Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Long Road Home

In the blog preceding this one, I mentioned being back in Ottawa in order to pack and to tie up loose ends of business.

I felt very chagrined and, Yes!, my tail was between my legs. Therefore I was overwhelmed by the love and care and regrets lavished upon me by so many others. For instance, one of the active church members lived just over the fence from me. I felt so ashamed by what had happened - what I had permitted to happen - that I tiptoed around so I wouldn't be seen nor heard.

Mary ended that by telephoning me and 'ordering' me to drop over for a cup of tea. While we were next door neighbors her husband had become gravely ill, had died and I had visited him/them during those awful days. I assisted at his funeral too. She wanted to thank me personally for my help to her and her sons while coping with their loss. I was very touched.

I was still naive enough to believe that most people abhorred homosexuals which, of course, was not - is not - the case. One of the young married couples invited me over for dinner. Cheryl - the wife - told me that she had known from when we had first met that I was Gay and she and her husband were completely accepting of who I was.

Also, I was contacted by other United Churchmen who commiserated with me and offered whatever help - spiritual and physical - that they could give.

While there I was assisted in a huge way by a friend, Don, and his partner, Gilles. It was with them that I stayed while I was packing - and Don was a huge help in the latter. Also they - and others - shielded me from contact with Wayne who, due to his mental illness, was still a major problem.

While I was in Ottawa the weather became very snowy which made packing and moving about quite awkward. Still, I managed to get in a couple of days in Montreal where I saw the nuns and Trenton where I saw the Mostyns and, back in Ottawa, I was able to visit and say goodby to Aunt Bea and Uncle Edgar.

On January 23rd I drove down to St. Catherines where the Rev Merv Skey, his wife and family were then located (they were close friends of mine while I was on Bell Island and they in Topsail, Newfoundland). Merv was quite involved in the Charismatic Movement and was a close friend of the Rev. Bernie Warren who had a retreat center ("Bezek") near Campbellville, Ontario. I had reserved a space at the Center and was expected. While at Bezek, Bernie laid hands on my head and prayed saying, "Lord, please make this bent stream straight!" I thought that was odd phraseology and, under the circumstances, rather an amusing use of words.

While I was at Bezek a major blizzard developed and everything was buried in snow. I was going to leave to travel through Niagara Falls to Buffalo and then south. As the Niagara area was literally buried by the white stuff, I had to go through Windsor and Detroit and then south along Interstate 75. As it was, I had a dicey time navigating around snow drifts at cloverleafs along the freeway in Ontario.

For some reason I left the 401 Freeway in Windsor and got turned around trying to get back on that route and over the Ambassador Bridge. U.S. Customs was a breeze - it was so cold that the guard just waved me through! Then in Detroit I became confused again and wandered around some suburban streets until I relocated the way onto US 75. Soon I had driven through Toledo, Ohio and arrived at Perrysburg where I saw a sign for a Holiday Inn. I pulled off of the highway and booked a room.

That area had been hit hard by the blizzard so the hotel was short-staffed and I had to make up my own bed in order to sleep. When I pulled in I really needed to use the bathroom so I asked the Desk Clerk where the washroom was? The lad paused and then called to a woman a few feet from where he was standing, "Do we have a laundromat?" Quickly I corrected him - I wanted a bathroom, I did not want to wash clothes! While checking in I heard as well that the exit I took to reach the hotel was the last one still open from the southbound side of the highway - the others were blocked by snow drifts.

The following morning I learned that the highway was open - sort of - for traffic so I continued on. Already I had heard that the town of Frankford and environs had been dumped on by the blizzard. When I arrived at that spot I had to drive slowly along two car tracks between two lines of vehicles which were still snowbound.

I kept on going - but not at a fast speed - to Cincinnati, across the Ohio River on a bridge, and then southwest on 71 to Louisville, Kentucky and then south on 65 to Nashville, Tennessee. Years later I had a friend who loved Country and Western music. I told him that I had stayed overnight in Nashville but had not gone to the "Grand Ole Oprey". He was astonished.

Driving south out of Nashville on the following morning I soon left the last of the snow behind - temporarily, that is. I crossed the Mississippi at Memphis and then drove southwest through Arkansas (never dreaming that that state would figure prominently in my life years later).

That evening I was in Texarkana on the Arkansas/Texas border - and more snow. That area rarely sees snow but a storm had come from the Atlantic through Birmingham, Alabama; Shreveport, Louisiana; and Texarkana. There was not that much snow on the roads but the parking lot of the motel - into which I booked - was very icy due to the snow that had fallen, melted in part and then become frozen.

The following morning I drove on south to the agricultural center of Nacogdoches (loving geography I had longed to visit the town with such an unusual name) and then on to Houston.

Back in Ottawa, Dan Matheson and I had become involved in the setup of the Agnes Sanford School of Pastoral Care (Mrs Sanford was the wife of a Methodist minister from Boston who firmly believed that the 'healing' mentioned in the Book of Acts was still available to believers - if they knew how to ask and to accept the gifts). At the retreat that was held near Ottawa I bonded with one of the leaders who was from Houston so it was to visit him that led me to that city.

Never having been there before I had no idea where to go in order to find what I was looking for. I booked into the Ramada Inn on the north side of the downtown area and then learned that where I wanted to visit was located well to the south so I set out to walk there. When it was time to return to the hotel I walked back - only this was after rush hour and the streets were absolutely deserted. Kind of spooky - but I made it back all in one piece.

The following morning I went to the address that I had hoping to see the man for whom I was looking. He was not there but had gone up to northern New York State! However, some of the people whom I met at that office invited me to their home where I remained for a couple of days.

At that time the Houston Astrodome was the only covered stadium on the North American continent. I was curious so I drove over there and took a tour. Now there are many other 'domes' on this continent - including Skydome/Rogers Center here in Toronto.

I was curious about the border town of Del Rio so, when I left Houston, I drove down there passing through picturesque San Antonio while on my way.

Dad was a huge fan of the writings of the author, Zane Grey. One of his novels was titled "West of the Pecos" so, since that river flows into the Rio Grande not far from Del Rio, I drove there. Those readers who have been to Texas know that the northern part of the State is quite flat but the southern part - bordering on the Rio Grande - is rugged terrain. After an overnight stay in the small town of Sanderson I drove up through Alpine (it is really situated in a small mountain range) and to Route I-10 a number of miles southeast of El Paso. I stopped there for lunch just so I could say that I was actually in El Paso, Texas.

Although one crosses the Continental Divide in New Mexico, the scenery seen from the interstate routes is mostly flat and uninteresting but quickly changes to rugged beauty once over the border into Arizona. My next overnight stay was in Tucson.

Already I had planned to leave I-10 so, between Tucson and Phoenix, I left it for I-8 which took me to San Diego. At the junction of the two interstate highways I found a hitchhiker and picked him up. After doing some odd jobs around Tucson he was going home to Yuma. My brother-in-law, Hubert, (while he was in the Royal Canadian Air Force) had been stationed in Yuma during at least two summers when Canadian fighter jets were being tested for their operational ability in desert heat during summer months (they were tested for cold temperatures in Cold Lake, Alberta during winter months).

The hitchhiker invited me to his home in Yuma for lunch and there I met his sister's fiance - a US Marine who was serving in the air wing. That was a pleasant lunch and a great visit with some very hospitable people.

After lunch it was back on the highway, across the Colorado River, the Imperial Valley (which is a very beautiful farming region) and up over the mountain range that separates that fertile area from the Pacific Ocean. During the climb up over the mountains from the Imperial Valley I overtook another car displaying Ontario license plates which I was surprised to notice.

The Interstate brought me into the city on the north side of town and there was a 'Motel Strip' on the service road so finding accommodation was not difficult.

Zoos are an amusement place which I enjoy thoroughly so I went there. While the actual zoological gardens are not as large as I had expected, the variety in the collection of specimens was impressive. The gay bar which had been recommended to me was very close to the gate to the Naval Base so, in a sense, I had a glimpse of that institution as well.

Thanks to some local people, I was directed to the old mission church of San Diego de Alcala. Loving history I found it great so see where the settlement of that area of California began.

Interstates - freeways - are a fast way to get from Point A to Point B but, in my books, the scenery found along the old original routes are both more interesting and more beautiful,. Therefore I opted to drive north along the original highway not counting upon the Camp Pendleton Army Base being in the way. To get around that I had to return to I-5 and drive north to San Clemente where I was able to return to my original choice of route.

That took me through the famed ocean side communities all the way to Los Angeles where I turned up a route through Beverley Hills to Reseda and to the office of the Covenant Players. I was warmly received by those folk and remained with them (attending to a menial task in the office) for a day and two nights.

Back on the highway I drove north on California 1 which has to be one of the most scenic routes in the US. This took me through Santa Barbara, San Juan Capistrano and San Simeon (which is the site of the 'Hearst Castle'). The highway is/was a two lane route which went up and down and back and forth and, for most of the way, the Pacific surf was just to my left. At the north end the highway turns east through Carmel and on to Monterrey. From there I returned to US Highway 101 and on to San Francisco.

While I have now been to that city - one of my favorites anywhere - many times that was my first visit. After visiting there over a weekend I turned inland to I-5 and drove on home.

My birthday is February 17 and I was home in time to enjoy Mom's home made birthday cake (chocolate of course!).

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