On the Road Again

Well, I may not be Willie Nelson ( which is okay with me), but it appears that I shall be resuming my pursuit of items on my bucket list as I once more enter the realm of flight and in September, head for Scotland. Part of my motivation is to overcome the major disappointment I suffered when the New Twinkies were placed on the market, and I found that they are only 76% as large as their predecessors. As a true aficionado, this was a terrible blow!

Some of you may recall that I had planned to visit Scotland in May, on my way home from a school visitation assignment in Bahrain, but which had to be cancelled due to the intrusion of a possible health situation. As it turned out, it was nothing of consequence, and I am once more able to navigate this once-proud cathedral of health and well-being to the farthest corners of the globe.

One of the highlights will be spending a Sunday in the town of St. Andrews where thoughtful-minded community leaders close down each Sabbath the famous birthplace of one of my favorite passtimes, the Game of Golf, to allow the townsfolk to stroll across the landscape and enjoy the fruits of Mother Nature. In addition to touring the “Auld Course”, I will immerse myself in the Golf Museum’s treasures and inspect the narrow streets and byways in the town and university area.

Following upon that, arrangements are being made for me to expend a wee bit of energy flogging (note: Golf spelled backwards is “flog”) a small white sphere around nine holes at Royal Troon, another famous golf venue located on the Western coast of the country. Ah! Paradise!

Naturally, there are many great things to see and again, an acquaintance is pointing me in a variety of promising directions. An Englishman, he has been living for a few years in our small town, but returns annually to the U.K. to lead tours of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. It promises to be much more informative and enjoyable than a 3 day visit I made to Edinburgh and Oban, fifty years ago.

All of this is a consequence of a gentleman I met last year in London, a Troon native, and who has graciously put me in touch with his father who lives retired, in Troon.

Other upcoming events include some school visitations in October, in southeastern Wyoming, following upon the always-excellent School Improvement Conference in Cheyenne, a gathering under the auspices of Wyoming AdvancEd. This is the local arm of the organization that includes over 30,000 schools in the U.S. and around the globe, and I have been extremely fortunate to have represented that body as we conduct accreditation renewal evaluations both at home and abroad. Hopefully, I can continue to do so for a few  more years.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying “being home” in the sense of once again soaking up the feeling of living in “a neighborhood” just like when I was a kid. As I look back upon those days in Kansas City, and as I’ve traveled around the U.S. and overseas, I am struck by the thought that the neighborhood created a home base of familiarity and consistency, and made it easy to carry out the daily demands of social living. At the same time, on my visits to large cities such as Cairo, Seoul, Tokyo, Istanbul, and others, I see armies of high rise apartments parading across the landscape, creating excessive anonymity among their tenants and establishing what is to me an unacceptable level of impersonal relationships. Populations becoming increasingly more transient further erode the sense of comfort, security, and consistency. The little everyday decisions become difficult, not knowing what is coming next, from where, and by whom.

I don’t have that. Our small town of a bit over 3000 people has a thread of folks who either never lived anywhere else, or they moved back here from somewhere. It’s like a neighborhood.

We came here 41 years ago, as I was hired to start the first Middle School in the state, and we’ve never left. Although I worked in several other communities around the state, my wife and sons stayed here as a “home base”, and I came home as often as possible. Now, my sons are established elsewhere, and my wife and I are both retired.

At one point, I was looking at a number of other places to retire, and had made a long list of things I wanted to have available to me as I grew older. Things such as “Does this place have Senior Citizen Bus Service for those who can no longer drive?’ and other questions relative to concerns about aging. Cost of living was another entry and included not only taxes (Wyoming has the lowest personal tax burden in the U.S.) but also recreation, entertainment, utilities, etc. I was comparing life in this little niche with perceived quality of life around Charlotte, N.C., Prescott, AZ, and western Colorado. The only items where our town fell short were “proximity to a major airport” (2- hour drive), and it does get really cold at times during the winter ( I can leave). Otherwise, our Thermopolis came out #1!

I find that there were some other benefits that hadn’t occurred to me such as where to go to get things done. Things like getting the lawnmower fixed, calling the plumber, dealing with government both local and county; getting house repairs done, etc. As it turns out, many of the persons now in charge of things were once students of mine, and are now in their fifties. They remind me of times when I gave them the choice of staying after school or getting a swat from a paddle, or when they were put in in-house suspension. They appear to relish these stories and are proud to tell them to their own kids. ( I must admit a bit of apprehension when one of them, a former NFL –Green Bay Packer, and who still holds the Rose Bowl punting record from when he played for Michigan, told me that he had been paddled twice. He’s pretty big.)

Shopping is something that outsiders would guess is lacking; they haven’t experienced the outstanding hardware store run by a couple who both grew up here, and who gained lots of experience with the world of retail sales through the parents of the wife. Her folks had the J.C. Penney store, a.k.a. “The Golden Rule”; she and her husband expanded upon the hardware base at one time into a Ben Franklin store, and a quilting emporium which became known regionally for its excellence. Granted, there are some things which just aren’t available here, but it’s even fun to make an hour trip to Riverton, two hours to Casper, or three hours to Billings. These trips are often coupled with medical appointments, and mileage is a tax deduction for medical purposes.

I must admit, there are some things that might seem difficult, such as major medical services. They are a minimum of two hours away, but on the other hand I recall driving with a friend for over an hour, IN Phoenix, just to deliver a urine sample to a lab. And most of the medical specialists visit our town on a fixed schedule every week or so, for non-emergency consults. We do have an excellent rehabilitation center headquartered here and which serves all of Northern Wyoming with satellite centers. Each one includes a well-equipped health club, available at very low cost ($15/month for Seniors).

Then, let’s look at government. In Wyoming, we can know our leaders personally, there just aren’t so many of us that it’s not difficult at all. One of my sons worked one summer for Alan Simpson; he took me through the underground transport over to the Senate when he was called for a vote. We all know our governor and, contrary to national belief about Wyoming politics, most of our governors in the last 40 years have been Democrats. In other words, it is a lot easier to have some influence here politically than it is elsewhere.

So what else is there? Well, I like dinosaurs, and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center has been named “the best dinosaur museum in the U.S.” by two travel organizations. I’m a member of the Board of Directors for the Big Horn Basin Foundation, the educational arm of the Center and which is the sponsor of ElderHostel (Roads Scholars) programs along with different levels of classes and activities for all interested persons. We have a dig site just outside of town, and two others elsewhere in the state. One of our specimens is 106 ft. long, and peers balefully down upon a T-Rex attacking a Triceratops, in the main hall.

We have the “World’s Largest Mineral Hot Springs” bubbling up from the ground in the Hot Springs State Park, also part of the town, and along with two commercial swimming pools with slides and outdoor facilities, there is an immaculate free bath house run by the state and required to offer ” the use of the hot waters, free, forever” as part of the treaty when the Native Americans gave the land to the town.

Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton N.P. are only 3-4hours away, depending upon which route you take. Either way, you can fish for trout along the way or, if you know someone with a boat, fish for walleye on Boysen Reservoir 20 miles away.

Finally, we do have a rush hour twice each day. During that time, which may last as long as five minutes, it takes twice as long to get across town—four minutes instead of two.  Our one stoplight isn’t there just to control traffic; it’s main function is to give directions—“ go to the light and turn left”, or “go one block past the light and turn right”. Also in the area of transportation, we do have to deal with a bit of snobbery—persons from a few of the larger communities in the state look down their noses at those of us who only have four digits on our license plates, whereas they are populous enough to have five. Elitists!

Look us up on the internet. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Always Be Happy       To Our Youth

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