Day 41 CCR: Nice Visits with Family and Friend
Before I get into today’s activities, let me make one thing clear. Today was hot. While the Weather Underground screen shot of Andover, where Jon lives, only shows 98° at 4:30, I’m pretty sure that sometime today I was working or riding in triple digit temperatures. It was hot.
OK. The weather report is out of the way.
When I travel, I like to be helpful when I can, so this morning I helped Jon string fencing for what will eventually be a chicken run encircling his large garden and will be attached to a yet-to-be-built chicken coop. It wasn’t terribly hard work, but sinking and aligning seven foot fence poles and attaching the screen-like fencing to it becomes harder as the temperature approaches 90° and the morning sun rises higher in the sky. By the time the thermometer reached 90° we had had enough fun and quit for the day.
Several hours after lunch, I strapped my luggage to the Heritage one more time, fired up the Milwaukee 8 engine, said goodbye to Jon, and took off for the short but hot ride on the Kansas Turnpike from Wichita to Topeka. The ride lasted only a little more than two hours, counting a brief hydration stop, but by late afternoon when I reached my Topeka destination, I was ready to park the bike and enjoy some air conditioning and a tall glass of ice water.
Topeka, where I grew up and lived from age 2 to 17, doesn’t have a lot of attraction for me and I could have made the final leg back to Maggie Valley shorter by nearly 100 miles by taking a more direct route. I said Topeka doesn’t hold much attraction, but I have a dear friend from grade school, junior high, senior high and first real job, who still lives there. I couldn’t miss seeing her, just as I couldn’t pass through Laramie without spending time at Croonberg Ranch. Jaylene has been in Topeka most of the time since graduating from high school and nursing school, and, for more than a decade, Marilyn and I have stopped in Topeka to see her whenever we’re in or near Kansas.
After cooling off and enjoying a quiet dinner, we spent four hours looking at pictures I took on the CCR and, more importantly, at old pictures from our grade school years at Stout Elementary. The school was brand new when we entered in the third grade and, as of last year, is now closed. We have outlasted the school where we first met. We identified the majority of third and fourth graders in the ritual, black and white, hands-folded-on-the-desk class pictures and tried to remember specific things about them and what part of our neighborhood they lived in. Although, we knew where some of them have ended up, we wondered about the lives of the 40 or so children who were our comrades in arms as we went through the trials and rigors of our Topeka school years.
We talked, as we always do about our lives, about our children and of course about our 13 (six for me, seven for her) wonderful, beautiful, amazing grandchildren.
About three years after we graduated from Topeka West High School in 1965, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel recorded “Old Friends,” which included these lyrics:
Can you imagine us
Years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy
How terribly strange to be seventy-four. Jaylene and I didn’t share a park bench, but we did share laughs and memories and stories from our younger days.
Tomorrow Jaylene and I will meet my best friend from junior high and high school for a long breakfast. And we’ll laugh over more faded memories and reminisce about our younger days and, no doubt, think about how strange it is to be seventy. And about old friends.
Ask Jon to send pics of the finished coop. Stay hydrated.
Hopefully your waiter was much better than one we had when I had the pleasure of meeting Jaylene. She is a very nice lady and so great you have been able to see her all these years later! Enjoy your breakfast! Ride safe.
This has been so wonderful Dennis! Thank you so much for all you’ve shared. Sounds like visiting a hot and muggy Kansas has been great for you. So glad you’ve seen your brother John and your besties from grade/high school along the way. Safe travels back to MV. It’s hot and muggy here too. But less so than Charlotte, Gastonia or Kansas.
You unleash wonderful memories my friend.