Cold: A Matter of Degree(s)

Jan Norris and Mary Jo FabricsRoad trip Day Two checked off some boxes:

Friend Jan wanted to go to to Mary Jo Fabrics in Gastonia, NC. Done.

She got to see snow

Jan Norris and snowNorris wanted to see snow. She got to see snow going through the West Virginia mountains. This area got about a foot-and-a-half of snow in the last week or so. I would like to have taken a better photo, but my model was whining and running inside.

She wanted to feel cold air

Athens OH weatherShe wanted to experience cold. She got to feel minus 3-degree wind chill when we pulled into Athens around midnight. I have to admit the 10-16 mph cut right through you.

From now on, “cold” will be when she turns the AC down to 65.

Photo gallery of Day Two

Here some other photos of the day that I’m too sleepy to write about. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

Rocking with the Shrimp

Dixie Crossroads - Titusville fl 01-20-2013Well, Friend Jan and I survived the first 500+ miles together today. She suggested we stop for lunch at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville because she had eaten there lots of times and because she had written a rave review of the place for The Post. Indeed, she had. On the wall in the main lobby was a laminated copy of her review. She insisted on basking in the reflected glow of her former glory even while the server was attempting to hustle us to an empty booth.

Following Jan’s recommendation, I ordered a dozen broiled rock shrimp. After I had eaten half the platter, I got in the review mood and said, “I really like the crunchy texture of these shrimp.”

“You’re supposed to peel the shells off them first, doofus,” she said, with no small amount of satisfaction.

She’ll be stiffer than a plaster shrimp

Jan Norris at Dixie CrossroadsMiz Jan has been obsessing over the weather all day. She keeps feeling the windshield to see if it’s getting colder.

Wait until Monday. Here’s the forecast for Athens, Ohio, where we’re going to be tomorrow: Mostly cloudy with snow showers in the morning, then overcast with snow showers. High of 30F with a windchill as low as 16F. Winds from the West at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 40%.

Monday Night: Partly cloudy with a chance of snow. Low of 9F with a windchill as low as -4F. Winds from the WNW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 30%

She’s going to be as stiff as that plaster shrimp.

Freezing a Floridian

FL native Jan Norris tries to figure out how to wear cold weather clothing.I’m pushing hard to get a bunch of stuff done so I can head back to Cape via Athens, Ohio, this weekend. One of the tasks was to cold-proof my former coworker and bike partner Jan Norris. See, Jan has heard so much about Cape that she volunteered to go along to keep me company. (OK, wormed her way in might be another way to put it.)

This is going to be interesting because Jan is one of those rare birds – a Florida native. You can click any of the photos if you want to see her before her nose freezes off.

Wife Lila, taking pity on her, reached deep into the back of the closet to outfit her for frigid temperatures. “Long underwear? Those are real? People REALLY wear them?” I left the room while Wife Lila explained the rear trap door. I wasn’t sure whether Jan is one of those folks who can learn by explanation or if she needed a practical demonstration, and I sure didn’t want to find out.

You should have seen her try to figure out how earmuffs work.

Here’s how you wear a scarf

FL native Jan Norris tries to figure out how to wear cold weather clothing.Jan was food editor at The Palm Beach Post. There was a time when she and I were exiled into the deepest bowels of the building. Her office was right across from the telecom switchroom where I lived. Our location was sort of like the geographic equivalent of the shortest day of the year: any step you took in any direction put you closer to sunlight.

Newspapers get an incredible amount of swag. Our book reviewer would get close to 5,000 books a year. PR people would send food, wine and other products they hoped would serve as bribes or fodder for product review. Our ethics policy said it had to be turned over to charity. Jan and I co-chaired a twice-a-year book sale and silent auction that raised from $10,000 to $20,000 a year for little-know charities that were below the radar of United Way and the Palm Beach balls.

Working closely together on those projects led me to try to convince Jan that THIS is the proper way to wear a scarf. {Note to Friend Mary: this is the scarf you knitted when I worked at The Jackson Pioneer back in 1964. It’s as good as ever. You did good work.]

Jan and Mother

Key Largo to Key West bike ride 02-25-2001When a bunch of us rode our bikes from Key Largo to Key West, Jan shared a houseboat room with Mother. Shortly after writing the sad story about my mother’s arm, I was talking with Jan about it. “No, that can’t be true. I spent the night with that woman. She didn’t have anything wrong with her arm.”

“You don’t believe me? Let’s call my brother Mark. He’ll tell you the same story.”

“Let’s call Lila. Lila can’t lie.” She had me there.

I dialed the number and handed Jan the phone. “You won’t believe the crazy story Ken was telling me about his mother….”

“You mean about her arm?” Lila asked.

“I spent the NIGHT with that woman. I never noticed.”

I can’t wait to see Jan giving Mother long, furtive glances the whole time she’s in Cape.

We’re staying at the Meth Motel

Jan Norris Bike ride from Key Largo to Key West 02-24-2001My definition of a good trip is when you end up with as many people as you start out with. It’ll be interesting to do a head count at the end of THIS trip. Our first area of conflict may deal with lodging. She was talking about making reservations. I said I don’t do that because I don’t know how far I’m going to drive on any particular day or if I may decide to change routes at the last minute.

She said she likes to stay at a place with chocolates on the pillow. I told her I never look too closely at black objects on my pillows because I’m afraid they may have legs at the places I stay.

I tried to reassure her by telling her the kind folks at the Athens Historical Society had booked us a couple of rooms at The Meth Motel. “That probably means Methodists run it.”

She set the standard for messy

Jan Norris office 03-22-2006_527One great thing about Jan was that any time someone poked fun at MY office, where everything was in a carefully crafted state of chaos, I’d say, “Let’s go for a walk.” It was common knowledge that one newsroom staffer’s job description included “distract fire inspector if he starts anywhere near Norris’ office on the annual walk-through.”

In fairness to Jan, not ALL of the clutter belonged to her. I put the Hula Parrot on her desk when I was giving it a tour of the paper.

I’m sure Jan will have a much different perspective on our trip, but history belongs to the survivor who writes it down. I hope we hit at least one day when it’s cold enough to freeze the hair in her nose.

Cape’s Not a Town; It’s the Twilight Zone

My friend, Jan Norris, the former food editor of The Palm Beach Post and a fellow blogger, asked me to look up a local artist, Brad Elfrink, who produces beautiful hand-crafted buttons and jewelry. Jan’s a button collector, who writes for other collectors.

Brad’s a a relatively young guy originally from Marble Hill who has developed a love for Cape Girardeau’s buildings and people. I was describing a couple of landmarks I had been searching for over the weekend. “Want to see some pieces of them?” he asked, showing me some remnants he had saved from the bulldozer.

I’ll be writing about Brad and his finds later.

When I got back into the car, I called Jan and said, “Most places have six degrees of separation. Cape reduces it to two.”

It was still early, so I decided to shoot some other buildings I remembered in and around the 1600 block of Independence.

Old Fire Station Number Two

We used to go there on grade school field trips. It looks like it might have had two bays in the old days.

Pak-a-Snak, an early convenience store

Just east of the fire station, on the same side of the street, was the Pak-a-Snak. A Missourian story Aug. 17, 1955, called it the first drive-in, cash and carry market of its kind in Cape. We’d call it a convenience store today.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Farrow were the first owners. They sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Porter Stubbs in 1955. The store hours – shocking – were 8 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. every day including – double shocking – Sundays and holidays.

A trip to the Twilight Zone

I wanted a photo of the old Donut Drive-in, but I wasn’t exactly sure which shop it was in. I heard music coming from a small bar a couple of doors down, so I figured somebody there might be able to help me out.

I don’t spend a whole lot of time in bars. I HAVE had occasion to step into one from time to time when I’m riding my bicycle. It doesn’t matter if it’s a redneck bar, a biker bar or just a coffee shop full of regulars, as soon as you step through the door wearing bike shorts and a glow-in-the-dark jersey, conversation stops and all eyes focus on you.

How to survive wearing Lycra

At that point, I’ve found your odds of survival go up if you glance around the room, pause a couple of beats and then say in a loud voice, “Y’all sure do dress funny around here.” Before long, people are asking how far you’ve come, how far are you going, what have you seen along the way, and are offering to buy you drinks or a meal.

There was a man holding a beer in the doorway. “Come on in. There’s plenty of room,” he said with a smile.

“You’ve got enough gray hair that you can probably help me,” I said, handing him a business card.

“Are you Kenny Steinhoff?”

I’ve been running from that nickname since 1967, but I had to admit that – in Cape – I was “Kenny Steinhoff.”

“I’m Jerry Schweain,” he said, extending his hand and smiling wider.

Turns out he was a truck-driving friend and former neighbor of my brother-in-law, John Perry. He posed with a friendly woman from behind the bar, then said, “I’ve got something to show you that you probably never thought you’d see again.”

He reached for his wallet, fumbled around for a bit, then pulled out a worn and faded Palm Beach Post-Times business card with my home phone number scrawled on it. “You told me to give you a call if I ever got down to your neck of the woods. I never got closer than around Tampa, so I never called you.”

I gave him that card in 1977 or 1978.

Only in Cape Girardeau would someone hold onto your business card for 30-plus years and then run into you in a neighborhood bar 1,100 miles from where you live.

Donut Drive-in

With Jerry’s help, I was able to locate the Donut Drive-in. The building still had the serving windows. It was a big deal to pull up to the window on Sunday morning on the way home from church to pick up some fresh donuts or Long Johns,  jelly-filled donut pastries  so sweet they’d find a cavity faster than a dentist.

Earl Kirchoff opened the doughnut stand in 1952. The ad in the 1964 Girardot had the slogan “Tote a Poke Home.”