Monday, September 10, 2018

The tour between the states-Part IV- The (bus) march to Atlanta

Wednesday May 8 (Day 8)

Packed and ready to head out of New Orleans towards our next goal, Atlanta, Georgia.  It'a about a six hour drive so its a  pretty much a sit-in comfy bus seats ride, I fell asleep about 8 times, dropping whatever book I had been trying to get into down on the floor, where it was sucked into the mass of stuff rolling around the floor, if you're lucky another passenger will find it and return said book (lipstick, candy, spouse, etc) to you, or your survivors.  If this does not occur, you will know your object has been sucked  into the Yankee Trails wormhole, and said wormhole from the said bus will eject your item a few days later when the bus returns, but only after you've stopped calling.  Packages are then distributed to ...I don't know who...

Here noted above is what the South is really like.  No monuments or statues, no politics except on bumper stickers or anything that is green and is a living plant.  Nowhere up here do we have gas stations that do more than sell gas, coffee, and beef jerky.  At the Southern stations like Love's here you can have a shower, all kinds of candy (that I have not seen in years), CDs, DVDs, technically thingies that even a old and forlorn techie as yours truly can't figure out.  They also will check your truck tires, stick air in or pull the tire out and stick a new one on.  They have overnight accommodations for those who need accommodating (only in Kansas), and also the oddest hot dogs I've ever seen.This is called a "Cheeseburger".
And, of course you have to get a cap to cover your bald spot.

It was the group consensus(my wife's) that I was more along the line of a short Lyndon Johnson with this cowboy hat, so we went with something slightly better.

There you go. Helped keep the sun off my dainty bald head.

As we headed toward Atlanta, I looked at the names on the exit signs on route. Now and then, there'd be an exit for a town with a Civil War association.  We've already passed New Orleans, seized by David Farragut in 1862, followed by Port Hudson/Baton Rouge 1863.  Union ships then, under the command of David Farragut, took control of  the  port of Mobile, Alabama in 1864, ending shipping in and out of major Confederate textiles, tobacco, and food.  And it also meant that the Confederacy could not import needed goods, unless the sleek ships of the night ran the Union blockade, and brought what they could from the outside, and get rich of course.

But this isn't a history lesson.and you are welcome. Just to see the names on the signs - Selma, Montgomery, Mobile.  Places that changed the country, and are still haunting us, for a justice called for, and promised, but not here yet.

This early part of the trip took us through Mississippi, (Sweet Home) Alabama, and into the Peachtree State.  Now we're coming into the city from the southwest, Sherman moved his approximately 60,000 soldiers southeast into Georgia, following battles in Tennessee, but ready for the final march.  We're just waiting for our guy who ended up in the showers at Love's, and it was necessary to get him an adult beverage and mellow out.  He just kept saying "Big truck...such a big hairy truck..."  Fortunately he dozed off before we left the parking lot, though he did fart for the length of the of the way to Georgia.

Nevertheless we breathed slowly, and got our first looks at The ATL.  More soon.  

By the way I discovered that there was a Love's gas station/food/shower/hats when we were returning from Boston where the Massachusetts Turnpike becomes the NYS Thruway in New Lebanon NY.  I am heading for my cheeseburger hotdog right now!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Tour Between the States Part III - Heading for Glory...sort of

Please note that version of Mr. Hyde was from the silent movie era, and since Jackie was in the dental profession for many years and therefore was concerned that the tooth exposed in the picture of Hyde might need attention.  Besides, she said, that's not a baseball cap.


No baseball cap, but certainly the look I have when the Mets bullpen
                                             blows another lead and we fans have to live with that horror.
Abbott and Costello meet Dr.Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.
No real connection here, but its Abbott & Costello, come on!

So Day 7 (Tuesday5/15) and Jackie and yours truly stood before the doors of the hotel and we took deep breaths and stepped out into the sunny 85 degree and humid.  Quickly we moved our sneakered feet away from the French Quarter and, when our breathing adjusted to the water cleaned streets and homeless drunks.We had to do the tourist thing, and a lot of citizens of NOLA know and love the place.
Cafe du Monde

 Find a table and order coffee 

 And when your done, get going before the crowd arrives

There are many places you can Beignets and a drink right around Jackson Park, but you haven't Beigneted until you have been Cafe du Mode Beigneted.  

With that we began our usual "What do you wanna do?" "I don't know.  What do you wanna do?"  Here in this amazing city and here were two tourists with maps and apps on our phones,  a world of education, history and fun and we don't have any idea s to go.  The heat made the decision for us and we moved to the shady side of Decatur Street and the small shops there on both sides of Jackson Park bringing the customer closer and closer to St.Louis Cathedral.

Paintings and sculptures were on the fence surrounding Jackson Park - 

But  even though seeing these magnificent artists sharing their wares is so special (take it from a guy who would like to have his words bought sometime), the St. Louis church looms so large, as does..... 

Andrew Jackson
The saver of New Orleans 1814

We did stop at some stores (any in the shade) and Jackie found her new favorite...

so you can guess where we spent quite a while.

The church people of St. Louis don't like folks to take pictures inside so, here are two pics provided by the diocese :

You never know when you might need a Pope so...

They have their own! John Paul II will be there for you.  He may not do much, you can say to family, friends, and the totally gullible that you spoke with John Paul II.

This church is truly wondrous.  I always think when I walk  into any church or temple if  God lived 
there or maybe looked in a window.  Its just silly thing. Nevermind. But I was grateful to Whoever/Whatever for the cool air.  It kept Mr. Hyde, though I was spasmodic on and off, we used distraction as an alternative treatment.  "Look, Tom, there's some books!"Jackie would say
and I would purr over them.
I have no idea where we had dinner that night
but we had to pack up because we were Atlanta bound.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Tour Between the States 2 - The Road to Monticello

"Mine eyes have felt the glory of an air conditioned bus
Where we sit in Southern luxury with very little fuss
We have breakfast at each new hotel, hot coffee is a must
The tour is moving on!"

Yeah, a Yankee Trails plug.
What could be nicer than stepping out into the morning in New Orleans and find our wonderful bus gone but replaced by a horse and carriage?A change in smell,as horse opportunity is added to the Big Easy.

A fast walk (with breath held) from the Sheraton brought to the many carriages hanging around N. Front Boulevard near Jackson Square....

We got in our seats and clipped clopped away. So weird to see people older than us walking faster in a brisk pace, lots of whom But this is the Big Easy so one of the two groups weren't paying attention. This was more of an architectural tour, which we went on the back avenues of the city where the busses can't squeeze in we got  

These small homes, called shotgun homes (see you'd get a rifle, and as the saying goes... you fire a shot through the home - please remember to have opened both the front and rear doors and residents be made aware that a bullet will shortly be passing by),and the homes themselves have been rehabbed by the owners and they added these nice touches so New Orleans can see pretty, and not the shacks  of the poor and Katrina's never ending path of destruction of buildings, minds, and souls.   

Ward 9 of New Orleans has banned bus tours of the area, because most of what  you see is nothing. And where you do see something, it could very well be a new home built on the structure remnants and the family within.  So if the residents see a bus, all they know is that there's 40 or so people out there taking pictures or worse, just gawking at them and not asking permission. The contrast is amazing.  New Orleans will come back, better than ever. I do hope they can dunk that stink, though.

I asked the carriage driver if we'd be going near the City Court, the government building that Lee Harvey Oswald handed out his "Fair play for Cuba" flyers in the summer of 1963.  The young lady driver had no idea what or who I was talking about, which I'm not sure is a good or bad thing.

City Jail Dallas/ Oswald killed here 11/24/63

The City will be tearing this edifice (the jail)  down soon, we were told. Ghosts always find a place to gather, when wrong was done to one - Not necessarily a person that was ever in the building, but can track a fellow spirit anywhere. Watch that space.

So the bus takes us to the amazing cemeteries that dot the city.  When you get laid to rest here, be sure to ask for flippers because you'll be above ground for a number of years but as more people join the tomb, you'll finally hit the swampy water of the delta around your box. But eventually, your bones will be moved (there are people who actually have this job) so that the latest of dear departed can squeeze into the top.  As a fan of the TV show NCIS-NOLA, we enjoyed the real "life" chases through this city of the dead.

As we're now at 95 degrees, we finally made it back to the bus for lunch.

Rest in Peace, y'all!

Next on the roster was lunch, being presented by The Elms, an 1869 mansion built in the Italianate style. That line was taken directly from the brochure.  I was really just drained out and even the stories about a German spy residing here in the 1930s and 40s, watching boats coming in and out of the port of New Orleans, and reporting to Berlin But it didn't help.  They could have told me anything (like Andy Kaufman lives on the second floor) as long as they kept the ice tea coming.  We had lunch of sandwiches and salads that seemed to have been leftovers from the last wedding rehearsal they had.

Here are the required pictures:

With the coming of evening came the reminder we had a riverboat cruise at 6:00 PM, we spent the afternoon breathing cool air in the bar area and our room.   Our tour guide and the bus driver came into the hotel lobby, and they were holding pitchforks and knives and pushed us to WALK to the boat, despite our objections to moving anything when the outside temperature was at Meltdown. The drunks that were still laying on the ground were starting to have a gelatin like quality, as if they were truly melting into the sidewalk.  Perhaps the water spray trucks in the morning have a wet mixture that keeps the stink in the French Quarter and reconstitutes back into their prone position.  We don't know.

And so after a 15 minute break to check our blood pressure, rehydrate the crispier seniors, and making sure we got on the same boat - there was only one, but some folks insisted on waiting for the next boat, which was just a Russian grain trawler.  Finally we resorted to black sacks over their heads and moved our more confused members to chairs in the dining, which was done just in time as the boat was moving away from the port.  Black sacks removed, and they saw this:

and all this...

The trip was slowed by a storm coming in,

so viewing outside of mighty Mississippi was limited, in a deluge.  Slowly we  returned to port, sated by a never ending buffet and alcohol.  We stepped off the ship, right into the rain and, because the bus  was at the hotel, walked back to the hotel,  exhausting me thoroughly, but the fun really began when we got to  our room and I was about to take my evening pills when I noticed there were no pills.  No Klonopin, no Amantadine, no Amitripiline, no nuvigil.  I am still not sure what happened.  Two days before we left on this trip, we both made sure our meds were stocked and ready to go. Whoops.  And so I would begin  the descent into whatever Mr. MS Hyde would be.

Jackie would have a new playmate in the morning.  We still had five days to go.

And I'm back!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Tour between the States....

Here are the eleven days campaign through the Southern States accomplished by 23 senior citizens on a bus.

Like  it was going to be that simple.  First, Jet Blue didn't have that level of service in Albany direct to our first stop, so we had bus it to Logan airport in Boston. It felt strange to go right by Fenway Park without being dropped off at Yawkey Way for the day's game.   And this was where the trouble began.  If you travel by air, you must be familiar with this scene:

So imagine a group of senior citizens (ages 60 - 90), hands holding papers required by a government that seems terrified of its own people trying to get through this nonsense, having to remove my belt? that dime in my pants pocket that I can't reach is going to ruin democracy? Please.  But here is my mea culpa.  I asked Jackie a few days before our launch date if I could her MacAir so i could write in the down we would have.  She wasn't thrilled, but in her kindness allowed me to take it.  I slid the Mac in my backpack.  Naturally bells and whistles pounded and shrieked when the backpack went through, and TSA did a review with me.  By this time the rest of the group were already in line at the the flight deck at , and Jackie is motioning me to come on!  I refilled my pockets with that dime, held my pants tight teogether as I returned the belt to its proper place, then pulled on my jacket, grabbed my wallet, and dashed to get in line.

The three hour flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth went fine and we arrived in time to grab a quick snack, and then get on a new bus, and greet our driver, who we driven with before, and our guides and stepped into the heat of Texas. Cue the "Dallas" theme music!

Here is the Dallas (The Big D) you see as you fly in.  The city has reinvented itself as a home for colleges, hospitals, museums, music, and dance.

We took in the parks of city , even moving out the heifers and other big cows as shown in the dramatic and inspiring and beautiful steers and cowboys in Pioneer  Plaza.  Also rest break at the Presbyterian Church and relaxed by the fountains.  The churches in Dallas are truly breath taking
Jackie at the fountain

                                                      Pioneer Plaza (40 bronze longhorns)

Move'm out, Pilgrim!

But no matter how great Dallas seems there is no escaping Dealey Plaza, the Grassy Knoll and the Book Depository  (the orange building), whether it was all a big deep plot, or a lucky shot from an ex-Marine loser on the sixth floor window of the Depository, that day began the slow crawl of the US mind set to a loss of faith in the land and its government, to make war and have suspicion of peoples"not like us."

I found the 6th floor, and the nauseating presentation of Kennedy's finest hours, and then listen to the news of his last hour, again,and again and again. Then the search for the assassin, the shooting of the alleged killer at the Old Red Courthouse in Jack Ruby, and 50 years of people making a living on JFK's tragic ending, including the bus tour guide selling her brother's book on the shooting. The attached souvenir shop had a large book selection dedicated to the assasination and Mrs. Kennedy. Choose your past wisely, because it will
effect your future.

All Grassy Knoll People

                   JFK' s Speech to the Dallas Trade Mart 11/22/63 1:PM                          
This was just so sad.


 We had a quick lunch and then moved on to more recent American royalty.

Welcome to the George W.Bush Presidential Library!

There wasn't much film taking allowed so here's some stock footage.


Hi, y'all!
Throughout the rooms there were cordial docents, and, more importantly to me, they knew what and who they were talking about (from 9/11, to the 2008 market crash), recommending books or film attached to those situations, during W's reign, that we might be interested in. Of course the penultimate vision the Oval Office itself. Oddly my world renowned GWB impression did not go over well, so we got some pictures, hit the gift shop and then the bus. I already had most of the of the store's books on my shelves at home (some autographed) and read.

Off for some sensational Texas Bar-B-Que at a little place outside of town (Lucky our driver knew all the good spots) and back to the Holiday Inn at Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas.

Friday, May 11  After breakfast, we hopped on our tour bus and headed for Waco.  Yes, that Waco. There was no drive by of hollow buildings and concrete, but of an amazing city of young people, Baylor University,and a kitschy downtown where food is an outing of amazing choices. We then toured the world of Chip and Joanna Gaines, with a special tour of the Fixer Upper homes from HGTV (Hint: Neither Jackie nor I had any idea of who  these people were).  But what the Gaines do provide was a place for their fans (and we of the ignorant few)to shop "The Silos".


The building on the left  is the shopping area Magnolia,the right shot happy customers are looking at cookbooks they probably won't use and t-shirts that'll go in the closet at some point.  There are food trucks surrounding the center and, if you dare,the world's greatest cupcake, for which you must stand outside in a line about a half an hour.  Worth every time and dime.

So then it we returned to the bus and looked at more renovated homes with ridiculous selling prices.

I did want to mention one of the bus's potty/visit break. Next to the mom and pop store was a cemetery, and you could tell their were Confederate soldiers at rest.I fixed flags and spiffied what I could. I cannot support their cause of these fallen, but can acknowledge their bravery and their youth.  Texas had a rough go of it in Civil War and was constantly being harassed by Union forces.  Two battles can get you  started.  The Second Battle of Sabine Pass which occurred on 9/8/1863, and the Battle of Marshfield in April 1864.  The victors wore Grey,and Union forces only made headway after the War was over everyplace else. 

We did not make it to the Dr. Pepper store, but I gave  homage by ordering Dr. P everywhere else, unless something more intriguing available.  Our evening meals was at the Saltgrass Steak House in Buffalo, Texas  We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Buffalo, too.

Hampton Inn Express

Saltgrass Restaurant
Saturday May 12th

One of my favorite songs by the great Dean Martin was "Houston" and I could hear it nicely in the iPhone as we drove into that town, until the train sounds and moving on the tracks, made me think of assuring Dean he could finish up later. Houston did not have a deep water port so the big thinkers of this small town made the city, including Sam Houston himself, tried those new things called railroads.  Then about 100 years later  President Lyndon Johnson thought Houston would be a fine place for NASA's main operations area, flight control, and other businesses, and would certainly give his wife's radio station a boost in the ratings, and also LBJ was fulfilling the holy JFK's dream of space travel. Congress was happy to ante up and Projects Mercury, Gemini and Apollo got us to the moon, with only a few tragedies that a monument was put upat Arlington National Cemetery.  It must've bugged LBJ that Nixon phoned the astronauts on the surface of the moon, and he never got the chance.


This allowed us though to walk around Mission Control (actually in a room above where the engineers).  The cool part was our guide informed us that Congress found a little more money and Mission Control will live again.  In these rooms engineers worked diligently to send men to the moon and one time even more strain to get Apollo 13 home.

                Failure is not an option!
                                            (From the movie "Apollo13")

(When you take as many pills as I have to just to get around, failure is not an option for me.)

Sunday May 13

It had to happen at some point.  Jackie asked where her laptop was, and after tearing apart all of the luggage, it was not there.  I was asked what I was going to do about it.  All I could say was I could rent car, drive to Logan in Boston,work with TSA to get the laptop, and then drive to Baltimore or Atlanta, wherever the tour was that day.  I received some well deserved nasty looks  and then we moved on to other things because we had arrived in New Orleans! 

Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Yes,Let the good times roll in the Big Easy, Birthplace of jazz, The City That Care Forgot, Hollywood South, Crescent City, and the "in vogue" name - NOLA.  This name seems the most standard, mostly after Hurricane Katrina.  Try that one, but, my fellow non-Orleaners, never ever say "N'Awlins" to a  Big Easy citizen. That's just totally unacceptable and might just make your beignet taste mighty bad (actually the odds of having a bad beignet in NOLA are rather small, but I wouldn't chance it)

Anyway, we had the treat of staying right in the French Quarter at the Sheraton Four Points hotel with a great view of Bourbon street.

We had run into a small problem, actually three small problems, though:

1. I could sworn that a few days before departure from the Yankee Trails offices, I had done a complete check on what needed to be packed medically. We'd gotten extra boxes and had thought them filled, well,I did.  Jackie had hers ready and had little problem staying with things, which made sure that of us was sane.  I knew what would happen, muscle spasms all day and all night.  There were nights where I got one or two hours sleep, and would constantly doze off on the bus then spazzz awake. And I got cranky, slipping back to the lonely world of MS for the rest of the trip.

2. We are used going down for our usual stay at Disney World.  If you run out of clean clothes, there's a washer dryer in your condo. They give you a box of Cheer to help you along. No worries. At the hotels we stayed at on this trip, only one place had a quarter change based washer/dryer and it was Day and the door had been locked.  Once we got to Day 5 here in NOLA, there had been no washer/dryer since Day 1.  We used that old line that we needed to  "wash out a few things".  This was scrubbing undies with soap and water in the bathroom sink, followed by hanging them on the shower pole. Drip dry, we figured in the morning, and we would be fine.   Unfortunately, the air conditioner in the room was not the best, so while Jackie took her shower,I laid out the wet undies on the bed and blasted them (mostly) dry with Jackie's and the room's hair dryers.  We held together but when we're back in Disney, I will be kissing the Hot Point facilities in our room. Why have hotels/motels/inns not provided this service anymore?  So everyone tried stay as neat and tidy and not let their own odors be a bother because:

3.Le quartier français sent la soupe d'égout. Toute la journée. Toute la nuit. The French Quarter out stinks, out smells,and out grosses even the Bronx's worst alleyways.  Even when the water trucks tried to give the streets at least a modicum of cleanness each morning, they only move the stink around until noon time when we hit a high temperatures of about 95 degrees each day.  Then we started to smell like the French Quarter.  We knew we weren't far the Mississippi delta so that humidity added to the time I spent leaning into shady spots or air conditionings.

And this as only Day 5. We had another week.  So I'll be back soon (promise) and give you the rest. Really.