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Today — 16 September 2021Snippets of a Traveling Mind

Wandering Famously 3

15 September 2021 at 14:31
By: usfman

“Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”(Mahatma Gandhi)

“There is no remedy for love but to love more.” (Henry David Thoreau)

Our All Star Road Trip now reached its third week as we made our way north on Interstate 25 from Fort Collins, Colorado. For some intuitive reason, I strongly felt the need to show my iconic cast of historic figures what country life was like amid the wide open spaces of Wyoming. So we slowed down our travel pace and made our way westward along backroads into Jackstown, our next destination. How fun it would seem to observe their honest impressions of this authentic western town over the weekend as time travelers comparing their accustomed past to now.

Yet I soon experienced some skepticism about this choice as I discovered a popular gun show would be beginning in Jackstown on this busy weekend of our arrival. For it seemed that we might have walked right into a potentially dangerous situation as I observed hordes of armed gun rights advocates lingering in mass along Old Town Square. As we gathered together for a hearty breakfast at the Horse – Collar Diner the next morning, my premeditated unease about this visit no doubt would remain. For I suddenly heard shots across the street at the main entrance to Town Square. Within a few minutes, a panic crisis unfolded when local police rushed into cordon off the Town Square vicinity, causing hundreds of panic stricken people to spill out on busy Main Street then.

So as I continued to watch the chaos unfolding from our breakfast seating window, a sudden thought crossed my mind that our group should seize the moment now to restore some much needed peace to Jackstown. For each of my esteemed companions, without question, had efficiently practiced social activism in some form through performing their craft in the past. So it was with no surprise that each of them wholeheartedly agreed with my new proposal. My thoughts now turned to finding suitable a time and place where we could expediently resolve this potential riot crisis, in Jackstown today.

Fortunately for us, an opportunity to act quickly surfaced thirty minutes later as I listen to local gossip that the annual town ceremony for “Veterans of Past Wars” would be drawing a large crowd of “undesirables” in the town arena at 6:30 pm. tonight. Assuming the free public event would go on as scheduled, I desperately sought speedy approval from the town council so I could manageably arrange our stage setup assistance for us to participate at tonight’s gala event. So while we waited for for the official “go-ahead , I discussed with each of the group members a performance “for the ages” where each of them would accept the challenge of convincing this tough crowd to “stand down” for peace.

So in this proposed agenda of All Star unity at work, our charismatic Mr. Morrison would step on stage first remembering to forget his wild antics tonight and perform a softer acoustic setlist of late 1960 songs from his “Doors” repertoire. Mr. Monet’s turn would come next as he moved toward a podium to honor those superlative images of tranquil countryside that he painted in the 19th century. I can sense that this often stubborn artist would be astonished  to know that these iconic works of “Impressionistic” design could be flashed on a giant, electronic screen behind the stage as props when he spoke. The grand finale of our appearance would now take place as the eloquent words of Mr Thoreau and Mr. Gandhi  resonated powerfully throughout the venue. For each of these “larger than life” figures would captivate the audience by reliving those emotionally gripping episodes in their lives of unselfish, self- sacrifice and peaceful “ Civil Disobedience” then.

Yet such a masterful performance of my road trip companions remains dormant in my mind as I will never know if they ever succeeded in restoring peace to Jackstown. For how wrong  it seemed that my imaginative dream would abruptly switch off to 2021 again as I awoke the next morning to witness only the sights and sounds of daily life chatter.

So what have I learned most concerning my intimate encounters with these time travel heroes from the past? Know then that it’s been no accident of fate that these four historic men wandered into my dreams to “lend a hand” for peace. For by serving as powerful role models for me in my intuitive memories, they’ve given me a “better grip” in handling the contentious negative behaviors festering in my country today. So for every instance of intense confrontation involving hatred and bigotry I experience in the future, I would gladly “shoot” each of them a warm peace sign “in a flash.”



Before yesterdaySnippets of a Traveling Mind

Wandering Famously 2

8 September 2021 at 22:55
By: usfman

“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.” (Oprah Winfrey)

As our latest road trip saga unfolds, I’m deeply honored with the privilege of bringing back to life four heroes that I admire from the past. (See last week’s blog.) If only I could follow all of them back into that sacred place amid that blue mist cloud where they came from. But I must confess what you already know that each of them come to me each day and night as mere imaginative daydreams when I most need their advice. Nonetheless, it’s quite useful to me that I proceed with my story of this fantasy road trip by bringing to light that first road trip instance in which full awareness of their “living spirit” weighed heavily on my mind.


Ruth and and do not consider ourselves as experienced outdoor adventurists coming from a lifestyle of suburban ease in South Florida. But in recognizing the genius of each new member of our “All Star” road trip team, the “roughing it” option seemed much more practical on this particular adventure. For we would be forced to survive by facing a major catastrophe in the rugged mountainous region of Central Colorado. The story starts then with Mr. Thoreau most in mind. For his past legacy of embracing aloneness amid simple living conditions at Walden Pond definitely influenced me to proceed with a particularly challenging Colorado “leg”of our U.S. tour. But would our group  find Thoreau’s solitude during our extended stay in a modest cabin on arid valley land below the steep Rocky Mountains?

Yet none of us could have imagined the intense feeling of losing control in knowing that a massive wildfire would rapidly spread from the west to likely engulf the entire town of Grandy Lake where we planned to stay nearby. For on this Sunday afternoon in early October, we arrived with positive impressions formed by clear blue skies, a gentle breeze and fresh mountain air. So with such optimism resonating on that first night, we sat contentedly around a warm campfire, clowning around with the ever impulsive Mr. Morrison. For he screamed for us to sing together with him “The Doors” lyrics to ,“Light My Fire”, “The End” and many other somewhat raunchy worded compositions.

However, within two days of our weekend arrival, those “Light My Fire” lyrics would foreshadow a more ominous fate for us as the wind picked up accompanied by a thick cloud of black smoke hanging low in the western sky. Only Mr. Monet with his desire to paint shades of light and color could find the urge to linger outside our cabin now. For he took full advantage of the surrounding smoky mist and now reddish blaze to paint his latest “Impressionistic” canvasses of this encroaching wildfire disaster. The rest of us wisely stayed indoors during this tense time in order to dodge the burning sensations in our eyes we felt outside as the fires continued to come closer.

In early evening that Tuesday we got some not so unexpected news on the television. For a new state decree now ordered all Grandy Lake area residents to evacuate the affected fire spread area within 24 hours Given that our cabin lay directly in the projected path of the approaching wildfire, our group would have no choice but to do the same. So Mr. Gandhi, the long suffering activist of our group, now wished to lead our group to town as volunteers, so we could assist in the evacuation efforts. At the same time, Mrs. USFMAN began a telephone search several mile south of the expected fire danger areas to find the cheapest available lodging for us to relocate. As for me, I took on the task of arranging proper reimbursement by our rental cabin owner for our shorter stay expected. That left Mr. Morrison, Mr. Thoreau, and Mr. Monet the important task of gathering our most valuable safekeepings and storing them in the car.

Having found a suitable motel five miles south of our cabin site, the patient one, Mr. Gandhi saw good reason to revise his original volunteer plan. For he now strongly urged all of us other than himself to leave immediately. However, he also stressed that he would behind to assist any evacuating families he met on the short trek to town. It surprised us then to hear that Mr. Gandhi insisted that he would end his daring self- sacrifice by walking back alone to our new location ten miles south. Such a risk- filled escapade thrilled Mr, Morrison as well, who now fervently expressed the desire to see hot flames on wood up close. So when our wild rock star immediately offered to to join Mahatma then , I of course as team leader assertively told him no.

So our humble India crusader, taking only his loincloth and cane turned right toward the approaching fires in a slow walk toward Grandy Lake. Meanwhile the rest of finished piling in what we could in the car, fully committed to head the opposite way. Notably, however, it was Mr. Thoreau, not Mr. Gandhi, who stood out most prominently as a leader then. For as he forcefully quoted his dear friend Ralph Waldo Emerson taken from his essay “Self Reliance” as we loaded the car, we clearly got his message. Nothing should stop us from taking this responsible action to evacuate now! Of course that meant prioritizing we save Monet’s priceless paintings, Morrison’s prized guitar, Thoreau’s handy array of survival tools, and both for my wife and me, our delicate electronic devices.

But then our group’s doomed fate suddenly turned brighter as a fortuitous shift in the winds overnight would spare the region of Grandy Lake from imminent disaster. Mahatma would be jubilantly welcomed back to our group as a “larger than life” hero once again at our new temporary home. Yet the new reality for our four historic heroes at this moment defined each of them then not as prophets, patriots, or persuasive crusaders of past times on this day. For they’d bonded together as mere mortal, road trip travelers, working hard in the present for the survival of themselves and betterment of humankind.




Wandering Famously 1

4 September 2021 at 21:31
By: usfman

“No road is long with good company.” (Turkish Proverb)

Some people might think of our American road trips cross-country strictly as a solitary escape from life. For it does seem tempting from my urban perspective to consider such independent travel as a way to free myself from dealing with pressurized social obligations associated with work, family, and leisure routines. Yet in the end, it seems shortsighted for us to ever envision such long distance travels in the absence of genuine human companionship.

Consider for example how often it seems that my wife and I have made new friends using a “Eurail” Pass option during summertime in those cozy passenger compartments along the way to Paris, London, Madrid…. Or envision how our destination driven travels around the United States by car often enable us to rekindle long sought relationships with “significant others” such as a favorite cousin, school buddy, or a sick friend in desperate need of a caring human nearby. So let us take a look at the following imaginative scenario.


USFMAN wakes up early on a quiet Sunday morning at home. Something seems eerily different today as he notices a bluish mist of spinning dust hovering in his living room. With some uncertainty, he proceeds to walk into this low hanging cloud. As his mind seems to bore steadily through a narrow tunnel, he suddenly experiences visions of four historic heroes from the past that he’s always admired. As the cloud vanishes over the next few seconds , USFMAN immediately gasps in seeing these prominent figures standing still beside him now in living form.

To break up the awkward silence of this moment USFMAN finds the courage to ask each of them now why they have returned from the the past through this time portal? It soon becomes clear to him that all of them strongly desire to accompany USFMAN on his upcoming road trip plans in September when he proceeds westward across the United States. How happy he feels now in realizing that their presence will enhance this upcoming journey in both heart and mind. Brief conversations ensue then as to how each of these “superstars” from the past might best enhance the “greater good” of this long distance endeavor.

Know then the names and historic legacies of these four historic figures who will now join with the ever practical Mrs. USFMAN and himself to soon embark on a most momentous travel journey. For they truly represent an “All Star” Road Trip lineup

USFMAN (Trip Organizer/Driver) – Mrs. USFMAN (Budget Manager/Co Driver) –  Jim Morrison (Group Entertainer) – Claude Monet (Group Artist) – Henry David Thoreau (Special Travel Advisor) – Mahatma Gandhi (Spiritual Advisor)  


To better endure those lonely travel days moving through the vast distances and remote wilderness of the American West, I first recognize Jim Morrison as the wildly entertaining lead singer from Classic Rock days with “The Doors.” For as a popular celebrity star, Jim will feel quite at home in such inhospitable places we traverse such as the Mojave and Death Valley Deserts. So as Jim serves in the capacity of our trip entertainer, I look forward then to observing his “deep” thoughts about life and creative actions. I suspect Jim might even honor us with a masterful new piece on his guitar or scream out a passionate poem of love during those desolate passing times of our road trip. He would also be happy to know that I’m willing to tolerate Jim during those drug induced “trips” he often takes to get “high” as long as he continues to entertain us well.

Being excited to further heighten my senses to the experience of the present moment, I add famed, French painter Claude Monet as our official road trip artist on this road trip vacation. For I’m excited to be present  as he paints his “Impressionistic” illusions involving shades of color in rock strata  at the vast Grand Canyon or of diverse wildlife scenes at Yellowstone National Park I also anticipate that Morrison and Monet will make compatible travel partners on this adventure. For I have high hopes they will take the time to share their creative talents with each other and thus create new works of artistry containing a fusion of both music and art.


I truly admire a travel vagabond like Thoreau who can survive a simple life alone in a self-built cabin for two years at such a remote place as Walden Pond, Massachusetts. For he seems to be the right person on this road trip to become our Special Travel Advisor and thus offer timely solutions to any difficulties we might face as we cross those  arduous trails through the Rocky/Sierra Mountain regions of the western frontier. Thoreau’s bold expressions of “Civil Disobedience” might further pique my strong interest in him as a mediator of dispute as we anticipate experiencing unexpected occasions of “locals” distrust as we pass through as strangers in small, rural towns.

Called “The Great Soul in Beggar’s Garb” at a time of British Colonial rule in India, Mahatma Gandhi possesses a strong track record of unselfish service to all groups of people. Although quite small and frail, he exudes an “inner” aura of quiet activist, who prefers  passive resistance rather than retaliatory violence to meet his ends.  Based on Gandhi’s firm yet unthreatening reputation in the face of personal confrontation, I would  thus wholeheartedly welcome him  to our group as our spiritual group leader. For we will welcome Gandhi’s wisdom to peacefully resolve tense situations  of racist/xenophobic “backlash” when we cross those enthused by the Trump extremist  agenda. I also recognize that Thoreau and Gandhi will likely bond as companions in their shared advocacy of human action. Imagine then how their “can do” charisma can spread to our group as whole in the hope that we can stand ready to volunteer in a community like Lake Tahoe, now threatened by massive wildfire destruction.

So you might suspect that that I will be writing future blogs concerning this fictional road trip endeavor. Know that our “All Star” Road Trip crew stands ready to tackle such problems as the climate change crisis, denial of facts and science, and intolerance of racial/ethnic diversity escalating across America today.



USFMAN – “Forget the G.P.S. Let’s just find a good map.”
MRS. USFMAN – “Does any one know if there’s a Walmart or Costco nearby?”
Morrison – “Give me songs to sing and emerald dreams to dream and I give you love.”
Monet – “Eventually my eyes are opened and I really understood nature. I learned to live at the same time.”
Thoreau- “You must live in the present. Launch yourself on every wave. Find your eternity in each moment.”
Gandhi – “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”



Turning Around Florida Regret

27 August 2021 at 15:20
By: usfman

“Have I thought long to see this morning’s face? And doth it give me such a sight as this?”(William Shakespeare)

As I awaken each morning these days, I ponder deeply about why I live in Florida, one of the most unhealthy states in America today. How is that? Know then that the Delta variant of COVID now runs rampant throughout the “Sunshine State”, with daily averages of over 26,000 cases and nearly 200 deaths being reported recently by the C.D.C. With only 51.7 % of the reported state’s residents report being fully vaccinated, the task of determining who’s wearing a mask indoors thus continues to linger as a perplexing problem in dealing with stranger encounters each day. Consider as well that the state’s “go ahead” to open mass entertainment venues like stadiums and concert halls remains a risky endeavor as one does not know whether the persons sitting around you have been vaccinated or not.

Meanwhile, those who exhibit serious signs of COVID illness wait lengthy amounts of time for oxygen and other critical care treatments in overcrowded, emergency room conditions. Shortages of life savings medicines at supply depositories means that local pharmacies and hospitals might run out of these life saving drugs to combat this escalating COVID crisis in the future. As a result, several major hospitals are also running out of space for their morgues. So why does our governor seem perfectly willing to politicize his COVID leadership in a state that’s compiled over 3,000,000 cases to date by penalizing counties with budget cuts who mandate masking requirements in the schools? As this catchy saying goes , why can’t we just “Save the Drama for Mama”, as when my 94 year old mother most needs extra support from her son?

So under these dire circumstances, how might I best cope with lingering self regret about living in Florida now? Perhaps I could fill up my days with risk filled events and possibly endanger the health of myself, friends, family, and those in the community at large. Or might I escape to nostalgic places from my past on vacation to more satisfactorily spend my time. In contrast, I could also dream up grandiose plans for my future while remaining a sedentary figure in the air conditioned comfort of my home. However, I seem to be most interested on this Friday to tapping into my intuitive nature and thus find a more motivating  way to deal with my current Florida dissatisfaction. For by visualizing positive thoughts as I encounter specific scenarios in the present moment, I hope that such a negative “funk” about my  home environs here will subside. So take a look at the following photo/self-mantra pairings. To what extent does each of the image impressions seem most relevant to your own life right now?


Colorful scenes of wild nature makes my mind and body feel alive and well.
Observing sky, sun, land, and water unite brings peace to my life.
I plunge into deep waters and wash away my fears.
When I’m squeezed like an orange, only goodness comes out.
Where I step today can never be wrong.
Life blossoms in the presence of my smile.
In the struggle for life, my actions benefit all.
I see beauty in every living thing.
On the shifting sands of time, I will always find solid ground to grow.
Open the door to my music and let me in.
Punt away my fears as far away as I can.
Feed my soul often ; not my stomach.
I ascend to the sky in new heights of health and happiness.



Tantalizing Tree Reflections

20 August 2021 at 16:28
By: usfman

“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.”(Martin Luther King Jr.

I guess you could say I’ve been obsessed by trees my entire life. As a child in Northeast Ohio, I recall my love of free spirited play amid dense woodlands of the Cuyahoga River Valley near my Akron home. For I loved to play “Hide and Seek” behind trees, pick crab apples from tall branches and add fallen acorns into a strange concoction I called “Stone Soup” at the time. When first moving to South Florida as a teenager, I continued to feed my woodland passions by daring to climb tall trees in this more tropically challenging climate. Unfortunately such bold behavior came to a sudden halt when I severely fractured my right wrist falling off a brittle branch from the top of my neighbor’s tree. Meanwhile, I experienced considerably more emotional grief when Hurricanes Cleo and Betsy toppled many beautiful trees throughout our town.

Entering my young adult years in Florida, my attentiveness to trees would logically evolve into a more serious affair. For in envisioning myself as a “pro-environmentalist” advocate, I immersed my mind in Botany, Geography, and Biology classes during my undergraduate college years. Thereafter completing my Masters Degree in Urban Studies Education, I obtained a professional opportunity to promote tree planting beautification and open space preservation as a full time City Planner in the Daytona Beach area. Know as well that my knowledge about the readings of environmentalists John Muir, Marjorie Stoneman Douglass, and Rachel Carson seemed to further inspire my “green” activist efforts during this time.

Moving back to South Florida two years later as an urban, middle school teacher, I discovered new opportunities to spread my love of trees. For during each school year, I scheduled field trip outings to the Everglades and various other local parks to arouse my student interest in learning about their surrounding natural environment. In retrospect, I now realize how important the abrupt snap of a tree branch, light patter of falling rain, or gentle rustle of leaves seemed to be for the self growth of so many of my inner city pupils. For such sounds of wild forest nature had taught them an important lesson about taking time to listen in silence..

Now in my wanderlust years of retirement, tree environs remain for me a most powerful “draw” during our world and road trip travels. For no hike in the wilds or stroll around a city center would be complete without the comforting inner peace provided by the surrounding trees in mind. Occasionally during these outings, I might even satisfy a spontaneous urge to hug a tree. Perhaps you will see what I mean in the following photographic display.

Acadia National Park – Maine
Yampa River Tributary – Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Regents Park – London, England
Lake Bradford – Tallahassee, Florida
Smoky Mountain National Park – Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gorge Metro Park – Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Cumberland Falls State Park – Kentucky
Seward Park – Seattle Washington
Luxembourg Gardens – Paris, France
Redwood National Park – Northern California
Morne Trois Pitons National Park – Island of Dominica



Transcending Transport Call

13 August 2021 at 14:39
By: usfman

“To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient. We need to transcend, transport, escape… to rise above our immediate surroundings and see the beauty and value of the world we live in.” (Oliver Sacks

Have you ever noticed how dogs when traveling in moving vehicles with their owners love to stick their head out an open window? As they close their eyes and feel the breeze caress their face, it’s apparent to me that they wholeheartedly enjoy this present moment experience. So dogs teach us that there’s much more than time and distance involved in moving from place to place. For in such freedom of movement, our more advanced human mind seems capable of finding goodness in ourselves and the greater world surrounding us each day.

To what extent then does our vehicular choice accentuate such sensations of positive virtue during our daily mobility rituals? Notice for example how you feel when making the sometimes difficult decision about whether to use public transportation or one’s private vehicle when touring amid an urbanized environment. Or consider a favorite time period of your past life as a motivating factor in the look of your car. Perhaps a fun hobby as well strikes your fancy. So as you view the following road trip images of transport distinction, notice the suggested sensations of a positive nature that arise. 

Stick your head out of the car window and think like a dog.
It’s important I find romance in the air.
Today I choose a slower paced travel day.
I really love the look of a L.L. Bean Shoe. Let’s shop awhile.
What’s wrong with a little physical exertion today?
Those “Happy Days” of my youth will return.
It’s important I experience like the “locals” do today.
Let us join together as one in fair treatment for all.
Peace and Love” to all “Bro.”
There’s hard work ahead on the farm.
I’d love to make it home on time.
I feel a deep connection with wild animals.
Pardon me. I must escape from the maddening crowd.
It’ll be nice to get lost on a tour today.
Still runs. Who cares?
Over here. I’m pretty!



Road Trip Entry #12- American Heartland

5 August 2021 at 15:56
By: usfman

“The heartland lies where the heart belongs to be.” (Vera Nazarian)

It’s time to head south for home in South Florida as Ruth and I both miss seeing our families. So sticking to our schedule, the final stop of this 2021 summer road trip would take place with an enjoyable three day visit at Ohio’s state capital of Columbus. Finding a newly renovated townhouse Air B&B unit within the cobblestones boundaries of quaint German Village south of downtown appeared to be a good choice at this “winding down” portion of this trip. For at this pedestrian friendly setting removed from the surrounding city bustle, we found ample time to leisurely stroll around, rest up a bit, and indulge in several homemade meals at a nearby authentic German restaurant.

As one who grew up in a small Midwestern town south of Cleveland, you might say that my “home-struck” heart” for Ohio memories of my childhood strongly “kicked in” as well during this Columbus visit. That would certainly require feeding my passions for animal behavior, competitive sports, and wild nature. For I definitely wanted to share quality time with Ruth amid such lifelong passions during three excursions to the Columbus Zoo, Ohio State University and Franklin Nature Conservancy/Botanical Gardens on this visit. Thank you for following our travels during the last five weeks of our summer road trip, We hope to be back on the American highways for our next westerly adventure in the fall. Enjoy the photos.

A front view of our Columbus,Ohio Air B&B townhouse.
We enjoyed several hearty meals at Schmidt’s Restaurant in the German Village vicinity.
During our afternoon visit to the Columbus Zoo, we observed with great interest the natural behavior of “Silverback” gorillas at the African pavilion.
At Ohio State University, I took a curious walk around the perimeter of the historic football stadium. .
The indoor garden collection at Franklin Park Conservatory featured a beautiful collection of Chihuly glass designs.



Road Trip Entry #11- Chicago Dreamland

31 July 2021 at 12:29
By: usfman

“ Chicago, mistress of the lakes, controller of our inland trade, the freest city of our states, what wondrous strides thy fame has made.” (Charles Frederick White)

Sometimes on our road trips, it’s just good luck that prevails. So as we continued our journey into the great city of Chicago, a fortuitous combination of cooler weather off Lake Michigan, a convenient Air B&B location , and several delightfully relaxing destinations downtown fulfilled our touristic expectations with spectacular success this weekend. By making  heavy use of the green/red lines of the Chicago Transit system (CTA) each day as our strategic point to/from the famed “loop” downtown, we could also also enjoy a four day break from driving our car.

So in particular, what about this latest Chicago visit most impressed me this time? I once saw a remake of a silent film made in 1927 called “Metropolis.” In this German science fiction saga, a place of vertical wonderment unfolded as massive skyscrapers rose steeply upward as vehicles whisked speedily between them along airborne  passageways. Such a futuristic urban scene would resonate strongly again with me  as I gazed upward at so many tall buildings of unique vertical design  situated along our Chicago River Boat tour route. It seems likely then that such innovative architectural success in Chicago downtown bodes well for a “Metropolis” future look of highways ascending into the sky. 

In addition to looking forward to this fantastical future, I must mention that time travel images of the past seemed equally noticeable on this Chicago road trip. Thus, I became excited in realizing  that our latest  Air B&B unit would take  place in a late 19th century, Victorian  mansion amidst the famous Frank Lloyd Wright district of Oak Park. From this pleasing location, we found ample opportunity to admire many of these homes that were uniquely designed by this famed architect  on our morning neighborhood strolls. As we took time on these walks to engage in friendly “chit chat” with a few passing strangers, I envisioned past Victorian times in Oak Park as an easygoing  paradise when informal  neighborhood  gatherings and close family connections  ruled the cultural landscape there. In addition, I  pictured our next day excursion to  Wrigley Field’s old time setting for a daytime Cubs game as further historic proof  that  this “grand old game” in America similarly sparks hope for goodness in the spirit of human gathering as well.

So take a look for yourself in the following photos. How do these three, iconic settings in Chicago trigger any thoughts of time shifting backwards or forwards for you?  We next travel to the picturesque, Germantown district of Columbus, Ohio for our sixth Air B&B stay of this vacation. Be well.



Road Trip Entry #10 – Blue Sky Heat In K.C.

28 July 2021 at 21:45
By: usfman

“In the summertime, when the weather is hot, you can reach right up and touch the sky.” (Mungo Jerry)

Ruth and I typically adapt well to the unpredictable nature of weather conditions we face on our road trips. So how might we then have dealt with those 100 degree+ temperatures sitting over the U. S. Midwest this week as we settled into a three night stay in Kansas City Missouri? For sure, those long walking tours of downtown and adjoining parks would have to wait for another K.C. visit when cooler weather prevailed. Instead, we would follow our keen senses of sight, sound, smell, and taste to enjoy K.C. in a more subdued fashion. The next destination of this road trip will take place in the Windy City of Chicago. Enjoy the photos.

Listening to the pleasing hum of cicadas from the backyard patio of our latest Air B& lured me to relax in early evening on this tree strung hammock.
Finding free downtown parking near historic Freight House Bridge, I found an inviting spot to watch trains go by.
The cavernous interior of historic Union Station in downtown K.C. provided a scenic place for us to saunter quietly away from the outside heat and city “buzz” of human activity.
Several downtown K.C. sights “caught my eye” from the air conditioned comfort of our thirty minute streetcar ride.
The Negro Baseball Museum and nearby music clubs stood prominently in view as we drove along the tourist heavy corridor of 18th Street and Vine.
On a side street behind 18th Street, I discovered a statue of famed saxophonist Charlie Parker.
Barbecue at its finest in Kansas City enticed us to eat a tasty pulled pork lunch at the original “Joe’s restaurant.
Free t’shirt giveaway night and cooler nighttime weather at Kauffman Stadium lured Ruth and I to attend a Kansas City Royals vs. Chicago White baseball game.



Road Trip Entry # 9 – Take Me Home Kansas

26 July 2021 at 14:14
By: usfman

“Each horizon, each place, holds its own evolutionary power be it the prairies, the mountains, or the marshes of Great Salt Lake. For me the nature of peace. Our task is to learn how to see it, feel it, hear it, and care for these places as our own home ground.” (Terri Tempest Williams)

Ruth and I begin today an unexpected road trip stay in the Great Plains flatlands of Wichita, Kansas. Being over 1600 miles away from South Florida, how might I transform this Wichita experience into the comforting feeling of being home? To motivate myself to achieve such an inspiration, I think of Dorothy’s Kansas wish in the famed Wizard of Oz movie that “that there’s no place like home.” She possesses the magical power at that pivotal moment in the story to go back from “The Land of Oz” to her loving family on a Kansas farm.

So I similarly set out with Ruth on two weekend mornings in distant Wichita to similarly remind myself of a home spirit that speaks to me as I choose. I notice for example how the Plains Indians of Kansas fully embrace nature’s blessings as their homeland and main source of spiritual power. Perhaps I might similarly reflect back from this Kansas stay to my happy childhood home in Akron, Ohio, frolicking freely amid its dense forest wilds. Might Wichita also means imagining again my four year dedication to academic excellence during my on-campus days at the University of South Florida. I must also consider Wichita reminders of a “home away from home” lifestyle with my loving wife from almost fifty years of global travel. So as you observe the following photographs, notice how this unpretentious town in the American Midwest seems for USFMAN the ideal spot to engage in such a home driven spirit. We’ll be traveling on our summer road trip next to Kansas City Missouri next for some juicy barbecue, Royals baseball, and jazzy blues.

Our Air B&B studio provides a home filled refuge to relax with a cozy interior and inviting backyard.
Wichita’s “Keeper of the Plains” monument evokes vivid images of Plains Indians worship of this special spot at the junction of the Big and Little Arkansas Rivers as their sacred home.
At the Museum of World Treasures, I surround myself again with historic heroes of the past who inspired me to leave my family and transition into an on- campus home at the University of South Florida to seriously pursue a well rounded education.
A timely visit to Old Town Wichita provides pleasurable memories of the small town of my Ohio childhood where friendly neighbors shared good times with each other so often.
I miss being “petless” at home now as we travel regularly and thus share my presence with some lonely birds during a short visit to the Kansas Wildlife Center.
An unforeseen visit to Amish Country in Yoder, Kansas stimulates self- reminders about several simple pleasures that one can enjoy at home.



Road Trip Entry #8-Howdy Houston Hubbub

22 July 2021 at 16:40
By: usfman

“There is a vastness here and I believe that the people who are born here breathe that vastness into their soul.They dream big dreams and think big thoughts because there is nothing to hem them in.” (Conrad Hilton)

In visiting Houston on this summer road trip, we needed to cope with a faster pace and cover more ground. After all, greater Houston has spread out in the vast state of Texas to become the fourth most populated city in the United States today. In fact, Houston strives to be bigger in many other ways as well. Witness giant skyscrapers springing up from the oil boom in Texas downtown. Notice that nineteen museums lie within the boundaries of Central Houston in  Hermann Park. Observe that new sports arenas covered by massive retractable roofs attract full capacity crowds for football and baseball. Picture a complex maze of superhighway connections radiating throughout the city to relieve “congested” gridlock conditions throughout the day. Daydream about a system of glassy indoor tubes flowing from building to building to handle pedestrian movement during each hectic work day downtown.

So as we adapted to these complexities of this rapidly growing city, our three day road trip visit to the Houston vicinity went reasonably well. For we first realized that finding an Air B&B unit conveniently south of downtown would become a key asset to saving driving time each day. Since the summer heat and humidity factor of Texas also weighed heavily on our minds, a “cool down” excursion to an accessible beach seemed additionally important to manage our time. Notice in the following photo set how “living in the fast lane” of Houston actually played little part in our activity choices during this brief stay. My next blog will be written about our first time visit to Wichita, Kansas.

A slow drive around Rice University’s stately main campus provided a pleasing respite from the surrounding bustle of nearby downtown Houston.
The long “greenspace” of Buffalo Bayou Park served as another place for us to “tune out” from the urban frenzy of center city Houston.
Driving by the workshop yard of David Adickes Studio, we spotted these gigantic statues of U.S. Presidents and other celebrities.
Traveling one hour south of Houston to Seabrook Beach along Galveston Bay, I took a relaxing swim in these very warm waters.
We relived memories of counterculture times in the late 1960s with a little hippie clothes shopping at this surviving vintage store.
You might even say that vestiges of that youth protest movement live on today in this shocking city poster.
This statue of former Chief of Staff White House James Baker caught my eye as a featured landmark at Sesquicentennial Park downtown.
I once gazed in awe at the Houston Astrodome over fifty years ago when it represented a futuristic vision for Major League Baseball stadium construction. Now it lies aging and dormant.
The new stadium at Minute Maid Park provided a new baseball escape for Ruth and I on our Houston visit.



Road Trip Entry # 7 – Finding “Easy Beat” New Orleans

18 July 2021 at 21:01
By: usfman

“Don’t you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn’t just an hour -but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands – and who know what to do with it?” (Tennessee Williams”

Ruth and I now began the major city portion of our summer road trip with a three day visit to New Orleans. For good reason, this diversely populated metropolis has been referred to as “The Big Easy.” Forget then the maniacal carnival atmosphere of Mardi Gras in March. I seemed more excited that we pursued carefree non-exertion on this visit anywhere else but Bourbon Street around town. For example, consider our decision to forego the use of our car and lazily embark on the slow moving St. Charles Streetcar system whenever we wanted. Or imagine those extended moments of meditative silence as we idly gazed at the summer rain gently falling from a lunch cafe patio. What a perfect setting to savor a filling Po’ Boy sandwich or tasty fried beignet! Picture us curiously entering as well a sultry jazz club along Frenchman Street absorbing the intoxicating beat of the band while nothing else seems to matter.

But let’s get real! There’s plenty to do in New Orleans whether you go slow or not. So my best advice for you when visiting New Orleans would be to just trust your instincts and do what feels best at the desired pace you set. What destinations shown in the following photographic display might interest your New Orleans vacation? Our road trip continues next on Sunday for three very hot days in Houston Texas.

A view of our Air B&B duplex from uptown Hickory Road.
No worries about dodging potholes in the road. They just helped me more to slow down.
The exterior and interior beautification of this quaint unit enhanced our most comfortable stay.
As we walked four blocks from our apartment to the St. Charles Streetcar line, I noticed this interesting chapel.
We waited patiently at this picturesque looking stop for the streetcar to arrive.
Just get on and pay your 75 cents and enjoy the ride to downtown.
Traveling through the elegant Garden district, we spotted magnificent mansions on both sides of St. Charles Avenue.
Notice the Mardi Gras beads hanging from this old tree.
At sundown, we enjoyed a relaxing stroll in Audubon Park.
Here’s the oldest tree in Audubon Park that was planted in 1884.
Across the street from Audubon, I spotted the main campus of Tulane University.
We reserved the entire second day of our visit to tour the massive World War II Museum.
Before entering the museum, some impressive monuments from the 1941-1945 era caught my eye.
The museum visit itself featured “virtual reality” enhancements of what wartime times felt like in both the Asian and European theaters of World War II conflict.
Avoiding the crowds in the French Quarter downtown, we instead opted for a slow walk along the shores of the Mississippi River.
These two eye catching murals captured the easygoing essence of New Orleans to me.
If you plan on buying a beignet at the famous Cafe Du Monde, be prepared to wait awhile.
A local favorite spot for street fun and music club hopping in New Orleans takes place along Frenchman Street.
So we enjoyed a lively jazz set featuring the all girl, “Shake Em Up Jazz Band” at the Spotted Cat Music Club.



Road-Trip Entry # 6- Honoring The Hero Of Plains

16 July 2021 at 20:45
By: usfman

“Our American values are not luxuries but necessities – not the salt in our bread but the bread itself.” (Jimmy Carter)

Wednesday’s road trip visit from Lake Blacksheer resort took place in Plains, Georgia, President Jimmy Carter’s birthplace and present home. After our sad visit to the Andersonville POW landmark on Tuesday, clearly the issue of dignity for humankind lingered in my mind as I pondered why I had wanted to make this excursion. Know as well that I grew up amid the twin tragedies of the Vietnam War/Watergate Trial era. Jimmy Carter’s strong views concerning civil rights, world peace, and community service as President from 1977-1981,  I believe thus inspired me to teach American History to my middle/high school students in a more humanistic way. So it made sense for several reasons that this first visit to Plains  would interest me to discover how Jimmie’s “upbringing” as a child and teenager in Plains foreshadowed his success as a future leader of this country.

During this four hour visit to Plains, we visited key sites from Jimmy’s pre-adult past. In touring each of those special places, I curiously probed his school accomplishments, family relations, and personal hobbies. I also wondered how deeply the Jimmy Carter legacy resonated throughout the Plains community today. To maintain our stamina’s on this hot summer day, our tour would thus be split up into two parts. In the morning, we concentrated on historic sites of Jimmy interest solely within the town limits of Plains. After a simple diner lunch on Town Square, we traveled west a few miles out of town to examine the former Jimmy Carter family home. Our road trip will next turn south for a three day visit to New Orleans, Louisiana. Enjoy the photos.

Jimmy Carter was the first American President born in a hospital on October 1, 1924. The building still stands today as a Nursing Center.
Jimmy Carter graduated from Plains High School in 1941. This institution now houses the main complex of the Jimmy Carter National Visitor Center.
Jimmy received a stern disciplinary education in classrooms like this at an all white segregated high school .
Yet throughout his formative years, he found warm friendship ties in the surrounding black community.
One of Jimmy’s most influential teachers at Plains High School Miss Julia Coleman became a caring role model for Jimmy. She also challenged him to obtain a a well rounded education including music, arts, and literature.
Three miles outside of town, Jimmy Carter lived his pre-adult years with his parents Lillian and Earl Carter at this plain, white farmland home.
On the farm, Jimmy developed a strong love of reading in his spare time. Here are some of the books he might have read then.
Survival on a farm seemed difficult for Jimmy’s family in these post depression times. Thus he modeled from his parents the values of frugality, moral character and hard work.
Jimmy developed strong Christian beliefs growing up by regularly attending religious services with his family. Today he gives back to his community as a volunteer Sunday school teacher at this Baptist Church.
Jimmy Carter remains a “larger than life” hero in the Plains community to this day.
Rosalynn, his wife remains a cherished figure in his life. He gave her this bouquet of flowers recently on their 75th wedding anniversary.



Road Trip Entry #5 – Sensible Southern Discovery

14 July 2021 at 21:57
By: usfman

“POW 369, I should salute you from this heart of mine and thank you for placing your life on the line.” (Darryl Worley)

In June, Ruth and I booked a three night, road trip stay at Lake Blacksheer Resort and Country Club at a remote spot in Southwestern Georgia off of I-75. For an online tourist promotion we had read earlier that month interested us in Blacksheer’s remote rural setting along a picturesque freshwater lake with plentiful tree cover and a public use marina. Thus this seemingly ideal getaway visit provided us hopes for some spirited, water recreational play. But as we began our stay with a brief stroll around the spacious resort grounds, any visions of relaxing kayak/ canoe trips surprisingly vanished away. For how could we have anticipated beforehand that hordes of tiny black insects would incessantly attack our sweaty bodies on this breezeless summer day? It furthermore seemed that anytime we exited our apartment day or night, fierce itching and swatting of these annoying pests would inevitably continue. In retrospect, we should have brought some strong insect repellent for this visit.

Thus in typical Plan B fashion, I suggested to Ruth that we avoid the relentless summer heat/bug invasion and instead plan some country road excursions on the two following days of our Blacksheer stay. So our primary destination on Tuesday would take place at the Andersonville National Visitor Center in Southwestern Georgia. This iconic landmark featured the remnants of a large Civil War prison camp, military cemetery and the National Prisoner of War (POW) Museum. With deep sadness, my initial impression of this facility raised the question of why POW soldiers from the Union army were so cruelly incarcerated during those war years at Andersonville by their Confederate enemies upon capture? Of notable interest to me as well was a captivating collection of POW soldier stories/artifacts from actual enemy captures in past American wars. Exiting the museum, we then drove around the loop road of the infamous 1864 Andersonville Prison grounds marking the spot where thousands of POWs had perished during the war. My next blog will take place in Plains, Georgia, birthplace and present home of former President Jimmy Carter. Enjoy the photos

An inviting view of Lake Blacksheer from our patio.
Two views of the villa lodging units opposite the lake.
Notice the absence of human activity at the Blacksheer marina. Only bugs.
Unusual strands of Cypress vegetation encircled Blacksheer Lake .
An unassuming front entrance to Andersonville National Park.
Museum display depicting three famous POW tragedies throughout history.
An official American seal of the POW tragedy.
A 3-D representation of a wartime POW brooding over his fate in solitary confinement.
Cemetery layout in notable rows of military precision.
An overview look at the infamous Andersonville Prison site.
The tragic valley of doom which incarcerated POW Union soldiers within this small field perimeter.



Road Trip Entry # 4 – Canopy Contentment

11 July 2021 at 17:15
By: usfman

“Study Nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” (Frank Lloyd Wright)

Ruth and I found a much needed rural slowdown nearby Leesburg, Florida on our summer road trip this past weekend. In the following paragraphs, I hope you will feel a sense of serenity that we experienced at this time. Enjoy the photos.

We’ve entered a fascinating habitat dominated by massive Live Oak, Cypress, and Magnolia trees dripping with Spanish Moss. They seem to form a shaded corridor for us to pass through on our way to this upcoming weekend getaway along a tranquil flowing stream. After settling into an Air B&B rental, a “ tiny house”, I move outside to a covered wooden patio with descending steps. I follow them to the water’s edge. As I take a seat on a sturdy bench below the drooping green canopy of ancient trees above my head, I begin to notice the beautiful presence of birdlife lounging on both sides of the riverbank. They seem to be patiently waiting for food oblivious to the presence of humans.

With my curiosity aroused, I scan the riverbanks in more detail with my binoculars hoping to to spot an alligator or snake. A small fishing boat floats by to distract my attention. A bare chested angler intently casts his rod where the waters flow more rapidly. Within a few minutes, he jerks his pole and lands a large fish. I now struggle in my mind about whether I should get “down and dirty” and similarly tame wild nature as the fisherman has so successfully done today. Perhaps the little green gecko who just tickled my foot as it briskly scurries by will give me a clue to a satisfying answer.

In late afternoon, it begins to rain and I return to the shaded protection of the patio. The river no longer commands my attention as I notice how comfortably I feel with the raindrops gently “pattering” atop this canopy of trees. This steamy hot day pleasantly vanishes as I slowly inhale the cool rush of fresh air brushing my face. I suddenly feel no urge to move. Mission accomplished. I’ve learned the deeply sought art of how to relax.



Road Trip Entry # 3 -Flight Into Artistic Fantasy

9 July 2021 at 20:30
By: usfman

“Today you explore the art of dreaming that leads to all truths.”(Salvador Dali)

Ruth and I emerged safely from the threat of Tropical Storm Elsa traveling north along Florida’s west coast earlier this week. The timing thus felt right for us to visit the renowned Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg which would reopen Thursday after the storm’s passing. Keep in mind that I’m not normally a big fan of abstract artwork such as the eclectic expressions of “Surrealism”or “Cubism”. Quite truthfully, I often just stare at such works in a confusing “funk”.

But I have to admit that emotions of sadness, anger, and joy noticeably spiked in me upon spending extended time gazing amid Dali’s “imaginative portrayals of his interesting life at this uniquely modern looking museum. So take an inner flight into Dali’s shocking artistic fantasy yourself. As you view each of the following art-pieces, how might your emotions similarly “play out” here as you analyze what these visual complexities seems to be saying? We next travel to the rural environs of Leesburg in Central Florida to find “Tiny House” seclusion along a wildlife teeming lake.

Dali Futuristic Exterior
Dali Open Air Interior
Dali Self Portrait
Portrait Of My Sister
Portrait Of My Dead Brother
The Bather
The First Days Of Spring
The Average Bureaucrat
Apparatus And Hand
Fantasies Diurnes
Shades Of Night Descending
Memory Of The Child Woman
The Three Ages
A Hallucinogenic Toreador



Cruising For Cranes

9 July 2021 at 20:25
By: usfman

“Whatever walk of life you are in, we hope you come witness the next migration with an open heart and open mind to see what inspiration might come your way.” (Josie DeVault)

As Ruth and I exit the alluring heights of the Rocky Mountain region into the vast flatland of the American prairie, we must again pick up our driving pace to return home safely to South Florida in the next ten days. Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing some late winter weather conditions along the I-80 corridor of Nebraska. Nonetheless, we found time on Thursday to get off the Interstate for a few hours yesterday in the North Platte vicinity and drive along dirt roads to obtain some fascinating firsthand sightings of the annual spring migration of Sandhill cranes along the Platte River basin. For it’s quite a sight to see for yourself these gangly looking birds with long necks form large flocks in the thousands on these Central Nebraska wintering grounds at this time of year. Turning my attention to the ubiquitous presence of black cows dotting this Great Plains landscape, I also begin to wonder why these docile herds don’t run away to escape their inevitable doom at the slaughterhouse.

Sadly, as mushy snow conditions continued to develop further eastward during our overnight stay in Kearney, future plans to extend our time to search for this crane invasion along now muddy, unpaved roads would have to be scrapped. Vivid memories now surfaced in making this decision of the mucky quagmire we faced two years ago when my low lying, foreign car slowly sunk into the mud and got stuck as we drove along the Platte searching for cranes on the Nebraska leg of this previous road trip. On this somewhat somber Friday morning with extra time to spare, at least Ruth and I could settle in now to enjoy one of the best breakfast sites of our road trip. We next travel on to Lincoln, Nebraska for some nostalgic fun in the familiar company of a close friend and two affectionate cats. I hope the weather gets warmer! Enjoy the photos.



Road Trip Entry # 2 – No Runaway Intended

7 July 2021 at 16:58
By: usfman

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass”. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” (Vivian Greene)

As Ruth and I began this summer’s road trip, we faced the distressing reality of being confined in our motel room in St. Petersburg to wait out Hurricane Elsa’s slow arrival on the Tampa Bay region of Central Florida. After all, the experts on the “Weather Channel” seemed to know best about the projected path of a hurricane. Did they though? Ultimately I discarded such fears and reasoned that Ruth and I would be capable of making a rational decision ourselves about how and when to make hurricane preparation and shelter arrangements safely if needed. No, we weren’t planning to “ride the waves” on our surfboards as the tidal surge expected to occur along this storm vulnerable coastal setting. But we did find some excellent ways to pass the time in less daring fashion as Elsa drew closer that day.

I most certainly would never would taken the opportunity to see my drummer friend Steve at last Sunday’s outdoor concert if  I had worried about being drenched by rain that day.
As I observed convoys of emergency relief vehicles driving north along I-75 on Monday, I began to think of alternative ways to spend our time in St.Petersburg, Florida.
Since there would be little chance of a weather postponement at domed Tropicana Field, we bought tickets for a an Indians/Rays game.
We also took time for a quiet morning walk along the Tampa Bay shoreline at Fort DeSoto State Park.
Spotting the majestic Sunshine State Skyway from DeSoto Beach State Park, I felt inspired to pose for this photo.
Amid the silence of these deserted beaches, the shrill calls of these sea birds captured our attention.
At breakfast and dinner time in this Hospitality Room of our historic inn stay, we shared exciting moments of travel with other booked guests at leisure.
As the skies turned black in late Tuesday afternoon, we made the correct decision to shelter safely then inside our room.
Those ominous predictions by the Weather Channel of Elsa’s life threatening wrath seemed totally off the mark” in St. Pete as I awoke to sunny blue skies today.



Road Trip Entry #1- Transcending the Storm

4 July 2021 at 12:02
By: usfman

“Take the power to control your own life. Take the power to make your life happy.” ( Susan Polis Schultz)

When you live in South Florida, you expect to feel the destructive effects of numerous tropical systems in the summer. So I did not feel panic in knowing that Tropical Storm Elsa would likely track through the eastern Gulf of Mexico and cross through our first road trip stop in the Tampa Bay region early next week. So Ruth and I would simply make contingency plans to stock up on extra water and canned food supplies for our upcoming, four night motel stay in St. Petersburg in the event of a direct hurricane hit in this area.

It made sense as well for us before our road trip to avoid stressing about  upcoming weather concerns and focus instead on experiencing a happy Fourth of July weekend. Understand first of all that I felt a strong desire to to see the band Chicago in Tampa; my first live concert since COVID began. So we would brave several pockets of severe thunderstorm weather along I-75 north while traveling the 274 mile roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale to  Central Gulf Coast Florida and attend this concert on Friday.

Looking ahead the 4th of July, I also looked forward to a warm reunion on Independence Day with my former college bandmate and friend, Steve, from over 45 years ago. For his latest band will be featured before a spectacular fireworks show on this patriotic holiday evening within walking distance of our Ft. Lauderdale home. It makes me happy as well to share with my mother some nostalgic family memories on the 4th of July. So I control what I can to find positive contentment in the “now” moment of life in spite of any ominous weather circumstances I might soon face.

On the way to Tampa for the Chicago concert, approaching thunderstorms produced some interesting skies.
As the skies darkened at this service plaza, the sight of this pack of turkey vultures seemed to signal the onset of doom.
But luckily the inclement weather passed in early evening at the Mid Florida Outdoor Amphitheater setting the stage for a glorious musical evening of Chicago.
Chicago put on an impressive musical show of brass filled rock in front of this appreciative audience.
We look forward to an exciting grand finale to this pre- road trip weekend by celebrating some fun times with Steve and his band on the 4th of July.
But we will continue to vigilantly monitor the latest track of Tropical Storm Elsa to determine future weather impacts to our road trip.