30 April 2009

potential fishing trip from hell

My brother calls yesterday morning and leaves this message: uncle is in, dad says he'll go but wants to just sit, cuz will fly home from Florida....are you in!?!?!?!? In? Do you seriously want to attempt this? You know it will be the fishing trip from hell.
Swamp Lake family photo, ca. 1956
Evidently something set my brother off to start scheming this plan to take a fishing trip late this summer to the old family "vacation" site near Tomahawk, Wisconsin. He should know better-the last family trip in 1988 resulted in a lot of swearin' by gramps and drove my step-grandmother to drinkin'....a lot. But, with the promise of this trip being different, he's already found the old vacation site on (get this) Swamp Lake. Moran's Landing (sounds a lot like moron) is the place the family has secured fishing cabins for generations. This time it would just be the males of the surname-including my son and my brother's son....7 of us. With 7, how could it be unlucky?

So, I googled Moran's Landing. This was the image that came up:

God help us. Oh, I'll go. The males in our family are kinda different.....and very different from each other....but we all have short tempers in common, and personalities given to bull-headedness. And bizarre senses of humor which often cuts against the grain of each other. This could be interesting, all seven of us locked up in a cabin in the north woods, which their website describes as "Canadian-like". What, are their mounties in the woods around the lake?

I know what you're thinking, but this is a current photo

I know little about the place. I never went there. As a vacation destination, it kinda stopped when my dad was a kid except that my grandparents continued to travel there. In fact the last time they went in about 1980, they sent home a letter begging for money-that gramps was in jail for carrying fuel in the back of their car. They later sent a letter explaining it was a joke....only after we desperately tried to make contact with them. Once they brought home a t-shirt for me that said "Tomahawk" which became the shirt I would change into when I became the superhero "Tomahawk Kid".

My brother is leaving it to me to work out the details. I'm booking my own cabin I think. I will update you as this disaster unfolds.

29 April 2009

a Hoosier and his hat

Not long ago someone raised the question on HH concerning my lack of hat wearing.....they commented that they never saw me in a hat (as if I didn't bleed red, white and blue because of it). Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, my head gets all itchy when I wear a hat and second, because of some inherited natural curl from my Irish side-if I wear a hat, it's best that I never take it off. Furthermore, unlike a good number of my friends and family, I've managed to keep all my hair so there is no bald spot to cover from the sun. So-no-I'm not much of a hat wearer. And while my dad wasn't either, my grandpa was...in fact, I have his hat from the LaPaz Grain Elevator (long since gone) that he wore about the last decade or so of his life.

However, about 13 years ago I picked up a hat in Indianapolis at a now defunct clothier because within a few weeks I would be traveling to a wedding near Banf/Alberta, Canada. This would be a straight thru-drive and I didn't want to be running in and out of diners and gas stations with a nasty looking crown. The hat was a simple blue baseball style cap with USA on the front and an American flag on the back. I didn't buy one of those "pre-stressed" jobbies....I wanted a natural and authentic wear to the cap.

on its initial voyage-a ghost town in Montana-1996

1996-just days old and still blue, Port Huron, MI with bro and cuz

And so the hat, me & my buddy Randy, and my new Mustang made the long trek to Banf. This was its initial voyage. Since then it has been everywhere when traveling or backpacking warrant head coverage. After Banf, the cap went backpacking the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, camping in Acadia National Park, down Route 66 from Chicago to Vegas, camping at Yellowood State Forest, our journey to Wyoming, several trips canoeing and kayaking down Sugar Creek, all kinds of youth retreats, a work project at the Red Lake Indiana Reservation in Minnesota, backpacking the UP, trips down the Tippy and Yellow Rivers, a few sunny days on the beaches of Lake Michigan, caving in southern Indiana, bailing hay and work days around the community, and most recently....to Gettysburg.

Appalacian Trail with college buddies-1997

backpacking the UP with Kev & Rich-2007

A slight panic set in at Ohiopyle last weekend when for the life of me I couldn't find the hat in the tent, showers or around the camp site in the morning. It was under my sleeping bag. Whew.

a rare everyday wear-mom's 60th-2008

The blue has faded to a weathered grey-blue color. A little paint is on the bill of the cap from a work day at a one room schoolhouse we restored. But it has that authentically worn look from the color to the curvature of the bill that only 13 years and tough love could produce. I've considered writing on the inside of it all of our exciting destinations together...maybe, one day. The cap is a treasured part of who I am, pitching in like a faithful friend when I need it the most....sharing some of the best memories of the last decade and well on its way to another.

27 April 2009

Caledonia & Ohiopyle...pics from the trip

Pennsylvania barn-Chris

falls at Caledonia

fishing pond at Caledonia

I "lead" this 20 something class at church and it has been a lot of fun. We call it 20x for short. It is largely comprised of guys, which is a blast and my wife joins in to add a feminine touch to it and to add moral support to the few girls in the class. A few months ago one guy mentioned he wanted to go back to Gettysburg....I said I had never been and so our road trip evolved and at one time eight guys were going. We shrunk to 3 by the time Friday morning rolled around. But the guys that went, Dave and Chris, were great to hang with and many kudos to Chris for being an all-around hardcore camping sorta guy. He's also an excellent photographer and a few of these shots are from his eye. And Dave & I have become pretty tight since we lead youth on Wednesday nights together and have coffee every Tuesday morning downtown. Shout out to PA-both the state parks we camped at did Pennsylvania proud.

trail at Ohiopyle

falls at Ohiopyle - Chris

Chris-the photographer

doesn't this look perfect?-Chris

The town of Ohiopyle, surrounded by Ohiopyle State Park, really comes alive with outdoor recreational tourist. It is essentially a town comprised of outfitters, primarily for rafting and kayaking. The unfortunate thing is that there is no place to buy bratts at 9 o'clock at night. Which meant a long trip into Uniontown on the National Road to Wal-Mart (eerily similar to the one we have in river city and the one we stopped at in Wyoming, and...hmmm...). This meant supper at about 11 p.m. and showers at midnight. Great times though.

honor system around midnight

restored train depot in Ohiopyle

this store was like stepping back in time-good place to get trail mix

And this was my second trip to Ohiopyle. Back in 1995 a group of us architecture students went here to see Frank Lloyd Wright's "Falling Water"...house built over a waterfall. And we did a little white-water rafting. Unfortunately this time the river was high, and therefore the rapids as well, so being a little older and wiser than almost 15 years ago, we passed on the rafting and day-hiked along the river.

1995-rafting the Youghey: Andy, Darius, Angie, me, Krazy and Val
me rock hopping on the Youghey-Chris

marking the trail-our names etched in stone-Chris

Dave & me, end of the trail-Chris

I love the outdoors....and while there are times I miss some comforts of home, I never grow tired of the trail nor the company that goes along with it. It is always where I feel closest to God.

Arbor Day

Did you get your tree planted for Arbor Day this year? Since we've maxed out our tree-plantability in our yard, our attention had to turn elsewhere this year for helping to fill in the urban forest. Since we've lived here I've added five trees to our 110 x 70' lot.....the wife says no more.

Several years ago it seemed river city was on a tree-cutting binge; working with a couple of close friends we pulled together an urban forestry committee, got the blessing of the mayor and city council and began to hold Arbor Day ceremonial tree plantings, slowed the cutting and bumped up the new plantings. When I went on council a few years after that we were planting anywhere from ratios of 1:1 or 2:1 in terms of trees planted for those removed. But, I got sideways with the then mayor over a hiring freeze and suddenly the planting budget got the ax. Not wanting the trees to take the blunt of the target on my back I left the committee.

NIPSCO led the recent slaughter of trees in river city. Feeling some public sentiment against the clear-cutting high utility fee charging giant, NIPSCO relented and gave the city one tree for every one tree they cut down in the public right-of-way. Gee, how generous. The catch was this: you plant them and be sure to recognize NIPSCO as donating them.

So, this is what I did this last Friday. I planted the replacement trees that NIPSCO was shamed into donating to the city, after much applause and hoopla to the utility during a public ceremony. The bright side of this was that the four trees our "team" were given to plant became a great lesson in true community volunteerism to my kids and the four youth group kids who helped. Have you hugged your tree today?

25 April 2009


General Meade

I have always been a Civil War fan, well, at least since about 10 years old. I read book after book on battles of the Civil War while in grade school. I also have a few letters written from ancestors who were enlisted in the Union army during the war. Gettysburg has always intrigued me and I looked forward to going there one day. One guy from the 20x class I teach at church mentioned wanting to go there again and that snowballed into last weekend's whirlwind trip.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but it certainly ended up being larger and definitely busier than what I imagined. The great thing about Gettysburg is that, at least on the west and south sides of the town, growth was limited as to not detract from the wide open fields surrounding the town on which the bloodiest battle ever waged in America was fought. The new (one year old) visitor center and museum is tastefully done and created with an agrarian feel to not detract from the rural experience. Overall, you would get the picture whether in town or in the surrounding battle field sites, that you've stepped back in time to the war.

Meade's Headquarters
I don't know that I would have expected all of the monuments lining the ridge on which the Union army positioned themselves, or in the surrounding fields. The Pennsylvania monument offered a fantastic observation deck with information as to the location of certain advancements of the South. Another nice thing was that so many of the farms and farmhouses dating to the war that dotted the countryside are preserved, many serving as headquarters or hospitals.

Pennsylvania Memorial & Observation Deck
One of the more amazing things was the approximately 120 year old enormous cyclorama painting done by a French artist. This is housed in the new museum's "round barn" and is an impressive thing to view. Easily we should have spent much more time there, including taking in the "killing fields" by moonlight.....some believe they are haunted. We finished our time in Gettysburg with our final stop at the place where Lincoln gave his now immortal speech "the Gettysburg Address". Which seemed all-together appropriate for the finale'.

Gettysburg Cemetery & Address Memorial

23 April 2009

Lincoln Highway in PA

Lincoln Highway round-a-bout in Gettysburg

Once we departed the interstate for the Flight 93 memorial and knew that ultimately we would be back on U.S. 30 to go to Gettysburg, it seemed that the quickest route between two points would be to stay on U.S. 30....or the old Lincoln Highway. So, we drove the Lincoln from Stoystown north of Somerset to Gettysburg, PA. I figure we drove about half the length of the Lincoln through Pennsylvania.

And I'm pretty certain that the guys were tired of me saying..."wow, hey, look at that old gas station!" and "do you see that? Do you see the old tourist cabins?". There was some great stuff along the Lincoln Highway in Pennsylvania including the beautiful cities of Chambersburg and Gettysburg that were illuminated with rows of flowering trees through their downtowns.

It was this Gulf station that caught my eye with its terra-cotta construction....it was the only thing I insisted we stop and take a picture of. Well, not the only thing. You see, we passed a Starbucks in Chambersburg on the way to the state park in which we planned to camp. When we woke up Saturday morning to near 30 degree temps, I insisted we go back to Starbucks for a warm up. On the way back to the campsite we passed a sign for the Appalachian Trail. The AT? How cool that it crossed the Lincoln Highway within a few hundred feet of where we were camping. So, here again I pulled over and made Dave take this picture.

The AT and I go back several years to a backpacking trip on the trail in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. That was a great trip, despite the cold of March in the mountains and the fact that I was ill-prepared physically to make the trek. The photo shows the highest elevation of the AT in Shenandoah......and us trying to purify some pretty rank water because we were already out one day into the trip.

Me, Krazy & Sean on the AT in 1997

I wasn't expecting Gettysburg to be such a beautiful city. The town was laid out around a courthouse square, but the courthouse moved very early to its current location, just south of the square and the square in turn developed a round-a-bout with the LH running through it. The city was a bustling place and very well maintained. It must be one of the gems of the Lincoln Highway.

the "new" courthouse in Gettysburg

the Pub Tavern on the Square (center)

While I couldn't convince the guys to eat at the Lincoln Diner....a very authentic sorta place....we did eat at the Pub Tavern on the square and the burgers and homemade chips were excellent.

21 April 2009

Flight 93

Checking out the quickest way to Gettysburg on mapquest revealed that the Flight 93 crash site from September 11th appeared to be just a short jaunt off the interstate. Once we got near Pittsburgh, after stopping for Starbucks, I asked the guys if we could check it out since we were making good time.

We got off the interstate at Somerset, PA and asked the turn pike attendant how to get to the site and evidently they've been asked this a lot. He pulled a piece of paper with directions on it from a tablet of the same and soon we were heading north until we reached U.S. 30-the old Lincoln Highway. The crash site only now having some directional signage from 30. Once we turned south and started down a narrow, winding road I asked the guys how many people they thought would be there. None was the answer....I speculated maybe twelve. From the winding road we turned east again, this time on what appeared to be a quickly paved drive that began to rise and fall with the terrain. And strangely enough the terrain changed from wooded hilltops and valleys to fairly open fields.

We crested one last hill after which the make-shift memorial and crash site came into view. There was a gravel parking lot with two tour buses and several cars parked, a fenced-in memorial viewing area with random granite monuments, a large fence wall with trinkets left by visitors, two flags, benches and a mobile National Park Service office. Way off in the distance, to the southeast, was a large oblong fenced area with an American flag at its far side facing back toward the observation area. This was the crash site.

Folks were pretty somber around there. Not much talking except for a gentleman/volunteer who gave a little background to how the memorial materialized within a few days after the crash. Evidently people began to wander out into the Pennsylvania countryside around Shanksville looking for the site, and then not knowing really what to look for. A small church in Shanksville (of which the volunteer was a member) decided that they needed to create something near the crash site for people, including a comfort station. This is what turned into the Flight 93 Memorial Observation Area. I often wondered after hearing about this fourth plane, the "what ifs". What if the brave crew and passengers aboard Flight 93 had not tried to overpower the terrorists? What would have been our government's response? Most speculate the intended target was either the Capitol Building or the White House. Would they have succeeded or would it have been shot down?

The fence wall with its many trinkets and scribbled thoughts on various objects reminded me of the Oklahoma City bombing memorial, at least how it materialized after the explosion. I had always thought it so crass for the architect of that memorial to say how trashy the site looked because of it. I was glad to see the Flight 93 site in its present state before a formal memorial is built. It was a true reflection of the raw emotion of mourning and commemoration.

20 April 2009

whirlwind trip

I am back from a great, but quick trip, to points east including Gettysburg (sorry Natalie, just got your message last night!). Thank you for all of your thoughts and kind words regarding the truck stop. I was reminded again on this trip of those places that fight an uphill battle against the odds and are still hanging on. We traveled parts of the Lincoln Highway and National Road, visited Gettysburg and the Flight 93 memorial, and stayed overnight at Ohiopyle and Caledonia State Parks in PA. Good times with pictures to follow.

15 April 2009

Garners: final reflections

It was painful to watch the old building be treated with such neglect by the new owners. Once they reopened, they had cobbled up part of the building and clearly were working under the assumption that business was just going to come to them. They closed within a year. And then the building just sat there, vacant.

Difficult to drive past and look at, and probably most difficult for my parents to see on a daily basis, the building quickly began to fall into disrepair. Strange what only 10 years can do to a building. The rear roof formed a leak that led to the kitchen ceiling collapsing. Small trees began to sprout up from joints in the asphalt to the point where a few trees were easily 6" around near the building and at the fuel pumps.

Two years ago it got the attention of the county health department because windows and glass doors had been broken out. These were boarded up, but the building sat easy prey for vandals. It was about that time that I stuck my head in the back door and in many ways was sorry I did.

The owner sold it again to someone who was more speculative in nature....due to the new U.S. 31 being planned with the building near the end of the interchange. And it was that thought that made the county realize the potentially valuable property should be cleaned up. So, a demolition order was placed on the building prompting the current owner to demolish it himself to avoid a lien. Except for the roof, the entire building was masonry construction....and it made a large debris pile.

Two weeks before it was demolished, knowing what was planned, I took my wife and kids into the building for their first and last visit. I think they questioned why on earth they were there. But since it was such a big part of my life and our family's history....it seemed the right thing to do. While my kids never saw it opened, five generations of the family did.

My sister called me frantically last Wednesday to let me know that they had started demolition. We thought we had another week. With permission mom and dad and my sister were pulling material out of the building....a few remaining chairs, a table, glass block from the counter and our specials board. By the time I could get there to see it on Thursday morning, the station had already been imploded. I walked around and took a few shots that morning.

Easter rolled around and my brother and I were talking about it and we decided to go up to the building and scavenge around. We brought home all of the original sandstone ashlars that remained....they're now in a heap at our house....along with some brick and glass block. I plan to sponsor an exhibit at the Historic Crossroads Museum, using the glass block to construct part of a counter.

So, I say good bye. I still have pictures and memories, but there was something in me that had always hoped that it would stay there. It was a solid enough building-the walls would have stood forever. It had already taken on a bit of a "ruins" ambiance; I'm not sure that's how I would have wanted to see it, or remember it. I think most of us who are grounded in any way at all have these kinds of places.....maybe it's home or our grandparents farm. For me, it was the truckstop.

With its passing is yet another reminder that mom & pop places are disappearing more rapidly now than ever and with that, I think we are losing what is truly best about America. Truly what made us who we are today. As we sink into a nation of greed and corruption at the hands of massive corporate enterprise it is difficult to see that we could ever return to the glory days of small private establishments as the bedrock of our communities.

I guess I just wax nostalgic for the time when we were about real neighbors, farm communities and living slower, simpler lives.

Gafill Oil Company in Argos

My great-grandfather (above) may have started our family in the fuel business with his employment as the agent for an oil company in ...