Texas Small Town Roadshow

Living in a rural setting exposes you to so many marvelous things – the natural world and the particular texture of small-town life, and the exhilarating experience of open space. (Susan Orlean)

In the second week of our latest American road trip, we entered Texas. Our intended itinerary in this immensely distanced state would take us through the major hubs of Dallas and San Antonio, and then west for over 1000 miles to El Paso. On past road trips to these destinations, we would rarely venture off Interstate 35 and 10, as the 85 mile legal speed limits on each highway would expedite ease of travel. In 2018, however, we decided to veer off on backroads to visit Texas Hill Country and the Big Bend National Park. In doing so, we discovered the unique amenities and friendly feel of small town Texas.

Llano – Population 3,422

Texas barbecue which showcases fresh cuts of ribs, sausage, brisket, and chicken reigns proud in Texas. Being eager to find a reputable bbq spot for lunch, we discovered Cooper’s Old Time Pit Barbecue In Llano. In this rather unpretentious looking cafe, we would politely mingle with meat loving Texans and enjoy a sumptuous meal of pork ribs, cole slaw, and baked beans. We would particularly savor the overpowering smell of the smoking pits as we patiently watched our personally selected cuts of fresh meats cooked in front of us on the hot grill. Sitting at a long, picnic table, we also would find ample time to relax in this informally friendly atmosphere after a long driving day on the road.

Kerrville – Population- 23,434

Texas Hill Country exists as an easily accessible day trip from San Antonio or Austin. As Spring Break would be in full swing there on this road trip visit, we booked a two night stay further south in Kerrville, hoping to distance ourselves from the expected tourist chaos. At the Museum of Western Art and Riverside Nature Center, in Kerrville, we chatted amiably with several art/nature volunteers. They would convince us that this small town actually attracted a thriving retirement community who enjoyed a variety of sophisticated interests.

Fredericksburg- 11,382

As a popular tourist town in Texas Hill Country Fredericksburg retains a Victorian feel of Main Street America in the late 19th century. Being immensely popular at Spring Break time, we correctly anticipated human gridlock conditions there. Thus we opted to simply take a leisurely walk downtown to “window shop” and “stretch our legs” a bit. Popping in and out of art galleries, popcorn shops, and clothing boutiques, Fredericksburg would perhaps deserve a more extensive visit from us in future travels.

Alpine- Population 5,095

There are no towns in close proximity to remote Big Bend National Park. Realizing our need to have easy access to Interstate 10, Alpine would conveniently serve as a two night stopover base for our upcoming excursion. Nearby our motel, we discovered the Museum of the Big Bend,where we would learn important details about the geology/history of the Big Bend environs. Rising early the next morning, we witnessed the spectacular aura of sunrise color over the surrounding mountains. Feeling positively energized, we then undertook our one hundred mile journey south through high desert to Big Bend National Park. Sizing up our road options at the Visitor Center, we opted to drive the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, which would end with breathtaking overlooks of the Rio Grande along the cliffside, Santa Elena Trail. Next Stop: Sedona, Arizona.



New Orleans: Enigma Of Extreme

“A part of New Orleans’ beauty is that she is a place where many people, stifled elsewhere, feel safe to be themselves: just safe to be…” (Quo Vadis Gex Breaux, New Orleans” (What Can’t Be Lost, 2010)

Embracing a great love for music and cultural stimulation, Ruth and I spent three days in New Orleans to end our first week of our road trip. Finding our way through the dense maze of traffic in the city by car would not be easy so we opted to book a historic Air B&B room midtown nearby the historic, St. Charles streetcar line. How strange that we then witnessed the odd combination of historic stone, Victorian mansions, colorfully creole, wood cottages, ornately latticed, French balcony houses and the eerily twisted branches of ancient trees littered with discarded, Mardi Gras beads.

On both days of our visit, we opted to purchase one day passes for the nominal fee of $3.00 for our streetcar journeys downtown. Exiting at the centralized, Lee Circle, I visited Confederate Memorial Hall, containing a massive collection of Civil War memorabilia. Of particular interest were the bullet-filled uniforms and personal artifacts of “Rebel” soldiers, as well as the emotionally moving letters to family written by doomed soldiers on the eve of to their bloody deaths in battle. Having functioned as a a veteran reunion site for surviving soldiers of the period, I could only imagine the extreme emotions that such heroes had felt upon visiting this iconic museum.

The busy Canal Street corridor would mark the terminus of our first street car journey. Walking from there toward the Mississippi River, we noted that the flood-swollen waters ominously has risen to overflow conditions. It seemed that the low lying, land area adjacent to the riverbank sadly functioned as a bathtub for the next rising water calamity. Imagine the eerie necessity of burying the dead above ground in the surrounding, waterlogged neighborhoods.

The theme of our second journey downtown to the Bourbon Street vicinity, might be described as a clash of “Saints and Sinners” to our tourist mind. While nights might be somewhat more raucous there to the party spirit, we enjoyed plenty of sensory excitement in our visit by day. A street poet feverishly wrote her latest creation, a tourist placed sunglasses on her pet dog. a homeless man ranted apocalyptic verses from the Bible, street bands improvised jazzy tunes on corners, the enchanting smells of fresh but fattening beignets aroused our hunger. Such human indulgence occurred as we sighted the St. Louis Cathedral reigning in the distance to remind those to repent their latest sins and respect the Bible’s teachings.

On our final stop along the river, we discovered the New Orleans Jazz Museum. Oddly, half of this museum exhibited information about the U.S. Mint in New Orleans, while much of the remainder documented the unique legacy there of funeral processions as a uniquely festive occasion Visiting the famous Preservation Hall for live jazz would clearly have been a a better choice. Maybe next time.

While the liberating, Mardi Gras spirit of “let go of yourself” remains strong in New Orleans, I am intrigued that more “Deep South” service of “family and faith” remains strong in this historically and culturally unique city. Perhaps this enigma of New Orleans extreme presents an opportunity to look beyond my liberal mindset and become more sensitive to conservative views in future travels.


Biloxi Thrives On Hurricane Alley

“After a hurricane, comes a rainbow” (Katy Perry)

Many people consider Biloxi, Mississippi to be a “snake bitten area of doom. Due to its vulnerable, Gulf Coast location, Biloxi has fallen in the direct path of at least six, destructive hurricanes since the 1900s. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina’s Category 5 winds, destroyed over 90% of the existing structures in the Biloxi area. Our visit to this weather-ravaged city in early March would thus reveal widespread proof of this hurricane’s catastrophic wrath there. Sadly, we observed that wide swaths of new open space had been created along the beachfront leaving only scattered remnants of past site structures to the visible eye. Furthermore, a series of historic markers would eerily show where stately mansions along the shoreway had been blown away in the storm.

Yet battered Biloxi would retain its appeal to us as a convenient tourist stopover on this road trip with its enticing combination of resort lodging options, affordable dining spots and pedestrian friendly shorelines. Arriving from Interstate 10 in mid-afternoon, Sunday, we would book a two night stay at Harrahs Hotel/Casino. We noted then that this hotel had been rebuilt since the Katrina devastation into a smaller, more intimate version of the original hotel on the same site. Self parking our vehicle within 100 yards of the hotel lobby entrance, we soon felt fortunate that our hotel room would spectacularly overlook the Gulf of Mexico. Crossing an elevated boardwalk from the hotel to the beach, finding outdoor, dinner seating at the “Blind Tiger Cafe” would enable us to experience Biloxi’s spectacular, sunset views. For added appeal, the weather had remained cool/clear and would continue for the duration of our visit.

Crossing to the mainland the next morning, we discovered a local breakfast spot, Buzzy’s Cafe in nearby Ocean Springs, where we engaged in extended conversations with the friendly manager about cultural/historical tidbits of the surrounding area. Interestingly, we learned from him that this tiny village was among the five, oldest communities remaining in the U.S.today. In late morning, we then ventured to the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Preserve, for a curious attempt at local birdwatching on a flat, savanna wooded trail. Although we sighted no cranes today, experiencing serenity from such nature’s silence would be truly appreciated. Our second day would conclude with a late afternoon, scenic drive through Biloxi proper. As we then observed that many homes remained standing or had been rebuilt,it became clear that Biloxi would rise again as a thriving community.

If you decide to visit Biloxi by car, I recommend you take the more scenic, State Road 90 for arrival along the coastline. Watch out for high protruding curbs around street corners and deep potholes on beach access turnoffs. If you are staying in New Orleans, Biloxi lies less than one hour east. It’s definitely worth a side trip visit.



On The Other Side Of Florida

“A true teacher is one who, keeping the past alive, is also able to understand the present. (“Confucius”)

Florida seems deceptively easy to exit with its nearby coastal waters close by our home in megalopolis South Florida Yet, in driving north to Pensacola, we distanced in a two day period for over 600 miles. Upon exiting the Palm Beach vicinity on the Florida Turnpike, traffic density noticably declined. Proceeding to Lake City and then turned west on Interstate 10, we encountered  “Deep South” traditions that remain firmly entrenched in these northerly portions of the state. Disturbing images that seemed offensive to my mind would soon catch my eye. Billboards placed along the highway depicted a brazen young lady aiming a semi automatic rifle to advertise a gun shop ahead. An anti-abortion sign quoted Bible scripts accompanied by an unborn fetus in full display. A rebel flag furled in the distance. A white pickup truck sped past my vehicle displaying racist bumper stickers.

D98C9500-ED38-4FDA-9596-DC61046EFA6FPassing endless strands of tree growth amidst swampy river conditions inland through the Florida Panhandle, I became keenly aware of the puzzling isolation of Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee. Why was our state government situated so far from the busy urban hubs of Orlando, Tampa, and Miami? Continuing westward, the road would traverse steep hills and re-enter the Gulf coast at Pensacola’s Escambia Bay.
AAC34C88-90E7-4BEF-B303-3211C4399AE8I always assumed Pensacola mainly thrived as another beach destination in tourist-friendly Florida. Yet our two-day stay along the shores of Escambia Bay provided ample proof of a “Southern proud”, port city of cultural, military and historical interest to this curious minded traveler. No doubt, I found polite statements of “how ya all doin”and “yes ma’am” from locals to be somewhat foreign to my informal tastes in interpersonal encounters. Yet the presence of iconic statues and antebellum buildings overlooking serene squares seemed oddly comforting to me amidst the frenzied pace of today’s times.

Spending a morning visit on Saturday at the National Naval Aviation Museum became a highlight of this brief Pensacola visit. On display there, I observed a vast collection of American aircraft from simple, World War I biplanes through supersonic, nuclear aircraft in the present. In particular, I enjoyed the opportunity to listen to the stories of a former Navy pilot who described the decisions he faced as a pilot on dangerous missions and sit in an actual plane cockpit.

Saturday Afternoon would now leave us time to venture downtown. Stopping at Joe Patti’s Seafood Warehouse, we witnessed the controlled chaos of fresh seafood feverishly sold at bargain prices to masses of Saturday shoppers. A few blocks nearby, Old Town Pensacola would would provided a time warp glimpse at how this area looked in its 19th century past. Sitting quietly in the Old Town Square,I now realized that our road trip adventure had truly begun.



Enjoying Our Roadtrip Lifestyle

“With age, comes wisdom. With travel, comes understanding.” (Sandra Lake)

With great excitement, I would like to inform my readers that our latest roadtrip begins next week. From March 2 until June 16, our latest tour from Fort Lauderdale, Fl. will have stopovers in 25 states as well as added journeys to two major cities in Eastern Canada. Fortunately, my well-kept, 2008 Honda Accord, with over 170,000 miles on the odometer, seems mechanically ready for this arduous adventure. Thus, I expect it will hold up well in all weather conditions throughout our journey.

For the past two months, we have prepared to be better organized for this latest venture. In particular,we (1) relied more on Air B&B for booking room destinations ahead of time, (2) downloaded up-to-date map updates online for key destinations using travel apps Triposo and Maps.me,and (3) devised a collapsible bag system in our car trunk in lieu of a bulky box arrangement to more compactly store our possessions. With our vehicle’s back seat section now relatively free from clutter, we feel more confident that we can park our car anywhere without drawing “shady” interest to our valuables.

Looking at the red circles marked on the blog map of our planned itinerary, you might observe (1) our generally clockwise direction of travel, (2) avoidance of one day stopovers, and (3) heavy use of the U.S.Interstate Highway system when possible. In addition, our driving time each day will rarely exceed more than 5-6 hours, allowing us ample time for occasional side trips off the expressway to visit new sites discovered along the way.

With regarding to the writing focus of my travel blog in the months ahead, several interests stand out:

(1) Stay with nineteen friend/family connections along the way.Particularly, I look forward to seeing my only known, living relative on my father’s side, Aunt Mary, who is 94 years old.

(2) Complete walking tours of Big Bend, Glacier, and Acadia National Parks and various national historic monuments.

(3) Watch live Major League Baseball Games in Arizona, California, Washington, Illinois, Ohio, and the nation’s Capital.

(4) Participate in protest marches scheduled to promote progressive causes

(5) Observe Montreal and Toronto from a cultural and political perspective.

(6) Practice Yoga and Self meditation on the road

I thank you for your continued interest in reading and commenting about “Snippets of the Traveling Mind.” I obtain so many inspiring ideas from from reading blogs posted by my 300+ followers and look forward to continue contributing timely comments when needed.


Youth Rallies Spark Change

“The problem to me is violence. It’s not cool to kill somebody or hurt people” (Mark Ruffalo)

Teen Nightmare Persists From Crazed Shooter With Gun
So Immediate Fear Strikes For Where They Can Run
Community Mourns Losses Such Shameful Blood Splurge
Country Spreads Wrath From Day’s Deadly Drunk Dirge

Stern Efforts From Teachers Can Help Them To Learn
But School Safety Falls Flat From Political Spurn
Such Beasts Runs Amok In Life’s Tragic Unfold
While Innocents Fear That They Might Never Grow Old

Feel Onus Of Pain There’s No Time To Sit Still
Need Protest To Act On Assault Rifles Of Kill
A Right To Bear Arms Used For Human Scorned Hunt
Finds Motives To Lead A Massed Action Confront

Young Minds In Sad State – We Must End Violence Fate
End Culture Spewed Hate – Before It’s Too Late


Challenges Of An Open Mind

In a recent blog,I considered how to embrace the idea of “open mindedness” to foster acceptance of difference and unity in my country. In this account, I alluded to the idea that Americans. clearly live in “opinion happy” times today as social media gossip and political “spin” propaganda run rampant. Somehow, the creative energies of an art exhibit provides an excellent outlet for me to look more deeply into this matter of “unbiased” thought. Accordingly, if I take the time to examine a painting or sculpture in more patient detail, I typically find alternative ideas for interpreting perplexing arrays of images presented. Sauntering amidst the eclectic collection of gallery displays at the “Art Wynwood” exhibit in Miami this weekend would thus inspire me to pose deep seated value suggestion to my readers for more open minded analysis.

1.How can you productively block out daily distractions to improve your concentrated focus on matters of importance? You might have too much going on in your hectic life as your distracted attention span becomes shorter. Remember the old Aesop adage that the slow tortoise once beat the speedy hare to the finish line.

32BF24FB-8F5B-46DF-AA55-DC4AE06A14562.Do you observe optimism of a better life in what you read? In Korea,the goldfish means a sign of good luck, tranquility , and wisdom. Make time to read literature that enlightens your body and mind.

2BD6634D-434D-41F0-A1C9-1098216519CB3.Does your pursuit of affluence cloud your vision about how to treat yourself and others humanely? Acquiring wealth without human compassion cannot buy a successful Presidency for Donald Trump. Your ambitions to make money might not give you the satisfaction you need if you alienate yourselves from those around you.

67628717-E98E-441C-BDE6-9AA4EB7766D24.Can you continue to love yourself and others in the chaos of everyday life’s demands? If you take yourself too seriously, you might be in for a glorious letdown. You might temper the mental/physical demand of efficient work performance with an occasional laughing fit once in awhile.

02EF0496-1E85-4E3B-886E-3DC4D9ACDD9D5. Are you thankful for being alive today? You were once a child who embraced life in the curious present. Perhaps we should find more time to seek such inner peace in the “now” moment through yoga, prayer, or meditation.

5982DAEA-48E1-434C-A611-5744EB73A1316.How willing are you to accept loss of control and the inevitability of change? What worked for you ten or twenty years ago might be holding you back from fulfilling the needs of your aging realities today. Do not fear what you inevitably cannot control. Try something new.




Seeing More Than Olympian Glory

There is something in the Olympics, indefinable, springing from the soul, that must be preserved.” (Chris Brasher)

NOTE: To watch the video, open link, then click on“YouTube” Icon

Olympian Hopes Strive For Medals Of Gold
While My Mouth Yearns To Taste Winter’s Powdery Cold
Far East Meets Free West In Spectacular Feats
While My Eyes Follow Glimpses of Snowy Harsh Beats

Stiff Statue Encased In Luge Slip Slide Skid Sleigh
While My Ears Embrace Silence Of Snow Falling Way
Knees Jerk From Ski Motion In Cross Country Strained Steep
While Athletes Uphill Wonder Triumph Or Weep

In Smoothness Of Swan, Steel Blades In Free Spin
While Tense Breath From Last Leap, Fears Imperfect Within
Strong Arms With Legs Tandem, A Most Glittery Sight
While Such Synergy Motion Brings Zen Spirit Ignite

See Hopes For World Amity, Embrace Globe Goodwill
Crush Talk Of “Walled” Difference, I’ve Had More Than My Fill


Beware Of Illogical Thinking Trap

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – (JOHN F. KENNEDY)

I always embraced the challenge of teaching freshman students to think “critically” in my thirteen year tenure at Broward College. Upon instructing them to form their opinions on the basis of sound evidence, prior knowledge, and logical reasoning, I saw significant progress in their comprehension of difficult reading passages. By questioning their assumptions when “reading between the lines”, they also seemed more aware about how their personal biases could impair rational thinking about a particular issue at hand.


Consider the following examples:

“ The mechanic purchased nails for the weekend project.They were very strong and worked well.No hammer touched those nails.”

Would one assume in this case that the mechanic was a man with handyman skills who purchased nails to pound on a wall or would they see the logic that the items bought were indeed false fingernails worn by a woman?

“Norman was lying in the middle of a busy road with trucks and cars rapidly coming down the highway. No one ever saw him.”

Picturing a motor vehicle accident, many would interpret this scenario as unlikely to happen. Yet this person might be hidden somehow in the median strip of deep grass or perhaps the road was closed to traffic. More imaginatively, he(she) might even be an invisible ghost.



As you see, faulty assumptions can cause one to think/act wrongly in the rush to make hasty judgments in their daily life. Do you interpret anger from someone who blows their car horn at you as you sit idly at a busy intersection? To what extent do you allow emotionally charged propaganda cloud your mind toward extreme , right wing or left wing thinking? How do the politically polarized terms sexism, racism, and Americanism negatively influence your voting behavior?

As we begin to question our own “perceptual cocoon” of self biases, we learn to observe “how we think” as a vital component of “what we think.”Listen keenly for meaning in both choice of words and non-verbal mannerisms as others speak, take a greater interest in obtaining facts on all sides of an issue and embrace the unifying heart of an “open mind. Gloomy thoughts in crisis can lead to “glass empty” pessimism. So you might alter your perceptions then to appreciate the beauty of life surrounding you and thus feel the joy of “glass full”optimism”.




“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” (Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day” Film)

Stuck In Dark Hole Of Time’s Endless Day Grind
Due Time To Stop Shadows From Messing My Mind
Stark Lessons Of Winter- Shun Fear To Survive
Arouse Blood Felt Ardor -Breathe Deeply Alive
Ground Hog Finds Taste For Green Signs Of New Spring
While Always Aware That Fierce Nature Crowns King
It’s Better To Wait – Thawed Ground Offers Best Choice
For Many More Morsels Heeds Sunshine Rejoice

Last Snow In The Woods – No There’s More Of The Same
So Give Your Best Now – Don’t Dismantle Will’s Flame
Don’t Burden Your Mind – Shun Fear’s Vise Of Control
You Can Always Find Light When You Lie Deep In A Hole

B5211AB3-F290-4C34-91D9-934E0EE0BD6EYou’re More Than A Groundhog Whose Instincts Command
So Examine Resolve To Reach Life Choice As Planned