Everyday People – Everywhere

IMG_2954 (1)Once again, while travelling Route 66 from Chicago to L.A., Cathryn and I have had our faith in humanity renewed. There really are friendly people left in the world, all you have to do is say hello and talk to them.

Who’d have thunk there’d be anyone willing to talk to you in a metropolis like Chicago – it’s one of those places you’re programmed to think that you can’t make eye contact with anyone for fear of them saying, “What are you looking at?” So much for preconceived ideas. Our first glaring example was at the Congress Plaza Hotel in the windy city.

IMG_2992We were wandering around the turn-of-the-century hotel and saw photos of the grand ballroom but had no idea where it was. The front desk and concierge were busy so I looked to a stern-faced security guard, who looked more like a state trooper, with his back glued to the wall so he could take in the room.

“Do you want to see it?” Pete asked, when we inquired. He snapped to and headed off down the main hallway with us in tow. Pete walked us into a dark banquet hall and went to a breaker panel to turn the lights on so we could see the ornate ballroom that boasted the first air conditioning in the country and noted guests like Al Capone. Turns out Pete was a good story teller too, having actually been shot in the face when he was a Chicago cop.

Taking a cab in any big city has become a concern, but not when our driver from Ghana chatted us up, telling us how he visits home every year and that he’d been a hack for twenty years. Too bad Uber is making guys like him a rarity, his knowledge of the city was a boon for us.

IMG_3094Even in the Capitol building in Springfield Illinois we found cordial staff – from the security guards manning the metal detectors to the custodians polishing the brass. Without being asked, they took pause and offered us directions and made suggestions on how to tour and enjoy the building. We’ve never encountered this behavior in any gov’t buildings at home.

On Route 66 near Carthage Missouri, we met a character named George who tended to an old gas bar loaded with antique vehicles and memorabilia. Busy with his chores, he took time out to give us a tour and write down names of people and places to see and visit in town. His suggestion took us to Boots Court where Clark Gable spent his honeymoon. Debbie, the proprietor there apologized for being booked and called a place down the highway for us.

IMG_3237We stayed at the Best Budget Inn, a pleasantly surprising roadside motel beside a scenic lake. They had a patio with barbecue facilities out back that allowed us to cook up a couple steaks for dinner. The owner, Paula, came out to visit and light the tiki-torches around the pool. She sat and chatted with us as if we were long-lost friends.

Acting on another of George’s recommendations we visited a tiny re-built town called Red Oak II. The land owner was dismayed at how his home town had closed down and the buildings were abandoned so he bought them all and relocated them to his own land. We strolled the lane way and admired the turn-of-the-century buildings that would have weathered away into oblivion had they not been rescued.

IMG_3263While admiring a rustic but newer home, a voice called out from the veranda. Jim invited us onto his porch to set for a while, as if we were neighbors. We chatted about the town and owner, who was a friend of his and local artist responsible for all of the metal art in the area. Jim was the former mayor of Carthage and a retired travelling salesman who covered eight states.

After dinner in Kingman Arizona we strolled the old downtown where many shops played on the Route 66 theme. We stopped at a storefront where a woman had just removed the paper from the windows of a new shop that she was about to open. When we asked about it she gave us a condensed history of the city and other businesses in the area. She went further, inviting us to her grand opening if we were still in town.

IMG_3603And even in Las Vegas, where you are normally just money in a slot machine, we were greeted at the front desk of the Silver Sevens Casino by Bianca. She seamlessly checked us in early at eleven a.m. and comped the refrigerator I’d requested for our room for our two day stay. She asked where we’d like our room to be and located us within fifty feet of our car. Later, she helped me with an email and fax I needed to send back home.

These are just a few glaring examples of some of the polite and kind folks we’ve met on this trip. It doesn’t seem to matter what city or state they live in, or what age or color or religion we may or may not have had in common with them. They really are out there, just say hello and talk to them.

Africa, One Continent, Many Cultures

IMG_2768 - CopyWe live in the center of the North American continent. It consists of two large countries, considered ‘westernized’ by the rest of the world. With the exception of some aboriginals in the far north, and perhaps a few other groups trying to cling to their heritage, I believe we share a similar culture. We are composed of different races, with different beliefs, but we share common goals like freedom and democracy.

In the last month and a half, Cathryn and I have experienced three distinctly different countries in the African continent. A drop in the bucket when you consider there are currently fifty-four countries. Planning this trip, I had three separate goals: to see something different for my sixtieth birthday and check off the pyramids of Giza on my bucket list. To break up the trip into three, using each location as a base for further exploration. And to work our way into a warmer climate to wile away the cold Canadian winter.

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Same but Different

IMG_2572Let’s start with vacation vs. travel. To those inexperienced in the latter, as opposed to the former, you’ll completely understand. Others may think the two getaways are the same, but they are quite different. Vacations tend to be those one-week jaunts to somewhere warm, where you can relax and forget all about work or whatever other crap life throws at you on a daily basis.

Travelling entails extending those sojourns, not only to relax or escape every day life, but to explore new places and perhaps venture off the beaten path. Two weeks at an all-inclusive resort may sound the same as two weeks in Europe, but they are very different. So, the question is do you want everything to be the same as home? If you do then stay at home. One reason to travel is to experience something different, whether it’s the weather, or food or wine or landscape or culture.

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Bill Bryson – Neither Here Nor There

27Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe

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Edmond Gagnon‘s review

Jan 28, 2019  


I’ve known about Bill Bryson for some time and saw a movie about his last travel adventure, but had never got around to reading any of his material. I had ‘Neither Here Nor There’ collecting dust at home with my two shelves of other books to read, and since I was about to leave on a travel adventure myself, I took Bill’s book along to pass the down time when not engaged in sightseeing, eating or drinking.
Having traveled solo like Bryson did in this book, I can truly appreciate his adventures and misadventures in an era before the internet, cell phones, and GPS. Like him, I still love unfolding a map to plan the next day’s route. Bryson is the type of person who is comfortable in his own skin and has no qualms about travelling alone.
He is a good writer, with a sarcastic sense of humor, and an unquenchable thirst for metaphors. The book is more of a collection of snippets from the various cities and towns along his route. He likes to pound the pavement and sit in local watering holes or cafes to get a good feel of each and every place his visits.
Being the author of my own travel book, with some similarities, I generally liked the read, but found it a bit awkward at times – especially when the author went off on one of his rants. His American arrogance toward the rest of the world showed through on more than one occasion. I’m not saying that Mr. Bryson is predjudice against all foreigners, from what I’ve experienced in my travels it’s just the way some Americans are. They love to travel, but expect everything, like food, to be the same as home.

Stocking Stuffers for Readers

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It’s coming. Christmas will be here before you know it. If you’re wondering what to get that person who’s hard to buy for, and they like to read, then consider getting them an autographed copy of one of my books, or a complete gift set of my Norm Strom Crime Fiction Series.

Any of my books are online through sellers like Amazon, or available at PB Books or Juniper Books, in Windsor. I will be selling and signing books at several functions and craft shows from now until Christmas. Click HERE for a complete list of the events.

If you want to see my individual books and read their intros please click HERE.

The People We Meet

IMG_0398When Cathryn and I travel it’s not all about the journey or the destination, or even the food and drink. Granted, those are all good reasons as to why we travel, but we also love to meet new people and share in their culture. People are one of the reasons you’ll see us perched on stools at the bar instead of sitting at a table by ourselves.

It’s not that we don’t enjoy each other’s company, we do, and we travel well together. Spending days or weeks together 24/7 can be trying for any couple or even close friends. Consider yourself lucky if you can get along with your travel partner.

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