Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Katy Trail -- Sedalia to St Charles

I signed up with Road Scholar to do a biking program on the Katy Trail in Missouri. Mind you most of the folks that were in my group were older than me and I just turned 60something. Anyway, we met in St Charles, got some idea about the week's itinerary and then shuttled to Sedalia, Missouri, mile marker 229. That is a city that is about 30 miles east of Kansas City, Missouri. We stayed in a motel that night and the next day (my birthday) we began our trek across Missouri on the converted railroad line...now a biking trail, the longest in the rails to trails program in the United States. Our destination was St Charles, Missouri (just outside of St Louis).

We stopped in a McDonalds along the way and I got this shot from one of the pictures they had on the wall. I thought it was appropriate as a starting shot for this entry.

Here we are getting ready to start the trip from the parking lot of our hotel in Sedalia. We had the sag wagon stopping at various points along the way; anyone who felt they could not go further on the bike could load it and ride the van. Only one person did that because she had a biking accident. All the others managed to ride the entire trip as planned.

I had been practicing every day making sure I got at least 10 miles in, often I would do 15 or 20 miles. I tried to make sure I was in shape for this trip, but I think I was a little light on the miles. The first day we went 37 miles; that was more than my very best day of 36. The trail had at least three long sections of uphill (not severe, but still) which were enough to make me realize that this was going to be a challenging week.

We stayed in Boonville the second night, mile marker 191.8 and had dinner at the Isle of Capri Casino. I got this shot from the trail the following morning.

I behaved myself at the buffet and then got a little naughty with the slots.

They treated me well and I ended up $45 to the good. I appreciated the generosity and accepted it as a birthday present for my good behaviour.

We headed out first thing in the morning on Tuesday because we knew we had a 52 miles day ahead of us. Lordy, the last three miles were the longest miles I have ever done. The muscles between my shoulders felt like someone stuck a knife in them. I could not turn my head even an inch. I was seriously considering walking the last mile or two, but we were already running late and I was the last one in the group still on the trail; somehow I managed to finish the 52 miles but I was really glad I brought Advil with me. That helped a lot; the following day I found doing a series of stretching exercises for my neck and shoulders I could prevent the severe pain from recurring.

We stayed the third night in North Jefferson; mile marker 143.2. On Wednesday we headed out and continued to Hermann at mile marker 100.8. We stayed at the Harbor House and we did a tour of the Stone Hill Winery before having dinner there as well. It was a perfect setting, the foliage was turning gold and brown and the rows of grapes were mesmerising.

All in all it could almost make one forget the pains of the day. The German wursts dinner was delicious and everyone seemed to enjoy the mood.

The most spectacular bluffs were found in the Rocheport section of the trail; they seemed to go on and on..bluffs on one side, the Missouri River on the other. We were never at a loss for something gorgeous to look at
Like this beautiful weathered barn
They took what appeared to be the ends of a caboose and created this make-believe piano at the depot in Sedalia, I pretended to be a great pianist...see how I have those keys jumping?

Have you ever seen the scene in the desert where cars are half-buried vertically? Well, this appears to be Missouri's version of the same thing, but with boats.
A little wild life on the trail. The snake I saw was too quick for a picture.
The last day, I rode straight through and checked in to the hotel, then went searching for lunch and found it at an outside cafe. They had a special soup 'n half sandwich. Since I was starving, I had the baked potato soup and a turkey BLT...I think it was the best meal I had all week. So delicious!

One of the "fru-fru" shops in Old Town St. Charles...it really is quite picturesque

Here is a shot of the sag wagon and my speedometer showing the trip mileage at 200.69 miles.

My dusty old bike happy to be at the end of the line in St Charles, mile marker 39.5.

Augusta was such a special stop that I will be making a separate posting about it, since it has nothing to do with biking!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pre-Birthday Fun

Last week I visited with my cousin and her family for a day before I started my week-long trek across Missouri on the Katy Trail. I try never to visit with them without bringing some munchies. This time it was bags and bags of cookies; there were thumbprints, cherry/butter cookies, chocolate butter cookies, Chinese Chews (which seem to be the hands down favorite among the group), oatmeal date cookies and finally a light as air chocolate ball cookie covered in walnuts. The biggest challenge for me was not to have any prior to my starting the trip. I knew if I started eating them before I got there, the pickins' would be slim. I was very proud of myself. I had NONE!

So after coming up with that great array of cookies I later found out that Darline's favorite cookie is peanut butter....back to the drawing board! Even though I did not have her favorite, it looked like everyone was enjoying the bounty!

Then it was on to Harrah's for a seafood buffet. Man o man that was fabulous. They had steamed crab legs and Hong Kong crab legs; big fat and juicy and as much as you wanted...just can't beat it. But since crab legs don't make for a very exciting photo, I thought I would show some of the desserts that we could choose from
Here Darline found a peanut butter cheesecake that seemed to satisfy that craving...
I was torn between the lemon meringue and the little fruit tarts...so I had them all!
Sissy had gelato and little key lime tartlets
Then it was on for a little slot fun. I took this as an omen for my success for the evening...

$20.90 isn't huge, but it's better than nothing!

I'll be back

I've been away on a strenuous trip for a week. Almost recuperated and will post a few interesting things soon...Stay tuned!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Oklahoma Execution

Yesterday was probably one of the most interesting days of my life. It isn't often one can say that. Of course, it didn't "just happen", it was the result of a series of events, but it was a result that I didn't see coming.

Several weeks ago while attending a meditation class, the Buddhist monk who was leading the class mentioned that he would need a ride to Oklahoma to attend the execution of a prisoner on death row. It happened to be during the week on a day that I was available, so I volunteered. My intent was to help the monk so he could help the man die in a compassionate way. As the day drew closer I had to submit identification information to the people at the prison, this was so I could enter the grounds. I was told that I would not be allowed to witness the process. Good enough, I was just there to help the monk.

So, in the morning I was surprised to receive a call from the monk, saying we should leave earlier than we had originally planned because of administrative issues. So leave early we did. Along the way the monk was telling me that he was informed that he would probably not be able to see the prisoner nor attend the execution. He was disturbed because he had to miss several classes that he teaches at the University of Arkansas in order to do this. We both felt as if we were going through an unnecessary sacrifice; not being able provide the compassion either of us had envisioned. We got to Mcalester at two in the afternoon; the execution was to take place at six. It seemed like a lot of extra time for paperwork, but I was happy to oblige. We killed a little time by having some snacks and a coffee at the local Denney's.

We arrived at the Maximum Security state prison at 2:45, after being approved by the guard at the gate, we parked and entered the building. Walking up the stairs I began to feel very uncomfortable. Our ID's were taken at the front desk and we waited for further instruction. It came quickly. We were in the wrong building. I was glad to leave this one but wasn't all that anxious to get to the next. So we followed the signs and went to the building with the name they gave us...wrong again. The third stop proved to be successful. It was an old converted hospital that was being used by the prison system. Our ID's were taken again and they led us both to a waiting area. Gee, it looks like I will be attending. I pulled out a puzzle and tried to busy myself but found I wasn't able to concentrate on it. Then the Warden came in the room and informed me that if I had asked earlier, they could have made space for me. But now it is too late and I will have to leave. I knew I wasn't going to attend the process, but I thought there would be a place they would let me sit. Well, there was: my car. A little stunned, I asked where the local library was, got directions and headed out. The monk, however, would be attending the execution.

I drove around town for a while and cleared my head, found the library and proceeded to enjoy six magazines that I am too cheap to subscribe to. That worked very nicely. I lost myself in Oprah, Traveler Magazine and a new one for me Discover (had a fabulous article about poker) and others that escape my memory right now. I was surprised when I checked my watch and found it to be 5:20. The whole thing would be over in less than an hour.

People started coming out of the prison at 6:17. Most were dressed very formally in business suits and women in dresses and business suits. I did not expect to find dignity here. The Monk was among these folks and I watched as he went to each person at their car and spoke with them, shook their hand and was obviously being supportive. He got in the car at 6:25. I asked him if he was alright. He was. I waited for him to say anything about the experience.

He said he had come to visit with the prisoner back in early October to teach him about love, tolerance and compassion towards those people who want him dead. The prisoner was a converted Buddhist and accepted the teachings; meditated on them during his remaining days and said that he was ready to die today. The monk then lead a chanting prayer for a good rebirth and that he should become a disciple of Matuya Buddha.

All of the monks and the prisoner joined in chanting the mantra of compassion, "om mani padme hum" during the execution. There was a microphone placed above the prisoners head and he continued to chant until the life passed out of him.

Our mission was accomplished and the day ended on a good note. Not only was the prisoner able to attain true compassion and die peacefully, but his family was also touched by the compassion and love demonstrated in the end.

It wasn't until I got home did I find out from a news article that the prisoner was charged with the murder of a fisherman in a failed robbery attempt. The accused still maintained his innocence, saying his wife committed the murder.

Note: (there is a saying that all men on death row are innocent)

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Today I am playing chauffeur for a very delicate mission. I did not think it would affect me, but I find I am feeling torn between two thoughts. One very positive and one very negative. I will focus on the positive one; that being a really good thing for a sorry soul. The negative, that it exists at all.
Today I am driving a monk to attend an execution.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You Gotta Love Technology

Wow, today has turned out to be quite amazing for me.

During my first 21 years I counted it out once and discovered that I had moved 19 times. 19 TIMES!!!!! Well as a result of that I learned how to move. I also learned that when you move that often it is really hard to have any friends. At one point I did live in the same city for about five years; not in the same place but the same city. That allowed me to have a friend. That was when I was finishing up grade school and starting high school.

And then it was all over...I moved far enough that the friendship ended. Sure we tried writing letters to each other, but we were kids and I guess letters just don't cut it. When I realized that we had really lost touch I tried everything I could think of to try and find her, but without success. So there was always this empty space where my friend should have been. I always hoped I would somehow find her...don't ask how, I think I was looking for divine intervention here.

As the years rolled by I would look in phone books where ever I happened to be living hoping that I might stumble upon her name. No. The old addresses that I had were useless and so I had to accept the loss of my best friend.

Then came technology, I have Googled her name countless times...nothing. Then a couple of months ago I got a spam email from Classmates. I went there and searched for her. I found a name that might have been her; I sent an email, but heard nothing back. Weird. Today I tried searching for her in Facebook (it is a pretty popular site) and hoped that something might turn up. I wasn't expecting anything since I had already done this several times over the last couple of years. But TODAY, I found her!!!!

Can you believe it? 50 years later we found each other again! We are so surprised that it really is a kind of a miracle. Technology, you gotta love it!

Friday, October 1, 2010


As we all get a little older, we occasionally think about what changes we will have to make to accommodate our ever increasing short-comings. Stuff happens and we just have to deal with it. Fortunately, I am very physically fit and I like to think mentally stable, so these thoughts are just vague hints of future concerns or at least that's what they have been. Until today.

Things were moving along quite normally, I went and did some volunteer work and stopped at an Aldi's on the way home. I was thinking about baking some cookies and wanted to get some butter. Aldi's is the kind of store that you have to enter without preconceived notions...you buy what they sell...at really good prices. They may or may not have what you actually need. So, I got dark chocolate bars, bags and bags of diced dates (needed for the cookies), evaporated milk (for the possible pumpkin pie I will make in November) cans and cans of crushed tomatoes (the big ones for spaghetti sauce) and on and on. Yes, I did get butter.

Once home I started putting the stuff away, when I got to the cans of tomatoes I noticed that the shelf space was very crowded and things needed to shift a little. Okay, with a swipe of my left hand I moved the peanut butter and other stuff and simultaneously placed the first can. The peanut butter fell to the floor (thankfully it was a plastic container) and as I was placing the second can I bent down to pick up the peanut butter. That's when the second can whacked me in the back of the head...almost hard enough to knock me out. The can fell about three feet and is twenty-eight ounces. Math was never my forte but let me tell you, A pound and a half of can falling three feet to the back of your head REALLY HURTS!

I was stunned for a few minutes (well, maybe a minute) just holding the back of my head. The lump was growing very quickly. Then I finally decided I should try to move; yes, I can do that, so since I am right next to the freezer, I opened it and grabbed a bag of Trader Joe's Roasted peppers and onions and gingerly dropped it (to loosen the contents) then placed it on the back of my head. It helped but not enough. It took several hours for the pain to stop, but it did. Now it only hurts when I prod it...so, yes, I don't do that!

So I am left thinking to myself...am I the only one who could knock themselves out and have no one know about it? This is really serious...(when you stop laughing!!) My bird was useless through the entire ordeal. Until I make better arrangements I guess I will have to rearrange my pantry...put all the light stuff up top and all the heavy stuff on the bottom shelf. Then...watch out feet!