April 19, 2014

The River Valley Slimdown: Winter Winners and New Summer Challenge

Deep River, CT- Participants of the most recent IFoundFitness River Valley Slimdown laughed in the face of the “Polar Vortex” and showed those dreaded winter pounds who’s boss! With a jackpot higher than ever before, the dedicated group of health-seekers brought in cash, prizes, and a generous donation to the Shoreline Soup Kitchen!

The River Valley Slimdown is a fitness challenge regularly held at IFoundFitness in Deep River, CT. Participants contribute towards a jackpot, paying up for pounds gained or weigh-ins missed. They work closely with fitness expert Donna Scott, taking part in group fitness & nutrition classes, while bonding with their weight-loss companions!

Twenty participants saw the challenge through the end this brutal winter, bringing the jackpot total to $2,392. Almost $500 of this went to Shoreline Soup Kitchen, the charity selected by the group. The winner of the challenge, Sarina, lost 21.04% of her body weight! While she takes home 60% of the jackpot, ESSENCE of Old Saybrook will also be treating her to a makeup and hair makeover to match her healthy new glow.

Second place went to “Santa Dave.” This, jolly, bearded fellow dropped his stereotypical belly by losing 35 pounds! Dave takes home 60% of the jackpot and a massage by True of Clinton, CT but the most incredible reward was bringing his Type 2 Diabetes under control.

“This has been an absolutely amazing challenge!” says Donna. “In the face of one of our worst winters, these guys just would not give in! Even those that didn’t finish in the top 3 experienced incredible transformations. They’re STILL not ready to give up!”

Many participants are ready to go for round two already! Registration for the Summer River Valley Slimdown is open now, with the challenge launching on April 26th.  Signing on for the new challenge means participants will have a chance to shed the winter pounds justin time to trade those bulky winter coats for sleek swimsuits!

Registration is currently open for the Summer 2014 River Valley Slimdown. Email Donna at donna@ifoundfitness.com for complete rules and registration forms.

For more information on the River Valley Slimdown, please visit: http://ifoundfitness.com/rv-slim-down/

Lyme Democrats Endorse Bjornberg, Stone

Emily Bjornberg

Emily Bjornberg

In addition to endorsing those democratic incumbent state office holders who have announced their intent to run for reelection, the Lyme Democratic Caucus endorsed two newcomers to the State scene: Mary Stone for State Representative, and Emily Bjornberg for State Senate.

The chairman of the Caucus, Steven Mattson, commented, “We are extremely pleased to endorse state legislative candidates as well qualified as Mary and Emily,”

Emily Bjornberg is a Lyme resident and is running for the seat once held by Eileen Dailey. “Emily is an exceptionally strong candidate, and we are confident she will be a superior Senator for the 33rd Senate District,” according to Mattson. The 33rd district covers Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Old Saybrook, Portland and Westbrook. The seat is currently held by Republican Art Linares.

Mary Stone is an Old Lyme resident, who is running for the 23rd Assembly District consisting of Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and part of Westbrook. This is an open seat, due to the decision of Marilyn Giuliani not to seek reelection.

“Mary is the perfect candidate for this district,” according to Claire Sauer, who represented much of this district when she represented the 36th Assembly District.

Stone currently serves on the Old Lyme Zoning Board of Appeals and is a former member of the Region 18 Board of Education.

Deep River-Chester Lions Club Pig Roast & Chicken Barbecue – Apr.26

Dreaming of Summer? Come on down to the Deep River-Chester Lions Club Pig Roast & Chicken Barbecue on April 26, starting at 6:00pm at St. Joseph’s Parish Center in Chester. Potato & macaroni Salads, baked beans, corn on the cob and dessert will also be served. The Lions are limiting the tickets to 200 this year, so be sure to get your tickets early and B.Y.O.B.

There will also be music, raffles and other exciting contests. And don’t forget to wear your favorite Hawaiian Shirt! Adults: $15.00, Children 10 and younger: $10.00. Tickets available at the Deep River Hardware store or from any Lion Member. All monies raised will be used for local charity.

Connecticut Water Company to Flush Water Mains Local Towns

The Connecticut Water Company will be flushing its water mains in the towns of Chester, Deep River and Essex, including Ivoryton, beginning on March 30 and continuing through April 8, and Old Saybrook from May 4 through May 23.   Routine flushing helps to maintain water quality by scouring the inside of the water mains.

In Chester, Deep River and Essex night water main flushing will be conducted from March 30 through April 1 between the hours of 8:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m. Daytime water main flushing will be conducted from March 31 through April 8 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

In Old Saybrook water mains will be flushed between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. from May 4 through May 6. Water main flushing will also take place between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday throughFriday from May 5 through May 23.

During water main flushing it is possible that some customers may experience discolored water and pressure fluctuations. The discolored water should clear within a few hours. While experiencing discolored water, customers should avoid using their washing machine, dishwasher, or other water using devices. Customers should call Connecticut Water at 1-800-286-5700 if discolored water persists for more than a few hours.

Connecticut Water’s water main flushing schedule is available on its Web site at http://www.ctwater.com/ in the ‘Customer’ section. Connecticut Water is also on Facebook (www.facebook.com/CTWtr) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/CTwater).

Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 Newest Eagle Scout!

Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 newest Eagle Scout Dillon Eriksson (Photo  Lianne Rutty).

Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 newest Eagle Scout Dillon Eriksson (Photo Lianne Rutty).

Troop 13 – Boy Scouts of America would like to congratulate our newest Eagle Scout, Dillon Eriksson of Deep River. Dillon is the 60th Eagle Scout in the history of Troop 13.

To become an Eagle Scout a boy must advance through the seven ranks by learning Scout and Life skills all while providing leadership to his Troop and service to his community. One on the final requirements for the Eagle Rank is to show leadership in and complete a service project that benefits the boy’s community, school, or religious institution.

Dillon’s project was to show leadership over others by developing and implementing a plan that resulted in the construction of a crush stone base, blue stone slate walkway using historic site pieces on the property of the Deep River Congregational Church. Completing this project entailed working with various private and municipal agencies to meet permitting requirements, securing donations for supplies, designing and overseeing volunteers through the construction and installation of said walkway. The completed project provides an important service to the members and guests of Deep River Congregational Church, in particular the youth members by providing for a more stable ground area connecting the hall to the play yard.

Information about Troop 13 – BSA

Troop 13 Boy Scouts serves the boys ages 11-18 of Chester and Deep River. The purpose of the Boy Scouts of America is to help young men develop their character and life skills all while having fun. There is much emphasis placed on assisting these young men to develop into strong healthy citizens who will lead our communities and country in the years ahead. The Boy Scout methods help to promote these ideals through the challenge of putting them into practice with the Troop Program. This is done in a way that is both challenging and fun. To learn more information about joining Troop 13 please contact our Scoutmaster, Steven Merola @ 860-526-9262

 

Deep River Family Named March of Dimes Greater Mystic Ambassadors

On Sunday, May 4, hundreds from the Connecticut shoreline will gather for March for Babies at Olde Mistick Village in Mystic to benefit the March of Dimes. Leading the festivities will be the event’s 2014 Ambassadors, Ryan and Jessica Spearrin of Deep River, along with their children Carley and William. They will share the story of William’s premature birth, and thank walkers for their commitment to the March of Dimes mission to give all babies a healthy start.

Jessica was due with William on July 25, 2011, but due to suffering from preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy) and HELLP syndrome (a life-threatening pregnancy complication usually considered to be a variant of preeclampsia with symptoms such as the breaking down of red blood cells, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count), William was delivered on May 19, 2011, weighing just 2 pounds 11 ounces. Like many babies born very early, his underdeveloped lungs were one of his biggest health complications. To help mature his tiny lungs quickly, he received surfactant, a therapy developed with help from March of Dimes grantees.

William also suffered from numerous complications due to his early arrival such as apnea, jaundice, underdeveloped kidneys and bladder, and respiratory distress syndrome. He ultimately spent 64 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at UConn Health Center in Farmington before coming home.

“It was such an emotional time. We celebrated the little moments and prayed during the challenging times,” said Jessica. “No parent is ever prepared to have their child born early.”

Today William is a healthy 2 ½ year old, but has undergone multiple surgeries to correct his underdeveloped bladder, and remains under a specialist’s care for his eyes. “He is a fun-loving little boy who loves his big sister,” said Jessica. “He also loves the guitar and big trucks!”

“We hope that by sharing our story we will raise awareness about prematurity and other serious complications that mothers and babies can face,” said Jessica. “We know that without March of Dimes funded research, William would not be here today. And we know that there much work left to be done. Our biggest wish is for all babies to be born healthy.”

March for Babies participants can meet the family and hear their story at March for Babies at Olde Mistick Village on Sunday, May 4. Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. with the walk kicking off at 10:00 a.m. To register visit marchforbabies.org/event/greatermystic or marchofdimes.com/ct.

Greater Mystic March for Babies is sponsored locally by Mohegan Sun, Advanced Improvements, Bob’s Discount Furniture, Olde Mistick Village, The Day, Soft Rock 106.5 WBMW and Jammin 107.7, kidtivity.com, and is supported by statewide sponsors, NBC Connecticut and Comcast. March for Babies is sponsored nationally by the March of Dimes number one corporate supporter Kmart, Macy’s, Famous Footwear, Cigna, Sanofi Pasteur, Mission Pharmacal, and United Airlines.

For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines and breakthroughs. Find out how you can help raise funds to prevent premature birth and birth defects by walking in March for Babies at marchforbabies.org. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Deep River Fire Department Appreciates Community Support

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On behalf of the Deep River Fire Department, Fire Chief Tim Lee would like to thank all of those who so generously contributed to this years fund drive. According to Chief Lee, “We appreciate the support shown by the citizens of our community. Funds collected help us to keep current with the ever changing role of a volunteer Fire Department.”

As a result of Operation Save a Life, Chief Lee would like to remind the Deep River community that the Deep River Fire Department has a limited number of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors they will install for free in your home. Please call the Deep River Fire Department at 860-526-6042 and leave a message.

Three Engineering Firms Submit Proposals for Deep River Platwood Park Improvement Project

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen has interviewed three engineering firms to guide grant-funded improvements at the town’s Plattwood Park. The board is expected to select a firm at its Feb. 25 meeting, with work on the park improvements expected to begin by September.

Joining the selectmen at Tuesday’s meeting were parks and recreation commission chairwoman Tracy Woodcock and commission member Grace Petroka. Firms that submitted proposals are Nathan Jacobson Associates of Chester, which has provided engineering services for the town previously, Malone & McBroom of Cheshire, and Weston & Sampson of Rocky Hill.

The town was awarded a $400,000 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant last summer for improvements at the 23-acre park located off Route 80. The park, which has been owned by the town since the early 1980s, includes a former sand and gravel quarry pond.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the selectmen and the parks and recreation commission have agreed that priorities for the grant funded improvements would be construction of a new baseball field, improved hiking trails, and various Americans With Disabilities Act handicapped access improvements. Smith said the firms have been asked to be prepared to complete bid documents for the project by June, with work on the improvements at the park to begin by September.

Chester/Deep River Boy Scout Troop 13 Announces Five New Eagle Scouts

Chester/Deep River Boy Scouts Troop 13 Five newest Eagle Scouts (L-R) Samuel Jones,  Tyler Johnson, Iestyn Norton, Gregory Merola, and William Brown

Chester/Deep River Boy Scouts Troop 13 Five newest Eagle Scouts (L-R) Samuel Jones, Tyler Johnson, Iestyn Norton, Gregory Merola, and William Brown

Troop 13 – Boy Scouts of America would like to congratulate our five newest Eagle Scouts: Tyler Johnson and Gregory Merola of Chester and Samuel Jones, Iestyn Norton, and William Brown of Deep River.

To become an Eagle Scout a boy must advance through the seven ranks by learning Scout and Life skills all while providing leadership to his Troop and service to his community.  One on the final requirements for the Eagle Rank is to show leadership in and complete a service project that benefits the boy’s community, school, or religious institution.

Tyler’s project was at the Bushy Hill Nature Center in Ivoryton where he cleared a hiking trail and replaced a bridge to an island at the camp.  Tyler wanted to give back to the camp where he spent many summers and was a counselor at the camp.

Gregory’s project was to rebuild an amphitheater used by hundreds of campers each summer at Camp Hazen in Chester.  Greg led the Scouts in replacing benches, clearing the access trails, and installing new gateway and sign.

Samuel’s project was to GPS the location of all 701 storm drains in Deep River.  He also supervised the affixing of labels that informs the public that anything put in the storm drain will make its way into rivers and the ocean.

Iestyn’s project was to design and supervise the construction of a snack shack/storage building at Plattwood Park in Deep River for the residents and their guest to enjoy.  He secured many donations for material and labor to keep the cost down for the town.

William’s project was to replace the boardwalk through the historic Cedar Swamp at Bushy Hill Nature Center in Ivoryton. The old walkway had deteriorated over time and was posing a safety risk for campers. The walkway allows campers to walk through the swamp to view ecological diversity at the camp.

Information about Troop 13 – BSA

Troop 13 Boy Scouts serves the boys ages 11-18 of Chester and Deep River. The purpose of the Boy Scouts of America is to help young men develop their character and life skills all while having fun. There is much emphasis placed on assisting these young men to develop into strong healthy citizens who will lead our communities and country in the years ahead. The Boy Scout methods help to promote these ideals through the challenge of putting them into practice with the Troop Program. This is done in a way that is both challenging and fun.  To learn more information about joining Troop 13 please contact our Scoutmaster, Steven Merola @ 860-526-9262

Deep River Zoning Board of Appeals Overturns Zoning Condition on Grove Street Industrial Building

DEEP RIVER— The zoning board of appeals Tuesday overturned a condition on a new industrial building at 16 Grove St. that was included by Zoning enforcement Officer Cathy Jefferson as part of the required certificate of zoning compliance for the structure.

The board’s decision came after a nearly two hour public hearing that featured dueling arguments from three attorneys, with Essex lawyer John Bennet representing property owner Raymond Galeotti, Middletown lawyer William Howard representing Jefferson and the planning and zoning commission, and Old Saybrook lawyer David Royston representing the ZBA.

The 8,400 square-foot building was constructed last year after Galeotti received zoning approval in the summer of 2012. Galeotti received a special permit from the planning and zoning commission for what he described as an expansion of his existing business on the site, a jewelry engraving business called Eve’s Addiction. He also received a variance from the ZBA because the planning and zoning commission had adopted new village district regulations for the area, a move that made the existing 50-year-old industrial building on the parcel a non-conforming use.

After the building was completed last summer, Jefferson included a condition on the certificate of zoning compliance noting the structure was for use only as an expansion of the existing business. Jefferson said Tuesday the condition was based on information presented by Galeotti at the July 2012 public hearing on his permit application, and because the more recent village district regulations made the 16 Gove St. parcel non-conforming. Grove Street is a mostly residential street that extends south off Bridge Street to end at the 16 Grove Street parcel.

Bennet, presenting meeting minutes for both the PZC and ZBA, maintained the condition on future use was never included in the July 2012 approvals for the industrial building. He acknowledged that any separate uses in the building would require approval from the PZC, but maintained Jefferson had “no authority” to impose the condition now on the certificate of zoning compliance, which is tied to a required certificate of occupancy.

Bennet said Galeotti needed a “clean” certificate of occupancy from the town, and contended the condition had interfered with his efforts to sell a portion of his business, and lease a portion of the building that is not needed by the business at the present time. In sometimes angry testimony where he threatened a lawsuit against the town, Galeotti said the condition had disrupted his plans to sell a large share of his business to a company that also owns the From You Flowers business in Old Saybrook. Geleotti added that he is now planning to move Eve’s Addictiion, and its 25 employees, to space in Old Saybrook in the spring.

Jefferson and Howard said the use of the new building in December by From You Flowers had led to new complaints from nearby residents, leading Jefferson to stand by the condition during discussions with Bennet in December. Howard said the provision on use by the existing business was “more a statement of fact” based on zoning regulations than a condition.

Priscilla Lerner, of 15 Grove St,, said the pre-holiday use of the building by the flower business led to a sharp increase in traffic and parking on the dead-end street. “The street is too small for it,” Lerner said, adding that she suspects Galeotti had always planned the 8,400 square-foot building for other uses beyond the jewelry engraving business.

The board relied heavily on advice by Royston in it’s deliberations on the appeal. The attorney urged the board to overturn the condition because it had not been specifically included on the ZBA and PZC approvals in July 2012, and to avoid any effort to direct future decisions on use of the property. “I don’t think you have to decide anything more about the property to sustain the appeal,” Royston said..

Deep River Grand List Up 0.47 Percent for 2013

DEEP RIVER— Assessor Robin O’Loughlin has filed an October 2013 grand list of taxable property that totals $490,407,091, an increase of $2,307,140, or 0.47 percent, from the current grand list total.

The list shows small increases for real estate and motor vehicles, and a small decrease in personal property assessments. The town’s 2,182 real estate accounts show an assessment total of $440,646,940, an increase of $2,480,110 from the current real estate total. The town’s 4,874 motor vehicle accounts show an assessment total of $33,015,550, an increase of $839,280 from the current motor vehicles total.

The town’s 441 personal property accounts show an assessment total of $15,905,321, representing a decrease of $1,012,250 from the current personal property total. O’Loughlin said much of the decrease is a result of manufacturing equipment becoming eligible for expanded statewide tax exemptions.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the small increase, which will generate about $60,000 in new tax revenue at the current tax rate of 25.08 mills, is better than a loss. “It’s not as much as I would like, but it’s still going up,” he said. The grand list was up by 1.21 percent in 2012.

The town’s top ten taxpayers was unchanged from recent years. The top ten taxpayers, with the current assessments, are Connecticut Light and Power Co.-$5,279,976, BDRM Inc.-$4,171,936, Mislick Family Limited Partners-$3,175,245, Silgan Plastics Corp.-$2,968,020, Deep River Associates LLC-$2,605,680, Thomas Boyd & K. Dernocoeur-$2,430,610, 180 Main Street Partners LLC-$2,277,450, Goodspeed Leasing Co LLC-$2,145,010, Jerome and Marlene Scharr-$1,923,180, and Virginia B. Linburg-$1,881,950. The Linburg, Scharr and Boyd-Dernocoeur properties are high value residential properties located on or near the Connecticut Rver.

Interim Principal Serving at Deep River Elementary School

DEEP RIVER— Nancy Haslam, an East Haddam resident and former principal at Cohanzie Elementary School in Waterford, has been appointed as interim principal at Deep River Elementary School through the end of June. Haslam began working at the school on Jan. 2, replacing Jennifer Byars in the leadership position.

Byars, a Deep River resident, announced in late November that she had accepted a position as assistant superintendent for the Ledyard school district. Byars, who had worked previously in Ledyard, was hired in June 2012, and served as principal in Deep River for about 18 months. She had replaced Jack Pietrick, who retired in 2012 after serving as principal at the Deep River school for 13 years.

Haslam was interviewed by the Deep River Board of Education and appointed as interim principal at a Nov. 26 meeting. Haslam has a 40-year career in public education, serving most recently as principal at the Cohanzie Elementary School in Waterford. She is an elected member of the East Haddam Board of Education, and has served as board chairwoman. The school board will advertise the principal position in the spring, with a goal of hiring a new permanent principal for the school by the end of June.

Deep River Zoning Board of Appeals Hearing Rescheduled to Feb 4

DEEP RIVER— The zoning board of appeals meeting that had been set for Tuesday evening has been rescheduled to Feb. 4 due to the Tuesday snow storm. The board’s public hearing is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.

The board will hold a public hearing on an appeal from Raymond Galeotti of the conditions included in a zoning compliance certificate for a new 8,400 square-foot industrial building located at 16 Grove St. The planning and zoning commission in July 2012 approved a special permit for the building that was presented as part of an expansion of Galeotti’s existing business, Centerbrook Sales/Eve’s Addiction. The company that makes engraved jewelry for internet sales is located in an existing 6,600 square-foot building located on the 2.5-acre parcel at the end of Grove Street, a dead-end street extending south off Bridge Street.

Zoning enforcement Officer Cathy Jefferson included a condition that the building was for an expansion of the existing business as part of the zoning compliance certificate that was issued for the completed building late last fall. But Jefferson learned in late November that Galleotti had advertised the new space for lease, and has not been using it for an expansion of the existing business. In the appeal, Galeotti is asking the ZBA to change the conditions of the zoning compliance certificate.

Deep River Zoning Board of Appeals Sets Jan. 21 Public Hearing on Status of New Industrial Building

DEEP RIVER— The zoning board of appeals has scheduled a Jan. 21 public hearing on an appeal of the zoning status for a new 8,400-square-foot industrial building at 16 Grove St. The meeting begins Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.

Raymond Galeotti, owner of Centerbrook Sales/Eve’s Addiction, a jewelry engraving business focused on internet sales, is appealing the conditions on a certificate of zoning compliance issued by late last fall by zoning enforcement Officer Cathy Jefferson. The planning and zoning commission in July 2012 approved a special permit for the new industrial building as an expansion of the existing 6,600 square-foot industrial building located on a 2.5-acre parcel, at 16 Grove St., a dead-end street extending south off Bridge Street. Galeotti had said during the commission’s public hearing on his permit application the expansion would add about five new jobs to the company’s workforce.

The permit was approved for an expansion of Galeotti’s existing business, with Jefferson including that condition as part of the certificate of zoning compliance for the recently completed structure. Jefferson said earlier this week that she learned in late November that Galeotti had advertised the new space for lease, and has not been using it for an expansion of his existing business.

In other business, the board’s Jan. 21 agenda also includes consideration of a “settlement proposal’ from resident George Bartlett for a lawsuit against the ZBA involving his property at 444 Main St., on the south end of town. Bartlett filed suit against the board in the fall of 2012 amid a dispute over whether the board had approved a variance allowing a used car dealership in the industrial building on the west side of Main St., also known as Route 154.

The planning and zoning commission objected to what it contended was an improper use variance for the car dealership, and the ZBA later determined it had granted only a dimensional variance of the road frontage requirement for the property. In subsequent months Bartlettt has leased most, but not all, of the building to a small manufacturing business, and most recently, for a dog dare care business that received a special permit approval from the planning and zoning commission last month.

Deep River Democrats and Republicans Select Town Committees for 2014-2016 Term

DEEP RIVER— Town Democrats and Republicans have selected town committees for the 2014-2016 term after party caucuses held over the past week. The new town committee terms begin in March.

Democrats have selected a 26 member town committee that has three new members, Janet Edgarton, Stephen Bibbiani, and Karol Tulp Magee. Two members of the current committee stepped aside, John Bairos and Stella Beaudoin. Democrats have controlled the majority on the three-member board of selectmen since First Selectman’s Richard Smith’s election to a second term in 1991.

Incumbents returning to the Democratic panel include Carmela Balducci, Leigh Balducci, former Speaker of the House Richard Balducci, current committee Chairwoman and Tax Collector Lisa Bibbiani, Cindy Cosme, former Selectman Richard Daniels Jr., Dorothy DeMichael, Bruce Edgarton, Nancy Fishbach, Joanne Grabek. George Howard and Carol Jones. Also Ann Joy, Jonathan Kastner, Russell Marth, Mary Maraschiello, Selectman Angus McDionald Jr., Alan Miezejeski, Roy Monte, Valerie Nucci, Mark Reyher, Carol Smith, and Richard Smith.

Republicans have picked a 16 member town committee that includes two new members, Michelle Grow and Doug Nagan. Three members of the current committee stepped aside, Mary Brownlee, Robert Edgeworth, and Margot Gamerdinger.

Incumbents returning to the Republican panel include committee Chairman Gargory Alexander, Louise Cowan, Douglas Dopp, William Harris, Alice Johnson, Town Treasurer Thomas Lindner, Joyce Winterstein, Selectman David Oliveria, Rolf Peterson, Donald Routh, Grace Stalsburg, Cynthia Stannard, Rosemary Unan, and Town Clerk Amy Winchell.

Adams Hometown Market Supports Deep River Fire Department

Customer Service Manager Kevin Hunt  (left) and Adams Manager Jeff Prindle present  DRFD Chief Tim Lee with a check for the Department.

Customer Service Manager Kevin Hunt (left) and Adams Manager Jeff Prindle present DRFD Chief Tim Lee with a check for the Department.

Adams Hometown Market in Deep River sold paper fire alarms and held a hotdog fund raiser in support of the Deep River Fire Department. According to Adams Manager Jeff Prindle ” It is our responsibility to support an organization of men and women who are willing to protect their community 24/7. Due to the support of our community, we are able to provide the vehicle in which to do this”.

In thanking Adams for their support, Fire Chief Tim Lee commented ” The Department appreciates this very generous gift. This financial support will allow us to purchase tools and equipment necessary to provide the best possible protection in an ever changing fire fighting world.

Deep River Fire Department Offers Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Smoke alarmNews Channel 8 recently partnered with Kidde, The Home Depot, and the Burn Center and the Trauma Center at Bridgeport Hospital to present Operation Save a Life; a life-saving program designed to increase public awareness of fire and carbon monoxide dangers. One of the cornerstones of this program is the distribution of smoke alarms to Connecticut families in need.

The Deep River Fire Department has a limited number of these smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors that we will install for free in your home. Please call the Deep River Fire Department at 860-526-6042 and leave a message if you or anyone you know is in need of a smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector. Someone will return your call and schedule a time for installation.

Deep River Homicide Victim Identified, Margaret Rohner, 45

DEEP RIVER– State police have identified the woman who was stabbed to death Thursday in a rented house at 131 Rattling Valley Road as 45-year old Margaret Rohner. Police have arrested and charged her son, 22-year-old Robert O. Rankin, with murder in the slaying.

Rohner’s body was found Thursday afternoon after her former husband, local resident Robert Rankin Jr., 54, called police around 1 p.m. to report that he believed his son had stabbed his ex-wife. After questioning and investigation at the scene, detectives arrested Robert O. Ranking for murder.

Rankin was presented Friday at Middlesex Superior Court in Middletown, where a judged ordered him held on $1milliion bond and placed on a suicide watch while in custody. Rankin’s next court appearance is set for Feb. 4. According to information released after the courant appearance, state troopers reported that Rankin had admitted to stabbing his mother to death sometime Thursday morning.

Local Man Arrested for Murder of His Mother at Rattling Valley Road Home

DEEP RIVER— State police have arrested a local man for murder in the stabbing death of his mother in a house at 131 Rattling Valley Road. Robert Rankin, 22, was arrested late Thursday and presented Friday at Middlesex Superior Court in Middletown. He was ordered held in custody on a $1 million bond.

State police were called to the home, located off a common driveway on the eastern end of Rattling Valley Road, around 1 p.m. Thursday by Rankin’s father, Robert Rankin Jr.

According to information released at the court appearance, Rankin Jr. told troopers that he believed his son had stabbed his ex-wife. Her body was found inside the house after police arrived on the scene. Police had not released the deceased woman’s name as of late Friday afternoon. Detectives with the state police Central District Major Crime Squad were at the home into the night Thursday, and later arrested the younger Rankin on a murder charge.

River Valley Slimdown is Losing For Good

Deep River, CT - Donna Scott’s River Valley Slimdown returns to tackle New Year’s Resolutions for the body and spirit! While participants will compete to lose the most weight over 12 weeks, they will also be raising funds for charity. Those who take the challenge will be dropping the holiday pounds for the good of their health, and of their community.

The next River Valley Slimdown will begin on January 11, and will run for 12 weeks, ending on April 5.  Over the past six challenges, Donna Scott and her team at IFoundFitness in Deep River, CT, have helped over 120 participants shed over 860 pounds! They’ve also raised over $1,100 for multiple organizations, including Shoreline Soup Kitchens, and Tri-Town Youth Services, to name just a few.  The Winter 2014 River Valley Slimdown will donate 20% of the challenge jackpot to the charity decided upon by the participants.

The jackpot itself is even determined by those who take the weight loss plunge. Participants agree to pony up $65 to participate in the challenge, which includes a weekly weigh in. Any weight gain results in a penalty fee. All penalties, and the original registration fees go towards the final jackpot. That jackpot is then divided between the contest winners, and the charity of choice.

“People love that extra motivation!” says Donna. “While, of course, we tend to over-indulge during the holidays, it’s also a time to give back to others. My clients are amazing. Their dedication to their health is only matched by the dedication they have to helping these charities!”

The Fall 2013 River Valley Slimdown resulted in a jackpot of over $2300. Both the first and second place winners dropped over ten pounds each. For the upcoming challenge, Donna will again be working with Penny Smyth, CHHC, AADP Certified Health Coach, to provide nutritional and weight management seminars to the challenge-takers throughout the challenge.  RVSD will also be offering a Brand New On-Line Meal Planning Program where participants can choose from over 450 menu choices, including vegan and gluten free diets!!  Need one more reason to get involved? Sign up before January 1st to receive a free pass card to five fitness classes at IFoundFitness (new members only).

Registration is currently open for the Winter 2014 River Valley Slimdown. Email Donna at donna@ifoundfitness.com for complete rules and registration forms.

For more information on the River Valley Slimdown, please visit: www. ifoundfitness.com/rv-slim-down/

To contact Donna Scott of IFoundFitness:  (860) 961-4507

Deep River Planning and Zoning Approves Relocation of Dunkin Donuts to 246 Main Street

DEEP RIVER— The planning and zoning commission has approved a special permit for the relocation of Dunkin Donuts to a vacant commercial building at 246 Main St. The panel approved the permit on a unanimous vote at a Dec. 12 meeting after plans were presented at a lengthy public hearing on Nov. 21.

In a separate decision, the commission last week approved a special permit to allow a dog day care business in a portion of the industrial building at 444 Main St. that had been the subject of a zoning dispute last year.

The permit will allow Great American Donut of Plainville to relocate the Dunkin Donuts that has operated for about 4 years in commercial space at 190 Main St. to move south to the 246 Main St. property that is located at the intersection of Main and Union streets. The Dunkin Donuts would occupy 1,600 square-feet, or about half, of the vacant commercial building on the parcel. The west section of the building, on the Union St. side, would be reserved for another unspecified commercial use.

The commission imposed nine conditions on the permit approval. Four of the conditions will require the applicant to return to the commission for permit modifications on lighting, the main sign for the business, the design and color scheme of a planned outdoor seating area, and the location and enclosure for the dumpster uses by the donut shop.

The location of the dumpster was a major topic of discussion at the public hearing, with some residents objecting to placing the dumpster at the front southern most section of the parcel, which is at the apex of the Main Street-Union Street intersection. But the commission decided to allow the dumpster in the front section of the parcel under conditions. The dumpster would have to be fully enclosed in a 10-foot by 12-foot structure with a roof.. Final plans for the dumpster location and enclosure would be reviewed by the commission before work begins on the site improvements.

Other conditions include extending the improved front facade of the building to the back of the building to obscure mechanical equipment on the roof, extending granite curbing to the parking area, and elimination of a window the west side of the building that is reserved for the future commercial use. There would be a prohibition on signage on the west side of the building facing Union Street.

The dog day care business at 444 Main St. was approved after a brief public hearing where the proposed use drew no objections from any nearby property owners. The permit will allow local resident Jerilyn Nucci to provide daytime care for up to 24 dogs. The dog day care would occupy about 1,500 square-feet of the building.

The industrial building on the west side of Main St., also known as Route 154, had been the subject of a zoning dispute in 2012 after town commissions blocked a proposal by the property owner, local resident George Bartlett Jr., to use most of the building for a used car dealership.

Deep River P&Z Holds Public Hearing on Proposed Dog Care Business for 444 Main Street

DEEP RIVER— The planning and zoning commission will hold a public hearing Thursday on a special permit application for a dog day care business in a portion of a former industrial building at 444 Main St. that was the subject of a zoning dispute last year. The hearing convenes at 7 p.m. in town hall.

Local resident Jerilyn Nucci is seeking to use 1,500-square feet of the building owned by resident George Bartlett Jr. to provide day care for up to 24 dogs. The dogs would be walked outside during the day in a monitored play area.

Bartlett had purchased the 13,340 square-foot building, former home of the Champion Tool & Dye Co., in 2011. In 2012, he proposed using most of the building for a used car dealership, an application that led to a dispute between the planning and zoning commission and zoning board of appeals. The ZBA approved variances for the proposed use in June 2012, drawing objections from the planning and zoning commission over whether one of the variances was a use-related variance that exceeded the authority of the ZBA.

The ZBA later determined that it had granted only a dimensional variance related to road frontage requirements, a move that led to a lawsuit filed by Bartlett against the board that is still pending in Middlesex Superior Court. Last May, the planning and zoning commission denied a special permit application from Bartlett to use a portion of the property to store and maintain construction equipment amid a dispute with the applicant over conditions related to a permit approval.

Bartlett is currently renting about 8,000 square-feet of the building to a small manufacturing business, and another section to a boat repair business that was formerly located in Chester.

Democrats Win Contested Finance, Region 4 School Board Seats in Deep River Town Election

DEEP RIVER– Democrats won contested board of finance and region 4 Board of education Seats in Tuesday’s town election where 24-year Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith ran unopposed for a record 13th term.

Democrats Russell Marth, a former selectman, and incumbent Lori Guerette outpolled Republican candidates John Wichtowski and douglas Nagan to win full six-year term seats on the finance board. The vote was Marth-564, Guerette-524, Wichtowski-383, and Nagan-364. Appointed incumbent Democrat Carmella Balducci was uncontested with 721 votes for a two-year vacancy term on the finance board.

Democrat Jane Cavanaugh won a full-six-year term seat on the region 4 Board of Education, outpolling Republican James Olson on a vote of 494-429. Democrat Mark Reyher won the only other contested position on the ballot, outpolling Republican Douglas Dopp for a seat on the board of assessment appeals, 537-351.

Smith received 811 votes for first selectman in the third consecutive town election where the longtime incumbent has run unopposed. Democratic Selectman Angus McDonald was elected to a second term with 554 votes. Republican Selectman David Oliveria was re-elected to a third term on the board with 368 votes. Incumbents were unopposed for three other paid town positions, with Republican Town Clerk Amy Winchell winning a third term with 709 votes, Democratic Tax Collector Lisa Bibbiani winning a third term with 777 votes, and longtime Republican Town Treasurer Thomas Lindner winning a new term with 727 votes.

All four candidates were elected to serve on the local board of education that supervises the operation of Deep River Elementary School. They are Democrats Hadley Kornacki-469 and Augusta Ferretti-471, along with Republicans Nelle Andrews-401 and Michelle Grow-414. All three candidates were elected for the library board of trustees, including Democrats Michelle Emfinger-631 and Roy Jefferson-696, and Republican Patricia Unan-505.

Deep River Considers New Ordinance Allowing Fees for Late Paid Motor Vehicle Taxes

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen has decided to present a proposed new ordinance for town meeting approval that would allow the town to impose a fee for delinquent motor vehicle taxes. The ordinance, endorsed by the selectmen last week, will be presented to voters for approval at the next town meeting.

First Selectmen Richard Smith said the ordinance was recommended by Tax Collector Lisa Bibbiani as a way to recover some of fees the town is now charged by the state Department of Motor Vehicles for administering the statewide motor vehicle registration monitoring program. The program enables the DMV to block renewals of required motor vehicle registrations for vehicles with unpaid property tax due to cities and towns. Bibbiani advised the amount the town is paying for this service has increased, totaling $1,112 in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

The ordinance, which has been enacted in many other Connecticut towns, would allow the town to charge an additional fee of $2 for each delinquent motor vehicle tax payment, and 50 cents per page for any printing expenses incurred. The fee would be levied when the delinquent motor tax is paid by the vehicle owner.

Deep River Selectmen to Pursue Sale of Industrial Building, Purchase of Industrial Land

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen agreed Tuesday to investigate the possible sale of a town-owned industrial building at the Plattwood Industrial Area, with the proceeds to be used to acquire land for development in the same industrial area.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the deal, still in its early stages, would involve the sale of a town owned industrial building on Industrial Park Road that was constructed with the help of state grant funds about six years ago. The 9,000-square-foot building is currently occupied by four businesses. Smith said the proceeds from the sale would then be used to purchase four acres of industrial land located near the end of Industrial Park Road from local businessman Gary Mislick.

Smith said the parcel could then become the site for two or three new industrial buildings, helping to create jobs and boost the town’s industrial tax base. “We would control the site and there is no doubt in my mind we could have new industrial buildings back there,” he said.

Smith said the town would hire an appraiser to establish a value for both the town-owned building, which is now occupied by four businesses, and Mislick’s four-acre parcel. Smith said the board of selectmen would use the appraisals to negotiate a sale of the building, and a purchase of the Mislick parcel. He said the proceeds from sale of the building would be used to buy the additional industrial land at no direct cost to town taxpayers. He said state rules would allow the town to sell the building if the proceeds from the sale were used for additional job-creating industrial development.

The other two selectmen, Democrat Angus Mcdonald Jr. and Republican David Oliveria, expressed support for the plan presented by Smith. “It’s worth continuing to explore,” McDonald said. Both the sale of the building and any purchase of additional industrial land would also require approval from the board of finance and voters at a town meeting.

In other business, the selectmen agreed to pursue the sale of a one-acre parcel at 73 Kirtland St. that was acquired by the town in lieu of unpaid back taxes. The parcel, which has steep terrain and ledge, would not support an on-site septic system. But the parcel has access to a public water line, and after completion of a sewer expansion that was approved by a town meeting last May, could support a small single-family residence. The selectmen set the minimum bid for the parcel at $14,000, which is the current assessed value of the property.

Letters: Supporting Doug Nagan for the Deep River Board of Finance

To the Editor:

I confidently recommend Doug Nagan for the Deep River Board of Finance.  Doug, a longtime resident of Deep River is an experienced businessman and understands finance and the need to balance budgets.  He is a past Treasurer of the Old Lyme Country Club.

The purpose of the Board of Finance, in Doug’s view, is not to micromanage the daily operations of Deep River, but rather to make sure the department’s budgets reflect the community’s objectives and resources.  Doug realizes every budget reflects a balancing of desires and resources and compromise is necessary as part of the process.  He only wishes that this view was held in Washington, D.C.

Doug’s commitment to responsible town government will help promote financial stability.  If you want thoughtful people serving in town government, join me in supporting Doug Nagan for the Deep River Board of Finance.

Sincerely,

Thomas W. Lindner
Deep River

DR Planning and Zoning Sets Hearing on Proposed Relocation of Dunkin Donuts

DEEP RIVER— The planning and zoning commission has scheduled a Nov. 21 public hearing on a special permit application to relocate the town’s Dunkin Donuts to a vacant commercial building at 246 Main St. The hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. in the town hall auditorium.

Great American Donut Inc. is seeking approval to relocate Dunkin Donuts from the current location at 190 Main St. to the building at 241 Main St., on the southern gateway to the downtown section of Main Street. The building that formerly housed an Irish gifts shop was purchased in 2011 by Peter Keyhayas of Chester. Two small businesses that opened last year as part of a three-unit development quickly closed, and the building has been vacant in recent months.

Great American Donut Inc., which owns several Dunkin Donuts franchises in the area, is expected to purchase the 241 Main St. property if the relocation is approved. The Dunkin Donuts would be located on the Main Street side of the property, which also has frontage to the west on Union Street. The plans call for one unspecified retail space on the west side of the building. The Dunkin Donuts would not have a drive-through window. The Dunkin Donuts opened at 190 Main St. in 2009.

Two Juveniles Arrested Thursday After Bomb Threat at DR Elementary Schools

DEEP RIVER— Two juveniles were arrested by state police Thursday after a morning bomb threat forced an evacuation of Deep River Elementary School. The unidentified juveniles, who are students at the kindergarten through sixth grade elementary school, were arrested and charged with breach of peace and threatening.

A telephone bomb threat was received at the school at 9:20 a.m., leading to an evacuation of the building with students and most staff transported by bus to the John Winthrop Middle School. State police and emergency personnel searched the building and determined there was no threat. Students and staff returned to the school around 11:30 a.m.

The two juveniles were arrested by police later Thursday. Their cases have been referred to the juvenile court in Middletown.

Deep River Residents Enjoy Homesteading Life in Maine

Richard and Maria on top of their new world, happy in their fields of wild blueberries.  Visible  below are their home and barn, and far back, Lake St. George. She picked the flowers on the walk up

Richard and Maria on top of their new world, happy in their fields of wild blueberries. Visible below are their home and barn, and far back, Lake St. George. She picked the flowers on the walk up

Liberty, Maine–Is it possible for two people in middle-age–late middle age –to change just about every aspect of their lives and find fulfillment in a new life style?

I said just about every aspect. Here is what I mean. To change the person they would live with. Where they would live. What they would do for a living. How they would spend their money. And so many other aspects that spin off from these.

Well, I know a couple who have done exactly that. And I have just seen them up close in this new life of theirs. Nothing on this earth is perfect, and that’s certainly true of human relationships. But from what I have witnessed of these two, I would say they are happy. In fact, surprisingly happy.

I am speaking of Richard and Maria King. Richard is from Deep River, Connecticut, which is my town. Maria is from Poland. They met online and then in Warsaw and quickly became convinced that they shared many aspirations.

Read the full story here

Former Resident State Trooper Hired as New Deep River Police Officer

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen this week hired Chris Cope, a former resident state trooper, as the town’s new full-time police officer. The hiring was approved at the board’s regular meeting on Aug. 27.

First Selectman Richard Smith said Friday Cope, an East Lyme resident, was one of six finalists interviewed for the new full-time police position. Cope retired last March after 20 years with the Connecticut State Police. At the time of his retirement, Cope was completing about four years of service as the resident state trooper for Deep River.

Smith said Cope must complete about two weeks of comparative transfer training at the Connecticut Police Academy in Meriden. The training is required for former state troopers shifting to work in a municipal police department. Smith said Cope is expected to begin patrol duties in Deep River by mid-October. He joins a force that now includes full-time officer Raymond Sypher, and two part-time officers, Smith and Peter Lewis. The town officers serve under the supervision of a resident state trooper.

In other business this week, a town meeting Tuesday approved five additional appropriations from the now concluded 2012-2013 budget year that totaled $283,221. Only one resident joined the three selectmen and Town Clerk Amy Winchell at the town meeting to act on the additional; appropriations.

The additional appropriations included $34,751 for selectmen/town hall operations, $64,741 for police services, $70,265 for the highway department, $45,401 for parks and recreation, and $60,063 for capital projects, specifically the completion of improvements to town hall. Smith said nearly all of the additional appropriations were covered by grants, additional revenue, and unexpended funds from other budget accounts.

Smith had said earlier this month that about $65,000 from the $283,221 total may not be covered by other sources of funding and could require an appropriation from the town’s undesignated fund balance. Smith said Friday he now believes the actual shortfall that would require a transfer from the fund balance will be closer to $40,000.

Aug. 27 Town Meeting to Act on Deep River Budget Over Expenditures

DEEP RIVER— An Aug. 27 town meeting will be asked to approve five over expenditures in the 2012-2013 town budget that total a combined $283,221, though nearly all of the total is expected to be covered by additional revenue, reimbursements, or unexpended funds from other accounts in the town budget. The town meeting convenes at 7 p.m. in town hall. The expenditures were approved for referral to a town meeting at an Aug. 13 joint meeting of the board of selectmen and board of finance.

The over expenditures that require approval from voters at a town meeting include $34,751 from the selectmen/town hall operations section of the budget, $64,741 for police protection, $78,265 for the highway department, $45,401 for parks and recreation, and $60,063 for general government capital expenditures.

First Selectman Richard Smith said Tuesday the selectmen/town hall operations overrun resulted from unexpected expenses for engineering services and supplies and equipment. Smith said the police overrun includes funding for the planned hiring of a new full-time police officer and over expenditures for special police services such as traffic control. He said the parks and recreation overrun developed from additional repairs and upgrades to structures at Devitt’s Field and Plattwood Park. Smith said the $60,063 for capital expenditures includes $49,543 that was expended as part of the now completed town hall renovation project.

Smith said the $78,265 over run for the highway department was largely the result of expenses related to Storm Sandy last October and snow removal from the Feb. 8 blizzard. “Our budgets are very lean and the two big storms really hurt us,” he said.

Smith said nearly all of the over expenditures would be offset and covered by additional revenue, reimbursements, and unexpended funds from other budget accounts. But Smith acknowledged as much as $65,000 of the total may not be covered, depending on the outcome of final state reimbursements for the now completed Village Street bridge reconstruction project. “I’m pretty sure it will be close to a wash and the $65,000 would be a worst case scenario,” he said. Any final 2012-2013 budget overrun that is not covered by additional funding would require an appropriation from the town’s undesignated fund balance.

Deep River Receives $400,000 State Grant for Improvements to Plattwood Park

DEEP RIVER— The town has received a $400,000 state grant for improvements to Plattwood Park, the town’s major recreation area located off Route 80. The grant, provided under the Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP), was announced last week with a visit to town by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman.

The 23-acre park, which includes a former sand and gravel quarry pond, was acquired by the town in 1981 and improved for recreational uses in subsequent years. The 1981 purchase, for a price of $75,000, also included a separate 25-acre area to the west that was sold for development as the Plattwood Industrial Park.

The grant will fund several improvements at the park, including a new and larger pavilion with handicapped accessible bathroom facilities. The grant will also pay for a new athletics field and circular jogging/walking trail on the eastern section of the park. There would also be a new, handicapped accessible walking trail through a wooded area on the southern side of the park.

Along with a public swimming area in the former quarry pond, the park currently includes a picnic area with charcoal grills and tables, a basketball court, a skateboarding park, and a paved parking area. The park is open to town residents free of charge, while non-residents pay a $20 per vehicle parking fee to use the park. Construction for the grant-funded improvements is expected to begin in 2014.

Deep River Ancient Muster – Photos and Video

The Deep River Annual Muster is the oldest and largest gathering of fife and drum participants and enthusiasts in the world and has been referred to as “The Granddaddy of All Musters”, and “A Colonial Woodstock”.

This year’s parade and Muster took place on July 20, and the photos and video below are provided courtesy of local Chester professional photographer John Stack.  John Stack can be contacted at johnstack@spiritdogphotography.com.

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DRAM 2013

Click here to see video clips of the Muster

Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith Unopposed for 13th term, Republican Caucus sets up Contests for Board of Finance, Region 4 School Board

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First Selectman Richard Smith

DEEP RIVER– Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith will run unopposed this fall for the third straight town election, but party nominating caucuses have set up Nov. 5 contests for two seats on the board of finance and a seat on the Region 4 Board of Education.

Town Republicans nominated no candidate for first selectman at the party caucus, with the seven party members at the caucus discussing a possible cross-endorsement of Smith for a record 13th term in the top job.

Long-time Town Treasurer Tom Lindner and Republican Town Chairman Greg Alexander, who sparred with Smith while serving on the board of finance in the 1990s, each said Smith has “done a good job in Deep River.”

Lindner said a cross-endorsement, giving Smith both the Republican and Democratic lines, could help Republican candidates in any contested races. But the caucus decided to make no cross endorsements, with some members noting town Democrats had declined to cross endorse  Linder and incumbent Republican Town Clerk Amy Winchell for new terms.

Republicans nominated incumbent Selectman David Oliveria for a third term on the board of selectmen. Barring any unexpected petition candidates, the 2013-2015 board of selectmen  is certain to be comprised of Smith, one-term incumbent Democratic Selectman Angus McDonald Jr., and Oliveria. Republicans nominated Winchell, who was first elected in 2009, and Lindner, for new terms, with no candidate nominated to challenge two-term Democratic Tax Collector Lisa Bibbiani.

Republicans nominated two candidates for board of finance, Douglas Nagan and John Wichtowski, who works as a chemist for Pfizer Corp. They will compete for the two open board seats with incumbent Democrat Lori Guerette and Russell Marth. Incumbent  Democrat Carmella Balducci is unopposed for a two-year vacancy term on the finance board.

Republicans nominated James Olson for Region 4 Board of Education. Olson is completing a term on the local school board that supervises Deep River Elementary School. Olson is in a contest with Democrat Jane Cavanaugh for the seat now held by departing Region 4 Board Chairwoman Linda Hall.

Republicans nominated Nelle Andrew and Michelle Grow for uncontested election to the local board of education. Douglas Dopp was nominated for a seat ion the board of assessment appeals, with incumbent Donald Routh and Patricias Unan nominated for library board of trustees.

Smith said Wednesday he is pleased with the chance to run unopposed for a new two-year term “I appreciate it,” he said, adding “everybody is working together and the results speak for themselves.” Smith was unopposed for re-election in 2009 and 2011, facing his last challenge for the top job in 2007 from a candidate running on the Deep River Independent Party line. Smith was also uncontested by town Republicans in 1995 and 1999.

Deep River Democrats Nominate First Selectman Richard Smith for 13th Term, Town Republican Caucus Monday

Dick Smith by 1905 water fountain in front of Town Hall

Deep River First Selectman Richard Smith (photo courtesy of Jerome Wilson)

DEEP RIVER— Town Democrats this week nominated First Selectman Richard Smith for a record 13th term in the town’s top office, with incumbent Democratic Selectman Angus McDonald Jr. nominated for a second term as Smith’s running-mate for board of selectmen. Town Republicans will nominate candidates at a caucus Monday, though Smith is not expected to face a Republican challenger in the Nov. 5 election.

Democrats at their caucus Tuesday nominated incumbent Tax Collector Lisa Bibbiani for a third two year term. But Democrats did not nominate candidates for either town clerk, to challenge two-term incumbent Republican Town Clerk Amy Winchell, or town treasurer, to contest long-time Republican Town Treasurer Thomas Lindner.

Democrats nominated three candidates for board of finance, including incumbent Lori Guerette and Russell Marth for full six-year terms, and incumbent Carmella Balducci for a four year vacancy term. Balducci was appointed to the finance board last year to fill a seat that had been held by her husband, former Speaker of the House Richard Balducci.

Marth had served a single term on the board of selectmen after he won election on the Deep River Independent Party line in 2007, a year when town Republicans did not nominate candidates for first selectman or board of selectmen. He was unseated in 2009, when Republicans nominated current incumbent Selectman David Oliveria for the board.

Marth later rejoined the Democratic Party and became a member of the Deep River Democratic Town Committee. The 2007 election was the last year where Smith faced a challenge for the first selectman seat, with John Kennedy running unsuccessfully for the top job on the Deep River Independent Party line.

Democrats nominated Jane Cavanaugh for Region 4 Board of Education. Cavanaugh is seeking the seat held by current Region 4 Board of Education Chairwoman Linda Hall. Democrats nominated two new candidates for the local board of education, Hadley Kornacki and Augustus Ferretti. Democrats nominated incumbent Sharon Emfinger and Roy Jefferson for library board of trustees.

Town Republicans will hold a nominating caucus Monday at 7 p.m. in the meeting room at the Liberty Bank branch on Main Street. No candidates have announced to challenge Smith, though Oliveria is expected to be nominated for a third term on the board of selectmen.

Deep River Resident Honored for Compassionate Care

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On July 18 Sen. Art Linares honored Deep River resident Grace Krick (right) with an official state citation to commend her on her efforts to rescue and rehabilitate Connecticut’s birds.

The citation was co-signed by Rep. Philip Miller.

“We honor your dedication, and that of A Place Called Hope, in providing refuge and recovery for injured raptors and other wildlife,” the legislators’ citation reads. “We are deeply grateful for your efforts to save the lives of animals in need.”

For more details visit www.aplacecalledhoperaptors.com .

Essex and Deep River Parties Set Nominating Caucuses for November Election

ESSEX/DEEP RIVER— Democrats and Republicans in Deep River and Essex will hold nominating sessions over the coming week to pick candidates for the Nov. 5 town elections. Democrats and Republicans in Essex will meet on Wednesday, while Deep River Democrats will caucus Tuesday and town Republicans have set a nominating caucus for July 22.

The Essex Democratic Town Committee will hold an endorsement session Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at town hall. Incumbent Democratic First Selectman Norman Needleman is expected to be nominated for a second two-year  term, with incumbent Selectwoman Stacia Libby continuing as his running-mate for board of selectmen. Essex Republicans will hold a nominating caucus Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall.

No Republicans have announced as candidates for first selectman to challenge Needleman, but a caucus contest is possible for the open Republican nomination for board of selectman. Two-term Republican Selectman Joel Marzi is not seeking re-election, deciding instead to run for the open position of town clerk. While no one has formally announced as a candidate, there is believed to be more than one prospective candidate for the open GOP selectman seat. Democrats and Republicans will also nominate candidates for town clerk, tax collector, town treasurer, board of finance, Region 4 Board of Education, the local board of education, and the board of assessment appeals.

Deep River Democrats will caucus Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Lace Factory building, 161 River St. Incumbent Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith is expected to be nominated for a 13th term in the town’s top office, with incumbent Democratic Selectman Angus McDonald Jr. expected to be nominated for a second term as Smith’s running mate for board of selectmen.

Town Republicans will hold a nominating caucus Monday, July 22 at 7 p.m. at the Liberty Bank building on Main Street. No Republicans have announced as a candidate to challenge Smith for the first selectman position. Incumbent Republican Selectman David Olivera is expected to be nominated for a third term on the board of selectmen.

Enjoying Old Route 66. Or what’s left of it

Nothing I saw was this beautiful.  But some things I saw along 66 I’ll never forget.

Nothing I saw was this beautiful. But some things I saw along 66 I’ll never forget.

Hello, all. This is my 72nd day on the road and I am in Dayton, Ohio, a city which is a dramatic story in itself but for a later time.

I just  looked at my odometer. I have driven 3,675 miles and I am finally in the Eastern Times Zone!  So, I am getting closer. If I made a mad dash.I could make it home in two days. But I won’t do that. Still have places I want to see. And I’m still having fun.

If I had taken Interstates all the way home in the most direct way, I’d be home by now and would have saved a lot of gas money.
Yes, since the start, I’ve driven some short stretches on Interstates. Not because I prefer them. No, no, no. Only because it would be silly not to.

Whenever it made sense, I’ve chosen state roads–secondary highways. Some four lanes, some two. All in mostly good condition. but some bumpy ones, too. But, believe me, what a relief not to be tailed by a parade of huge trucks, which all choose the Interstates. What a relief to cruise at a calm 50 or 55 rather than frantic 70 or 75.  What a pleasure  to again see occasional houses and people and little businesses and even small towns.

Now, about Route 66

It was a historic highway. Truly historic.

Much of it is gone, yet I’ve traveled hundreds of miles on some of its remaining stretches. Some of it has been dull. But much of it wonderful and very worthwhile.

Familiar with it? Old Route 66 is sometimes called the Mother Road. Sometimes called America’s Highway.  As you may know, Route 66 has been celebrated, in fact immortalized, in countless books and movies and songs and videos. It’s as American as apple pie.

It was our most famous highway in pre-Interstate Highway times. It remains an indelible part of our romantic past.
It was built in the 1920s as our very first paved highway for its whole length–paved  for automobiles,  of course, which were the flivvers of those day. It was not a state highway. It was a U.S. highway. What a huge and important break-through that was.

It was our longest highway by far, more than 2,000 miles in all. It connected Chicago on its eastern end and Santa Monica on the California coast at the other.

Before it was created,  no way could someone in  a flivver attempt even a ride of 50 or 100 miles across that terrain…too many flats and break-downs. Let alone think of  crossing two-thirds of the USA! Which Route 66 made i possible to do, and quite comfortably.

It changed everything. Businesses boomed. Commerce took off between towns and cities and states. Markets opened up. People’s views of life and work and country expanded. We  became bigger. For the first time really, people became Americans instead of just citizens of this town or that county or state.

And a remarkable thing happened. All along Route 66 sprang up gas stations and restaurants and boarding houses and hotels–and then the newfangled motels.

Route 66 was a two-lane road in the beginning, sometimes black-topped, sometimes concrete. What a pleasure it was to drive on a smooth surface, and with no fear of having to ford a little stream or break an axle on holes and ruts.

Route 66 was impressively engineered with reasonable grades up and down. It offered solid bridges with no annoying planks to clatter when you crossed over. Astonishing road cuts in hills to make the going easier and safer.

It was as significant for the dawning Automobile Age as the transcontinental railroad had been half a century earlier.

Of course, Route 66 was imitated by other states for their highways. All built to similar high standards. And before long, all states agreed on common standards for their highways. Finally we had a system of highways making it possible to venture far and wide. What a feat!

Then bad things happened for Route 66.

President Ike Eisenhower came along and began pushing his idea of federal interstate highways. He said they were essential for our national defense, he said,  and, of course, for our expanding economy.

His Interstates would have even higher construction standards than Route 66 and the other state roads like it. The’d have understandable markings-be even-numbered for the stretches east and west, and odd-numbered for those north and south.

And free! Well, except for a few exceptions such as the Massachusetts Turnpike, which charged tolls.  It was my home state then. How Massachusetts  and the others—Connecticut was one–got away with that, I don’t know.

But! What happened is that Route 66 and its many imitators suddenly became painfully quiet.

People flocked to the new Interstates. They loved whizzing along with no traffic lights. Loved the easy on and easy off.  Loved traversing even large cities in  mere minutes, or just skirting around them. What time-savers the Interstates were. And they made road shipments of goods of all kinds so much easier and faster—even faster than the railroads could do the job.

But dire consequences, too. For one thing, countless communities shriveled up.” Out of Business” and “For Sale” signs began appearing.  It was a death sentence for some communities. And for many others, a humbling one—few people stopped by any more.

Some sections of the Interstates replaced sections of Route 66. In other places, the Interstates paralleled it. Route 66 became far less important. Fell into decline. So, after many years, Route 66 was “de-commissioned”! Route 66 is no longer a federal highway. How many times has that happened? Not many.

I got to really sample the old highway

Many sections still exist. I have ridden numerous sections of it. Now and then in deplorable condition—so bad I couldn’t wait to get off it. But in other sections, especially in creative-thinking communities, their sections of the old route were hailed for their promotional value for business in general, and especially tourism.

I’m pleased to tell you Route 66 has been a wonderful treat for me especially in Oklahoma. I’ve traveled it happily for mile after mile. So enjoyable. Through many small towns, some with populations of only one or two thousand.

I’ve stopped at small country stores to buy a few bananas or glance at local newspapers. Any excuse to poke around and stretch my legs. I’ve stopped to walk up and down a quaint main street. Explore antique shops and check thrift stores; what fun. Visit local libraries, of course—some tiny ones with just a room or two, and I’ve been welcomed at all of them.   Yesterday I stopped to enjoy a flock of goats in a small pasture–white bodies with brown heads. So identical they seemed factory-made..

I stopped again this morning, this time to enjoy cows in a lush field. About30 or them. I’ve seen lots and lots of cows. These were different.  Usually they’re all black or all brown or maybe all white. These were mixed, like us Americans!.

I took out my camera. Hollered at them to get their attention. They ignored me. Hollered again. Only one or two looked up, but just for a second. Then they got a signal, I swear. They all turned their tail and started walking away from me. I felt insulted. And I had made a U-turn to come back and be friendly and say hello. How impolite.

Things got different at the Oklahoma line.

Crossing from Texas into Oklahoma was dramatic. It’s the right word. For many days I had been driving over vast stretches of geography often with nothing in sight. No houses, no ranches, no trees, no people, no animals except a bird now and then.  Just a car whizzing by in the opposite direction once in a while.

Several times I stopped to take a picture showing nothing on any side. Nothing. Just endless flat land! That’s a strange experience, believe me.

The chane in Oklahoma was so fast. I began top see grass–green grass. And clumps of trees, small and then bigger. And even a little pond (wow!). Then groves of trees. Then a forest. Hey, it made me think of Connecticut. All in just a few miles! It’s as if somebody had drawn the  Texas-Oklahoma state line right there because they were  struck just as much as I was by the huge contrast.

I’ve crossed practically the whole state on Route 66. Along the road I’ve noticed numerous historic markers about it. It’s surprising how many pamphlets about it I’ve picked up, and about things to see along it.

I just remembered I should tell you this.

It happened at the Motel 6 in Santa Few, New Mexico. I had put up there for a week when I got ill.

I heard unusual noise in the parking lot at 8 a.m. I peered out. Many Harley Davidson motorcycles were parked out there. Unusual.Their riders were getting ready to take off. Men and women in their 40s and 50s in leather—leather helmets, boots, gloves, the works. The men sported beards and tattoos. The women huge earrings and tattoos. Quite a sight.

I opened the door. A big, burly rider was right there. “Where are you from?” I asked. “Where are you going?”

He said something but I didn’t understand. His strange accent. He noticed. Repeated for me.

“From  the Czech Republic! We are riding Route 66!” He smiled at the thought. A great adventure, obviously. He was so happy.Yes, riding Route 66 all the way.  It would take them 21 days.

They were packing their stuff into a big white van–their support van for the whole trip. In minutes, the lead driver gunned his throttle and they all started up. You should have heard the roar! And off they went.

I went online to learn more. Companies offer  motorcycle travel fans, and they advertise them here and abroad. A typical package includes the round-trip air fair, the rental bikes, the motel stays, the support van, and other basics.

But there are many extra costs. Gasoline, and insurance,  many meals, and fees at parks and museums and special amusements.

That 21 days could build up to $10,000 per rider.

I got to see Oklahoma’s two proudest cities

Route 66 took me through huge Oklahoma City and only slightly smaller Tulsa.  I arrived in both around 5:30 p.m. as planned. I wanted to arrive after most folks had gone home. Just to drive around slowly and savor the two cities.

For years, Oklahoma City was a big cattle town and Tulsa a huge oil town. You can still see many signs of this history in them. They have a lot more going for them now.  They are greatly diversified now, and you can tell they are prosperous.

Most Midwest cities have common features and I saw that clearly in these two. Their streets are laid out in grid patterns. In New England our street patterns are so wild and crazy. And Midwest cities have wide streets and keep them very clean. So many of our cities back home do not.  It seems a matter of pride for these cities. And these cities look fresh, safe, wholesome. Can’t say that about some of our cities.

Both have  big, tall buildings. But what big big city does not? Methinks it’s all about keeping up with the cities in your league. The way so many of us do our utmost to keep up with the Joneses.

The tallest buildings are the newest, of course, and they feature lots of glass and aluminum and stainless steel. The big buildings of the previous generation are less tall, and they feature fancy masonry and concrete. They didn’t have today’s technology back then.

It’s fun to speculate what the next generation of big buildings will look like. I’m sure architects are scratching their heads to come up with something different that will be bold and exciting. The temptation is to design buildings taller and taller . To me, such thinking is foolish. Those big buildings de-humanize us. Make us feel insignificant.  And they’re dangerous. I wouldn’t want to work or live way in one of those monsters.

As expected, both cities boast fine museums and shops and parks and restaurants. I would have given both more time and attention a few years back. I’m still interested, but it’s so hard so find parking spots now! Don’t giggle; I think you get my drift.

A day never, never to forget

In Oklahoma City, it was my Day 34. The sky was gray and threatening.  Sure enough, I soon felt a few drops, but coming down faster. My very first rain  in 34 days! It felt good. Then it came  down hard and I was so glad I had packed an umbrella.

Well, tornadoes hit the area, as you know, including a humongous one. It killed 25 men, women, and children or so in tiny Moore. Injured many, many more. Destroyed property in the multi millions of dollars. A huge calamity.

Strangely, I was very close to all that. Just 10 miles or so away. I say strangely because I never saw any tornado. I was totally unaware this big one was raging.. Then I saw two police cars whiz by at 80 miles an hour, red lights and sirens on.  I still didn’t know why. Very soon I got emails from family and friends worried about my safety. Some said they were praying for me. How wonderful. But that’s how I found out!  It was a pleasure to send out word I was fine.

Of course, the risk of so many tornadoes every year is scary. Oklahoma averages more than a hundred, more than any other state.  It’s a big state and tornadoes hit usually just small areas, but still.

I know that sales of pre-built steel Tornado Safety Closets are attracting buyers.They run $5,000 and up. People buy one for their basement and consider it a smart buy. And many people consider tornado insurance a must.

Who thinks of such things in Connecticut? Of course, tornadoes could hit us, too. Imagine what even a small twister would do to little Deep River!

Those poor Okies back during the Dust Bowl

More than once while driving through Oklahoma I thought of the awful Dust Bowl here in the mid-Thirties.That’s what they called that incredible disaster. Long periods of drought, poor agricultural techniques, and record-high temperatures–110 degrees and higher–led to the Dust Bowl–the topsoil got blown away! Massive crop failures. Bankruptcies. Countless families threw in the towel. Packed up what they could and headed west. Left Oklahoma and never looks back. An awful chapter in the state’s history.
Another disaster like that seems ruled out because of numerous improvements, plus the fact modern agriculture is so much smarter.

Now let’s hope the day will come when Oklahomans will say, “Tornadoes are a thing of the past! We know how to control them!”
Meteorology is making great strides. Science has brought us so many wonders that we once thought impossible. Science will triumph again. The question is, when?

Leaving Tulsa, I had to abandon Route 66.  It was heading northeasterly. I had to head east, toward the northwest corner of Arkansas.  I said goodbye to Route 66 with regret.

My impression of Oklahoma all the way across is that it’s a great big beautiful lawn. And that Oklahomans are nice people.
Well, I’m glad  I favored Route 66 . I got a much better look along it and got to enjoy the ride so much. It’s wonderful that Route 66 is being remembered so fondly.

If only we had done as much for our Route 1 from Maine to Key West, Florida! It was historic, too.

Adios!

Deep River Planning and Zoning Expecting Application for Dunkin Donuts Relocation

Dunkin DonutsDEEP RIVER— The planning and zoning commission is awaiting a special permit application for a proposed relocation of the Dunkin Donuts franchise to a vacant commercial building at 241 Main St.. While an application has yet been received, Zoning Enforcement Officer Cathie Jefferson said Monday she has held a preliminary discussion about a plan to relocate the Dunkin Donuts to the building at 241 Main Street, near the entrance to Devitts Field.

A Dunkin Donuts has been in operation since 2009 at 190 Main St., the former Elms rooming house property. The 241 Main St. property was formerly owned by resident Donald Slater, housing an Irish gifts shop. The building has been largely vacant for more than three years. The property was purchased in 2011 by 246 Main Deep River LLC, a partnership established by Chester businessman Perter Kehayias, who also operates the Oregenon Market on Route 154 in Chester.

Last August, the commission approved a special permit to allow conversion of the 241 Main St. structure in to three shops. But no businesses are currently in operation on the property. Jefferson said the preliminary plan she was advised of calls for a Dunkin Donuts and one other unspecified business on the property.

Any special permit application for relocation of the Dunkin Donuts would require a public hearing before the planning and zoning commission. Jefferson a hearing could be scheduled for August if an application is received before the commission’s July 18 meeting.

Deep River First Selectman Richard Smith to Seek 13th Term in November Election

DR-Selectman-580x435DEEP RIVER— Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith has announced plans to seek a 13th term in the Nov. 5 town election, extending a tenure in office that has made him one of the longest serving municipal leaders in Connecticut.

Smith, 62, said this week he had never considered not running again this year, and had advised the Deep River Democratic Town Committee of his intentions in March. “I love what I do and there is still a lot more to do,” he said. Smith, the current president of the state council of Small Towns (COST) said he enjoys working on local issues and improvements.

Smith, who also serves as a part-time town police officer, was first elected in 1989. He was last contested for re-election by town Republicans in 2005, and was previously unopposed for new terms in 1995 and 1999. Smith’s last election challenge came in 2007, when several residents opposed to Main Street redevelopment projects supported by Smith formed an independent ticket to contest various positions. Smith defeated Deep River Independent Party candidate John Kennedy by a wide margin in the 2007 race.

Smith said his latest running mate, Angus McDonald Jr., will also seek a second term this fall. McDonald was elected to the board of selectmen in 2011, replacing Democrat Arthur Thompson, who served from 2009-2011. No Republicans have declared as candidates to challenge Smith for the top job, though Republican Selectman David Oliveira is expected to seek a third term this year.

Republican Town Clerk Amy Winchell is also seeking a third two-year term this year. Elected by a two-vote margin to the open town clerk seat in 2009, Winchell was uncontested by town Democrats for a second term in 2011. She is not expected to face a challenge this year.

The only contests on the Nov. 5 ballot could be for three seats on the board of finance, two full six-year terms and an unexpired vacancy term. Town Democrats and Republicans will nominate candidates for 2013 at party caucuses to be held between July 16-23.

Deep River Rotary Announces “2013 Citizen of the Year”

Deep River Citizen of the Year Joanne Hourigan (left) with Kevin Brewer and Phyllis Haut.

Deep River Roraty Club Citizen of the Year Joanne Hourigan (left) with Kevin Brewer and Phyllis Haut.

The Deep River Rotary Club presented its annual “Citizen of the Year” Award to Joanne Hourigan at its annual year-end gathering June 23 at Griswold Point in Old Lyme. The award was presented by outgoing club president Kevin Brewer. Phyllis Haut, club secretary, read the announcement as follows:

Joanne Hourigan has been a gift to the town of Deep River for many years. In addition to being a wife and mother of two sons, she has served as the Executive Director of the Deep River Housing Authority and manager of Kirtland Commons Senior Housing for 20 years. At Kirtland Commons she is responsible for 31 elderly and disabled residents of the town. For Joanne, they are more than just clients and tenants; they are family.

She labors to make it a community, where residents gather for occasional meals in the dining room and share in activities in the large living room. Joanne has arranged exercise classes, art lessons, trips to concerts and movies, and birthday parties for her people. In addition, she has volunteered to serve as conservator for a number of men and women in the community, not only representing them in legal matters, but helping them to maneuver the complexities of medical appointments, maintaining housing, shopping for clothes, visiting friends, and creating a quality of life for her family of people born out of deep concern and love.

She is also the owner and creative inspiration behind her women’s shop, called Chaos, on Main St. in Deep River. She says that the shop is her therapy, and maybe those who come there to delight over the selection of clothes, jewelry, and accessories might find their therapy there, too. Even this for-profit endeavor is a part of Joanne’s love for the community and its people. She says, “Chaos Believes in give, give, giving, as much as we can to those in need and to help local organizations in their fundraising efforts, because that is what it is all about.” She has said that she named the shop “Chaos” because “that is my life.”

We are grateful for the chaos and the concern that represents the heart and soul of Joanne Hourigan, who represents so well the motto of Rotary International: Service Above Self. For that the Deep River Rotary Club presents the 2013 “Citizen of the Year Award” to Joanne Hourigan.

Zigging and Zagging My Way Home to Deep River

Veteran cross-country traveler John Guy LaPlante gives another update on his extraordinary journey by minivan from California to Deep River, Conn.

All alone on the road, for miles and miles, along a parched and empty land.  Ever experience that?  It can be the case on the High Plains of Texas.  Good thing I enjoy my own company.

I’m moving along happily, always ready to  jump off the Interstate  to go see something interesting.

As I write this, I have entered green and beautiful Missouri.  So refreshing to see real green!  It’s making me homesick for Deep River.

I have driven 2,285 miles to date. It’s surprising how little has gone wrong.

My adventure is continuing as well as I could expect.  As you know, I’m not doing this just to get home.  I’m crossing the USA  to enjoy the ride and have fun.

I keep a journal every day.  Just raw notes, hand-written.  I have done this for every significant trip and, in fact, many significant undertaking in my life for many years.  Our memory plays tricks on us.  Important to write down the facts.

The journal-keeping is a job in itself.  I’ve just finished my last entry for today at a Burger-King.  It’s 10:35 p.m. and it will close at 11.  I’m the only customer left in here.

I’ve been here for more than two hours–my typical evening routine.  A clerk—a nice young gal—is now giving me dirty looks.  Twenty minutes ago I went up and ordered one more thing.  An ice cream cone.  Mostly to keep her smiling.

I still have to find my way a few miles up the road to a Super Walmart—meaning one that never closes and sells just about everything, including full food and groceries.  Even gasoline at some, and always cheaper.  You may not know it, but it takes 600 employees—excuse  me, associates–to do the job in a store this big.

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My road atlas tells me the Walmart is there.  That’s where I’ll sleep tonight.  I’ll be lucky to slip into my bunk by midnight.  In the morning, I’ll go in, use the bathroom, and buy a few things.  This trip would be impossible without Walmart.  I mean it.

My trip is fun, but there’s a heap of work (notice the Western expression?) to a trip like this.  Yes,  work.  I’m busy from morning until night.  I do take a nap every afternoon.  As some of you know, I nodded off on a highway some years ago.  In mid-afternoon.  Doing 65.  For just three seconds, maybe five.  Awful!  I ran of f the highway and bounced off the rear left corner of a parked car.  It had a flat or something.  The three in the car were standing off at the side.

My airbag exploded.  I smashed the windshield.  Police, ambulance, the works.  No injuries but I totaled my beautiful Buick.  Damage aplenty to the parked car.  I was not penalized in any way.  Talk about good luck!

If I had hit that car square, I’d be dead.  Once like that is more than enough.  I’m not embarrassed to tell you I take a mid-afternoon nap.

As I look over my journal, I see far more in my many entries than I can tell you about without exhausting myself typing it up.

So, this report is not complete.  The reason is that I’ll be sending you  reports soon about three big experiences I’ve had.  One is my cruising Historic Road 66 for hundreds of miles–the Mother Road, our first modern highway across a vast stretch of the U.S.A.

The second is about my four days in Bentonville, Ark.  It’s the small, very ordinary little town where Sam Walton started Walmart and where he continued to live all his life, although he got to be worth multi-billions and could afford to live in a palace in the glitziest spot that suited him in the world.

And how small  Bentonville is now the world capital of Walmart and Sam’s Club, which he also started.  And how Bentonville has been vastly and beautifully transformed because of all the Walton and Walmart money.  And what a good time I had exploring Bentonville and soaking up all I could about Sam.  Four days was too short …

The third was my visit of several days in Independence, Mo.  Another small and indifferent city.  And how that has been transformed by another remarkable man, Harry Truman.

President Truman was a poor farm boy who never went to college.  Getting into politics and rising steadily, he was chosen to run with Franklin Delano Roosevelt in FDR’s fourth and final presidential election.

How Roosevelt spoke to him only once after the election.  And how after only 82 days as VP, Harry Truman suddenly found himself President of the United States of America.

Everybody thought Harry was in deep, deep water.  I think he thought so himself.  But he startled everybody with a dramatically effective tenure of seven years.  A tenure with truly historic moments that brought great changes.

How he retired to little Independence, which he considered the center of the universe.  How to his dying breath he remained deeply in love with his wife Bess.  And how he steadfastly refused to make a dime off his service as President, contrary to numerous other Presidents.

And how today he is regarded as one of our truly great Presidents.

Well, Harry transformed Independence just as Sam Walton transformed Bentonville.

My time in Independence was too short, too.

But now, let me tell you some highlights of my trip as I mosey along from California across America home to Connecticut.  I hope these highlights will give you a good idea of the good time I’m having.

My first time in a pawn shop in 60 years!

Dumas in the Texas Panhandle is a nice, very neat little city of 15,000.  On Main Street, I spotted $EZPawn.  That’s how it spells its sign. I hadn’t been in a pawn shop since I was 20.  I stopped in.  Small but very clean and well laid out.  I was surprised.  Hundreds of items.  Only one clerk, Sonia, about 28.  Taking inventory.  I said hello and she smiled back.

I was amazed by the wide variety of stuff—electronics, tools of all kinds, musical instruments, household appliances, tools, cameras and binoculars and jewelry, auto stuff—just about anything of value.  But no clothing or shoes.

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You’ll understand in a minute why I felt I had to stop in. Many pawn shops out here. None close to Deep River. We could use one.

I told her this was only my second time in, yes, more than 60 years, and she was amazed.  “So many people use pawn shops …”

$EZPawn is a regional chain, she said.  This store has been in business 40 years.  The only one in the area.  Solid reputation, she said.

“We do two things.  We lend people money on stuff they bring in, and we buy things from them.  Mostly we pawn.  Lend them money depending on the value of the item.

“And yes, prices can be discussed.  It’s a fact.  We try to work with people.  We hear lots of hard luck stories.  That’s expected in this business.”  I pointed to a nice electric drill, only $16.  And a small digital camera.  Only $8.  “Such low prices.  Are these things guaranteed?”

“We test everything.  Make sure it works.  And we give people 24 hours.  They can return anything.  After that, sorry!”

“What’s the usual pawn deal?”

“The stuff they pawn is the collateral.  We give people 30 days to pay back the money we lend them.  And two days of grace.  We charge interest, of course, but the rates are controlled by the state.  If they come in late to reclaim something, even one day late, sorry!”

“When you buy something, how do you set the price?”

“We look at it.  If we’re interested, we get a model number or a good description of it.  We go online.  To Google or Bing or others.  We check going prices.

“That’s our starting point.  Then we go up or down, depending on the  condition.  We try to be fair.  It’s the only way to stay in business.

“If something doesn’t move, we mark it down.”

“Do you yourself buy stuff here?”

“Of course!”

“An example, please.”

“An i-pad.  Excellent condition.  $199.”

“Wow!”

“Yeah.  The price was good to start with.  And I got my employee discount.  But you said you used a pawn service years ago!”

“Yes, I did. I was 20.  I was crazy in love with Pauline.  A big college prom was coming up.  Had to take her.  She was counting on it.  I was short of money.

“My Uncle Jack had just come back from World War II.  He was a grunt in the Infantry, fighting through France and Germany.  Like every GI, he came back with souvenirs he scooped up.  Gave me a pair of German Army binoculars—Carl Zeiss.  World-famous name.

“Well, I pawned them.  Got enough money for the prom.  Pauline was radiant.  She was chosen prom queen.  I had 30 days to get those fine binoculars out of hock, as you explained.  Never came up with the money.  Lost the binocular!”

She laughed.  I laughed, too, but not as much as she did.  The memory still hurts.  I’m glad my Uncle Jack never heard about it.  It would have killed him.

“You learned a lesson!”

“And how …  I swore I’d never pawn anything again.  I never have.  But I’d buy a few things here. But I think I’d try not to think of how bad people must feel when they come in to pawn something.  They’re desperate, I’m sure.”

“Yes.  For sure.  But we do offer a good service.  Lots of people come in.  May sound strange but we have some regulars.”

Ever see a Sonic Drive-In?  I hadn’t.

I’m still in Dumas.  Cruising main street.  I noticed a Sonic Drive-In.  Its sign was so tall and the Sonic was so busy that I couldn’t miss it.  It was at least the umpteenth Sonic I’ve seen on this trip.  I pulled in.

A classic drive-in.  We don’t have them back home.  You nose into a parking spot facing the restaurant, park, and stay right there in your car.  Each parking slot has its own big bright menu offering a thousand choices.  Select what you want.  Pay with a plastic card right from your front seat.  Relax.  A clerk in a nifty Sonic outfit brings you your order.  Pay him with cash if you prefer.

You can enjoy the food right there in your car.  Or drive away with it as take-out.  Rain or snow won’t be a bother.  Not much of either of those here, anyway.  No need to worry about whether you’re dressed sloppily or anything like that.  Plenty of advantages to choosing Sonic.

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Sonic has become the classic American drive-in. Hundreds of them, maybe thousands. Seem as popular as McDonald’s. For folks of all ages. Why not some Sonics in Connecticut?

But you can also go inside to order and eat, or eat on the covered patio.  My server was Ruben.  I saw his name on his badge.

Just out of his teens, I guessed.  I liked him right away.

“Ruben,” I said.  “Know what?  This is the very first Sonic I ever come in!”

“Honest?”

“Yep.  We don’t have them where I come from.”  I explained a bit.

“Well, welcome, Sir!  We have an awful lot of Sonics out here.  Folks love Sonic.  All kinds of people come in.  Especially in the evening.  Our floats are half price …  We keep hopping!”

“This is nice service you give.  Do people tip you?”

He paused.  “Some do.”  But I could tell right away that tips are rare.

A huge list on the menu, as I said.  Ice cream items are big.  Soft drinks, too.  But burgers of all kinds, too, fries, corn dogs, salads, on and on.  Breakfast all day.

I told him I wanted to take a picture for my family and friends.  Sonic would be interesting to most to them.  Would he pose for me?

He didn’t like the idea but agreed.  A nice young fellow.  And I took a shot of him by the big menu.  He was smiling, which was great.  I showed him the picture and I saw he was tickled.  Then off he went back to work.

In a minute he came back with a big, jolly man in a Sonic shirt.  The manager.  Again I explained this was my first Sonic ever, and he could see I’ve been around a long, long time.  Nice guy.  He dug into his pocket and gave me a fat plastic coin.  Red and white, with the Sonic logo.

“This will give you a free Sonic soft drink,” he told me, and smiled.  “ We have a thousand combos of flavors.  You tell me your pleasure.”

I don’t drink such things, but I didn’t say that. “I’d love one. Got a dietetic one?”

“Sure.  What’s your favorite?”  He pointed to the long list on the menu.

“You choose.  Give me your most popular flavor!”

“Ruben will bring it right out.”  He shook hands (Ouch!), gave me another smile, and went back inside.  Ruben tailed him in.

A couple of minutes and Ruben was back.  He had my drink.  Cherry something, he told me.  I took a sip and licked my lips.  “Great, Ruben!  Thank you!”

Big smile.  He was pleased.  I was pleased.  Glad I stopped in to check out the Sonic.  I don’t think I’ll ever cash in that plastic coin.  I’m going to hold on to it as a souvenir.

~ ~ ~

Too often folks don’t appreciate their home town.  I think it’s so sad.

I’m still in Dumas. It’s a small town and I’ve taken a good look around.  I like it.

In town after town I’ve said to folks, “I’m just passing through. What should I see here?” Including here in Dumas.

They think and think.  They’re hard put to think of something good to tell me.

Twice here somebody has said.  “Go see our history museum!”  I’ve done that and I enjoyed it.   I’ll tell you about it in a minute.

It’s curious they can’t think of something worthwhile.  I believe it’s because they haven’t seen many places.  Don’t have much to compare their town to.  They’re blind to the nice things they have.

Here, for instance.  If they had gotten around more, they’d realize that for a place its size, Dumas is impressive.

It has a busy shopping center with just about everything that’s needed.  Fairly prosperous, I think.  One reason is that Valero—Valero Gasoline—has a very big plant nearby.

Two people told me another big reason.  Next door in small Cactus –that’s the town’s name–is one of the biggest meat-packing plants in the world.

Another is tourism.  It’s all-important here for sure.  All the hotels and motels and restaurants and shops of all kinds on the main street tell me that loud and clear.

I noticed that it has a hospital and nice schools and a branch of a community college and banks and a library, and even that nice museum and art center.  I’ll tell you about them in a minute.

Dumas is carefully laid out and the streets are in good repair and the houses are well kept on street after street that I’ve looked at.  Nothing ritzy, but nice, neat working-people homes.

On my way here for more than 100 miles I went through only three itsy-bitsy little towns.  Just three!  Not a big grocery store in any of them.  Not even a McDonald’s or Burger King or Subway.  How about that?  I was so happy finally to ride into a community that, small as it is by our standards, offers so much.  Dumas here, I mean.

True, I wasn’t asking these folks if they liked Dumas or not.  I was asking them what I should make sure and see.  If I asked if they liked it here, they might have quickly said, “Yes, sir, Dumas is a nice place.”  But maybe not.

Somebody should be doing more hometown PR for folks here.  But I believe that’s true in community after community.

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I had no idea how hugely important the chuck wagon and the windmill were in making life better out here. How far we’ve come!

About that gem of a museum that few people bother to go see.

You never know when you’ll find a gem.  That small history museum which two people told me about was a gem.

This is a small city so I expected a small museum.  This was a big museum, in its own building, with a big parking lot.  Right on the main drag.  Right across the street from the impressive Visitor Center.  It stood out clearly from all directions.

The museum was the centerpiece of a huge outdoor exhibit with all kinds of big and interesting things.  Most related to farming, which is big here, and oil.

It was 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning when I pulled in.  Only one solitary car in the lot.  The museum is closed, I thought.  But it was indeed open.

A cheery woman greeted me.  “Come in, sir!  Come in and cool off!”  She had good reason to say that.  It was already in the 90’s.  “Enjoy our museum!”

One glance around and I knew I would.  The exhibits went on and on.  All truly beautiful.  This was not an amateur volunteer operation.

I allowed myself an hour.  But everything was so interesting that I went on for an hour and a half, then two.  I paused at this exhibit, then at that one.  So much to learn here.

I did skip some, just to make time.  An exhibit on women’s clothes over the years here on the High Plains.  Another on kitchen stuff.  Another on native wildlife, as well done as it was.

Some exhibits riveted me.  One on barbed wire.  We don’t think much of barbed wire but that was a key invention in the settlement of the West.  Finally a rancher could fence in his livestock.   Didn’t have to go riding all over the place on his horse to find them …

Amazing how many kinds of barbed wire got invented.  Hundreds.  Maybe thousands.  Each slightly different, but different enough to get patented.  The museum had tray after tray of samples.  A huge job to put this exhibit together.  It deserved to be in the Smithsonian!

Another on hand and power tools.  Tools that I never imagined.   The ingenuity behind all this! Another on farm tractors—they had a collection of hundreds of perfect toy models.  Again the ingenuity …  Another on windmills, another huge invention.  They harnessed the wind to suck water out of this parched land day and night.   The only labor involved was minor upkeep.

A ranch chuck wagon.  That sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it was another enormous invention.  It carried the cook’s whole supply of equipment and food on those long cattle drives over sometimes hundreds of miles.

The cook finally had a real kitchen on wheels, even a prep table.  And besides the food, the wagon carried the cowboys’ bedding and sparse extra clothes.  Fantastic.

The museum went on and on.  I could have spent twice as much time there, all of it exciting.  But I had to leave.  In all that time, I was the only tourist.

I was about to depart when that nice lady said, “Sir, you must go look at our Art Center!  You’ll see what talented artists we have here.”

I was pressed but I said okay.  The Art Center was very nice.  But it didn’t hold a candle to the museum itself.

I stopped by to thank that nice lady and express my terrific satisfaction.  She was the director.  I said, “How many people stop in?”

Without hesitation, and proudly, she told me, “Five thousand a year!”

I was appalled.  That was only 100 a week.  Aghast!

“You should have  50 thousand!”

She looked as me as if I were nuts.

“You’ve got so much going for you.  This is a four-star museum!  The town is so lucky to have it. A perfect location. You have such talent as curator and exhibitor.  The place has great visibility.  Wonderful easy parking.  Right across from the Visitor Center.  Close to all the big hotels.”

I couldn’t help myself. Started making suggestions of things the museum might do. Hey, for many years I was a PR consultant. Used to get paid to sound off like this. Many of my suggestions didn’t require a ton of money.

“So, so interesting!” she told me.  “I’ll mention them at our next board meeting.  Thank you so much!”

“This really is a gem.  All that’s needed is promotion.”

She smiled.  I smiled.  I walked out.  Somehow I got the feeling not much would change.  Hope I’m wrong.

~ ~ ~

About that meat-packing plant I didn’t want to go see.

A waitress was the first to mention it to me.  She said it was in the next town, Cactus.  That’s really the town’s name.  It’s a huge plant, she said.  A Swift plant, she believed.  Swift is a giant in meat-packing, of course.

I asked whether they did cattle, or hogs, or sheep.  Cattle, she said, but maybe the others critters, too.  Wasn’t sure.

I said, “Could I tell what they do there if I rode out to take a look?”

“No.  It’s just a great big factory, sort of.  Lots of semis, though—you know, big trailer trucks.  Bringing in animals.  Taking meat away.”

“Does it smell?” I asked.  I still remember when I visited Battle Creek, Michigan, long ago.  It’s famous for Kellogg and Post and other big cereal smakers.  The minute I got close I noticed a strange smell.  But I liked that smell a bit

Of cereal cooking, of course.  Being converted into corn flakes and bran flakes and oat flakes and rice flakes and all the others.  We never get to smell that.  In Battle Creek it’s part of life day and night.  The ovens are going all the time.

A big meat-slaughtering plant must give off a smell, I thought.  She smiled sheepishly. “Yes, it does.”

Maybe a good smell, but the way she hesitated, I didn’t think so.  Believe me, I have no interest in driving over there.  I don’t even want to think about what they do there.  I feel good that I’ve stopped eating animals.

~ ~ ~

 I’m so glad I didn’t skip the PPHM!

I’m in Canyon, Texas now.  It’s up there in the incredibly flat and treeless Texas Panhandle.  So sparse.  The High Plains, it’s called.  Look at a map of Texas and you’ll see why this is called the Panhandle.  Elevation more than 5,000 feet.  A strong wind all the time, it seems.  That wind must be razor-sharp come winter.

The wonderful museum I’m talking about is the Panhandle and Plains Historical Museum (PPHM) here.

This small town, by the way, is like my hometown in Connecticut, Deep River.

It is named Deep River because it is located on the Deep River, a small stream but it provided all the power for our big piano factory to do its work a century ago.  That factory was the high-tech center of the piano industry back then when every middle-class family had to have a piano in its living room.

The factory is a nice condo now, and I’m happy to live there.  Quiet corner unit.  High ceilings.  Great big windows.  I look down on the dam and sluice that drove the huge turbines in the factory.  Lots of sunshine.  Nice neighbors.  Well, 97 percent of them.  But that’s a higher percentage than average, I suspect..

Well, this town is named Canyon because there’s a huge canyon here.  It’s the Palo Duro Canyon at the nearby state park by that name.  The Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in North America.  I was surprised to hear that.  And I nearly skipped it …

This little town is about 20 miles south of Amarillo in the Panhandle.

I went out of my way to come here because of  the PPHM Museum.  That’s what the locals call it.   It impressed me in the AAA handbook about Texas.

The PPHM is a separate great big building on the campus of West Texas State University, which has a  campus more impressive than I expected.

It turns out that the PPHM is the biggest history museum in all Texas.  And Texas is the biggest of our 48, as we know.  And by far.  With huge cities, and many history museums.

Through no fault of mine, I got to the museum at 3:45 p.m.  And it closed at 5 …  Should I bother, I wondered?  Then I realized it would be closed tomorrow, Sunday.  So I went in.

The ticket seller saw my problem.  “Come in, sir!  Be our guest.  But you’ll have to rush.  There’s an awful lot here!”

He was so right.  What hit me right off was the scale of everything in here.  No teeney little exhibits about this and that.  All the exhibits were big.

Right off I beheld a real, full-size derrick to drill oil, moved here from its last big drilling job in Texas.  It was 87-feet high.   Wow!  A special wing had to be built for it.  Massive timbers.  Huge pulleys and gears—bigger than on the biggest steam locomotive.  Ropes and cables as big as a strong man’s bicep.  A mighty machine capable of punching a hole 3,000 feet into the Texas rock—a hole big enough to drop a cantaloupe down it.

I just had to stand back and stare at the cleverness and the huge size of it.  This at a time when the petroleum industry was just getting started here.  As we know, oil and gas were big in this huge state.  And still are.

That derrick exhibit set the pace for all the exhibits in the museum’s many halls.

Then a wonderful exhibit about windmills.  They still mark many parts of the parched West, using the force of the wind to draw water up from the bowels of the earth.  How they made life possible.  Some were incredibly huge.

It took skilled mechanics to keep them running smoothly.  Windmillers, they were called.  Look in phone books here and you’ll still see windmillers offering their services.

Here’s a fact that will surprise you folks back in Connecticut.   The windmill that opened the West to settlement was the invention of a Connecticut man, Michael Halladay, in 1869.  He took his idea West to where it was needed most, and it took off.

Then I went onto the remarkable geology of this part of the country, and its incredible Ogallala Aquifer.  That’s the water that the windmill made it  possible to suck up.

That aquifer is the huge and broad unseen reservoir of water that lays deep under this enormous state and its neighboring states, too.  But a reservoir that we are slowly and steadily draining to meet our increasing demands for water.  And I had never heard of it

The message is clear.  If we don’t get smarter about using water, we’ll run dry.  Guaranteed!

Then a super-size exhibit about the nearby canyon, the Palo Duro.  Another about the amazing weather that makes this area so difficult to live in—the dearth of rain, the frequency of violent tornadoes.  Texas gets a lot of tornadoes, which are often deadly.  And hail storms, too—hail as big as ping pong balls and even tennis balls.  So destructive.

Then the museum has a  super-size exhibit on the native people who migrated here and managed to survive by sheer wit and tenacity.  Another on its natural history and prehistoric animal life, so varied.

The museum was enormous.  I rushed and rushed, and was sorry when I had to quit.  I was the last person out.  I thanked the young clerk at the door, who was counting the money in the till.  “So, so glad you told me to come in,” I told him.

He smiled. “We’re very proud of it here in Canyon!”

On the way out, I felt it was so appropriate the PPHM adjoins the university.  As a student, you could easily get the equal of a bachelor’s in a lot of these subjects.  All you’d have to do is come in and soak up all this knowledge.  It would be a lot more fun than leafing through a dry textbook.

One result of my vist it that I made another trip out of my way the next morning.  I drove on the big flat empty land to look at the Palo Duro Canyon.  So glad I did.

~ ~ ~

Texas has its own Grand Canyon!

The Palo Duro Canyon outside small Canyon here is greatly touted, as I’ve mentioned.  Shoud I go?  After all, I have been to the Grand Canyon–the biggest in North and South America–twice.   To both North and South Rims.  Why go out of my way to see another hole in the ground?

I went.  Amazing.  I was on a vast, boring flat table land.  Nothing around.  Nothing.  Suddenly, this huge hole.  Really huge.  So impressive.  Why this hole?  How come?  It’s another of so many mysteries.

I entered the park, paid my admission, but still had misgivings.  Was I wrong?  I realized that the minute I reached the first overlook and stood on the edge of the 600-foot drop.  That’s a lot deeper than it sounds.

DSCN1244-300x225

Sorry, folks. I wanted to take a photo that would show you how awesome this canyon is. This photo doesn’t do it. So use your imagination!

Gosh, much more vegetation down there than up top where I was.  Even great big trees.  I made out a paved road threading its way way down there.  Sun reflected off tiny cars down there …

The sun was perfect to study the canyon.  On its enormous walls I could make out the many different layers of geology…like a huge multi-layer cake.  Many different earth colors, especially a brilliant rust, but whites and grays, too.

To my surprise the road I was on led me way down there.  A sign said, “Go down in low gear!”  Glad I listened.  The road snaked down, going close to some frightening drops.  Here and there chunks of rock had tumbled down.  Imagine being hit by one of those boulders!

At the bottom I found buildings–all park buildings–and many hiking rails going off this way and that.  I saw some young people starting on them.  Not very smart.  They should have been wearing hats and sleeves.  And carrying water.  That Ol’ Man Sun was sizzling.

I knew there was a river down here.  That’s why the vegetation was so thick and green.  But I never got to see it.  Where was it hiding?

Other cars were down there.  People were picnicking and lounging and playing ball.  At the end of the road I pulled into a nice small campgrounds.  RVs and tenters there.  I parked under a tree–what a blessing!  Great big hickory trees, with wide branches thick with leaves beyond number.  So cool and refreshing.

Enjoyed a nice picnic lunch in my van, with the windows and big side door open.  So pleasant.  I even stretched out on my bunk.  Just 20 minutes.  But I got up a new man.  I love my van.

Then, slowly I turned course and drove up and out, gawking all the way.  The park seemed so much busier suddenly.  The ranger had told me 25,000 people a month come in.  Even more in the summer.

The reason hit me!  Nearly all those visitors live on that vast, flat, hot mesa up top.  No trees.  So little up there of interest.  They come down here for the beautiful trees and verdant growth and the refreshing breeze and the many shady spots.  I’d do the same if I had to live here.

On the way out I finally found out what Palo Duro means.  Hard wood!

And there’s a fascinating historical tidbit about the Palo Duro Canyon.  When the pioneers came here and discovered it, a very smart young guy rushed and claimed a chunk of it for himself.  At the very bottom, where, because of that river that I never got to see, it was green and lush.

He raised thousands of cattle down there where they grew big faster and brought prime prices.   He loved living in this hole.  He was the envy of the other ranchers who weren’t as far-seeing as he was.

The State of Texas took possession of the canyon  many years ago.  By eminent domain, I suppose.  A wise move, I think.  Now everybody can enjoy it.  Even somebody like me from Connecticut.

Hey, if we didn’t have the wonderful Grand Canyon in Arizona, all the huge crowds there would he here, enjoying the Palo Duro instead.  Gosh,you can’t drive to the bottom of the Grand Canyon!

It sure would have been dumb of me to skip Palo Duro.

~ ~ ~

I see a lot of big trucks here we never get to see where I come from.

Out here in the High Plains, you see the livestock trailer trucks coming and going.  What they are is giant steel cages on wheels.

Coming, they’re full of animals.  Cattle, or swine,or sheep—I believe the different kinds get delivered to different slaughter houses but I’m not sure.  Going, the trucks are empty–on their way to get another load.

Even more of these trucks at night.  Maybe it’s easier on the animals.  Maybe the lighter traffic is a factor.

When you see a loaded truck go by, you know the four-legged passengers are running out of time fast.

At these plants, they’ll be quickly shoved off to run a gauntlet of steel-helmeted men in white coats and pants, with heavy boots, and armed. Armed with stun guns and big saws of a kind you’ve never seen.

In minutes these animals will be dead.  With their heads and legs sawed off and their bellies ripped open to spill the blood and guts and excrement.  I’ve never seen it.  Never want to.  But I’ve read about it.  That’s enough.

Soon they will be meat.  Quickly loaded on big reefers kept chilled to a precise coolness for delivery to meat lovers all over the country and abroad.

I spotted such a truck in a rest stop.  Empty.  The driver was standing by the cab, relaxing with a cigarette butt.  I walked to him.  And smiled.  He looked me over.  Friendly enough.

“We never see trucks like this where I come from.  I’m from Connecticut.”

“Where?” he said.

I could see he knew scant English.  “Connecticut.  Con-nec-ticut.”  And I pointed to the East.  “Way over there. On the other side.”

He shook his head and threw up his hands.  It was clear he didn’t know where Connecticut is.

He told me he delivered 45 head of cattle in his truck.  Big ones.  Then he held his right hand down by his knee.  “120 little ones.”

A good job but not easy.  Had to load them on fast and safe. Didn’t want them to break a leg or something.  Had to take care not to brake hard.  Had to get them all to the plant in good shape.  Didn’t want to have one dragged onto the killing floor.

I noticed his soiled boots.  And his jeans.  Some of  the work involved was messy.  But it was a living.

He finished his butt, then stomped on it with his boot.  He started his truck, gave me a curt wave, and pulled out.  To get a rest at home and pick up another load, I’m sure.

~ ~ ~

It’s okay to slaughter cattle, hogs, sheep, chickens, turkeys.  But not horses, some think.

Back in New Mexico a few days ago, I spotted an unusual story in a big newspaper.  A long-time meat man was preparing to open a slaughterhouse to process horses.  Not for pet food.  And not for sale in the U.S.  For foreign markets.  He saw a good market for horse meat.  And it would help the local economy, of course.

Readers were angry.  Everybody thought the idea was horrible.  The paper wrote an editorial. “We will not tolerate killing horses for human food!”

Well, it’s a fact that many people in the world enjoy eating horsemeat.  In lots of countries considered highly civilized.

In World War 11, I remember horsemeat markets in the U.S.  I remember my Aunt Bernadette serving a big thick horse steak.  My Uncle Jack loved it.  I pretended I liked it.  Already I was building up my aversion to meat.

In France, “equine markets” are not an extraordinary sight.  I’m not speaking of years years ago.  I mean right now.

In my opinion, if you’re a meat eater, you should be open to eating any kind of meat.  Of course you can prefer this kind or that cut, but you should not be offended by some people enjoying all kinds of flesh.  I mean, from any animal.

It’s not that long ago that Americans ate buffalo.  You know what their favorite part of the buffalo was?  The tongue.  Who eats the tongue of anything now?

Not long ago that Americans relished all kinds of game.  Including rabbits and squirrels and crows and eel and anything else they managed to shoot or hook or trap.  And glad to have it for dinner.

To me, from what I have seen, it’s the Chinese who are the most rational about it.  They will eat anything with legs or fins or that crawl or slither.  And any parts of them.  Not just the white breast or a drumstick or a nice filet.

Visit a Chinese meat market and you’ll see ducks and turtle and gulls and octopus and squid and snakes.  And dogs and cats and bunnies.  Some of these things will be slaughtered on the spot for you to take home.  That way you’re guaranteed it’s nice and fresh.

~ ~ ~

 Eat Steak Tartare? Not me!

This isn’t completely relevant, but I’m reminded of a personal experience years ago.  On our first or second trip to France.  We were celebrating with dinner at a nice restaurant in Paris.

We studied the large menu.  Most of the items had little meaning for me.  I found it a guessing game.  I was a meat eater then.  But queasy.  I spotted Steak Tartar.  Sounds good, I thought.  Ordered it with a glass of red wine.  The others chose other things.

In due time the natty waiter appeared with my dinner and with a graceful swirl of his hand placed it in front of me on the gorgeous tablecloth.

“Bon appetit, Monsieur!” he said, and started back for the kitchen.

I was shocked.  Absolutely shocked.  What I was looking at was a neat mound of raw hamburg, crowned with a raw egg yolk!  Red, fresh hamburg!  With a sprig or two of parsley.

“Garcon!” I said to him.  “Wait! Wait!”  And he came rushing back.

“Please!” I said, throwing up my hands in disgust.  “Please take it back.  I did not understand.  I am an American tourist.  Cook it!  Fry it!  Please!”

Now he was shocked. “Monsieur! This is a classic dish. Delectable! Merveilleux!” And he kissed his fingertips—the Frenchman’s supreme gesture for delicious!

And couldn’t resist adding, “This is the very finest beef, Monsieur! Thevery finest!”

But reluctantly he went off with my plate, shaking his head in disbelief.  I hate to imagine what he said about me when he got to the chef.

My companions were totally sympathetic, by the way.  They were so glad they had not chosen Steak Tartar.

Well, he brought my dish back.  Fried.  I ate it. But somehow the evening was spoiled.

People at other tables had seen it all, of course.  I don’t think I helped the cause of Franco-American friendship at that fine restaurant.

For sure the Chinese would have been shocked by my behavior, too.

~ ~ ~

Well, I’m doing fine so far.

I’ve made it all the way through California, New Mexico, and Texas and Arizona in fairly good shape.  You’ll be hearing more about this the next time, as I told you up top about my traveling for long stretches on Route 66.

I’ve had plenty of small problems.  How can you get through an adventure like this without problems?  If I wrote a list, it would run right off the page.  The good news so far is that all have been small.

One small one persists.  I believe there should be a place for everything and everything in its place.  At home.  At work.  Everywhere.  I’ll bet you agree.

It’s vitally important on a ship, even more so on a little boat.  I know.  I’ve had small sailboats. It’s also vital in this nice van of mine.

The minute I started packing it for my trip, I found a perfect place for every single thing.  But a day or two later, I would find a better place for something and would make the shift.  And would do it again a day or two later.  And I’m still doing it, many days into the trip.

One result is that now I go reach for something and then find I put it in another place.  Oh, the frustration of it!

But I’ve become neurotic about it.  Can’t help myself.  I’m always finding a better place for the salt or my socks or my stash of extra cash.  Some mornings when I go searching for something, I feel I’m going nuts.

While I’m at it, let me tell you about my problem with GPS.  Mike Malvey, the nice guy who sold me the van, bought me a new Gamin immediately when I told him the bad news that the navigation system in the van wasn’t working.

I’ve experimented with the Gamin and I’ve given up on it.

“You what!” I can hear some of you yelling that right now.  “John, what’s the matter with you!”

It’s a long story.  Let me just say I have a big hearing problem.  Let’s leave it at that.

One result is that I’m continually searching for somebody that I can ask directions of.  Very hard.  For the simple reason that it’s rare to find someone on a sidewalk any  more.  Who ever goes for a walk on a sidewalk?  Do you?

But I persist.  Have to.  Otherwise I’d never get anywhere, despite those huge accordion-fold maps that AAA still hands out but hopes you’ll never ask for because they cost.  I have 14 of them, for every state I’ll transit, I also have my big road atlas, and my smaller road atlas, and all the AAA guide books I have for all the states.

But something dawned on me.  If I used the Gamin GPS, one consequence for sure is that I would get to speak to far fewer people.  I might cross an entire city or even an entire state without talking to anybody, except a gas station attendant or a clerk in a store.  That would be awful.  I’ve told  you that I count on Serendipity to get me into interesting situations.  Well, Serendipity would have much less opportunity.

I’m keeping my Gamin in the glove compartment for the duration.

~ ~ ~

 A wild idea I got.

My happy bottom line is that I’m still glad I’ve undertaken this trip.  I’m still having fun.  And I’m learning so much.  Including a thing or two about myself.  Yes, at my age.  That’s really exciting.

Just a few miles into Arkansas, my odometer rolled over to 2,000 miles.  That’s an interesting number.  Because the shortest mileage from Newport Beach, CA—which was my departure point—and my home in Deep River via Interstates is 3,050 miles, give a mile or two.

Well, my odometer will reach 3,050 miles long before I get home.  As you know, I’m zigging and zagging quite crazily.  How long before is the big question.

Maybe I should start a lottery exclusively for you, my friends.  Let you pick my total mileage getting home to Deep River.  The one of you with the closest number to my total mileage would win $500 cash.  Tickets only $20, three for $55.  (That would help pay for the humongous gas bill I’m running up.)

Sorry, I would not answer any queries about where I plan to go and what I hope to see before I turn off the key in Chateau for the final time.  Truth is, I’m tempted to change my route every time I look at the map!

All ticket buyers would be invited by email to a wine-and-cheese party at which I’d announce the owner of the winning number.  Perhaps you!  And let you all look over my beautiful and comfy Chateau!  I’d let you behold the luxurious accommodations she has provided me for my sleeping and eating and recreational comfort and pleasure these many miles.

And, oh, one more thing.  Even the emergency toilet which I invented!  Still haven’t had to use it, by the way.

And I won’t try to impress you by cleaning  up Chateau in any way or organizing things in her better.  I’ll let you see her the way she really is.  But I’m really not a bad housekeeper.  Chateau is truly my happy little home on four wheels.

I’m just joking about the lottery.  But gosh, it’s such a good idea that I may re-consider …

Adios!

Deep River Planning and Zoning Denies Permit for 444 Main Street Property

DEEP RIVER–- The planning and zoning commission has denied a special permit application for sale and maintenance of used construction equipment at a 444 Main Street property after the applicant declined to address issues raised by the town’s zoning enforcement officer and consulting engineer. The panel acted at a May 16 meeting after the applicant, local resident George Bartlett Jr., indicated he would not respond to the zoning enforcement officer and town engineer recommendations.

The 13,340 square-foot former industrial building on the west side of route 154, also known as Main Street, has been the subject of zoning issues over the past year since Bartlett purchased the formerly vacant structure and proposed using most of it for a used car dealership. The zoning board of appeals approved variances related to the used car dealership use last June, drawing objections from the planning and zoning commission over whether one of the variances was a use-related variance that exceeded the authority of the ZBA. The commission maintained a used car dealership was a use not permitted in the Route 154 turnpike industrial zone by a variance.

The ZBA later determined that it had only approved a dimensional variance related to road frontage requirements, leading Bartlett to file a lawsuit against the board late last year. With the lawsuit still pending, Bartlett earlier this year submitted a new special permit application for sale and maintenance of used construction equipment. He had also rented about 8,000 square-feet of the structure to a light manufacturing business.

Unlike the June 2012 ZBA public hearing, nobody spoke against the new permit application at the planning and zoning commission’s May 16 public hearing. But during and after the public hearing, Bartlett told the panel he would not comply with several recommendations from Zoning Enforcement Officer Cathie Jefferson and consulting engineer Joseph Dillon with the Chester firm Nathan Jacobson Associates. The recommendations, and potential conditions for a permit approval, included lighting, a stormwater runoff mediation plan, the location of the proposed display area for the equipment, and a landscaping plan that would include buffer plantings on the north side of the parcel that abuts a residential property.

Based on Bartlett’s comments about the outstanding issues, the commission voted unanimously to deny the special permit application “without prejudice.” He would be allowed to submit a new and revised application for the proposed used construction equipment related use.

Deep River Voters Approve $14.77 Million Budget Plan at Meeting Vote

DEEP RIVER— Voters at a town meeting Monday approved a $14,779,461 town/schools spending plan for 2013-2014. The budget was approved on a 48-12 paper ballot vote in the first town meeting vote on a town budget since 2000.

The budget appeared to win approval on a voice vote only minutes after it was presented, with no questions or discussion from the crowd. But First Selectman Richard Smith asked for a paper ballot vote based on a public commitment made by the selectmen and finance board when the panels decided last month not to schedule a referendum vote on the budget. Some voters said they were not aware the voice vote was the final deciding vote on the spending plan.

Deep River has been voting on budgets by referendum since a contentious budget season in 2001. But declining voter turnouts in the annual referendums led the board of selectmen to decide last month to return to a town meeting vote on the budget.

The budget plan includes a $4,094,439 town government budget that includes $348,060 in debt service and $43,000 for capital expenditures. The total spending package also includes a $5,511,158 appropriation for Deep River Elementary School, and the town’s $5,160,924 share of the Region 4 education budget that was approved in a May 7 referendum. The total spending package will require a 0.40 increase in the  tax rate, for a 2013-2014 tax rate of 25.08 mills. The new rate represents $25.08 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value.

Deep River Fire Department Seeking New Recruits

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The Deep River Fire Department is actively seeking new recruits to join the department. Positions in  fire fighting- both junior division, (14 years and over) and senior division, grant writers, computer specialists and volunteers to help the auxiliary are all welcome.

The ability to serve a community is an honor, sometimes hard work, very fulfilling and always a challenge. Please consider helping us meet that challenge. Interested individuals please stop by the Union Street Station any Wednesday at 6:30.

For additional information visit: deepriverfd.com.

Large Crowd Celebrates Reopening of Deep River Town Hall Auditorium

A full house for the official opening of the new Auditorium (photo by Jerome Wilson).

A full house for the official opening of the new Auditorium (photo by Jerome Wilson).

DEEP RIVER— More than 200 residents turned out Wednesday evening to celebrate the reopening of the second floor auditorium at the historic 1893 town hall after a renovation project that was brought to completion over the past year by a committee of volunteers.

Former Selectman Art Thompson, who chaired the Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee, welcomed the crowd to an event “that only happens once every 120 years.”  Thompson, who had pushed for completion of a restoration effort, served as master of ceremonies for a program that celebrated the role of the town hall auditorium in the town’s history.

Thompson introduced former First Selectman Joe Miezejeski as “honorary chairperson,” for the event. Miezejeski, who served four terms as first selectman through the 1980s, was a member of the Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association that began the restoration effort when it incorporated and began collecting donations for the project in 1979.

The association collected about $270,000 in donations and coordinated various improvements over the past 30 years, including installation of an elevator that was funded by the late Emma Marvin, a former selectwoman. But many improvements remained unfinished, including renovations needed to bring the auditorium in to compliance with current building codes to allow full use of the balcony.

 Looking down on it all, the Auditorium's new ceiling (photo by Jerome Wilson)

Looking down on it all, the Auditorium’s new ceiling (photo by Jerome Wilson)

At Thompson’s urging, the board of selectmen in 2011 appointed the new 11-member committee and gained control of the funds amassed by the former restoration association. The committee included four members of the association, Bruce Edgarton, Sally Carlson-Crowell, Frances Strukus and Kenneth Wood Jr. The new members included Claudia Epright, Janice Kmettz, Richard Nagot, Kim Olson, Linalynn Schmelzer, and Dennis Schultz. The committee used the $270,000 in available funds to complete the restoration project over the past 14 months.

Attending the program Wednesday were more than a dozen elderly graduates of the former Deep River High School, which closed when Valley Regional High School opened in 1952. The high school was located in a section of what is now Deep River Elementary School, but it lacked an auditorium. For more than 60 years, students used the town hall auditorium for group events that ranged from dances to the annual graduation ceremony. The construction and April 1893 dedication of the town hall was recounted by Dan Conners, a retired history teacher who was a member of the original faculty at Valley Regional High School and author of a book on the history of Deep River.

Wednesday’s program, which also featured music from the Deep River Junior Ancient Fife and  Drum Corps and the elementary school chorus and clarinet ensemble, opens a period of active use of the 279-seat auditorium. Over the next month there will be concerts, movies, and a May 31 dance. The new chairs on the main floor of the auditorium are movable, allowing for a return of dances to the historic facility.

Deep River Budget Plan With Expected Four-tenths Mill Tax Rate Increase Goes to Public Hearing

DEEP RIVER— A proposed $3,701,379 town government budget and a proposed  $5,511,158 appropriation for Deep River Elementary School goes to a public hearing on May 7 at 7:30 p.m. in the newly renovated second floor auditorium at town hall.

The town government budget is combined with a $43,000 capital expenditure plan and $348,060 in debt service for a total town government expense of $4,094,439. The town government and elementary school spending plans are combined with the town’s $5,160,854 share of the Region 4 education budget for a total proposed 2013-2014 spending levy of $14,779,521.

The $3,701,379 town government budget is up by $192,113, or 5.47 percent, from the current appropriation The town budget includes a three percent wage-salary increase for all town employees, including elected officials and part-time employees.. Debt service is up by $155,357, mostly due to new lease payments for a new fire truck and highway department truck, while the capital expenditure plan has been reduced by $291,000.

The $5,511,158 appropriation for the elementary school is up by $110,371, or 2.04 percent.  A shift in student enrollment, with additional students from Deep River attending Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School, contributed to the $281,854, or 5.78 percent, increase in the town’s share of the Region 4 education budget.

The total $14,77 million spending levy, including Region 4, is up by $448,695, or 3.13 percent. The board of selectmen and board of finance has endorsed a plan to increase the tax rate by four tenths of a mill to fund the proposed spending plan for 2013-2014. The increase would bring the tax rate to 25.08 mills, or $25.08 for each $1,000 of assessed property value. The proposed tax increase matches a 0.40. tax increase that was required to fund the current budget.

or the first time since 2001, the board of selectmen has decided to hold the budget vote by paper ballot at a May 20 town meeting, rather than by a referendum vote. Extremely low voters turnouts for the budget referendums in recent years led the selectmen to call for a town meeting vote on the budget.. The Region 4 budget goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on May 7, the same day as the town budget hearing.

My First Week on my Long Ride Home to Connecticut

My first overnight at a Walmart’s, in Claremont, CA. That’s “Chateau,” my 13-year-old, 180,000-mile blue and silver beauty

My first overnight at a Walmart’s, in Claremont, CA. That’s “Chateau,” my 13-year-old, 180,000-mile blue and silver beauty

Blythe, Arizona – Here I was, approaching this tiny town. Blythe is as far east in California as can be. It was Day 5 of my solo transcontinental ride home to Connecticut.The sun was setting on one of my finest days so far as I approached Blythe on I-10—my destination for this day. I saw it coming up. It’s what I call a ”one-story town.” I didn’t spot one building any higher than that.

I kept right on at 60 miles an hour with all the other traffic, waiting for the main exit to Blythe to announce itself. Surprise! I found myself suddenly crossing the Colorado River—which is a modest stream here—and confronting a big sign, “Welcome To Arizona!” What?!

I had overshot Blythe. That’s how small it is.

It was another mistake, plain and simple. Mistakes, errors, call them whatever you like, are inevitable in the kind of travel I’m doing. I experience them every day. I don’t go nuts over them any more. The only solution is to “Grin and Bear It!” Plus, “Maybe something good will come of this!”

Oh, I know what you smarties are thinking. “John, if you had GPS, this would never have happened.”

Well, I do have it. Brand-new, too. A Gamin Novi 401. Finally I got it hooked up and going. But it’s not calibrated right. That anonymous tenor persists in giving me one wrong direction after another. I’ve unhooked the darn thing. I’m hoping to run into a geek soon who will get it going right for me.

Besides, for these many decades of doing nutty trips like this, I’ve done fine with my trusty road atlas. This mistake was all Blythe’s fault! They should have a big sign up at the exit, “Stop! This Is Blythe!”

My intention was to “camp” in Blythe for the night. My definition of “camping” in my old age is sleeping in my van and eating most of my meals in it.

One reason I chose Blythe is there’s a 24-hour Walmart here. I’ve camped at a Walmart every night on this trip so far. It’s perfect.

This way, I don’t have to drive miles out of my way to find a campground, then drive miles back in the morning. Walmart is safe! And so convenient. Its 24-hour superstores—that’s what they usually are–offer everything I can possibly spend money on except gas. Plus clean bathrooms! And Walmart is free! And welcoming!

I wish they had been around on all those big past trips I’ve taken. And the many trips I took my wife and kids on.

I’ll be delighted if I can find a Walmart every single night on my 3,500-mile route home. We now have 3,000 Walmart super-centers in the U.S., which never close. I stand a pretty good chance.

~ ~ ~

As usual this trip isn’t a picnic. It’s hard work. I didn’t expect it to be easy. It never is. It keeps me busy from early morn till 10 or 11 p.m. With naps as needed, I admit. You’d be surprised at everything that’s required to do it right.

So far my ride is as good as I hoped it would be. I love the challenge of it. And I enjoy its many rewards. One is running into interesting folks. So far. I’ve struck it lucky again. and this is one of my major goals. And not a bad apple yet.

Another is to see—really, really see, with my own eyes—how our country is doing and changing. And experiencing the sights, natural and man made, at times beautiful and inspiring, at times ugly and regrettable, and too often very dull and skip-able.

Important to remind you I’m driving an 11-year-old van with more than 180.000 miles on it. Yes, that’s right, 180,000 plus.. She’s running like a top. I feel it’s just broken in. Honest! Maybe I’m setting myself up for a gigantic disappointment. But it couldn’t be sweeter running. I’m delighted.

It’s a Ford 7-passenger Econoline van. The model name is Chateau, which is—maybe was–Ford’s top of the line in vans. It’s loaded with amenities, some I love. The tinted windows (people can’t see in). The comfortable seats. The electric this and that. Other features, too.

My first little camper years ago—a VW “bus”— was Dandelion. That’s what I dubbed her. She was that color of beautiful yellow. Notice, I said “she.” After all, if we can give our boats feminine monickers, why can’t I do it for my lovely camper?

I deliberated and finally settled on Chateau as the name for this one. It’s so appropriate. This really is a wonderful and lovely little chateau, on four wheels, of course. So from now on Chateau is “she,” too. My poetic license! You’ll get used to it fast.

She does have a few bugs. The worst is the obstacle course I face to get from my driver’s seat to the back. You have to be as agile as a monkey, but I’m no monkey. And there’s no way to fix that.

The next is that I can’t stand in her. I may get home permanently hunched over. It’s made me think of the advantages of being a midget.

She has six ceiling lights. I think if I go over a bump, they all go on. Sometimes even when I’m stopped for a while.On my second day I had a dead battery. Not a promising start. But I have a AAA Classic membership—they’ll tow me up to 100 miles. A tech guy showed up in 35 minutes, gave me a jump, and pointed out the troublesome lights. Still they go on. I’m thinking of duck-taping them OFF.

I’m allowed only four road calls a year, and my year is just starting. On my next night at Walmart I bought jumper cables. Cheap insurance.

I have two keys to Chateau. They look identical. One works much better than the other. The bad one will not open the doors every time. Makes me very nervous. I’m afraid of locking the good key inside, and what then? Methinks I need see a locksmith.

It takes a mighty flick of my wrist with the ignition key to start the engine. Sometimes I have to flick hard twice, even three times. If this keeps up, I’ll be buying a brace for my wrist soon. Walmart stocks those, too.

I told you in my previous report she has a fancy, super-sophisticated entertainment system. Even a TV screen in the ceiling in back to watch DVDs. The system included GPS, too. But I discovered it was dead and the dealer that sold me Chateau, FamVans, gave me that portable Gain Navi instrument.

Well, now I find that the CD player is broke, too. So now I can’t enjoy the dozen music CDs I brought along. Got to do something about this, too.

The radio is fine. But it’s a pain to search and search and not find a station I really enjoy. Silence is golden.

Turns our that Chateau’s tires are oversize. If I try a tight turn left or right, the front tires rub on the body. Not good! So tight turns are impossible. Sometimes I can turn around 180 degrees only with two or three tries. You wouldn’t like that, either.

She gulps gasoline like a monster. California is a $4-a-gallon gas state. Maybe a few cents over, a few cents under here or there. At one stop high in the San Gabriel Mountains on Day 2, $4.14! I find that very painful.

I’m stopping for refills whenever I need $40 worth or so. That happens more often than I thought it would. Why stop so often? I like frequent breaks. And I try to work in as much exercise as I can. It’s a big step up into Chateau, and a big step down.

Besides, If I bought a maximum fill, the tab would be well over $100, and that makes me shudder. Just consider, I remember a gas war when the price dropped to 17.9 cents a gallon! I’d like a price war like that at least once a week Sob!. Such price wars are history. How come?

But I’m delighted with the many changes and improvements I made to convert her into a mini camper. My bunk with the foam mattress. The clothes hooks I screwed in. The drawers and shelves I put in. How I planned the whole interior lay-out. The whole list of little things I’ve done. Chateau is tiny, but wonderfully efficient and comfy.

I’m still making changes every day. One little improvement after another. I call them my Robinson Crusoe moments. Remember how shipwrecked Robinson used his wits to solve all kinds of problems and make his shipwreck life easier? Well, that’s me in Chateau. Each Robinson Crusoe moment, as simple as it is, gives me a glow of pleasure.

~ ~ ~

Here are some of the highlights of my trip so far. I’ll sketch them out briefly. I found them so interesting that I hope to write them up for you one by one as I go along. Patience, please.

Day 1. A symposium on three “isms” that I attended at Claremont-Lincoln School of Theology in Claremont, CA. The three are Buddhism, Sikkism, and Janism. The Jainism segment was the one that drew me. It’s a strange and impressive religion in India. I am not a Jain, but I’ve had close Jain friends for 30 years and I’ve learned abut it through them.

Day 2. My day resting and exploring Claremont. What a charming and delightful small community. With seven colleges, mind you. To me it’s THE small town to live in.

Day 3. My ride high up into the awesome San Gabriel Mountains for a white-knuckle ride along its famous Rim of the World road. But so exciting, too. A ride I won’t forget soon.

Day 4. My visit to Palm Springs, the man-made oasis out in the desert a couple of hours east of L.A. Palm Springs is a small place but who hasn’t heard of it? So many movie stars have bought fancy second homes there. I’ve been to Palm Springs several times, thanks to Annabelle. I much prefer the newer small communities that have sprung up around Palm Springs.

Day 5. As you know by now, I think, I’m not fond of Interstate Highways. Of course I appreciate their practicality. They’re great to get somewhere fast. But they bypass so many interesting things and they are so dull. I much prefer the far more interesting lesser roads. I’ve been lucky at finding some dandy ones. But I got lost! Three times!

Day 6. How I find myself in tiny Mecca. Strange name for a town here in California. A town with a heavy population of Mexicans. How I’m impressed by them. And the library that serves them and the others in Mecca as well, of course.

Day 7. I knew that the next 100 miles to Blythe would be a tedious and taxing ride. But I managed to find an alternate route and then went and messed it up again. But I got some nice rewards.

 

As always, I’ve met some interesting people along the way. Including some truly Good Samaritans. How lucky I’ve been. I can’t wait to tell you about some of them.

I’ve wondered whether I’ve become too old to enjoy this kind of travel. I’ve done a lot of it over the years and it’s been so much fun. Well, I have good news. It’s hard. Yes, it is. No denying that. But so far I am rejoicing. It is shaping up as the grand adventure I hoped for.

Long ago I realized that Mark Twain was right. That smart guy is the one who said that often it is better to travel than to arrive. My whole point is not just to get home. It’s to squeeze in as much pleasure out of every mile as I can. And it’s working out that way.

Know what? So far I’ve been on the road seven days and have traveled barely 500 miles. That’s very little–only about one-seventh of the mileage I expect to run up before I roll into Deep River. And the best parts of the route are still ahead.

So I’ve found myself wondering, When the heck will I finally be getting home?! Labor Day? Thanksgiving? Christmas? I leave it all to Serendipity!

~ ~ ~

A Post Script. Just a few days ago I turned 84. Yes, 84. Which means that was  tip-toeing into my 85th year on Earth!!!

You have no idea how surprised I am to have made it this far.

I remember when I was 8 or 9 I wasn’t doing well and my mother had our family doctor come to the house and examine me.

I remember how he finally put his stethoscope back in his black bag and looked at my mom and said, “Madame, I am sad to tell you I don’t think this little boy will live to see his 30th birthday.”

Gosh, did he shake her up! And my father when he came home! As for me, 30 seemed a long, long time away.

Gosh, have I fooled him!

I’m going to be alone on the road for this birthday. Not a problem. I’m just looking forward to another nice day, my eyes filling, I’m sure, with one wonderful sight after another, as always. It won’t be perfect. Nothing ever is. But it will be great.

I don’t need a birthday cake. I’d be embarrassed to try to blow out all those candles. How huge a cake would it take to hold them all?

Besides, I know I’ve got a lot of people cheering for me. How lucky I am! How really lucky!

Adios!

Local Library Directors Celebrate World Book Night at the Adams Shopping Center

world book night

Susan Rooney (right), the new Deep River Library Director, and Linda Fox, the Chester Library Director, represented their respective libraries at the Adams Shopping Center on April 23 as part of World Book Night. They gave away free copies of The Girl With the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier.

World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person.Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light readers and non-readers. Not only is World Book Night about giving books. It’s also about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways—through the sharing of stories.

DR Selectmen Choose Town Meeting Vote, No Automatic Referendum This Year

DEEP RIVER-– For the first time in 11 years, voters will decide on a town/elementary school budget plan by a town meeting vote without a referendum.  The town meeting vote on a spending plan that is still being finalized will be held on Monday May 20 in the newly renovated town hall auditorium. The annual budget hearing is set for May 7.

The board of selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday not to hold a referendum vote on the budget plan for 2013-2014. First Selectman Richard Smith said Wednesday he had consulted with members of the Deep River Taxpayers Association before making the decision, and pledged that the vote at the May 20 town meeting would be by paper ballot. “There will not be a referendum this year unless we’re petitioned for one,” he said.

Smith said most residents, and elected officials such as members of the board of finance, had advised that a referendum vote on the budget should be skipped this year after extremely low vote turnouts for the budget referendums held in recent years.

Last May, a total of 190 voters turned out to approve a $14.3 million town/elementary school budget plan on a 147-46 vote. A total of 361 voters turned out for the budget referendum in May 2011. “It’s just too costly based on the turnout,” Smith said, noting that with a budget referendum costing the town about $1,800, the 2012 turnout amounted to an expense for the town of almost $100 per vote.

The town began holding annual referendums on the town government/elementary school budgets in 2001, when a depleted fund balance and steep tax increase led to controversy, and three votes before a spending plan was approved by voters. The taxpayers association formed that year, and indicated to the selectmen that they would seek a referendum vote on future budgets.

Rather than allowing a petition process to delay the budget vote, the board of selectmen, led by Smith, agreed to send the annual budget directly to a referendum vote. But turnout for the referendum that is usually held in the last week of May has decreased in recent years.

Referendum voting will continue on the Region 4 education budget, which is subject to approval by voters of the three district towns of Chester, Deep River, and Essex. The Region 4 Board of Education had adopted a policy of referendum voting on the budget in 2001, after spending plans were rejected twice before wining voter approval in a third referendum. The Region 4 budget referendum will be conducted on May 7 from 12 noon to 8 p.m. at the regular election polling places for the three towns.