We spent the last two nights camped in Seminole Canyon State Park, another excellent Texas facility.

The Park is situated along the rim of Seminole Canyon in the Seminole Canyon Archeological District.

The Canyon is known for its wealth of artifacts and cave art left by a very early indigenous people.

Little is known about them except that they were nomadic hunter gatherers who traveled in small bands.

They hunted using the atlatl and spear. They made creative use of the canyon cliffs by stampeding the now extinct species of bison over the edge and then harvesting the kill below.

The understory of the cliffs provided shelter and a place to prepare food in dugout pits. There were ritual burials, and magnificent cave paintings that have been carbon-dated to before 4,000 BCE.

Modern tribal Indians do not claim a connected heritage to these very early inhabitants.

At the entrance to the Visitors Center is The Maker of Peace, a 17-foot bronze statue created by Texas artist Bill Worrell in 1994.

Errata: we are on our way to South Padre Island (SPI) where we have reserved a campsite for 4 nights commencing Sunday. We will be hanging out with dear friends and former neighbors Hal and Jane Gilchrist. We will watch the Chief’s pursue their bid for the Super Bowl, dine, reminisce, and perhaps sip a wee dram or three of Eagle Rare Whiskey. The Gulf is offering us sunny skies and daytime temps in the 70’s.

From SPI we will make our way to New Orleans where we will camp 3 nights within walking distance of the French Quarter. Christine will then fly back to Kansas City while I solo on for another 10-14 days. Her 100 year old Father is doing reasonably well, but there are concerns sufficient for her to make an early exit from this journey.

It is likely that I won’t be posting during our stay on SPI. Where I go and what I do after New Orleans will be largely determined by whim and weather.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. While hiking in Davis Mountains State Park I encountered a delightful couple, Jim and Wilma. They are retirees who are traveling full time with their RV. On the trail we talked of travel and enjoying life as health allows, one day at a time.

I chanced to run into Jim and Wilma again on our first day at Seminole Canyon. They promised to stop by our campsite for a longer visit the following day. They never appeared, but I wasn’t concerned as plans do change…

Early this morning as I walked back to our trailer from my shower I saw Jim. He was breaking camp and there was an obvious sense of urgency in his actions. I greeted him and saw that there were tears in the eyes of the big retired trucker. He explained that Wilma suffered a sudden medical crisis the previous day and underwent emergency surgery. She is recovering in ICU and Jim expressed tenuous optimism for her.

Our thoughts are with Wilma and Jim. I am haunted by this reminder that life can take unexpected turns at any moment. Don’t put off until tomorrow the things you may find you are then no longer able to do…

Over a span of 48 hours I have had 2 vastly different experiences that were courtesy of both The Great and The Forgotten.

In 1938 a collaboration between the University of Texas and the University of Chicago established the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of Texas.

Named after its benefactor, William J. McDonald, who donated $800,000.00, the Observatory quickly became a preeminent research facility. The 82” Otto Struve Telescope was dedicated on May 5, 1939, and at that time was the second largest telescope in the world. The 107” Harlan J. Smith Telescope became operational in 1968 and at that time tanked as the third largest in the world. It now ranks 41st.

The Harlan telescope weighs 160 tons and is housed under a 220 ton dome. Both the scope and dome rotate to track celestial objects, remarkably power by only half horsepower motors. The most recent addition to the large telescopes at McDonald is the 390” Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET), dedicated in late 1997.

It is composed of 91 separate 1 meter hexagonal mirrors. It currently ranks as the second largest optical telescope in the world and was constructed at the bargain basement price of 40 million dollars by using common construction materials available on the open market.

The Observatory is located atop 6,780 foot high Mount Locke and is in a prime “Dark Sky” region with little rain and predominantly clear skies. The Observatory includes dozens of smaller telescopes. We enjoyed both a daytime tour with solar observations and a nighttime “Star-Party” with observations of the moon, star clusters, and a the Orion Nebula.

The Observatory, its largest telescopes, and other noteworthy parts of the facility display the names of The Famous who have expanded our understanding of the cosmos. Perhaps among The Forgotten are the thousands of workers and technicians who built the facility and keep it running each day. The current on-site housing for the staff makes the Observatory the second largest “town” in Davis County.

Between 1933 and 1942 over 3 million economically destitute unmarried men between 17 and 28 years old enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was a huge government funded public works/relief program that was born of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Nearly 90 years after its inception the hand of the CCC can be seen in forests and parks across America.

Construction of Davis Mountains State Park was begun by the CCC in 1933. The workers constructed roads, trails, pavilions, and the magnificent adobe Indian Lodge and restaurant which remain in operation today.

I hiked the trails and abandoned roads that These Forgotten built with their grit, sinews, and sweat.

There were no Famous among them to warrant the naming of these artifacts that remain, yet on this day I was the direct beneficiary of their efforts. I have no one person to whom I can direct my gratitude for a day well spent, so I give my thanks to The Forgotten.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. I have often heard the rhetorical question, “Why isn’t there a CCC today?”, followed by the questioner’s own answer that is a criticism of “the Younger Generation”. Here is my thought: The CCC was first and foremost a government funded relief program. There was little thought given to profit or benefit other than for the unemployed workers. The current political climate does not favor public relief or social welfare. Additionally, the workers were driven to enlist in the CCC (and WPA) out of their own economic necessity.

If circumstances were to repeat (and I pray that they don’t), I have every reason to believe that “the Younger Generation” would roll up its sleeves just like “the Greatest Generation” did.

We had stopped to gas-up, a frequent occurrence on the road. I stood at one side of pump #4 and a very large man, football player large, was filling his 4Runner up on the other side of the pump. I would soon learn he had played a year of college ball when he said, “There are better ways to pursue an education… that stuff hurts!”. In the breezy 40 temps he stood unaffected in shorts and sandals. “I’m a Florida beach bum at heart.” he would explain.

Most folks at the pumps seem to avoid human contact, preferring to focus on the task at hand and then be on their way. This big man had searching eyes, eyes that soaked up the details of his surroundings, seeking to know his environment and those who he shared it with. He drew eye contact like a magnet and once the attraction was established, “Hi, nice trailer… how does it pull with your SUV?”. My reply was barely past my lips as I found my hand engulfed by his firm, friendly, and warm handshake. “Marty, Marty Leake, I’m retired, a traveler and a writer”. (See: https://007pandas.com)

Thus it began. In the time that it took to fill up our cars I had learned he was single, had two sons, had enjoyed a long and successful career in law enforcement in Virginia, was college educated, was a compulsive traveler and blogger, was very well read… I learned more of this man in those few minutes than I know of some folks who have been coworkers and neighbors. I suspect that Marty’s take from his side of the gas pump mirrored mine. We capped our gas tanks and moved our vehicles to the parking area, continuing our fast friendship for another twenty minutes. We were looking at each other across the salad bar of life experiences, sampling from each other’s side but denied a full meal because the plates that time allowed were too small. A picture, exchanged contact information, invitations, “If you pass through Kansas City/Sanibel Island…”, a longer handshake, regret that travel called us in opposite directions, and the chance encounter ended.

Encounters such as this are unexpected treasures. I can plan my destinations, I can plan what we will see, but I can’t plan such a rewarding exchange between kindred souls.

This is the antithesis of the tribalism that divides us. We need more Marty Leakes in this world… we need to take the time to appreciate what we hold in common during the brief lifespans that mortality grants to each of us.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. We are camped in Davis Mountains State Park and are in a cell phone “dead zone”. Yesterday we spent the afternoon and evening at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. I look forward to sharing the experience and images in a future post. Also, the weather and continuing Federal shutdown that is effecting National Parks has caused us to change our plans. We will be heading further south in Texas.

We are on the road traveling about 260 miles to Fort Davis Texas and Davis Mountains State Park. Midway along the journey we passed through the town of Big Lake.

In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries cattle sustained the economy of this region. Cattle drives were the traffic jams of the times, but the spreading reach of the rail system all but extinguished that way of life. Bust!

Then came the oil boom of the 1920’s and 30’s. “Black Gold, Texas Tea…” to recall an old TV favorite. In 1923 the Santa Rita #1 well near Big Lake was the first well to tap the Great Permian Basin oil field. The “Basin” covers 75,000 square miles and is up to 25,000 feet deep. It is the remnant of a huge inland sea that is hundreds of millions of years old. Towns sprang up along with the oil derricks, bringing gangs of riggers, and the collateral economy of food, drink, entertainment, and vice to feed off their wages. Big Boom!

Another long established “boom” of the Great Permian Basin was the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer. So Great was the freshwater discharge into the area creeks that in 1938 a pavilion was built on Comanche Creek for an annual celebration of the Fort Stockton Water Carnival. At that one location the Aquifer released 65 million gallons of fresh water a day… as it had for time immemorial. However, by 1961 agricultural overuse caused the springs to dry. Bust!

Eventually, cheaper oil found elsewhere and overseas caused a retraction in the demand for this local crude and most of the oilfield workers moved on to more promising “pastures”. Bust!

Big Lake survived in a diminished form, its downtown a typical array of small locally owned establishments.

As we approached Big Lake a cloud of dust could be seen in the distance. We were soon to learn it was the result of hundreds of huge trucks entering and leaving the resurrected oil fields and expansive new wind farms. These trucks are the lifeblood feeding the newest boom economy. The center of Big Lake, its old “Main Street”, is like the vacant hole of a donut. The “dough” of that donut now provides the dough (as in money) for the community and is found surrounding Big Lake. Equipment, trucks, energy company offices, and temporary housing for the workers abound. Gasoline prices were 80 cents a gallon higher than just an hour’s drive to the east.

We wondered if the new generation of migrant oil workers came solo or with families. What hardships were they and their families enduring for the draw of a bigger paycheck. What hardships were the local residents and their families enduring in the shadow of the newest boom economy. How long until the boom next yields to bust. Is evidence of that bust to be found in the parking lots of the filling stations the “boom” serves?

Time will tell as it always does.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. Our arrival at camp was too late for preparation of a proper meal. We drove a few miles to the town of Fort Davis and chanced upon the Limpia Hotel and Bistro. It was a wonderful find that capped off a wonderful day. BTW, our campground is out of reach of cell service so any silence on my part is imposed by circumstances beyond my control. Pete

I should add that there were some remarkable vistas provided unaided by human hands,

We continue to be challenged by the temperatures. Overnight was barely above freezing and today the high was in the mid-40’s. It’s really too cold to enjoy a campfire and a long hike wasn’t appealing. TripAdvisor touted the virtues of Fort Concho located in the heart of San Angelo, just a 15 minute drive.

Fort Concho was one of a series of US frontier military installations established after the Civil War to protect settlements, travel, and trade routes. This fort dates to 1867 and was located on the banks of the Concho River. At it’s zenith it covered 1,600 acres and billeted between 400 and 500 infantry and cavalry troops. The headquarters, barracks, and support buildings were constructed of native limestone. In spite of the Fort being decommissioned in 1889, it remained in sufficient repair to be a subject for restoration later in the 20th Century. It is in remarkable condition today and for only a couple of dollars provides a nice afternoon diversion.

The enlisted men’s barracks now serve as the main office, a museum, enlisted men’s quarters exhibit, and an artillery display facility. The collection includes two fully operational cannon and a fully operational 1862 Gatling Gun. The clerk on duty told us that she had the thrilling opportunity to rapid fire 10 rounds from the gun.

The piece on display at Fort Concho is of the original 1862 design. It was capable of firing over 200 rounds per minute. The inventor envisioned the weapon as a means of forcing peace by putting the power to stop an army into the hands of just a few men. Perhaps Richard Gatling failed to consider that both sides of a conflict might possess such a weapon. In one sense he was correct, automatic weapons completely changed the face of war, magnifying the potential for carnage as witnessed in the Spanish American War and the First World War.

The exhibits that we enjoyed included examples of the officers living quarters…

A telephone museum (not really related to the Fort’s history)…

The base school…

The base infirmary…

A monument to the 5 soldiers who had been stationed at Fort Concho and were Medal of Honor recipients…

The artillery display…

…and enlisted men’s barrack display.

As a bonus we were able to make friends with three of the Fort’s mules in residence.

It was an afternoon well and pleasantly spent.

We have occasionally fielded questions about why Winter camping. For us, aside from the weather it is a decidedly different experience from Summer camping. There is a challenge that I especially embrace. A daily shower is a luxury rather than a necessity. Clothes stay “fresh” longer. Our Casita becomes a closer experience and demands more cooperation from each of us. It is cozy in a way that feels almost like we are inhabitants of a space capsule. Best of all, the parks are wide open and the natural features are not depreciated by thronging crowds. We have camped in every season, each year, since we retired in 2015. I don’t have a favorite season, just a favorite camping partner.

Peace Everyone. Pete

The weather home in Kansas City has turned nasty, and the tendrils of the Winter blow extended to us in Caprock Canyon. No snow, but with predicted lows in the 20’s we elected to head south. It was a good call. About 175 miles took us to Sweetwater Texas where the skies cleared and the thermometer suddenly added 10 degrees to the mercury. Winds gusted to 35 mph throughout the day, but our good fortune held as they pushed us from the rear, giving us great gas mileage.

Most of our 260 mile drive was on Texas Route 70, a well paved two lane country road that often featured a 75 mph speed limit! There wasn’t much traffic and there weren’t many towns of consequence. In fact, for 175 miles there were no Walmarts, no fast food, and damn few gas stations.

Driving days do not usually provide much opportunity for a “travelogue”. However I made the conscious decision to stop and take pictures of anything “interesting” that we might encounter. I missed the opportunity to take pictures of a few abandoned homesteads that seemed icons to the dustbowl days. Same with the sentinel like Aeromotor windmills that once dotted the Great Plains States. These ubiquitous inventions of necessity pumped water into cattle troughs where no electric service existed. A few that we passed were still in use, a testament to their ageless reliability. At times we could see huge electric wind generators juxtaposed in the distance, the 21st Century replacements for the 19th Century Aeromotors.

Now for the experiences preserved by images:

There was Galvan’s Cafe in Turkey, Texas. This was the second time that we have eaten here and for good reason. The food was plentiful, hot, tasty, and cheap. My eye was drawn to a wall of pictures. Icons of the 1950-60’s television Westerns. Just to mention those with autographs: There was Dan Blocker of Bonanza, Clint Eastwood and Eric Fleming of Rawhide, Steve McQueen of Wanted Dead of Alive, James Arness of Gunsmoke, and Clayton Moore of The Lone Ranger.

Literally in the middle of nowhere (which describes much of Texas 70) is the Midland Drive -In Theater. It’s faded marquis declares, “Between Turkey and Quitaque… New York and LA”. It also displays “Closed for Winter”, but which Winter remains a mystery.

We came upon a series of Historical Markers, the reading of which left somber overtones of past glories and tragedies.

We drove through the center of Dickens (pop. 286), seat of Dickens County (pop. 2,444). The town and county were founded in 1891 and named after J. Dickens who died at the Battle of the Alamo. The County Courthouse and Jail were both built in 1892 and remain in use. They were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. There is a $25 fine for anyone talking to inmates through the barred windows of the jail!

We passed by the City Park in Spur, Texas…

Cotton fields and bales were evident as far as the eye could see…

And passed a number of the Quanah Parker Trail Arrows which mark sites where the Comanche Indians and their last Chief, Quanah Parker, lived, traveled, and fought. The artist, Charles A. Smith created this network of 22-foot-tall steel arrows in tribute to the Comanches. There are over 70 of these arrows found in 52 counties. Quanah Parker died in 1911, and the sculptor Smith passed away March 3, 2018, 3 years after the great-granddaughter of the Chief adopted Smith into the Comanche’s family. Smith was given the name “Paaka-Hani-Eta”, meaning “Arrow Maker”.

We arrived just before closing at San Angelo State Park, made camp and immediately drove 7 miles to the Zero One Alehouse where I enjoyed excellent craft beer, a stunning Chief’s victory over the Colts, and the company of my Wife. Life is good!

Peace Everyone! Pete

The weather favored us today. Although the temperatures dipped, the rain skirted us to the north. Temps are predicted to fall while the winds are increasing. They have conspired to encourage us to move further south in the morning. Whether we will continue south in Texas or head south west is up in the air right now. Current predictions are for more moderate conditions next week. We don’t mind playing this by ear as we are accustomed to planning on the fly.

Donning an extra layer made for good hiking… the scenery made for great hiking! Cap Rock Canyon is part of the Palo Duro canyon complex, 120 miles long and up to 20 miles wide it is the second largest canyon in the United States after the Grand Canyon.

Towering red buttes surrounded us and conjured up images reminiscent of the Egyptian monuments of Luxor. The near dry creek washes made for near level paths. There was evidence of Bison everywhere (big poop!) that demanded attention to one’s steps.

The red rock canyon cuts were laced everywhere with veins of gypsum. Gypsum is best known as the principal material in the wallboard of most homes built today. Less well known is that it is also a main component in most toothpastes and many cosmetics!

This region has been continuously inhabited and hunted by humans for upward to 15,000 years. The first people known to call this home were of the Folsom Tradition. Hunter-gatherers who were quick to adapt to the changing environment, they were a resourceful and inventive people. As we hiked it was easy for me to imagine the first peoples who claimed these canyons as their own.

It has long been a dream of mine to find an ancient flint tool that has lain undisturbed since it left the hand of its creator. I imagine my touch creating a direct link bridging thousands of years to the hand of another person. It hasn’t happened yet and it might never happen, but If it did happen upon Federal or State lands I would be legally bound to return the artifact to its original resting place. Nevertheless, I would contemplate how we each shared a moment of our lives in that place. How we might each appreciate the skill and “technology” invested in the creation of that simple tool.

Technology. It seems a strange word to apply to the fashioning of a stone into a useful implement. Yet the techniques that improved these tools advanced much as our electronics improve with each iteration. It is just that the leaps of ancient technologies advanced a millennia at a time rather than from week to week.

Millions of years ago a pre-human grasped a rock and at the same time mentally grasped that the power of his fist was thus magnified. Many thousands of years later an insight resulted in the fashioning of the rock to better fit the hand… an edge was found to lessen the effort for its use… a handle was lashed that further extended the power of the rock and had the additional benefit of distancing the user from the prey or adversary. Nearing the time of the Folsom people the handle had already grown long enough to make an effective throwing implement and a monumental improvement then followed in the form of the atlatl, a device that extended the throwing arm to release the spear with great force and effect. Social “technologies” concurrently developed that improved hunting strategies. Of course what followed was the bow and arrow, gunpowder, cannon… technology accelerating to the creation of civilization destroying capabilities.

It is easy to underestimate the impact of the early simple advances in the creation of tools. However, each of those technological leaps improved the odds that the strange creatures who had neither fangs nor claws might survive to avoid extinction.

Will the technologies that we have harnessed remain our salvation or instead be the agent our demise? If I ever find that ancient tool and then return it to its resting place, the person who next discovers it may know the answer.

Peace Everyone. Pete

We are continuing our journey southwest through Oklahoma with plans to overnight at Great Plains State Park. A weather event is predicted for Friday, rain to the south, a snowy mix to the north. We are choosing rain. (The pictures interspersed below are from our drive through Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge and our camp this evening.)

During long drives my mind wanders like a rat in a maze. But where a rat seeks its reward at one destination, I find rewarding thoughts at each turn… even at the dead ends. At one such “end” I recalled a phrase from ancient history, “Know Yourself”. It was attributed to Socrates who was said to admonish his students nearly 2,500 years ago to seek to know themselves before seeking knowledge of other things. The maxim actually predates Socrates and is found as one of 147 Delphic aphorisms (kind of an expanded 10 Commandments). There are also equivalents found in Egyptian temple hieroglyphics.

Know Yourself… There is what I know, a product of education and life experiences. The “physical me” is pretty straightforward. A genetic role of the dice where my parents were each a die largely determined many of my obvious and hidden physical characteristics. Except for the intervention of fate (as in an accident or outside agency) my life expectancy is even influenced by my genes. But what about WHO I am, the personality that is me.

We are products of natural selection (recent events in China may herald a change is coming). However, it may be instructive to examine what can be accomplished through “intentional selection”, as in the controlled breeding of animals. Selection can focus not only on physical characteristics but also behavioral ones. Great Danes are big and tall, Dachshunds are small and short. Similarly, Dobermans and Rottweilers stand at one end of a behavioral spectrum while Labradors and Cocker Spaniels inhabit the other.

What behavioral and personality characteristics within each of us may have a genetically influenced predisposition? I seem driven to travel. I derive deep satisfaction in bringing people together. I am a ponderously slow reader with abysmal spelling skills. These are just 3 of the traits that I have made a directed self examination.

If there is a “travel gene” I probably inherited it. My mother’s parents were immigrants from Lebanon, leaving everything known and familiar for adventure and the speculation of opportunity in America. My father’s parent were Germans from Russia, part of two mass migrations. The first occurred in the early 1800’s where hundreds of German families moved to the Ukraine at the invitation of Catherine the Great, and then again in the early 20th Century to America seeking escape from the oppression of the Bolshevik Revolution. Most of my ancestors remained in Lebanon, Germany, and the Ukraine. Not my grandparents. My mother and father each left their homes and families in pursuit of higher education, meeting at the University of Wisconsin and establishing their home in Illinois, far from their West Virginia and North Dakota roots. When I was offered my first job out of college the placement options were St. Louis and Kansas City. I chose Kansas City solely because I had never been there before. Genetic predisposition?

I have always tested well, except in spelling. I hated spelling bees because I would always be the last person chosen for a team… for good reason. No amount of tutoring seemed to help. Spellcheck and a wife who “spells for me” have been my salvation. I have to occasionally force my memory to recall the directions that b, d, z, and s face. I learned to read at a very early age, hearing the words as if spoken in my mind. I still read that way for pleasure, but not when reading was required in my professional work. Learned behavior? Genetic? Perhaps a combination.

Finally is there a social gene. A dear friend brought this to my attention saying that the “social gene” was strong in me. This caused me to reflect upon my past… childhood, gathering neighborhood children for group play… College, starting the Undergraduate Administration of Justice Association… Our return from the 2013 Camino, founding the Kansas City chapter of The American Pilgrims on the Camino… 2015, starting the Kansas City Metro Casita Owners group. And of course the delight in sharing our travels and “seeing” you cross-talk with one another in the comments to my posts. Genetic? Socrates would likely have castigated me for focusing on the irrelevant. What is important is that we can all be part of a larger family when we embrace what binds us rather than what divides us.

Peace Everyone! Pete

PS. We are in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma, among the oldest mountains in North America. Driving through the National Wildlife refuge we were surprised to see that the campground was open and fully functional! We continued on to Oklahoma’s Great Plains State Park with intentions to proceed tomorrow to northern Texas and then on to El Paso. We are the parks sole occupants… except for the coyotes.

PPS. If you would like to read the remaining 146 Delphic Maxims, here they are. #66 is especially profound! (from Wikipedia):

1 Follow God (Επου θεω)

2 Obey the law (Νομω πειθου)

3 Worship the Gods (Θεους σεβου)

4 Respect your parents (Γονεις αιδου)

5 Be overcome by justice (Ηττω υπο δικαιου)

6 Know what you have learned (Γνωθι μαθων)

7 Perceive what you have heard (Ακουσας νοει)

8 Be/Know Yourself (Σαυτον ισθι)

9 Intend to get married (Γαμειν μελλε)

10 Know your opportunity (Καιρον γνωθι)

11 Think as a mortal (Φρονει θνητα)

12 “If you are a stranger act like one” or “When you are a stranger be aware” (Ξepsilon;νος ων ισθι)

13 Honor the hearth/Hestia (Εστιαν τιμα)

14 Control yourself (Αρχε σεαυτου)

15 Help your friends (Φιλοις βοηθει)

16 Control anger (Θυμου κρατει)

17 Exercise prudence (Φρονησιν ασκει)

18 Honor providence (Προνοιαν τιμα)

19 Do not use an oath (Ορκω μη χρω)

20 Love friendship (Φιλιαν αγαπα)

21 Cling to discipline (Παιδειας αντεχου)

22 Pursue honor (Δοξαν διωκε)

23 Long for wisdom (Σοφιαν ζηλου)

24 Speak well of the beautiful good (sometimes translated as “Praise the Good” but “kalon” is primarily “beautiful” but a Greek synonym for good – so it’s a nuanced translation) (Καλον ευ λεγε)

25 Find fault with no one (Ψεγε μηδενα)

26 Praise those having arête.  (Επαινει αρετην)

27 Practice what is just (Πραττε δικαια)

28 Be kind to friends (Θιλοις ευνοει)

29 Watch out for your enemies (Εχθρους αμυνου)

30 Exercise nobility of character (Ευγενειαν ασκει)

31 Shun evil (Κακιας απεχου)

32 Be impartial (Κοινος γινου)

33 Guard what is yours (Ιδια φυλαττε)

34 Shun what belongs to others (Αλλοτριων απεχου)

35 Listen to everyone (Ακουε παντα)

36 Be (religiously) silent (Ευφημος ιοθι)

37 Do a favor for a friend (Φιλω χαριζου)

38 Nothing to excess (Μηδεν αγαν)

39 Use time sparingly (Χρονου φειδου)

40 Foresee the future (Ορα το μελλον)

41 Despise insolence (Υβριν μισει)

42 Have respect for suppliants (Ικετας αιδου)

43 Be accommodating in everything (Παςιν αρμοζου)

44 Educate your sons (Υιους παιδευε)

45 Give what you have (Εχων χαριζου)

46 Fear deceit (Δολον φοβου)

47 Speak well of everyone (Ευλογει παντας)

48 Be a seeker of wisdom (Φιλοσοφος γινου)

49 Choose what is divine (Οσια κρινε)

50 Act when you know (Γνους πραττε)

51 Shun murder (Φονου απεχου)

52 Pray for things possible (Ευχου δυνατα)

53 Consult the wise (Σοφοις χρω)

54 Test the character (Ηθος δοκιμαζε)

55 Give back what you have received (Λαβων αποδος)

56 Down-look no one (Υφορω μηδενα)

57 Use your skill (Τεχνη χρω)

58 Do what you mean to do (Ο μελλεις, δος)

59 Honor a benefaction (Ευεργεςιας τιμα)

60 Be jealous of no one (Φθονει μηδενι)

61 Be on your guard (Φυλακη προσεχε)

62 Praise hope (Ελπιδα αινει)

63 Despise a slanderer (Διαβολην μισει)

64 Gain possessions justly (Δικαιως κτω)

65 Honor good men (Αγαθους τιμα)

66 Know the judge (Κριτην γνωθι)

67 Master wedding-feasts (Γαμους κρατει)

68 Recognize fortune (Τυχην νομιζε)

69 Flee a pledge (Εγγυην φευγε)

70 Speak plainly (Αμλως διαλεγου)

71 Associate with your peers (Ομοιοις χρω)

72 Govern your expenses (Δαπανων αρχου)

73 Be happy with what you have (Κτωμενος ηδου)

74 Rever a sense of shame (Αισχυνην σεβου)

75 Fulfill a favor (Χαριν εκτελει)

76 Pray for happiness (Ευτυχιαν ευχου)

77 Be fond of fortune (Τυχην στεργε)

78 Observe what you have heard (Ακουων ορα)

79 Work for what you can own (Εργαζου κτητα)

80 Despise strife (Εριν μισει)

81 Detest disgrace (Ονειδς εχθαιρε)

82 Restrain the tongue (Γλωτταν ισχε)

83 Keep yourself from insolence (Υβριν αμυνου)

84 Make just judgements (Κρινε δικαια)

85 Use what you have (Χρω χρημασιν)

86 Judge incorruptibly (Αδωροδοκητος δικαζε)

87 Accuse one who is present (Αιτιω παροντα)

88 Tell when you know (Λεγε ειδως)

89 Do not depend on strength (Βιας μη εχου)

90 Live without sorrow (Αλυπως βιου)

91 Live together meekly (Ομιλει πραως)

92 Finish the race without shrinking back (Περας επιτελει μη αποδειλιων))

93 Deal kindly with everyone (Φιλοφρονει πασιν)

94 Do not curse your sons (Υιοις μη καταρω)

95 Rule your wife (Γυναικος αρχε)

96 Benefit yourself (Σεαυτον ευ ποιει)

97 Be courteous (Ευπροσηγορος γινου)

98 Give a timely response (Αποκρινου εν καιρω)

99 Struggle with glory (Πονει μετ ευκλειας)

100 Act without repenting (Πραττε αμετανοητως)

101 Regret falling short of the mark (or goal) (Αμαρτανων μετανοει)

102 Control the eye (Οφθαλμοθ κρατει)

103 Give a timely counsel (Βουλευου χρονω)

104 Act quickly (Πραττε συντομως)

105 Guard friendship (Φιλιαν φυλαττε)

106 Be grateful (Ευγνωμων γινου)

107 Pursue harmony (Ομονοιαν διωκε)

108 Keep deeply the top secret (Αρρητον κρυπτε)

109 Fear ruling (Το κρατουν φοβου)

110 Pursue what is profitable (Το συμφερον θηρω)

111 Accept due measure (Καιρον προσδεχου)

112 Do away with enmities (Εχθρας διαλυε)

113 Accept old age (Γηρας προσδεχου)

114 Do not boast in might (Επι ρωμη μη καυχω)

115 Exercise (religious) silence (Ευφημιαν ασκει)

116 Flee enmity (Απεχθειαν φευγε)

117 Acquire wealth justly (Πλουτει δικιως)

118 Do not abandon honor (Δοξαν μη λειπε)

119 Despise evil (Κακιαν μισει)

120 Venture into danger prudently (Κινδυνευε φρονιμως)

121 Do not tire of learning (Μανθανων μη καμνε)

122 Do not stop to be thrifty (Φειδομενος μη λειπε)

123 Admire oracles (Χρησμους θαυμαζε)

124 Love whom you rear (Ους τρεφεις αγαπα)

125 Do not oppose someone absent (Αποντι μη μαχου)

126 Respect the elder (Πρεσβυτερον αιδου)

127 Teach a youngster (Νεωτερον διδασκε)

128 Do not trust wealth (Πλουτω απιστει)

129 Respect yourself (Σεαυτον αιδου)

130 Do not begin to be insolent (Μη αρχε υβριζειν)

131 Crown your ancestors (Προγονους στεφανου)

132 Die for your country (Θνησκε υπερ πατριδος)

133 Do not be discontented by life (Τω βιω μη αχθου)

134 Do not make fun of the dead (Επι νεκρω μη γελα)

135 Share the load of the unfortunate (Ατυχουντι συναχθου)

136 Gratify without harming (Χαριζου αβλαβως)

137 Greave for no one (Μη επι παντι λυπου)

138 Beget rom noble routes (Εξ ευγενων γεννα)

139 Make promises to no one (Επαγγελου μηδενι)

140 Do not wrong the dead (Φθιμενους μη αδικει)

141 Be well off as a mortal (Ευ πασχε ως θνητος)

142 Do not trust fortune (Τυχη μη πιστευε)

143 As a child be well-behaved (Παις ων κοσμιος ισθι)

144 as a youth – self-disciplined (ηβων εγκρατης)

145 as of middle-age – just (μεσος δικαιος)

146 as an old man – sensible (πρεσβυτης ευλογος)

147 on reaching the end – without sorrow (τελευτων αλυπος

After a home stay in Kansas City of 3 months we have our Casita, “Rigel” again in tow. This has been the longest uninterrupted period at home since our retirements in May of 2015. Even Christine was itching to get back to traveling. In 2018 we were gone over 23 weeks, including a 13 week stretch overseas. 2017 included a 12 week journey to Alaska and the Yukon. It is likely that future trips will not be quite so long as we have found them to be taxing on us and the “little people” who desperately miss their grandma.

Our morning departure was not without incident. When I pressed the start button on our SUV instead of the throaty roar of a powerful V6, all I got was a series of anemic clicks. Dead battery. In the 45 minutes that followed I bought a replacement battery at Costco, installed it and all was again right with the world. The incident annoyed me but Christine saw it differently. “Boy was that a piece of good luck! It could have died while we were traveling!” Of course, she was right.

Our time spent at home was used well. Time with the kids, time at the gym… yard work, reading, Thanksgiving, the annual family birthday dinner (a private room at Pierpont’s in Kansas City’s Union Station). I dedicated many days to assembling and editing my posts from our 13 weeks abroad into a coffee table book. 202 glossy pages that are about 40% photographs and 60% narrative. The hard bound book was printed by a firm in the Netherlands, and the final product exceeding every possible expectation that I held. Copies were given as gifts to each of our children, Christine’s father, and my mother who never fails to read and comment upon my “Thoughts”.

Christmas morning was spent with our children (and grands) after which our daughters and their 7 little ones flew to Europe for 12 days in England and France (part of which they each spent with their French host families with whom they lived for a year as high school exchange students). The daughters and their children (with the exception of 1 year old Lennon) speak fluent French. Of course there was New Year’s Eve (see previous post!).

Oh yes, there was one more “event”. We drove to Breckenridge Colorado and shared time with our dear friend Kris Ashton who we first met walking across Spain in 2013. On October 5th, Christine’s 64th birthday, we bought 3 acres near Alma Colorado, 25 minutes south of Breckenridge. We have since been working on designing the vacation home which we hope to build in 2020.

It’s cold here where we are overnighting in Oklahoma at Grand Lake of the Cherokees. We are heading southwest through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and then back to Kansas City. A “wintery mix” is predicted for this region on Friday and we would like to not experience it. Our original plan had been to frequent the wonderful National Parks, Monuments, National Forests, COE and BLM sites we encounter along the way. Unfortunately, Washington has other ideas. I will leave it at that in keeping with my efforts to not politicize these posts.

Peace Everyone. Pete

2.1 miles, precisely. 2.1 miles is the measure of my near daily morning drive to the gym. It is a pleasant drive through an upscale neighborhood, past parks, 2 country clubs, and along the road that separates Missouri from Kansas. Many of the homes along the way are imposing structures of the early 20th Century, planted upon estate like grounds. Any one of them would cause a traveler to stop and take notice, but since they are many, their commanding presence is diluted by the sheer number that give them the illusion of commonplace. I have long ago ceased to take notice, the habit of the drive becoming a time for my thoughts to wander without direction.

Some time ago I was briefly shaken from my lassitude by an awareness of the unfamiliar. At the intersection of Shawnee Mission Parkway and State Line road is an office building that dates to the 1960’s. In the last few years it has undergone a renovation that preserved aspects of its mid-20th Century modernism, yet presented the fresh face of glass and metal that are favored today. The casual observer would presume the building at 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway to house professional offices and in this one would be correct. However, it is also the unlikely location for an event venue and “The Restaurant at 1900”. My curiosity was briefly piqued but at the end of 2.1 miles my thoughts had traveled elsewhere.

3 weeks ago my eye again caught the understated marque sign that announced “The Restaurant at 1900”. I was reminded that mention of the restaurant had occurred in casual conversations with friends and that it was developing a favorable word of mouth reputation. Arriving at home I searched online for the establishment. The website announced a special New Years Eve fixed price dinner. 5 courses with wine pairings. There was no information on the course selections but the reservation link indicated that only a few seatings remained open. In spite of the princely sum quoted and that payment was required in full upon making the reservation, I selected an 8:15 p.m. table for two.

It had been years since we planned an evening out for New Year’s Eve. That and a Christmas that did not include any big ticket items provided me with ample justification. Christine was thrilled.

We dressed for the occasion, a rarity for me in post-retirement. No jeans. I still draw the line at wearing a tie. Black slacks, a grey Irish merino wool turtleneck, plaid Irish wool sport coat with full length green Austrian “loden” overcoat worked well. Christine found me handsomely dignified with my ensemble accentuated by my silver white hair. For Christine, dressing well is effortless. Her pewter hair cascades elegantly across her shoulders ending like a waterfall’s crash at her waist. It is thick to the point that strangers often find themselves compelled to reach out and touch it. At times this can be a bit unnerving for her and them.

The doors to the restaurant were manned by tuxedoed staff, and a few more tuxedos were to be seen among the restaurant patrons. Ladies in their evening gowns were everywhere yet the atmosphere remained relaxed. I was silently giving thanks that I had resisted the urge to wear blue jeans.

We adjourned to the bar while waiting for our table. I had the restaurant’s signature Manhattan which alone will cause me to return in the near future. Christine enjoyed an excellent vodka Martini, served “dirty” (a splash of olive juice) as she prefers.

The readiness of our table timed well with the conclusion of our drinks. We were seated and made introductions with our server, Rachel. The mark of an experienced professional server is the intuition to quickly know the “temperature” of the guests… warm and willing to banter, or cool and more reserved. We are definitely of the warmer variety and it took Rachel less than 30 seconds to figure that out. Fun, personable, yet never shirking in her primary duty to present dinner as an event to be savored. The first order of business was to make our selections for a dinner that would extend for 2 1/2 hours:

1st Course: We each optioned for the excellent Pheasant Minestrone, though I was sorely tempted to select the Wild Mushroom, Apple, and Scotch Whisky Consommé.

2nd Course: Christine savored the Russian Salad while I lingered lovingly upon the Sea Scallop, Blood Orange, and Watercress Salad.

3rd Course: Sunchoke Rissoto with Alba White Truffles… It just kept getting better and better!

4th Course: We were both called to the Pan Seared Tenderloin of Beef and Foie Gras. Perfectly prepared, perfectly presented, but I was beneficiary some of Christine’s Foie Gras… my good fortune that she does not usually eat liver in any form.

5th Course: Without hesitation we both chose the Chocolate Ganache Layer Cake, and there were no regrets!!

With each course was a paired wine as selected by Master Sommelier Doug Frost. Typically, I reject the conventions of “this wine with this dish…”, preferring to drink a wine that I like be it red or white regardless of the meal. Mr. Frost may have changed my thinking on this. I found his wine selections marshaled with my food choices to be such that the whole was greater than the sum of the parts.

We found that the straightforward elegance of The Restaurant at 1900 was conducive to reflective and relaxed conversation. Mercifully we were able to speak across the table and be understood without raising our voices… a rarity while dining these days. I enjoyed one slight distraction. I was seated at an angle that permitted me a glimpse inside the kitchen during the moments that staff entered and exited. I was reminded of the experience of being aboard a luxury cruise ship. There is a stark contrast between the artistic decor of the passenger areas and the spotlessly clean yet sterile working areas within the ship. I was amused to watch the organized chaos of the staff within the kitchen area magically transform into slow ballet like precision as each crossed the threshold into the dining room.

It goes without saying that we will return to The Restaurant at 1900. Our thanks to Chef Linda Duerr, the faceless staff working tirelessly in the kitchen, to our server Rachel, hostess Angela, the other servers and bartenders and to Keith Goldman who manages this wonderful venue. You all provided us with an evening to remember and an intense desire to return for dinner and another exceptional Manhattan!

Of course for us the evening was about much more than dining. We watched as 2018 passed into the promise of 2019. With each course we indulged in one more reflection upon how we might be better parents, grandparents, spouses, friends… No regrets. Life is a process and not a destination. May your Journey through the New Year be full of Fun while you Do Good and Care For Yourself for the sake of those who love you.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS: Among the “mysteries” Christine and I contemplated were the dynamics of family; hers, mine, and ours. There is much source material in those thoughts that we exchanged, but not to be shared here or now.