Monday, November 04, 2002

The Homestretch

If there's one thing that angers me, it is the American who does not exercise his or her right to vote.

As we have traveled across this great country, we have been involved in discussions and read about numerous election races. In Tennessee, the question of whether a state lottery will subvert values or help education is being fought viciously. In Arkansas, the Governor is running for re-election and his wife is running for Secretary of State.  In New Mexico, both candidates for Governor are Hispanic (the first time this has happened, if I recall correctly) in a state where 42% of the population is Hispanic.

I obviously have my opinions, but when I asked a woman today what she thought about the lottery issue and how she was going to vote and she responded 'I don't know, I never bothered to register," I kind of went off at her.

"How can you not vote? Don't you care?" I intoned, regaining some of my youthful idealism which I had lost somewhere over the years.  We've driven over 7500 miles (we just entered Virginia on I-81 at Bristol) and we've seen how great this country is and the thought that there are so many people who just don't have the perspective to appreciate the kind of country in which they live, how others around the world would die for the opportunity to have a blue passport emblazoned with an eagle, to express their will, and speak their mind, and that the one day a year when they are called upon to make a decision they can't be bothered.

If they only knew how the rest of the world lived and how much this country really has to offer. It's such a shame and beyond that, it's embarrassing.
If you don't vote, you really don't have a right to complain because you certainly haven't done anything about it.

OK, enough with my soapbox…We did manage to drive 1000 miles in under 48 hours and made it to Memphis by Friday afternoon at 3pm, where we spent a lovely Sabbath with the Krupp family, whose relationship to us at the beginning was tenuous at best (their son and daughter-in-law are friends of Tamar's sister in Baltimore), but whose hospitality was pure Southern and warmth. Ricki Krupp owns a bakery and if you want some good cookies, cakes, or challah, try They have 6 children and we were fortunate enough to meet two of them, Hershel and Isaac. Hershel is a spiritually deep soul with a persistent attitude and Isaac is an 11 year old Energizer buddy with a encyclopedic mind of sports trivia.

With the end of our trip looming, it is as if the elements have signaled that they too are tired of holding up their end of the bargain.  For the entire trip until Oklahoma City, we had only 2 hours of rain (in Rapid City, South Dakota); in Tennessee all we had was rain.  The days are no longer sunny, encouraging us forward; they are gray and overcast, telling us that our trip, like the long days of summer, is slowly fading into past, into the memory of another season gone by.  With time a factor (we also made it to Nashville at 1am on Sat. night in time to spend a lovely 24 hours+ with the Sedek family- Naomi being Tamar's best friend from college), the effort devoted to sightseeing has almost vanished and we are left to admire the fall foliage in Virginia and Tennessee (admittedly quite beautiful-in fact, this road, I-81, is probably the best combination of interstate highway and beautiful surroundings we've had. The foliage has the most varied colors of any place, with burnt oranges and reds, yellows, greens and many of the shades in between wholly covering the hillsides like a multi-color installation of nature's wall to wall carpeting).  The sole exception for places to visit was the Sedek's guided tour through the massive indoor structure, complete with forested walking path, known as the Opryland Hotel.

Now, when we don't have the luxury of stopping whenever we want (we need to be back in DC by Tues. PM as Tamar is going to a dance camp on Wed. AM), we are left to wonder about what cities like Little Rock, Memphis, and Knoxville have to offer and we can't stop to see Andrew Jackson's home at the Hermitage or visit Cumberland Gap National Park.  Yet, this is the way of this journey. When we first set out, we each picked our top five priorities for places we wanted to visit and things we wanted to do and we did them. We also knew that on this trip, as in life, you just can't do everything. You make choices and do the best you can with the time you have.
So the places we pass now are just points on a map, gas stations by the highway, and blips of higher traffic volume on a journey that has traversed a continent-twice.

The homestretch drive now requires a 500+ mile drive from Nashville to Charlottesville. Our trip is once again about visiting the people important to us and in the middle of these long, seemingly endless drives and taking time to listen to Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. It also gives us a lot of time to think.

We think about our friends, Raphi and Danielle Salem, who did a cross country trip of their own last summer and provided us with the inspiration to undertake this voyage.

We are in awe at the vision of President Eisenhower, who undertook the largest public road building project since the Roman Empire and at the Interstate Highways that are his legacy, which make crisscrossing this vast land significantly easier.

And we think about each other and talk about what this trip has meant to us in terms of our marriage and our lives together; how we have decided to take this unique period in our lives together and do something with it that can only be done now in this way; how we have grown together by sharing common experiences, by learning to accept each other more for who we are, for learning to appreciate each other's strengths and play to those, for learning how to plan and work together so that both of our needs and wishes are fulfilled as much as possible, to share, to laugh, to cry, and to love.

We've learned that when it comes to hospitality, we have very different expectations. As a hostess of the highest caliber, Tamar thinks of the work associated with preparing for a guest. She loves to do it, but her family culture is one of being completely devoted to the guest. It makes the guest feel like royalty, but takes its toll on the host. As a result, she is reluctant to impose herself on anyone.

Having spent many years backpacking, all I look for is a couch and a warm shower.  I don't want my host to do anything for me or even change their schedule. If they visit with me for an hour, I'm happy, whatever they want to do and that's how I treat my guests.  They're welcome to stay with me and use whatever facilities they need. We'll also hang out, but I'm at home and have my own things to take care of. That's how I expect hosts to treat me. I want them to go about their lives as if I'm not even there. I don't want to impose either, but everything else being equal, I'd rather crash in someone's house than a hotel.

Either way, both of us welcome travelers with open arms-just be aware if Tamar is not going to be there when you show up! ;-)

When we pack up, I organize everything in one central location and move it from there into the car. Tamar has multiple points around the room, but somehow manages to put it all together and get it in the car.

If I don't put things back in a specified place, it takes me a while to find them. Tamar-she just knows the last place where she left them.

I need space in front of me. Tamar prefers to have three bags there for easy access.

I don't mind wearing the same pants and shirts for X days. Tamar prefers to change them.

After a day of walking and driving, I can't sleep unless I've showered.
Tamar can't get going unless she showers.

Tamar eats fruits and vegetables to stay healthy. I drink Metamucil to stay regular ;-)

I could stand on a vista, stare off for hours, and ponder the fate of the universe. Tamar has had enough after 2 minutes.

Tamar gets excited about comparing prices of various stores across the country. I like to sit in the corner reading a magazine, waiting for her to call me on our walkie-talkie, asking me what I want to eat or to come over and try on a pair of pants she's picked out.

Tamar puts on make-up because she's worried about how the gas station attendant will think about her. I tend to think that people I know will understand that the standards are slightly lax when you're on a long trip (I still shower and put on deodorant and my clothes don't smell-I hope).
Though, I have to say, I am coming around to her way of looking at things, as I met a prospective employer on the plane back from DC and my presentability was about a B-. See, I do learn from my wife (since she's right all of the time.)

Tamar thinks about the impact of actions and events on the lives of other people; I think about the impact of actions and events on our plan.

I'm a binge junk food eater. She's a binge junk food eater. All in all, we're pretty healthy, I'd say.

I want Tamar to develop certain habits (like having a digital phone book and learning how to navigate); Tamar wants me to develop certain instincts (like saying "hey, let me ask Tamar" before committing us to anything.)

But I guess this is what it is all about in some ways. Learning how to be two people and yet one couple and enjoying the differences at the same time, while remembering that it is the common values and love for each other that hold us together.

Perhaps the hardest part of all as we end this trip is keeping in mind that even though we are less than 24 hours from our new apartment (we haven't seen it yet, but the movers have placed our items within thanks to the supervisory efforts of my mother and grandmother), that we are still on our cross-country trip. We are coming full circle in the sense that we are passing now through the boyhood home of Meriwether Lewis and tonight, we will be in Charlottesville, near Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, the President who opened up the West in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. It somehow seems appropriate that we end in the state where these two men, who were our companions of sort, were born.

We still want to suck the marrow from this bone and be in the present, though our minds are racing dealing with the issues which face us just over the horizon, such as employment, automobile, (re-)learning how to get around, moving into a new community, making new friends, and all of the other exciting things like telephones, bank accounts, library cards, doctors, insurance  and gym memberships.

It's tough. I almost feel like we're going to walk into our apartment after
5 weeks and kind of say "OK, now what? Where do we begin? How do we start building a life here?"

It's scary, yes, and we're nervous, but in dealing with the change, we face an opportunity and a challenge, not a threat. We can decide what mistakes we've made in the past and afford ourselves, in some respects, a tabula rasa.

Really, it seems that, in some ways, our trip isn't ending after all, it's only just beginning.

Some comments that were worth sharing.

>From Mark Spira (a lifelong friend from JDS and an accomplished

One comment I would have is about your comments about the memorial and museum.  I wouldn't necessarily look at if from the perspective that terrosists would visit and be changed, but from the perpective that children and people who may be lost in the world, like the Timothy McVeigh's and the shooters from Columbine would visit and realize the horror and senslesness of violence against their fellow man and terrorist actions and move forward in their understanding of humanity and not travel down a road that may appear to be the best option later in their lives.  That is who I believe the exhibits are targeting not the Osamas of the world.  Remember there are a lot of young impressionable minds and people in this world searching for their path and if you can present something that educates and may have an impact later down the line, then you have done your job.

Oh and by the way, the Shakespeare comment was right on.  You have to appeal to everybody including the groundlings if you want to have any kind of lasting impact on society.  And often those 'groundlings' more accurately reflect on humanity then your 'upper-classes' do.

>From Paul Spreiregen (his wife introduced my parents for their first
and he's a very well-read and well-traveled architect):

Re San Francisco, the term "Presidio" comes from the Spanish colonial settlement system of the southwest and western coast of America.  A Presidio was a component part of a settlement.  The Spanish colonial planning was the best of the three colonial planning systems (Spanish French English).  It was formularized in the "Law of the Indies", create within about 50 years of
Columbus's discovery of the new world.   There is a museum for this in Spain
where all the original plans and documents are kept.

The Spanish settled the west coast of America because they were sailing across the Pacific, and upon return, could not be sure where they would make return landfall.  Being short of food and water they had to secure the coast so they could land.  Hence San Diego, San Francisco, etc.  They established missions along the coast and connected them with an access road El Camino Real -- the Royal Highway.

The other Spanish settlements like San Antonio or Santa Fe all have similar rationals.  The sites were very well chosen, and the original communities survived and prospered because of that.

>From Hale Foote (a former colleague of my father who lives near SF, and
president of a specialty engineering and manufacturing firm).

Thanks for giving us updates on your journey.  We have made the same route a number of times and hearing particular points described again reminds me how much fun it was.  Isn't it amazing how you can quickly travel from the awful (Las Vegas) to the beautiful (southern Utah)? Guess which one I prefer.

Reading about your father traveling with you reminded me of the cross-country trips we used to take for trials and depositions.  He introduced me to the habit of vacuuming up newspapers in airport lounges and reading them in transit -- starting with the Post or the Times at National Airport, finding the Wall Street Journal upon changing in DFW, the local paper wherever we landed.  I have kept the habit.

>From Gladyce Ehrlich, a cousin by marriage who lives in Las Vegas, and
very accomplished RV-based traveler.

You were right on the button as far as Las Vegas is concerned... Glitzy, Busy, very Touristy on the Strip, and a whole 'real' community off the strip.  Sorry we didn't get a chance to show it to you, but sometimes that's
the way it goes! Another time !!   Where else in the world can you see
Paris, New York, Italy (Venice and wherever the Bellagio hotel is from), Egypt, Old England, Volcanos, etc. all in one place ??  And even on one Street !!  Only in America!! (Read Las Vegas there)...

Just re-read what you wrote, and you described the city very well - as a short time visitor you really picked up the essence of the city - it can really be all things to everyone (as long as you can put up with 120 degrees
in the summer!).   And once you find out there is a real city beyond the
strip, it is an interesting place to live, with Churches, Synagogues, Schools, Shops, and all kinds of politics!!  We are being inundated with all kinds of signs and tv ads right now, coming up to election day.  Did you know that Nevada provides for Early Elections??  Up to 2 weeks in advance of an election day the State sets up various sites so that you can vote and not have to stand in line on election day!  The venues are as varied as City Hall and your local super market!!

…and lastly, some great travel advice from Ranger Ferrel

Welllll, I wasn't too impressed by LA...but of course except for a then-famous author, a psychologist at UCLA, I had no contacts.
    HOWEVER, as you head east enjoy driving thru Indian country
in Arizona and New Mexico.     On a trip to the Hopi reservation, by the
coincicence that the Chief of the tribe was named Ferrel, I got to know the family.  The Hopi res is a very neat place for they've kept their culture better than any tribe in the US.  Tho there are 6 daughters in the family, I know only 2 of them:  one graduated from ASU with highest honors and works for Senator McCain; the other works for the National Museum of the American Indian and see her sometimes when I go to DC to visit my son. But places rather near the highway -- I'm assuming you'll drive I-40...
    Just north of Flagstaff is Wupatki National Monument -- interesting Anasazi ruins, and adjacent to it is Sunset Crater (volcanic) N.
Monument.  And just south of Flagstaff is Walnut Canyon N Monument.

You'll drive thru Petrified Forest N Park -- take time to drive the loop road.  DO NOT be tempted to pick up even a crumb of the wood. In New Mexico, turn south at Gallup and go to El Morro. There was a water hole there, and EVERYONE -- from the 1600s on -- left messages on the Morro (Wall).  You'll see Spanish inscriptions from the 1600s (and the little booklet will translate them for you), eventually the US Army came in and some were extremely skilled stonecutters and left beautiful inscriptions. Drive on thru the edge of El Malpais (huge lava flow) and back ot I-40 at Grants.
    Albuquerque is a fabulous place:  see Petroglyphs N Mon at the west edge of town (in fact one of GWB's friends is trying to get permission to build a road thru it for his development), visit Old Town (GREAT Mexican restaurant -- ??? Teresa, at NW corner of Old Town) and be sure to visit the Indian Pueblo Culture Center (if you're tempted to buy any Indian jewelry for Tamar, THIS is the place -- also beautiful rugs and pottery), not only for sale of Indian artistry but also a museum. Have lunch at their restaurant downstairs.
    [If you had extra time, I'd go to Santa Fe, or south to the Three Rivers Petroglyph Area (near Tularosa) and to White Sands.] Sorry to say, the rest of the trip east is ... well, maybe you'd prefer to fly....

Once you get thru Redneck Country, things get better.  Western N Carolina is nice.  One branch of my family came from near Greensboro. The first ancestor came from Ireland to SE PA in 1686, then a branch moved to N Carolina in the 1700s.  In 1818 my branch moved from N Carolina to Illinois.  The story was that they left because (Quakers) they could not tolerate slavery.  But when I went to N Carolina I found that they were not very popular there because they OPPOSED slavery, which may be one of the reasons they moved.

    I've done a lot of genealogy, discovered incidentally that my 16th great grandfather in 1640 bought ALL of Martha's Vineyard.
sEnjoy your letters!!        Ferrel