In August, we finally traded our 2004 Toyota Sienna van for a 2010 Toyota Matrix hatchback. The Sienna ran very well but was looking worse for wear. It had a minor dent; someone had backed into it. A year ago, I was stopped at the yield sign of an exit ramp in Pennsylvania, waiting for traffic to pass, and a fellow (also watching the traffic, and distracted because he was late picking up his kid) bumped into me from behind. He was only going 15 or 20 but it was enough to crumple a bit of the rear fender.
We didn’t need a van anymore, now that my daughter is in college. But the van was so handy when she was in high school! We could haul her skis in winter, band stuff in most seasons, and cart her and her friends around to various functions. What a suburban life! The van was also useful in moving her stuff to college and then back for summer break.
At the risk of getting that doggone song from “Rent” stuck in my head–“Seasons of Love” and its famous opening, “525,600 minutes”—I wondered how much time I spent in the van. A half-hour every day is a reasonable minimum estimate, given our distance from various things like jobs, church, and shopping. That estimate gives me 53 total days, over a seven year period, spent driving the van. But I also drove a few times to visit my mother in Illinois–a 20-hour round trip–on trips to visit Ms. Daughter in college–a 6-hour round trip, and then after we moved it was a 28-hour round trip—and various other excursions. So, perhaps three full months, possibly four out of a seven year period was spent driving the van. In contrast: in seven years, I also spent about 2-1/3 years asleep. Fortunately, none of those times were spent in the van (other than quick naps while parked)!
These thoughts can be read in conjunction with an earlier blog post on northeastern Ohio: http://paulstroble.blogspot.com/2010/10/northeast-ohio.html Although we owned the van for two years in Missouri, I’ll probably always think of it as our Ohio car, a faithful and low-maintenance vehicle that kept us safe and on time through many routines and adventures.
(Here’s a blog post from August 2009, nearly an identical description of our 2011 weekend trip this past August. A major difference: I drove the new Matrix rather than the Sienna.) Last weekend Emily and I drove to her college where she’ll start her sophomore year. Last year we lived three hours away, but we’re now fourteen hours away. My wife has helped Emily move before, but this weekend she had to work, so Emily and I made the drive in two days, a large portion on Interstate 70.
The trip had some added costs. On two past occasions, my snoring disturbed Emily, in spite of the noise from the motel air conditioning and a little sound-machine that has pre-recorded, soothing sounds. So I reserved two separate motel rooms for us. Better that, than risk both of us becoming sleepy on the road–and angry in the middle of the night.
We had a safe drive, except for a few “dumb asses” who followed too closely, prevented safe merging, etc. I’m sure there were more dumb asses than a few. Cell phones added tremendously to our peace of mind. I remember when my parents helped me move to Connecticut in the 70s. Mom and I in one car both wanted to stop for the night, but honking and blinking headlights couldn’t get Dad’s attention in the other car. Emily and I could just ring each other and know where to stop for a meal or gas.
The I-70 trip is quite familiar to me, thanks to years-ago trips between Connecticut (where I did my masters degree) and my parents’ home in southern Illinois. I noticed a few places from those student days. East of Columbus, a non-chain motel where I’d spent a night nearly thirty years ago still operated. At another exit, I saw a chain motel where I’d spent a night during another trip home, and had shopped barefoot at the nearby Kroger store.
Both Emily’s car and my van were full of her belongings. She reminded me that guys have so much fewer things to move than girls. I was the exception to that rule, because I always had to lug my favorite books and LPs to school. We were pleased that her dorm room has a huge closet.
Emily lives on the fourth floor of her building. Arriving early on moving day, we commandeered two reserved spaces that were convenient. Do any schools have handy and adequate parking? We worked four hours to get stuff to her room. We and the other families had to go down one first-floor hallway, turn right down another hallway, take the elevator (with doors that you open and close by hand) to the third floor, and then walk down another hallway and carry stuff up to the fourth floor. She stopped carrying and started sorting, while I did the rest of the lugging.
Chatting with other parents was fun. One mother and I talked about the absurd $50 fee that the college had charged last year for dorm-room clean-up. The mother said she’d mopped and dusted her daughter’s room but the college still claimed it was dirty. I recall that my college levied similar, foolish little fees for various reasons; I imagine most schools do.
Emily has a terrific room with a nice view. After we got her stuff into the room, we went off and had lunch, then we went to Wal-Mart for additional supplies. We’d accidentally left a slice of cheesecake (in a plastic container) inside her old refrigerator, and there it had ripened for over three months while the fridge was stored. I’d hoped that a couple days in the van with a bowl of baking soda might kill the smell, but no such luck. So she and I found a new 1.7 cu. ft. model at a good price. I worried about the parents who, I noticed, were trying to lug 4 cu. ft. models up those stairs.
We took a tour of some new facilities at her college and felt great about her program. At the end of the day, she and I went to supper at Denny’s, and then returned to her school. We both were sore and tired. We exchanged big hugs and good feelings about a positive year. I went back to the motel room to shower, rest and sleep before making my solo two-day trip home.
No moral or grand point to this story. Just another small adventure in our family, like similar adventures happening in many families around the country here in late summertime.
We’ve grown to love the small community where Emily attends college. Repeat trips have yielded new aspects of the town. I was driving around town on a rainy morning, waiting for Emily to finish her day’s classes, when I was startled to see a historical marker on a side street, honoring Arthur St. Clair. He was the governor of the old Northwest Territory, a significant figure in early American history, and namesake of St. Clair County, Illinois near St. Louis. He was buried here because he had retired here to his daughter’s farm. In spite of the rain, I visited his grave in a park not far from the downtown.
Interesting businesses, a stately but defunct department store, and a massive county courthouse comprise the downtown. Not only that, but the Lincoln Highway passed through the town. The street, once renamed U.S. 30 but now is PA 130, is a straight path through the town, with the newer, bypass U.S. 30 making a wide curve to the south.
I spotted a neat old sign on the side of a furniture store. In spite of an electric sign that covered part of an earlier, painted sign, the latter was still readable; the store had been “Greensburg’s Largest!” The position of the electric sign made me wonder if the painted sign had one owner’s name, and then perhaps the business changed hands and the electric sign was installed with a new owner’s name covering that portion of the painted sign. The electric sign has since been removed and the whole painted name can be read: Weber’s Furniture.
Recently, an afternoon show called “Show Me St. Louis” featured a report about “ghost signs.” Those are the fading painted signs on the side of brick buildings, identifying the business or advertising a product. Such signs were often painted atop earlier signs and as time wears away the paint, the two or three signs overlap. The reporter found several examples of ghost signs around St. Louis, including a barely-visible ad for a bread company along with a drawing of a baseball player holding a loaf of bread. On the side of another building, the reporter found two signs, one atop the other, for different brands of beer. The more recent ad was barely readable but, of course, was more readable than the earlier sign underneath. Some of the featured signs–variously for shoe stores, blacksmiths, and other businesses and products–were from the early 20th century.
hangs in our house as a pleasant small-town scene. The ad for Mail Pouch tobacco is still very readable, and I’d noticed that the tobacco ad covered a previous sign, which I can’t decipher. But on closer inspection, I realized a third, earlier sign can be discerned beneath that previous sign (e.g., the faint “GO” or “60” right above the “UC” of “pouch”). What were the two older advertisements?
Elsewhere in my hometown is a Mail Pouch ad on the back of a building on Fifth Street, and also an ad for Brunswick Tires on the side of the old Craycroft building, once an auto dealership, on the south side of the railroad tracks on Fifth Street. One of my very earliest memories was a building of some sort on Sixth Street, also on the south side of the tracks. A billboard was attached to the north side of the building over a painted ad for Coca Cola; even though I was quite young, I noticed the distinctive cursive C that had not been covered by the sign.
This is a kind of CD review, more about me than the music, I guess, but strongly commending of the 30-CD “Sacred Music” set from the Harmonia Mundi label, with a good price for the amount of music covering the earliest church music to the 20th century. (See http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=309387)
Having purchased the set a year or two ago, I had listened to some of the selections but not nearly all. At the end of August, my daughter and I moved her stuff back to her college several hundred miles away. But what should I listen to as we traveled? I feel very sad at the end of our nice summers; certain kinds of music, which elicit nostalgic feelings, would make me feel worse. “Sacred Music” was a good choice: lots of music for a long drive, and helpful to put me (always a worrier) in a less anxious, more trustful spiritual mood for the upcoming academic year.
Sorting through the discs, I skipped some of the early chants and Gregorian chants, though I liked; the polyphonic Renaissance music by de Machaut, Desprez, and Janequin. I also skipped some familiar pieces—Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Brahms’ Requiem—in favor of ones new to me. I most definitely skipped the requiems by Faure and Durufle, not because I don’t love them but because Emily’s choir performed them and, in my nostalgic mood, I was afraid of feeling even more sad and nostalgic about time’s passage. I didn’t listen to Bernstein’s Mass, although I want to eventually. I loved the 1970s original, conducted by Bernstein himself, and the most recent version conducted by Marin Alsip. This version is directed by Kent Nagano, with Jerry Hadley as the celebrant. I did listen to Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, although I was familiar with it from an LP set conducted by Kurt Masur. But I hadn’t heard it for a long time; this version is conducted by Philippe Herreweghe.
Looking through the CDs now, to refresh my memory about the trip, I realize I never got to Scarlatti’s oratorio Cain, directed by Rene Jacobs, and some polyphonic masses by Byrd and Palestrina, which would be wonderful.
As the miles rolled along, I listened to interesting lamentations and tenebrae by Massaino, de Lassus, Charpentier, Couperin, and the 20th century Ernst Krenek; baroque vespers by Monteverdi (his Vespro della Peata Vergine) and Rovetta’s Vespro Solennelle; Orthodox church music, including a vespers by Rachmaninoff; Reformed music by Tallis, Purcell, Schütz, Bruhns, and Bach; French motets by Dumon, Lully, Delalande, and Charpentier; and motets and psalms by Mendelssohn and Bruckner. The “Sacred Music” set includes Stabat Mater by Vivaldi, Pergolesi, Boccherini, and Rossini. I usually like Rossini but this piece was jarringly operatic compared to the others; his Petite Messe Solemnelle would’ve been another good choice.
Mendelssohn’s symphonies already remind me of I-70 in Maryland, because I purchased some LPs of all five during a happy road trip in the 1980s. So Mendelssohn’s Paulus, also directed by Herreweghe, was a wonderful discovery appropriately made on the same highway–possibly my favorite discovery among this whole set.
Thirty CDs hardly brush surface of this kind of music. J.S. Bach’s music alone requires dozens more discs. After enjoying a majority the selections, I was still in the mood for religious music. I had Gounod’s Requiem on my iPod but not yet listened to it; a reviewer in Gramophone magazine had called it a beautiful piece on its own and alongside Faure’s and Durufle’s. The reviewer was certainly correct. I also listened to Dvorak’s Requiem, which is longer than Brahms’ (George Bernard Shaw famously complained about the latter), but with a lovely “Agnus Dei.” I didn’t have time on the trip to re-play some of Bach’s cantatas on my iPod, or to play lots of other classical CDs…. A 1200-mile round trip barely gets you through the possibilities of wonderful music!
Eventually I want to figure out (based on my very limited knowledge of musicology) Messiaen’s religious organ music, which fills 6 CDs. Transubstantiation depicted musically? That’s one of the pieces in his Livre du Saint-Sacrement!
My daughter is in college 600 miles away in Pennsylvania. These past few years, I’ve made summertime road trips to help her move to or from the dorms. It’s a pleasant drive along Interstate 70, but of course interstates DARE you to be interested in the scenery, especially in Midwestern states. During one trip across Indiana, as my wife drove, I took two photos of the most interesting views I could find (yawn).
I took this highway during student days, when I was in school in Connecticut, and I-70 between Pennsylvania and Illinois comprised a large part of the drive for winter and summer breaks. The I-70 trip is more fun now, because it’s part of my daughter’s life rather than part of my insecure younger self’s literal and figurative journeys.
I’ve written about this trip twice before on this blog, once regarding Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” (https://paulstroble.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/bernsteins-mass/) and the other regarding “A Leisurely Drive” and the succession of small towns just off the interstate in east-central Illinois (https://paulstroble.wordpress.com/2010/12/12/a-set-of-favorite-roads/). This past summer, I realized that I’d not be driving these roads much longer, since my daughter is soon to graduate. So I made sure I revisited particular sights by leaving I-70 for the older and parallel route, U.S. 40. I always appreciate seeing the National Road milestones and bridges in Ohio, as well as the numerous examples of 20th century highway businesses–motels, filing stations, garages, neon signs, and the like–along the old road in Indiana and Illinois.
When I’m on a road trip I enjoy kicking my sandals off in the car and sometimes don’t put them back on, if I think no one will mind. I remember seeing a picture of Jackie Kennedy shopping in her bare feet and thought that was a great idea; she’s a style icon, after all! Recently I found a website about how to cheer up when you’re blue, and among bits of advice, the website encouraged “taking humor risks.” “When you are stuck in your own thoughts, do something just a little wild to get out of it. And do the same thing to help a friend who needs a good laugh.” (http://www.beliefnet.com/Inspiration/2009/03/Cheer-Up-and-Laugh-Out-Loud.aspx?awid=5551460903877276033-1820) Since I’m nearly always blue on long trips—homesick, or feeling the emotional transition of taking my daughter back to school—going barefoot is a good “humor risk,” something foolish that cheers me up—and might even give someone else a chuckle!
Stopping in Richmond, Indiana, I checked into the motel, rested a while, and then returned to my car barefooted for an evening’s Starbucks and a leisurely drive through town. I noticed an independent custard stand operated down the road, so I joined the crowd—at least two and maybe three large family groups—who also had an evening sweet tooth. Flip-flops predominated and I was the only non-conformist. The concrete felt warm beneath my feet, while the asphalt at my car still felt hot from the day’s sun.
Continuing the next morning across Indiana, I traveled quite a bit on old 40, except in the Indianapolis area where I just wanted to get through the city quickly. The old road was upgraded in Indiana to a four-lane highway following the Second World War, making the route nearly as speedy (if it weren’t for small towns and intersections) as the interstate. Thomas Schlereth’s enjoyable book, U.S. 40: A Roadscape of the American Experience (Indiana University Press, 1985) provides a lot of history about and analysis of the road as it crosses Indiana.
Driving west from Indy on a warm morning, I noticed this early bridge near Plainsville. I love to find abandoned highway bridges, and this one is significant as it dates from the early automobile era of the National Road, part of the National Old Trails Highway system in the 1910s and 20s. The bridge crosses a stream just a few hundred feet north of the modern highway, and sections of original pavement lay on both sides of the bridge.
Quite a few miles west of Plainsville, near Cloverdale, I passed by the Walker Motel. This wonderful motor court and its fading, blue and yellow sign resides in a shady, inviting space, several miles from a major community. As a green place along the road, the motel looked so inviting, surely a welcome place for many people during their vacations and other travels.
In that general vicinity, I passed through the intersection of 40 and U.S. 231. I recalled the many road trips I used to make on I-64 across southern Indiana en route to my parents’ house. Dale, Indiana, along U.S. 231, was a frequent “pit stop,” and I also liked to visit the Lincoln Boyhood historic site south of that small community. I recalled needing a “humor risk” the day I visited the Lincoln family cabin, years ago, on a rainy day. Wearing sandals (kicked off in the car), old jeans, cotton shirt and rain hoodie, I wondered if the park folks would mind if I toured the site barefooted. So I hiked up the short walk and greeted the period-costumed guide who gave me a good tour of the cabin and farm as we chatted about Lincoln and his family. Next I took the path to Nancy Lincoln’s grave, which unfortunately was very gravely. My “humor risk” was a genuine risk of injury!
Just over the Indiana border, one notices stretches of sections of old pavement beside the modern highway, and even a rare stretch of brick roadbed. As I wrote in my “Leisurely Drive” piece, and as with the Plainfield bridge, I think of these as “shards” of the earliest automobile highways, in this case, part of that transcontinental National Old Trails Highway which was superseded by the U.S. highway system in 1926. I’d love to peak back into history and see these cracked, 1910s roadbeds when they were new and innovative highways for “newfangled” cars.
Downtown Marshall, Illinois, not far from the Indiana border, has interesting business architecture; George R. Stewart’s classic book US 40: Cross Section of the United States of America (Houghton Mifflin, 1953) featured a photo of a pretty downtown block. I took this photo last year. In Stewart’s photo, there is one more building on the left (no longer there), the middle building (now plain brick) was painted, and the building on the right had a cornice at the very top which read “1889 Graebenheimer Building.” Unfortunately I never found the Marshall antique stores open, though I visited on a different weekday than last year.
Driving west, one can either take the modern pathway of U.S. 40 or take a still-older alignment of 40 between Martinsburg and Casey. According to A Guide to the National Road (ed. by Karl Raitz: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), this original and still usable stretch of the original alignment is unique in Illinois, where most of the longer stretches were replaced when the highway was realigned and upgraded in the 1940s.
Casey is a more comparatively substantial town in this area (pop. 3000). Its downtown has some shops and several empty storefronts, typical of small towns along the road, and along with patronizing those open businesses, one can appreciate the local heritage revealed in the commercial architecture. I took pictures of the downtown, including a photo of a “neat” old sign for a former grocery and Pepsi, and purchased a “country” print at a store.
Driving several miles west, I arrived in Greenup, a town named for a pioneer surveyor who also helped found my hometown (and is buried there). As quiet as Marshall’s downtown, Greenup’s business district is interesting and unusual because of the balconies along the street. Shopping barefoot is another “humor risk,” more common when I was younger, although I’ve seen folks padding among stores in some of the resort hotels at which we’ve stayed. There is a pleasing and mischievous incongruity between browsing shops and carrying with you the day’s fun purchases, and having no shoes on. I walked around Greenup’s downtown, taking photos of the interesting commercial exteriors, and also checked out some gift stores I’d missed during a previous visit. One store owner said she was slowly getting back to work following major surgery.
About twenty miles west, Effingham, Illinois, is a very familiar community. Although only 15,000 population, it was nevertheless twice the size of my hometown and sometimes my folks traveled the half-hour to shop and visit the excellent office-supply store. I always liked things about the downtown, the now dated façade on a one-time clothing store, the slight turn that the main downtown street makes. (Wonderfully, another clothing store still operates downtown; you don’t see so many of those anymore in small towns!) Stepping from my car to take pictures, I was amused when someone drove by, paused on the street, and wondered if I was scouting locations for new businesses!
I like “ghost signs,” painted advertisements on the side of buildings which have faded, as I wrote above. Sometimes ads were painted atop old ones, and now the old ads show through the later ones. That’s definitely the case on this building that I photographed the previous day, in Cambridge, Ohio. The other photo is a building in Altamont, Illinois, a town I’d not visited for a long time but did so recently. Padding among the downtown shops for quite a while (and purchasing a sign from an antique mall with a John Wayne saying I liked, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway”), I found this ghost sign (below), just off the business district. What an impressive advertisment that must’ve been in its day.
Finally arriving in my home county of Fayette, I stopped at the small town of St. Elmo, IL, probably named for a popular postbellum novel and once a very lively town during the local 1930s oil boom. I enjoy seeing an old motel on the south side of highway 40 which has never, in my recollection, been anything but a storage building. How marvelous, though, that the place remains as a “shard” from an earlier era of highway travel! Across the highway is the still operating Waldorf Motel. I don’t know when the Waldorf started (shown here in an old postcard) but I don’t remember it not being there; in the 1960s, my parents and I passed through St. Elmo on the way to Effingham on Saturday drives.
In downtown St. Elmo itself, a long building houses an antique mall, the newspaper office, and other businesses. On the side of a long building that now houses several businesses, but which was once a hotel, one finds the Mail Pouch “ghost sign.” I should’ve gotten a photo of the old movie theatre across the street, which hasn’t been open in a long time but is an example of theatre architecture and signage, similar to the also-closed Liberty Theatre in my hometown, Vandalia.
I’ve been interested in 20th century American culture (highways, railroads, and small town life) for a long time, long before I read Outside Lies Magic by John R. Stilgoe. But his book provided fresh inspiration for me to regain my earlier hobby of photographing interesting small town architecture. My daughter graduates from college soon. There is much about these past few years which I’ll miss—that’s a blog post for the near future—and I’ll miss these leisurely drives on old 40. Who knows what if any future opportunities will bring me that way again?