Two months ago, a friend posted a link on the facespace to a spread of photographs from the 1970’s focused on environmental problems. The photo he posted was a picture of the Clark Avenue bridge in all of its smoggy industrial 70’s glory. The bridge is long gone, but once connected with Pershing on the other side of the industrialized valley.  Clark Avenue’s current terminus eastbound, is far less abrupt than Pershing’s. When it was built in 1918, it was the longest bridge in Cuyahoga County at over a mile in length, but by the 70’s it was a wreck, and in the early 80’s it was closed and demolished– with no money or plans to replace it specifically, it was to be replaced with I-290, but was scaled back to what is now I-490, a quarter of a mile to the north.

Somehow, during the last weekend in November, I found myself in shorts and a t-shirt at the start of the bicycle path atop Steelyard Commons.  I had zig-zagged through some sidestreets, passing a line of visitors outside the Christmas Story Museum and was now contemplating my usual trip to Independence or Brecksville along the canal tow path.  However, the picture of the Clark Avenue Bridge (and my fantasy to bicycle every street in Cleveland) was stuck in my head, I turned back and considered gliding down Clark into the valley.  This I did, took a right on Quigley and noticed a road I had passed several hundred times and had never registered:  Holmden Avenue.  I connected with the earlier path, as I realized Quigley doesn’t go anywhere  and huffed my way back up to the top of W. 14th, but returned to Holmden with its grade into the valley which seemed more at home in a place Pittsburgh rather than Cleveland.  As a warning, I noticed it was already heavily salted by the City with no snow in the forecast.

Upon making it back into the valley with literally, breakneck speed, I stopped and headed north.

From here, I was face to face with some beloved Industry of Cleveland looming in the in the distance.  I found some junctions I had noticed by never explored.  Little blocked of streets like Clark Court, remains of bridges that have been missing for decades like the Jefferson Road bridge, abandoned trains, etc..

Hurray for industry!








January 9, 2012


For the last week or so, my grandmother began to slip away from us after a fall.  She avoided breaking any bones and the optimist in me thought if she had the strength to overcome cancer, strokes, all manner of infection, she would certainly make it to her 98 birthday in March despite all the bruising.  This was not meant to be, she died early this morning.

I, along with everyone else in my family, have been fortunate that she was so strong and that she managed to be a part of our lives for so long.  Ninety-seven with some autonomy remaining is a feat.  Though, aging had begun to take its toll, I know it got her down sometimes, but she never once complained.  I think back a couple years when she was only half-joking and said she had already heard everything there is to hear and said everything there is to say.

Certainly my memories of learning the concept of multiplication, picking wild raspberries, making 7am phone calls to her as a kid, appreciating recycling before it was a common concept, and enjoying a spin in the Ford Pinto, are boxed-up safely in my own memory palace– as accessible as ever.  Likewise those traits I found so admirable, along with her appreciation of libraries and all things related to learning– they are still there to recall.

Still, there is loss and those physical manifestations of the accompanying sadness: the tightening of the throat, slight jaw clenching, and wavering watering eyes.  In this last week, I had the good fortune to visit her more days than not and to talk and to see that she was not suffering.  On Thursday, we were able to review my New Year’s card I had mailed to her in December, if only briefly.

Sunday night, after seeing her, and having returned home, I was restless and could not sleep.  After some tossing and turning, I threw down my covers and got out of bed, and proceeded to lug out some boxes containing odds and ends, including some items from when she moved out of her house on Beach Lane.  She and my grandfather had built the house in Bay Village after moving from my neighborhood in the Ohio City area of Cleveland.  Before moving, she had given me some odds and ends and one of the items was book which was in rather poor shape, a collection of poems from Robbie Burns.

She was not a fan of Burns and from what I can discern there was never any trace of Scottish on her side of the family– her family was predominantly French and German.  The book was signed on the first page by her mother.  It reads simply:  Bess Rella. Fostoria, O. 1906.  She would have inscribed this before she had married.

I marveled at this print from over a hundred years ago and carefully paged through the book and remembered that Burns Day is celebrated later this month.  I found an advertisement from the publisher based in Boston, and eventually stumbled upon Ode to a Haggis and a few other poems of interest.  Before I reached the final pages, I noticed something else near the end of the text….

A cut-out turkey, apparently made by a kid.  Judging by the discoloration of the immediate pages that had bled through a couple on either side of the bird, this had been resting in this book for some time and its pH was probably less than 7.  I carefully picked it up and turned it over to examine further.

 The manila paper had highly visible fibers, it looked different from how I remember this type of paper appearing in elementary school.  If felt unusually thin, too.  Much to my surprise, there on the back was my grandmother’s full name in cursive:  Margaret Mary Lonsway.  This was my grandmother’s turkey, perhaps stored in this book as a bookmark nearly ninety years ago by her mother?  I’m not sure, but it seemed like a plausible explanation.

Last night, I found some comfort in this turkey.  It really looked like something I had made in elementary school, but the penmanship was far superior to my awful scrawl.

After contemplating this find and imagining my grandmother as a little girl in Seneca County many many years ago crafting this to give to her mother, I found solace.  It was funny, she was always a teacher, always my grandmother in my mind– I never imagined her as child.

I had the book and the turkey with me in my backpack this morning, carefully tucked away, when the call arrived from my mother that my grandmother had died.  I had hoped to show it to my grandmother.  I hoped she would be having a better day, that maybe memory would make things better.  I really hadn’t thought about it, so much as just plain hoped.

Upon reflecting, all that hope was really for me and not her, not letting go, not “accepting the mystery.”  This is how it is.

What if…


It sounds like if my adventure had gone as planned, I would

…be on the archery range with Joe Biden.
dodging falling chunks of the failed Soyuz launch.

The funny thing is that except for the part where I landed at Heathrow and took the underground to Waterloo Station and then the train to Alton, nothing from that point forward matched the plans.  Sure, I was feeling good the first time I heard “mind the gap” and recognized where I was, pulling from memories of high school, but that’s where the familiarity ended.  I found some consolation knowing that I had plans and alternates to the plans and alternates to those alternates, little did I know what was ahead!

Continue reading ‘practicalities: specific considerations and lessons learned’

We didn’t get anywhere near Mongolia.  We couldn’t donate the car to the charity.  I hope the best for the great people I met along the way, but it really is terrible that I had to junk it due to the engine failing.  We’ll still make donations to the charities and such, just heavy-hearted that the engine exploded and though I was willing to pay to replace it, apparently a right-side driver Panda engine is a rare commodity on the Continent, and given the time-frame it was impossible to proceed and make it out of Mongolia in time to meet our various obligations.

Continue reading ‘My Final Words on the Panda’

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Bridge
over the Rhine in Cologne
  • More art than you can shake a stick at.
  • Lunchtime Blutwurst challenge.
  • Bissected Berlin for 20-25 miles on bicycle.
  • Snacktime currywurst challenge.
  • Even more art. (Paul Klee! Hurreeee!)
  • Found Wagner hiding in the woods.
  • Tried to enter the Reichstagsgebäude again.  The English and French documentation states you can without an appointment.  This is apparently a lie.  I have still not managed to translate the German pamphlets to determine if this is some sort of conspiracy.
  • Helped more people with directions at the rail station (en français!)
  • Dinner in Bertolt Brecht’s basement.
  • Watched Dennis Kucinich interviewed on the BBC World News regarding the debt ceiling.

Sadly, without the Panda, the trip is only going to involve a handful of European countries and I’ll never make it Ukraine, Russia, Mongolia, Romania, or Kazakhstan– the places I really wanted to get to.  Next time, I guess, with a more sensible plan.

(I contemplated bicycling to the Polish border and started some planning, because from Berlin to the border it would be less than 100 miles, about the same as my one day bicycle ride from my house to Kent.  However, after today, I determined the bike rentals are a little rough on you after 20 miles.  The models are very similar to the one used in the Wizard of Oz, except the tires are much heavier– I find myself humming the Wicked Witch of the West song every few miles.  That said, Berlin is one of the most bicycle friendly cities I have every seen– if you’re ever in Berlin, get a bike!)

Slate had an article about Kazakhstan which is part of a series– I really think Kazakhstan gets a bad wrap because of the sorry state of every other -stan.  It is a lot like Singapore, except much bigger, with a lot of Steppe, and a pretty cold winter.



The microsoft-bing-street-mapper/anti-google-streets-mapper car just passed me on Invalidenstraße in Berlin.  What is it about mappers finding me drinking coffee?

Who doesn’t like a giant Lego giraffe at Potsdamer Platz?

Certainly, having the Panda die outside of Bonn is am anticlimactic catastrophe for this trip and a disappointment, but being stuck in Germany probably beats being stuck in the middle of the Steppe with some goats.  There are plenty of things to see and think about in Germany and excellent public transport.  [For some reason, when in train stations, people think I am there to help– and sometimes I do despite knowing about only two dozen words in German.]

Yesterday it was schnitzel sandwiches for breakfast amidst an aggressive sparrow attack, much wandering in the rain tracing the Wall for several miles, and then a litre of beer and the exhibit of German Parliamentarianism  in the Deutscher Dom.  (Fortunately on Sunday many things were open, unlike France which I suspect is still closed until September.)

In Berlin, seeing the bits and pieces of Wall and stories documenting its impact really gets the mind going on the fundamental cruelty of borders and partition everywhere.

I think I may go bicycling.

[One additional note on Germany:  Although I have been checking my e-mail at work minimally, I am still working!  The wifi Internet access seems to be broken in every single hotel.  Some of the smaller hotels seem to have an IT guy, with cables dangling everywhere, who is working on it all night long– it is very strange.  Aside from this one thing, much of Germany seems to make sense.]

On the train with a guinea pig also bound for Berlin.  We headed through Dortmund and had some beer from Dortmund as a consolation.

I think we’re going to take the train to Berlin and figure out what to do from there.

My luggage now has wheels.