A mostly uneventful first day along Route 66. Starting off in the craziness of downtown Chicago, I found Lou Mitchell's Restaurant on Jackson Boulevard, open since 1923 and serving the historic Mother Road since it opened three years later. Lots of traffic, lots of construction downtown, people everywhere, so I decided to just head on out.
As I started to drive across a bridge over the Chicago River, suddenly a city pickup whipped across the street and parked in the middle, blocking traffic. What the hell is this? Then, railroad-type crossing gates came down, not only across the road but also blocking the pedestrian walkways across the bridge.
People started whipping out cell phones and taking pictures, and then the bridge slowly started to rise. Not long after that, a couple of tall sailboat masts crossed right to left. Bridge comes back down. Life goes on.
So, with the help of my trusty GPS, I escaped -- I mean, found my way out of -- downtown and took off, winding my way here and there, out of the city and through a network of small towns with names like Joliet, Chenoa, Braidwood, Dwight, Normal, Towanda and Romeoville.
Pretty cool stuff, really. The kinds of places that make this a great country.
Traveling the first leg of the old highway that starts in Chicago and runs 2,448 miles through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to Santa Monica, Calif., strangely enough reminded me some of walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain.
I was driving instead of walking, obviously, but I'm on a long, historic path that was replaced by a more modern network, a guidebook in hand, and looking for signs along the way to help keep me from getting lost. On the Camino, it was mostly hand-painted yellow arrows, while on Route 66, it's the brown and white signs. But just like on the Camino, there were times when I wasn't quite sure I was headed in the right direction, and then I'd spot a sign. OK, good to go.
I'm really not sure exactly where I am right now, other than a little ways down the road from Funk's Grove, about halfway through Illinois, maybe. Time to go lie down.
Many, many moons ago, I drove straight through from Houston, Texas to Rockford, Illinois, to pick up my sister and her little boy -- roughly an 18-hour drive. It was early in the morning when I got there, and we loaded the back of my Chevy pickup with stuff and immediately took off back for Texas. By the time we hit St. Louis, on the freeway in heavy traffic, I started hallucinating. I was sober as a judge ... sober as a deacon ... sober as a minister's wife ... OK, well, I was completely sober, but after nearly two days without sleep at that point, my eyes started playing tricks on me.
I pulled over and told my sister she was going to have to drive.
Cross-country driving ain't as easy as it used to be, but I made it today it to the outskirts of Chicago -- 1,100 or so miles -- in two days. Not too bad for an older guy ...
Things got a little interesting the closer I got to the city. I'm on a bit of a budget, as I prepare to traverse Route 66 from start to finish, so I'm trying to stay in cheap but decent motels along the way, even though my dear wife has spoiled me forever with high-end suites and other luxurious-type accommodations.
Well, my GPS directed me to the south side of Chicago, and believe it or not, Obama Avenue, or Obama Street, or Obama something. I think it was 169th Street. Whatever it was, it was not a comfortable neighborhood. I went into a Walgreens, bought some stuff, and asked the very nice girl at the checkout about the motels up the road to which my GPS had directed me. She shook her head. I asked someone else there, and she suggested I 'google' someplace else.
So I headed back south on I-57, away from the city, and found myself a nice Holiday Inn about five miles away. As I suspected, it was beyond my budget for lodgings for this trip, but if a clerk at Walgreens shakes her head when you ask about the hotels just up the street, well, you gotta pay attention.
Right now, I'm on the third floor of a beautiful Holiday Inn that is very much like the places Katie and I are accustomed to staying when we travel. It's more than I wanted to spend, but would I rather be staying in the Armpit Motel? Of course, not. I am fortunate to have the means to stay in such a place. I know this.
Tomorrow, it's on to Lou Mitchell's Restaurant, downtown Chicago on Jackson Boulevard, at the beginning of Route 66. Then, I'll be headed west ...
Boy howdy. Ten hours of driving is enough to wear an old man out ...
I'm sitting at the desk in a cheap, stale-smelling Days Inn room on Interstate 55 about 200 miles south of St. Louis, in front of a large, framed mirror, and I don't mind at all admitting that I look a little rough. Did pretty good, though, after leaving the house around 9:30 this morning in a rented Volkswagen Jetta and heading for Chicago, to start my journey along historic Route 66, also known as the "Will Rogers Highway" and the "Main Street of America."
When my youngest daughter and I drove cross-country several years ago to visit my oldest daughter, we stopped for breakfast at a barbecue place in Memphis, Tenn., and ordered a couple of barbecue sandwiches. Yes, barbecue sandwiches for breakfast. I tell you what -- mouth-watering, tender, smoky barbecue meat with just the right amount of sauce on top of a bed of crispy cole slaw -- by the time we unwrapped those sandwiches and took a bite a little ways down the road, we both said we should have ordered two each. Fantastic.
Well, I had another one of those amazing sandwiches about an hour ago, back in Marion, Ark., just up the road from West Memphis. Melt-in-your-mouth pork, slightly vinegary sauce, on top of cole slaw and a home-baked bun. To top it off, a cup of sweet beans laced with barbecue meat. Good grief ...
So now, all that's left is a warm shower and some sleep, to get ready for the drive into Chicago and finding the original beginnings of Route 66, somewhere near Lake Michigan. From there, I'll head west, following one of the original cross-country highways to its finish in Santa Monica, Calif.
I'll be interviewing and photographing people and places along the way, so if you ain't got nothing better to do, follow along. I'll try and make it interesting.
Ciao, y'all ...
"I will believe the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is." -- Macrina Weiderkehr
Trying to figure out what I would write about today, I happened upon a Facebook post from a woman I know who used to be a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh, Penn., and now lives in a tiny village in northern Spain along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Her name is Rebekah, and I stopped by her house and had tea during my first Camino in summer 2011.
Rebekah writes a blog about the goings-on in and around her place, as pilgrims from all over the world pass through her village and sometimes stay overnight at her house. She does a lot of volunteer work for pilgrims and different Camino-related organizations and such, and was recently recognized for her efforts. In her blog today, which I went to after seeing her Facebook post, she talked about being embarrassed and not feeling worthy of the recognition. "I am only myself," she wrote. "And myself is really nothing remarkable."
Then she writes: "... I have really impressive friends who love me. Not because I do things. They love me because I am me, and I inspire them to do good things. I need to learn to love myself the same way they do. I need to learn to accept praise without feeling I somehow don't really deserve it." Then she quoted Macrina Weiderkehr, an author of books about prayer and spirituality who also writes a blog that I now plan to follow.
Rebekah's words struck a familiar chord with me.
I have really impressive friends who I admire and respect and love -- and for some reason, they love me. Sometimes I ask myself why? The answer to the question is: they love me because I am me. No other reason. They don't want anything from me, except to spend time with me, be around me, hang out, do stuff.
The problem is, I don't love myself. And because of that, I have a hard time understanding why other people would love me.
I don't know why I have a hard time loving myself. Something about the way I was raised, I guess. Like Rebekah, I need to learn to love myself the same way they do.
Last Friday was the last official work day for teachers until the middle of August. As one of our assistant principals was inspecting my classroom to make sure I'd properly packed everything away for the summer, so custodians could clean and polish the floor and maintenance crews could get to the air conditioning system for repair work, my colleague across the hall asked him when we would be able to get back in our rooms to get ready for next school year.
She was completely serious.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" I said, laughing.
Other than a few teacher workshops over the summer, I don't want to think for even one second about school for the next 10 weeks or whatever it is, much less worry about coming in over the summer to get ready for next year! I haven't even begun to recover yet from this year. Good grief ...
Right now, I'm getting ready to drive to Chicago, then follow Route 66 from there to Los Angeles. I'll be taking pictures, shooting video and interviewing people along the way for a new book on the historic highway, and people and places along the way. I'm a little nervous -- I don't know why -- but I think it's going to be another interesting adventure.
Meanwhile, I have seven books out on amazon right now -- check 'em out by clicking here.
If you've read any of my books, first of all, thanks! I hope you enjoyed it/them. If you don't mind going to the listings page for anything you've read and writing me a book review, that would be outstanding. Reviews increase a book's exposure and gets it out there in front of more people.
So as I get ready to hit the road again, let me leave you with this:
"There are seven days in the week, and someday isn't one of them."
Not an original quote, but a good one. I tend to be the king of procrastination, but I'm workin' on it. That and a whole bunch of other stuff I'm working on this summer.
Every time I log in to my new laptop, this thumbnail photo pops up on the left side of the desktop screen. It's my old friend, Mark. We were pretty good buddies back in the day, even before he became my brother-in-law. Mark was a wild man, who blazed through each day and lived life to the fullest. We had some fun and crazy times.
He also pissed me off sometimes. Like when the windshield wipers quit working on my Pontiac LeMans -- I drove several times in the rain, including along Houston freeways, with my window rolled down, left arm sticking out, using a rag to wipe the windshield -- and Mark said, "Hell, I can fix that."
So I went and got a used or rebuilt wiper motor from somewhere and Mark put it in. Or tried to. During the installation, there was a loud pop and a shower of sparks, and I don't really remember what finally happened, but the outcome was not a good one, I remember that. I think I was driving a different car not too long after that.
Time passed and after other assorted mishaps and adventures, Mark became my ex-brother-in-law and moved away -- Iowa, I think it was. Then, I heard he died, from diabetes. I'm not sure exactly how long ago that was, but he was pretty young, I think in his 40s.
Then, yesterday, I find out that Robin Williams died. What a shock. The funniest man in the world, as one of his fellow comics described him -- how could he kill himself?
And today's my birthday. No. 57. Born in 1957, turned 57. The numbers are starting to freak me out a little bit. Turning 30 was no big deal. I didn't care about turning 40 or even 50, but thinking about actually being 60 years old? Good grief.
I get down sometimes, and I've been pretty seriously depressed in years past. I think it runs in my family. But, damn, I'm glad to be alive. Life is so damn good, you know?
Today is going to be a great day. Half a day of school, then off to the dentist. Should be a quick visit, then enjoy the rest of the afternoon. After that, 12 more days of school until summer break. Ahhhhh ...
Gator and I played golf yesterday over on Fort Hood with a couple of young GIs, including one kid who graduated three years ago from West Point. He's a lieutenant now, and a really nice, squared away kid. He was wearing a Texas Rangers cap, Texas Rangers shirt, Texas Rangers shoes, and had a Texas Rangers golf bag and ball marker, for when he needed to mark his ball on the green. I wanted to ask him if he had on Texas Rangers underwear, but I had just met the guy.
I figured right away he was probably an officer, just from his demeanor and how squared away everything about him seemed to be. Pretty good golfer, too. The rest of us played from the gold (blue) tees, and he played from the tips, the championship tees. I have no idea what he shot, and I don't think he was keeping score, but he could definitely hit the ball.
I beat Gator by one shot.
Today is going to be a great day.
Ciao, y'all ...
Early morning, cool breeze rustling the trees, birds singing, , clear blue sky, coffee in hand.
Probably the best part of the day. Late at night's pretty good, too, but here in Texas, it can still be a little warm late at night during the summer. Early morning is probably best.
Well, the first big marketing campaign for the book is over, and it wasn't a rousing success like the publisher was hoping, but it wasn't a disaster, either. I don't have the final download numbers, but the book is out there, people are reading it, and excellent new reviews are being posted on amazon.
If you missed out on the free offer, the e-book is now listed for .99. That's right -- 99 cents to download on your Kindle. If you don't have a Kindle, there's a place to click and download the Kindle app for free, then download the book. You oughta get one! There's also a beautiful paperback.
And plans are underway for promotion no. 2, so stay tuned.
Meanwhile, it's a beautiful Saturday, with nothing much to do in the way of chores, besides laundry (clothes already in the washer), picking up a few groceries, and I think that's about it. The house is quiet. Big Katie is still away on business, and Little Katy is out of town on business, as well. My little baby girl (nearly six-feet tall and 21 years old now) took a road trip down to Houston for a big modeling event. This is the third of these to-dos since January, and the first time, I drove her down there, dropped her off at the hotel, came home, then went back two days later and picked her up.
A few weeks ago, she told me she had a meeting in Houston and she had reserved a hotel room on-line, and adios, I'll see you later, dad. She drove herself down there after work, spent the night, went to her meeting, came back the next day. I was impressed. A friend laughed when I called her Little Katy recently. Hey, she's been Little Katy since she was two years old. It's a dad thing.
So, I'm on my own for the weekend. Well, except for Bug, our neurotic miniature dachshund, who right now is plopped down in in the sunshine in the backyard. I can see her through the screen door. Hopefully, no butterflies attack, or stray leaves sweep in to disturb her peacefulness. Pretty much anything scares her.
Thirteen more days of school on the calendar. I can hardly believe it. This has been a long, difficult year for me and everybody I work with, and we are all ready for summer vacation. Blessed be the day.
Ciao, y'all ...
What a difference a day makes.
A beautiful day in Central Texas. Blue skies, cool morning, temperatures resting in the low 80s by afternoon. Book downloads are approaching 1,000. Thanks, y'all!
Beginning tomorrow, there will be 14 days left in the school year. Maybe 15? Either way, gettin' close. I am so ready.
And tomorrow is the last day of the free book promotion. There's more to come, but for now, click here and get your free copy:
Peace and love, y'all
Sixteen more days of school, and the natives are getting restless.
I'm completing week 3 of the "30 days of positive" project, and things have gone pretty well. Well, until this week. I've been a little stressed this week, and can't put my finger on it, exactly. The nice Mr. Clark was definitely absent today.
In book news, we were up to 500 downloads this morning, and still ranked first in amazon.com's free book Southwest category. Not nearly the numbers my publishers were looking for, but they say this is only the initial marketing effort. They apparently have many more tricks up their respective sleeves, and are telling me to keep the faith.
And I am.
In a way, it's amazing that 500 people are now reading my little book. That's a decent-sized crowd of people, and I have to admit it feels pretty good. I'm not going to give out the number my publisher was hoping to hit, but we came in substantially below that amount, and it was disappointing. He still believes in it, though, and tells me earlier today that they've only scratched the surface, in terms of marketing strategies. These guys are good, and they know what they're doing, so until they tell me otherwise, I'm thinking good things are going to happen.
So, there are two more days left in the free download promotion. Go on and get a copy -- it's free! I'll make it easy. Here's the link to click on, and if you don't have a Kindle reader, you can still get the book. Just look to the right, and download for free the Kindle app. Then you can stick the book on any ol' device you like. Right here:
Thanks, and ciao, y'all ...