Monthly Archives: April 2015

Day 483 of Life on the Road as a Family, OKC

IMG_7099This is the memorial site of the Oklahoma City bombing, 20 years ago tomorrow.  While driving yesterday, I looked up everything we wanted to do, and this was first on our list. Dan and I had been here in 1997 when it was a huge hole in the ground surrounded by a chain link fence that was filled with mementos.  We wanted to come back and pay our respects again and show the kids what volunteers had accomplished in rebuilding the area and memorial.  Needless to say, the mood was somber and respectful, even with the tv vans, cables and tv people  all over the grounds.  We could tell there were already many of the survivor’s relatives here.

The site itself is so well done. The chairs are to represent each person who died, with their names engraved on the bottom glass portion, and they light up at night.  The chairs are in rows representing what floor each person was on.  The reflecting pool has the huge black walls at either end, and my favorite is the one in this picture.  The one to my left says 9:01, the time the bomb went off.  The one pictured here says 9:03, the time their world was changed forever.  What came out of it, however, is so much more of a story than I could explain here.  They call it the Oklahoma City Standard now – the people who flooded the blood banks, the men who pulled up to the work site and took off their work boots, the volunteers who worked countless hours searching for survivors and then bodies for their loved ones.  They did it with hope and hard work and donations from all over the country.  The difference between here and New Orleans was stark.  Everything I read about here included God, as opposed to the aftermath of Katrina where the words “graft” and “corruption” and “the government’s fault” popped up continuously.

IMG_7126After we negotiated the police, Swat and Army vehicles that were all over the area, we drove to the state capitol and found this cool artwork on the grounds – it’s an Apache Man from the Warm Springs tribe.  We have the Warm Springs Reservation just outside our home in Bend, so it was nice to see.  And we saw a lot of the grounds because we couldn’t find the door to get in!  Of course, we went right instead of left and then almost missed it again because it’s underground.  It’s the only capitol we’ve seen with an oil well pumping station right on the grounds.

IMG_7140I’ve become a little obsessed with domes since the first one in Sacramento, and this one did not disappoint.  They just added it in 2012, after years of a flat top capitol and not enough money to finish the original plans. They had  art work all over inside, and the marble staircases were gorgeous.  And I finally learned what a Sooner was!  From the land rush/grab of 1889, if you got there “sooner” you got better property.  Oklahoma City grew by 10,000 people that day!

I’m not sure where the funding came from for the capitol, however,  because everything I’ve read about the schools here indicates they have no funding.  They spent over $1.2 billion on downtown, but the closest school had to close because they couldn’t get the air conditioning and heating fixed to be habitable for the kids.  Their scores are among the lowest in the nation and they are just starting the conversation about charter schools.  Maybe they can figure out how to bring the Oklahoma City Standard to their schools.

The rest of our week here has been as busy as the first day.  We bought a new printer at the Apple store, only to have Eliza’s computer crash that night, so we bought a new computer the next day.  We shopped for interview clothes for me, school clothes for Eliza, and then groceries from good ol’ Walmart because now we know our way around and its not as scary as some grocery stores we’ve been in lately.  We utilized two different libraries for school, with our favorite being a new one 23 minutes away that had 4 fake oil rigs coming out of the roof and dinosaurs all over outside for kids to climb upon.   Not our kids,I wish, but little kids!  Our RV park has all 150 sites full, and they are building 50 more, so the place is a zoo. We were so excited to get here because it had a pool – which has had a delayed opening due to the weather.  Yes, the weather.  Don’t get me started on the weather!  We haven’t had hail hit the rig, whew.

Day 481 of Life on the Road as a Family, Little Rock

IMG_7005The building in the middle is President Clinton’s library.  It juts out over a slough off the Arkansas river and is meant to portray his “bridge to the future” that was important during his campaign and presidency.  I’m taking the picture from an old railroad bridge that I walked at least twice a day with the dogs and biked over when the weather was good.  Our RV park is to my right a few hundred yards.  We visited the library last year, so didn’t go in again, but I still appreciate it’s beauty and the way it reflects light.

IMG_7013I took the afternoon off from studying to ride my bike to North Little Rock and get my hair cut.  Whitney was amazing, but even she couldn’t totally fix the horrendous (and that’s putting it mildly) cut I got in Destin.   The weather was so nice, I went for a two hour bike ride afterwards.  Over the railroad bridge, through downtown, and up and down the hills to the capitol.  I don’t have my speedometer anymore, so don’t know how fast I got going down one hill, but it was fast enough that a couple of the sidewalk were hooping and hollering as I whizzed by. So fun!  This picture is of the Little Rock 9, and in the background is Arkansas’ reproduction of the Liberty Bell.  Each state has one, and it’s fun to try to find them.  Now that I’ve seen Little Rock, I find it hard to believe that so much pain and suffering occurred here for so many years and people didn’t just stand up and say “enough”.

IMG_7025It was opening day for minor league baseball in North Little Rock, so we went to see the Thunder play.  The view from 3rd base was great, but we didn’t catch any fly balls, darn.  That’s Little Rock in the background – it got prettier as it got darker.  The RV park was only a mile away, so we walked over. The kids loved that part of it.  Unfortunately, the Thunder got beat by a Texas team that they’d previously beat 6 times.  Their new stadium was really nice, but the fans were grousing about the lines for beer and the bacon stall.  Yes, bacon on everything!  The line was too long for us and we probably couldn’t have afforded to feed Nate there anyway.

IMG_7047Almost back home, I took this picture of my crazy family and the light show that we have watched on the bridges.  It’s been really fun to see each night and exploring Little Rock has been interesting.   It will be sad to leave tomorrow.

Day 477 of Life on the Road as a Family, Little Rock

IMG_6953 Central High School – the historic steps where the Arkansas National Guard prevented the Little Rock Nine from entering to attend school on September 4, 1957.  Not that long ago.  The museum around the corner from the school chronicles the divisive history and the attempts at desegregation.  It was very hard for me to even read.  Students trying to get an education, mistreated because of their skin color.    A white mob that kept them away for two weeks, and then when they did attend school, their “classmates” mistreated them horribly.  Governor Faubus was such a nerd-bucket that he closed the 4 public high schools in the area for the 1958 school year rather than integrate them.  The Supreme Court ordered the integration in December of 1959, but it didn’t go smoothly either.  On and on it went, and I think we are still seeing the effects of it today.  How does hate grow?  It gets passed from generation to generation. Until EDUCATION occurs.

Would my children have been allowed to attend Central High School?  Probably not.  But today they stood on the steps and learned the history.

Day 476, Life on the Road as a Family, Little Rock bike ride

IMG_6847Saturday bike ride to the Big Dam Bridge!  Behind Dan to the left is the mountain we climbed last year when we were here.  I suggested riding out to it, but everyone pretended they didn’t hear me.  It was a perfect day for a ride, not too hot, and there were tons of other people out so I had fun saying hello to all of them as we whizzed past.  I’m using this picture because the young man I handed my phone to was very cool about it, all the while staring at Eliza.  I’m surprised the rest of us are even in the shot and I think it’s hilarious that the garbage can is, too.  And he took 12 pictures in a row!  No, she’s not dating until she’s 21, I understand now Tevye.

Day 472 of Life on the Road as a Family, Little Rock, AR

IMG_6771The dogs and I enjoyed the view on our morning walk.  Not as good as the Gulf sunrises, but still a positive way to start our day.  The river is the Arkansas.  To my left hidden behind a tree is a homeless man’s tent, behind me to my left is the RV park where we are staying, and to my right is Clinton’s presidential museum.  There is a huge homeless population here and it is very sad to see.  Not as bad as New Orleans, but still, very sad.  I looked online to see how many shelters they have, only found 2.  (Maybe they are called something else.)  I saw a blatant drug deal in the parking lot under the bridge and 4 people sleep in the shade shelters on a little nature trail 1/4 mile from the presidential museum.  For all the work they are doing to make the town livable and bring in new business, they are still missing this piece.  We saw on the morning news that Little Rock was named the murder capital for small cities and we weren’t surprised. The library where we study has security guards that roam around and you have to ask for a key for the bathroom.  It reminds me of one of those sci-fi movies set in the future when the world is falling apart.  We’ve met many nice people here, however, so I have hope for Little Rock.  I just wouldn’t want to live here without doing something to help.

Day 470, Life on the road as a Family, Little Rock, Arkansas

IMG_6711It was really hard to leave our beautiful spot on the Mississippi River, but we knew we’d have this view for the next 12 days, so that helped soften the blow.  That’s downtown Little Rock, across the Arkansas river from our campground.  It rained as we got here, but we still went out for a walk to explore the city. There are 6 bridges that cross the river and two of them are pedestrian access and it makes a nice loop. We visited Bill Clinton’s museum here last year, so we knew our way around.  It’s like a mini Portland with the bridges and the trails on both sides of the waterfront.

Nate stayed at the rig by himself – so he could get some time to himself.  Oh that we had done this trip when they were 10 and 12 like we’d planned, but the economy changed our plans and we ended up with this timing, which is just right we tell ourselves, and with teenagers who’d rather be with friends than their parents.  Now that we can see the end of the trip is near, everyone is getting excited to be home, see family and friends, and have our own rooms again.  I think it’s healthy for everyone to have their own space, but I also think this dream trip of a lifetime is the best thing we’ve ever done.  I don’t begrudge Nate his time to himself because I appreciate all the other times he is with us and enjoying the trip.  Our dream trip.  Only 3 1/2 months left.

Day 469 Life on the Road as a Family, Peabody Hotel and Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN

IMG_6608The ducks are out for the day at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis! If you’ve never seen this, it’s worth a side trip.  They come down every morning and climb the red carpet stairs and play in the fountain – and tons of nuts like us FILL the lobby and take pictures.  It’s been around for decades and they make a big production out of it.  I met a woman from Ontario who had driven down with friends on a lark. Took them 16 hours and they pulled up just in time to see the ducks. She was so happy.

IMG_6612With 2 ex-bankers in the family, we are always amused by banking stuff.  This is priceless.  Right off Beale Street and the music was blaring.

From there we went about 8 blocks south to the new National Civil Rights Museum. On the site of the old Lorraine Motel, it reopened last year right after we were here, so we missed it and had to come back.  We happened to be here on the anniversary of the day Martin Luther King was shot in 1968, so they had a tent set up outside and there was a choir and speakers and an electricity in the air that made me want to cry.

The museum itself is really well done. We could have spent all day, but there were letting in 120 people in a group each 20 minutes and it was hard to read all the exhibits.  They started with the slaves being kidnapped in Africa and brought over in ships.  Half of them died on the voyage. Then they depicted  slavery in all its horror and I did cry.  What makes anyone think they are better than anyone else?  By the color of their skin?  By the amount of money in their bank account? By the need for workers so your plantation could grow larger and you could line your pockets with the profits from their sweat and deaths?

The second part of the museum is across the street, and not as many people were there.  I’m not sure if they didn’t know it was there, or they didn’t want to see the view either.

IMG_66406′ to my left is the dilapidated bathroom where James Earl Ray stood when he shot Martin Luther King on the second story balcony of the Lorraine Motel.  Right where the wreath is hanging on the railing.  The museum had recently recreated it and the bedroom where Ray stayed.  The rest of this floor of the museum was dedicated to the evidence they would have used at the trial had it happened, the conspiracy theories, and a wall of, “where do we go now?” I went outside and thanked God for Martin Luther King and all those who stood up for what they knew was right and paid the ultimate price.

Day 465 Life on the Road as a Family, on the banks of the Mississippi

IMG_6518I spent the day studying at the picnic table, with this incredible view, while Dan and the kids went into Memphis to study at the library.  The kids are working so hard at it, and I really admire them for doing so much of their learning on their own.  Not that they would want a ton of our help, being the teenagers that they are!  Now that I’m studying online, too, I can really empathize with how hard it is.  All 3 of our programs would not fit into the “excellent” category.  We joke about taking quizzes where they teach you the material pages later, but when you do it day in and day out, it loses its humor.  There are so many errors in our programs, we wonder if anyone has edited them.

I also spent the day washing everything in the rig again, as the fleas are still with us. So gross, Eliza and I could just cry.  And the poor dogs.  Lady had licked off a patch of hair as big as a dinner plate one day when we were gone, so she has to wear her cone of shame almost full time.  You can tell she doesn’t like it.  We looked up online how to solve the flea problem, and we are trying everything possible.  I had a nice conversation with another traveller and listened to his story about the vet giving him flea medicine for his dog and it almost killed his dog. When he went online to research the medicine when his dog got sick and sicker, he found that dogs die of it all the time.  He called his vet and told him and the vet said, “well, do you still have fleas?”  We had already made the decision not to go to a vet that we don’t know, because we want our dogs alive, and he reinforced that decision.

But still.  One little pill versus weeks of cleaning and vacuuming and shampooing dogs each day…?

Okay, I”m right on the Mississippi, that helps.