Friday, June 17, 2011

The road less traveled

Back from another brief business trip, again to the Nashville area.  And instead of my usual pattern, I overnighted in Bowling Green, a city a bit less than an hour north of the metro Nashville area, so that I could join a friend and take in a baseball game (nice ballpark in Bowling Green, by the way).

Then I did something very different from my usual travel patterns.  I had noticed on several recent trips to Nashville that the I-65 corridor between Elizabethtown (where I merge onto this highway) and the "cave area" of Kentucky (home of Mammoth Cave and other natural attractions) is rife with extensive construction due to lane additions to accommodate the massive amount of traffic on this road.  My friend from the Elizabethtown area explained that this has been in the "ten-year plan" for about twenty years, but, no matter, when it's completed, it will be much safer and better able to accommodate all of the cars and trucks zooming north and south.

Anyway, I saw yet another miles-long backup when I was heading south on Wednesday, so I began to think about alternate routes.  I don't often do that, as traveling is hard enough without having to think about where you're going.  So I asked my friend and he suggested that I merge onto U.S. 68, a traditional U.S. highway (not an interstate), just north of Bowling Green.  Scenic and much less hectic, and, given the delays I'd likely encounter, probably the same amount of time.  And best of all, the road leads directly to Lexington, so as long as I stayed on that route (paying attention to signage in the many little towns was key), I'd return home safe and sound.

So that's what I decided to do, and it was a marvelous experience.  Let me share some of the things I saw and experienced.

*  I hadn't been on this road for five minutes and I encountered an Amish horse-and-buggy, with a bearded man in "plain" clothes and a straw hat driving.  As I passed he briefly touched the brim of his hat, as I moved around him slowly, and I nodded in response.  I had heard there was/is an Amish community near Glasgow, so there's some evidence.

*  Lots of little businesses, all in the middle of nowhere, with signs advertising antiques, pressure-washing, honey, hairstyling, scrap metals, florist services, and, of course, fresh produce sold from roadside stands.  I didn't stop, but later in the season, where some of the items I like would be in season, I might.

*  Honest-to-God farms, small enough for one family or possibly one person to tend, where they grow, you know, FOOD.  Corn seemed to be a popular crop in the part of Kentucky through which I traveled.

*  Miles and minutes where I saw no cars at all.

*  Town squares.  A vestige of times passed, certainly.  Invariably, the courthouse was at the center.

*  Great names of little communities.  I think "Wisdom" was my favorite of this trip.

*  Small independent grocery stores.  I grew up working in one of those, and that certainly brought back some memories.

I could go on, but it was a nice change of pace.  Along with it, U.S. 68 between Oakland (the town nearest where I entered the highway) and Lexington is largely two-lane, with just a few sections looking remotely like a highway with broad shoulders and passing lanes.  And there were numerous signs pointing to the "county lake" of a certain area.

The most interesting aspect of this was that, despite taking about an hour longer than the trip would have on interstates and parkways during optimal (non-delay) conditions, it was a grand total of seven miles further.

Somehow, given what I saw, it seemed a lot further away.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dad fantasies

As you likely remember, our son and his wife recently became the proud parents of a bouncing baby boy.  So now that he is the father of a son, I expect him to go through some of the same stuff I have in being his stepfather.  The interesting thing is that for every real experience we share, it creates a mental image of something else that I either wish I could do or would like to do with him.

To wit:

My beloved Cincinnati Reds (as with most every major league baseball team) operate a "dream week" fantasy camp, allowing regular guys like me the chance to spend a week playing baseball as though he were a member of the Reds.  I love baseball very much and still regret that I didn't get to play more organized ball when I was a kid.  Not that I was that good, I just loved it and still do.

Anyway, for the last twenty years or so I've had this recurring dream that I got to go to the Reds' fantasy camp, but in the last five or more, that dream has included my son going with me.  Many years ago, as he was preparing to enter high school, he decided he wanted to go out for the baseball team.  He had never played ANY organized baseball, so I was his self-appointed coach and tutor.  After considering outfield and infield as defensive positions, he expressed an interest in catching behind home plate, which meant that I also became his practice pitcher.  I'd never pitched, so it was a learning experience for us both.  But we spent one long summer playing catch nearly every night, and still do it once in a while.

So now my Reds fantasy dream would include throwing to my son while wearing a Reds uniform.  Sweet, though it's never happened.

Here's another one:

Several years ago, Golf Digest magazine started a promotion in which entrants could submit an essay and, if chosen, play a round of golf on the same course at which the upcoming U.S. Open championship would be played.  There would be three celebrities in the foursome, and the conditions would be identical to what the entrants in the championship would encounter.  To my knowledge the magazine still does this, although I haven't been a subscriber for some time.

In any case, I entered that first time, and mentioned that it was my stated goal not only to play, but to have my son caddy for me.  I was (and still am) certain that his presence would help me to play better than if I had someone else carrying my bag (I think they use a well-known golf coach or pro for this purpose).  After entering that contest I had vivid dreams about being the chosen participant, but arguing with the organizers that I should be allowed to choose my own caddy, my son.  In a few such instances he was permitted to carry my bag and we both enjoyed the situation greatly.

Of course, some of these dreams become reality.  The Reds began something a few years ago called the Father's Day Catch.  Pairs of entrants (you and your dad, son, granddad, grandson, or someone else) could pay a fee, sit in a specific section for the game, and then have the chance to enter the field and have a catch for 30 minutes.  We were in the first such event, and after circling the bases (everyone did) we headed off to center field, which was then patrolled by former Red Ken Griffey, Jr.  What an experience!  On a major league field, minutes after the completion of an actual game, here we were, tossing the ball just like at the park.

I could go on and on and on with experiences real or imagined, but I'm sure my son already knows what a treat he'll experience for the next thirty or forty years.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I got nothing....

With apologies to a friend of mine who once uttered the title phrase to me after a day of outdoor painting in extreme heat....

But it kind of fits today.  I don't have any great travel stories to tell, no famous people I've met.  The new grandson is growing and doing well, parents and big sister are adjusting to life as a family of four, so that's all good.

But me?  Well, I said it earlier.  I got nothing.

Oh, I've been fighting a respiratory infection or something that's caused me to cough and blow quite a bit, but I think I've just about overcome it.  My wife wanted me to go to the doctor for it after spending a tough weekend a couple of weekends ago, but I felt I was making progress and declined to go.  After all, I was going for a physical the following Friday (6/3) and if I wasn't better by then, well, I'd already be at the doctor's office, so why go twice?

Pragmatism seldom trumps a spouse who's tired of someone coughing incessantly.  I was even banished to the guest room a couple of nights.

But my visit to the doctor went well, he asked me how long I'd had this particular ailment, and after looking at my throat and listening to my lungs (part of the physical) he did not recommend or prescribe anything.

But on the bright side, everything else went well at the physical.  Blood work is underway to ensure that my cholesterol and other metrics were where they should be, and, yes, I had my dreaded post-50 prostate examination.  "It's slightly enlarged," he commented flatly.  No kidding.  I have to get up at least once a night to make a trip to the bathroom, so I already suspected as much.  Hopefully the blood tests will not reveal any problems in my PSA levels.

So, I'm in my office this morning, working on a couple of projects that are not timely, and I got nothing.  Hope your life has more in store than that!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Not sure where to start...

Wow, a great deal of stuff has appeared in the media over the past week or more that deserves comment....

First of all, what's Sarah Palin got up her sleeve?  Crashing the "Rolling Thunder" biker rally in Washington (the organizers were very specific in saying that Palin was NOT invited), visiting the National Archives (what, to check to see if the Constitution is still there?), then on to New York for dinner with the Trumps and on to New Hampshire.  And at each stop she effectively tweaks the collective nose of the press by saying she still isn't sure if she's running for president in 2012.

Suppose the GOP isn't all that happy with the choices it's seeing....a well-heeled Iowa Republican fundraiser apparently had dinner last night with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in an effort to persuade him to mount a campaign in 2012.

I wish 'em luck.

Luck also to Jim Tressel, who completed one of the longest and most blatantly hypocritical stints at the head of a prominent college sports program (in his case, Ohio State football) that I can remember.  Read somewhere that when he was a young assistant Tressel was in charge of a summer football camp for his employer university's football program.  The program would invite a small handful of incoming recruits to attend, but it was mostly attended by kids who never would have the chance to play college football.  Tressel was reported to have spoken to the kids about ethics in the morning and then rigged the afternoon raffle for pairs of cleats so that the recruits, and not the kids who spent their (or their parents') hard-earned money to attend, would win the free equipment.  Nice.  Of course, it doesn't help that Ohio State's star quarterback has been driving on a suspended license since February and is driving a car that's nicer than I'll ever own....and it's not the first time for him, either.  I'm sure that we're going to find out lots more about this as things unfold.

And thankfully, our long national Charlie Sheen nightmare is over....the powers that be at CBS, Warner Brothers and elsewhere didn't cave in to Mr. Sheen, and hired Ashton Kutcher (famous for being famous, mostly) to replace Sheen on "Two and a Half Men."  I'm asked constantly if I watch that show or "The Big Bang Theory," and I watch neither.  Frankly, there hasn't been a good sitcom on network television since "Seinfeld," and I'll stand by that statement.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to prepare for my tryout to pitch for the Cincinnati Reds.  They've added and subtracted so many pitchers lately due to injury, overworked relief pitchers and other factors that open tryouts can't be far behind.

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