Blue Bead Man's Summer 2007
Travel Schedule and Online Journal (Web Blog)

(Last update: 8 / 4 / 2007)
Click Here to go to the Most Current Entry in the Online Journal
Click Here to go to the Beginning of the Online Journal

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." - The Road Less Traveled by Robert Frost

"I was born under a wand'rin' star.  A wand'rin', wand'rin' star." -  Wand'rin' Star song from the Paint Your Wagon soundtrack
 
May 27
Caching in K.C.

Check out my journal entry...
28
Caching in K.C.

Check out my journal entry...
29
PCMS 8th grade @ Six Flags
30
Last school day for Parkway students

Check out my journal entry...
31
Last teacher work day for Parkway teachers

Leave for Hawn S.P.

Check out my journal entry...
June 1
Working on MO Passport Program

Continue at Hawn S.P. Site #42

Check out my journal entry...
2
Working on MO Passport Program

Continue at Hawn S.P. Site #42

Check out my journal entry...
3
Working on MO Passport Program

Return to St Louis

Check out my journal entry...
4
District Workshop Day

Check out my journal entry...
5
Travel to Williamsburg, Virginia

Stay at Brick House Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, VA

Check out my journal entry...
6
Working on Teacher Institute at Colonial Williamsburg: Exploring Jamestown sites

Stay at Brick House Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, VA

Check out my journal entry...
7
Working on Teacher Institute at Colonial Williamsburg:
Indentured servitude and slavery in VA

Stay at Brick House Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, VA.

Check out my journal entry...
8
Working on Teacher Institute at Colonial Williamsburg:  Family Life in Williamsburg

Stay at Brick House Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, VA

Check out my journal entry...
9
Working on Teacher Institute at Colonial Williamsburg: Government in Colonial VA

Stay at Brick House Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, VA

Check out my journal entry...
10
Working on Teacher Institute at Colonial Williamsburg: Colonial Economy and Trade

Stay at Brick House Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, VA

Check out my journal entry...
11
Working on Teacher Institute at Colonial Williamsburg: Military Life and the Revolution--Exploring Yorktown sites

Stay at Brick House Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg, VA

Check out my journal entry...
12
Working on Teacher Institute at Colonial Williamsburg: Graduation

Return from Colonial Williamsburg

Night at Home

Check out my journal entry...

13
Stay at home and prepare for this weekend and Boston-Philly trip

Home?!?

Check out my journal entry...
14
Travel to Table Rock Lake State Park - Working on MO Passport Program

Stay at Table Rock S.P.

JOURNAL ENTRY LOST!!!
15
Prepare and Begin Caching and Camping at Table Rock Lake event (Visit the link)

Travel to Table Rock S.P.

JOURNAL ENTRY LOST!!!
16
Caching and Camping at Table Rock Lake Event (Visit the link)

Stay at Table Rock S.P.
17
Working on MO Passport Program

Stay at Table Rock S.P.

LAPTOP DIED!!!  :-(
18
Return to St. Louis

Stay at Babler State Park

Check out my journal entry...
19
Return to St. Louis

Building / Leadership Team meeting @ PCMS (afternoon)

Stay at Babler State Park

Check out my journal entry...
20
Building / Leadership Team meeting @ PCMS (afternoon)

Stay at Babler State Park

Check out my journal entry...
21
District Workshop Day

Stay at Babler State Park

Check out my journal entry...
22
Leave Babler State Park

District Workshop Day

Begin travel to Detroit--Stopping at Flying J in Indianapolis, IN

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23
Continue travel to Detroit

Walden Woods (Detroit area) Resort

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24
Time in Detroit (Caching, etc)

Walden Woods (Detroit area) Resort

Check out my journal entry...
25
Travel to Niagara, NY

Niagara Lazy Lakes (Niagara Falls area) Resort

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26
See Niagara Falls, cache the area

Niagara Lazy Lakes (Niagara Falls area) Resort

Check out my journal entry...
27
Travel to Boston

Boston/Plymouth KOA

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28
Boston area attractions
{Plimouth Plantation, Mayflower II, etc)

Boston/Plymouth KOA

Check out my journal entry...

29
Boston area attractions
(Freedom Trail)

Boston/Plymouth KOA

Check out my journal entry...
30
Boston area attractions
(Quincy/Braintree area--Home of John Adams)

Boston/Plymouth KOA

Check out my journal entry...

July 1
Boston area attractions
(Cache in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine if possible)

Boston/Plymouth KOA

Check out my journal entry...
2
Travel to Port Republic, NJ
(Cache in Rhode Island and Connecticut)

Chestnut Lakes Resort, Port Republic, New Jersey
3
Philadelphia area attractions

Chestnut Lakes Resort, Port Republic, New Jersey
4
Independence Day Celebration--
Philadelphia area attractions

Chestnut Lakes Resort, Port Republic, New Jersey
5
Philadelphia area attractions

Chestnut Lakes Resort, Port Republic, New Jersey
6
Philadelphia area attractions

Chestnut Lakes Resort, Port Republic, New Jersey

Check out my journal entry...
7
Philadelphia area attractions

Chestnut Lakes Resort, Port Republic, New Jersey

Check out my journal entry...
8
Philadelphia area attractions

Chestnut Lakes Resort, Port Republic, New Jersey

Check out my journal entry...
9
Philadelphia area attractions

Chestnut Lakes Resort, Port Republic, New Jersey
10
Philadelphia area attractions

Chestnut Lakes Resort, Port Republic, New Jersey

Check out my journal entry...
11
Begin homebound:  Travel to Champion, PA (Western PA)

Roaring Run Resort, Champion, PA

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12
Fort Necessity and Friendship Hill National Park attractions

Roaring Run Resort, Champion, PA

Check out my journal entry...

13
Travel to Indiana

NACO-Indian Lakes Resort in Batesville, IN

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14
Stay (Day of Relaxation?) in Indiana

NACO-Indian Lakes Resort in Batesville, IN

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15
Return to St. Louis and return camping trailer to Lost Valley Lake storage

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16
Field Trip for Parkway School District 8th grade Social Studies teachers to Lincoln Library sites in Springfield, IL

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17
Field Trip for Parkway School District 8th grade Social Studies teachers to Lincoln Library sites in Springfield, IL

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18
Field Trip for Parkway School District 8th grade Social Studies teachers to Lincoln Library sites in Springfield, IL

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19
Field Trip for Parkway School District 8th grade Social Studies teachers to Lincoln Library sites in Springfield, IL
20
Hmmm..  suddenly free

Maybe I'll head to LVL? or stay in
St. Louis (I stayed in St. Louis...)
21
Stay in St. Louis?!?

SLAGA Picnic

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22
Travel to Thousand Hills State Park

MO Passport Program: Mark Twain Birthplace, Long Branch hikes

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23
Stay at Thousand Hills State Park

MO Passport Program: Thousand Hills hike

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24
Travel to Crowder State Park

MO Passport Program: Crowder hike

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25
Travel to Watkins Woolen Mill State Park

MO Passport Program: Wallace, Watkins Woolen Mill hikes/bike ride

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26
Stay at Watkins Woolen Mill State Park

MO Passport Program:  Weston Bend hikes (2 of them)

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27
Travel to Knob Noster State Park

MO Passport Program: Battle of Lexington, Bothwell Lodge, and Knob Noster hikes

Check out my journal entry...
28
Stay at Knob Noster State Park

MO Passport Program: Arrow Rock, Van Meter hikes

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29
Travel to Bennett Springs State Park

MO Passport Program: Ha Ha Tonka and Lake of the Ozarks hikes

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30
Stay at Bennett Springs State Park

MO Passport Program: Pomme de Terre, Stockton, and Bennett Springs hikes

Check out my journal entry...
31
Travel to  Lost Valley Lake

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Aug 1
Stay at  Lost Valley Lake

MO Passport Program:  Onondaga and Meramec hikes

Check out my journal entry...
2
Stay at  Lost Valley Lake

Rest and relax?!?

Read more of Private Yankee Doodle by Joseph Plumb Martin


3
Stay at  Lost Valley Lake

Rest and relax?!?

Continue reading Private Yankee Doodle by J. P. Martin

Check out my journal entry...
4
Stay at  Lost Valley Lake

Rest and relax?!?

Continue (Finish?) reading Private Yankee Doodle by J. P. Martin

Check out my journal entry...
5
Return from all trips and from Lost Valley Lake.  Summer ends... boo woo!  But boy, was it a great summer!

MO Passport Program:  Graham Cave hike (on the way home from Lost Valley Lake)
6
8th grade SS teacher workshop day at PCMS:

Develop lessons and support for new textbook
7
8th grade SS teacher workshop day at PCMS:

Develop lessons and support for new textbook
8
Teachers report back to Parkway
9
Back in School
10
Back in School
11
TBA

My Online Journal and Picture Gallery:

Click here to view the entire picture gallery since the beginning of summer.

May 13 -

The trip(s) have not yet even begun and I will make an entry into my online journal. I am excited and anxious to begin this summer's travels. I spent this past weekend at Lost Valley Lake planning out the basic schedule and the June state park route.   In all, three of the four trips are planned and ready to go.  I still need to decide on several details about the late July / early August trip, but hey, I still have plenty of time to figure it all out.  For now, I'll just state a couple lyrics from a song from one of my favorite movies.  Although I cannot say I agree with entire sad song, I'll still take it as sort of a personal anthem--a theme for this summer of wandering around here and there hoping to never get home:
 
I Was Born Under a Wandering Star
(Sung by Lee Marvin in the Paint Your Wagon movie)
(Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner)

Home is made for comin' from, for dreams of goin' to
Which, with any luck will never come true.
I was born under a wand'rin' star.
I was born under a wand'rin' star.

I was born under a wand'rin' star.
A wand'rin', wand'rin' star.

May 15 -
Ok, I've started the picture gallery by adding a few photos of my home away from home for this summer--my 2005 Aliner LXE Expedition.  A couple of the photos even show my towing vehicle--an old beat up 1999 Ford Ranger pick up.   I hope it holds up this summer, but boy, am I ready to go!  Click here for the picture gallery.

May 21 -
Summer has not even started and yet my schedule changes.  I have been named Team 8-2 team leader for the 2007-2008 school year.  What a honor!  What this means, besides the added responsibility during the school year, is that I need to attend a couple more meetings during the Summer Break.  Luckily, the newly required meetings just happen to fall at the end of the MO State Park Passport trip.  I should have most, if not all, of the passport program hikes completed by that time so I am not really losing much if anything at all.  The other big news is just a thought at the moment, but it could greatly change my schedule.  Perhaps I should exchange my 3 week stay at LVL for the dates later in July and early August and take my trailer to Kentucky / Tennessee and points beyond during that late June / early July time slot.  I am trying to set up my trip to Kentucky to correspond to full moon dates which happen on June 30 or July 30 this year.  If I can work it out right, I can see a moonbow at Cumberland Falls State Park (Ky).  Moonbows are very rare, and if I can see it this summer, then I will certainly write about it in greater detail at that time.  Going to KY and TN in late June and early July would allow me to see the moonbow and spend as much time as possible, 3 weeks worth, on caching.  I am working on several other objectives and goals for the trip, but until I finalize things, it would probably be best not to mention all my plans.  Until next time, cache on!

May 27 -
Summer has UNofficially begun.  Lancelot (Glenn), Gerhardus (John), and myself left St. Louis Friday night for a 3 day Kansas City Caching Bonanza.   The experience will hereafter be known as the "Oozy Rat Tour" because of one of the caches we found yesterday ("Oozy Rat in a Sanitary Zoo").  In total I found, or help find, 55 caches so far.  That was 3 on Friday, 28 yesterday, and 24 more today.  Among the cache finds was the 37th oldest cache ever near Watts Mill in southern Kansas City.  That cache was part of why I came to KC this weekend--I wanted to find this OLD cache before it had any other chance of being archived.  I did take lots of pictures and I will upload a few to the website soon.  We visited all of my old haunting grounds--I spent nearly 10 years of my life in Kansas City--and I reconnected with my own past in a structural sort of way.  We drove passed three of my previous dwellings, cruised the same streets, visited the same parks, and ate the same food.  Well, at least we tried to eat the same food.  Gates and Sons Bar-B-Que was excellent as always, but we did not get to Lamar's Donuts and Mario's Grinders was closed.  Still, it was a remembering of my roots, of where I had been, of what made me who I am today.  Connecting my past with my present was important.  Connection is one of the "blue bead concepts" which I associate with my caching name and with who I am and want to be, but this experience has helped me learn that connection is not dependence.  While I connect with my past, I am not dependent upon it.  If I do not like who I am today, it is my job, my responsibility, to make the change and become the type of person I want to be.  I am who I am and that is all I ever wish to be.  I do not wish to return to being the person I was when I lived in Kansas City, and while it is fun to remember those times, I must not dwell here for long.  To do so would be to sabotage my present and who I am today.

There are several MAJOR schedule changes to report.  The LVL trip in late June and early July is history.  I still need to cancel the reservations, but I will not be at Lost Valley during that stretch of time.  Gone too is the thought of going to Tennessee, Kentucky, and points beyond during that same time period.  The new schedule places me in the Great Northeast during June and early July.  Michigan, Canada, New York, Boston, and Philadelphia will be the new destinations.  D.C. may be the final possible location, but since I will not have enough time to do D.C. right, I might just extend the Philadelphia part of the trip and go home from there.  Check out the calendar for the new changes.

May 28 -
I just got back from the Kansas City "Oozy Rat Caching Tour."  We found 16 more caches today on the way home. So I got a personal grand total of 71 caches found for this trip and should stand, by the time I get them all logged, at a total of 2180 caches found total.  Caching is weird.  Everyone says its not about the number, but really it is.  The crazy thing is, and it REALLY is crazy, that the numbers mean NOTHING!  Nothing at all--caching numbers mean less than baseball statistics, and baseball statistics are totally useless.  After all, a team can have a so-so season in the right division and end up as World Champions.  I love my St. Louis Cardinals.  They are the greatest baseball team in the world, but statistics meant nothing last year and the Cards ended up as World Champions by sheer dumb luck.  Of course, who is complaining?  Any lottery winner will tell you that they just got lucky and that it is better to be lucky than good any day.  So while the numbers in caching mean nothing, everyone keeps track of them.  The first question cachers ask to each other is something about the total number of caches than they have found.  Web sites like "CacheStats" and "ItsNotAboutTheNumbers.com" are nothing but number crunching tools for geocachers.  It's silly--but it is an essential part of the game.  So much so that the running joke among geocachers is "but it's not about the numbers!"  Yeah, right!  Then why is one of my goals for this summer to find 2500 caches before school starts this coming fall?  Why did I keep track of how many caches I found this weekend?  This year? For my entire geocaching career?  No, it's not about the numbers...it IS the numbers!  So I proudly proclaim:  I now have 2180 caches found and need to find 320 more before this summer ends!  :-)

On a different topic,  I want to update the picture gallery.  I have several new pics to upload and display, but the uploading will probably need to wait until tomorrow.  I still need to log the caches and grade some stuff for my kiddos, and yet it is already time for bed.  Hey!  A check on my schedule says I am at Six Flags tomorrow!  Woo-hoo!  And I do not even need to pay for it because I am a teacher.  Yee ha!  Hopefully, I'll tell you all about it tomorrow night--when I am grading all those papers I should have graded tonight!  :-)

May 30 -
UGH!  This school year will not go gently into the night.  Here I sit sometime after midnight the night before the final "teacher checkout day" typing up a journal entry  instead of grading the mountain of schoolwork which needs to, without fail, be reported to the school district tomorrow before I may be released for the summer.  I think I'll be pulling an all-nighter on this one.  Besides the schoolwork, I am also trying to get ready to go to Hawn State Park and Sam A. Baker State Park this weekend.  That means getting stuff packed and ready to go.  Ugh!  And I still do not have a single Kansas City cache logged.  Too much to do--TOO MUCH TO DO!  Of course, in 18-24 hours it will all be over and I will officially begin my summer break.  Now how many people can say that?  Not too many get to say it at all!  Six Flags was cool--as always.  The Superman ride became my new favorite ride at the park yesterday.  I thought it would be scary and it was anything but scary.  It was a very cool feeling going up 12 stories and then free-falling most of that distance back down to earth.  It was a very cool feeling indeed.  The KC pics are coming, but the pics will probably not be online until after this weekend.

NOTE:  Just a side note about last night as I am about to type today's (5/31) entry: Although it was close, it was not an all-nighter.  I got about 2 hours of sleep and ALL assignments, make up work, and extra credit were counted and submitted to the district on time and without fail.  :-)  And, and, and, YES, I am tired now.

May 31 -
BIG NEWS!  Big changes! Big excitement!  But I will reveal all in good time.  Right now I am sitting in my camping trailer at Hawn State Park--on campsite #42--with my candle burning, the computer glowing, and the embers of my "Opening Campfire" dwindling just outside.  What a long exciting day this was!  Actually, I want to start by describing yesterday in greater detail--at least a couple of the highlights--and that will lead into today and the BIG changes coming!  Yesterday was the kids last day of school for the school year.  That is always a big deal and an exciting time for everybody.  Part of the day was a party for the 6th graders to celebrate their camp experience.  The counselors return for the afternoon, we show a slideshow about camp, and everyone gets to sign everyone else's yearbook.  Well, I am in charge of the slideshow video for Team 6-2.  My slideshow video includes MUCH more than just some silly little pictures of kids making goofy faces.  I created an one hour and forty minute long extraganza.  We did not show everything in the video to the kids yesterday, but they got to see the highlights.   I am proud to say that everyone seemed to enjoyed the video.  There were scenes of mud kickball, cabin cheers, funny faces, and songs which the kids learned and sang all over again.  The video was also a big hit with the teachers and the counselors.  So much so that I received a thank you card from one of the coolest teachers and overall gem of a person that I know.

That person is Teresa. Now, before I say anything else, I must say that there is nothing--never has been and I trust never will be anything--romantic between us.  She is just a fellow teacher, a good colleague, and a friend.  Teresa is the seemingly quiet, yet extremely determined, social butterfly of our school.  She flutters around connecting with every person, every student, and every staff member.  Everyone knows her, respects her, and feels a special connection with her.  My eighth grade students, the ones fortunate enough to be in her class when they were in sixth grade, continue to rave about Teresa and sing her praises.  Everyone I know who knows about Teresa feels the same way.  For example, a former student published a book and he included Teresa in the book's dedication.  She is the walking breathing example of the eternal optimist.  She brings a smile to everyone's face.  I have never heard her say no to anyone, myself included, without a strong reason to say no.  I come up with all these crazy ideas for sixth grade camp--a GPS unit, a camp video, etc--and Teresa just approves each new crazy idea.  I have seen her deal with countless number of people throughout the ten plus years I have known her.  She is a master at positive communication--a role model for all of us.  Personally, just like everyone else, I feel a very special connection with her.  Teresa, along with a few others,  gave me my start in teaching.  She let me design and implement an unit in her class which was my very first teaching experience.  She lets me implement all these crazy ideas for sixth grade camp.   Despite the fact that we rarely if ever (never?) see each other outside of "official" school business, I feel this special connection with her at times.  So when I get a card from her, I really take notice and really appreciate what she has to say.  This is what her card said to me:

Thank You
"You are like a gentle light,
casting out darkness,
warming hearts,
and illuminating the fact
that one caring person
can still make a difference
in this world."
Thank you
for the light you bring...
the difference you make.

Teresa has no idea what these words mean to me.  I am, after all, a rugged independent individualist who appears on first glance to be aloof and arrogant.  That is not self-defeating; that is honest.  I know I am not aloof and arrogant.  I am a very good person with a kind heart and always good intentions.  I have to please no one but myself, and I am pleased with who I am.  I enjoy my independent ways and I revel in my individuality.  Still, to receive this card with these words from someone who means as much to me as Teresa does, I am touched and humbled.  In the first lines of this journal entry, I mentioned a candle.  I have that candle with me for a very specific reason.  It goes back to my fraternity days, but the symbolism and meaning are now much deeper to me.  This particular candle is new.  There have been other candles before it.  There will be other candles after it I'm sure.  A candle is nothing more than a piece of wax with a string in the middle of it.  It is simple and temporary.  The candle's shape will change and deteriorate over the course of its life, yet the wax of the candle is not important.  It is only the body of the candle.  What is important about the candle is the fire within it; the flame that it displays; the light which illuminates its surroundings.  It is a gentle light casting out darkness.  Yet just like the temporary wax which holds the flame, the flame itself is temporary.  At some point all flames, just like all lives, flicker and fade away.  The light will disappear into the darkness and all that will remain will be a memory in the consciousness of someone else who will in turn flicker and fade away themselves.  Tonight I lit my opening campfire.  Just like the lighting of the torch at the Olympics begins the games; so does this campfire officially begin summer for me.  A new flame--that being my life during Summer 2007--was ignited.  From the glowing kindling of that opening campfire, I lit this new candle.  The candle will remain with me this summer.  I will take it with me wherever I may go as long as I can take it where I am going.  It will burn to remind me that I need to burn brightly this summer.  It will burn to remind me that I need to be a gentle light casting out darkness and warming hearts myself.  It will burn to remind me that I need to be the person that I am.

I realize this all seems campy and over the top for many people.  It undoubtedly is just that--campy and over the top--but it serves to give my summer a purpose and a goal, and I see nothing wrong with that.  :-)

OH--  Big changes, and I do mean BIG CHANGES!  The schedule changes again.  Today, at 11:32 am--just a hour and a half before we were to begin check out--I received an email message about a free, all expenses paid, trip to a teacher institute at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.  Wow!  Like yea, I'm interested!  The only catch is that I need to go on June 5th and stay there in Williamsburg until June 12th.  Aw shucks, I was going to complete the Missouri state park passport program during that time frame.  So what?  I can do the Missouri state passport program later this summer!  Sign me up quick!  So that is exactly what I did.  I leave next Tuesday.  It is going to be a blast to fly to Williamsburg and to be in nearby Jamestown during its 400th anniversary.  I am SO excited!  Also, instead of pulling my trailer down to Sam A. Baker S.P. this weekend, I will stay at Hawn and just drive the truck to the Southeast MO parks participating in the passport program.  More on that tomorrow.  Ok, now I need to correct the calendar once more!  :-P  What a "problem" to have...

June 1 -
Boy, what a difference a day makes!  Yesterday was crazy and exciting.  Today was lazy and almost boring.  No, no emotional thoughts or deep understandings for today's journal!  I slept until 9:30am and really didn't do anything productive until noon.  I did need the sleep, but I felt like a bum.  I did do two state parks and two passport hikes today.  I did the one here at Hawn, and I did the one at Elephant Rocks State Park.  Both were easy and I had plenty of time to do other things.   I started by creating a list of things I did not bring with me.  When the list got to 8 things, I decided to do something about it.  I continued to add things and eventually made the journey back to society for the missing items and the internet to work on loading maps for my GPS and logging a few of the KC caches.  Other than that, nothing much happened today.  I did feel slightly "rejected" at one point today.  Nathan was the cause of this "rejection."  Nathan is one of my four little nephews.  He just graduated from kindergarten about a week ago.  He is typically one cool kid.  At least, I've always thought so--that is, until maybe today.  Nathan was over at Grandma's house, otherwise known as my mom and dad's house, and was playing some game when Grandma called me.  She thought I had called her.  I had, but it had been several hours since I had originally placed the call.   Of course, mom asked Nathan if he wanted to talk to his uncle (me).  In the background, I hear this youthful voice shout out "No way, Jose!"  No way Jose?  Who is this kid?  What a little twerp!  :-P  Oh well, if Nathan does not want to talk with me today then I'll go back to my campfire and candle and dream of tomorrow's adventures.  Even with my "rejection," I am already having a great time this summer and yes, Nathan is still a pretty cool little kid.  I'm still at Hawn, and will travel to the southeast part of the state tomorrow before returning to Hawn for tomorrow night.  I'll type a new entry when I get back.  Until then, happy trails.  :-)

June 2 -
Ever order a Whopper when a hamburger will do?  That's what happened to me today.  Ok, the plan for today was go to Trail of Tears State Park, hike, go to Big Oak State Park, hike again, go to Lake Wappapello, hike a third time, go to Sam A. Baker and finish off with a fourth hike before heading back to Hawn.  BOY, were my eyes MUCH bigger than my sto... I mean, feet!  Whew!  Just the drives to Trail of Tears and Big Oak State Parks adventuresome in their own rights.  I did not even attempt to go to Lake Wappapello and Sam A. Baker.  I had wanted to pick up about 20 caches this weekend on top of the 4 passport hikes.  I found only two caches--nice ones--but still only two of them.  So my tally for today was 2 passport hikes, 2 geocaches, 1 NGS benchmark, and a whole lot of sweating!  I had wanted to type a list of goals for this summer for tonight's journal entry.  I would have said something to the effect of "Everyone needs goals to get what they want in life so here are MY goals for the summer..."  After today, I think I need to rethink the whole goals thing.  Goals are good, do not get me wrong.  We all need goals.  I certainly need goals in order to prioritize and get things done.  The question is not whether I should set goals.  I know I should and need to set goals, but the question becomes which goals should I set and why should that goal be a goal?  Am I setting a goal because I KNOW I will reach it?  Or should  I set such a lofty goal that there is no way on earth I could reach it?  What is realistic and what is just plain silly foolishness as a goal?  These are all good questions.   For example, I would like to have at least 2500 caches found by the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year.  Now that sounds nice.  Afterall, it is a nice round number and all.  It seems possible--maybe--but is there any driving reason for that as a goal?  The answer is clear: no good reason, other than personal pride, demands that goal be reached by the end of summer.  Finishing the Missouri State Park passport program by the end of June was another one of the goals I had originally set for myself.  Now with the "new" unexpected trip to Colonial Williamsburg, finishing the passport program by the end of June is impossible.  And after a day like today, I wonder if I will complete the program at all.  Should I drop the Passport program as a goal, or should I just modify the goal in some way?  Also, what happens if I don't meet a goal for whatever reason?  Will it kill me to admit failure or would it make me want to declare the entire summer a failure simply because I only met 3 out of my 5 stated major goals?  It all boils down to the purpose of the goal.  Then I guess that the goals I set should give the "work" I do this summer some meaning and purpose.  With that in mind, what are my summer goals and the purpose for those goals?  First, finding caches in new states will mean that I am travelling to new places.  Ideally, if possible, I would like to cache in 10 new states.  I have already added Kansas to my list.  I just need nine more.  If all goes well, I should be able to accomplish that feat.  After that, the list of goals becomes somewhat murky.  Here are some ideas, and I'll work on the list some more soon.  Despite not having a good reason to keep it, I'll still keep the 2500 caches by end of summer as a goal possibility.  I should travel to places which I could use in my classroom as I teach American history, but should this even be a goal?  I will have already done this by June 5th and it will be basically thrust upon myself.  I have wanted to know more about my great-great-great-great grandfather James Stephenson and his American Revolutionary War exploits so exploring the southern part of New Jersey is a must--one of my goals should address this desire for an increased understanding of my own family's past.  One last kink with all of this goal-setting.  I get everything planned and worked out and then something comes along and changes the whole schedule all over again.  That's what happened to the Missouri State Park passport program goal.  Ugh, too much thinking for this tired body at too late a time at night.  I'm going to bed.  I'll create another entry tomorrow night from the comfort of my own room.  Until then, take care... 

June 3 -
What a beautiful day and in more than one way!  I left Hawn and drove the trailer back to Lost Valley Lake storage.  I didn't want to leave either Hawn nor Lost Valley!  I wanted to stay and play or just crash out there for a while!  Once I finally did get to Mom's and Dad's house, we fixed Bar-B-Q for dinner.  Then it was on to logging caches and chatting with geocachers and friends online.  I got ALL of the KC caches logged and even the two caches I found yesterday.  I think I solved the picture gallery issue I was experiencing.  Some of the pics are now online, but until I get all of the kinks out, no one will be able to see them unless you are good at hacking this server.  :-) Well, tomorrow is a workshop day--I am to work on support materials for the new textbook--and then it is packing for the Colonial Williamsburg trip.  I guess I'd better get SOME sleep tonight! 

June 4 -
I feel like I should be running around the place going "balkkkk, balkkkk"  but I fear than the correct piece of anatomy to do that is not attached to my body.  How's that for going around Robin Hood's barn to avoid a cliche!?  :-P  Seriously though, it is past midnight and I still have packing to do for the trip tomorrow.  What a busy day today!  I found out today that another one of my teaching teammates is leaving our building.  She is married and her husband teaches at another Parkway middle school.  She is transferring schools to be at the same school.  I cannot blame her, but the head principal at Central called me during my workshop today and asked if I could help interview a couple of candidates today.  I did.  So on top of the workshop stuff, on top of dealing with getting my truck fixed before the Boston/Philly trip, on top of cutting Mom and Dad's grass, etc etc etc, I found little time to pack.  So here I am, rough life that it is, typing up another entry after midnight.  Tomorrow will certainly prove to be exciting!  I cannot wait--I might not get any sleep tonight--but I cannot wait to go!  

June 5 -
Whew!  Wow!  Wonderful!  Wacky!  Whiz bang golly gee, this is fun!  I am in Williamsburg, VA right now.  I am sitting here in my room at the Brick House Tavern on Duke of Gloucester Street in downtown Colonial Williamsburg.  If you are looking up the place on www.history.org or on Google Earth, it is at the corner of Duke of Gloucester and Botetourt Street across Botetourt from Tarpley's Store and next to the Blacksmith Shop.  What a place!  I have a canopy bed in what appears to be a colonial furnished room.  I walk out of my room and out of my hotel DIRECTLY into middle of colonial Virginia and pre-revolutionary America.  Fantastic!  It was a jam packed day with lots of walking and lots of activities, but I am having the absolute time of my life and would not change it for anything!  Tomorrow proves to be more jam packed and more exciting.  As a group, we head to the Jamestown sites--Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestowne National Park.  Excellent places to visit in 2007 given that this is the 400th annverisary of the founding of Jamestown.  I was given the entire schedule for the upcoming week and have updated the calendar to reflect what we will be doing.  Unless otherwise noted, we will be in Colonial Williamsburg doing that "stuff."  That is, of course, except for the Jamestown and Yorktown days.  Well, I have been repeatedly warned to pack lots of water (I have the Camelbak with me!) and to get lots of sleep.  After last night, sleep is in short supply.  So with happy thoughts and warm anticipation of what is about to come tomorrow, I take my leave of this journal entry.  Have a good night!

June 6 -
Ah new stuff at Jamestown!  This was a good day.  We, the group of Parkway and Rockwood teachers here this week on the Teaching American History grant, spent the morning at Jamestown Settlement.  We saw a recreated Powhatan indian village, learned about 1600s navigational techniques, boarded the recreated Susan Constant ship, toured the recreated James Fort, spent time at the settlement's museum galleries, and visited the gift shop all before lunch in the cafe.  Whew!  Then things speeded up a bit!  The afternoon was spent at Historic Jamestowne where the actual James Fort has been located in the last 14-15 years.  For years, people believed that the original fort had been swallowed up by the James River.  Well, that was not the case.  The original fort was located and a new wall was built to show where the original wall was located.  All afternoon was spent with archaeologists and archaeology "stuff" including museums and the actual Jamestown dig site.  Pretty cool stuff really for a history buff.  Dinner was served at the Shields Tavern on Duke of Gloucester street here in Colonial Williamsburg, and we finished the day will an archaeology simulation led by a Colonial Williamsburg intrepreter and reenactor.  Cool stuff indeed.  As a group, we will be just as busy tomorrow, but that will be a different story and a new journal entry.  Thanks for reading!

June 7 -
This was the best day yet at Williamsburg!  Geez, it was probably the best day yet all summer long!  Ok, let's get the details out of the way.  The teacher institute focused on indentured servitude and slavery today.  We began with information about indentured servitude.  When this form of forced labor did not meet the growing need for workers, slavery took over as the main form of "employment."  After examining indentured servitude, the teachers moved on to studying slavery in its various forms.  For instance, there were field slaves and house slaves.  We toured Good Hope plantation here at Colonial Williamsburg to learn about growing tobacco and the work of the field slaves.  Then we travelled by foot to lunch and the Peyton Randolph House.  Peyton Randolph employed 27 house slaves and we learned about the jobs and responsibilities of those slaves.  Later in the afternoon, we journeyed to the Rockefeller Library to examine some actual primary source documents.  We finished with an activity using primary sources.  The activity shows why historians should and do use original, or primary, sources.  After dinner on our own, the entire group got to sit in on a witch trial--a recreation of the one and only witch trial which made it to Virginia's highest court--and despite my best efforts to change the verdict, our group still found the "witch" not guilty.  Darn.... :-)  Then the loudest of the bunch, myself included, went for a drink at Chowning's Tavern.  I'm not normally a drinking man, and I did limit myself to just one mugful, but I enjoyed a draw of the tavern's house brew.  By the time the group broke up and went slooshing back to our sleeping quarters, we were singing colonial songs, cracking dirty jokes, playing (and buying?) colonial games, and listening to ghost stories about frumpy old grannies in the ladies necessary.  I was sticky and needed to take a shower just to think about getting into bed.  Now I sit here typing up another journal entry as I listen to one of the "handouts" given to us today: a CD full of African stories from Colonial Williamsburg.  Boy, what a day!  What will tomorrow bring?

June 8 -
Well, the newness of this trip is beginning to wear off, and while today was great, yesterday was probably better.  Today at the Teacher Institute, we focused on family life in Colonial Williamsburg.  In other words, we talked about and did girlie things.  For example, how was the "middling" or middle class house decorated, who did what in that type of house, how did they dress, and so on.  Boring stuff for a guy like me.  I mean, ok, so it was fun dressing up as a colonial militiaman and even doing a colonial dance or two with another pretty Parkway teacher, but how macho can this be?  Dinner was awesome however.  We ate at the King's Arms Tavern, the best restaurant in Colonial Williamsburg, and had some of the finest food to be had.  Of course, I got a little sick off of one of the courses.  Yes, it was a three course dinner.  First, we had the house specialty peanut soup.  Some in our group opted for a salad.  The peanut soup was good, but it made me ill later.  It tasted like watered down peanut butter in the words of one teacher.  The second course was the main meal.  I had salmon with a special type of potatoes.  Finally, the third course was a rushed dessert.  We had a choice of chocolate, vanilla, or the house specialty peppermint stick ice cream.  Once again, I choose the house specialty.  Dessert was rushed because of our evening activity which we could not be late.  The evening activity consisted of stories from Colonial African-Americans.  It was good, but I sat through the program in a wet cold sweat because of the peanuts in the peanut soup.  I'm not feeling so well right now, so this might not get uploaded until tomorrow night.  I think I'll go to bed now...

June 9 -
Ok, the peanut illness was just a quick thing and I have now recovered 100% percent from it.  I wish I could say the same thing about the nerve in my back which is killing me every time I go about 100 yards or more in a standing or walking position.  Things slowed down a bit today.  Whew!  I failed to mention yesterday that besides all of the family stuff, the Colonial Williamsburg staff also showed off their Teacher Institute "goodie bag" of technology tricks.  In other words, they showed off their web site and electronic field trip stuff.  Good stuff really, I just don't know how I can use it all.  Oh, I can create lessons to use it, but if I use all of this stuff, there would be no time left during the school year to do anything else.  Today was government day.  We focused on colonial government at Williamsburg.  We began at the capital with the government of the commonwealth of Virginia.  We got to see the High Court and the House of Burgesses.  The House of Burgesses is one of the coolest places in America in my opinion.  It is just an empty room really with some moderately fancy pews and decorations, yet this room gave birth to American Democracy.  This is where the Virginia Declaration of Rights was created--the precursor and inspiration for the Declaration of Independence--and the room where Lee's Resolution--the statement which did become the Declaration of Independence--was agreed upon.  It was the room where Patrick Henry gave fiery speeches and great founding fathers such as George Washington and George Mason--one of the authors of the Bill of Rights--served their colony and country.  That colony and country being Virginia.  We also saw the city's Public Gaol or jail.  Some famous prisoners, including some of Blackbeard's fellow pirates, were held.  We saw once again the Courthouse and learned this courthouse was simply the city and county courthouse and not the high courthouse.  We also toured the Governor's Palace and met with Viriginia's very first governor, Patrick Henry.  Ok, so we met with an actor portraying Patrick Henry, but to the untrained, unknowing person, this guy certainly could have been Patrick Henry.  I asked him a detailed question about the Boston Tea Party and he responded just the way I had hoped he would.  I asked about the fact that the Tea Act which casued the Boston Tea Party was actually a reduction in tax.  It was, and Patrick Henry admitted it, but he then went on to state that what we were really fighting about during the American Revolution was not really about the taxes but about self-government.  Bingo--yes!  That is what the American Revolution is about--self-government for the colonies!  After our meeting with Patrick Henry, teachers were on their own for a little while.  I checked out a few trade shops--the cooper making barrels, the cabinetmaker, and the brickmaker--but I also did some personal stuff like finally make reservations for all of the stops along the Detroit-Niagara-Boston-Philadelphia trip scheduled later this summer.  With my truck having been repaired yesterday, or at least it should be ready to go when I get back from Williamsburg, I should be all set to venture out again on my way to the East Coast a second time this summer--that time to the north of here. Well, with future travel reservations made and a nice expensive "modern" meal of prime rib at the Season's Restaurant this evening, we were all ready for the evening entertainment.  The entertainment was cool if I do say so myself.  We were shown and participated in a series of colonial dances including a minuet and other colonial favorites.  I was asked and participated in two of the dances including one where I was chosen by a delightful young lady named Suzanne.  Suzanne was one of the demonstrators at the Colonial Dance activity and could not have been older than 18.  I'm sure her job is to make dirty old farts like myself feel warm and comfortable, but I all I can say is that she is good at her job.  It was fun dancing with her and the rest of the colonial dancers.  We finished off the night once again at Chowning's Tavern for a world record SECOND tankard of Chowning Tavern Ale.  Wow!  My insides must be wondering what hit me--two beers in three nights?!?   Stop the presses--I MAY have a drinking problem!  Nay, but the company was fun and I did enjoy the nightcap.  I didn't even lose the tavern game we were playing!  Of course, no one else lost!  Until tomorrow, cheers!

June 10 -
The Williamsburg trip begins to wind down.  Today was a easy somewhat lazy day and I spent some cash to buy classroom posters and colonial supplies.  We learned about trade in Virginia during colonial times and about the skilled artisans operating there at the time.   Personally, I visited several tradesmen shops such as the blacksmith shop and the silversmith shop and well, you get the picture.  We talked about colonial currency and other economical issues which helped set up the Revolutionary War.  To end the day, we set up a simulation involving the American Revolution for tomorrow's session and then had a pizza party before taking the rest of the afternoon and evening off.  It was a nice night socializing with the fellow teachers involved in the program and grant.  We headed to Chowning's  Tavern one more time for a couple more beers.  I really enjoyed it.  The only downer to the day was the leaders of the group mentioning the idea of us starting to think of packing up to go home--ugh!  I did buy four CDs--three fife and drum music CDs and one African stories and songs CD--and three posters dislaying the colonies, but other than that, there is nothing really new to report.  Tomorrow will be the last full Williamsburg day and our only (full) day at Yorktown.  Then we fly home Tuesday.  I will report on a new entry tomorrow.

June 11 -
This is it.  My last night in Williamsburg.  I just got off the phone with mom.  Brian, my roommate on this trip, is already asleep, and I still need to pack.  It is a bittersweet time for me really.  All good things must come to an end, and this trip was a VERY GOOD thing.  All of the learning, the socializing, the exploring the past by living there in the present was just outstanding.  However, it is time to move on.  Someone asked me today if I was ready to go home.  That person was feeling homesick herself--she told me so in so many words--and she was ready to leave.  I responded by saying that I was ready to move on and leave Williamsburg and Historic Triangle behind for now.  There is nothing more here for me to do, but I am not yet ready to go home.  As a teacher's institute, we did a fair number of things today.  First was the simulation set up yesterday.  As a group, we debated on whether or not the colonists should break away and leave England.  Should we declare independence or not?  I was to play the role of a loyalist.  There were several "strong Loyalist" simulators and believe it or not, we carried the day and, had history followed our vote, the colonies would have remained with Great Britain.  Imagine that!  Next, it was onto the Yorktown Victory Center.  Personally, I got a little upset at the Victory Center.  There are 27 reasons stated in the Declaration of Independence for why the colonists want to break away from Great Britain.  The Yorktown Victory Center focuses just on one: taxes!  Blah!  If one needs to narrow and simplify the lesson down to just a simple concept that elementary school kids can understand for why the colonists wanted to break away from Great Britain, that concept should be self-government and the British empire's refusal to grant that self-government to the colonists.  Now that is perhaps oversimplifying things a bit, but that idea, the one about self-government, should be stressed MUCH MORE than any silly ideas about taxes.  We did get to play soldier there for a while and that was fun, and they shot off a flint lock musket and a cannon to demonstrate what and how it was done.  From the Yorktown Victory Center, we moved on to the Yorktown Battlefield National Park.  It was an interesting place as always. Unfortunately, I slept through the movie and didn't really explore much of the musuem at all.  I did buy a book for my classroom and a couple of colonial coins, but that was it.  We went to Redoubts 9 and 10, then to the Surrender Field, followed by a trip to the beachfront before heading back to Colonial Williamsburg.  That was it.  The teacher institute was over.  Well, it was not quite over just yet. We had dinner at the finest restaurant in Colonial Williamsburg: Christina Campbell's Tavern.   I had steak tips, shrimp, and a lovely dessert for dinner.  Yum!  Oh, I spent my after dinner time by finding my one and only cache during this trip.  I found Melissa's Meadow and took several fine pictures there.  I HAVE to get the picture gallery updated!  Then the nightcap was once again, and for the last time, at Chowning's Tavern.  So it was a sad day and night in many ways, but I drowned my sorrows with good cheer from happy friends and mugful of Chowning's Best Tavern Ale!  We will finish the institute tomorrow with graduation before flying back to St. Louis via Richmond and Chicago.  Tomorrow my report will be from home I believe.  Huzzah!

June 12 -
The amazing Williamsburg trip is over.  I just got home minutes ago and finally (!) uploaded yesterday's journal entry.  I tried to upload things early today at the Richmond, VA airport, but even though my laptop would connect to their WiFi setup, I could not access the internet.  It was weird.  Of course, talking about the Richmond airport is getting ahead of myself.  We began the day by loading our luggage in a particular hotel room and then riding to a "behind the scenes" location of Colonial Williamsburg (Bruton Heights School) where the teacher institute group went through "graduation exercises."  For that, we had a face to face talk with a 18th century school teacher and worked on some final "application" lesson plans to be used with out kids next year.  The school teacher reenactor was cool.  She mentioned some things which are noteworthy and she made me think.  For example, I made a connection about the Newberry Prize and John Newberry who was a colonial writer of children's books.  Ah, so that is where the medal comes from--a colonial youth book author!  Also, I realized that a major mistake had been made during this institute.  The school teacher mentioned John Locke and his ideas.  That comment made me realize that the Great Awakening and the Enlightenment had NOT been covered during this institute.  No wonder our group voted down any resolution supporting independence yesterday.  The ideas of John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau were the foundations and main reasons why the colonies decided to declare independence.  If the ideas of natural rights (Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Property or Happiness), self-government, limited government, and the social contract between citizens and the government--in other words, the ideas of Locke and Rousseau--are not covered in the instruction of the teacher institute, then why WOULD the teachers vote for independence?  There would be no reason to do so.  If one looks at the Revolution from the standpoint of the common people of Virginia--everyone, from the top gentry of rich plantation owners to the middling class artisans and skilled tradesman to the lower class indentured servants and slaves, would have NO reason to even WANT independence at all.  Breaking away from England would cause a loss of trade and the loss of the one and only customer (England) to the rich plantation owners, instability in currency and government contracts for the middling class, and an unsettled future for the lower class indentured servants and slaves.  Locke and Rousseau's ideas were really some of the only things driving the colonies towards independence.  Unfortunately, the elementary school version of the Williamsburg Teacher Institute did not cover any of these ideas.  What a shame and a loss!  I did mention this flaw to the director of our institute and she seemed to immediately recognize and realize the problem.  I believe she will take steps to change the program in ways to incorporate, at a simple yet needed level, the ideas of the Enlightenment which so greatly influenced Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and George Mason.   With that change in mind, elementary school teachers will have a better idea of what lead the colonists to declare independence.  After the school teacher finished and the lesson plans were created, we received a couple tokens of institute completion.  Namely, a photo of our group and a certificate of completion.  From there, we got one final chance to say goodbye to Colonial Williamsburg--I brought some tobacco seeds--before loading the busses to travel to Richmond.  Once in Richmond, we checked in at the airport and eventually boarded out plane.  They told us to turn off all electronic devices, but I left my camera on and for the first time ever, I deliberately used the video camera functions on the camera to record our takeoff from Richmond and our landing in Chicago.  A change of planes in Chicago, and we were finally homeward bound.  Now, I'm back in St. Louis.  My head is spinning as fast as the laundry in the washing machine and dryer which are frantically working right now.  Well, will I leave to pick up the trailer tomorrow?  I doubt it--I NEED some down time--but I will not wait too long to travel to Table Rock Lake.  Well, got to get to bed some time tonight...  until tomorrow, bye!

June 13 -
Nuts!  I just realized that the entry I wrote last night did not get uploaded like I thought it had.  Oh well, it is not the end of the world.  Thinking about the Williamsburg trip and experiencing something today has me thinking about the price of independence.  Independence--no matter what the level of that independence--is always costly.  For the colonists in Virginia, independence meant a fight, and for some, that fight ended their lives.  They needed to pay the ultimate price, their lives, for independence.  Their pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to each other in the name of independence.  On a personal level, independence may not demand one's life, but there are high costs.  For example, my little nephew Nathan came over today to go swimming with Grandma.  I have been away so much and not been around here that Nathan didn't even think to ask me if I wanted to go.  Of course, I could have and probably should have went with them, but my independence has caused a split in a relationship which is very dear to me.  Undoubtedly, I will never experience the joy of having someone address me as "dad."  My family is aging.  Mom and Dad will unfortunately not live forever.  I have no strong friend or partner to share the rest of my life.  I have no children to pass on my knowledge, passion, and DNA.  That is part of my independence,  and I revel in my independence, but that independence comes at a price.  When I am old(er), who will I turn to for companionship, for support, for friendship?  I do have friends--good ones at that--but will those friends take care of me I when I cannot care of myself?  I have material possessions.  I have an awesome life.  I am lucky--VERY lucky--but with all of the stuff I have, I do not have a successful relationship.  Now, I am not desperate or anything like that.  I will not settle for just anyone.  Perhaps I may never find the right person, and that in itself will be a price for my own independence.  As I said, independence always comes at a price.

On a scheduling note, yes, I did decide to stay here in St. Louis until tomorrow.  I am packing up and since my laptop is next on the list, and I use my laptop to create these journal entries, I guess I should end this journal entry now and finish packing up this stuff.  Tomorrow night I'll most likely be at Table Rock Lake, and I'll write an entry when I get there.  Whether it will get uploaded from there or not is a good question, but I'll certainly create it.  :-)  Have a great night!

June 18 -
Ugghhhh!  The laptop died yesterday taking a couple on online journal entries with it.  I lost the Jume 14 "Late" journal entry and the June 15 "Here's who was at the opening campfire for the Caching and Camping Weekend Event."  The "Late" journal entry went something like I was late for everything on Thursday.  Late on packing.  Late getting up. Late to Lost Valley... etc, etc.  I signed off with something like "From your late, but not so late as to be the "late reporter," reporter.  Cheesy, eh?  Since the actual Camping and Caching Weekend is over, I can now tell you that about 40 people, spread out over both nights, showed up at one or the other campfires.  We had a blast!  I'm sure you can and will visit the logs for the event on geocaching.com.  I did attend the Springfield Geocaching 201 class on Sat.  I personally did not find that many caches this weekend, but it was still a fun weekend.  I think I got 5 caches on Friday, 17 on Saturday, and 12 more on Sunday.  I spent most of today driving back home to Babler State Park of all places--my home for this week--and I am located at campsite #6.  Stop by and give me a holler if I am there!   The drive home was rainy, very rainy!  At one point, I pulled off the road and just had to wait it out.  Today was just like that all day--storm clouds hanging over head.  For most of the day, I was feeling stormy--maybe it was the rain, maybe just the end of another fun trip, maybe it was the dead laptop, or maybe it was just something else.  Still, I just felt stormy all day.  Hopefully, I'll upload a new entry tomorrow night--IF I get a new cheap little laptop!  Until then, I need to remember some lyrics from my favorite singer Jane Siberry:  "It won't rain all the time..."   I am a light in the world, and no matter how much it flickers, I must never, ever, let it go out before its time.   Shining on...  :-)

June 19 -
The rain is gone and I found a new way to chase the storm clouds away: buy a new laptop!  It was cheap, well, not as cheap as I would have liked it to be, but still cheaper than if it had been new.  I contacted Sara, aka Outdoorlady79 (or Outdoorfamily), last night about an operating system and other related geocaching and mapping software for a new laptop and she was happy to help me with everything I needed to get the "new" laptop up and running.  So here I sit in her living room waiting while my "new" Dell Latitude D600 laptop downloads and installs about 6700 security updates.  I guess I'm exaggerating a little bit, but not much. I have sat through at least 119 updates to this point.  Still, I am excited about the new computer.  It runs so much better than the old machine.  Caching, connecting with the internet, creating these journal entries, everything will go so much better than I cannot think of how I got along without a machine like this before now.  Personally, I like the name, Latitude, for this little computer.  It is a good name for a geocaching computer.  Well, the updates are nearly complete, and while I still have a ton of stuff to load on the laptop, I need to give Sara some peace and quiet tonight so that she can get to bed at a decent hour.  So until my next journal entry, goodnight.  There the first journal entry and first useful piece of work done on the new laptop is finished!  Oh, by the way, my Building Leadership Team meeting this afternoon went well--I have another one tomorrow--but today's meeting went well.  :-)

June 20 -
I did quite a bit of thinking today about leaders and leadership.  For example, what are the qualities of a good leader and how can one become a good leader?  I guess it is to be expected since today was the second and final day of the Building Leadership Team meetings.  I am excited about being the Team 8-2 leader next school year.  We should have a good team--a young team--but good.  Two of the four core teachers will be complete rookies.  This will be their first year of teaching.  They will undoubtedly bring enthusiasm and excitement to the team.  The experienced part of the team will be the math teacher, who is head of the math department at Central Middle, and myself.  This will be my tenth year of teaching.  I teach Social Studies or early U.S. History.  Our special school district teacher will also be experienced, but with two brand new rookie teachers on team, this year should be exciting.  I am already beginning to feel the increased pressure to do a good job as team leader.  I can do it--I am a good teacher and a good person.  I will have flub-ups I'm sure.  I will not do everything correctly, but I must try to do the best job I can.  Others will be counting on me, and the stakes will be increased.  My role as team leader places me in a position of influence and importance in the school building.  I will be setting an example--good or bad--for others on our wing and in our building.  I must conduct myself appropriately.  I am sure I can do that.  It IS a scary feeling however.  Teachers, especially good teachers, usually make good leaders.  It is a natural fit because a teacher IS the leader in the classroom.  If someone is a good leader in the classroom, then that person will also be thought of as a good teacher.  Still, it is one thing to lead children in a classroom and quite a different situation to lead adult teachers.  So I am excited yet a little bit concerned about the future.  I just need to remember one simple thing:  I light the way for others.  They will follow my lead.  I just need to do my best and things will work out ok.

June 21 -
Whew!  What a day!  Today I attended the first day of a two day Skills workshop.  I also did some more thinking about leadership.  Leaders should always display, regardless of how they feel, a positive attitude of confidence.  They should be willing to do anything and everything that it takes to make the group successful.  How many grumpy, negative, discouraging leaders exist?  Not many...  So as I take over the Team 8-2 leadership, I need to display that same type of positive, confident attitude.  Remember that old poster and book "All I really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten"?  Of course, a copy of that poster hangs in my classroom, but what is important is the message of that poster and book.  We all know just about everything we really need to know already.  Play fair. Share. Care. We all know this stuff, and this is the stuff that makes leaders.  So when I attend a workshop like the one I attended today, lessons such as the one mom taught me so many years ago comes greatly into focus and is applicable.  You know the lesson--if you can't say something nice...  Ok, so how was the workshop?  Well, the facilitators of the workshop ARE working very hard!  There, I said something nice.  Actually, I am learning several things including lesson techniques to use in my classroom.  Also, the curriculum coordinator in charge of the workshop is certainly displaying that leadership quality of maintaining a positive image no matter what.  Some of the workshop participants really tried the coordinator's soul today, but the coordinator really displayed the leadership she needs to have to be successful in her position.  I guess I was not much help either.  Instead of being totally supportive of the coordinator, my mind was wandering with thoughts of the trip which begins tomorrow.  I am excited, nervous, stressed, and happy all at the same time.  So it was difficult to focus on the workshop.  I bet tomorrow will be even more of a challenge.  Remember that Dave Matthews Band song called "Typical Situation"?  That's what I was feeling like most of today. 

June 22 -
Wow!  It, THE TRIP, is finally underway!  This is the BIG trip.  The Colonial Williamsburg trip was fun and exciting and will possibly be THE TRIP of the summer in many ways, but this trip, the trip to Detroit, Niagara, Boston, and Philadelphia is really the BIG one.  It is scary and exciting.  It worries me and it makes me feel proud.  So much is riding on those aging mechanical parts of my 8 year old truck with 185,000 miles on it, yet I have AAA, a cell phone, a GPS, a new laptop, and lots of connections if something does go wrong.  I feel like the astronauts on their journey to the moon.  There is much which can go wrong.  Some things will probably go wrong.  How will I react?  Will I be able to successfully complete this trip?  I think back to the "From the Earth To the Moon" series on HBO which documented the Apollo moon program.  On the final episode, the question was asked why did we go to the moon.  Did we go to satisfy questions of science?  No.  Did we go to beat the Russians?  Not really.  I quote the show here as best as I can, "We went to the moon to see if we could make the journey.  Because if we can do that, if we can voyage from the earth to the moon, then there is hope for all of us, you see, because we can do anything."  In many ways, this voyage is that proving ground for me.  If I can make this voyage, from St. Lou to Philly and back, then there is hope for my next school year, because I will have proven that I can do anything I set my mind to do.  So here I sit, in the professional driver's lounge of the Flying J in South Indianapolis, thinking of such high and lofty goals as me doing anything I want to do.  But why should I not think of such thoughts?  After all, I can do this!  Until tomorrow night when I will report from the Walden Woods Resort just northwest of Detroit, take care and dream the impossible dreams.  Those dreams just might come true!

June 23 -
Bono of U2 said it best:  "It's a beautiful day!  Don't let it get away--it's a beautiful day!"  He was absolutely correct about today.  It was a beautiful day despite the fact that I drove a good chunk of the day and that the internet connection here at WaldenWoods does not seem to be working correctly.  Oh well--wireless computer connections not working--what's new?  Today was absolutely wonderful.  I am in Michigan--at the correct place on the correct day--at the WaldenWoods Resort.  You can see the place, sortof, at the www.waldenwoods.com website.  WaldenWoods is a wonderful even if it is not exactly what I expected.  I thought the resort would be much more remote and rural than it really is.  I can still hear the major highway (Highway 23) as I sit at the picnic table on my campsite.  The showerhouse is just across the small road from the camper.  That is very convenient.  The campground is mainly a first come, first served type campground.  Only a very few limited campsites are reserved exclusively for members of this particular park.  There is a store, a restaurant, a lake and beachfront swimming.  It was absolutely wonderful sitting on the porch outside the fitness center/game room (I guess those two things go together...) typing away on my computer as I watched the sun set over the lake with kids playing in the water and on the beach.  I walked back to my camper--just a couple hundred feet away from the fitness center--to eat dinner.  The candle flickered as I ate.  An absolutely wonderful scene played out right in front of me as I gobbled up some grub.  A boy, not older than 10 if he was that old, came riding his bike up to the campsite next to mine.  He came to an abrupt stop, hopped off his bike, and then flung himself into catching those wonderous little lightening bugs.  He caught a couple of the bugs and let them go with a fascination and wonder in his eyes.  Then as quick as he came, he was gone speeding off on his bike into the twilight.  A little boy chasing his dream.  The entire scene reminded me of a big boy chasing his little dream of traveling to the east coast and back.  Across the way, an older gentleman and his wife sit around a campfire near their popup camper.  All of the big rigs and long trailers are hooked up with water, electric, and sewer connections.  I could have taken one of those sites but since my little Aliner just uses water and electric, I did not see the need to grab one of the big UNshaded spots in the back couple rows of the campground.  Instead, I am closer to the lake in a nice shaded location near the bathhouse and the store/cafe/fitness center/game room.  There is a couple other parts of this place which I have not really explored and may not get the chance to do so, but the entire place gives one the feeling of camping on the grounds of a country club.  I had to pass a golf course just to get into the main gate of the place.  The resort is a gated park which means that you need to talk to the guard or punch in a code at the gate.  The office staff supplied the gate code to me as I checked in this afternoon.  Of course, I didn't spend the entire day at the campground.  I got here about 2:30 pm.  By that time, I had already found one Michigan cache.  It took a hour or so to set up and get settled with the resort office.  Then I went out caching hunting.  I found 9 more Michigan caches.  I hope to log those caches soon.  So I have already found 10 Michigan caches.  I even found two geocoins in the caches today.  I need to log and check in the coins so that the owner knows where the coins are located.  I hope that internet connection decides to work tomorrow.  As this wonderful day comes to a close and I sit inside the Aliner watching a U2 concert on DVD--yes, this entry reminded me that I had the concert dvd with me--my mind wanders to other thoughts of tomorrow.  Do I really want to spend all day tomorrow trying to find as many caches as I can find?  Not really--especially if I miss some sightseeing than I really would have wanted to see.  I think that it is a noble goal to try to find caches in as many states as possible.  That insures that you are going to new places and special locations.  But does that mean I should spend ALL of my time everyday to finding as many caches as I can just so I can boost my numbers?  NO...I do not need to spend all day tomorrow finding caches.  Now exactly what I will do is still up in the air, but I hope I don't come back with 50 caches or so yet cannot tell you the first thing about what makes Detroit special.  So until tomorrow, my job is to find out what makes Detroit special.  I'll tell you in tomorrow's journal entry.  Chow...

June 24 -
Ok, I didn't go caching at all today.  Instead, my mission was to find out what makes Detroit special.  I think I did just that.  Do you know what makes Detroit special?  Lemme give you a hint.  Detroit's basketball team is called the Pistons.  The hockey team uses a big hubcap with a "Red Wing" flying out of it.  A famous type of music--Motown--was created in this city and named after the city's nickname.  The nickname of this city is the Motor City.  Surely, you figured out what makes Detroit special by now!  Detroit is the automotive capital of the world.  While I am not a car nut usually, something happens to people when they come to Detroit.  You just have to learn about, study, and view 10 zillion cars, etc.  To not do something car related while in Detroit is sortof like coming to St. Louis and not doing Imo's Pizza, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, watching the Cardinals game in person, or riding to the top of the famous Gateway Arch--you may have been to St. Louis, but you haven't "done" St. Louis until you have experienced something like one, or all, of those uniquely St. Louis items.  The same thing is true about Detroit.  You cannot say you have "done" Detroit without a visit to "the Henry Ford" and a tour of the Ford Rouge Assembly Plant.  I toured the Ford factory first.  Exciting videos, a neat observation deck, and a gallery of antique cars were cool, but the main attraction was the skywalk path above the workers' heads.  I got lucky and went during a time when the assembly line was up and running.  It was fascinating to watch Ford F-150's been built.  I saw as much of it as I could.  I saw moonroofs installed.  I saw windshields being placed on the cab.  I saw doors being created and then mounted to the cab.  I got to see the cab and bed get mounted together.  I got to see the vehicles get started for the very first time and then tested and checked.  It was a FUN experience!  Then I toured "the Henry Ford."  The Henry Ford is a musuem with just tons of artifacts--both real and reproduced--from American transportation history.  It begins with a horse drawn carriage built in 1797 and it continues until you see surrealistic plans for future homes.  Along the way, one sees railroad locomotives, a history of cars from Henry Ford's quadcycle horseless drawn carriage to modern day jet rocket cars , a huge gallery of steam engines, and the bus Rosa Parks sat in begininning  the civil rights movement and bus boycotts. There are even special items such as several Presidental limos dating back to FDR's time and before.  That includes the limo in which John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  Thinking of presidential assassinations, the Henry Ford also has the rocking chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot and killed.  Henry Ford collected many of the items before his death in 1947 and the museum continues to add more and more pieces all the time.  Together the factory tour and the museum walk took the entire day.  I got to the Henry Ford this morning for tickets about 9:45am and they finally kicked me out of there at 5:00pm, but it was exciting stuff.  I really didn't get to see it all.  I'll need to go back I think--I missed the entire Greenfield Village!  Ugh...  still a very fun and full day, and no caches--not a single one--all day long!  I'd call this, mission accomplished!

June 25 -
Leg one of the BIG trip (Detroit) is now offically over.  I left the country promising to return, and I had no corn cob pipe in mouth (Think General Douglas MacArthur).  Return I did!  I decided to try the northern route of getting from Michigan to Niagara.  That meant going to Flint and then pretty much straight east to London, Hamilton, and then Niagara.  I had feared that the truck would break down along this path but it did not--whew!  I did find 5 caches in London, Canada so I can now claim to be an international cacher.  I dropped a much overdo TB in a Canada cache and I got away with taking firewood into and out of Canada.  I have a load of it in the bed of my truck and carrying it into Canada was suppose to be a no-no.  The Canadian border guard questioned me about the wood, but in the end she let me pass without getting rid of it.  I just had to promise to return to the United States without making a camping stop in Canada.  The issue is something about little bugs and firewood.  Also, I got to see Lakes Huron and Ontario today--how often can I say that?  It was an absolutely gorgeous day today, but the 300+ mile drive, the 5 caches, and the late hour has me wanting to cut this journal entry short.  So just an update on my status: everything is going well.  I am at Niagara Lazy Lakes as planned.  Mechanically, the truck is holding up.  Financially, the money is in good shape so far.  Physically, my back is killing me after only a couple minutes of standing.  Mentally and emotionally, I feel great and am having the time of my life!  Who could ask for anything more?  Ok, good night for now...

June 26 -
Things just seem to keep getting better and better.  Today I returned to Canada to view Niagara Falls from the Canadian viewpoint.  What a view, but wait, all in good time!  I got to the border a tad bit late.  I wanted to sleep late today so I got up around 7:30ish and farted around until I tried to take a shower sometime after 8.  Well, the housekeeper had already started cleaning the men's bathhouse so I had some time to kill.  I tried getting online and it worked!  Yee-ha!  I logged a cache or two, got the online journal uploaded, etc. before heading out to the showerhouse a second time.  With showering done, I headed over to the Lazy Lakes office--a very busy place indeed--and asked for info about Niagara Falls.  I got all that I needed and wanted before heading out to see the great falls for myself.  Crossing over the border into Canada (I took out the firewood and left it at the campsite this time) was easy.  The border guard handed my passport back to me and told me to have a nice day.  Thank you, but could I get my passport actually stamped?  Well, he could not do that but he directed me to a person who then directed me to someone who could and did(!) actually give me a courtesy stamp in my passport.  Ha!  I now have a whomping ONE stamp in my passport book.  From there I learned that the Niagara stuff was going to be expensive.  I bit the bullet and bought an Adventure Pass which entitled me to free service on the PeopleMover (it looked like a bus to me...), entry into the Journey behind the Falls attraction, a boarding pass to the Maid of the Mist boat cruise which sails under the falls, a ticket to the Water Walk broadwalk, and entrance into the Butterfly Conservatory.  Personally, I would not have done the Boardwalk or the Butterfly House without the Adventure pass, but it all turned out to be very cool.  While the Adventure Pass was expensive (about $43 USD), I did get a VERY good look at Niagara Falls and the surrounding area.  I would highly recommend others do what I did and buy the Adventure Pass from Canada's Niagara Parks system.  You can see the pics I uploaded, not from my slideshow gallery, but from my geocaching.com cache logs.  For example, this log has all of the Niagara Falls pics on it.  As the daylight started to fade, I bade Niagara Falls farewell and turned toward my home for tonight, my campsite at Niagara's Lazy Lakes Resort.  I could give you their website (www.lazylakes.com) but there is not a lot to see there.  Before getting back to my campsite, I hit 6 New York state caches.  I could have gone for more, but what was the point?  I was tired, thristy, and hungry.  I just wanted to relax.  Once I got to the trailer I turned on the computer.  Surprise, surprise--the wireless connection was working from INSIDE the trailer.  Great!  I get to log all those caches, write and upload a new journal entry, and surf the net before crashing out to rest up for tomorrow's 500 mile marathon to Boston.  Hey, it will be the Boston Marathon!  What a name!  Perhaps someone in Boston could use that for the name of a race or something.  I'll ask them about that tomorrow!  :-P  I let you know their response tomorrow night (Yea, right!).  Well until then, take care!  Everything is sweet in western New York--will it be sweet tomorrow night in Boston?  Stay tuned to find out!  :-)

June 27 -
Things were going just a little TOO good to be true.  I knew a day like today was coming--it had to be coming--things were just too good for a bad day not to come along.  At least it is over.  Today was a stressful day; a very, VERY stressful day.  I am not that great at driving, but add the trailer into the mix and I tense up a little behind the wheel.  I can pull and backup the trailer just fine, but I become a much more cautious driver when pulling the trailer, and that adds quite a bit to my stress level.  Well, I was driving with the trailer in tow today, and I was driving for about 500 miles.  Ok, that was stressful.  Now add a few "mountains" into the mix.  My 4 cylinder truck was not designed to pull anything, especially not pull a camping trailer up hills.  That added even more stress.  Mix in a little rain--hold it--not just a little rain, but a MAJOR downpour that has lasted hours.  Ok, the stress level starts to hit the roof!  By the time I got to Boston, I could not see straight.  I missed the turn for the KOA and had to do a camping trailer turnaround on a fairly busy street which somewhat blocked traffic.  Well, you get the picture.  Finally, I get to my campsite .  It is suppose to be a pull thru site with a clear view of the southern sky for satellite TV reception.  I do have my dish with me although I have not set it up at all yet.  The site they put me on a "back in" site in a very wooded area.  No satellite TV for me these next five days.  The showerhouse is about 15 miles away from my campsite.  Ok, not really, but it seems like it.  I begin to setup the trailer.  The rain continues so everything gets wet.  At least the trailer goes up in about 30 seconds so most of what got wet was not inside stuff.  Since the showerhouse is so far away, I decided I had better light the water heater pilot light so I can take a shower tomorrow IN the trailer WITH some hot water.  That was (always is) an unbelieveable chore.  One would think it easy to light a pilot light, but my water heater is a bit tempromental so it does not always light the way it should.  Now that I am in the trailer and halfway settled, I can begin to relax.  I turn on the computer and NO WiFi.  What?!?  I did get here late so I will check tomorrow about where I need to be to get the WiFi--perhaps I need to be in a certain location, like near the clubhouse, to get the connection.  They do have it (according to their directory), but I am not getting the signal.  So it has been a very stressful day and you just read about me complaining about how stressful my wonderful vacation trip can be at times.  Until a better day, I had better hush...  :-)

June 28 -
I went through a range of emotions today.  I started the day with sortof a hangover effect from yesterday.  I was upset and annoyed at everything it seemed.  I got to the KOA office to formally check in and paid my bill for the five day stay when I found out why I did not get a WiFi connection last night.  "Oh, that back campground does not have WiFi" was the KOA reply.  Ok, where do I go to get it?  "Oh, we don't have WiFi yet.  You came a week too early.  They are installing it throughout the campground right now.  You will need to go to the library to get connected to the internet.  We tell everyone here to do that.  Here are directions to the place..." said the KOA lady.  Ugh!  I should have asked why they advertise that they have WiFi when they don't have it yet.  Long story short, finding the library was an adventure in itself.  I get there and connect--I forget to do lots of stuff like upload last night journal entry--but I do run some geocaching pocket queries for the area and I checked at least one of my email accounts.  Life became good again as the rest of the day was better for the most part.  I visited Plimoth Plantation.  I HIGHLY recommend that attraction to anyone who is visiting the area.  I also toured the Mayflower II ship and saw what was left of Plymouth Rock.  It is now protected against souvenoir hunters, but that was not always the case.  It is only a fraction of its original size.  Also, I tried to do three caches today, but I could only complete two of them.  The ones I completed were virtuals which means that I want to get some more caches along the way--hopefully tomorrow.  It did rain some as I was hiking about a mile from my truck.  I hid out under a tree but I still got wet.  I took lots of pictures including some videos with my digital camera.  I went through Brewster's Garden and captured the babbling "Town Brook" on video.  At least I got a few seconds of it on video.  Plymouth is a very cute town with a very busy waterfront.  I walked along one of the beaches.  At the water's edge, I stooped down and held the GPS almost at the water's level.  Then I checked the elevation of the GPS.  The GPS said I was 9 feet higher than sea level.  Oh well, maybe the error was due to the tides.  Walking along the beach became almost surreal.  I could feel yesterday's stress and the headaches of this morning melting away.  I splashed in the water from Cape Cod and then later along the sidewalk in the puddles which had formed during the rain storm.  As I walked along the beach, several couples walked by me, some holding hands.  A family consisting of a mom with three or four boys finished playing in the water and ran back to the wall which separated the beach from the road next to it.  On the way back from Plymouth, I stopped and took care of some personal things.  I found a Walgreen's to refill a Rx and a Shaw's Supermarkets to buy some food.  It amazes me how in this day and age of mega-corporations and fast-food mega-chains that there really is not a super market mega chain.  Of course, we have Shop-N-Save, Schnucks, and Dierbergs in St. Louis, but those stores are not in other cities.  In Detroit, I shopped at Farmer Jack's.  In Niagara, the grocery store chain was Tops.  Here in Boston, it is apparently Shaw's.  In Virginia, one goes to the Food Lion stores to get their food.  Branson had Country Mart and Harter House.  No mega-corporations in the grocery store world.  I got back early to the trailer and chilled out.   Tonight I am feeling sortof lonely I guess.  I played a DVD video, but the surreal setting of the beach and the quiet atmosphere of my trailer really has me thinking of how lonely it can be on the road.  Now before anyone reads too much into that statement, I do enjoy this lonely experience.  I have a great life and I am VERY blessed to be experiencing the things I get to experience.  Not many people get to do what I do, and if a touch of lonliness on a beach or stress from a long rainy drive is the price I pay for getting to do what I am doing, then so be it.  It is a price I am willing to pay.  So overall it was a good, if somewhat emotional, day.

June 29 -
Today was a perfect day.  It really was in many ways.  Yes, I did experience a range of emotions again, but for the most part the emotions were very good emotions to experience.  For example, I got shivers up and down my bones and goose pimples on my arms when I went to look for a cache and, for the cache, I needed to take some pictures of a Korean War Memorial.  When I got to the Memorial, an elderly lady in a wheel chair was sitting there openly crying.  I dared not ask her why and I was not about to photograph her in her grief, but the scene of a loved one remembering a lost one simply chilled me to emotion.  Then there was the emotion of nervous fear and delight over riding on the T which is the way locals refer to the subway or rapid transit system here in Boston.  The system is actually called the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority or MBTA but everyone refers to the train system as the T.  The T has been written about in song.  The Kingston Trio did a song (The MTA) about the system.  It went something like this:  "Did he ever return?  No, he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned.  He may ride forever in the streets of Boston.  He's the man who never returned."  The "he" in the song is Charlie, and Charlie did not have enough money with him to pay for his fare after the train system had boosted the fare prices.  Charlie is now the mascot for the MBTA.  Why they changed the name of the system I do not know.  Just knowing the song and riding the trains had me excited.  I also felt in awe today.  Many of the things I saw were dated from before the American Revolution.  To know that the Boston Massacre, an event about which I teach, happened right here, right where I am standing was amazing and mind-blowing.  Then there was the emotion of pride and accomplishment.  As the crow flies, the starting and ending points of the Freedom Trail are just a little more than 1.5 miles apart.  Of course, the path of the Freedom Trail is NOT a straight line from point A to point B.  It wraps around and ensnarls itself.  All told, the trail is probably about 3 or more miles long.  Maybe it is a little longer.  I walked the entire thing.  I even took some side trips and revisited things when I needed to do so.  I went looking for 3 caches today and I had to backtrack to get to one of them.  Still, I got to the end of the trail in time to be able to climb the Bunker Hill Monument before it was to close for the evening.  Now climbing the monument is no easy feat.  The thing was built starting in 1825 and completed in 1842 so there is NO elevator to the top of it.  Instead, one needs to climb the 294(!!!) steps to reach the top.  I huffed and I puffed and I finally made it to the top.  Whew!  I sat down to rest my weary body when a 49 year old who I passed as he was going down appeared once more at the top.  Puzzled by his appearance, I overheard him tell someone else that climbing the monument was his form of exercise.  He had just completed his 6th(!) climb in a row!  Ugh!  Then an elderly man appeared at the top.  I asked him about how tough the climb was on him and he commented that he had climbed Mt. Sinai last year and that this was nothing.  Ah, WOW.  Once both the old man and myself made it back down to the bottom, I noticed that the man was asked to sign a special book.  The monument staff believed the man to be the oldest to climb the monument to the top.  The man was 82 years old!  I hope I can say the same when I get that age!  Still, for having completed the entire Freedom Trail by foot and having climbed that last Bunker Hill monument to the top, I felt a certain sense of accomplishment and pride.  Today took quite a bit of work but it all paid off in the end.  Now, as I sit by my campfire watching the logs burn and typing on my "new" battery-powered laptop, I am feeling grateful.  Grateful that I can experience the things I am experiencing.  Grateful that I still have my health and can still have the ability to walk the entire Freedom Trail.  Grateful that I am in a position where I can use my summers not just to prepare for next year's class, but to experience life and this great country of ours.  A trip like this one is a truly wonderful experience, and I treasure every minute I can experience this great adventure.  Tomorrow will be more treasures as I travel to Quincy Braintree to learn about John Adams and John Quincy Adams, then I hope to head north to Lowell, Massachusetts for the rest of the day and see what that British industrailist spy Samuel Slater has bought to this country of ours. Until then, sweet and most pleasant dreams!

June 30 -
Today was a good day.  Perhaps it was not the best day of the trip, but not all days can be THE best day.  I had a good time and that's all that matters really.  I saw the Adams National Park stuff.  That includes the birthplaces of John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams--both were presidents.  The tour also included a glimpse inside the house that John Adams purchased and lived in after his presidency.  John Quincy lived there as well I believe.  I think four generations of the Adams family lived in the house according to the tour guide.  After the "Adams family" tour concluded--it took two l-o-n-g hours--I toured the church where John and John Quincy as well as wives are buried.  Interesting place really.  From there I traveled northwest to Lexington to see the "battle green" where the first battle of the revolution took place.  Then I moved on to Concord and saw not only the national park visitor's center but also the North Bridge and the Minute Man statue located there.  That's where the British were turned back and they began their retreat back into Boston.  By the end of my sightseeing at Concord, time was getting very short.  Still I decided to try to get to Lowell, Massachusetts and the national park there.  I thought they closed at 4:30.  It turns out they close at 5:30.  Whew!  I made it with plenty of time to spare.  I didn't get to tour any of the buildings or mills, but I did get to see their "interactive" presentation which reminded me that Samuel Slater was not a part of the Lowell factory.  Slater certainly had a hand in the American Industrial Revolution and was a spy sneaking British industrial plans illegally into the young United States, but that is not what happened at Lowell.  Lowell was the dream of a man named Francis Cabot Lowell, and Lowell's vision was to build a factory, actually a factory system, in one place where raw materials get turned into the final finished product.  I believe this is called vertical integration.  Lowell was the first to do it at his textile factory, but he died before the entire plan was carried out.  After the film, I asked the park ranger for directions to the nearest Panera's.  His instructions are absolutely on the mark. I got to Panera's, ate an Italian combo sandwich sans a bunch of the veggie stuff, and tried to hook onto the internet.  Success--sortof...  I got onto the internet just fine and dandy, but www.geocaching.com was down for some reason.  To make a long story short, I've spent my entire evening doing internet stuff.  That's not the way I had originally planned it, but hey, I think it worked.  So overall, a good day.  I got to see things I wanted to see, things I teach about, things I need to know about, yet I spent WAY too much time tonight setting up pocket queries and waiting for geocaching.com  to get back online. Oh well, I can't complain even though I usually try to!  :-P

July 1 -
What a LONG day!  I got up a couple hours earlier than usual so that I could be on the road early enough to do all that I wanted to do today.  I wanted to cache in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont all in one day.  Now that's it is over, I can say that I am glad I did get up early.  I would not have made it without the early start.  Let's see, the final numbers were four hundred or four hundred and fifty miles traveled, nineteen caches found, three different states caches in, and one very tired cacher.  Miane was wonderful.  I went to the beach at Kennebunkport and took some pictures.  Fantastic place--but I was there to find a cache and could not because of the amount of people near the cache.. It was just too popular a place.  In all, I found six Maine caches.  Then it was on to New Hampshire.  Beautiful state with a wonderful motto: Live free or die!  I found seven New Hampshire caches.  Last it was on to Vermont.  Oh, Vermont!  What a place!  I crossed and even videotaped crossing a couple of covered bridges, and the hills there reminded me of small mountains.  It was similar to the Ozarks, but different at the same time.  It was not as "hill-billy" if that makes sense.  In all, it was a great day and wonderful experience.  I have lots more to say about New England, but the hour is late and I have another long day ahead of me tomorrow.  Until I'm in New Jersey, take care!

July 6 -
Ok, so I have not written for a few days.  Oh well, I needed the break.  Just to allow you to catch up to where I am right now, the trip from Massachusetts to New Jersey took forever!  I left in good time, but I cached across Rhode Island and Connecticut and then had to go around New York the long way.  I did not even see the skyline of the Big Apple as I went around it.  As I said, it took forever.  I got to the campground around 11pm and did not get to sleep until 12:45am or so.  I had problems the next day with the power in the camper, and after I fixed it quickly (whew!  I was lucky) I went to go see Atlantic City in the afternoon.  Atlantic City is something else--it is dirty and gross and very much a sin city.  It is an open sore on the land.  The city has nothing on Tammy Faye Bakker.  It is as golden as can be painted.  For example, there is no pale white skin here.  It is all golden brown, and most of it young female.  Every street corner proclaims cash for gold in some way or another whether the cash is for metal, skin, or souls.  The land rises up tearing at the sky with golden names such as the Borgata, or Trump Taj Mahal, or Tropicana.  Atlantic City is the apple of New Jersey's eye, and the population of that apple is forty percent toll road collectors, forty percent members of Local 54 casino workers union, fifteen percent streetwalkers or drug dealers, and the remaining five percent work as good honest folks in some sort of professional setting.  Anybody else in the city is just visiting, and the visitors outnumber the citizens ten to one.  It is distasteful, yet honest.   It is ugly, yet in the most beautiful setting.  Where else can one go to see a billboard advertising Elmo with open arms right next to a billboard for a gentlemen's club?  Families walk the streets right in front of adult book stores.  Silver and gold are everywhere.  One has to look carefully to find churches, and the churches are locked up tight only to open for Sunday morning services.  Hotels give an hourly rate when asked, and most look as if card players built the hotels--flimsy and about to fall apart with a good strong wind.   The city stands very much in contrast to the mystery and illusion of New England.  Atlantic City sticks out in the ocean, proudly announcing itself as America.  New England hides behind lush ferns and tall pines obstructing the forest floor.  New England may be the seed of rebellion, but Atlantic City hides nothing from no one.  Vermont has a quiet beauty, but New Jersey possesses an frightful appearance.  Toll roads, more coins, slot machines, more coins, full service gas, more coins--it is the story of Jersey in America.  But for all of the corruption and disgusting nature of this sore, it is America warts and all.  The beaches are full.  The casinos are full.  The adult video places are full.  The city is full--people, Americans, flock to this place, and while the oceans, the beaches, the sun, and the beauty cannot be seen here because of the shiny nature of the city, people, Americans, want to come here.  Not me, not much longer, not for a minute more than I planned.  Get me out of here.  Get me out quick.  The drugs that are here are not good for the soul, the mind, or the body.  Yet I fear that Philadelphia may not be much better, and that is my next stop.  I have been plagued by shadows here, mainly shadows of problems.  The AC power in my trailer, the squeal of my tires causing a lost day as I try to fix my truck and do nothing.  Another lost day at Cape May finding out nothing about my great great great great grandfather James.  Oh well, it was not for a lack of trying.  I wanted to take pictures of Cape May and Cumberland counties, but what pictures were I to take?  Should I capture a photo of just the land without any meaning behind it?  The lack of information was expected, yet disappointing.  What was more disappointing was the chase into the unknown for the unknown against unknown amounts of time with unknown problems.  Too much is blank right now, and hence my silence with writing.  What can I report on when there is nothing to report?  The search for g-g-g-g-grandpa James Stephenson turned up nothing more than simple facts I already knew.  The fourth of July was uneventful.  I went caching in New Jersey.  The fifth of July was spent, partially at least, in Delaware.  Again, I was caching.  In total, I found 20 or so caches in the two days.  I also did not found several caches as well.  It was that sort of lazy couple days.  I spent today at car repair places and Wal-Mart unsuccessfully trying to get new tires.  That turned out to be the problem--tires I should have replaced before the trip.  Of course, the first place I went to get an estimate must have taken me for an easy mark.  Their estimate was for $1822.93 which included a set of 8 new tires.  I guess they wanted to make sure I had enough to get back to St. Louis without problems.  Again, the city of gold and silver never misses an opportunity to relieve a person of some extra dollars.  So I spent today at car repair places and playing on the internet as I planned the rest of this little adventure.  I do not want to push things too far nor too fast, and yet I want to leave this place as quickly as I can.  I will leave Chestnut Lakes--a campground which makes the most of its assets and the people here are truly beautiful, maybe not outwardly, but certainly on the inside--earlier than expected.  The new plan is to see Lancaster and the Pennsylvania Dutch country, the James Buchacan house, and the Hershey Chocolate company visitor center.  Then spend the night in that area.  The next night will be in Champion, PA at another ROD resort if I can make the reservation.  Finally, the last night or two of the trip will be at an ROD resort in southeast Indiana.  From there, I will be homeward bound and will store the trailer once again at Lost Valley Lake.  The new plan will take longer to get home, but each travelling day will be shorter, I will get to see more things, and I should not feel as rushed as I felt coming out here.  Well, until tomorrow, or whenever, take care.

July 7 -
Hey!  Today is 7-7-7--in a gambling town like Atlantic City, that has got to be good luck!  Ok, so maybe it is really 07-07-07, but that is close enough for the gamblers in this town.  Instead of staying near Atlantic City today, I took a big leap--a very big leap--into the unknown.  Well, I went into Philadelphia.  I rode into the city on the Atlantic City line of the NJ (New Jersey) Transit Railway.  That was a big enough leap into the unknown for me.  Once I stepped off the railway car, I stepped into the 1940's.  Philadelphia's 30th Street Station is a rebuilt train station with as much activity as most large city train stations had in the 1940's.  The place was brustling with activity.  "Train such and such now leaving on track #13.  Train number whatever boarding on platform 5."  It was an exciting place to enter the city.  Not only does NJ Transit use the station as the final destination for several of their lines, but Amtrak uses the station as a major hub for trains bound to all parts of the east coast.  Trains for New York, Baltimore, and D.C. were just some of the many lines entering and leaving the station.  On top of that, the SEPTA, or Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, uses the station, or at least a connector piece to the station, as the main hub for several different subway mainlines running through Philadelphia.  The station boosts a huge food court, and the restrooms are something else.  I walked into the men's room and practically got lost.  That bathroom is the size of Rhode Island.  I left the station on board the Blue Line of the SEPTA subway headed for the 5th Street station and Independence Hall.  As I walked out of the SEPTA station, I heard some Philly yell out to a new visitor, "Hiya, welcome to Philadelphia!"  Is this the same city I heard so many horror stories about rudeness?  Or is it really a city of "Brotherly Love?"  Hmm....  I got to Independence Park no later than 10:45am, yet all of the tickets for tours of Independence Hall for the day were already taken.  So I did not get to tour Independence Hall yet--I plan to do that on Monday.  Since I wanted to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall together, I did not even attempt to get into the line to see the famous ding-ding.  Instead, I took a walking tour of Philadelphia.  I went to the National Constitution Center.  It appears to be a very nice museum.  I say appears because as I got to the door and received literature for what was inside, the guard stopped me and told me that the admission price was $12.  "Ok," I am thinking, "I might be back if I have the time and the money."  It looks like it is worth the $12, but $12 is steep for one admission price, and there are quite a few other things to see in town.  From there, I toured Christ Church Burial Grounds.  That was $2 admission fee.  I paid to go into this "attraction" mainly because Benjamin Franklin is buried there.  Among his many accomplishments and achievements is the fact that he signed the Declaration of Independence.  Of course, there are four other signers of the Declaration buried in this very same cemetery and two more signers buried at the actual Church itself, so I was going to pay the admission price no matter what the cost.  I took pictures of all of the signers graves.  One of the important signers, in my opinion, was Dr. Benjamin Rush.  He was buried at Christ Church Burial Grounds, and I certainly took pictures of his grave.  Later in the day I would see the site of Dr. Rush's house.  Dr. Rush's house does not exist anymore, but the site is now a beautiful garden and a peaceful place to relax.  The actual Christ Church building is undergoing restoration, so there is scaffolding all over the place, but that did not stop me from taking some pictures of the gaves of Declaration signers James Wilson and Robert Morris.  At some point along the way, I visited the Free Quakers Meetinghouse.  Many of the founding fathers were Quakers and attended meetinghouses such as the one I toured as their houses of worship.  The Quaker Meetinghouse is extremely bare and plain.  Of course, that is a Quaker's lifestyle--bare and plain.  Pennsylvania, of course, was settled for the English by Quakers and William Penn, the man who gives the "Penn" in Pennsylvania, was a Quaker himself.  On a side note, Pennsylvania means "Penn's woods."  After leaving the Quaker Meetinghouse and the much more gawdy Christ Church building, I walked passed the Betsy Ross house and found a geocache.  Then I returned to tour the Betsy Ross house.  Admission was $3.  Ugh!  Still, I came all this way for this, I was going to pay it!  The lady portraying Betsy Ross made and explained how to make a 5 pointed star with one snip of the scissors to me, and the gift shop gave me written directions on how to do it, so I felt it was worth the $3 admission price.  From there, I visited Franklin's Court.  Franklin's Court is a block of 5 houses, 3 of which were owned by Benjamin Franklin at one time, which still stand today.  The National Park Service restored the houses and made one of the houses into a bookstore because Franklin loved books and created the first library in the United States.  The Park Service turned a second house into a real live post office because Franklin was a postmaster, and the remaining houses were restored into a print shop because Franklin made his fortune as a printer.  The current print shop was NOT the site of Franklin's printshop, but the current shop looks as it would back in Franklin's day.  Behind the row of houses is a museum dedicated to Franklin.  The museum is free and below ground.  Above the museum are the remains of the Franklin house.  The park service was kind enough to rebuild, using simple white steel beams, the outline for Franklin's house.  From there, I found another cache or two.  I walked past the First Bank of the United States and took some pictures.  I walked to Carpenter's Hall, where the First Continental Congress met, and took pictures.  I went to the Second Bank of the United States and went inside.  Wow!  About 200 ORIGINAL portraits were on display including the famous Lewis and Clark portraits which get used all the time to show how the two men looked.  Several of the portraits I use, as simple little computer graphics on my projector in class, were hanging inside this museum, and the museum was the Second Bank of the United States--the bank that was shut down by Andrew Jackson.  Interesting, interesting stuff indeed!  While at the Second Bank, I asked one of the Park Rangers about where to go to get a real "Philly Cheese Steak" sandwich about which the town is known for creating.  The ranger gave me excellent advice and I walked the six blocks to Jim's Steaks only to be rejected by what I saw.  There was a line--ok, no big deal right--but the line went out the front door, around the corner, and down most of the next city block.  This was how many people were waiting to get into Jim's Steaks for a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich!  Not having the time or energy to wait in that long of a line, I turned around and walked the six blocks back to Independence Park and then four or so more to the SEPTA station to begin my trip back to the campground.  The trip "home" was fairly uneventful.  Now, I'm back in the trailer and I cannot stop thinking about today's adventures.  How WRONG was I about Philadelphia!  I thought Philly would be as rude and obnoxious as Atlantic City is glitterly and gawdy.  It is not.  Certainly there is the "Whatcha gaa-nah do bout  it uh?" type attitude and accent on the streets here--just like Boston's popular attitude and accent  covered the atmosphere in New England, but the Philly attitude was real and actually somewhat friendly.  On the subway train leaving Philly, a younger tattooed chick sat next to me.  She had this Philly attitude going all the way.  Some weirdo behind her also had "the attitude" and kept touching her.  She just about popped the guy in the face!  Still, she willingly sat next to me and then made "What a weirdo" comments when the weirdo hopped off the train.  It's an in your face attitude but it is not really mean spirited nor illegal; it is just weird and upfront.  That is a big difference than the attitude and feeling of Atlantic City where anything and everything goes and if you do not watch yourself carefully, you lose everything in a flash of a moment.  What an odd wonderful day!  What a strange sense of the city!  Philadelphia surprised me, and even if I never want to live here on a permanent basis, I am willing and wanting to go back to finish seeing the things I want to see.  That is more than I can say for Atlantic City.

July 8 -
I just back to the trailer after a long evening of uploading photos to Shutterfly.  In total, I uploaded 204 pictures which took nearly 3 hours.  Still, I only uploaded PART of the total number of pictures I have taken during these summer travels!  I tried to update the picture gallery I started at the beginning of the summer, but it was taking so long and was too hard to complete that I decided to go a different route.  Many of the SLAGA, the St. Louis Area Geocaching Association, members use an internet photo service called Shutterfly.  So I decided to use the same service.  There are some drawbacks and problems with Shutterfly--maybe I just do not know how to use it yet.  For example, several of my pictures are fuzzy.  I would like to delete the fuzzy ones and reload some which may be more clear.  I would also like to reorder some of the photos so that the order in which they appear in slideshow mode makes a little more sense.  I see how to add comments to the photos, but I have not added any comments yet.  With 204 photos, THAT will be quite a chore.  Perhaps I can with some of them and add quite a bit more meaning to some of the pictures.  Still, I now have some of my pictures online for all to see.  Here is the link:  BlueBeadMan Shutterfly Pics  Of course, I did do some other things while the pictures uploaded.  I reserved my ticket for a tour of Independence Hall--unfortunately, the tour is for Tuesday, not tomorrow.  Oh well, I guess I will stick around town and do piddly things tomorrow instead of going to Philadelphia.  Really, the only things left to do in Philly include Independence Hall, Congress Hall which is next to Independence Hall, Declaration House which is the reconstructed house where Thomas Jefferson wrote the rough draft of the Declaration, the Liberty Bell, the U.S. Mint which I might not tour, the Edgar Allen Poe house which again I might not tour, and Fort Mifflin which I must tour but may need to make a special trip to do.  I believe Fort Mifflin may be closed until Wednesday which will make it difficult to tour on Tuesday.  So I really do not have much more to do near here.  I guess I could go back to Cape May and Cumberland countries to get some pics or I could get some new tires on the truck, but still I will not be doing much tomorrow.  Maybe I'll go back to Atlantic City and get some pics of tinsel town after all.  Well, until tomorrow, have a good night!

July 10 -
I didn't write yesterday because I did not do much.  I did get two new tires for my truck.  That was a three hour adventure from campground to Wal-Mart and back again, but I was able to fix the truck problems with less than ten percent cost of the original estimate.  I would say that was an accomplishment for the day.  I also finalized, if the money holds out, my plans for the last week or two of summer.  I will complete the Missouri State Park Passport program that I had wanted to do in June before the Colonial Williamsburg trip became a possibility and a reality.  I did update the schedule.  You will see the new trip, dates, and what hikes for what days listed above on the calendar.  So that was yesterday.  Today was jam-packed and tomorrow looks just as stuffed.  Today was Historic Philadelphia, part two.  Just like last Sat, I rode the trains to town--first the NJ Transit line to Philly's 30th street station--then the SEPTA subway to the 5th street station and Independence Hall.  I did get to tour Independence Hall, Congress Hall, the Declaration House (where Jefferson actually wrote the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, the Liberty Bell, and something else I believe.  I wanted to do the Edgar Allen Poe site, but it was too long of a walk in my opinion and I wanted to try and see the U.S. Mint, the Quaker Info Center, and get a Philly Cheese Steak sandwich from Jim's Steaks at 6th and South.  Well, the U.S. Mint would not allow cameras even within their building.  So that was also out.  The Quaker Info Center was just as long of a walk as the Poe house.  So the Quaker Info Center was a bust as well.  Instead, I stopped by the Arch Street Quaker Meetinghouse and got the info I wanted about the Quakers.  From there, only one stop remained: Jim's Steaks.  I trudged all the way down to 6th and South to Jim's Steaks hoping I would not find a line anywhere near as long of a line as there was on Saturday.  Lucky for me, there was a VERY short line (2 people in front of me) at the restaurant which was named "Best of Philly" for like the last three hundred years.  Ok, not really, but just about everyone in Philly knows that the best, most original cheese steaks comes from Jim's.  I got my sandwish with Cheez-Whiz (house speciality) and light fried onions.  It was WORTH it!  An excellent sandwich in a classic atmosphere.  I could not have asked for more!  It was great stuff really--highly recommended!  The trip home was interesting.  The NJ Transit line got stopped by a storm which knocked out one of their bridges.  The train was going as far as my stop, Absecon, but no farther, and since a previous train was stuck already at Absecon, my train had to wait.  The wait lasted at least 45 minutes.  Still, I had no plans for this evening, and the NJ Transit crew explained everything in an awesome way.  Therefore, I really did not have a reason to complain.  It was not the train company's fault that "mother nature" decided to wipe out one of their bridges.  Well, tomorrow is another long day and I need to get some sleep.  Tada!

July 11 -
There is a question we ask in Parkway when interviewing potential teachers.   It seems appropriate for today.  The question simply asks for three words which you might use to describe yourself.  Today for me at least, those three words would be hot, tired, and crabby.  I got up a hour later that I expected and planned.  Still it was not enough sleep; I just had a tough time sleeping last night.  Also, it was a travel day--I drove about 300 miles or so pulling the trailer to a new destination, but then it also was VERY hot and VERY rainy.  The rain did not seem to cool things down at all.  I began the day wet with sweat and that feeling continued throughout the entire day.  The truck does not run well pulling the trailer AND running the air conditioner so I typically do not use a/c when pulling the trailer.  I could not do that today.  Plus I was climbing and coasting down several hills in central Pennsylvania.  So you hopefully can understand why I was hot, tired, and crabby.  Of course, I have just focused on the negative aspects of the day.  There were MANY positive aspects to balance the entire experience.  For instance, I knew something of New Jersey back roads and was able to skip a chunk of the toll road into Philadelphia.  I got to Fort Mifflin without any real problems, and the lady there was excited to see me and to get copies of my family history stuff which contained a mention of Mud Island Fort (aka Fort Mifflin).  She was so excited that she gave me a little mini copy of the flag which flew over the fort during the time that my g-g-g-g-grandfather James fought there.  She even confirmed that g-g-g-g-grandpa's commanding officers, Townsend and McGlaughlin, were at the fort during the American Revolution.  After leaving Fort Mifflin, the Alamo of the American Revolution, I travelled to Valley Forge.  I did not stay long at Valley Forge.  I was there just long enough to get a couple of pictures and a stamp in my National Parks Passport book.  Then I headed for Lancaster, PA.  First stop at Lancaster was Wheatland.  You might ask what is Wheatland?  Ok, it is the home of a U.S. President.  Now, which one lived there?  I'm not going to tell you; look it up for yourself.  I will give you a hint.  He was President right before Abraham Lincoln was President which makes this man our 15th President under the current Constitution.  Alas, I did not get there in time to take the tour of his house.  Instead, the lady in the process of locking the place up allowed me to take a few photos.  Then the rain began to fall again (It rained several times today).  Instead of pushing to get to Hershey before that visitor center closed or to any of the Amish museums before they closed or to the Strasburg area train museums, I decided I had better figure out where to spend the night.  It was just after 5 pm and I figured that I really could not spend more money on lodging so an organized campground was out.  So was the Flying J at Carlisle.  I could get to the Flying J in less than an hour, but then I would need to spend all night there.  That meant I would be there for 12-14 hours.  It is one thing to pull up at 10 or 11pm and catch a few hours of sleep at the Flying J.  If you get there at 11pm and leave by 8am the next morning, then you have only spent something like 9 hours there.  That is acceptable, but anything more than 12 hours or so is really too long.  So I had something of a dilemma.  I decided to push on and get to the Resorts of Distinction Resort in Champion, PA.  I called ROD about adding tonight to my reservation for tomorrow night.  ROD checked and had no problems with it, so I pushed on to Roaring Run Resort here in Champion, PA.  This resort is nice--one of the better places I have stayed at during this adventure, but there is no WiFi in the campground or at any of their lodges.  Nuts!  Still,  this place reminds me, more than the other resorts, of Lost Valley Lake.  Now what will I do tomorrow?  You're guess is as good as mine...I have no clue yet.  Well, I guess I had better start looking at the AAA book for this area and find out what is near here.

July 12 -
Ah, what a wonderful day!  A couple days ago I was thinking and planning this area/part of the trip and I realized that Fort Necessity was near here.  So I circled the listing in the AAA book and promptly forgot about it.  Last time as I checked the "good book", I found my circular mark and realized what I needed to do today: visit Fort Necessity and Friendship Hill national parks and historic sites.  Fort Necessity dates back to the French and Indian War--the Europeans call that war the Seven Years War because to the Europeans, the war was not just about the French teaming up with the Indians to attack the British colonists who were trying to settle in the Western frontier.  Of course at the time,  Southwestern Pennsylvania WAS the Western frontier of the United States.  A young Virginian by the name of, well, hmm, his names escapes me right now, was sent out to build a road for the British. Now who was that young Virginian?  Oh yea!  It was a 22 year old George Washington!  To make a long story short, George eventually gets into a skirmish, well battle, with the French.  A French leader is killed and good old (ok, young!) George realizes he needs to build a fort against a French retaliation for the killing.  The fort George builds is Fort Necessity and the French do attack the fort.  George is forced to surrender the fort, but the events spark the entire French and Indian War.  British General Braddock arrives to straighten things out, but he ends up being killed, and well, you can look up the whole thing either in some history book or just do a search for "Fort Necessity" online.  I am sure you will be able to find tons of information about the battle and the fort.  From the Fort, I travelled to and saw Friendship Hill.  Friendship Hill was the home of another little known, at least within the general public, American patriot and founding father.  Albert Gallatin owned Friendship Hill.  Gallatin was Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Jefferson and Madison.  He also negotiated and created the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812.  Ok, but what makes him so special?  Well, under President Jefferson, Gallatin reduces the national debt down to nearly zero.  He also found financing for the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark "Corps of Discovery" expedition among other things.  I do mention and teach about him in my history classes.  He is a minor figure in American history, but American history is chalk full of minor individuals who make a HUGE contribution to our American story.  I was proud to tour his home and learn more about his man.  Both of these adventures will help my teaching this coming school year.  So it was a very good day--no rain really, no travelling really, just nice satisfying visits to a couple of national parks to learn and experience things which will improve my teaching.  Tomorrow I will be on the road again--travelling to Batesville, Indiana.  Hopefully, they will have WiFi there.  If not, I do not know when this will be uploaded to the web.  Until it is uploaded, take care!

July 13 -
So are you freaked out today?  After all, it is Friday the 13th...freaky!  I freaked out today at one point.  Mom got to deal with me at full stressed out level.  It happened about 2 o'clock when a small little sprinkling of rain kicked up into a full blown hail storm.  Travelling with the trailer stresses me out.  Driving in rain with the trailer sends me into a panic, but a hail storm while pulling the trailer just gets my blood boiling.  I screamed (literally SCREAMED) at the sky to stop it!  It did not help--well, not immediately at least--and then when the hail and rain did die out, I doubt that my screaming was the reason for its abatement.  All that happened was that I lost, or at least strained, my voice.  I grabbed the phone and called mom.  I just wanted to know if there was any more rain or hail in my near future.  She did the best she could to calm me down.  After that, it rained off and on for the rest of the afternoon, but it was mainly clear, and I got to the campground early.  So here I am at my last setup before the BIG trip ends.  More than one person today asked me if I was sad that the trip was ending.  I am not really sad--after all, a new trip begins on Monday.  When you walk through a door, you just move from one room to another.  I am just moving from one adventure to another.  That's all.  Certainly, I REALLY enjoyed this trip.  It was quite a bit of fun.  I got to see, touch, hear, smell, and taste things about which I usually only get to study.  The Ford assembly plant in Detriot, the Falls at Niagara, Freedom Trail in Boston, Atlantic City's trashy side and Philadelphia's best side including Independence Hall and a cheese steak from Jim's Steaks were all things I will remember and treasure from this trip.  Those experiences are now burned into my consciousness and being--they are a part of who I am now.  Even so, the trip was expensive.  As gas hovers arounds three dollars a gallon, I racked up more than four thousand miles on my truck.  Not including food and other normal needed accessories such as tires, extension cords, and toilet bowl cleaners, the trip racked up more than a thousand dollars of expense.  Extra gas, admission prices to local attractions, and a few trinkets for classroom and personal use all add up quickly.  So while I REALLY enjoyed the trip, it is time for this experience to end, and I am neither sad or happy about its ending.   It just is another chapter in a wonderful summer.

July 14 -
Nothing much really happened today so I will keep this journal entry short and sweet--well, hopefully!  I really did not do much of anything.  I spent a couple hours cleaning the trailer.  I went to eat some world famous Cincinnati chili at a restaurant which widely known as one of the best places to go for Cincinnati chili.  That restaurant is Skyline Chili.  I had a four way with onions and shredded cheddar cheese.  I also found seven caches in the Batesville, IN area.  Other than that, I did nothing else.

July 15 -
This was a long, long, long day.  I did not sleep well last night.  I always sleep poorly the night before the beginning and the end of just about every trip.  So I did not sleep well last night and it appears I will not get much sleep tonight.  I need to be at a Parkway School district building by 6am tomorrow to head to Springfield, IL.  I have laundry in the washing machine and dryer.  As soon as that finishes, I need to pack, get other stuff ready to go, and get to bed.  The long drive today got me thinking about a previous girlfriend.  I took a trip out to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, and Gettysburg about a year ago.  I used pretty much the same route home this time as I did a year ago.  One incident which occurred during last year's trip was the previous girlfriend called me late at night waking up me as she was bowling with one of her girlfriends.  That memory, coupled with my need to go near her house as I returned the trailer to Lost Valley Lake, reminded of her and what happened during that relationship.  The whole thing was a long story, but the bottom line, the main reason we are no longer together involves the fact that she was, and probably still is, the most unhappy person I know.  I should have known when I first met her that things would not work out.  She was unhappy with everyone in her life; it was only a matter of time before she would become unhappy with me.  Eventually, the relationship inenvitably felt apart.  I really do not know the exact reason why the relationship ended, but she was overwhelmed, stressed out, and "just needed a break."  In short, she was unhappy with me and just could not bring herself to tell me why she was upset.  She has not spoken to me ever since then.   She has everything she could hope for, and yet she was as unhappy as could be.  That is a lesson I need to remember:  I AM happy.  There is nothing more that I need.  I am content.  My needs are met, and while there are always more things that I want to add or include in my life in the future, I do not need those things to be happy.  I guess it boils down to one simple point.  Search for happiness; but realize you only need to look fairly close--for there is only one place where you will find that happiness--that place is within your own heart, and in your soul, and in your being.  The key to the meaning of life is simple:  be happy!  Well, the laundry is done and it is past time for bed.  Springfield, here I come!

July 16 -
The Springfield trip has begun!  It did have sortof a rocky start.  I got to bed late last night, and I had to get up early (5am) today to get to the school district building which served as the meeting place for the trip by 6am.  In the rush to get ready, I knew I would forget at least one item, and I did.  I forgot my cell phone.  Oh well, I really do not need to call anybody this week.   We did get some new stuff compliments of the Teaching American History Grant.  Then the bus began to roll.  I was asleep before we left the parking lot.  I woke up as we pulled into the first tour stop at New Salem Village in New Salem, IL.  This place was cool, but I was still half asleep during our walking self-guided tour of the place.  As a group, we wandered around and then ate a cheesy lunch before heading to the Lincoln Home National Historical Site.  As a group, we toured the home and then had the rest of the afternoon on our own.  I went back to the hotel room to check out the internet.  We reassembled at 6pm for dinner at a nice restaurant here in Springfield, IL.  We ate at Saputo Italian Restaurant for dinner.  Then we were free for most of the evening.  I went back to the hotel room with my roommate Bryan annd watched cartoons for most of the evening.  In short, today was kinda of a lazy hazy relaxed day.  I hope the rest of the trip goes as well as this day.  Well, until tomorrow... cya!

July 17 -
Today was an interesting day.  We spent most of the day at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.  We first toured the library.  Boy, they have lots of books, audio/video stuff, and newspapers in that library!  After a catered lunch, we discussed Lincoln and slavery by using primary sources.  Namely the primary sources we used included the text of letters and speeches created by Lincoln.  That took most of the afternoon.  From there, we went to Cozy's Diner.  Cozy's claims to have created the "Dog on a stick" concept.  They called their corn dogs "Cozy Dogs."  Most of our group decided to pass on the Cozy Dogs and just had something simple from the place.  Personally, I loved it!  I did not eat all of my fries, but I did experience the "Cozy Dog" taste.  Yum-yum!  Greasy corn dogs!  After that, we went to the Lincoln Tomb.  They were "celebrating" the 125th anniversary of the death of Mary Todd Lincoln, Abe's wife.  They had a special funeral ceremony, a special flag-lowering ceremony by a reenactment unit, and a special evening tour of the Lincoln Tomb.  After the Tomb tour, we visited the "Museum of Funeral Customs" for a special talk and self-guided tour of that museum.   Finally, the leader of this little adventure took us to Cold Stone Creamery for an ice cream.  The treat was paid for by the Teaching American History Grant.  I had a strawberry waffle cone.  So what did I really learn today?  Maybe not much new info, but I did get to read and examine those Lincoln primary sources which focused on his attitude towards slavery.  My positions and thoughts about how Lincoln felt about slavery did not change at all, but I did get a greater understanding of Lincoln and his opinions.  That is always a good thing.  The only thought which stuck me today is that this professional development experience is set up in the correct way.  We spent the day focusing on Lincoln and what he really felt and believed.  We have not yet toured the museum.  In many ways, that is a good thing.  The museum is great.  It gets thousands of people talking about and studying American history.  No one, certainly not myself, will knock that successful part of the museum, but there is a danger there.  The museum is glitzy and showy.  It is eye candy and sound bite history.  The stuff on display is not typically the original items; the display items are reproductions.  The shows are fantastic--yet the shows really do not include too much real content.  Had we started with the museums and those shows, we would possibly have missed the bigger Lincoln story.  Lincoln was a very complicated man with very deep complex ideas about slavery and other issues of the day.  I guess in many ways we are all like that.  Well, the hour is getting late.  My roommate is in bed, and I should be as well.  So until tomorrow, stay complicated!  :-)

July 18 -
We visited the presidential museum today.  My thoughts did change somewhat about the museum.  There are lots more primary source/actual documents/etc in  the museum than I remember from my previous visit.  The shows were as flashy as I remembered them to be.  To be honest, I am not really certain what I will take away from this day.  We started at the Lincoln Library by completing an activity or two which I nearly slept through.  After another catered lunch, we visited the Lincoln Museum.  Really, nothing of importance happened.  As a group, we ate at a fancy "fondue" restaurant called Z Bistro. It was a strange four course dinner.  Bread dipped in cheese sauce, cooking my own steak-bits and shrimp in boiling oil, and strawberries, bananas, apples, and other delicious treats dipped in chocolate and caramel; all this stuff was a bit much for this simple little palette.  Oh well, it was a free meal for me.  Life continues to be good, and if all I can complain about is a fancy four course fondue dinner, then do I really have anything to complain about really?  Ok, I guess I should hush and go to bed.  Right now, I'm watching some crazy "adult animation" on Cartoon Network called Robot Chicken or some such silliness.  Time for bed...

July 21 -
Once again, I find myself behind with my "daily" online journal entries.  I never said I would write everyday, and what I would say for these last couple of days?  Toured two Illinois state capitals including the one in use right now and the one not in use but where Abraham Lincoln served in the House of Representatives.  Tried to walk about in the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, but was told I would need to wait for a tour.  No thanks--not enough time just to see one silly room or thereabouts.  Experienced a long traffic delayed bus ride back to St. Louis.  Spent three hours in my classroom tearing up a supply cabinet.  No, I did not put it back together again--it is just in pieces on about five tables in my classroom.  See!  Do you really want to read about this stuff?  Maybe I should report on the fact that I sneezed today!  :-P  Ok, that would be a bit much, but I think the point was made.  There was not much going on in these last couple of days which really would be news worthy.  Today, of course, was the SLAGA Summer Picnic.  How did it go?  Well, if you were there, you know exactly how it went, and if you were not there, then you probably would just be asking to be nice so I would respond with a nice short answer.  It was great.  A bunch of cachers, some of us (ok, me) being an old fart sitting around the pavillon talking with people and doing NO caching whatsoever.  Some cachers had a reason to do nothing: they had found all of the caches in the park.  Others were just simply lazy.  I will let you decide on where I fall into that classification scheme.  :-)  Other than that, I am trying to get prepared for the long-awaited, much postponed, and maybe a little maligned Missouri State Park Passport Tour Extragazana.  The tour begins tomorrow and continues for the next 2.5 days where I stay at 117 state park campgrounds and hike 4983 state park hiking trails just so I can earn some simple little paper certificate.  Actually, I think the tour goes for 10+ days at 5 (maybe 6) different state park campgrounds and I will hike or bike 18 different trails.  If all goes well, I should have 30 out of the 36 total trails hiked and finished by the time this little trip is done.  A water hydration backpack and some other nifty prizes will be my reward if I get all 36 done before the end of October.  Of course, school starts right after this little trip finishes up so the end of summer quickly approaches.  Well, I need some sleep tonight so tata for now!

July 22 -
So I was playing some of my CDs as I travelled from place to place today, and just for those of you keeping score on a scorecard, yes, I am at Thousand Hills State Park.  I am camping at site #47 in campground #1 and yes, I completed the Mark Twain Birthplace SHS hike and the Long Branch State Park hike today.  Sixteen more trails to go including the one here at Thousand Hills.  I will do that one tomorrow.  The trail here is a 3 miler with no bike support so I'll seemingly be walking most of tomorrow morning.  Anyway, I was playing my CDs today when a crazy thought struck me.  One of the CDs I played was a mix I created oh, at least a couple years ago.  I did something really stupid and wasted about $400 in a flash.  I placed an expensive GPS on the bedrail of my truck and drove off.  It disappeared in a flash and I was heartbroken and angry at myself for being so stupid.  I replaced the GPS when I could, but to mentally work myself out of this silly stupid loss and the sort of depression that could and would accompany the craziness, I created a CD of songs which caused me to focus on more important, bigger "real" issues.  Issues like "if you love something, set it free" (Sting) or "the less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine" (Indigo Girls) and "soon as you know it, you are out of the picture" (Sun Volt).  All of the songs on the mix CD were included because they spoke of deeper core issues or core values that I needed to focus on rather than just the silly stuff like losing a material object.  One of the songs is called "Accidentally Kelly Street."  A crazy name for a song, but it talks about the fact that if we just slow down long enough to listen and experience the world, we find that life really is sweet.  That is a major message in a sugary sweet pop tune.  Well, I had not listened to the CD in a while.  I usually only listen to it when I am feeling fairly low, and even though I was really feeling pretty good today, I placed the CD in the player to listen to the good tunes.  As I listened I thought it might be a good idea to explain why each of the songs were included on the mix, but after about the third song, I realized I would be up all night typing a journal entry so long and so boring that NO ONE in their right mind would ever want to read it.   So I decided to scrap the whole idea of even  mentioning the CD at all, and just come up with another writing idea.  Hmmm...  nothing seems to come to mind so I will just hush up and write again tomorrow.

July 23 -
It is strange how some things work out.  Right now I am sitting in a McDonalds in Kirksville, MO.  Now I hate, I mean HATE, McDonalds, but they just happen to have free WiFi.  Free WiFi at McDonalds?  When did this happen?  Especially when did this happen in a small town in northern Missouri?  Ok, so Kirksville is the largest town in northern Missouri with Truman State University here and whatall, but still, the town is nowhere near the size of even Washington, MO outside St. Louis.  What gives?  WiFi at McDonalds--strange!  Anyway, today was a good day.  I did do the passport hike at Thousand Hills State Park.  I figured out exactly where the clue would be hidden and sure enough, it was hidden there.  The only problem was that regardless of how I approached the clue, I still had to hike 1.5 miles just to get there.  So yes, it was a 3 mile round trip to the clue and back.  Oh well, no shortcuts for me today.  Well, I take that back.    I was suppose to do a loop from the starting spot to the clue and then back to the starting spot via a different route, but I cut down so many cobwebs on the way out to the clue that I just turned around and used the way I came in as the way I also went out.  It was not a shortcut on mileage, but it did save me from using my hiking stick as a whacking stick the WHOLE trail long.  The stick was actually used to help me hike for HALF the trail!  Also, I found 10 caches in three new counties in northern Missouri.  Hey, it is not bad!  Also, the weather was absolutely wonderful!  Maybe it got a tad bit hot (low 90s) this afternoon, but I will take this type of weather all summer long!  After re-reading yesterday's journal entry, I have decided to describe two other songs on that mix CD of mine.  Both are songs by my favorite singer Jane Siberry.  The first song is called "You Don't Need."  The song talks about independence and individualism.  "You don't need any comforts, don't need anything, don't need anyone to want you.  You can get it from yourself" she sings.  Of course, then she adds "I think I have myself...almost convinced."  The song focuses on one's self and that person's ability to live a fulfilled life.  If you want to be happy, then it is YOUR OWN job to make yourself happy.  No one else can, nor should, try to do it for you.  Nor should you rely on anyone else to help make yourself happy.   You are the change agent for yourself.  You make things happen for your life.  The other Jane Siberry song on the CD is "Oh my my my" and explores rebirth, renewal, and personal growth again.  As a teacher, and as a person, I am constantly experiencing that "rebirth" or "renewal" process. Every year, whether it is a calender year or a school year, brings about renewal and change.  These are new beginnings or new chapters in life.  Each time, I try to make the new experience better than the old experience.  Jane sings about a person leaving on a boat into the open seas at night--leaving the safety of the known harbor--the only light you know--and sailing off into the night.  Sound familiar?  The symbolism is striking.  Trust in one's self.  Independence.  Confidence.  Determination.  Strength--both physical and mental.  I safely sailed the waters of the Detroit, Niagara, Boston, and Philadelphia trip.  I accomplished my goals for this summer, but those goals are not enough.  New goals must be created.  New challenges must be faced.  I have left the safety of my harbor, my home, once again.  Once again, I am faced with unknown challenges and problems.  Some of those problems will be overcomed easily.  Remember my fear about my truck holding up during that Boston-Philadelphia trip?  Not only did it hold up, but it did so brillantly!  Ok, so I had to get new tires, but that certainly fixed any and all problems that the truck was experiencing.  Today I was driving on an open stretch of road here in northern Missouri.  No one was around and I could see the long straight road for a few miles ahead.  I was at the top of a hill and the truck was doing 70 mph at the time.  I floored the gas pedal.  The speedometer hit 80 mph without any noticeable change.  The needle went higher and higher.  I topped out at about 95 mph before I eased up on the trottle.  I did not even want to hit 100 even though I could have without a sweat.  I CRUISED the next couple miles at 80 mph before I began the climb out of this valley and the needle dropped to 70 again.  The truck just hummed along like nothing changed.  Whoa!  What a great feeling!  Everything purring along--everything working well--every challenge met with exceeding results.  It was awesome!  Tomorrow I move onto Crowder State Park where I will hike the passport trail and camp for one night.  Then I move on to Watkins Woolen Mill.  Things are going well.  School is around the corner, and I will be ready.  This will be a great year because, you see, I CAN do anything!  I will make this year the best school year yet!  :-)  Now, how's that for arrogance? :-P  I call it confidence!  Till tomorrow...  SPEED!

July 24 -
Speed, eh?  Did I really say that?  It is strange how some things work out.  Oh, did I already say that as well?  Somewhere just west of Kirksville is the edge of known civilization.  Clearly, Columbus did not make it this far west because he WOULD HAVE fallen off the edge of the world!  I think I know exactly where that edge is located.  During one of my cache hunts today, I experienced a bit of bad luck locating a cache named "Friday Night Fun."  Brawny Bear found the cache a little more than a month ago so I called him to get an additional hint as to where the cache lurked.  The signal cut in and out as I called.  On the third attempt, I got Mike's ring tone, the Peter Gunn theme song, on my phone.  Now the version of the song on Mike's phone number has no words, but a defunct music group called the Jody Grind found the words and sung the song with the vocals.  Part of the lyrics go "Bye, bye, you may be splitting to Britain or Norway.  SO LONG, this may be the last time we meet on the street going NOWHERE..."  I should have known then--this day would be a long day of nothing going nowhere!  Mike did not answer and he has yet to call me back.  At least, my phone does not show that he has tried.  I did not find the cache.  I grinned, beared it, and turned west towards Trenton and Crowder State Park.  The driving distance was only something like 61 miles, but it might as well been the edge of the world.  Silence, mostly.  That, or the wisping of a hallow wind blowing over the corn fields of green stalks topped with golden tassels.  The corn is about 7 feet tall at the moment and as green as can be.  The roads are straight and long.  It felt just like yesterday's experience except today with the trailer in tow, I topped out at about 55 or maybe 60 mph.  There is nothing here except a few cows with jet black dead eyes staring out eating grass on the long wait to the slaughterhouse.  I did find the only cache in a two COUNTY area.  Think of that, two entire counties and only one cache hidden there!  I got to Crowder in good time, set up camp, did the passport hike and sighed.  The only verbal conversations I had today were with Mike's voice mail and the cache owner of that one cache.  He was a friendly enough fellow, but the conversation was cut short when his wife yelled at him to announce he had a phone call waiting for him.  Shortest distance to the next cache: 46.8 miles away.  Seriously!  I went back to Crowder and took a nap.  It is a sea of emptiness here.  Yesterday I wrote about Jane Siberry's song which mentions sailing into an unknown ocean.  Today I am sailing the waters of that unknown empty ocean.  But it is more than the lack of activities here which is disconcerting.  It is the lack of connection.  Ok, so I talked with several cachers and friends Saturday at the SLAGA picnic.  Still, I feel disconnected and isolated for some strange reason.  Life slows down to a crawl here, and that can be very disconcerting.  No one talks to me here.  My friends back in St. Louis all have they own lives doing their own things and that is all well and good and as it should be.  I do not want to pester them with my foolishness.  Still, it begs the question: Is anybody reading this?  <knock><knock> Hello, hello, is anybody there?  H-a-l-looooo?<knock><knock>  Really though, it does not matter if anybody reads this or not.  My online journal is for one, and only one, person.  That is me.  Oh sure, it is public and anybody can read my thoughts and opinions, but that is just a way of keeping myself honest with the conversations I have with myself.  And that is the true purpose of this online journal.  I keep it and write in it everyday, or close to everyday, so that I connect as often as possible with at least one other person, namely myself, while I am on this long and lonely road.  This is the way I fight the lonely feeling that can be so dreadfully overwhelming on the road.  I may be bored tonight, but things are bound to change.  Tomorrow I travel BACK to civilization as I head towards Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and the Kansas City area.  Whew!  Until then, I will save this torrid little journal entry, light the little candle which shrinks night by night, and ponder what tomorrow will bring.

Oh, I wrote this poem sometime back and have tried to find an appropriate time to slip it in as "my writing for the day."  Unfortunately, no time has ever seemed appropriate.  Well, on my hikes both yesterday and today, I saw little yellow wildflowers, the subject of the poem, on the trail.  I hope you enjoy the poem, even if it does seem a little depressing:

A Flower Today

I saw a flower today

Perfect in shape and form and bloom
Its yellow pedals sparkled in the light at noon.
The dew that sat on its stem so tight
Would not allow it to give up fight
Yet that flower will tomorrow not be
Or maybe the next day so shall we see
For life is funny and awfully short
and cuts its beauty without resort
And today's flower will sure succumb
To a fate that's bound to come.

I saw a life today.

Shine on little candle...shine on.

July 25 -
Ah, a state of normalcy returns.  It did not take long.  As I drove away from Crowder State Park and entered Highway 6 towards Wallace State Park and Watkins Woolen Mill State Park, my phone rang.  It was Mike.  "Sorry man, I wanted to call you back and just didn't"  was his opening line to me.  No problem Mike, I was in a black hole anyway.  You would not have reached me if you had tried!  :-P  As soon as I left the area everything seemed to be right again in the world.  The guy at the gas station said hi to me.  People at Wallace State Park smiled and waved.  A cache appeared just 50 feet off the road.  Whoa!  Got to stop and grab that one!  I got eight caches today without even thinking about it and without putting forth any special effort.  The campground host at Watkins Woolen Mill State Park chatted freely and wanted to see my camper go up in 30 seconds.  I popped it up for her and then two other nearby campers came over to also get the camper tour and demo.  It is amazing how my little Aliner can draw attention to itself.  The bottom line though is that I am out of the black hole and the isolation that came with the central part of northern Missouri and camping at Crowder State Park.  Don't get me wrong, Crowder was a nice park, but there were only 5 campers in a campground for a hundred or more sites and the campground host was "off duty" and did not want to talk to anybody.  I did feel very disconnected there.  My phone was not really working there either.  By the way, Tom, my old RadioShack boss, called to see when I would be available for Poker next.  See, all it takes is getting out of that black hole and the world is right again.  I guess it goes to show that if you are willing to wait things out and if you just do not jump to conclusions, things will work out for the best.  Things will be ok.  In fact, things might even turn out good!  :-)

Oh--yes, I am at Watkins Woolen Mill State Park for tonight and tomorrow nights.  I completed the Wallace and Watkins Woolen Mill Passport hikes (well, Watkins Woolen was a biking trail), and I picked up eight caches.  All is going well, and I am on schedule with everything.  Until tomorrow, adios!

July 26 -
Well, it is earlier than normal but I am once again using the Panera's WiFi connection so I have limited time.  I doubt I will be online later so I might as well type up today's entry a tad bit early.  It was a good day.  I did both passport hikes at Weston Bend State Park.  Actually, one of the two hikes was a bike ride, but I found both clues.  The bike ride trail was tough!  Up and down hills and some of the hills were straight up and/or straight down.  It was either WEEEEE or WHOAAAA or UUUGGGGHHHHH all the way today on that trail.  The other hike was easier than expected so I spent the rest of the day caching.  I found all ten of a series of Lewis and Clark caches.  Actually the series was named after the Corps of Discovery--the official name of the Lewis and Clark Expedition--but I set out to get all ten of the caches and that is exactly what I did.  I biked the entire way and then biked back.  All told, I biked more than 10 miles today and hiked on top of that.  Plus I picked up a couple of other caches.  The only bummer to this day was getting stung--for a second time this summer--at the first cache I found.  The wasp got me on the neck.  Now I was stung as a kid.  I had a bee sting ONCE in high school.  As a college work study student, something (a bug of some sort) bit me on the lip and that exploded on me, but that was the last one I got stung or bit.  I was in college!  Now, twenty plus years later, I get stung TWICE in one summer by wasps.  Oh well, what comes around, goes around.  I'm still alive and even a wasp sting cannot put a damper on a great day like today.  Tomorrow I will be moving from Watkins Woolen Mill (did I tell you that ANOTHER camping neighbor came over to check out my Aliner this morning?) to Knob Noster State Park.  I will be camping at Knob Noster tomorrow night and Saturday night.  I doubt if I will be able to get online when I am near Knob Noster, but I will continue to type and upload the entries when I can just like I always do.  Until then, peace out!

July 27 -
Today was a good day even if it was a lazy hazy day where not too much got done.  However, I did accomplish a few important things!  First, I packed up and left Watkins Woolen Mill State Park.  This was definitely a good state park camping experience.  Yet another camper came over to check out the Aliner before I packed it away for the trip to Knob Noster.  Once on the road, I headed to Excelsior Springs and the Elms hotel.  No, I was not going to check in there.  I only wish I was going there to do that!  I went to do a virtual cache there.  The Elms Hotel is THE grand hotel of the north Kansas City area. So many big wigs have stayed there that if I began to mention a list of all those folks, we would be here for the next week.  The hotel's most famous visitor was Harry S Truman who used the hotel as presidential campaign headquarters.  Remember that picture of Truman holding up the newspaper with the headline "Dewey Defeats Truman!"  Well somehow the Elms figures into that story.  I do not remember all of the particulars, but either the photo was taken with Truman on one of the balconies or maybe he had stayed at the Elms on election night (he did stay there--click here for details) and as he left the Elms to travel back to KC the next morning, a photographer snapped a picture of Truman on the train.  Anyway, the Elms does figure into the creation of the picture in some way or another.  I felt I HAD to do this particular cache at the Elms simply because I have spent oh, at least two or three nights there.  As a member of the William Jewell chapter of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, I was part of at least three formal dances at the hotel, and everytime you take part in a formal fraternity dance, you chip in with a bunch of other fraternity brothers and their dates to rent a room for the night.  It would not be an embellishment to say that some of those nights were the wildest nights of my college experience or even of my whole life.  Now, before anyone places their mind into a gutter, I would simply remind everyone that usually there were ten to twelve people packed into these normal size hotel rooms.  Not what many people perceive as very romantic really, but romance was not typically part of the party.  Usually, the wildness of the party came from a desire to answer the burning question of just how many different types of alcohol can one mix into a party favor glass and still be able to drink it.  For the life of me, I still do not remember the answer.  Hmmm, I wonder why I do not remember that answer!  It seems to me that we tried to answer the question several times with several different "drink recipes."  Oh well, I digress.  Perhaps the reason why I wanted to do this PARTICULAR cache is already clear enough.  From the Elms, I travelled to Lexington and did the passport hike at the Battle of Lexington State Historic Site.  Quick!  Who won the Batlle of Lexington?  The British?  The colonists?  NO!  Wrong Lexington!  Here, the Confederates took the field of victory after a three day battle with the Union during the "Civil" War.  By this time of the day, the heat was becoming unbearable so I made a beeline to Knob Noster State Park.  Once camp was set up, I needed to go for two more passport hikes.  One here at Knob Noster and the other at Bothwell Lodge north of Sedalia.  I decided to go to Bothwell Lodge first and make certain I got that one done for sure.  It was a good thing I did that. I hiked the three mile trail in 98 degree heat.  Ugh!  I carried my Camelbak water hydration backpack with me and I drained every drop of the two liters on the trail!  Then, after drinking tons of gallons of "funny" tasting water from Bothwell, I decided to go for an air-conditioned ride in my truck.  That's when the rain hit.  The rain still falls occassionally.  I am now in my trailer and the rain comes in short bursts upon the aluminum roof of the Aliner.  I think this is the first time my bike has experienced rainfall--unless I was riding in the rain once.  I did place the bike inside the trailer, but that was only after the major rain had moved out of the area.  I was out driving around when the big stuff hit the campground.  So, it was too hot, humid, and rainy to find many caches and the hiking really zapped my strength.  I did not even get the Knob Noster hike in today.  I guess I will do that tomorrow along with the Van Meter and Arrow Rock hikes.  Both Van Meter and Arrow Rock are suppose to be 1.5 miles long.  I hope I can do all three tomorrow.  I guess time will tell.  Well until then, have fun! 

July 28 -
Are we into the dog days of August yet?  It sure feels like it!  First, to answer yesterday's question, yes I can and did do three Missouri State Park passport hikes today.  Again, the heat zapped my strength and the bugs were something else.  I started very early, before 8am, by hiking the entire trail here at Knob Noster.  I was finished by 8:30 and still soaked with sweat.  Ugh!  I decided to take two shirts with me today as a I travelled from park to park.  From Knob Noster, I travelled north to Van Meter State Park.  This park has the worst traffic problems of any Missouri state park.  Now mind you, there was only 2 or 3 vehicles on the road near or in the park.  The traffic congestion of which I am referring to involves the bugs swirling and buzzing around my head.  Those bugs created a constant buzz.  From Van Meter, I travelled to Arrow Rock State Park and did the hike there.  By the time I returned to my truck, I was soaked in sweat and just did not want to be outside anymore for a while.  So rather than caching, I just drove around with the air conditioner on.  The coolness did feel good even if I burned some gas on my worhless adventures.  Things continue to go well.  The rain has moved on to other areas and it is now dry here.  Beyond that, there is really nothing more to write about today.

July 29 -
Today was a long, but good, day.  For the life of me, I do not know why it felt as long as it did.  Maybe part of it was that I did not sleep well last night.  I fixed myself some food too late in the evening and that kept me up until much later than I should have been up.  Then I tossed and turned and got up and played a Norah Jones CD and and and, well you get the picture.  So I got to sleep late which meant that I got up late.  I got up about 10 am or thereabouts today.  It was noon before I was on the road with the trailer headed to Bennett Springs State Park.  I actually got to Bennett in pretty good time.  I got here by 2:30 or so and had camp set up by 3:30.  From there, I drove to Ha Ha Tonka and did the passport hike at that park.  I wanted to find a couple caches along the way, but the only caches I found were a couple near Sedalia.  Woo-ha!  On the trail at Ha Ha Tonka, I met a guy who was also completing the passport program.  He had hiked Pomme de Terre, Stockton, Bennett Springs, and then Ha Ha Tonka just today alone.  Whoa!  He was going to try to do Lake of the Ozarks State Park before going home to Warrensburg (I believe).  From Ha Ha Tonka, I also drove to Lake of the Ozarks only to see the same guy there, but we both experienced a problem at Lake of the Ozarks.  Neither one of us could find the passport hike trail.  The last I saw of him, he was going to head to the south part of the park and see if the trail was there.  Unfortunately, I now know that the trail is NOT in the south part.  I know this because I went to the north part where the park office is located.  The office was closed, but the nearby "Trails Center" was open.  The Trails Center had the map I needed to find the Passport Trail for the park.  I just needed to continue on a road in the north part of the park which led to the campground.  The Lake View Bend Trail surrounds the campground.  I found the clue on the trail just as darkness descended upon the Lake of the Ozarks.  From there, I raced back to Bennett Springs--well, not literally "raced" back--but I drove back to my campsite.  Along the way, I grabbed some food from the Price Cutter store which is this area's grocery store.  Now I am typing up this entry and will upload it in a few minutes and I KNOW it will work because I am using the Bennett Springs Free WiFi connection.  Well, it is time to get this silly little journal uploaded and me to bed.  Tomorrow I hit Pomme de Terre and Stockton State Parks and will do the hike here at Bennett Springs if there is enough daylight to do them all.  If not, I will do the hike here on Tuesday morning before heading to Lost Valley Lake for the rest of the week.  Ok, time to hush and upload!  Good night!

July 30 -
I guess I was wrong about the "dog days of summer" being here.  It was a nice cool 83 degrees today and I hiked three more Missouri State Park Passport Hikes.  First, I drove to Pomme de Terre and did the Indian Point Trail.  The entire trail is something like 3 miles long, but there is a shortcut to the actual Indian Point location.  I took the shortcut--hey, it was still .5 from Indian Point and the location of a cache--hoping to find the passport clue on the way out to Indian Point.  I had no luck on finding the clue during my outbound journey.  I did find the cache.  It was placed back on 11/11/1!  Two months after Nine Eleven and seemingly forever ago.  I got to Indian Point and was kicking myself for taking the shortcut.  Not finding the clue meant that I would need to end up hiking the entire 3 mile trail including the shortcut section a second time.  Ugh!  Well on the inward bound part of the hike, the trail forked off so that a hiker does not go over the same section of path to get back to the original starting location which was located about 1.5 miles away.  The two trails, outward and inward bound, both parallel each other for a little while and then gradually the gap between the trails widens.  I decided that since I would be needing to hike the darn inward bound part again anyway, I might as well hike it now.  I got maybe .15 or .2 of a mile down that trail when I found the clue.  Ye-haw!  I bushwhacked back to the original outward bound trail and back to my truck.  Lucky, lucky me!  :-P  Then it was off to Stockton Lake.  The Nyblad Trail at Stockton is short--very short really.  I believe it is advertised at one mile long.  I found the clue only about .15 miles from the trailhead.  There were not many, if any, boats on Stockton Lake today.  I did see several boats and water skiers on Pomme de Terre Lake, but Stockton was dead.  I then turned back towards Bennett Spring and my campsite.  I stopped at a grocery store (this time it was a Woods store) and purchased some hamburger.  Once I got to Bennett Spring, I hiked the Oak-Hickory, Bluff, and Bridge Trails (what a name!) for the passport hike.  I found the clue easily and spent the rest of the daylight wandering around watching trout anglers, trout, wildflowers, the hatchery, the rearing pools, and anything else I could within walking distance at the park.  I even saw and walked around the actual Bennett Spring.  Ok, I have done that before now, but it is still a nice location to visit.  Everyone stands around in quiet awe of the place.  They raise their "sticks of religion" into the air with a fine thin line attached to each stick.  All these people wear funny little "prayer" vests and green rubber boots which go all the way up to their armpits and the boots are held in place by suspenders.  They cover their heads according to biblical practice.  Baseball caps advertising sporting goods stores is the head covering of choice.  There was a mist just above the water and the whole scene looks like a baptism of fish and water.  The spring bubbles up at a tremendous rate and no one says a word.  The only noise to be heard is the whizzing of a line flying through the air and the ker-plunk of a fly hitting the water.  The trout twist and turn under the angler's bait.  Usually the rainbows swim away from the temptation.  A child makes a noise and everyone turns to frown at the offensive break in protocol.  Determination and desperation mark every face in the water.  The anglers desperately try to catch the trout, and the trout stubbornly determine not to be caught.  Writers frequently compare trout fishing to religion.  It is easy to see why they make the comparison.  As darkness descended down on the park, I moved to my campsite to fry the hamburger and create my campfire.  I believe this is the first campfire of this round of state park camping experiences.  I have wanted to build a fire all week.  I just got too busy and too hot to actually build the fire.  Now with the fire blazing and my little candle burning, I look back on today with a certain amount of reverance.  It was a wonderfully special day.  Great weather, lucky finds, good exercise, fantastic surroundings, and an emotional ending to the day--who could ask, or want, anything more than that?  What an awesome day it was!  Tomorrow I travel to Lost Valley Lake.  The end of summer quickly approaches...these days will not last forever.  Still, I can always try to hold on to this wonderful feeling!

July 31 -
There is really very little to tell about today other than the fact that yes, I did move from Bennett Spring State Park to Lost Valley Lake and that I did two, and only two, caches today.  The caches were located at the north and south bound rest areas just south of Rolla.  I picked up the north bound rest area first, went to the next exit, turned around, got back on the highway, did the southbound rest area, went to the next exit, turned around a second time, and then headed for Lost Valley Lake.  Oh, I did stop at an Army Surplus located at the exit between the two rest areas, but other than that, I really did not do very much at all.  Once at Lost Valley Lake, I headed back to Owensville for groceries at the Supercenter Walmart located there.  That was about it.  Summer grinds to a slow and lazy end.

August 1 -
Summer has finally really slowed down.  I got up and moving today around 10 am.  I did go and do the Meramec and Onondaga Cave State Park passport hikes and three more caches, but that was it.  It was noon before I got to Meramec and the first of the passport hikes and I was completely done with everything by 4:30 this evening.  Tomorrow will prove to be an even more relaxing day as I have NOTHING to do except swim and watch movies at Lost Valley Lake.  I know, I am a bum.  There, I called myself it so all of you do not need to do it for me.  Or do it anyway.  I am a bum right now.  Yawn!  I think I will roll back over and go to sleep!  :-P  So no great intellectual or emotional thoughts or ideas tonight.  I should build a fire, but I am feeling too lazy to do even that!  Now, that is bad!  Ok, now I have a job to do: build a fire on a hot night like tonight.  Well, let me get this journal entry uploaded first and the caches logged.  Then I will build my fire and light my candle.   Ok, time to get "busy."  Cya!

August 3 -
Sometimes you get so busy being lazy that you forget to do the important things like create a new online journal entry.  That was me yesterday.  I got up and moving, oh, around noon sometime.  I wanted to make sure that I went swimming so I made sure to get up at least at some point before the entire day was gone.  I got up, showered, and went for a swim.  While down by the pool, I checked out the movie listings.  LVL was showing Flag of Our Fathers, a movie I wanted to see, starting at 8pm.  Great, I just had to kill the time before the movie began.  I did go swimming, and then I watched a couple of M*A*S*H episodes on the satellite TV in the Adult Lounge.  I still had an hour to kill before the flick so I returned to my campsite to fix a couple of "hamburger steaks."  What is a hamburger steak?  Simple--it is a big huge hamburger patty without the bread or a bun.  I drowned the patties in Maull's Sweet-N-Mild Barbeque Sauce.  Yum!  Good stuff indeed!  Well, after frying up the "steaks" and doing the mandatory cleanup afterwards, I was left with three minutes to get back to the theater to catch the show.  I got there just a tad bit little, but it seems I did not miss much.  For the next two plus hours, I was enthralled by the action and the storyline.  What a good movie!  The Sports Arena, where the movie theater is housed, closes at 10 pm and since the movie is two hours, twelve minutes long, I thought I would not be allowed to watch the ending of the story.  However, the theater was 1/3 to 1/2 full, an incredible turnout really, and the movie wasn't going to go over closing time THAT long, so security and the activities people just closed up the sports arena and allowed the movie to finish without incident.  The 20-30 people in the theater were thankful, but when the movie was over, it was time to get out of the Sports Arena (basically, a big gym).  I went back to my campsite and as I hopped out of the truck, the people on the campsite site next to me ask me to join them.  After a quick pitstop in the bathroom, I did join them.  That was maybe 10:15 or so.  We talked and chatted about everything under the sun practically, especially tourist destinations, for a couple hours.  Eventually, I did get back to my trailer.  The first thing I did was check the time.  It was 12:43am.  Wow!  Where does the time fly?  So I was a lazy bum again--a busy lazy bum--yesterday to the point where I did not type up an online journal entry.  Today has the potential to prove to be similar.  It is now noon and I still inside my trailer typing up what really could be called yesterday's journal entry.  I will get up soon, take a shower, upload this to the internet, maybe go for a swim, hop in the truck, head to St. Peters to drop off dirty clothes and pick up a piece of software, drive to Tom's house for a poker game, and then drive back to Lost Valley Lake tonight to once again fall sleep in my trailer about 1 or 2 am this upcoming morning.  Boy, being lazy sure is tough!  :-P  Well, I guess this lazy bum ought to get moving then!  Adios for now!

Ok, whoa!  Before I upload this, I need to relate a somewhat humorous event which occurred after typing the previous paragraph and this very moment.  I had just saved the above paragraph and set the computer aside when someone knocked on the trailer door.  Another camper wanting yet another tour of the little Aliner.  I begged a couple seconds to straighten up the place and then gave them (a wife and her husband) the royal tour of my abode.  As normal, they were impressed by the camper; I was a little embarrassed.  I do clean the camper fairly often.  I think I wrote about the last time I heavily cleaned the Aliner. Yes, back on July 14 I wrote that I spent a couple hours cleaning the trailer.  I was in Indiana at the time.  Well, I have returned from Indiana and now travelled the entire state of Missouri and it was time to do another scrubbing.  The couple left and I decided that I had better do the cleaning before someone else wants to see the trailer.  Therefore, I had to do the cleaning quick because hardly a day goes by than someone else does not want to see the little A-frame.  I am a little (ok, a lot) grody and really need a shower anyway.  This seems to be the perfect time to wash the camper.  The weather is hot with big puffy fair weather cumulus clouds overhead and I decide to go for it.  I begin scrubbing the front storage compartment.  I get to one of the long sides.  Everything is going well.  I do the back end of the trailer.  I even get out my l-o-n-g sweegee thingy and do the top of the back of the roof.  That is about the time I heard the loudspeaker down the hill at the pool announce that the pool was closing for the next 30 minutes.  Huh?  What's going on?  CRACK! Went the sky!  Before I could even say UGH the now overcast clouds opened up with a drenching rain shower.  I stood there for a few seconds dumbfounded before I broke into this evil part laugh part dance.  I danced around a bit before trying to figure out what to do.  Then I did it.  I continued to clean my trailer while humming slash singing my best Gene Kelly impersonation.  I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain.  What a glorious feeling!  I'm happy again!  Now I can tell myself that if we EVER need rain again, I know exactly what to do!  Just THREATEN to wash to the trailer and that should bring on a good ole' rain storm.  Ok, the rain has ended, the trailer is clean, and I am not.  Shower time, and this time I will not use rain water.  Ahoy!

August 4 -
Well, I returned from the poker late last night.  I think I won about $1.50 if that during the evening's games.  It was not a great financial windfall, but I did not suffer either.  Right now, I am sitting in the adult lounge at Lost Valley Lake.  I just finished eating an ice cream cone and for a moment, a VERY short moment, I contemplated taking a swim in the pool.  Unfortunately, the pool is occupied at the present time.  By occupied, I mean that there are more people than molecules of water in the pool at the moment.  To say it is busy here this weekend at Lost Valley Lake would be an understatement.  It is also very hot.  So I have decided to stay inside as much as possible to stay cool.  Let others fight for a square foot of water space in the pool.  Instead of swimming, I have been reading a book called "Private Yankee Doodle" by Joseph Plumb Martin.  Perhaps my readers noticed that I had placed my reading of this book on the calendar listed at the top of this page.  Martin was a soldier in the Continental Army which fought the American Revolution.  Martin was a soldier in the regular army whereas my great great great great grandfather was a militiaman--not part of the regular army.  I am reading Martin's account of the war because my g-g-g-g-grandfather was at several of the battles that Martin fought so Martin's account helps me understand some of what my g-g-g-g-grandpa went through as a soldier.  Martin even acknowledges that he fought with the New Jersey militia.  For instance, both my grandpa and Martin fought at Fort Mifflin on Mud Island just south of Philadelphia.  This is the place I visited earlier this summer.  On page 85 on my copy of Martin's book (Eastern National, 2006, ISBN: 0-915992-10-8), Martin describes that he fought in the area of a guard of Jersey militia at Fort Mifflin.  Martin writes: "In the cold month of November, without provisions, without clothing, not a scrap of either shoes or stockings to my feet or legs, and in this condition to endure a siege in such a place as that was appalling in the highest degree."  Martin goes on to "give the reader a short description of the pen that I [Martin] was confined in."  This was the same pen my g-g-g-g-grandfather was confined in as well.  On page 89, Martin gives this description of Fort Mifflin:  "It was utterly impossible to lie down to get any rest or sleep on account of the mud, if the enemy's shot would have suffered us to do so.  Sometimes some of the men, when overcome with fatigue and want of sleep, would slip away into the barracks to catch a nap of sleep, but it seldom happened that they all came out again alive.  I was in this place a fortnight [two weeks] and can say in sincerity that I never lay down to sleep a minute in all that time."   What a place!  Then things got worse.  Martin describes the British bombardment of November 14, 1777.  Martin says "Some of our officers endeavored to ascertain how many guns were fired in a minute by the enemy, but it was impossible, the fire was incessant."  What a horrid, horrid place!  The American "rebels" evacuated Fort Mifflin during the night of November 15-16, but the true importance of the battle is that this stand by a few American troops delayed the British advance into Philadelphia.  Because of the delay, the British could not, and did not, chase Washington any further than year.  Washington was allowed to hunker down, so to speak, at Valley Forge and in so doing, the Continental Army lived to fight another day.  Without Fort Mifflin, the British would have resupplied themselves and would have continued to chase the American army before the onset of winter.  I hope these few short quotes and notes did not bore any of my readers, but this info certainly helps me understand what James, my grandfather, experienced at the battle of Fort Mifflin.   Well, so much for my book report.  Time to move on to other topics.  For example, tonight I will build a final closing campfire.  Closing campfires are usually a time to remember the recent past and rededicate oneself to the near future.  Part of that remembrance and rededication will be letting my little candle burn.  I will let the candle burn probably for most of the night.  That candle has lit the way for me this summer.  It has changed shape during the summer and is now just a fraction of its original size.  I did not burn the candle every night.  Sometimes people do not shine everyday, but I burn the candle as often as I can to remind me to shine as often as I can shine.  Sometimes I get down on myself and others, yet the simple reminders such as burning this little candle help refocus my energy on what I should be doing and thinking.  As a middle school teacher--well actually, just as a person in general--I need to remain positive.  I need to remain hopeful.  I should think the best is yet to come.  This summer was awesome; undoubtedly the best summer of my life, yet I need to hope and believe that the best is still in the future.  Today was good, but tomorrow will be better.  Certainly, there are things I need to work on and address in my own personal life.  Everyone experiences those issues and faces challenges in their own lives--I am no different.  I am not denying that there are things I need to do and improve, but life is good.  I am happy.  I am content.  I can face my own personal challenges with confidence and determination.  I will achieve more.  One thing I need to remember is that the only person I can change is myself.  I am the change agent for my life.  I make the changes.  I make the difference in my life.  I make myself happy or not--it is up to me either way.  I choose to be happy.  Perhaps no one ever reads this.  Perhaps no one else cares, but that is not important.  What is important is that I care.  I read this.  I need to continue to shine because it is what I need for myself.  That is why I burn that little candle and build a closing campfire.  I do it for myself.  Well, nightfall approaches.  It is time to think about fixing my dinner, building my fire, and lighting my candle.  Summer draws to an end; yet it is only the beginning.  Today was great; tomorrow will be better!  :-)

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