The Trails: Cranky Old Retiree Marvels at the Midwest
No biker helmet laws in some states, lots of corn for E85, return the coffee sleeve?
Special: plea for unity on 9-11
By Bill Kalmar, Retiree
Sept. 2, 2011 -
Several months ago we traveled across the heartland of America from Michigan to St. Louis and I remarked about the lack of crops in Indiana
and Illinois farmlands. There was a paucity (I like that word!) of corn and soy beans which are crops one normally sees about that time of the
year. Well, guess what?
We just made
that same trip again last week and all the fields were overgrown with corn and soybeans. Now I’m not a corn expert but I suspect that the
current crops are what would be characterized as animal corn or perhaps corn used for E85 car fuel. In any event it was a wondrous site.
And speaking of
E85 fuel, there are some recent reports that this cheaper fuel may be harmful to your engine and give your car a rough ride. Other reports
indicate that the “check engine” light may come on once the E85 fuel is added to your tank.
enough, my Chevy Impala had a small tag on the trunk indicating that E85 fuel was compatible for the car. My new Chevy Malibu does not have
that designation. Could it be that the Malibu engine is not compatible with E85 or has General Motors determined that it might damage the
engine? Just wondering.
Along the way
we also noticed signs heralding something called “soy diesel” which I guess is another version of fuel for cars. The signs were always
adjacent to the soybean fields. Seems our nation is always searching for alternatives to oil. If it means lower prices and better fuel economy
and smoother running engines, I’m all for it!
By the way,
while we were in St. Louis we paid $3.19 a gallon for gas – the cheapest anywhere! Once we were on the Indiana Toll Road, gas was $4.09 per
gallon! Can you say “price gouging”!
Our trip to St.
Louis was punctuated with the normal amount of orange barrels. We have come to expect the inconvenience but there was a stretch around
Indianapolis that was restricted to one lane and it went for over five miles.
Then while on
our way to Chicago on the return trip home there was a stretch of road on highway #55 that went for an eternity with orange barrels and there
was not a worker in site the entire time! Maybe the workers were rollicking in the corn fields!
One of the
advantages of being on the road is not having to endure TV news updates about the Kardashian wedding. Seems every news show had to devote some
time to the antics of this dysfunctional family. Reports are that the engagement ring was twenty carats and the wedding with over five hundred
guests cost twenty million dollars with two wedding gowns topping $20,000 each.
Now I am not an
advocate for additional taxing for the rich but if one flaunts one riches, then I say their tax structure should be changed. Obviously this
family has too much disposal income!
On our journey
through Shipshewana, Indiana we saw a more reasonable approach to life, that being the Amish community. If you ever want to witness a serene
lifestyle and enjoy a day among some remarkable people, travel to this community.
It is truly a
joy to see the well-kept farm land, the pristine homes with laundry hanging on lines in the yard (no electricity here) and the horse drawn
carriages lining the streets. And of course some of the best pies in the nation! No Vera Lang clothing here and no twenty carat rings.
Michigan we have a helmet law for motorcyclists which I think is sound and reasonable. Several states we drove through do not have helmet laws
or only mandate the wearing of helmets to those under a certain age. We observed many cyclists sans helmets roaring along at seventy miles an
hour or more and we marveled at their “devil may care” attitude.
recreational bikers on our Schwinns wear a helmet, one wonders why motorcyclists want to challenge safety by leaving their helmets at home.
The argument in Michigan where some are advocating rescinding the helmet law is that motorcyclists will not vacation in our mitten state if we
require helmets. Having seen some of the riders and their companions, I’m comfortable with them not coming to Michigan – but that’s just my
politically incorrect position.
Return the coffee sleeve?
Most of us I
suspect are concerned about personal hygiene. Washing hands to avoid contaminants has become an obsession with most. As such, here’s a
practice that will astonish you.
While in Chicago we stopped at a coffee shop and ordered two cups of java. The cups came with the customary
“sleeves” so as to avoid burning one’s hands. What shocked us was the large container at the cream table requesting that used “sleeves” be
returned after use so that the items could be used again!
Of course I
expressed my disgust at this practice to the barista. My objection was that after some coffee drinkers have inserted and probed every orifice
of their body with their hands, they then grasp their coffee and the “sleeve”. Do I want that same “sleeve” on my coffee cup? Nope! The
barista offered that it is no different than my touching a door knob. My retort? Yes, but rarely do I then eat a donut! In this instance my
hand might be contaminated with who knows what was on the “sleeve” from the previous coffee drinker! Yuck! Maybe they were trying to save
money but in my opinion it is at the expense of common cleanliness and I think most of you agree.
So there you
have it – another interesting trip. Hope your travels take you to some interesting places. And if you order coffee in Chicago, bring your own
Unite Us – Some Divide Us
As we approach
the tenth anniversary of the event that changed our nation’s psychic forever, namely the “9-11 attack”, all of us have memories and
recollections of where we were on that fateful day. For me, I was in my office at a local university.
8:45AM one of my associates came by my office door and matter of factly stated that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Not
sensing the calamity and seriousness that was to follow we pretty much returned to our desks. It was only minutes later that this same
associate came by and stated that a second plane had crashed into the Tower. Both of us then immediately proceeded to the University Student
Once there, we
along with hundreds of students and faculty sat or stood transfixed as we watched the terrible scene unfolding on television. There was not a
sound in the crowd. People were crying and hugging each other and of course making the traditional cell phone calls to friends and family.
The scene was
quite a departure and a stark contrast from being in that same room on October 3, 1995 when the O.J. Simpson verdict was announced. When the
words “not guilty” echoed off the walls of the room, there was some cheering and clapping and back slapping from the O.J. proponents and
sycophants followed by some groaning from those not in his camp.
But on “9-11”
there were no such lines of demarcation in the crowd. On that day, everyone was an American and all joined hands in prayer and comfort to each
other. It is a sad commentary when Americans only act as a unified body when tragedy strikes.
Let’s hope on
September 11, 2011 we can once again revisit the unity we exhibited ten years ago! We owe nothing less to those who perished in this
L Bill Kalmar is retired in Lake Orion, Michigan,
and is the former Director of the Michigan Quality Council. He is a
frequent contributor to SeniorJournal.com. His opinions are his own.