Thursday, June 30, 2016

Historic Homes of Independence, MO

Before touring the Truman Presidential Library, we met our nephew for lunch at the Courthouse Exchange in downtown Independence.  It was a hot and humid day, but even so, I couldn't resist a side order of fried okra--a dish that is nonexistent on the west coast.  My travel buddy had never even tasted them and wisely withheld comments.  This gooey, stringy vegetable sent me back to my roots--  slaving over a pot of boiling okra and tomatoes on a hot summer day.  (With a pitcher of iced tea close at hand.)

 After lunch we followed the Truman Silhouette flags around the town to look at the gorgeous old homes.  Many of them had bronze tiles in front, explaining the relationship of the previous owners to President Truman. Like a poker buddy.  A first grade teacher who prevented the kidnapping of Margaret Truman.  The summer White House and Truman's boyhood home.

I applaud Independence, Missouri, for preserving these historic old houses. President Truman is the last of the "Norman Rockwell" presidents, and the town he grew up in is as folksy and charming as its most famous citizen.
Truman's Boyhood Home

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library

The Presidential Libraries

Two weeks ago I toured the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, and I can't stop talking about it.  Last night my travel buddy begged me to change the subject.  "Can't we talk about something else for a change.  Please.  Please."

Perhaps it's because of the upcoming presidential election.  I am bombarded by political party bashing.  It's become so demoralizing I can no longer read or view the news.  Will I even vote?  The two presumptive candidates do not inspire greatness.  One in particular is a crass, bombastic racist who makes me shudder every time he opens his mouth.

Where, oh where, are the Harry Trumans of the world?
Visiting the library made me very much aware of the importance of the running mate.  Few people could even name FDR's vice-president on the day of his death.  And yet . . . and yet, this unknown and untested man went on to win the war and lead our country and all of Western Europe into economic prosperity.

Of course, Harry S. Truman is known as the president who dropped the first atomic bomb.  But the museum put things into perspective for me.  For one thing, the decision to use the bomb against Japan had already been made by Roosevelt and Churchill.  A time-line had already been put in place and Truman only had a few months to digest it all and give the final nod.

Should he have?  The debate will rage for eternity.  But, as the museum pointed out, "During Truman's first days in office, he faced some of the most difficult decisions encountered by any president in our history."

And he kept having to make them.
Veterans came back to shortages, unemployment and inflation.  As a liberal Democrat, the unions had always backed him, but when they started to strike, he ordered temporary government takeovers of the mines and railroads and he lost the support of organized labor.  It was imperative to keep things moving and move they did.  By 1947, only two years after the war ended, the economy was beginning to boom and America's standard of living soared.

Europe, too, was helped by the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and the formation of NATO.  Despite this progress, he continued to lose popularity in the United States because of tough, tough decisions that he was not afraid to make.  To me, one of the greatest things he did was sign two executive orders to end racial discrimination within federal employment and the armed forces.

This caused the Southern Democrats to leave the party and he barely won a second term.
 I love how this museum gave me a refresher course in U.S. History.  The fifties were both prosperous and terrifying.  My travel buddy remembers the air raid drills that were held in elementary schools back then.  The Cold War had begun and with it, a fear of communism and another war.

Once the Soviets started building atomic bombs, we were no longer the sole possessor of these destructive weapons.  And they only got more and more destructive.  Truman approved the building of the hydrogen bomb, 1000 times more powerful than the bomb used against Japan, and of course, the Soviets followed suit.

However, I give him credit for not escalating the war in Korea.  Yes, he sent troops there, but he refused to bomb cities in China like General Douglas MacArthur wanted.  Again, he made a tough decision.  He fired MacArthur and the public was not happy about it.

He also recognized the nation of Israel, and again, it was an unpopular decision.  And he just kept on making them, one after another.  Following his gut.  Keeping calm.  But not caring a hoot if he pissed people off.  His "Fair Deal" increased social security benefits, increased minimum wage and strengthened anti-trust laws.  He wanted the government to sponsor a national healthcare insurance program, can you believe it?  But this one didn't get through Congress.

What a shame.

There's so much to admire about the man.  When he left office in 1953, he had no secret service detail, no pension and no job.  He had some savings and that was it.  He refused to join corporate boards or accept large fees for lectures.  He felt it was wrong to profit from "serving the people."


He went back to Independence, Missouri, and devoted the rest of his life to creating the Harry S. Truman Library.  All gifts, papers and records from his presidency belonged to the American people and not to himself.

Strength and humility.  These are the attributes a president should have.  These are the attributes this president had.

Where, oh where, are the Harry Trumans of the world?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Klickitat River Drive

We wasted no time unpacking, so eager were we to get out and explore once again.  The canyons bordering the Klickitat River have always intrigued us so off we went on a Sunday drive to check the area out.  We drove up State Route 142 at Lyle, Washington and then turned left at Glenwood Road where spectacular views of both Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood took our breath away.  Then we took Highway 141 back down to White Salmon.

The Klickitat River originates in the High Cascades near Tieton Peak in northwestern Yakima County.  The river flows southeast and drains into the Mighty Columbia at Lyle, Washington.  There is a trail that follows the river for 31 miles that would be fun to hike at some future date.  This loop, however, is a gorgeous drive if you're a little low on stamina (like us right now).

But we'll be back.   Next time with backpacks and boots.


We came across this beautiful old abandoned building (pictured below) near the town of Klickitat and noticed a sign posted to its door.  Evidently this is the only remaining building of an industrial site that used to be here.  Birders discovered the chimney provided a roosting site for Vaux's swifts and petitioned for its preservation.  The sign read:  . . .The flock typically swirls around the top of the chimney in a tighter and tighter pattern, eventually dropping into the chimney several individuals at a time.

The best time to see this wonder is in August and early September.  When I got home, I immediately wrote this down in my calendar.

Mt. Hood

Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams

Oh, yes, we'll be back!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Have Mercey on my Soul

On the road . . .again


Our three month ORDEAL is over.  I didn't think it possible for the pilot light that fuels my gypsy soul to blow completely out, but it did.  After being house-bound for weeks on end and spending each and every day sanding, scraping and painting; after waking up daily with the sound of rat-a-tat-tats from nail guns, saws and jack hammers, my nerves are shattered.

We hadn't intended it to be this way, but our self-imposed deadline demanded immediate attention and no down time.  By the end of May, our little cottage in Santa Barbara never looked so fresh and polished.  And I never looked so old and worn out.

"But we got 'er done, babe," my travel buddy reminded me.  "We got 'er done."

Normally, I am the one who plans our road trips, but this time all I wanted to do was get back to Oregon as quickly as possible.  I figured we'd pull up to a Days Inn or some other bland, cheap hotel along the way.  I just didn't care.

 But my travel buddy had done some homework.  After only being on the road for five hours, he pulled off The Five onto a deserted windy road through the middle of the Central Valley.  I was confused.  There was nothing out here, but rolling hills, cattle and rabbits.

"Where in the world are you taking me?"

He answered with a grin.  And the flame within me sputtered, flickered and flared.  I had seen the sign:

Mercey Hot Springs

He did good.

After settling into our little cabin, we walked over to the old rusty bath tubs and took a long hot, hot soak in sulphur water under the shade of trees and singing birds.
Later, a bottle of wine, gourmet sandwiches, chocolate bars and a walk up the hill to watch the sunset, restored my soul.

It hadn't taken much really.  A rustic cabin in the middle of nowhere.  A golden landscape.  The sounds of silence.  But more importantly, a companion who cared about me and understood exactly what I needed.

Mercey Hot Springs.  A little slice of heaven.

We are back in Oregon.  Our house in Santa Barbara is rented.  Our gypsy souls are restored.  Yippee! We are on the road . . .again.

Friday, June 10, 2016

San Rafael Mission

Along the Mission Trail

Called "the most obliterated of California's missions," the poor San Rafael Arcangel Mission doesn't get a high rating on the mission trail, but who can resist beautiful Marin County and the lovely city of San Rafael?  Not me.

So on our way to San Francisco, we made a quick stop.  Happily, it was Palm Sunday so it made our visit a little more interesting; otherwise, folks, I'm not sure it was worth the stop.

Being a cradle Catholic, I was flooded with memories of those days prior to Easter when my mother dragged us to Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Something Saturday and then, of course, the Biggie.   Four days of non-stop church going changed this little girl forever.  And not in the intended way!
This mission, located fifteen miles north of San Francisco, just across the Golden Gate Bridge, was never meant to be a full mission.  Rather, it started out as a hospital to help heal the Native Americans who were suffering from illnesses caused by the cold damp weather of the Bay Area (and cough, cough, foreign diseases brought by the good padres themselves.)  It was founded in 1817 and became Alta California's first sanitarium.  But because the city of San Rafael started to grow, so did this little hospital and in 1822, it gained full mission status.

This 20th mission had a short life of 17 years with its most prosperous year being 1826.  Nearly 1,000 Indians lived here at the time.  They raised cattle and grew crops, but what I found most interesting is the boat building operation which thrived here--the only mission to have one.  It makes sense, of course.  Boats were in great demand to ferry people back and forth across the bay.  No Golden Gate Bridge back then!
But why is it called "the most obliterated of California's missions?"  Because by 1870, there wasn't a single scrap left.  Not even a ruin.  The mission had been abandoned in 1842, although it did serve as the headquarters of John C. Fremont during the war with Mexico.

Today, a replica of the mission chapel stands to the right of the larger St. Rafael Church.  It is an active Catholic parish and part of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.  That Palm Sunday services were being held in the chapel, rather than the main church, allowed us to take a peak inside and then follow the festivities outside to the courtyard.

  This particular mission is very much a part of 2016.  And not the past. It belongs to the people of San Rafael and not to us history buffs who yearn to go back into time (at least for an hour or two.)

If ever I do write that guidebook "Along the Mission Trail," I think I would recommend passing this one up.  From San Francisco, head straight north to Sonoma.  After all, it was the mission that was never intended to be.  And yet . . . .and yet . . .even though once obliterated, Mission San Rafael Arcangel has risen from the dead.