Yesterday’s weather grew cooler and wetter as we made our way from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, heading toward and through the Flint Hills of Kansas. We got as far as Council Grove, on our way to Manhattan, Kansas, when we hit a detour. A major, lengthy, time-consuming detour. A detour that added considerable distance and time to our journey and that derailed our plans to get to Manhattan. Our detour took us to Junction City, where we decided to have a very late (roughly 3:00 p.m.) lunch. After lunch, when the time was well after 4:00 p.m., we opted to stay in Junction City for the night. We found a Hampton Inn and made a reservation. Compared to the previous night’s Hampton Inn (in Bartlesville), the place we stayed last night is a dump; much smaller room, badly outdated (compared to the Bartlesville property), a bit smelly, and considerably pricier than it should have been. Such is life in dealing with independently-owned properties. Some people—clothed in greed and wearing not even thread-bare robes of decency—price their “wares” at obscene rates.
Yet, while I bitch and moan about how the place is not the palace I think I deserve, I acknowledge I am awash in good fortune. I am lucky to be able to stay in a place as nice as this: clean sheets, comfortable bed, functioning HVAC, etc., etc. If I compare my circumstances to the guy we encountered when we filled up with gas along the way, I am rich. The guy, driving a ragged, road-worn pickup truck, had two arms full of tattoos, a nice smile, and a pleasant demeanor; not (in my opinion) the countenance of a beggar. He asked if I could spare a few bucks to help him make his way back home…to a town whose name I do not recall, only that it was south of Stillwater. Initially, I rejected him, claiming I had only a credit card. He replied by saying something to the effect that “if you could put a few dollars on your card, that would help us get home.” An older man sat in the passenger’s seat. When I finished filling my tank, I gave the driver a $5 bill; he seemed genuinely appreciative. He went inside the convenience store where I believe he bought $5 worth of gas. He put some gas in the truck, then moved it away from the pumps and parked in front of the convenience store. As mi novia came out of the store, where she bought some drinks and snacks, she walked over to his truck and handed him a $5 bill. I believe the guys really needed help buying gas to get home. As I reflect on our interchanges with the guy, I wish I’d handed him a $20 bill. It might have made his day. It certainly would not have ruined mine.
Today, we will make our way to Kansas City, where we will have lunch with mi novia’s friend and her husband. They are staying in Gladstone, a Missouri suburb of KC, helping the woman’s brother following his hospitalization; the couple live in mi novia’s old hometown of Stockton, California and have made their way east to assist the woman’s brother. After lunch, we plan to pay a short visit with a friend and former employee of mine who lives in the Kansas KC suburb of Lenexa. Then, we will find a place in the northeastern suburbs or exurbs of Kansas City in preparation for our departure tomorrow morning, possibly in the direction of Traverse City, Michigan. While we have no set destination, Traverse City intrigues me. On the way there, assuming that’s where we head, we may stop in Bloomington, Illinois. However, because that’s a college town, we may decide we’d rather no stay in a motel that could be a magnet to drunken college students (I may be a little judgmental, I know). We shall see.
I learned last night that my brother, the one who’s preparing to move to Ohio, was admitted to a hospital in Houston, Texas yesterday with GI issues, possibly an ulcer. That is a disturbing situation that I hope is quickly and completely and satisfactorily resolved. I’ve lately been concerned about my sister-in-law, another brother’s wife, who is awaiting surgery for a heart valve replacement. And I’m concerned, as well, for my sister, who has been wrestling with pain in her hips; that is especially concerning because she must go up and down a steep set of stairs to go into and out of her condo. The effects of aging are all around—and in—me. Aging causes me to assign considerably greater value to lost youth and to what once was good (or, at least, acceptably decent, but deteriorating) health.
Beyond Traverse City, assuming we actually decide to go there, we do not know where we might head. My thinking is driven by an interest in finding a place that might be appealing to me as a place to live, should I decide to vacate Hot Springs Village. I struggle with the idea of leaving Hot Springs Village because I have good friends there. But I struggle with staying because of weather and chiggers and its declining quality of intellectual health; that is, it is not just a conservative stronghold, it is a stronghold for conservative stupidity on steroids. But so is much of the country. I long for comfortable weather, interesting and intelligent people, and the possibility of an appealing lifestyle…whatever that means. Is there a place in the U.S. that’s both affordable and attractive in all the right ways? I do not know. And I am still not sure about leaving the country. I may be too old and set in my ways to try on a new language and a new perspective on life. We shall see. Maybe.
I have been away from Hot Springs Village for only about three days. It seems like an eternity. Odd, that.