Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Far from the madding crowds

July 9, 2012

Back from several of Florida’s various  Faux-worlds, where the Magic Kingdom on the 4th was aglut with humans from every corner of the globe.  Most of them seemed to be having more fun than I, most of the time, many wandering with grotesquely bloodied turkey legs in hand. But I did enjoy the animatronic hall of presidents. Good to see Obama up there. Epcot’s animatronic Franklin and Twain were kinda nice too. Best thing about Epcot: the food and the beer, and the relative dearth of crowds. The Spaceship Earth ride was a nice little fantasy too.

We did Universal as well. I will confess to enjoying the virtual Harry Potter, Simpsons, and SpiderMan rides.

Did my best to take in the whole experience from the kids’ perspective and not that of a grumpy old cynic. “Please watch your children,” as the ride recordings said. I do remember my first trip to Anaheim in the ’60s. No need to shatter every illusion all at once.

So that’s done, and here we are again in the sweltering mid-south. It finally rained here last night, and my back porch is again a pleasant morning perch.

But I’m still vacating, this month. Just checking in, before checking out again. As the latest Stone post (citing Bruce Chatwin) reminds, nomadism is an inveterate impulse in our species. “We take a vacation, not so much to discover a new landscape, but to find respite from our current one.” Well, respite is welcome in any form. A single perch, or porch, does not suffice. And I can still use a break, far from the madding magic-mongering crowds.

Coming home

July 6, 2009

Best thing about a holiday, beyond the obvious (that it’s  restful , restorative, life-giving and fun) is the reminder it gives that our ways of living, where and how and why we plow through our days in precisely the ways we do,  are selected or inherited from an array of possibilities. It could all be otherwise.

We know that already, of course, sort of, but bringing the awareness of contingency and possibility to the fore periodically keeps a person flexible and open to the unforeseen and unforeseeable.

Taking a holiday in another place can also deepen your appreciation of other lives and the fact that there are many ways of being human. Of course it can also reinforce your prejudices, if you regard those other lives in a skewed and jaundiced perspective. And you have to make allowances for the tendency, when away, to see the sights through tinted lenses. But still, the small break in routine offers big lessons if we’re receptive. Might even turn us into cosmopolites.

The other great thing about a holiday: appreciating what you’ve got, and seeing it all afresh, when you get home.  Coming home’s the point of it all, in the game of life. Sister Wynona Carr said Jesus is standin’ at home plate, but I’m thinking here more of the old Anglo-St. Louis poet who said,

the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.


It was great to take in the dawn from a different perch for a few days. It’s great to be home. The Ashevillian Tom Wolfe (“you can’t go home again”) was mistaken about that.

all good things

July 5, 2009



…and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” uninterrupted (thanks, Ted Turner) and an hour in line waiting for funnel cakes and nachos (all gone) and one more gorgeous lakeside sunset…

lake lure sunset

…and finally fireworks (slow start, satisfying crescendo) and “1776” (that Martha Jefferson sure could sing).

And so the holiday ended. Time to pack and roll.

Chimney Rock

June 30, 2009

chimney rock

Chimney Rock. A private citizen bought this mountain and its hydraulically-carved granite chimney for $5,000 a century ago. In 2007 the state of North Carolina paid $24 million for it. I say its priceless.

A previous visitor snapped and posted some nice shots.

hickory nut falls

It was a great day for a picnic. There’s a protective wall at the edge now. Our ancestors were bolder than us, I think.

opera box chimney rock nc


June 27, 2009

Just saw cousin A., our favorite libertarian, off to the airport. She promises a stellar junior year at N.C. State, and then will write the book on happiness. Can’t wait for it, she knows her subject well. Happy travels, A. Speaking of which…

I’m heeding the advice of William James (“I fully believe in the legitimacy of taking holidays”) and Jimmy Buffett (“Go out and have some fun, take a holiday,  you need a holiday”) for a few days. Actually I try to do that every day, for at least the length of a long walk. This one will be longer. But I’ll be back on the grid soon enough. Happy Independence Day!

A proper road trip

June 20, 2009

Back in Missouri, to fetch the girls home from their summer visit with “Grammy.”

This is how I do a road trip when traveling solo:

Instead of slinking out the back door of town (in our case, up Briley Parkway) I head straight for city center. That’s because it feels more like a transit from one real place to another, more like connecting the dots, if you set the trip meter from a landmark location like the Parthenon, or Borders, or Krispy Kreme. Those places all dot Nashville’s West End corridor, so that’s where I went. Besides, I wanted donuts as a traveling companion. (Also wanted the new Truman road book, but they were out.) Noted the crafts fair being set up in Centennial Park, maybe we’ll catch some of it when we get home.

Next, select a more leisured route than usual. After all, the whole “Are we there yetaudubon park2?” crew is not along for this ride. And I’m willing to spend more time behind the wheel if I know there’s a pleasant stop or two on the itinerary, so an hour into the journey, just into Kentucky, I veer off I-24 and up US 41. A few miles and I’m onto the Pennyrile Parkway, a lovely stretch of Kentucky bluegrass that eventually delivers me back onto 41, and lo, to the entrance of John James Audubon State Park. It’s noon, the donuts have worn off, I’m thinking about a picnic lunch. So I turn into the park, and discover that it is another wonderful legacy of the WPA. Hiking trails abound, and there’s a museum dedicated to the park’s namesake. With free wifi.

To make too long a story shorter, I’m reluctantly back on the road in a couple of hours (prodded by a cell phone call from Younger Daughter).  I drive uneventfully across Illinois, ready for a stretch just as Forest Park again presents its lovely verdant face. Was here on Monday, back again on Friday: probably more trips to this park in a week than I made in a month of Sundays, all those years living half an hour away. That’s one thing I’ll change for sure, if I ever get my time machine.

forest park overviewSo I had a nice stroll up Art Hill and around Post-Dispatch Lake, where currently resides a colorful mini-arch welcoming next month’s All-Star Game visitors.

And then finally to Grammy’s. A full day of driving-and-stopping, and I’m not at all frazzled by the journey. That’s the way to do it.

Not a bad little road trip. I’d do it again today, in reverse, if only my passengers would learn to enjoy the ride. Maybe next year.

Greetings from MO

June 14, 2009


The drive up 1-24 and then west was made more than usually tedious yesterday by construction and other delays. One of us (wasn’t me!) had to find Starbucks, others had to stop frequently for food and “rest” etc. It’s supposed to be a six hour drive, we rarely do it in less than 8. If it’s going to take that long anyway, maybe we should just set out on the Blue Highways and have a real travel adventure. I’m strangely nostalgic for slower days of yesteryear, the ones I don’t really remember but have been hearing about from my elders and others smitten with Route 66, and now from a new book about Harry and Bess Truman’s post-White House driving tour, sans security. Back when gas was 20-something cents and food was only as fast as the roadside diner’s service staff wanted it to be. Really, what’s the big honkin’ hurry? S. was listening to Tao te ching during our drive yesterday and relayed the wise observation that a good traveler does not much think about arriving. As John McDermott says, the nectar is in the journey. We’ve been starving ourselves of nectar for too long.

(Dad would’ve loved that book about the Trumans. He still would’ve preferred taking the Interstate, though. Making time and miles on a trip was a point of pride for him, he could drive forever. In my imagination he’s behind the wheel still.)

Of course we eventually crossed the big river yesterday, and then the other one. We always look for the arch several miles out, it’s a beacon promising exodus from southern Illinois – as bleak a place as there is, though they probably say that about our place. It has become such an icon, that gleaming oval protuberance, but I can just barely recall when it was brand new. Dad was working downtown during its construction in the 60s, at the Humane Society, and used to take his lunch break there to watch the legs rise and eventually join. It’s elegant in its simplicity, notwithstanding the association with Mr. Croc’s golden logo. Thanks to Eric Schlosser (the kids’ version of his Fast Food Nation is called “Chew on This”) both our girls said yesterday they wanted nothing to do with Mickey D’s. (Subway’s still ok.) “Slow food” really is catching on, though it’s certainly nothing new for my in-laws in the country. Trend-setters, they are.

So you can go home again, I do it about twice a year. It’s different, and it’s the same. Heraclitus would understand.