Category Archives: ROAD REFLECTIONS

Observations on people, places, and things as we travel along.

Road Reflections-Part Four (How Sweet it Is!)

Recently, in this series, I wrote that “I would just make a list, as we went, of things which I was seeing, and heard, which I don’t see or hear much of, north of the Line.”
I also clearly stated that “this is not a “better than” or “worse than” type of recording.”

Well … here goes … as I read from the notes which Carol and I jotted down, as we just took it easy this summer, traveling through the Southland…

I wrote of the “significance” of that “Line.” It matters not to me, but, to others, the “Line” seems to be a big deal.
Still.
Sorry … but, the way that I was raised, the “North/South Thing” just doesn’t matter anymore. I’m glad about that.

See, when I think of a “Line,” one which is drawn, and people have to choose which side to stand on … I only think of the line which William Barrette Travis drew in the sand at the Alamo … the line which Jim Bowie, sick and on a stretcher, had his men pick him up, and move him “across the line.” That’s it.

However … it must still be an issue, this North and South thing … right?
No, you say, it can’t be.

I noticed that, yes, even the “National Geographic” Channel has a new program (maybe not new, I don’t watch a lot of television) which, I gather from the commercials I’ve seen, pits the North vs. the South. It is some kind of fishing reality program … hey, I’m not making this up … it is about tuna fishermen … yes, tuna fishermen, and it is called something like, “Tuna … North vs. South.” You may think I’m crazy, but, apparently, this is the premise of the show. No … really … (I feel like I should say something like, “‘No, don’t hang up!”) … This is National Geographic Television … I haven’t watched “network” television in years, but didn’t National Geographic used to be legitimate …??? I mean, I still see their magazines in the dentist’s office …

Sweet Tea: This would be close to first on the list. I love “Sweet Tea.” Here we go … Sweet tea is a staple of the South, I must admit. I can’t recall how many restaurants I’ve been to, in the “North,” at which I’ve attempted to order “Sweet Tea.” Yes, Sweet Tea. They will always say the same thing: “We only have unsweetened tea .. We can bring you the unsweetened tea, and we have sugar packets on the table.” Here goes … the formula for “Sweet Tea” can’t be a secret … can it??? The answer is always the same … they will bring you a glass of tea … you have sugar packets at your table … but, apparently … the formula for combining the two has not been discovered …

Sweet Tea: Prepare the tea, as unsweetened. Then, add sugar.
Have I just revealed a secret recipe?
Yes … that’s correct … to make Sweet Tea … combine the tea with sugar:
Fact: If you don’t add the sugar, it is not “Sweet” Tea.
Fact: (Critical): If you don’t add the sugar, it is “unsweetened tea.” This is a fact which you apparently already know.
Fact: If you don’t add the sugar, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Fact: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. (I just wanted to throw this in-When was the last time you heard this?)
Added Fact to Above Fact: McDonald’s is the only source I know of which has “Sweet Tea” in the “North,” and, frankly … it’s really good.
Fact: McDonald’s Sweet Tea is really good.
Fact: It is also on sale.
Fact: Love their milkshakes, but “Sweet Tea” is always on sale.
Fact (Additional-TMI): I’m a “Dollar Menu” kind of guy.
Fact: You can sit in your truck in a McDonald’s parking lot, go in, and “fill ‘err up” with real Sweet Tea …

Fact I Just Learned by Going to the Official McDonald’s Website:
You are not going to believe this … I mean … you are not going to believe this …
Remember, I just wrote that, up North, when it comes to Sweet Tea, which requires the physical pairing of both tea and sugar, “the formula for combining the two has not been discovered …”

I know … you think I am just making that up …
But, when I did a Google search for “McDonald’s sweet tea” (actual search term), here is what came up, first, after the official McDonald’s links:
“Top Secret Recipes | McDonald’s Sweet Tea Copycat Recipe.”

Yes, when you search for “McDonald’s Sweet Tea,” the first link that comes up is “Top Secret Recipes.”

I’m not making this up: The fact is that, yes, the fact that you can combine tea with sugar, making something called “Sweet Tea” (because of the tea being mixed with sugar), is, in fact, considered a “Secret Formula.” I am really not making this up.

Note: There is also a link, when you search for “McDonald’s sweet tea,” which has this for the headline: “Copy Cat McDonalds Sweet Tea.”
Additional Note: There is also a link which, is a “must see” on YouTube, which is this:
“How McDonald’s sweet tea is made! Must see – YouTube.”

Again, I may have just given away a secret, which, apparently is widely regarded as a mystery:
Please allow me to repeat:

Sweet Tea: Prepare the tea, as unsweetened. Then, add sugar.
Yes … that’s correct … to make Sweet Tea … combine the tea with sugar:
Hint: It is the sugar which makes it sweet.
Fact: If you don’t add the sugar, it is not “Sweet” Tea.
Fact: (Critical): If you don’t add the sugar, it is “unsweetened tea.” This is a fact which you apparently already know.
Fact: If you don’t add the sugar, you don’t know what you’re missing.

What a country!
Blessings,
Richard. Vincent. Rose.

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Road Reflections: Part Three

As we were traveling through the Southland, I had the notion that I would just make a list, as we went, of things which I was seeing, and in many cases which I heard, which I don’t see or hear much of, north of the Line. Did I just mention a “Line?” Well … there must still be, because it was clearly marked with signage, and I’ve crossed it at least twice in the last few weeks.

Please note that this is not a “better than” or “worse than” type of recording. It had been years it seemed (even though we were in the Deep South just last Summer) since I had just taken it easy on a trip, taking the time to notice-and enjoy-my surroundings. The United States and its people are beautiful. I have written “Northern Songs” and “Southern Songs” with the same degree of love and devotion. I have written State songs and regional songs, each reflecting the individual characteristics of a particular region. Each state and region has such a remarkable part to play in the vast beauty of our Country. I love the entire United States, its people, and its countryside. I’ve had the opportunity to laud its people and places on many public occasions, including the publication of the new Anthem for American, “The Eagle Still Flies.” I don’t take sides … because I love both sides …

Yes, I’ve gotten it from “both sides” regarding the fact that I lived on one “side” or other. I’ve been made fun of, or ridiculed, from both sides. Mostly good-natured ribbing, but … sometimes I have my doubts …
Well … here goes … I have had well-meaning (I hope) people look me right in the eye … almost in a defensive stance of some kind … and, in speaking of the Civil War … they would, point-blank, ask me, “Which side you on?” Don’t laugh-I’ve had it happen more than once.
Here’s my answer … the only answer which I can give, because it’s the truth:
“Neither … I wasn’t in it.”
My only additional response is usually one of two thoughts, both from the heart:
“There were great men on both sides.”
Or, I will quote Robert E. Lee, who said, “We are all equal at the foot of the cross.”

… Something tells me I’m not going to get to that list …

One of the first things I noticed when I first moved to New England, from the Deep South, is that you just didn’t hear much about the Civil War. I say this honestly, and sincerely. Keep in mind that I was born and raised in the Deep South, where it was just part of your every day surroundings. You are literally surrounded by Civil War history, and its battlefields. In fact, the first real home I remember, and we lived there for several years, was very close to Chickamauga Battlefield, and we were surrounded, every day, by the War’s history. My love for history began with learning about the Civil War. It had to, as I lived where it happened. Growing up, we were just as likely to find a mini-ball as a prized arrowhead.

There is nothing civil about war.

When you are in New England, the war that you are surrounded by, mostly, is the Revolutionary War, and therefore, much of what you see and learn about is about that war. Again, you are surrounded by that history, much like you would be surrounded by the history of whatever area you lived in.

Yes, I’m proud of my Southern heritage, for many reasons, including because of my family, and the way we were raised. It is “just different” being in the South, just like it is different being in the North, or the West, or the West Coast, or the Pacific Northwest, or … well, you get the idea.

And, yes, I got yelled at … in Virginia … in the Shenandoah Valley, at a concert, when the lead singer answered my cry for a particular song … He yelled, “No! No Free Bird!!!” But, the band did break into another Lynyrd Skynyrd classic …

Please allow me to say this: Every place that I have ever lived, every place that I have ever visited, regardless of how close or far, everywhere I’ve been, it was a “different world” there.
Think about this: Everywhere I’ve ever worked, regardless of what state or city or region, that place was its own, different world. I’ve worked at fast food places and large retail chains. Plus, it seems that everyone that I’ve ever talked with about their job, they all say pretty much the same thing:
“It’s its own world.”

Something else: Every place, every town, every city, every “where ever” that I’ve ever lived in, I have heard the same, exact thing: “If you’re not born and raised here …”
I hate to break the news, but, individually, we really don’t have any control over where we are born. And, if I’m not mistaken, individually, we also don’t have any control over who our parents are …
Yet, I still see it all the time, and so have most of you. There was a lady who ran for a public office for a city which we had moved to. Now, I love this lady, and she was really the first person we met when we visited that particular town, when we were just “looking around.” We all hit it off immediately, and I report this only for the example, as I still highly respect her: In the ads she ran to get people to vote for her, this was her platform, and the only statement she made to inform the voting populace of her qualifications for high office, and I quote it as closely to exact as I can. Here was her advertised qualifications:
“Born and raised in ________.”

That was it. In her mind, she felt she had to say what would get her the most votes. That’s what a political ad is for, right? I don’t know if it says more about her, or the mind of the voters. Anyway, I use that as an example.
I was even watching the movie “Jaws” recently. And, the sheriff’s wife was having a discussion on the beach, with one of the business ladies from town. Remember that Amityville was an island. The discussion was directed to Ellen Brody to explain that, if you weren’t born and raised on the Island … “Ellen … you’re just not an Islander.”

I am even tempted, to mumble this on occasion, when accosted “up here” by the fact that I wasn’t born or raised here. I fire back something about the Pilgrims … that it was amazing … they weren’t born here either … yet they chose to come here … to this country … for freedom …to live how … and, where … they wished … without persecution …

For some reason, I have always felt that it was more of an honor bestowed upon a town, if a person and family decided to move there. That it would place more emphasis on the fact that they were there by choice … rather than being “bound there” for the rest of their lives ….

Guess I’m not going to get to that list … for now …

Blessings,
R.V.R.
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Road Reflections: “What a Country!”-Part 2

Simply put, one of the great things about being on vacation is that you get to do things you don’t usually get the opportunity to do. I mean things like sleeping late, taking naps, watching cable television, just not having to adhere to a strict schedule. I believe that success has as much to do with what you don’t do, as with what you do.
Being on vacation also means that you get the opportunity to spend money; to “buy things” you wouldn’t ordinarily be tempted to buy.
Perhaps the greatest “draw” of vacation, being able to just rest aside, is the opportunity to make dreams come true. Things you’ve always dreamt of doing, or seeing, or experiencing. And, yes … sometimes this translates into buying something you never thought you’d ever have …

Well … here goes … I wonder if there is anyone who, as a child, wanted something for Christmas … something, often, the only thing they ever, ever wanted for Christmas … every year, this one thing was all they wanted … and, they were so sure that “this year was going to be the year” … and … they never got it … never … ever … you were so sure that “this was going to be it” … and, it never came …

For me, it was just one thing: “Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots.” Always wanted … always hoped for … never got. Everyone who knew me, knew this was “it.” Carol knows this as much as I … So many years later … I still recall how I wanted … how I hoped for … “Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots.” From Mattel. They were, after all, “The Original Fighting Robots!”

Growing up, I was a big boxing (and wrestling) fan. Loved sports … especially those two, because these were the two sports we were able to watch when I was growing up. It was also a very “hands-on” toy … but, seemed to be more skill than toy … It was one-on-one, just you and the opponent, and the best man would win … Your size didn’t seem to matter, only your skill … each seemed just as capable to “Knock His Block Off!”

We were visiting what was touted as “The Largest Antique Mall on the East Coast.” For whatever reason, these many, many years later, I had this wild idea that I would look for “Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots,” as, after all, they were antiques … and, after all … we were on vacation …
This store seemed endless. Undoubtedly, the largest store of its kind I had ever been in. All of a sudden, as I rounded a corner, I came face to face with “Them.” Was it fate? Is this a dream? No, there, in front of my very eyes, were “Red Rocker” and “Blue Bomber.” Out of the box … in the ring … directly in front of me … stood the “Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots!” Please note that I had seen them … faced them … beaten them both … in my dreams … but, this was the first time in my life that I had ever seen, in person, “The Original Fighting Robots!”

Nervously, I scanned the surroundings to see if anyone was looking … we were alone … just the Robots, the Ring, and I … my hands anxiously reached for the controls … and there, in the far confines of this Antique Mall … my hands touched, for the first time … the “control sticks” of my dream-come-true … I was overcome with emotion … and, guilt … I don’t like to spend anything on myself, and this is a “toy” … my hands moved down to the string, on which the price-tag was attached … This was within “my limit,” I reasoned … and, after all, we are on vacation … Believe it or not, even for a “dream purchase” such as this, I had set a limit on what I was willing to spend … in the almost impossible likelihood that I would somehow stumble upon such a prize …

What I didn’t know at the time was this: In the exact same store … in a separate location … Carol was also contemplating a purchase … something that she had always wanted … something that she has only dreamed about … but has, for her entire life, eluded her … Her very own … complete … matching … dish set …

Please keep in mind that we have dishes. A lot of dishes. And, such a variety of both plates, bowls, and cups. As someone who is perfectly content with paper plates, the fact that all of our dishes do not all match has never really bothered me. Ever. In fact, I never noticed that they didn’t match. We have plates. We have cups. We have saucers. We have bowls. The fact that they have different designs, some are glass and some are ceramic (I think), etc., has not once ruined a meal for me. Ever.

However … it was the way which she said that she had never had one … but always dreamed of having one … that I heard … I know she had a limit of how much to spend to realize this dream, but, looking into her eyes as she held part of the set … my limit came off … Especially, as I stood there, hunched over the shopping cart, protecting my own “dream” investment of Ring, Rocker, and Bomber.

As we traveled, the first time we had to move from our lodging, I carefully placed my Dream Purchase behind the drivers’ seat in the truck …on top, without any covering … I have only just now realized that the box which I placed the “Robots” on was the box which contained the dish set … Afterwards, I put a pillow underneath the ring … to protect the dish set, of course …

Toshiba Digital Camera

We traveled hundreds and hundreds of miles, including book promotions. They never moved!
Think about this: What better protection for your prized dish set than “Red Rocker” and “Blue Bomber.”
Funny … I didn’t get a single picture of the dish set!
Toshiba Digital CameraI looked on line to make sure I had the correct spelling of “Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots.”
I found this picture, on eBay, which I wanted to share with our friends. How about this!
Roc em sock em laid backBlessings from the road!
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Road Reflections: “What a Country!”-Part 1

I’d have to say that I love to travel, especially when it’s not work related. I love seeing new things, new surroundings, new people (or peoples), and, as a student of history, all of the history which travel exposes one to.

I’m writing this while still on the road (7 different states tomorrow), and I have had some time to take my own advice, and “take time.” I have conducted a little “book business,” and the online store is always potentially “24/7,” but this idea of taking a vacation, just “getting away” is such a great idea. I often think of Jesus, who would, on occasion, get away from the crowds, especially to the mountains, which has always been my favorite place to go. He would spend much of His time, isolated from distraction, in prayer. And, He would often take His disciples with Him, to teach them in private, away from the crowds and distractions. I must confess that, while I have read and studied the Bible quite a bit during our travels, I haven’t prayed nearly as much as I should. I know … some of you may be thinking the same thought which comes to me now … there is no recorded incident of Jesus ever taking a vacation. I agree with this … I also agree that “retirement” is not a Scriptural concept, either … but, that may be a subject for another time …

Anyway … whenever I have the chance to travel, especially to distant places, I always am reminded of how incredibly blessed we are to live in this country, the United States of America. I often write about this … that so many of us here, just have no idea how different the conditions are in other countries. Not just religious freedom, either. Just the conveniences we enjoy, and take for granted, every day. That too, is a topic for another time, though I will continually go back to it.

The economic freedom and opportunity we have is unsurpassed. I’m not much for complaining about gas prices here in the US, as I know that many people across the world have been paying over 5.00 a gallon for it … for years. By the way, we paid 3.19 a gallon in parts of Virginia. We paid 3.67 to fill up in New Hampshire before we left.

Postage stamps? I never complain about the price of a postage stamp, either. I must admit that I did have to look up how much a postage stamp was, while writing this. Not necessarily ignorance, but I always buy a book of stamps at one time, and just haven’t done the math. I also always buy the “forever” stamps. I don’t even know if they put the price of postage on the stamps anymore (perhaps out of embarrassment).
The reason that I don’t complain about the price is that it may take 49¢ to get a letter across the United States, or even 2.07 to ship a pair of Christian sunglasses across the country … but in both cases … it would be hard for me to take it there myself for less … So, I never complain about the cost. I just feel blessed that we can mail just about anything, to anyone, and have a pretty good assurance that it will arrive. And, the ability to track the package or letter is just an added bonus that I feel like is just another economic blessing that we take for granted.

I like to be grateful for everything, “in all things give thanks.”

In the paragraph above, I wrote the price of a postage stamp as “49¢.” In so doing, I had to type the “cent” symbol. After looking, and looking, and looking for the symbol on my keyboard, I asked Carol where the “cent” symbol was. She looked at where she thought it was, then stated she had no idea where it was.
Next step: Here’s what I typed into the Google search: “When did they take the “cent” symbol off of a keyboard?” Well they did, and it appears it was for “coding” reasons, years ago.
Guess what my next search was? “How do you make a “cent” symbol on your keyboard?”
It turns out that it can be done, using the “Alt” key and your keyboard number pad, using a code … Sounds like another story for another time … By the way, for our dear friends in England, I saw where the same question was asked regarding “pence.”

The “cent on the keyboard” issue reminds me of how excited I was a couple of years ago, when we finally got basic cable on our TV at home. It just happened to be included in the telephone/high speed internet package we had gotten. We now had access to PBS … plus, since we were getting the local channels, we could even watch Monday Night Football, as one of the New Hampshire stations was an ABC affiliate. I shared this excitement with my brother, as he, too, is a football fan. To this, he exclaimed, “Where have you been? ABC hasn’t carried Monday Night Football in years! Hey … did you hear that they landed a man on the moon?” I get that last part a lot.

It also reminds me of the time when we went to look at cars, during a local dealer promotion. One of those where they send you a key, which promises to start (I still say “crank”) a brand new car. Because everyone who attended received a prize, we stopped by. Of course, you can’t leave without being “grilled” by a salesman (get it-grilled?). I told him that the one vehicle I really wanted was a jeep … not a fancy, cost-more-than-a-house jeep … I told him I just wanted an old army jeep with a top … that would make me happy. He told me, “Man … “get with the 21st century!”

I just noticed that I never just “sit down and eat,” except in a restaurant. Whether at work, at home, or traveling/vacation, I never just sit down and eat a meal. I will either be at my computer, or I’ll watch a movie or program on television. Deep down, I think it’s some kind of guilt I’m carrying about not working. Maybe I do need a vacation …

Well … here I go again … I started to write about some of the things we had done and seen during our travels … but, this all just came out. Maybe I should re-title this something like “Road Rants” instead.

Blessings,
R.V.R.
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