Drifts of Spring

21 Andrew Graduation ALinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – Today is the first day of summer. And I head to Little Rock shortly, and the airport. I’m picking up Grandson Andrew, who just graduated (with honors) from Shorewood High in Seattle. We had two graduations this spring; Grandson Justin graduated (with honors) from the University of 21 Justin's graduation V 2014 010Florida in Gainesville. Congratulations boys, you make your grandma proud. Good job! Spring has been a whirlwind of weather, and color. Yellow daffodils brightened up the yard; wisteria vines twined themselves around every tree, in an effort to take over the world, trying to placate us with their sweet smell and cascades of purple blooms. “Don’t mind me, I’m pretty!” Ha. I entered the Arts Center Photography Contest in April, and what would I choose other than capitol domes to show? Arizona’s copper shine, Iowa’s glittering gold; Maryland’s colonial style in wood, with balcony walks. I didn’t win a prize, but working on the prints was satisfying work and one small step in bringing the glory of our capitols to 21 Capitol Arizona Dome and Winged Victorynew eyes. I wasn’t allowed a caption, or a writeup to post beside, but if I had, you know I would have bragged. You can take the time now to click on the link to Phoenix, and Des Moines, and Annapolis (to the right), and you’ll see. History. We’re all a part of it; all connected; we all breathe the same air. It’s important to pay attention to those big-picture scenes, and the finer details too. Like the dinner at the Museum, From the Forest to the Table it was called, where we partook of foods the early settlers would have eaten. » read more


Winter’s Woes, and Wonders

Alex Beautiful CatLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – Today is the first day of spring. An entire season has passed since the Scion stopped in Arkadelphia last December. So many wonderful things have happened in the last three months, but there’s an overwhelming sadness too. On March 11 our dear companion Alex died. Alex came into my life in December 1997; a grand and joyful Christmas that was! The vet estimated his age to be eight months, a foundling from the pound, history unknown. He remained my faithful friend for seventeen years, moving cross-country with me twice, and recently, of course, making theRegal Thinker journey to 48 of the states as part of our little troop. He died in my arms, just after midnight; his tiny body succumbing to the effects of hyperthyroidism, and methimazole; his nine lives used up, at last. “Why would you take a cat on such a long trip,” someone asked me once. “Why didn’t you leave him at home?” “I was his home,” I replied. And he was mine. Every place has been a better place because of Alex. A picture of him in the bloom of life graces the front of a walnut box on a shelf in our living room now, his ashes tucked inside. He always liked hidey spots! Under the bedspread (making a prominent lump). On top of the refrigerator. On top of the cabinet above the refrigerator. Beneath the 07070265AlexZenGardenhostas by the back fence. Even inside the wall of the bathroom when I had some remodeling done. Yes, he got sealed in. “You’re lucky he was able to finish the Journey with you,” people are saying; “you have such memories.” That’s true, I do. But they don’t fill the empty spot in my heart. Jack misses him too, except, as cats tend to think, it finally dawned on him that he is now King of the Hill. Scratching with clawless paws, he marked every piece of furniture in the house after a week. God love precious cats! Did you notice I said “house”? Now let me tell you our wonderful news. » read more


Ghosts of Christmas Past

25 Linda Tree ArlingtonLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – Every year we hear about Bah Humbug Scrooge and the ghosts that visited him on Christmas Eve. I’d say there are just as many ghosts roaming around the Arlington Hotel, indeed, the entire city of Hot Springs. Oh what tales the tour guides tell! The most famous ghost of the Arlington’s past is Al Capone, and it is a fact he had a favorite suite on the 4th floor back in his gangster days. That way he had a clear view down Central Avenue. No sneaking up on Al. I went looking for the ghosts of Santa Claus today, however, and 25 Arlington buffettalented chefs, with plans to enjoy a lavish Christmas feast in the Venetian Room. Hot Springs is just 35 miles from Arkadelphia, the weather was sunny and fine, and after presenting my early-morning Christmas gift to Alex and Jack (a walking kitty-cat which they regarded with great disdain) I set out for Hot Springs and the Arlington. Did you know that Hot Springs was Arkansas’ capital city for a short period of time? Did you know that Hot Springs was a 25 Arlington buffet salmonfavorite spot for gangsters and gambling, back in the roaring twenties? Did you know that Bill Clinton grew up in Hot Springs, and graduated high school there? I didn’t, nor did I realize that Hot Springs was the spring training camp for Chicago’s White Stockings, or that famed Bathhouse Row still has spa services available. But back to the Arlington. The groaning-table buffet was worthy of the drive, and the gingerbread house in the art deco lobby was charming, but I confess to checking over my shoulder once or twice. You can never be too careful when it comes to ghosts. » read more


No Ignoramus Here

21 Genius puzzle at Cracker BarrelLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – Today is the first day of winter. And I was blessed with two good omens. Have you ever tried to work one of those little Peg Puzzles that sit on every table in the Cracker Barrel? The goal is to end up with only one peg remaining, but it’s possible to back yourself into a corner and wind up with four pegs staring at you. Four! That means you are an ignoramus, on a level with pond scum. If you get it down to one however, you are a Certified Genius. Guess what. I got it down to ONE today, the first time ever in my life; I’ve tried to solve the darned thing in Cracker Barrels all across the land. I called my server over to see. “I take this as a positive sign,” I beamed. “This means I have made the right choice in moving to 20 ArkansasArkadelphia. I’m a genius!” She gave me a high five and told me my biscuits were coming up. The other good omen was a rainbow, but that was later, after I’d spent the day exploring my new environs. We arrived in a storyteller’s cliché yesterday; it was a dark and stormy night. There was a thunderstorm of such fearful proportions I didn’t even unload the car, I just grabbed the cats and their basic stuff. We’d had a long drive across Mississippi past all those catfish farms and cotton fields, till finally we made it to the defining line that splits the country’s drainage system, that muddy old Mississippi River. And 20 Exit 73 Arkadelphiathen, at last, Arkansas. So much water in this state! We crossed Bayou Bartholomew, and then the Ouachita River. At El Dorado we left Hwy 82 and followed the river north. An eerie fog crept across the darkening fields, rising off the waters of the Little Missouri. By the time we hit I-30 the visibility plummeted to near zero. “Don’t let me mess up now,” I prayed to the rain gods, “we’re so close.” My guardian angel intervened, the Arkadelphia exit appeared, and that was that. The cats and I slept sprawled in a pile across the bed; exhausted, but no worries, no more long-distance driving to do. » read more


My Absolutely Positively Last Stop

19 Linda Last StopLinda Burton posting from Tuscaloosa, Alabama – “This is it. This is really truly it. You have to get my picture one last time by the Scion,” I said to brother Craig. “Right here in the same spot as when I left 659 days ago.” I was feeling other-worldly at the moment, unreal, like I was Hillary at the top of Everest, or Amundsen at the South Pole. Or my friend Howard Cottrell, when he finally reached the last county in the United States. It took him 16 years to get to all 3,100 counties; it took Sherpas and sled dogs and some serious cold-weather gear to get to those extreme parts of the world. All I had to do was drive, and load and unload the car and the cats every two weeks. And re-establish a home and a workplace fifty times. I traveled 31,710 miles in all, according to my quick calculations last night. And I never varied from the course, I stuck with the plan. Where are the drum rolls, and the marching bands? Craig is 19 Craig car maplaconic. No mushy-gushy stuff, no congratulations or wow-you-did-it praise. But he did take the camera and ask what angle I wanted. And he cooked spaghetti for me today (it’s our Christmas tradition – red spaghetti sauce and green salad). And he stored all my furniture and clothes in his basement for two years, and kept things safe. And last year he drove to New Orleans to spend Christmas with me there. So, yeah, he’s a primo brother, wouldn’t you say? I did my pose. And had him stand by the car too, laconically pointing to Alabama on the map. The Journey Across America is officially over. » read more


Hornswoggled in Birmingham

18 PlaqueLinda Burton posting from Birmingham, Alabama – “Finish your lunch so you can open your present,” Emily said. “I know you’ve got to get on your way.” I took a last sip of Cracker Barrel tea and suggested that we go outside for the opening; it was a brilliant sunny day, and I wanted to make sure the cats were okay in the car. They were. “This is NOT a Christmas present,” Emily promised, as I mumbled about not having a present for her. “Just OPEN.” Have you ever gotten a gift that surprised you to your toes, and pleased you beyond measure, and humbled you too, at the thoughtfulness of the giver? Yeah, I got that today. It was a silver and walnut plaque, beautifully engraved, with a full-color picture of the decked-out Scion, and these words:

CONGRATULATIONS     Linda L. Burton    Given in admiration and recognition of your dedication to your Journey Across America to all 50 states.    March 1, 2012 – November 29, 2013    Making Capital Cities USA available to students, teachers, historians, researchers, and the general public.    Your timeless efforts will enrich all who take advantage of your vast knowledge gained in this great undertaking.    From Emily Taylor

18 Emily Presenting PlaqueEmily Taylor is my cousin and has been one of my most loyal followers throughout the Journey. She has read and commented on every post, and swears on oath she enjoys them. We’re both descended from William Irwin Jr, our ancestor who died in Arkansas in 1849 as he attempted a move from Alabama to Texas with his family. William Irwin Jr, the reason I have chosen to settle in Arkansas myself, hoping to learn more of what happened to the Irwins way back then. My great-grandmother Mary Susan (b 1866) and Emily’s grandmother Leavonia Augusta (b 1869) were sisters, and granddaughters of William. Emily is named after their younger sister Emily Letitia (b 1883) and grew up knowing more about the family’s history than I did; it was genealogy research that brought us together in recent years. Now she is more than a twice-removed cousin to me; more than a friend; even though she has many sisters of her own, we feel, well, sort of like sisters too. » read more


The Streisand Syndrome

Linda Burton 16 Tennessee Welcome Signposting from Chattanooga, Tennessee – Streisand has been sitting on my shoulder for two days now. Humming that song she made famous. Memories. You know. The way we were. Memories. (That light the corners of your mind.) The minute I saw the Tennessee welcome sign yesterday I was slammed with them; by the time I reached the hotel in Chattanooga I was completely soaked in the past. “This is your home town,” I said to Alex as I unloaded the car, remembering that day in 1997 when he stuck his head out of the cage at the pound and nuzzled my neck. My heart melted into a puddle right there and then; “Go get a box,” I told the attendant. Alex slept curled on the foot of my bed that night, and has every night since for sixteen years. “I saved your life that day,” I reminded him in a tone, “and thanks to me you have been lucky enough to live in 48 states since you were born in an alley here. So there.” “Just feed me,” he said, sniffing around the room. “No need for drama.”

16 Brenda Big River Brick BoatMy dear Brenda was a little more patient with me as I told story after story during our evening touchpoint visit. She and friend Phyllis were traveling from Florida to Virginia; we worked it out to meet in Chattanooga for one night as we passed going in different directions. As soon as they arrived I jumped into show-off mode. “We’ve got to go downtown,” I insisted, “so you can see the waterfront.” Brenda’s Mike (my first-born son) grew up here, but she was unfamiliar with the town. She drove. I pointed. “I used to work in that building!” “We celebrated Rick’s seventh birthday in that restaurant!” “There’s the Walnut Street Bridge, it’s a park now!” “There’s the hotel where my Mom and Dad had their honeymoon in 1937!” They peered and squinted in the dark, but just like the cats, finally insisted that we eat. » read more


Tingly and Happified

15 Jack atop carrierLinda Burton posting from Wytheville, Virginia – It’s still Virginia. And it’s still cold. Our room is on the back side of the mountain, winter bleak and bare, and my face was wind whipped with little ice needles as I stepped from the car. It isn’t far to West Virginia from here on I-77, or to North Carolina in the other direction. Remember March 22, when we came right by this spot on the way from Richmond to Charleston? “Here we are again,” I said to Jack as he sat waiting to get into his carrier and go inside. “It was cold then too.” But we are warm-hearted in spite of the weather, tingly excited and happified. We are so close to the finish line!

14 Jim FireYesterday was Uncle Jim day, finally, after snowy bad weather all week. We had lunch at one of the many dining rooms in his fabulous retirement community where everybody you see smiles and says hello. He has a nice apartment there with access to every amenity that man or beast might ever need. We didn’t have to step outside until I went back to my car. Uncle Jim is the last of the generation of my Mom and Dad. He married Mom’s younger sister Jo, and after a stint in the Navy went to work for the US Treasury Department, where he stayed till he retired. Do you receive a Social Security check? Well, as Chief Disbursing Agent for the 14 Jim and PicturesTreasury Department Uncle Jim was responsible for getting those checks disbursed during his day. Do you remember the Panama Canal treaty back in the Carter days? Well, Uncle Jim was down there, overseeing the financial transactions that took place.

Uncle Jim is Dad to cousins Jean, Teresa, and Deborah, and has a bunch of grandkids and great-grandbabies too; twins born in June are the latest delight. Deborah lives nearby (and I missed seeing her despite our best efforts); she is an excellent seamstress and works with Wounded Warriors, adapting uniforms and clothes for 14 Jim Mapthose in the military who have recently lost a limb. The entire family is busy, and fun, and every mention of their name brings good memories. My first visit to the White House in 1952 (when I was a teen) was arranged by Uncle Jim. We visited Uncle Jim and Aunt Jo in Virginia many times as my own kids were growing up. They visited us when we lived in Chattanooga and Seattle; they were Mom’s and Dad’s best traveling buddies throughout their lifetime. Saturday was a very special day. » read more


The Soup Bowl

07 Welcome to Washington DCLinda Burton posting from Washington, DC – I call it “DC.” When I lived in Seattle if you said “Washington” folks thought you were referring to the state; Washington DC is considered the “other Washington” there. But I’m on the east coast today, easing into “the District” from Maryland and headed for the US Capitol, an icing-on-the cake post-stop in the Journey Across America. The majestic dome loomed tall as I approached; I circled in confusion and landed a parking spot on the other side. The Washington Monument was a few blocks to my right, covered in scaffolding due to earthquake repair. I coaxed the cats to the window to 07 capitol aheadlook; then tied my red wool scarf tight around my head before stepping out into the wind. Not a day for sightseeing. But people were out; a Chinese chorus was performing across the street; cameras were in evidence in every hand. Washington, DC! What is so special about this place? Why do 19 million visitors come every year? It’s exciting, and vibrant, that’s why; a bubbling soup bowl brimming with a little bit of everything. The resident population is 601,723 (US Census 2010), but that jumps to a million throughout the workweek; commuters pour in from the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. After all, the centers of all three branches of the federal government are 07 car and capitolhere – the Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. Flags from all over the world fly here; count 176 foreign embassies. The headquarters of international organizations, trade unions, non-profits, and lobbying groups are here. There are more museums here than you could visit in a year; 19 within the Smithsonian alone. The architecture, park spaces, and memorials are stunning. You’ll find both inspiration and controversy here; it’s all in the soup. » read more


Staying Alive & The Final Five

06 12 days of christmas treeLinda Burton posting from Annapolis, Maryland – Psychologically we love countdowns. We count down the twelve days till Christmas. We countdown rocket launches, till we arrive at blastoff, or the mission is scrubbed. We countdown the Final Four in basketball every spring, when the world of college sports reaches fever pitch. I counted down the days in the month before my 16th birthday; I was on pins and needles to get my driver license; something everyone in my little town did back in the 50s when all the cars had fins and all the girls wore bobby socks. The year I went to Antarctica – that was 2005 – I counted off the weeks till my Seattle departure at Pagliacci Pizza. I happened to go for a Friday 06 pizza logonight pizza at the 17-week point and noticed they had 17 pizzas on their menu. “Aha,” I thought, “if I begin with the Original, when I get to the Verde Primo it will be time to fly to South America.” I called for grandson help on big-meat pizza nights; Matthew for Spicy Pepperoni; Andrew for Extra Pepperoni; both of them on Grand Salami Primo night. The AGOG was my favorite – mushrooms, roasted garlic, Kalamata olives, goat cheese, Fontina, Mozzarella and parsley over olive oil; fresh tomato slices added after the bake. The journey through the Pagliacci menu 06 Alex on suitcasewas an experience; I developed new tastes, and learned some things I didn’t know before. I dealt with whatever came next; I adapted as needed. You know where I’m going with that thought. Annapolis finishes the countdown through the Final Five; the Journey Across America is 100% complete. This mission wasn’t scrubbed; we made it all the way (adapting as needed) – the Scion, the cats, and me. We’re travelworn and frazzled, but completely AGOG with success. » read more