goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Where are We Going? Who Are We Becoming?

Is your inbox as full as mine? It seems that everyday there are more and more petitions to sign, new concerns to investigate, horrors to try to fix. It’s too much. There are too many things that are not right with this world. And it seems like everyone wants my attention and help.online-petitions-movement-010

Each of us has only so much energy. How do you select which concern gets your attention and effort?  I am assuming you are involved in some way to fix something in the world that you know is not fair, is not right. If you are not, if you are completely self absorbed without any thought to your world and the creatures that live on it, you are missing an opportunity to grow. Being a part of the society in which you lives gives you the chance to help make it better, and that makes what affects you better.

Here are things that bother me:

1. FOOD: The food we eat today in the United States is not the same as it was when I was a kid. Farming has become a booming industry during the past 40 years, and as such, efforts are made to produce more food faster to make more profits. That mean chemicals are used to keep bugs and weeds away, to help animals grow faster, to make all the tomatoes look pretty so you will buy them.  But what is that doing to our bodies? There has to be some correlation, no matter what the USDA tells us, between all those chemicals and the increasing obesity, diabetes, and other health issues we have. You are what you eat…and you can make a small change that can have a huge impact.veggies

The most recent farm census indicates that 91% of all farms are small. That means that not only does most of the food you find at the grocery store only come from a new farms,  most farms in the US earn less than $10,000 after all the hard work they do.  That means that your local farmer, the one who is passionate about raising healthy food to eat, has to work another job off the farm to provide enough money to the family to live. That means your local farmer is not being supported in what s/he does well. If each of us spent only $15 a week buying directly from a local farmer through a farmers market, CSA, or direct sales, the shift would be profound.  And the food will be healthy for you, better than what you find in the supermarket. And YOU will be healthier. There are local farms everywhere, even in major metropolitan areas. Go to Local Harvest to find available healthy food choices near you.

2. ANGER: “I want what I want when I want it and I don’t give a flipping care about you. You get in my way, and I am going to get you out of my way, whatever it takes. You say you believe in something different, you are so wrong, have no sense, I can’t even be bothered to speak to you calmly to discuss our differences. I don’t care. You’re just wrong. And an idiot.”  Sound familiar? I sure hope it’s not you with that attitude, but maybe it is. Why are people so angry? Why have we moved, as a society, to more polarization?  And how can that attitude mesh with people who believe they are good people, religious people with strong moral convictions?  I read something a year ago that anger and lack of self control have increased dramatically in the years that GMO foods have been on the market and consumed. That there is some chemical component (and it may be the absorption of the herbicides more that the GE itself, that is the cause) in our food that is causing this to happen. Back to #1 to change that in your diet.anger_management

Regardless of the cause, it has to stop. We have become a society where few assume responsibility for their actions. From the time the jury awarded a million dollars to the woman who put the hot McDonalds coffee cup without its top between her legs while she was driving , people have started to blame others for the choices they make. Each action you take is a decision, even if you spent zero time thinking about it. Each action you take has consequences. Own up.  Think about how your actions are going to affect your life path as well as other people. Be considerate. Back when I was in first grae my teacher, Mrs. Hibbard, rewarded us for self control with one of those little sugar hearts with sayings on them you find at Valentines Day. What little treat can you use to reward yourself when you are nice, when you control your temper?

3.  GUNS: This whole “Obama is going to take them away from you so you better buy a gun now while the buying is good” seems to me to be a great marketing strategy by gun manufacturers.  And lots of people who might never consider havign a gun have fallen for it. Seriously, for all of you who think you will need to protect yourself from a government running over your Constitutional rights, how many of you voted in this past primary?  How many of you participate even at a local level in your government?  If you don’t at least i.e.,vote or work locally to make your town or city better, you are not doing your part as a good citizen to make the government run the way you would like.  Sitting on your butt bitching is not participating. It goes back to that anger issue.feel safe

My concern is that it won’t be people versus a horrible government that gets into a gun battle. It will be angry people versus angry people.  It doesn’t take much imagination for me to see that if we get into a shortage (i.e.,water, food, electricity) that we are in for some bloodshed here as people with guns will be going to get stuff they want and people with guns will be barricaded protecting what they have.

4. EDUCATION: We have become a society which has definitely dumbed down. We have short attention spans. While we holler we are the best nation in the world, only 30% of our population reads. Oh, we have a higher literacy rate, but not a literacy lifestyle. When companies like Wal-Mart put up signs like this walamart-expressit signifies the problem on two levels—that selfishness I talked about above (see #2) as well as the fact that some people can’t read the word “fifteen”. Really? So we watch tv and listen to the talking heads telling us what to think and get angry. We know what the latest movie is and which movie star or singer has done whatever.  But do we know how to take care of ourselves? To better ourselves?  Most people can’t develop a plan of action. We know we don’t like our lifestyle and the fact that we don’t have enough money but we can’t come up with a budget or a way to improve it.

New curricula are developed which have major flaws.  New tests are designed to show that children are learning but those kids can’t read, can’t multiply, don’t know the story of our nation’s history.  Many of us would find it impossible to past the test that naturalized citizens have to take.  We say we are proud to be Americans but many of us have no idea what that really means. Yet our education system seems to be falling further and further behind while the costs are rising higher and higher.

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These are just a few things that are really bothering me.


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Why Live Here?

Why do people live where they do? I don’t mean why am I moving to Oregon, but instead, why did ANYONE move to ANYPLACE? And what makes someone believe “THIS is the spot”?

I’ve thought often about the early travelers on this westward trek. Across the plains from MissouriDSCF5495 through the rugged RockiesDSC_0085 and then across the high desert.DSC_0001

As we started driving on back roads in eastern Oregon we reached the town of Vale. It’s a small town, with about 1200 people. We were driving through on U.S. Route 20 when we noticed historic murals on many of the buildings and circled back to take photos. It was a good time to stop for lunch so we went into a local place for some pulled pork barbecue and spoke to a local realtor and the county judge who had been peacefully enjoying their lunch until I started asking questions. DSC_0040

They were proud to tell me that the main street in Vale is the same route as the Oregon Trail. Immediately I understood how the town was established. It was the first area after crossing the high desert of Utah and Idaho where fresh water was available. There also were warm springs for nice baths and clothes washing. I can imagine more than one woman stamped her foot and said “Good enough! We’re staying here!”DSC_0045

Do you know why your family originally settled where they live?


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Opening of the West

One of my favorite classes in college, Locational Geography, explained why cities are where they are. For example, when the European explorers came to North America by ship, they established their trading posts and colonies along rivers which were the highways of their day.  Looking at a map you can see major east coast cities in harbors and then upstream a bit to what is called the fall line, the place where there the tides end at a waterfall. The town where I grew up in New Jersey, New Brunswick, is located just downstream of a small waterfall.fall line cities

Roads followed animal tracks and the first National  Highway, now U.S. Route 40, extended into Ohio and then into Illinois. This was the first roads project approved by Congress and it was funded to help provide an easier pathway to the West.nrmap

Westward expansion continued into Texas in the early 1800s and the rivers were used by people who could afford the fare. The rest of the pioneers walked.  And so it continued. The Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Trail and many parallel routes lead people west.  Most people walked the thousands of miles and it took months and months to cover the distance we have just driven in a few days. No air conditioning and no 3G networks to ease travel in that time.western_trails

In the 1830s, however, transportation systems began to change with the development of the railroad.  Huntington, West Virginia, where I have lived the past 6 years, was founded by Collis P. Huntington, the owner of the C&O Railroad.  The railroad’s terminus on the Ohio River provided a short cut to the West and goods could be shipped faster than relying on the roads through the Appalachian Mountains and then to the rivers and then on to Chicago and the Great Lakes.C&O RR early

Chinese RRIn the early 1860s Collis P. Huntington served as second fiddle to Leland Stamford and disagreed with his boss when the Central Pacific started its race east to join the Union Pacific’s race west. Huntington looked at the Sierra Nevada and said the mountains were too big an obstacle to construct a rail line. But Stamford made the decision and Chinese crews were brought in.  Tunnels were dug by hand, often inching no more than a few feet through the rock each day.

Meanwhile, the Union Pacific’s construction teams were laying up to 10 miles of track a day across the prairie. The race was on. The first company to get to Ogden, Utah would own the right to the lucrative Salt Lake basin traffic. Finally, as the right-of-way crews worked on parallel lines for miles while the bigwigs bickered, the decision to have the lines meet was made.

DSC_0213The Golden Spike National Monument at Promontory, Utah memorializes not only that single last spike but a massive change in the transportation system of the United States and the world. DSC_0233This huge project, delayed during the years of the Civil War, finally climaxed May10, 1869. From that point on settlers to the West could opt to ride the train. From that point on goods could travel coast to coast in a matter of days instead of months by ship around South America. The transcontinental rail connection in the 19th Century was what the Internet has been to the 20th Century: the world became a smaller place.RRs

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