'Tis Only My Opinion!

August  2018 - Volume 38, Number 8

Road Trip Observations!

The last 10 days of July saw the Ford pickup headed north and east towards a family reunion at the Mechling Homestead near Allentown, PA.

My ancestor, John Jacob Mechling, arrived from Germany in 1728 with his brother and four years later received a land grant of 180 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania from William Penn.  The following is a picture of the original log home built in 1734 portions of which remain today.

My father's last journals are found.

Shortly after my mother passed away, my father began writing a daily journal which stopped about three months before his death. They only surfaced about two weeks before we left on this trip. My sister who was to be my navigator thought it would be a great time for her to read them out-loud during our trip to the Mechling Reunion.

Day 1 - Sunday

The first day saw us driving to Topeka, Kansas via mostly two lane roads from Dallas and avoiding the perils of Interstate 35 by taking U.S. 377 through Oklahoma. We had lunch at the famous Rock Cafe on Route 66 about noon.

During the entire trip, the navigator insisted that we stop every two hours or less, get out of the vehicle and walk around to exercise while also hydrating our bodies. 

The landscape showed the effects of high temperatures and lack of rain on the landscape above the Red River throughout Oklahoma. Corn, maize and soybean crops in Texas and Oklahoma showed the damage caused by high heat and lack of rain.

In Kansas, we stayed on KS 99 to Emporia before joining Interstate 35 for the last few miles to Topeka.  Pasture land throughout the Flint Hills appeared to be in good shape as did the row crops.  Sunday's mileage was only 491 miles.

Day 2 - Monday

After spending the night in Topeka, we continued north on U.S. 75 to Nebraska City, NE. before crossing the Missouri River to join Interstate 29 to Council Bluffs, IA. where we took Interstate 80 northwest to join IA 191 north and east towards Denison, IA.  The crops north of Topeka and into Nebraska and Iowa looked much better than in Oklahoma and Texas.

However, road crews were fixing the roads in Iowa and we were the recipient of a rock tossed up by a passing 18-wheeler which chipped our front windshield.

Luckily, we were able to make an appointment with a Safelite auto glass location in Fort Dodge which finally decided that trying to find our address as we were traveling would not work and agreed to have the windshield chip fixed at their location if we could arrive at 3:30 p.m.

Eventually, we reached Twin Lakes, IA and had lunch overlooking the lakes and stretching our legs.

Then we began to look at the farms around Pomeroy and Fonda, Iowa which appeared to have the reasonable crop potential for both corn and soybeans.  However, when we went 15 miles north from Pomeroy, the effects of the late winter ice and snow storm were clearly detrimental to crop development. In several places along IA 3 from Pocahontas to Humboldt, water was still standing preventing crops from being planted or grown.

Prices for corn and soybeans are down as a result of the trade tiff between the U.S. and China as shown in the graphs below. The price for October 2018 delivery to the Pomeroy elevator was $ 3.04/bu. for corn and $8.00/bu. for soybeans.


However, upon inspection of the corn and soybean crops, it would not be a surprise to me if total production of those crops is lower this year than projected. Hence, lower carryover inventories could help prices.

Then it was time to head to Fort Dodge and get the windshield chip repaired.  Then on to Webster City to visit several locations before heading east on U.S. 20 towards Cedar Rapids.

After 16 hours on the road and 555 miles, we finally stopped in Iowa City at the Hampton Inn for the night.

Day 3 - Tuesday

Shortly after a leisurely breakfast at 6 a.m. at the Hampton, we headed out on I-80 towards the largest truck stop in the U.S. just west of Burlington, IA.  My navigator was impressed by the size of this truck stop ... bigger than any in Texas by far.

Then it was back on the road to cross the mighty Mississippi River into Illinois with the navigator wearing her new "Official Navigator" hat. The rest of the morning was spent following GPS instructions towards Shelbyville, Illinois which can lead you astray. However, we found the Shelbyville County Historical Society before they closed for lunch and was able to obtain photos of my great-great-grandparents. 

While the crops in Iowa and Illinois looked great from the road, it will be interesting to hear the results of the Pro-Farmer Crop Tour in two weeks as to expected production in 2018.

After finding no rooms available in Effingham, we headed to Terre Haute, Indiana to spend the night arriving at 5:10 p.m. Total mileage today was only 389 miles.

Day 4 - Wednesday

We left Terre Haute about 9 a.m. headed towards Pennsylvania on I-70 watching the weather reports painting heavy rain in Eastern Pennsylvania and massive flooding. We were unable to obtain lodging around Wheeling, West Virginia so we decided to stay overnight in Ohio.

However, the Interstate road was clear as we leisurely drove east finally arriving in Cambridge, Ohio to spend the night.

Today's mileage was only 389 miles and we stopped several times to take in the local sites.

Day 5 - Thursday

Rain continued to affect Eastern Pennsylvania with reports of many road closures due to high water.  We awoke to heavy fog. After fueling the F-150 and eating breakfast, the fog had lifted slightly so we headed out toward West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Traveling on Interstates and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we eventually arrived in Allentown without any trouble and under relatively clear skies about 4:30 p.m.

I remember my first trip on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and from one end to the other, the toll was $4.80.  Today, we traversed about one-half of the Turnpike's length and the toll was $20.25 ... another sign of inflation.

Total mileage was only 363 miles . We had arrived at the Mechling Reunion Convention motel which was located just across the major highway from a big amusement park, Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom.

Day 6 - Friday

During the morning and early afternoon, we toured the Allentown/Bethlehem area. It had really changed from the days during when I was on Wall Street and traveling to the area on business. I hardly recognized the area.

About  3 p.m. we returned to the Comfort Suites and had hardly entered the lobby when the fire alarm went off and all the guests and employees were required to leave the building. After about an hour, the local fire department which had rolled three fire-trucks and a command vehicle to the motel declared an all-clear and we able to return. It was a defective heat alarm that caused the evacuation.

Today's mileage was only 20 miles.

Day 7 - Saturday

Reunion activities were on the agenda today as we toured many of the family farm locations that still exist in the Lehigh Valley area.

About 5:45 p.m., while taking some luggage back to the F-150, I noticed a police car on the four-lane highway in front of the motel and a man talking through the passenger side window to the policeman. Another person standing beside me took the following video which I caution is difficult to view.

Within about 30 seconds, a second policeman rolled up to the location and began CPR on the victim. Within five minutes, an ambulance was on the scene.  After watching the person placed on a gurney the ambulance headed to the hospital, I returned inside the motel for the Reunion dinner. 

After the dinner, the speaker began "My name is ..." when once again the fire alarm sounded and everyone is forced to evacuate the motel through the main lobby where just outside the police investigation of the shooting involved maybe 15 vehicles and about 50 police.

Quite a show. 

After about 20 minutes, the all-clear was sounded and we were able to return to hear our speaker talk about the Mechling family properties in the Lehigh Valley and the migration of the second generation west.

About 9 p.m., the convention broke up and being tired, I was ready to retire. Unfortunately, I needed to load some material in the F-150. Shortly, I was involved in the police investigation. We discovered that before the shooting a person had been threatening families inside Dorney Park. He had probably jumped the fence onto the major four-lane highway and was disrupting traffic for about 30 minutes before the first policeman arrived on the scene. He had torn the front window out of an automobile with a baby in the front seat and two children in the back, damaged the hoods and side panels of several vehicles before being shot by the police according to the news media. It was after 11:30 p.m. when I headed to bed.

The above video was edited and shown on the national 10 o'clock news.

We did not drive the F-150 today.

Day 8 - Sunday

Unable to get much sleep, it was decided that we should leave the motel at 4:30 a.m. as we had to be back in Dallas on Tuesday and needed to deliver my navigator to Conroe, Texas before heading home.

It was lucky for us that we headed out as about 5:15 a.m. a tank truck overturned in the road in front of the motel and burned closing the main highway for hours.

But we were headed south on the Interstates towards Houston. When we shut down in Meriden, Mississippi about 9 p.m. we had driven 1005 miles and had not seen a drop of rain since just north of Topeka, Kansas.

Day 9 - Monday

After breakfast at 6 a.m., we were back on the  interstate headed to Houston. On the outer loop around Houston, we had a close call with a car trying to cross several lanes of traffic but managed to avoid the problem.  We arrived at my navigators home in Conroe just before 4 p.m., unloaded and by 4:15 p.m. I was back on the road toward Dallas.

We arrived at 8:00 p.m. after driving 777 miles.

Day 10 - Tuesday

After getting the grime of Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois dirt roads washed off the F-150, we filled up and found that after driving 3,936 miles, we averaged 22.3 miles per gallon.


It was great to be back on the road again.

Our trip had enabled us to view crops throughout the Midwest corn belt, visit with many of our relatives at the Mechling Reunion and hold many interesting discussions with my navigator as we read some of my father's journals written following my mother's death.  

Despite all the weather worries, we had a trip with only about 15 minutes of precipitation in Kansas, dry roads and clear skies.

Air-conditioning, Cruise Control, Lane Keeping, Radar detectors, CB's, I-phones, WAZE, GPS and the Find Friends app kept us safe on the road and our family apprised of our location.  Technology has certainly come a long way since my first road trip by myself when I was just 16 and driving from Idaho to Los Angeles in 1952.

I wonder what the next few years will bring.  Driverless auto's perhaps?  That would take the fun out of traveling and long road trips.

But then 'Tis Only My Opinion!

Fred Richards
August 1, 2018


Corruptisima republica plurimae leges. [The more corrupt a republic, the more laws.] -- Tacitus, Annals III 27

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