked Jon why he thought he could make a living doing sports news on television. Jon’s answer then was, “Because I’m good at it.” Now at the age of 31 he has his first Emmy. The kid knew his calling and followed it. We are proud of him. Tomorrow I’ll tell you more about his wife.

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Theo and Bob

 

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Jon’s Emmy in front of a saying he gave his wife when they were living and working on opposite coasts.

 

 

 

The Night Before – Rt. 66 trip

This morning we leave on the first leg of our Rt. 66 drive in our six-speed 2009 Red Mini Cooper Convertible, but last night we had a vacation worthy experience at Michael’s Valley Grill on Old Penfield Road in Penfield, NY, a suburb of Rochester.

Let me back up. I belong to an international writing group called Carrot Ranch Literary, whose lead buckaroo is Charli Mills. I got to spend four plus days with Charli in July and now consider her not only a writing mentor but a personal friend. She is studying for her MFA (Master of Fine Arts) on-line and is sharing her classes with us. This week was about deep mapping, which means use all five of your senses to scope out a place and describe it. I think I have that right. So tonight I observed more than just the people I saw. I watched what they did, how they interacted, and got caught up in the fact they were having a good time. I’m not practiced at writing observations so please bear with me.

Old Penfield Road has many restaurants. We eat breakfast at Steve’s Original Diner so often the owner and employees know us by name and vice versa. We like to sit at the counter so we have time to talk and look at pictures of pets/children/and grandchildren. One of the girls has been our coach for this trip. Thank you, Rhonda. On the other side of the street is Charlie Brown’s. We eat dinner there often enough that I get a kiss on the check from the owner when we arrive and leave. We feel at home, enjoy the live music, and take our friends there.

Back across the street again is Michael’s Valley Grill, owned by Michael and Priscilla Petrillo. They have live music too and a friend of mine recently told me if we, my husband and I, liked jazz, we should be going to Michael’s on Saturday night. Tonight, we did. If you have ever been to New Orleans, the restaurant has that feel. What do I mean? On a recent trip to Nola we experienced something you don’t often see in the northeast. Anyway, I don’t. A person was a person. It didn’t matter the color, the clothing, or the make-up; the people that were in the French Quarter when we were there were “just humans” and everyone interacted with everyone else. It was refreshing. I saw and felt the same thing this evening. It was a treat. The band started with Joe on piano, Curtis on drums, then added Terrance on sax and Art on guitar. I’m sorry for the pink hue to the photo, there were red lights on the band.

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The band, left to right, Art, Terrance, Curtis, and Joe.

 

Some of their friends and family were in the crowd too. I have to admit something and I hope I don’t offend anyone. Those African American women and men know how to dress. I always feel like a country bumpkin when I’m in a room with them. Not everyone was in a suit or dress, but the ones that were looked mighty fine no matter their ancestry. It seemed most took more time than I did to get ready to go out, but then I came home and spent time in front of the computer. We all have our strengths.

“The Grill’s” walls are lined with artwork; all by David Colon Jr. (www.DColonPaintings.com) One wall has the band members. The watercolor of Curtis is being entered into a northeast competition in the next couple of months. I expect it will do well. Working behind the bar was Max. He’s been there over ten years and knows what people drink. He also knows their habits so no one waited long for a refill. At just the right time he made Priscilla what I think was a chocolate martini which she sipped before leaving for the evening. I asked her if I could photograph the art work. She said, “Of course.” I also asked permission to write about their business. She didn’t ask to read what I wrote before I post it. She also wants to live the next month vicariously through me, so now my plan to blog our trip is even more important to accomplish. Here’s a picture of Max, and one of the watercolors of the band.

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Watercolors of the band and humans.

 

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Max, a fun, quick bartender.

 

We got there early enough to watch Michael escort a couple to their table. He allowed the woman to take his arm and walked slowly with her saying they were only going to the fourth table from the door. We were still at the bar when that couple left. The man stopped to talk to my husband about his handle bar mustache. That happens a lot. The mustache is a great conversation starter. We get to know a lot of people that way.

When Art first came in we talked to him, or my husband did, about the fact he was wearing a New York Yankee’s hat. Art deduced right away that Bob is a Red Sox fan, even more so after Bob showed him his socks. About the same time the band was playing a song that included the lyrics, “take your shoe off.” Max and a few others did as they were told, but then put them on again. It made for a light hearted moment and some big smiles. Michael’s was a fun place to be tonight. From where I was sitting at the bar, I could see the cars enter and leave the parking lot. There was one thing in common, there were no inexpensive ones.

If you have the chance, visit Michael’s Valley Grill on a Saturday night. The food is great, the service is top notch, the Nola atmosphere is a breath of fresh air and on Saturday nights the live band is the icing on the cake. No one will rush you out the door so it’s the ideal spot to visit with friends and be pampered. And don’t forget to check out the art work by David that is for sale.

She Learned What Not To Do- flash fiction

The business man built the mansions, the banker financed them and when the safebreaker was notified, he robbed them. The three men didn’t care about laws, nor who they hurt. Years went by. The builder’s and banker’s sons took over for their fathers. Having not been taught a work ethic, nor adequate skills, the sons faltered. They were at constant odds with the safebreaker’s daughter who had decided it was up to her to break the ill-gotten chain of control. The young men never recognized their own foibles and blamed their troubles on that woman. She hadn’t underestimated herself.

Written in response to Charli Mills August 29, 2019, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the safebreaker’s daughter. Who is she, what did she do, and where? Go where the prompt leads you!

That’s One Old Building – flash fiction

While touring a small British town my aunt pointed to the historical plaque on the outside wall of a pub. It said 1158. We commented we didn’t think there was a building in the US that was 700 years old because we tear everything down and build new. We went in for lunch and a pint. The old-world charm was a respite and matched by the personalities of the young owners who asked where we were from in the states. When we questioned how they knew, the answer was, “You are wearing bright colors. Gives you away every time.”

 

In response to Charli Mills August 22, 2019, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about old world charm. It can be nostalgic or irreverent. You can invent an “old world,” return to migrant roots or recall ancient times. Go where the prompt leads you!

It’s a Trust Issue – flash fiction

A month before my wedding, Gran advised, “You will discover marrying into a large family can have its pitfalls.”

“I already feel like I belong.”

“Let’s hope that lasts.”

Years later I remembered those words when a member of my husband’s family stated, “No in-law would know the family history we are discussing.”

I replied aloud, “I take umbrage with that,” and was ignored, so I left the room.

A few days later I received an e-mail from the speaker. “I was out of line. Sorry.”

The words felt like swallowing sweet jam, with a hint of invisible mold.

 

Written in response to Charli Mills August 15, 2019, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sweet jam. It can take you to the kitchen or the smokey room of a back-alley bar. What makes it sweet? Go where the prompt leads you!

 

If the Mirror Said More – flash fiction

The Queen questioned her reliable magic mirror but this time the answer was different. Snow White was deemed more fair.

“Why?” screamed the angry queen.

“Your beauty is still supreme but not your heart. Snow White cares for others more than herself. She is loyal without being jealous. She works hard, without complaining, nor expecting return. She follows the laws while still helping the less fortunate and she sees her near empty glass as replenishable with good fortune.”

“I shall kill her with a poison apple!”

“No, my Queen. Learn from her or the poison will surely kill you.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills August 8, 2019, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a poisoned apple. Let’s explore dark myth. Deconstruct the original or invent something new. Negotiate the shadows, shed light, but go where the prompt leads you!

Living Like A Rock Star – Flash Fiction

OMG being involved with someone famous is hell. I’ve been followed by paparazzi, and can’t go shopping or out to eat with my own mother without security. I can’t buy anything, at any price, without people saying she paid. She wouldn’t date me if I didn’t have my own money. Why didn’t I listen when my friends told me living like a rock star wasn’t going to be all that easy? I’m just realizing, if I can get out of this relationship, I will always be HER ex and it will be years before I’m known as anything else.

 

Written in response to Charli Mills August 1, 2019, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock star. You can feature a central character or write about the feeling like a rock star. Go where the prompt leads!

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