Road trip: Chattanooga, Tennessee

I've procrastinated long enough. It's time to tell some stories about driving across the country.

Our first night away from Clearwater, Florida was spent in Valdosta, Georgia -- not a place I recommend. But I most likely wouldn't recommend any town or city in Georgia, simply because it's the deep south and I'm not fond of deep south, deep fried food. And you must understand, everything is deep fried. Everything. Even your salad. We went to find some dinner and stopped at what looked like a real restaurant, you know, the kind with chefs and real food. The first tip-off that everything wasn't quite right was the distance between the booth seat and the table. Hmmm. I had to sit on the very edge of the seat to be near the table. I was at a loss until I looked around and realized that for most Valdostans, that huge space was necessary. Enough said. Our choice for an appetizer was stuffed mushrooms, because how difficult is that and it was one of the only things that didn't have the word fried in front of it. Guess what? The stuffed mushrooms ARE fried. Deep fried. In old oil. We gasped when we saw them and sent them back. The rest of the dinner was actually fabulous (nice fish with rice, simple food, not fried).

The next day we drove through Georgia and into Tennessee. (Refer to the map if your geography skills are as horrible as mine.) Crossing into TN from GA, we chose Chattanooga as a place that looked interesting and worthy of a bit of exploring. Consulting our trusty AAA guidebook, we find that the old Mayor's Mansion has been converted into a Bed and Breakfast, so off we went.

THIS is the Mansion. It has been lovingly restored and gently updated for the comfort of paying guests.

We arrived early enough in the day to take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood. Of course, even though we were in a new place, never before seen, I only have eyes for the flowers. I've said it before and I'll say it again: flowers are the best.

I love big, old trees. I'm also fond of flowering trees. And I cannot resist napping cats.

The Mayor's Mansion has a first-class manager/chef and the breakfast was incredible. I was in too big a hurry to taste the second course (the baked eggs/cheese/asparagus) so I only got pictures of the first and third courses. Amazing, wonderful food, served in a lovely dining room.


What I know about Human Rights abuses: Scientology

I'm a little bit behind the curve here -- I just now found out that today is a Bloggers Unite day and the topic is Human Rights. There are plenty of excellent posts on excellent blogs.

I have a pretty limited view. I don't read the papers or listen to TV/radio news. I'm woefully uninformed. It's a bad habit that comes from being afraid to know about all the pain in this world. I don't like admitting it, but it's true. I can't see what I can do to help.

So, what I know personally about Human Rights abuses has to do with the Church of $cientology and their horrible treatment of Sea Org members. I experienced a tiny bit of this treatment in 1969: I was locked in a basement because I said I wanted to go home. I was 3 months pregnant and was not getting enough sleep or good nutrition. I just wanted to go home and take good care of myself and my baby. That made me an enemy of theirs and that's what they do with enemies -- they lock them up. (Or they declare them Suppressive Persons and then sic the dogs on them.) I eventually talked my way out of the basement and out of the office and into my sister's car. She drove me home. The "church" began calling the next day -- I should come back immediately, they'll take good care of me, etc., etc. And this is a mild story. It's fairly unbelievable what they are doing at this very moment and in this country. They have forced labor prison camps in Hemet and Los Angeles, California and in Clearwater, Florida. They force young women to get abortions or face losing "everything." Most Sea Org members work about 126 hours a week for $25 - $30 dollars/week (if that). They live on rice and beans for months at a time. They are physically, mentally and spiritually abused day in and day out. And they are told that if they leave, they will starve and be bums on the street.

Here are a few places you can go if you want to inform yourself about this evil cult and it's Human Rights abuses:

Counterfeit Dreams
Ex-Scientology Kids
Exposing the Con
Scientology Disconnection
Why I Left Scientology
Ask the Scientologist

And there are things you can do. Find out about the next Anonymous protest and maybe participate: Enturbulation.org -- A Source for Information on Activism Against the Scientology Organization.

I've been to all the Anonymous protests so far and they are great. These people are courageous, fun, funny and very committed to making the evil cult known as $cientology crumble.

Rock on Anonymous!


Oregon stories: Sauvie Island

What a glorious place! Absolutely luscious, rich, bucolic (this doesn't mean a sick baby, it means pastoral, which I didn't know until a few weeks ago), and very down home. Here's the Wikipedia page if you're interested in the history. I did a quick search and found out that unless a whole lot of you want to donate a whole lot of dinero, Kim and I won't be living on Sauvie Island any time soon. *sigh*

Melissa and I (and the little guy) drove around the island, stopping to tempt a horse, take a few photos, check in at the local market/car repair/chicken farm for a day parking pass and a map. The thing to do is spend one day per weekend out there, all summer long, picking the fresh organic fruits and vegetables. Mmmmmmmm, yes. And you'll want to check out the Maize Maze at the Pumpkin Patch in September and October. Rumor has it traffic can be a bit nuts, so plan accordingly.


Shouting from my soapbox: Is it so hard to do it right?

We unloaded our ABF U-Pack truck last Saturday and were horrified at the amount of damage to our belongings. One chair in particular, which had been re-upholstered just six months ago, was ripped in two places and one leg was busted off. I was inside the truck the entire time it was being unloaded and saw the chair when it was time to take it out. It had been tossed on top of 2-3 stacks of boxes along with loose yard tools. The chair had not been covered with a furniture pad -- the other important or special pieces of furniture had been carefully covered and taped. This chair had been thrown in like an afterthought.

The other things that were damaged are not quite as important to me as that chair. The other things I can probably repair or replace easily. Not that chair.

When we were making our plans to leave Florida, we debated about what method to use to get our stuff across the country. We had used a major moving line when we went the other way and, believe it or not, had a good experience. Why didn't we just do that again? Such a good question, one I don't have an answer for. In any case, we chose U-Pack and they recommended Moving Staffers if we wanted to hire professionals to load the truck. Moving Staffers used Knight's; it's on the t-shirts of the guys in the truck.

So when the busted up stuff came out of the truck, I called Knight's Moving and Hauling and spoke to Frank. He said he was the owner. He also said he was on our job that day when the truck was being loaded in Clearwater. He was NOT there that day. The guys who loaded our truck were Eddie and Alex. Frank had other details wrong as well. He obviously was looking at the wrong paperwork, but he wouldn't admit it. He kept insisting he was right. When I told him about the chair, he said it could not have been the case that the chair wasn't covered. His guys are trained, they would never do that, etc. I have four people who will say that when the chair came down off that pile of stuff, there was no cover, pad, or blanket anywhere near it. But that's not the point.

The point is that Frank, even though he was sorry my chair was ruined and he would be upset if it was his chair, would not in any way admit his company was responsible for the damage. His finger was pointed firmly at ABF and he told me repeatedly how unethical, irresponsible, lazy and awful ABF is. It was their fault, definitely. They drive like maniacs to get their loads across the country, their trucks are sub-standard, they have no shock-absorbers, etc.

I'm so sorry I chose ABF U-Pack and I'm so sorry that Moving Staffers chose Knight's Moving and Hauling and I'm so sorry Knight's sent Eddie and Alex. I wish I had gone with Mayflower or American or National Van Lines. It's too late now. The damage is done.

Frank kept telling me to put in a claim with ABF, they'd take care of me, they're really good about those things. But, you see, I know that that chair was NOT damaged by ABF. It was carelessly packed. That's the point.

Every now and then, I have an exceptional experience where someone goes about their job competently and confidently. That happened this week when we called the cable company because we were getting bad reception. The cable company sent a technician to see what was wrong. And may I just say what a remarkable young man he was? He looked and looked and looked for what was causing the problem; he was tenacious, calm, friendly, confident that he would find it. And he did. And then he fixed it. He did it right. And he didn't blame anyone else at any time about how the problem came to be. Perfect. So I called his boss and told him to give this young man a raise.