“Pony Up” No Corona Rider

“The Pony Express rider was usually a little bit of a man, brimful of spirit and endurance. No matter what time of day or night his watch came on…, he must be always ready to leap into the saddle and be off like the wind! “ (Mark Twain,1872)

The Corona impact clearly lingers in our mind as we end the second week of our road trip. At our motel stay in Independence, Missouri on Tuesday, the atmosphere seemed eerily quiet in the hallways today with guest services quite limited. Thus, we would be offered a meager breakfast bag containing only a small apple and granola bar while any room cleaning would be unavailable. Moving on the next morning to the Pony Express National Museum in the historic river town of St. Joseph, Missouri, numerous hand sanitizer stations conspicuously lined the hallways while press button functions for interactive exhibits had been disabled. Ending our second day at a local tavern for dinner, I was also required to give my name and phone number to the manager present to receive a potential future call from the Health Department in the event anyone in the cafe was reported to be testing positive for Corona Virus at the time of our visit.

It seems to me the that our current road trip adventure into our Corona stricken country, resembles the quote description of an 1860 Pony Express rider described in the quote at the beginning of this blog. Instead of a western bandana around his face, we must wear a mask. While he endured far west dangers of extreme heat, wind, and rain, we resign ourselves to stay healthy from airborne viral particles. While he moved great distances daily through remote western lands on the legs of a sturdy pony to assure safe delivery of their goods, we largely depend on the air purified isolation of our vehicle to provide safe arrival at our intended faraway destinations. So let’s “giddy ‘up and go” as I provide a photographic look at the life of a Pony Express rider in the mid 19th century as so authentically depicted at this museum.

A Pony Express rider required unique qualifications to withstand the dangers they would face along each ride.

This panel provides a brief history of the Pony Express period in 1860-1861 as well as the typical route westward taken for almost 2,000 miles.

On April 3, 1869, a lone rider left on horseback to a wildly cheering crowd in St. Joseph, Missouri for the first Pony Express ride west to California.

The famous Pony Express rider, Johnny Fry and his horse seem anxious to leave on their latest adventure in this exhibit.

Riders usually stopped every 10-15 miles at relay stations to freshen up and often change horses.

A Pony Express rider typically carried 20 lbs. of mail per ride. Observe a typical saddlebag from these occasions.

Riders riding westward from St. Joseph encountered their first natural obstacle: the free flowing Missouri River.

This rider wore a fringe covered, buckskin coat on these long mail runs.

This map depicts the various stopping points on a typical rife westward surrounded by various dangers they would face along the way.

Road-Trip Plan 2020

Ruth and I will begin our 2020 summer road trip on Saturday, May 31 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Our first stopover of this two month journey will take place in Savannah, Georgia. USFMAN looks forward to posting his weekly blog postings/photos for red dot areas we will visit on the above reposted map.  I would also welcome your health/safety comments that pertain to any of these pinpointed regions. Thank you for continuing to find interest in “Snippets of the Traveling Mind.” Stay well and Namaste.

Flaneuring Not Hurrying

Flaneur – “Someone who walks around not doing anything in particular but watching people and society” (Cambridge Dictionary)

Many of us now grow weary of the enduring idleness at home because of the Corona pandemic lockdown. So let us “turn the tables” and imagine that today represents the first time since this self quarantine began that you felt safely willing and able to venture outdoors for a refreshing walk around your neighborhood. Since you are already in slowdown mode from being cooped up inside, it suddenly feels more natural to stroll casually rather than “ramp up your hiking pace today. Although there are familiar surroundings that you will obviously observe in your neighborhood then then, you may also notice unexpected images which you have never seemed to recognize before: perhaps the colors of a blossoming tree, the shape of a street sign, the smell of a rain gutter, the touch of a fallen leaf, or the sound of a flag flapping in the breeze.

As you continue on your path to such unexpected encounters, you begin to romanticize innocent memories of your youthful past. It begins to rain but you seemingly don’t care today about getting wet. Only the refreshing cool of the falling drops on your body enters your mind now. Your walk then quietly ends as you take a seat on a lonely park bench feeling a calm appreciation for the beautifully fresh greenness that surrounds you now.

Welcome to “Flaneuring” or the intentional act of aimless wandering, as outlined in Erica Owen’s novel , “The Art Of Flaneuring – How to Wander With Intention and Discover a Better Life.” So many of us today thrive on time driven, task deadlines to move from point A to point B. Yet Owen teaches us the personal value of finding slower times during our day to be outside simply for the sake of being outside. He accordingly recommends that we must maximize use of all of our human senses as we venture out to discover self- revelations of the unexpected moment encountered during such aimless wanderings.

So let’s practice our “Flaneuring” skill potential in more of an urban-like setting. Imagine you are traveling to Paris, France on your first post-pandemic vacation. As you feel relieved to be on the outside again, you’ve reasoned it best to take your time on a leisurely walk around the city. Now observe any thoughts/emotions that arise as you conduct this imagined walk via one or several of the places presented in the video below. I recommend as well that you stop and restart the tape as needed to give yourself additional time to jot down brief notes about such mental images observed for any particular photo of interest. Perhaps you will be surprised then by a strong sense of a certain color, taste, smell, sound, or even the warmth or coldness of touch. For a further challenge, you might try meditating in silence for a few minutes about a particular photo and visualize how this setting provides a positive impact to your current emotional state now. Stay safe and healthy this summer. Namaste .

A Timely Seclusion

“There is a charm in solitude that cheers.
A feeling that the world knows nothing of.
A green delight the wounded mind endears.
After the hustling world is broken off…”(John Clare)

Let’s face it. Covid -19 has required an immense personal sacrifice for over two months now. As each day’s routine now seemingly feels the same, I’ve thus dutifully followed the recommended plan to stay wisely at home, stop non-essential travel, trust shopping online, and make use of “virtual” mediums to avoid direct human contact. Yet in spite of these safeguards, increasingly it seems that I feel trapped like a prisoner in my own home. How about you? 

So many puzzling questions thus quickly arise about easing the strain of my semi-quarantine status. How can my wife and I avoid infringing on each other’s personal space to conduct our own private lives? By what means can I effectively deal with my “cabin fever” which festers negative mind distractions that are psychologically harmful? What steps can I take to avoid eating out of idle time boredom ? How can I energize my daily routine to avoid sitting in sedentary laziness on my living room couch?

So with social distancing firmly in place now and for the unforeseeable future, I’m determined to shift my awareness to finding more productive opportunities outside. Picture me then taking up bike riding again as I often did as a restless teenager seeking new adventures growing up in South Florida. Yet a spirited ride for me as I continue to endure this health crisis rut will serve as a much needed escape from home to new places of solitude/silence. I’ve thus thankfully discovered that the visually stimulating grounds of nearby Nova Southeastern University serves as an ideal destination for my daily biking endeavors. For here I can pleasantly “soak in” the subtropical natural beauty of South Florida as spring time emerges as well as reviving my “happy day” passions of my youthful college past. So join me in my quest for serenity as I pedal quietly around NSU’s main campus on a gorgeously sunny weekday morning in the following photograph display.

The NSU Taft and Rosenthal University Centers normally bustle in daytime with campus life. But as I passed by these impressive looking landmarks, the soothing presence of flowing water from a “Shark” mascot fountain seemed to take center stage” in my attention today.

This statue of famed South Florida entrepreneur Wayne Huizenga sitting under a pleasantly shaded tree tempted me to sit contentedly next to him for awhile on this shaded bench.

In the late 1980s, I taught freshman college classes as an adjunct English professor in the Parker Building below. Being no longer “caught up” in the time driven dash to and from class from those days, I discovered a freshly new outlook of these environs by conducting a pleasant walk along these lush vegetative corridors.

The current Miami Dolphins training facility prominently stands out along the northerly perimeter grounds of NSU. Yet the eerie silence emanating from these locked facilities provided a stark reminder that spectator sports might soon become for me a much more solitary hobby.

The diverse ecosystem of tropical flora at NSU’s Medicinal Healing Garden nearby the Parker Building provided a secluded place for me to quietly unwind from Corona’s life challenges. Good idea that I brought my insect repellent here today.

Self meditation also provided an inspiring activity at the NSU Healing Garden as I found the perfect flower to focus my full attention on.

I often stopped to read at benches set along a picturesque loop path overlooking Gold Circle Lake near the NSU Administration Building and Law School complex.

Plenty of hungry reptile and aviary life also congregated at Gold Circle Lake to keep me company. I never realized that iguanas love bananas.

This inviting park bench area outside the NSU bookstore provided positive memories of my youthful energy to embrace the act of serious textbook study sitting outside as a graduate student in the past at NSU. Incidentally, the need to find Wi-Fi access was not a big issue back then.

Does this open green at NSU look like a nice place to unwind from a stressful day in class? Does anyone feel like throwing me a frisbee?


Road Trip Emptiness Confessions

“In all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.” ( Carl Sagan)

What have you missed most as a result of the prolonged uncertainty of the Corona pandemic? As a traveling fool enjoying his freedom of retirement, the answer for me this spring might seem obvious to those who know me. For it’s road trip time of the year and he and his wife are not traveling. This beautiful butterfly must remain stuck as an ugly moth in its cocoon until further notice.

As April proceeds slowly now, logic then dictates that we have very little choice on this matter. For unselfish sacrifices to wear a mask, social distance and stay home must be made now for the sake of health and the better welfare of my country.

Yet the most serious side effect of this current period of social isolation seems to be our deep sense of loss now in being unable to spend “quality time” with our circle of friends now across the country. Clearly, connecting to each of them by “Zoom” is not a suitable answer to this dilemma. For we both deeply crave for a welcoming hug, unmasked smile, or intimate dinner conversation with each of them right now. Perhaps you can get an idea of the depth of our emotional connection to our travel friends in the following photographic memories from past road trip visits.

Weather conditions during the early portions of our road trips can often become extremely wet or cold. So we look forward to warming up during the late spring time thaw with a relaxing walk along a rock strewn creek with my wife’s former high school girlfriend and her hard working husband in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains.

Whenever we make our way steeply uphill to visit a like-minded soul mate at his apartment in San Francisco, I’m rewarded with stunning views from his patio of the downtown below and beyond. As an “avant-garde” art collector, his latest wall paintings in his living room also arouse my visual interest.

We first shared the company of two endearing athletic enthusiasts when we actively explored the Alaskan coast with them in the 1980s. We thus strive to revive such youthful energy now as they lead us on long, invigorating walks amidst wild, Pacific coast nature near their home in coastal California. Sadly I cannot locate a picture of them below. You will have to settle for us.

Road tripping for three months each year can create homesickness at times with few opportunities for authentic companionship. So why not adopt a treasured pet or two for awhile? Thus a former neighbor family who now resides in Idaho always offer us the warm hospitality of their family cat, dog , and maybe even a few chickens when we visit.

No “Generation Gap” exists in our close connection with two ambitious millennials we annually visit on our road trips in Nebraska. So we will quickly accept their invitation to spend a rewarding day with them at their family cattle farm when invited.

Whenever we traverse Southern California on our road trips, we always appreciate a quiet escape above the pervasive smog and freeway madness below. Fortunately, an old neighbor buddy from Florida and his entire family warmly encourage us to stay at their exclusive mountainside home when desired

My wife’s best friend from grade school, who now resides in Oregon could best be described by me as an energetic risk taker bursting with intellectual energy. So it would be expected that in passing north through this region, our typically intense visits with her and her similarly “brainy” husband will center around deep seated issue discussions/engaging literature readings to indulge our minds.

It’s indeed a rarity in my life when a long-standing personal connection with a family member in my life results from a choice rather than an obligation. Yet our typically enjoyable visits in spring or summer with my wife’s youngest cousin and her outgoing “hubby” in Northeast Ohio inspires my passion to continue supporting legendary sports teams in this region marking my birthplace and childhood home.

A common interest in MLB baseball sparked a longtime friendship with a caring physician and his supportive wife in South Florida. Whenever we visit them in Nevada these days on our road trips, they always take time away from their busy medical routine to share with us fresh words of wisdom, engaging baseball stories, and love of family.

At the end of our road trips, we often lose patience for ambitious sightseeing in our preoccupation to get home. Under these circumstances then, what’s wrong with “gearing down” to share a beer or two with a life loving friend in Virginia ?

*Please note that I now post a daily travel thought concerning the Corona issue from a photographic travel perspective on my Facebook page. Just click on the Facebook button that I recently added to my Word Press home page if desired.



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