Road Trip 2017 Continues. Atlanta.

I am so behind with our travelogue. This blog has become my journal, replacing the Moleskines I’ve used for years. If I don’t write about the experiences here I’ll lose them forever.  My gray matter is sadly shrinking.  Having photos jogs my memory way more than the scribbled doodles I used to draw.

We stopped in both Nashville and Atlanta on the way home. And we had other blogworthy adventures while in Chicago. Bit by bit, out of any chronological order, I’ll capture them here.

Atlanta. My trip advisor research suggested we tour The Swan House and Margaret Mitchell’s home. I added Oakland Cemetery to the “must see” list. Jim indulges my fascination with cemeteries.

Swan House: Built in 1928 for Edward and Emily Inman and intended to be their empty nest home. But Edward died in 1931. Emily then invited her children and grandchildren to come live with her. The kids weren’t allowed to use the grand staircase. They ascended and descended via the back stairs. Bronson felt smug as he walked up that elegant winding set of stairs.  Sadly I failed to take a photo of the stairway.



This sign describes the car in the next photo. 



The name of the house references the many swans collected and depicted throughout.




Look at all those fancy appliances!



When the Hunger Game franchise was looking for locations to film Hunger Games: Catching Fire they chose the Swan House to be villain President Snow’s home.




If you look close you can see the names of the cast on the pages next to the script.


We had lunch at Mary Mac’s Tea Room. Mary Mac’s Tea Room doors opened in 1945 when Mary McKenzie decided to use her good Southern cooking to make money in the difficult post-World War II days. In those times, a woman couldn’t just open up a restaurant, so many female proprietors used the more genteel Southern name of “Tea Room.”  There were at least sixteen other Tea Rooms around Atlanta. Mary Mac’s is now the only one left.


The sweet potato souffle was delicious.   Jim regretted not getting fried chicken.


The walls of Mary Mac’s are covered with framed photos of famous people who have dined there, up to and including these guys.



We also visited the apartment where Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind. Mitchell had been a journalist, writing the Atlanta society news. When she broke her ankle, in 1926 she was immobilized and housebound. Her husband brought her library books regularly. Eventually, he said, “Margaret, you’ve read every book in the library. Why not just write your own?”  She did, and the rest is history.

Margaret lived in the little apartment on the lower left.


Margaret kept a towel near the typewriter.  When people came to call she covered the pages so they wouldn’t see what she was working on.  After each chapter was finished she would put the pages in a brown envelope and hide them.  The completed book is sixty-three chapters.  That’s a lot of hidden envelopes.


Jim bought the book, I added to my dish towel collection.  I just read that page in the book.  It seems Rhett never used the word “Frankly.” Maybe that was added in the movie.


Lastly, we went to Oakland Cemetery where I was determined to find Margaret’s headstone.  I followed signs and everything but never found her.  She died at age forty-eight after being hit by a streetcar while crossing Peachtree Street.  The heirs to the estate continue to collect royalties to this day.

While I was unable to locate Margaret, I did find these sad reminders of the Civil War.


 Here is why cemeteries move me. I wonder about the people buried there., their dreams, families, worries.  J. Higgens.  How old was he when he passed?  Who did he leave behind?  Probably he was not more than a boy.  People wander around the cemetery looking for the resting places of the famous.  I’m intrigued by the anonymous too.




So that’s it for today.  Finally, time to shower, put on my war-paint and get ready to go to watch the Cubs at Tropicana Field.  Go Cubbies Go!


We Survived Irma!

All of Florida was in a panic a week ago. The television stayed on hurricane watch. At first, it appeared the East Coast would take the hit. Then things shifted. But when a three-hundred-fifty-mile wide storm hits a one-hundred-mile-wide state, things get ugly East, West, and center.

Our friends, Steve and Diane, live in a mandatory evacuation zone. We don’t. They came here to hunker down. As the storm approached, we grabbed umbrellas and walked to Rusty and Lynda’s.
They were more prepared than we by a long shot. ‘

Generator? Check.
Storm shutters? Check.
Fan blades removed? Check.



Their house was a dark as a tomb. I think Steve and Diane worried they had sought safety at the wrong house. No matter, they had no room at their inn. Lynda’s cute German mother, Erika, was ensconced in the guest room. Their friend John slept on his air mattress on the family room floor.


Meanwhile, here at our house, we dragged in anything that could become a missile. We submerged our heavy metal tables in the pool.



While we still had electricity I cooked Ina Garten’s recipe for pork tenderloins. Pulled it out of the oven, bundled it in towels and it was still hot hours later.

We spent the evening playing games. Sequence and Mexican Train was fun. I won Mexican Train.  Diane later learned we had been playing it wrong.



We placed bets about what time the electricity would fink out. I picked the nine o’clock hour. We all tossed in $5. Winner? Me again! Electricity was out by 8:30.

I took my winnings and bought scratch-off off lottery tickets. Tuesday night we’re going to dinner and the Cubs game with Steve and Diane. We’ll scratch them off while at the restaurant. Whatever we win we’ll split by four.

Jim and I watch HGTV David Bromstad’s Lottery Dream House. David helps lottery winners choose homes they pay for with their winnings. Some of these people have scored huge money on a little scratch off card. One guy won seven million on a card he found on the ground. So sad for the person who dropped it. After the government takes their portion he’d have what? Three and a half million? He set his “Dream House” budget at only about $350,000.

With my big winnings, I plan to buy a condo in Chicago.  That will be considerably more than $350,000.  I’ve been manifesting the win and condo in my mind since we purchased the tickets.  I plan to invite my son-in-law’s parents to use our place when they visit the kids.

As for damage here, there was very little. Some roof tiles broke and a couple of trees are listing to the left. The electricity was only off for a short while. Our evacuees didn’t lose power or take water at all.

The apres-storm view from Rusty and Lynda’s home to ours.  


Rusty and Lynda’s backyard following the storm.


Many nearby continue to be without electricity. It’s terribly hot and humid. Hopefully Duke Energy will resolve things soon.

All-in-all it was very exciting. And we got VERY lucky.



More Road Trip Adventures

As you know, we are back from Chicago and awaiting Hurricane Irma.  But I never recounted the rest of our travels. Please come along and back-track with me.

From Dallas, we drove to Liberty Missouri to visit friend JR and his crackerjack hilarious little Aunt Nancy.  JR does not like dogs. Bronson is the only dog ever allowed in his home. We intended to take our car on a planned field trip thinking JR wouldn’t want a canine passenger. Much to our delight, Bronson was welcome into JR’s automobile.

Here’s the “service” dog with his head on my knee.


We drove to the neighboring town of Kearney and toured the birthplace of the notorious Jesse James.  Jesse James wasn’t your typical western bank robber.
Jesse James’ legacy included being considered an outlaw hero, beloved by the public. Stories about him seemed to make him out as a hero, rather than a criminal (which he was).

Carl Sandberg, the noted author of several biographies including President Abraham Lincoln, referred to James as the “American Robin Hood,” stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
James was born and raised primarily in Missouri, a few miles from Kansas City.  James was born on the Kearney farm and originally buried there. He was killed by Robert Ford at his home in St. Joseph, about 30 miles north of Kansas City.



Jesse’s saddle.



Following Jesse’s murder, his mother, Zerelda, buried her son on their land. For the rest of her life, she slept facing the window so she could keep an eye on his gravesite. Afraid someone would dig him up kept a loaded shotgun next to her bed intending to shoot anyone who came near the grave.


Zerelda opened the home to tourists, selling them small rocks off the gravesite for twenty-five cents each. Our guide told us we were welcome to take a couple. Mine now live on the family room shelf.


JR and Aunt Nancy



Jesse was later moved to a local cemetery to keep him safe.

Back at JR’s, he drove me into his pasture to feed his cows. It’s a funny slimy experience.



The herd, led by Panda, chased us out of the pasture hoping for more pellets.


JR made us a home-cooked beef stew meal. (Store bought meat, not one of his pet cows.) We sat at the kitchen table overlooking the cow pasture and pond. Nancy kept us laughing with her description of the eighty-two-year-old gentleman who is pursuing her. She’s convinced he’s only after one thing.




Yesterday our held mail was delivered. Three-quarters of it we dumped directly into the recycle bin. The rest, bills/bank statements/magazines were piled onto the kitchen island.



My work for today is to plod through all the People magazines. It won’t take long. I only read the parts about people I’ve heard of. (yes, I know I ended that sentence with a preposition.) I won’t subscribe to People again. Having it delivered to the house has ruined standing in grocery store lines or waiting in doctor’s offices.


Next, I’ll make a big pot of white chicken chili.
We can eat it during the hurricane.

Following the chili making, I’ll roll dice for a while. Tonight is Bunco. I need to practice.  There is a possibility of winning $50!  Whoo Hooo!

Knit Wit

We’re home! Our long car trip from Palm Harbor to Waco, Dallas, Liberty Missouri, Chicago, Nashville, and Atlanta resulted in lots of listening to books on discs and tons of knitting!

I found three new victims to foist my scarves upon. It’s getting harder. All my new friends live in Florida. They don’t need warm scarves.

The first I completed was one I’d started on our last road trip. I only knit on the road, so it’s been living in my big yellow Banana Republic knitting bag for months. I gave Jim’s sister Eileen the completed funky patch and button-laden item. She lives in Chicagoland so her neck will need warming in a couple of months.

My original plan was to give it to Lynn.  But she will get the next one I finish.



The second piece is for our friend JR’s Aunt Nancy. I was working on it when we visited them in Liberty, Missouri. She liked the colors and made the mistake of telling me. I just packed it up. It goes into the mail tomorrow.  Surprise, Nancy!  A weird scarf on the way.


This photo is too blurry, but I’m not ripping open the package to take another picture.  You get the idea.  All my pieces come with a bumblebee attached.


The third scarf is for JR’s girlfriend, Melinda. She lives in Boston. It gets cold there too.


Melinda specified the colors she would like.  


While in Chicago I spent two hours digging through buttons at an Andersonville resale shop. I discovered the place last summer and made a beeline there as soon as we got settled in our rental. Jim and Bronson waited for me patiently at Starbucks while I was in my happy place. I’ll go again next summer too. Not that I need more buttons, but it’s delightful to find unique ones.

The view from my perch as I dug through buttons.


I’ve already used the bright blue diamond studded button.  It found a home on Melinda’s scarf. 


These two containers are the tip of the iceberg.  I looked at every single button in this bucket as well as five ancient cookie cans.  Yes, I am obsessive/compulsive.


The forty-eight dollar’s worth of buttons I just couldn’t live without.  They really needed a bath.  


I’ve begun another scarf, but packed it away until our next big car trip.  My poor arthritic hands are happy for the break.

Now we are home again.  The locals are stocking up on water in case Irma hits us hard.  We bought two cases.  When those are gone I guess we’ll be reduced to swilling wine.

Hopefully, we’ll only have another month of hot and humid.  It’s truly oppressive here in the summer.  It rained so much our neighbors very kindly crossed the street and drained water out of our pool.  I’m happy they still like us in spite of my many post-cards bragging about the awesome Chicago weather we enjoyed.

Related Posts:

Counting Down the Days

How knitting saved my marriage

On the Road with Team Shepard

Road Trip!

Toddler Proofing

Jim and I are being trusted with Tate for an overnight here at our home-away-from-home.  A home that is pretty much not at all toddler proof.  I figure between Jim, Bronson-the-service-dog, and I we can keep the kid safe.

Mo says Tate’s favorite place to explore is under the kitchen sink.  He knows all the off limits, dangerous stuff lurks behind those doors.  For toddler boys, the lure of “off limits” is hard to resist.

Options for cabinet locks are zillions.  Check out these three.  The third is patent pending.




I came up with my own patent-worthy design.  Maybe I’ll give up my new career as blogger-extraordinaire and go back to product design.


Hanging with the Kids

Yesterday I got to spend the day with my darling daughter, Mo, and her sweet son, Tate. He is an adorable twenty months old. We met at a local park. Tate was in the gym, insisting on kicking balls.


He had his first soccer lesson in the morning. Mo said he wasn’t interested in following the lesson “rules,” he just wanted to kick, kick, kick.

He will have 12 more classes.  He got a cute little blue soccer uniform.  Even if he never learns anything he’ll look very soccer-ish while at class.  Personally, I think trying to corral six 18 to 24-month-old toddlers would be a bit like trying to herd cats.

Eventually, Mo scooped him up; we strolled to their third-floor walk-up. Nana was about to expire after the second flight of stairs. And I wasn’t lugging a twenty-seven-pound toddler.

Mo fixed Tate a peanut butter and banana sandwich, along with a small pile of blackberries and raspberries, served on a clean pink frisbee. I was transfixed watching that dumpling gobble his food.

Then we went to his room where Mo put him in a sleep sack, read him a couple of books, sang “Twinkle Twinkle” and tucked him in for a three-hour nap.

While the kid slept Mo baked gluten free chocolate banana bread. Sinfully yummy.

We sat on the sofa and gabbed. It’s so good to spend time with my daughter. I’m interested in the way she thinks, the job she does, her political viewpoint.  She maintains now that she has a baby the grandchild will eclipse her.  She entertains me loads.  She’s funny and smart.  So is her husband.  Tate will be all that times two!  Possibly he will eclipse her.  🙂

Tate woke up refreshed and giggling. He listened to the Little Blue Truck book again, identifying all animals and making cow and horse sounds.


Then he tucked into his after nap snack of warm chocolate banana bread and blueberries.

When asked if he wants something he does not desire Tate responds, “no no.”  If he does want it, he says, “yeah.”

“Do you want more berries?”
“no no.”
“Do you want more banana?”



Do you want to watch Soccer Rocker?  “Yeah.”


This is a screen shot of Tate’s favorite TV video.  These strange costumed children sing and dance to a song called “Soccer Rocker.”  I’ve had the damn tune stuck in my head since yesterday afternoon.  Tate loves it.


Here he is entranced by the silly song.  Mo and I pranced around trying to get him to dance, but he was absorbed.  I wonder, why is that belly darling at twenty months, but horrifyingly unattractive by sixty-five?  Not fair.


Watching soccer rocker with his canine brother, Calvin.

After the snack and “Soccer Rocker“, Mo dressed him, and we were off to meet a friend for a playdate at the park we’d been to earlier. Tate wanted nothing to do with the other kid. He wanted nothing to do with the park.  His goal was to escape the outdoor fenced area and find his way into the gym.

He turned wonderfully, rebelliously twenty months old and let us know in no uncertain terms he was NOT happy hanging around outside.

His “no no’s” got progressively louder and more definite. Accompanied by tears.

“Do you want to swing?”
no no.
“Do you want to slide?”
“NO NO!”

Jim was coming to pick me up. I asked, “Do you want to see Jim?”
Tate replied, “yeah” and headed to the gate next to the gym.  Oops.

Tonight we get to babysit while Mo and Stephen go on a date.  Yippee!

Chicago. An Interesting Adventure.

Friday friends Brookie and Earl hiked into the city and joined us for a field trip to the Chicago History Museum. It’s a short walk through Old Town to get there. The exhibit I found most interesting was couture clothing designed by Mainbocher.

Chicago-born Mainbocher (1890–1976) established a fashion empire serving royalty, Broadway icons, and the social elite. Raised in a modest home on the city’s West Side, he leveraged his passion for the arts to become a tastemaker of twentieth-century style. His acclaimed designs include the wedding dress for the Duchess of Windsor in 1937 and a corseted style that anticipated Christian Dior’s New Look.

He was known for adding jewels and embellishments so his clients wouldn’t mess up the looks with their own jewelry.

Notice the little cream dress with the “apron.”  Mainbocher designed aprons to add to gowns to change up their looks.  Clever.  These dresses are timeless.  Love the ruffles down the back of the orange gown.




Highly regarded for his impeccable construction and understated elegance, Mainbocher balanced his elite brand by designing uniforms for the United States Navy, the Girl Scouts of America, and Chicago’s Passavant Hospital.


I picked up a $5 pack of postcards featuring fancy couture clothing. At the checkout, I learned, I could get the cards for free if I bought a coffee table couture clothing book. The book is usually $30, but for the run of the couture clothing show, it was $15. So I yanked out my “What’s In Your Wallet?” card and ponied up the $15 big ones. I’ve been writing postcards like mad.  And the book is fascinating.

Not all of these are Mainbocher designs.  I particularly love the one on the right, center.  It’s a 1938 Adrian evening gown.  Gilbert Adrian was best known for Hollywood film costumes.  This dress, constructed from many different pieces of silk crepe, demonstrates the influence of Cubism.



9:30 a.m. My sleepy-head boys (Bronson and Jim) just crawled out of the feathers. I walked Bdog at eight, but he always has to climb back onto his bed until Dad get’s up. Some days I don’t see those two until nearly 11 a.m. Gifted sleepers, both.



We arrived Wednesday. Lugged all our stuff up to our sixth-floor condo. This is our first condominium experience. It’s also our first Airbnb experience where the homeowner lives here full-time. She packed her bags and moved out for our two-week visit.  Her clothes are in the closets, food in the frig, toiletries in the bathroom. But the place is clean, and the location is excellent.

The view from our balcony.


Wednesday we had dinner with Mo (my daughter), her husband Stephen, and Tate the Great! Baby Tate has grown up so much. He is a cutie patootie.



Stephen grilled marinated skirt steak. It was delicious.  I’ll add it to our menu rotation when we get home. I should have photographed the food. But I was too busy snapping shots of my darling little grandson.

Mo and Stephen “sleep trained” Tate beautifully.  His pre-crib ritual consists of reading two books followed by Mom and Dad singing “twinkle twinkle little star.”  The child goes right to sleep without making a peep.



Today we meet friends Brookie and Earl for a tour of the Chicago History Museum. I’m sure on our walk there we’ll see jets. The Air and Water Show is this weekend.  Practicing planes have been zooming loudly overhead since we arrived.

Plans for tomorrow include Andersonville neighborhood and shopping for vintage buttons. That was to happen yesterday, but grocery shopping took precedence. Food trumped buttons? Go figure.

Other road trip experiences are as follows.  I still need to write about our cool visit to Liberty, Missouri.

JFK Assassination Tour


Waco. The Silos!

Waco. Day One.

Conroe, Texas. The adventure continues.

On the Road with Team Shepard


JFK Assassination Tour

A private JFK assassination tour was something I dug up on the internet. Our guide, Robin Brown, met us at 10 a.m. in Dealey Plaza next to the Book Depository.

We had two choices of transportation, either Robin’s large air-conditioned SUV or a 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible replica of the car JFK and Jackie had been in on that fateful day.

Dallas in August? It didn’t take long to decide against the convertible. I’m sun adverse.  I even purchased a white umbrella to shade me in both Waco and Dallas.

We dropped Bronson off at The Happy Hound, then grabbed a quick breakfast near Dealey Plaza.

The Happy Hound build out was pretty jazzy.  Note the dog bone ceiling and hand painted view of the sea.

Robin was waiting when we arrived a couple of minutes after ten. He ushered us to two shaded park benches and asked us what our interest in the assassination was. Neither of us is intensely fascinated, but like all Americans alive in 1963 we remember it vividly.

Robin then told us a bit about himself. He was nine when Kennedy died. At nineteen he saw the Burt Lancaster movie Executive Action, and his interest in conspiracy theories ignited.

Robin and I were seated side by side on one bench, Jim across from us on the other. Robin stated, “Lee Harvey Oswald did not kill Kennedy.” I glanced at Jim and saw an incredulous look cross his face. The same look he gave me when I hired a pet psychic and suggested a ghost tour.

I gulped, thinking, “It’s gonna’ be a long three hours.” I’d paid nearly 300 dollars for the excursion, and clearly, Jim wasn’t happy about the arrangement.

We sat on those benches for two hours while Robin explained the dynamics of the conspiracy. Jimmy’s ass isn’t as padded as mine. I could see him getting restless. Finally, Jim suggested we move.

Robin led us to his large van, turned on the A/C and continued the lecture. After another hour he suggested we walk to Dealey Plaza, while he pointed out certain places like the two X’s on the road where the first and second shots hit Kennedy. He had us study the sixth-floor window of the Book Depository from the vantage point of the first “X.”

Note the picket fence on the left of the diagram, as well as where Zapruder was standing on a plinth while filming the motorcade.

From that point, looking back, it seemed unlikely the shooter could have seen the motorcade through a large live oak tree growing between the Book Depository and the place JFK was shot. The Warren Commission stated that tree would have been bare in November. But in Texas, live oaks drop their leaves in early spring.  That sixth-floor window was behind Kennedy.


The Warren Commission stated Kennedy’s murder happened when he was shot in the back of the head. The Zapruder films show Kennedy reacting to the first shot by grabbing himself on the throat. The second shot blew out the back of his head, so must have hit him in the forehead. His skull and brains are what Jackie, in shock, climbed onto the rear of the limo to retrieve.

Later, a doctor who had worked on Kennedy stated in an early interview outside Parkland Hospital,  the neck wound was an entry wound.


Further, eyewitnesses put Oswald on the second floor of the book depository moments before the shooting. How could he have galloped upstairs, aimed, pulled off three shots in seconds?

Then there was the “magic bullet.” That is some convoluted tale about one bullet smashing through Kennedy, then hitting Connelly.

Two factors transform the single–bullet theory into the magic bullet theory:
The necessity for the slug to have changed direction twice: on entering President Kennedy’s back, to come out of his throat, and again on exiting his throat to hit Governor Connally close to his right armpit. The “magic bullet” theory asks us to believe the same unlikely trajectory.

Connally, for the rest of his life, questioned the single bullet theory. In 1966, he told the press, “I am convinced beyond any doubt that I was not struck by the first bullet,” and added, “but just because I disagree with the Warren Commission on this one finding does not mean I disagree with their overall findings.”

The ten-month investigation by the Warren Commission of 1963–64 concluded that President Kennedy’s murderer was 24-year-old ex-Marine Lee Harvey Oswald and that Oswald had acted entirely alone.

Many witnesses that day heard shots coming from behind the grassy knoll, which was bordered by a picket fence. Further many witnesses heard lots of shots, not just three.

Who might have profited from Kennedy’s death?  Several people.  J Edgar Hoover and Andrew Dulles loathed Kennedy. Hoover was due for mandatory retirement at age 70. He asked Kennedy to waive the ruling. Kennedy wouldn’t.  Meanwhile, Dulles, CIA head, had been fired by Kennedy. He too had an ax to grind.

Upon becoming President, Johnson waived Hoover’s retirement age.  Hoover was still in office upon his death in 1972.  Further, Johnson appointed Dulles as one of seven commissioners of the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of the U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

The appointment was criticized by some historians, who have noted that because Kennedy had fired him, and Dulles was, therefore, unlikely to be impartial in passing judgment. In the view of journalist and author Stephen Kinzer, Johnson appointed Dulles primarily so that Dulles could “coach” the Commission on how to interview CIA witnesses.

Also, Kennedy had signed executive order to begin pulling troops out of Viet Nam. Big money wanted the war to escalate. With Kennedy out-of-the-way and corrupt Johnson in office, escalation would be likely.

The most damning evidence of a cover-up to truth remains the Zapruder film. Buried until Robert Groden brought it to light.

Groden is the first independent individual to get his hands on a copy of the famous Zapruder film documenting the moment when a bullet entered the president’s head. Groden has spent almost a half century producing books, pamphlets, and videos arguing Kennedy was killed by more than one shooter.

He goes to Dealey Plaza every fair weather weekend and works from a table by a banner that says, “Grassy Knoll.” He and his assistant are always a hit, drawing big crowds from among the tourists who throng the plaza most weekends.  He happened to be there on the day of our tour.

Robert Groden

Some of his books have been bestsellers. He has consulted on movies and documentaries including Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie, JFK. In 1976 he was the chief photo-optics consultant to the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations, whose findings included the suggestion that more than one assassin probably was involved in the killing of Kennedy.

The tour that was to last three hours went on for six. There was no charge for the extra three hours, and Robin declined a tip. He truly is dedicated to bringing the truth to light.

At the end of our tour, we were both convinced Oswald, if involved, was not the only person in on the assassination.  And best of all, Jim had dropped the “Holy Smokes, my nutty wife has gotten us into yet another weird situation” attitude.  Yay, me!

The rooming house Oswald lived in at the time of JFK’s murder.



The theater where Oswald was arrested.



Another puzzling fact is that only Clint Hill, Jackie’s security detail, made a move.  Not one other secret service man lifted a finger. Odd.

If you want to do a bit of research check out The three hobos, and the two Oswalds.  

Fascinating stuff.