Random thoughts along life’s road


A few random thoughts as spring wanes and summer waxes (for some, perhaps bikini waxes):

As I drove past a billboard in Missouri a week or so ago, I was struck by the fact that at 75 mph on I-70, it would be easy to misread the advertisement. Every­one else in the van was asleep, so I was easily amused. The sign offered martial arts training.

I wondered how things would be different if the commercial was actually for marital arts training. What would constitute the “marital arts”? I wondered. Would they include cleaning up after yourself, balancing a checkbook, both spouses’ knowing how to do laundry and load the dishwasher? How about frantically stashing clutter when the in-laws ring the doorbell?

Then, with several more hours of driving to do, I began to think of other cases in which a slight misspelling could lead to a huge misunderstanding. Many people confuse the words “cavalry” and “Calvary.” The former is a group of horse-riding soldiers, while the latter is the hill where Jesus died.

Imagine if a Civil War general wanted and needed a group of fighting men to charge the enemy and instead ordered up a hill just outside the city of Jerusalem.

As regular readers of this column will recall, my yard was the focal point of a plague of starlings last summer. Thanks to a nifty gift of two hinged boards from HHS art instructor Dustin Dalke and the change of seasons, I was able to scare away the pests by early fall. Apparently, they cannot tolerate the sound of two pieces of wood slapping together.

Thanks to the free fertilizer the noisy black plague provided, my grass has been growing quite vigorously this spring. I thought that would be the only residual effect of the summer of the starlings. I was wrong.

It seems the little devils left behind another gift that has been plaguing me since what little winter we had turned to spring. I cannot do any work in my yard without being attacked by hordes of ticks. Since I have never had this issue before in my more than 20 years on the property, my theory is that these critters fell off their starling hosts last year and multiplied during our balmy winter.

I have already sprayed the yard once in attempt to knock the creepy crawlers back. It doesn’t seem to have helped much as I can find one of the pesky parasites virtually any time I venture into the shrubs in my yard.

Dustin, if you can come up with something that ticks off ticks, I would be eternally grateful. Maybe I can smash them between the same two boards I used last summer to chase away the starlings.

The voyage I mentioned earlier was part of an excursion to Harrisonburg, Va., for my daughter’s graduation from Eastern Mennonite University. I had a little help from wife Kathy on the trip out, but I was determined to drive the entire distance home. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s just a guy thing.

I had forgotten to set the trip odometer when we left Kansas, but I remembered to do it when we pointed the van back to the west. I have often told people Harrisonburg is 1,200 miles away, but I now know it is exactly 1,164 miles from the southern edge of my daughter’s adopted hometown to the town in which she grew up, Hillsboro.

On the way home, we kept our side trips to a bare minimum, so I can say this is a fairly accurate mileage tally.

I feel sorry for people who either don’t feel the need or don’t have the financial wherewithal to travel across this great land of ours. There is so much to see and do. Often, these types of trips are measured in time and distance between meals.

Since my parents were along for the ride, Kathy and I thought it might be a fun challenge to dine in as many places as we could that would be first-time experiences for Mom and Dad.

We managed for the most part, only eating at Cracker Barrel once and never at McDonald’s. We took sustenance from chains such as Jimmy John’s, Culver’s and Chick-fil-A. We dined at Mr. J’s Bagels in Harrisonburg and Lynn’s Paradise Cafe in Louisville, Ky., where fried green tomatoes and insane decor were the specialties.

We made waffles in motel breakfast nooks and celebrated the evening of daughter Anna’s graduation with ice cream from Kline’s with its two locations and two basic flavors of soft serve. We didn’t just satisfy our hunger, we made memories.

That’s what road trips are all about. My hope is that you get a chance for some quality family time on the highways and byways of America this summer.


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