Coming Soon!

Jiang Li, Warrior Woman of Yueh is the companion novella to My Adventures As Brother Rat. Jiang Li is now available; for a signed copy, please contact me via my website Contact Me button. Price is $7.00 plus s/h of $2.20 for envelope and postage, or $4.90 for Priority Mail (6 copies will fit in a Priority Mail envelope).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Indy 500 Race Day, 2009

Sunday, The Day of the Indy 500!

No photos.

I’ve been home a smidge over a week, and am caught up on everything but cleaning house. One is never caught up with cleaning house, is one?

Tomorrow I begin writing again. Up in the morning, coffee, and a few hours at the computer. I usually take time for emails now and then, and phone calls, but mostly, my nose is to the screen and my fingers on the keyboard, with several breaks for coffee input and output. Was that too much information?

Several people have asked me where my favorite place on our trip was, and after thinking on that, I can honestly say, “Wherever I was at the moment.” I loved the wide open of the Great Plains, but I also loved the East Coast and the Rocky Mountains, and the deserts of the Southwest and the swamps/bayous/everglades of the Southeast. As much as I enjoy travel and new sights, it’s really the people I meet and or reconnect with that makes it worth the while and is the most fun. I try to be where I am at the moment, and wherever that is, it is usually a great place to be.

I added another Sister of Choice to my Family of Choice, that’s always a good thing. One can never have too many friends or too many family members, and when one gets to choose both, well, that’s calorie-free cheesecake no matter how one slices it!

One of the best books I read on the road was while we were in Fargo, with Donna. I read her copy of The Last Lecture –by Randy Pausch. I wouldn’t call it life changing for me, though it did remind me to update my Bucket List, but it was a fascinating read – well done, not at all maudlin, and I think anyone who reads it, young or old, will enjoy it. The younger ones might get a few really good insights into their Childhood Dreams and the Achievement of same. Thanks, Donna, for the recommendation, and the loan of the book. (Did I mention it’s both well-written and a quick read?)

Another good book, for those interested in American history, is Geronimo – His own Story -- The Autobiography of a Great Patriot Warrior As told to S. M. Barrett. I picked up two bios of Geronimo, one by a man who had a definite bias not only against Geronimo, but toward Apaches, or maybe just Native Amercans. I think I left it in some hotel room. This book was much better, gave the same information, but in a much different light, and no, it was not an apology. Geronimo was very honest.

For a change of pace, I picked up a copy of Inspector Imanishi Investigates by Seicho Matsumoto, translated by Beth Cary, from the sale rack in one of the libraries we attended – I think it was in Independence, Virginia. I seldom buy hardbacks and about equally seldom buy murder mysteries, but this was great fun. (I told Kay I bought it for the photo of the author on the back. He looks like a Japanese hippy cleaned up in a suit – longish hair, and a bent cigarette in his mouth.) At any rate, it was fun brain candy for the trip.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” - Mark Twain

Monday, May 18, 2009

Letter to Governor of Ohio

As I stated in my earlier blog, I would write the Governor of Ohio a letter about the two rude women in the Ohio Visitor's Center. Here is the letter as I sent it to him:

Dear Governor Strickland,

My friend and I recently made a very long, and enjoyable road trip circumnavigating the United States. We stopped in every Visitor’s Center that was open as we came into a new state, and in each and every one we were greeted with smiles and welcomes – until we entered Ohio.

We traveled with ‘Flat Stanlietta’ – a female version of Flat Stanley – and all the Official Greeters were eager to hear about Flat Stanlietta, and her travels, and gave her, and also us, ideas of where to go, what to see, then gave her bookmarks, or whatever freebies they had. Except the Official Greeters in Ohio.

When we crossed over the Pennsylvania border into Ohio and entered the Visitor’s Information Center, there were two women behind the counter. One sat as far away from the counter as she could and glowered at us as she ate her lunch. She did not put her food down, apologize for eating on duty or for lack of a break room; she did not offer to help--she just kept eating, and glowering. The other, somewhat younger one, was on her cell phone, and she was NOT happy that I had the temerity to stand at the counter to request information. With a great theatrical sigh, she asked her friend if s/he could hold the phone for a bit, as someone was there. She did put down her phone, and she did give us a map and some information, but she was not pleased that we had interrupted her phone call!

There were no smiles of welcome, there was no warmth, or kindness at all. These women are the Official Greeters to the State of Ohio, and we couldn’t wait to get out of their domain – and across and out of the state!

Fortunately, the grounds keeper outside smiled and greeted us, and I told him how positively rude the women had been. My friend and I had not planned on taking the Turnpike—we like the Blue Highways – but we decided the Turnpike would be the quickest way out of Ohio, so we took it. We did meet a Greeter, Tom, at one of the rest areas (at about mile post 100). He, though, works for the Turnpike system, not the State.

I understand that these women probably come under the domain of the Ohio Tourist Bureau, and not your office; however, they are representing YOU. I tried to call the Tourist Bureau, but could not find a contact phone number in the Tourist magazine Tom gave me. I did find a phone number but the person who answered the phone only wanted to mail me information, he did not want to take any comments.

In our two months of travels, we only met three impolite and rude people. One was in a restaurant in Arizona—one my friend’s family frequented until the incident, and shall not return to--and the other two are your Official Representatives welcoming visitors to your state.

Please be advised a copy of this letter, and any response I may receive, will be posted on my blog.


Lenora R. Good

As I said in the letter, any responses I may receive will also be posted.

Here is the first response, obviously an automatic one:

Thank you for contacting the Office of Governor Ted Strickland.

You email message is important to us. If your email includes time sensitive information, please contact our office by phone at (614) 466-3555 between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM Monday thru Friday. We will work with our executives agencies to reply to your message as promptly as possible.

Again, thank you for writing.

Ted Strickland,


Sunday, May 17, 2009

I'm Home........

Once again, I’m playing ‘catch-up’ – but it’s the last time for this trip! Honest. Trust me!!

Photos at:

(Library 19)

We left Kay K’s yesterday, about noon. It rained on and off during the morning, preceded by thunderstorms which I slept through.

New Jersey is a beautiful state, and we enjoyed driving up Highway 206 until we turned left onto I-80. We stopped at the Tuscani Bistro in a small town, the name of which neither of us can remember, but the food was delicious. (BTW, I asked the owner if “Tuscany” is pronounced “Tus CAHN i” per a certain commercial seen on TV, of if it’s pronounced “Tuskeni”. It’s the latter.)

Once on I-80, we still enjoyed the countryside but at a much higher rate of speed. When we reached Pennsylvania, we were greeted with a toll booth. I asked the gentlemen what the toll was for the whole state (I didn’t want to be nickel and dimed to death en route and not have enough nickels and or dimes) – it was $.75 for the whole state! I figured I could afford that ;-)

We drove to Clearview and decided that was far enough for the night, and got a hotel room. Just for grins, I went through the phone book looking for relatives (none), but when I closed the phone book I noticed we were in the same area as Punxsutawney and Phil, so this morning, Kay and I drove there, and saw Phil and his mate – they live in a special area of the Library – then we drove up to Gobbler’s Knob, where he makes his annual prediction.

Visiting Punxsutawney is like, well, visiting Punxsutawney. Both my twin and I were born on 2 Feb, so it’s almost obligatory to stop and see Phil if one is close enough to do so. Fortunately, I was. Phil was not impressed. But, I was;-)

Punxsutawney is a real example of small town America. The statue of the Seneca Indian warrior was donated by a high school senior who raised the money for him. Of course, there are statues of Phil all over the place, and on the road going up to Gobbler’s Knob, there are white footprints from Phil. The school metal work’s class has made and donated several items to Gobbler’s Knob, and, I imagine, other places.

After leaving Punxsutawney, we headed back to I-80 and eventually reached Ohio. The first stop was the Ohio Visitor’s Information Center just over the state line. The rest rooms were clean, and the grounds keeper friendly. I mention those two good points because when I get home, I’m writing the Governor of Ohio a letter explaining the bad points!

The people who greet at these stations are, literally, the face of the state. They are they official greeters and welcomers. Of the two women who greeted us to Ohio, one:

1. Fed her face. She sat behind the counter, over by the window, and glared at us as she stuffed food into her face. She made no effort to excuse herself, to go to a break area to eat, or even to put down her food, apologize for eating in front of us, and she certainly couldn’t come to help us. She ate and glowered.

2. The second talked on her cell phone. When I had the temerity to stand at the counter, she gave a pout and asked if the person she was talking to could wait a few minutes, then asked me what I wanted. I had interrupted her and she was not pleased. She did answer my questions but was not at all happy and did so only with grudging “I got to do it” attitude.

Fortunately, when we left, the grounds keeper smiled so I know that all people in Ohio weren’t grudges and or glowering people. Unfortunately, I’d already formed the opinion that I just wanted to get the heck across Ohio and away from these rude people!

So, Kay and I opted to spend the $9.25 to drive on the Ohio Turnpike and get the heck outa Dodge ASAP! We stopped for a bathroom break at the Service Plaza at about mile post 100. Since we couldn’t leave the Pike without paying, they put gas stations, and food courts about every 30-40 miles. Anyhow, in this visitor’s center we met Tom, a delightful representative for the state – except, he works for the Ohio Turnpike people, not the State. Too bad. Had he been the ‘official’ greeter when we entered the state, we’d have a whole different attitude about Ohio.

We’re not really sure what the $9.25 toll goes for, it certainly doesn’t go for keeping the Interstate in excellent condition. Does anyone out there know why our freeways, i.e., interstates, are toll? I thought turnpikes were toll, but interstates were freeways and therefore ‘free.’ Guess I thunk wrong, huh?

We continued to drive, and instead of taking I-80/90 to Chicago, and paying more money to Indiana, we got off just before the state line, and took I-69 south to Ft. Wayne, where we are currently ensconced in La Quinta. Tomorrow, we shall head down I-69 a few more miles, take a right on highway 30 and head toward the south of Chicago. We might make it as far as Omaha, if we’re lucky, and there are no tornadoes or horrid hail storms ;-)

Gas has gone up to about $2.25-$2.30/gal now. I understand it went up 17c overnight in Florida. Guess it’s May – Mother’s Day is Sunday, and then in a couple weeks is Memorial Day, so the summer gas prices are upon us.

Gas prices going up, tolls on the interstates, grumpy greeters, one thing is for sure, we aren’t bored! For the most part, we’ve met some really great folks on this trip. I’d say about 99% of the ones we’ve met are great. They’re friendly, helpful, cheerful. This morning in Punxsy’s town, the gal in the grocery store walked me out and showed me where the library was, rather than just tell me. I’ll visit Pennsylvania again, if I get the chance! Especially if it means I can visit Princeton, too;-)

I forgot the name of the town we stayed in, but think it was Des Moines, but I couldn’t get connected to the Wi Fi, which is why this one, the last of the Trip Blogs, is long, and ‘catch up’

At any rate, going through Iowa, I saw a sign for Amana Colonies, so, of course, we turned right, and drove through the seven Amana Colonies. The first stop was the Quilt Store. I was quite surprised at all the ‘modern’ fabrics and ‘busy’ quilts. Didn’t seem a bit Amish to me! However, I did find some fabric, and a pattern to buy. Next stop was the Visitor’s Center, where the lady, who was quite friendly and obviously not from Ohio (by the way, I have lots of friendly family in Canton, Ohio-or they were friendly when I met them years ago. By now, who knows?) showed us the map, and pointed out the wineries. Yes, plural. I expressed amazement that the Amish could make wine, at which point she laughed.

It seems that over 75% of the people who come through there think the Amana Colonies were Amish. They were not, and are not. They are a Protestant group, breakaway from Lutheran (probably under the broad umbrella of ‘Anabaptist’ which includes several other breakaways, but I’m not positive). Anyhow, do a search on Amana, Amana Colonies, Amana Religion, etc. if you want more information.,

We did stop off at one of the bakeries and bought one of the best loafs of Black Forest Rye Bread I’ve ever had, and stopped at a couple of wineries, and bought a couple bottles of very good wine. One Shiraz and one Merlot. I, of course, had to try the Catawba wine. It is made from the Catawba grape, not by the Catawba Indians. It is a white wine, and very, very sweet. I prefer my red, and love the Cabernets!

We eventually turned north on I-29 heading toward Fargo. Somewhere along the way, I remembered I’d always wanted to visit Pipestone, MN, so we took a short side trip to Pipestone. This is a National Monument, where the red stone is quarried (by Indians, only) and carved into the ‘peace’ pipes. The stone is soft (about the hardness of fingernails), red, and the Indians make pipes, amulets, etc. from it. Pipes ranged in price from $19.00 up into the hundreds, depending on the size and the carving. Each piece is signed by the artist, and when you buy something you get a bio of the artist, and information about the piece.

From Pipestone, we went on to Fargo, where we stayed a few days with one of Kay’s friends, Donna. Donna is a good friend with Kay’s kids, as they all went to school together, and we met up with her while we were at Mark and Terry’s in Scottsdale. It was then she invited us to stay a while when we came through, and I’m really glad we did. There was room in her garage for Suvie as well as her truck, and so both vehicles were safely tucked away when we had the hail storm!

Donna is a lot of fun, and though she had to work while we were there, that was OK as we had laundry to do, and Kay had other friends and family to visit.

From Fargo, we headed north to Highway 2. Our original goal was to take Hwy 2 across into Washington, with a slight detour through Glacier.

When we got to Rugby, the weather was pretty well socked in, and we were fighting head winds. Rugby is the Geographical center of North America, but the weather was too lousy to get out and take too many photos, but I managed a few before we left for Minot. We fought headwinds the whole way, and watched the Average Miles Per Gallon indicator in Suvie go from 25.8 to 18.9! She’s now back up where she belongs;-)

Have you ever been to Minot? It’s called “The Magic City” and when I asked why, no one could tell me, though one person thought it got the name because nothing was there, the military moved in, and ‘overnight’ a city was born.

The next morning was cold. There would have been frost on the pumpkin had there been a pumpkin, instead, there was ice on the car! Kay scraped ice while I checked us out of the hotel, and we kept on down the highway. Alas, there was a funny little light on the dash telling us the tire pressure was low. We stopped and checked and the tires looked ok, but there just ain’t no Subaru Dealers out on highway two, so we kept going. (There weren’t any full service gas station/garages, either!) We stopped at a place in Williston to use their phone book to find (hopefully) a Subaru dealer. No such luck. However, the gal wanted to know what the problem was, and we told her. She checked the tire pressure, and the tires were exactly where they should have been, so I thought it would be safe to go on.

In the meantime, Kay called Glacier National Park, and yes indeed, they were open, all the roads were open, for 2-3 miles, except the main, scenic one which was closed. We decided to turn Right at Williston and go through the Roosevelt National Park to I-94. Of course, the road through the Park was closed, so we drove down the blue highway until we got on I-94.

Montana is like Texas. It takes forever to drive through it! There is a whole lot of sky, and a whole lot of land! We made it to Bozeman before stopping. We’d been rained on, and the sky looked pretty bad. The next morning, Kay called 511 (road reports) and discovered that I-90 had some construction between Bozeman and Spokane. She also called on Hwy 12, which we considered taking out of Missoula. Alas, it seemed to have more construction, and we couldn’t find out what the weather was doing in the mountains, so we opted to head on out on the Freeway (note: it is a FREEway, not a TOLLway! meow!!) and were back to my house by 3pm on Friday.

We must have crossed the Yellowstone River a dozen times, and then we crossed the Clark Fork at least that often. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many places to pull out on the freeways to take photos as there are on the Blue Highways.

We missed most of the construction. There were some areas where it was marked, but no people and no barriers. There were a couple places where it was down to one lane, but the traffic was light, and we zipped right on through at the posted speed limit.

I must admit, I love eastern Montana, and the Plains States – they are a lot like the Palouse region of Eastern Washington – lots of wide open spaces, in places mountains or hills to be seen in the distance, but not crowding me. I could live in Eastern Montana, but the operative word is ‘could’. I don’t want to move. Ever again. I love my house and my town.

We drove 11,500 miles on this trip, about 70% on the ‘Blue Highways;’ we saw lots of beautiful places and met many, many nice people—honest hotel maids, helpful strangers, fun friends and family...but, as Dorothy so eloquently said:

There is no place like home!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Grounds for Sculpture

Photos at:

Today was a treat and then some. Kay K took us to the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. The grounds are some 35 acres, with all sorts of sculptures placed about. Most have signs that it is OK to touch, but to do so with respect. The buildings were closed because they are putting in new works. Kay said the outside art is changed every so often.

Going on the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words... yes, me! Anyhow, check out the web site above for some shots of the area we are visiting, the Grounds for Sculpture, and the pea cock who posed for my camera!

We are leaving tomorrow for MN.

New Jersey

Photos at:

Catch-up time...

We stayed a couple nights in Warsaw, VA, a nice hotel, Best Western, our room was off the road, and we managed to get some pretty good sleep – something that is important on a road trip!

While there, we had a nice visit with my friend, Starr, and her friend, Linda. Starr is another writer and working on a biography of Martha Washington. Both she and Linda are history buffs, and we got lots of fascinating tidbits of local history. We went to lunch at a fabulous little seafood restaurant in Tappahannock, the kind of place the locals know about and frequent, but the tourists pass by to go to Lowry’s.

When I called Stephanie, in Cape May, to find out about the ferry, she gave me the schedule, and phone number to call to make reservations. Reservations for a Ferry???? Needless to say, I called, and was told reservations weren’t needed, especially since we wanted the 4.30 ferry to Cape May, that it was still too early in the season to worry about reservations.

The next morning, Kay and I did head north, going up the eastern side of DC, around Annapolis, and across Delaware to Lewes and the ferry. I truly expected to see wall-to-wall homes and apartments and industry, but what we saw of Delaware was mostly rural farmland. Actually, it didn’t look that much different that parts of the Willamette Valley used to look – gray, drizzly, rural. In other words, just like home;-) Except there were no mountains to be seen.

The speed limit was 50mph, so we saw quite a bit, and weren’t in any hurry to go faster. We arrived at Lewes and the Ferry about 12.30 or so, thinking we’d buy our ticket, get in line, and go have lunch while we waited for the ferry. To our surprise, there was a ferry loading when we arrived, and the ticket agent told us to get in the ‘stand by lane’. She couldn’t guarantee we’d get on the ferry, but there was always a chance, and if not, we’d be first in line for the 4.30 one.

There was one car already in the lane when we pulled up. As we pulled up, the dock crewmen waved them on, so we pulled up a bit more. The crewman talked to the ferry folks, and waved us on, too. It took a bit of jockeying, but the crew were extremely good at their jobs, and managed to get us on, and the gate closed, and we were off! Alas, we were in so tight, Kay couldn’t open the passenger door, and had to crawl across the console to get out my door. She drove going off, so I got to crawl across the console. Turn about is fair, after all.

The trip to Cape may took an hour and 15 minutes, so we headed upstairs, and bought a small ‘finger’ salad (carrots, cheese cubes, etc.) that in a grocery store would have cost half as much, but we were captive, and hungry. Stephanie, of course, wasn’t expecting us for a while; fortunately, she was home to give us directions to her house, and soon we were ensconced in her home, sitting in her kitchen, and gabbing like there hadn’t been 4 years since we’d seen each other.

I showed her the book Jolanda wrote about the two little girls in Kenya, and Stephanie couldn’t believe that it was hers to take to her church. So, Jolanda, Jennifer and JoJo will be in a very lively Sunday School, where many children will have the opportunity to read and enjoy your book!

Stephanie was a little disappointed that the weather had turned sour, and rained or drizzled on us the whole time we were there, but we went to see the sights anyhow. Breakfast was at the airfield, where they have quite a museum of old planes, etc. from WWII era. Also a marvelous exhibit of the Tuskegee Airmen. I tried to get photos of Flat Stanlietta and the exhibit, but she kept falling down. I did manage to get her in a space suit, though.

From the airfield, we went over to Wildwood and walked a bit on the longest boardwalk on the Atlantic. The ocean was way too far away to walk out to it, but we saw it, and then it started to rain, so we had to find shelter-in a book store, of course!

The rain let up, and we went to Cold Spring Village. It’s a park into which several old houses have been moved, and in the summer, it is a ‘working’ village with weavers, blacksmith, etc. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get into any of the homes, but we could peek through some of the windows to see how they were/are furnished (they have been furnished as they might have been way back whenever they were built and occupied). Stephanie works there in the summer as a story teller.

Sunday was another wet day, so we just went to lunch on the harbor where we could watch the boats and enjoy some wonderful food. Then, alas, it was time to finish our laundry and wind up our visit.

My Princeton friend, Kay K, had meetings until 3 or so in the afternoon, so we putzed around Monday morning (it’s not a far trip from Cape May to Princeton) and drove up NJ Highway 9 until we came to US 195 where we turned Left and began our homeward journey! (We have decided to forgo the trip into Canada, instead we’ll just visit friends and family betwixt here and home).

We arrived at Kay K’s a bit after four and again found ourselves with our own room. Her home is large, and very quiet, and I’ve had the best sleep of the trip. Still, the weather is wet, and Kay K is very busy so yesterday we spent reading until Kay K took us to The Blue Bottle for a most delicious dinner. The two Kays had cod, and I had tuna.

I picked up one of Kay K’s books, DREAMING WATER – by Gail Tsukiyama, I read it, and gave it to Kay M to read. It is a delightful read, the story takes place over two days, and is told, for the most part, first by the mother, Cate, then by the daughter, Hana. Cate is a widow, and Hana is her daughter who has Werner’s Syndrome (premature aging). The book was published in 2002, so you may have to go to the library to find a copy, but it is truly worth reading, I think.

Before taking us to dinner, Kay K drove us around town a bit, showed us where Drumthwacket (prounounced: Drumwhackit) is. That’s the Governor’s mansion which, if one wants to make an appointment, is open for tours. We opted not. Then she drove us to the campus of Princeton University, past some of the old houses that the U owns for faculty and or student housing, and then drove us by Woodrow Wilson’s house. I got a couple pictures of it from the car. Kay said I really should photograph the house across the street and label it WW’s house, as it’s somewhat more imposing, and looks like WW’s house did before it was repainted, etc.

I commented to Kay K on the amount of trees in Princeton, and she informed me that Princeton has more trees in it than any other town in America. I can believe it.

Today, we are heading to the Sculpture Garden for lunch and a look at the sculptures.

Unfortunately, John McPhee is no longer in the phone book, so she doesn’t know where he now lives, and I won’t be able to get a photo of his home. She did, however, point out where Tony Morrison lives and we drove by.

We are having a marvelous time, but also are looking forward to returning home, and to own beds. Hmmmm, I wonder how long it will take me to get used to my own bed? How long will it take my kitty to get used to having me home?