It took two full weeks of visits and travel to get to the next Coast – the Gulf Coast of Florida. We’ll complete the full cross-country adventure when we travel to Miami in January. At that time, we’ll pick up our car in North Port at my son’s house where we’re leaving it to fly back to Portland next week. We’ll then drive it through Alligator Alley and down to the Keys to get to the Pacific Ocean. So far, we’ve gone nearly 3,000 miles, with stops in San Francisco (3 nights), Cambria (1 night), Desert Springs (2), Tucson (1), Marfa (2), Austin (2), Foley (1), Lake City (1), and now Venice, covering the states of Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. We’re here to start the build of our forever home in the resort community of Island Walk.
We made another Cracker Barrel food stop, tying McDonalds’s in road-trip nourishment. I’m happy to report that I have not had one single Diet Coke in over three weeks. I’m sure their stock value has dropped dramatically, as I was once their number one consumer. However, it still hasn’t kept me from visiting the bathroom any less. Any lost fluids have at least been replaced by strictly water, with a few evening cocktails and/or wine. I’ll be curious to step on the scales once we return to Portland next week, considering the fact that I’m not getting healthy home cooked meals. I do, however, sweat like a pig on my daily runs to the point where my shirt sticks to my skin. This will be the new norm living in the Florida humidity, as opposed to the cool Oregon mornings. I’ve also yet to see a homeless person with the exception of a few hitchhikers.
Today, I’ll take advantage of the washing machine we once bought my son. We’ve already decided on the pool specs, but will go through the model home one last time before my wife’s decorating meeting tomorrow. I’ll spend the day shuttling grandchildren around while enjoying another family meal for seven tonight – probably pizza. Last night it was Chili’s. We’ve finally arrived at our Coast-to -Coast destination and will spend the next four days entertaining the kids, as they get to know us again.
The Coast-to-Coast adventure is gradually coming to an end. We’ve entered the third time zone and finally in the home stretch with only ten state licence plates yet to find. There have been limited issues, as we settle into Mother Marriott’s arms tonight. We’ve now covered the gambit of Marriott properties from Ritz-Carlton to Fairfield Inn & Suites. We did have a near-casualty, trying to dodge a semi’s shredded tire that left only a few removable black rubber marks on the newly restored Lexus sports-car body. Also, some disturbing news from both my son and my wife’s daughter ended the day.
A bottle of wine soothed my nerves. We started with an 18-pack, while most went along as gifts. Two Oregon wines went to my half/bio/from another mother-sister. I’m not sure which is the preferred term? Nonetheless, we shared some “throwed rolls” yesterday and talked about the man we have in common. I will never meet him, while she grew up with him. Apparently, he was a pretty tough father that raised five girls and a boy. His favorite saying was, “you can’t win with kids.” He was selfish, competitive, and ultimately took his own life. I would now describe him as the polar opposite of the man I got to call “dad” – the man who adopted me. They both did have explosive tempers, but I would choose the life I’ve led over what could have been.
My half-sister was raised in a small Indiana town, not too far from John Cougar Mellencamp’s Seymour. She remembered picking beans & blackberries in the family’s massive garden, playing croquet in the yard, billiards in the basement, and sitting down to meals for eight. Her dad was quite the games-man; good at just about any sport, including semi-pro shuffleboard in retirement. He built a nine-sided cabin next door to their home that eventually served as their residence and loved to hunt.
If he had married my birth mother instead of his wife of 60-years, this half-sister would not exist, and I would have lived a rural life of sports, hunting, and manly trades, instead of my country club upbringing. My father didn’t own any tools, couldn’t teach me sports because he was left-handed, and despised the outdoors, especially after living in a tent during the war. He did encourage me to enjoy sports, get an education, and work with my mind, not my hands. If circumstances had been different, I would be a completely different person.
I’m appreciative of the life I do live, especially now that I’m comfortably retired. I owe it all to my adopted parents, who raised me as their own and provided the resources for success. I’m also grateful for this man I never met who gave me life and for his family that is beginning to accept me as their brother. My half-sisters lost their only brother at an early age in a motorcycle accident. Although, I will never come close to replacing him, I was struck by a comment a friend made as we were eating our Lambert’s lunch yesterday: “I wish I could find a brother that I never knew I had.”
We’re having lunch today at popular Lambert’s Cafe in Foley, Alabama – “home of the throwed rolls.” It was a favorite for both my wife’s and my parents when they wintered at Orange Beach. As it turns out, it was also a special place for my birth father. It seemed only appropriate that me meet with one of his daughters for lunch there, although we’re not sure in these chaotic times if they can throw anything or serve family style as is the custom. It doesn’t matter, I’m looking forward to simply talking face-to-face with my half-sibling for only the second time.
She works for the University of Alabama and of course a huge football fan. I’m grateful she was willing to make the drive down from Tuscaloosa to join us. The first and last time we met was almost two years ago when we were both back in Indiana. I met her mother and four of the five daughters. They lost a son many years ago. I, of course, was an unknown to all of them until an Ancestry.com DNA test proved us to be closely related. My birth mother was apparently a small high school acquaintance, while her husband probably never knew that I existed. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt, although this too doesn’t matter. The fact is that he gave me life 70-years ago.
He died nine years ago, while the birth mother is now 86. Her side of the family, including a son and daughter, will not acknowledge my existence, so I’m also exceptionally grateful that his daughters have accepted my outreach. I will learn more today as we talk over throwed rolls. With the passing of my adopted mother and the unwelcoming nature of my bio-mom, I guess that Mother Marriott is all I have left. She took care of us last night at the Towneplace Suites, with less glamorous Fairfield Inns for the rest of the trip. It’s sure to be eventful on Day 12 of our Coast-to-Coast adventure from Oregon to Florida. Roll On!
As we leave Austin, Texas this morning, I’m reminded that my running streak started here on December 29, 2008. I don’t remember the first day because I really planned on starting New Year’s Day. That early decision to begin has kept me ahead of 6 other runners currently on the USRSA Active List. We had to fly back from Indianapolis holiday festivities that particular morning because I had to get back to work at the clothing store – the only job of my life where I was forced to punch the clock, even on New Year’s Day.
Eleven-and-a-half-years later, 4,265 days ago, I ran on the very same street, Congress Avenue, just across the bridge from where we stayed last night. A daily habit of getting out of bed and lacing up the track shoes was born and continued this morning on the hot, sweaty Texas streets. I was probably running two miles a day back then at a much faster pace just to be sure that I got-in the minimum mile required to maintain “The Streak.” This morning it was 3.1 much slower miles, the current standard, that included the paths they built along Lady Bird Lake – non-existent when we lived here.
The idea of running every day was presented to me at a dinner my wife arranged with a woman she wanted to hire. We met at Fast Eddy’s and while the women talked business, her husband and I discussed running. It was the first time I was aware of the organization that celebrated continuous running streaks. At the time, they were sometimes over 40-years long – now 50-plus!. He explained that members had to complete a full-year, 365 days, to qualify. His personal streak ended at about 565 days after he fell asleep and failed to get-in his late night habit. I decided that I could do a full year but planned to run first thing every morning to avoid excuses not to complete the daily challenge. We got together for drinks with this couple again last night. I once again told him that his suggestion all those years ago changed my life, but I curse him every morning as I prepare to pound the pavement.
Today we’re headed to Foley, Alabama, about 10- hours of driving away. It’s Day 11 of our Coast-to-Coast adventure that will ultimately lead us to Florida in a few days. Tomorrow I will summarize my lunch with a half-sister that was discovered through Ancestry.com DNA testing. This will be our second get-together, another chance discovery that changed my life. To be continued…..
We made the long drive from Marfa to Austin on mostly off-Interstate roads with little signs of civilization. Texas is one giant ranch stretching endlessly to the horizon. The only living things to cross our path were a couple of roadrunners in the 100-degree temperatures. You could see the words in their eyes, “What in hell’s name are y’all doing out here?” We apparently somehow missed the turn to Interstate 10 and ended up on a rough roller-coaster of a road through the Texas hills. It cost us about a half-hour but ended up saving some money. By the time we got to Fredericksburg and a linen store my wife was primed to visit, it had just closed for the day.
My disappointed wife and I arrived at our Dripping Springs dinner a little early, having planned on spending an hour shopping. It was great to get-together with two “old” Austin friends and their wives, even though I’m really the oldest. I was serenaded with a belated Happy Birthday song over cheesecake. Our friends were also serving as foster parents for some of our left-behind lawn ornaments from years ago. We repossessed a couple of these items, including a weather vane that had been in my wife’s family for many years and plant pole to use at our new Florida home. We have a similar arrangement with friends in Portland, since we’ve lived in nothing but apartments and condos the past 15 years.
We have a series of meet-ups today with my wife’s former co-workers, and time in-between for a visit to the rooftop pool. After all, it’s 97 degrees! We also plan to give our hard-working Lexus sports car a wash and wax detail. It’s faithfully carried us on its back for over 2,500 miles so far, with about 1200 miles and 15 more state licence plates to go. We’re two-thirds of the way on Day 10 or our Coast-to-Coast adventure. Next stop Foley, Alabama for lunch (and throwed rolls) with my half-sister and a friend at Lambert’s Cafe. Roll On!
Six hours on the road today and we’ll be back in Austin, Texas, home for about 7-years of our media lives. We’ll spend the first evening at the home of a friend who worked with me at Joseph A. Banks, a low point in my career. The TV station that employed both my wife and I was sold and new owners initiated a management change. My wife took a promotion with the former company and moved us to Austin. It was time for her career to take the family spotlight. At first, I enjoyed my time by the pool every day, taking advantage of an employment contract buy-out, but soon it was time to find a job – any job. A non-compete forced me to seek something other than media, so I took a sales opening at the clothing store just down the street from where we lived. The good news is that I met two great friends, but the work was unfulfilling and at times even demeaning. Eventually, I took a more suitable position with the Austin Business Journal.
I look forward to dinner tonight with these two friends, although the drive will be long, hot, and boring. Yesterday, my wife did some shopping in some of the few surviving retail stores here in Marfa. It’s a shell of the thriving art community that we always heard so much about. I blame it on an ABJ co-worker who planned to be married here. We had secured a room at Hotel Paisano, where the Giant film stars once stayed, but the ceremony was cancelled. Ever since, we’ve wanted to visit what was described by many as a “must-see Texas gem.” Last night we had dinner at Jett’s Grill in the hotel, one of the few remaining dinner spots in the crumbling city, named after the James Dean character, Jett Rink. A place for lunch was also hard to find, settling on a tasty Tex-Mex joint called Al Campo. After a little wine in 100-degree temperatures, there was little to do but nap.
I thought that even the ghosts had abandoned Marfa, but I began to rethink that when the original version of this post suddenly disappeared yesterday evening. I’m trying to remember what I wrote, but it must have been spiritually offensive. Further evidence of the unknown came during last night’s visit to the “Marfa Lights” visitor center. I was skeptical of the ghost-like orbs that are reported to appear in the skies every night. I’m now a believer, having watched them dance in the darkness. They look like headlights, but do not move like a car, visible far above the distant highways. It was the saving grace for our trip through here that was once a place where the rich and creative came to play.
The Lincoln where we stayed was a bit misrepresented on the website. It was indeed a spacious apartment-like suite, but badly in need of repair. The good old days of Marfa were reflected in the antique decor that would have made Mother Marriott frown. We’ll be back in her welcoming arms later tonight at the Austin J.W. Marriott, a luxury hotel that was built in the space next to my downtown office, as we were abandoning town for Portland. We’ll spend the next few nights there, catching up with some of my wife’s former co-workers as well, as part of our Coast-to-Coast adventure to Florida.
I had an eerie feeling driving into Marfa, Texas last night. It’s truly in the middle of nowhere on the straightest, flattest road I’ve ever driven with only a single car passing by about every 10 miles. The iconic Prada Store is outside of town about 20 miles near Valentine and “Giant” cut-outs of James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor line Highway 90 into town. We spotted a UFO in the sky that turned out to be the border patrol blimp, and stopped to watch the magnificent sunset from a roadside picnic area.
The town has seen better days, once hosting movies like There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, Fandango, Grand Champion, Sylvester, and Results, not to mention the James Dean classic Giant. The nearby Hotel Paisano housed the stars during production. It was one of the few places open for a cocktail last night, and good to get my martini in a real glass, as opposed to a plastic cup the night before in Tucson. We have dinner reservations there tonight, after what is certain to be a long, quiet afternoon with little to do or see.
We are staying at The Lincoln, a unique collection of small eclectic apartment-like suites decorated antique-style. There was oddly no check-in, while the door to our rooms was left unlocked with the keys inside. With the loft, it could easily sleep six, as is probably the case when art festivals fill the town with tourists. COVID has definitely taken its toll on tiny Marfa with lots of boarded-up shops and very few visitors. It’s a quiet little ghost town, but as was the case with most Texas towns last night, high school football premiered. A small crowd gathered to watch the Marfa Shorthorns sadly lose their opener to Sierra Blanca 20-12. At least, it was a big improvement over last year’s 58-7 thumping.
Tonight, on Day 8 of our Coast-to-Coast adventure, we hope to witness the mysterious “Ghost Lights” of Marfa, after we make our way through the few remaining art galleries. Perhaps, two nights here is a stretch, but at 5,000 feet of elevation it is relatively cool considering the past few days of temperatures exceeding 115 degrees. Tomorrow we make the 6-hour drive into Austin to see some of the friends we made from our 5-years of being Texans before our move to Portland. I slept well last night in this sleepy little Texas town, with no disturbing traffic sounds or news helicopters covering the downtown riots, as was the case back home.
It took a full week but we’re finally out of California and into Arizona. This afternoon we’ll be in Texas. This morning’s run was not only hot but also quite hilly where we’re staying. The Tucson J.W. Marriott Resort at Starr Pass would make any mother proud. We are in a luxurious suite overlooking the mountains, but had limited options to celebrate my birthday. A martini in a plastic cup was not exactly what I anticipated, while a rainstorm delayed our visit to the pool. The finer restaurants were shut down, but we did enjoy a slice of cheesecake with a single candle on top. There were no fire marshals standing by to allow the full 69 candle treatment.
Today we make a 7-hour drive to Marfa, Texas where James Dean filmed Giant – released after death, adding to his mystique. Friends of ours were going to get married there years ago, but the wedding was cancelled. I wrote a poem for them, hoping to finally experience the city where they met. Today I will get to Marfa and maybe even see the legendary “Marfa Ghost Lights,” the Prada store in the middle of nowhere, and the many art galleries – if they aren’t closed. We’re staying at the Lincoln Hotel for two nights, straying from the preferred comforts of Mother Marriott. Day 7 and 8 of our Coast-to-Coast adventure to Florida will undoubtedly be filled with unique small-town sights.
It’s my 69th birthday and a six-hour drive to Tucson from Desert Springs. I can’t ever remember spending an afternoon in 115-degree temperatures. At least the “heated” pool was open but the ice machine was out of order. We ran into lots of Marriott Vacation Club members – one guy appropriately referred to it as “Mother Marriott,” a place he could always call home. It’s definitely our home-away-from-home on this trip with Marriott stays in San Francisco, Palm Desert, Tucson, Austin, Mobile, Lake City, and Venice. Only in Cambria and Marfa will we have have stayed outside the family.
This is a regular hotel suite, unlike the special, spacious accommodations we enjoyed in San Francisco at the Marriott-owned Ritz Carlton Club. There isn’t even a patio, as if anyone would like to step outside in this heat. It will, however, cool off in a few months. It’s too bad that Mayor Sonny Bono was no longer around to welcome us to the city. There are plenty of streets named after stars, but we’re afraid our tires might melt trying to explore. Instead, the air conditioning is cranked-up and we’ll open a cold bottle of wine for the evening.
Day 5 was the first travel day in memory when we didn’t spend a cent. Normally, it’s $1000 a day, but we brought wine, went shopping for food when we arrived, and stayed by the pool where most of the bar and snack services were COVID-shuttered. No pricey meals, souvenir shopping, gas, or lodging expenses thanks to Mother Marriott. This has to be a record day! I’m sure we’ll find a way to make up for it. We’ve already saved so much on travel this year after refunds on cancelled MVC excursions to Bali and Egypt.
Day 6 starts with a sweaty 95-degree run on #4,260 of The Streak. We’ll get to Tucson in time for a birthday dinner after circumventing the Joshua Tree National Park, passing into Arizona, crossing the Colorado River, and navigating through Phoenix on I-10. We’ll stay just outside the Saguaro National Park at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort and Spa. Thanks, Mother Marriott for a good start to my 70th year!
When I walked out the door at 7:45 this morning here in Palm Desert it was already 91 degrees. As I got back after a 45 run it was 95. I tried my best to stay in the shady areas of the asphalt, but they were often hard to find. I picked up a local radio station that was LGBTQ, an indication of the diversity of the area. It was uniquely branded “Channel Q” to distinguish it from traditional radio stations. I immediately thought of the Avenue Q musical, filled with a “bright mixture of quirky and queer characters.” The music was very upbeat and the personalities very proud of their sexuality. It was my introduction to life here in the desert.
The first thing that caught my eye as we drove into the city was the largest wind farm I’ve ever seen. It was magical watching thousands of giant, white pinwheels spin in the breeze, a sharp contrast to the stark, brown hills in the background. We came in from our last stop in Cambria, California, rudely greeted with 106 degree temperatures. There will be little to do here but sit in the pool. We’re at least surrounded by a plush, green golf course. I got in trouble for veering off on one of the cart paths even though it’s too hot for anyone to be out playing. The restaurants on the premises are closed due to the pandemic, so my wife ran to the grocery store last evening, while I watched White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito complete his no-hitter in the air conditioned comfort of our room. This morning was my first exposure to the grueling heat. It’s no wonder the population swells here when the temperatures are bearable from October through March.
One of the unusual sights along the drive yesterday were these huge cut-outs of actor James Dean along Highway 46. His last stop in life was apparently at Blackwell’s Corner in Lost Hills where he topped off the gas tank of his Spider. He had already gotten a speeding ticket (his last autograph) and was soon to die in a head-on crash. There’s a memorial near the spot of the collision, where tributes to his popularity are left by tourists. It was about the only memorable discovery we made in our five-hour drive, with the possible exception of driving on a brief stretch of Route 66. Today is a full day of rest for us and the car in the sizzling sun as we continue on our Coast-to-Coast adventure to Florida.