Down The Road with Dave Volk - 2015 (3)

December 15, 2015



AtlantaTraffic 500The trip from Chattanooga to Atlanta is a short one and the traffic jam that usually plagues this stretch of road doesn’t occur.   Only scary part is at one point the car in front of me slams on the brakes forcing me to do likewise.   Swear to God I could not have missed his rear bumper by inches.   The same is true of the car behind me.

Gives me new respect for not driving distracted.   If I had not been totally on top of my driving I would still be in Atlanta waiting for my car to get repaired.

Arrive at the Smiths with no further problems.   Some weeks before Margaret had posted this Cabbage Roll recipe on Facebook.   I comment to her how delicious it sounds, and what a great fall dish it would be, etc., etc.   My wheedling works…the great cabbage rolls and casserole await me.   Thanks, Margaret.

Dave Skip 400I only eat turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, etc., once a year so I have a tendency to overdo my feasting.   Then, after a great dinner, I am served a huge slab of Thanksgiving dessert when my Bears beat the Packers in Green Bay.    Whipped cream definitely on top of that one.  Something we Bears do about every decade.   At the end of the game I am also thankful that my host Skip, a Packer fan, doesn’t put me on the street.


Head down the road to Jacksonville on Saturday.   I swear I have never driven this road when it wasn’t chilly and raining.   Not today…..75 and sunny all the way south.   Way to go, Georgia!!!

See the weirdest thing on my way down this road.   Every 10-15 miles on one side of the interstate or the other the Georgia Highway Patrol has someone pulled over for speeding.   I am serious.    They do have lead foots in Georgia…..speed limit is 70…..I drive 80 and never pass anyone and some cars go screaming past.  Costly tickets and a big day financially for Georgia HP.

(Observation:   I notice numerous differences from the South and my home up North but one I do not understand is why they don’t believe in Rest Areas down here.   I mean it!   We have more Rest Areas between Rapid City and Sioux Falls then they have in the entire area south of the Mason-Dixon Line.   I came out of one of their few rest stops and see a sign:   Next Rest Area 177 miles!   What!!!!

SuwaneeRiver 400I cross the famous Suwannee River and as in every other year I loudly sing that song and mangle the words and tune.   Next year I will do better.

Arrive in Jacksonville late afternoon and have a nice dinner with niece Aly and her new beau Justin.   I like my nieces and nephews and don’t get to see them as much as I would like, which makes the Jacksonville side- trip nice.


I am up early and head south on I-95.    Probably be quicker to go back to I-75 and go down middle of the state but 95 runs along the ocean.   I love oceans and even though you can’t see the Atlantic from I-95 I just like idea that it’s there, right over there off to my left.   Know that sounds strange but at this point of the journey strange is the new normal.

57 ChevyAs I take a right to head towards Orlando I see countless vintage cars headed to a car show somewhere.    They are the vehicles of my youth and I am transported back to the days of dragging Main Street for hours and being quick enough to yell ‘Shotgun’ so you didn’t end up in the back seat, or worse yet, in the middle.    Anyway, a nice trip down memory lane on this warm Sunday by Orlando.

I soon start to see the signs I have waited thousands of miles to see…Sarasota, Bradenton, Manatee.    I know once I get to them I am just a short bridge ride to my home away from my Dakota home -- Longboat Key.

Journeys-end-2015 400This long journey dwindles down.  I am tired, the car is tired, and I suspect even my blogs are getting tired.   Anyway, I appreciate those who have stayed until the end.   Thinking of what to write in these blogs helps to pass the time and, in a way, I do feel like I have you along for company.   Hope you enjoyed the ride. 

Need to make a correction from first blog.   I said that while my books were edited exhaustively before being published, my blogs were done on the move and I asked for forgiveness for bad grammar, verb tenses, etc.   Though, that’s not true.   The fact of the matter is my brother, a professor of the writing arts, has been kind enough through the years to go through my blogs and improve each and every one.   Thanks, Craig.

Again, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Hanukah, or whatever it is you celebrate at this special time of the year.   I also wish you all a Happy New Year!   2015 has been a wonderful, special year for me and hope the same is true for all of you.

See you “Down the Road” next year.

December 1, 2015

Left on a brilliant, bright day from Dakota...just a day after a 14" snow. Though, in spite of the High Patrol's 'Road Report', Interstate 29 south proves to be "NOT DRY"!!!! Ice all the way to Iowa border.

Trip thereafter is fine and I pull into the Phillips Hotel before sunset . Too weary for a trip to Arthur Bryant's BBQ, I settle for a KC Strip at hotel. Not a bad tradeoff.

I am the first one in the WWI Museum when it opens at 10 am the next morning. Truly a world-class facility run by a helpful, friendly staff.

Unlike the Civil War, which I have studied extensively, I am less versed in WWI except knowing it involved massive carnage. However, even I was not prepared for the grim statistics of that conflict.

In a previous blog I mentioned how devastating frontal assaults were during the Civil War. Incredibly, 50 years later the same insane tactics would be used in Europe. The only difference was that instead of facing rifle- barreled muskets the soldiers of WWI would face massive artillery, poisonous gas and the mostly deadly weapon...the Maxim machine gun. Also, instead of thousands of soldiers moving across an open field into fixed positions there would be tens of thousands making the same bloody maneuver in WWI.

Battle of the Somme 400
"Over The Top"
Dave-machine-gun 400

Additionally, the soldiers lived in unbelievable conditions along 400 miles of trenches that stretched from Belgium to Switzerland. Once in Vietnam I was stuck on a firebase. It was during the monsoon season. We were forced to live in bunkers that always seemed to have a foot of water. We put down empty ammo boxes to step on and stayed in hammocks to keep out of the water. A very long 5 days. In WWI they literally would spend months, even years, in this mire and muck. Trench foot, Trench mouth, and Trench Fever all became very nasty afflictions.

I truly do not understand how these WWI generals would again and again charge their soldiers across 'No Man's Land'. They virtually were suicide attacks with massive casualties. During the Battle of Somme there were literally over a million dead or wounded during a single extended engagement.

Toward the end at one point it got so bad the French Army went on strike and refused to go over the top of the trenches. That incident has always intrigued me. What would happen if all the front line troops simply stacked their weapons and went on strike. I imagine peace would break out. A pipe dream to be sure but one I rather like.

Stupid old men who would use the lives of young men as if they were so much cannon fodder. As I mentioned in a previous blog on the Civil War I surmised there would be a lot fewer of these type of insane attacks if the generals had to lead from the front and not the rear. WWI was called the 'War to end all Wars". Indeed.

Sorry for this depressing rant but having been a soldier this sort of disregard for human life upsets me. However, let me end this portion of the Blog on an optimistic note and say to all of our young men and women in uniform who are deployed at this time of the year, please know how very proud we are of all of you and thankful for your service. We hope that next year you are all home and once again seated round our Thanksgiving tables.


I had planned on stopping at Columbia on Sunday but, fueled by junk food and a steady stream of football on Sirius, I get all the way down the road and end up in Cape Girardeau, MO.

The great thing about getting all the way to Cape Girardeau is I will have more time to spend with Superman in Metropolis and more time at the National Home of Quilting in Padacuh........Ah, the life of a jet setter.

The jaunt from Cape Girardeau to Metropolis is a real treat. A two-lane road that meanders and rolls through small towns and forest, some with trees still hanging on to the last of their fall foliage.

After days of long, boring interstates driving this nice quiet drive through the countryside is a welcome change.

Superman50s 391

METROPOLIS! I loved Superman when it first came out on TV. Especially when he would tie some bad guys gun barrel into a knot or stand in front of Lois while bullets ricochet off him.

I remember coming home from school once and excitedly telling my Mom that while running on the playground I felt like I actually came off the ground. She said: "Well maybe you're Superman." Isn't it funny to remember something like that after all these years? What I am probably remembering is my mother lovingly indulging one of her little boys fantasies...through the years she would do a lot of things like that.

Anyway, great fun in Metropolis and can't resist playing the tourist. Although I must admit to almost hurting myself sucking in my gut for so long. Lady who was taking picture took her job so seriously she made me pose for what seemed like endless shots.

DaveSuperman 400

As I am leaving Metropolis I see a jogger along the road. As with all joggers I have never seen one that looks happy. I religiously do a set of exercises every morning but hate I have said many times: "If you see me better also run....because something is chasing me." In the spirit of fairness, however, I am sure there are people, who, viewing me flaying away at a little white ball with a stick would wonder about my choice of hobbies. As Mark Twain would put it "Golf is a good walk ruined."


Now on to Paducah and the dark underbelly of knitting.

In my first blog I mentioned spicing up my road trip tales with a fictionalized adventure involving the National Home of Quilting located in Paducah, KY, and some jealous knitters from Illinois. Below is first installment:


"The four 80=something knitters from Illinois had donned their black ninja suits and were preparing to deliver some good old fashioned quilting retribution on the knitters of Paducah, KY. For years these ladies had suffered the snobbish superiority and condescension of Paducah knitters who were always bragging about their National Home of Quilting. Well, that was about to end as they were going to parcel out some good old fashioned vengeance on Paducah, and they knew that vengeance was a dish best served knitted.

However, the nasty ninjas from Illinois had not anticipated that they would soon come face-to face-with Purl Chastain, an international stolen quilt investigator, and her partner, 'Dakota' Dave, a ruggedly handsome cowboy from the plains of South Dakota."

(To be continued next year).


Finally, after four years, I visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo! Getting excited friends, getting excited!?!

Pardon me, boy

Is that the Chattanooga choo choo?
(Yes yes track twenty-nine)
Boy, you can gimme a shine

(Can you afford to board the Chattanooga choo choo?)

I've got my fare

(And just a trifle to spare)


To fully experience the Chattanooga mystique I stay in The Choo Choo Hotel. A grand place created out of an old railroad depot where Choo Choo is housed.

Dave-Engineer 400

Turns out that through the years there have been a number of Chattanooga Choo Choos. However, only after the Glenn Miller song in 1941 did the train become famous.

In Chattanooga I am reminded of my weakness for sweet drawling southern waitresses. "Hello Dawling, what can I get you, Sugah." All I know is that they have me from the first honey-dipped drawl. Invariably acquiring a big tip.

Just a last note on this year's trip south. One of the extras at coming at this time of year is that everyone is putting up their DaveChooChooHotel 400Christmas decorations. From a town of 150 in southern Illinois to Kansas City and Chattanooga everyone is getting dressed up for Christmas. Around this time of year we seem to hear about a supposed 'War On Christmas'. Let me just say that given what I observed through seven states and thousands of miles, if there is a 'War on Christmas', Christmas is winning and winning big.

Hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that your Christmas is filled with family, friends and joy.

 I'll do one more blog to wrap things up and might even do a blog on the way home as I am looking at taking a very different route and might want to report on that.

As always enjoy your comments and try to answer all of them.

Send your comments to Dave via Facebook or email.

If you'd like to read Dave's "Down the Road" blogs from previous years click on the links below:

Down the Road - 2013

Down the Road - 2014



 November 21, 2015 

LongboatKey 500It doesn’t seem possible but this will be the fifth year of my annual travel blog as I wind my way south to my winter home on Longboat Key, Florida.   Even though it’s my 5th year, I must admit to some youthful anticipation and excitement that this annual trip always engenders.   To be back on the road…….to pack up the summer clothes, my children's books and golf clubs and point the car south. 

My trips are always subject to change due to weather, etc., however, the one thing I will not do, under any circumstances, is go through Iowa.   It is the political ‘Amok Time” in Iowa now as it holds its presidential caucuses on Feb. 1st.   You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a politician.   I don’t want to end my days being run over by a Rick Santorum campaign bus as he races from Cedar Falls to Waterloo trying to make two Rotary luncheons in one day. 

Although I spent many years in politics, I have always kept politics out of my “Down the Road” blogs.  However, must say this election cycle has started out stranger than most.    A quote from that great Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson says it best:   “When the going gets weird…the weird turn pro.”     I ran eight campaigns during my political career and so have some sense of what these people are going through.   So, regardless of their party or their personal-weird, I wish them all well and safe travels. 

Superman 250Going to break one of my ‘rules of road’ and venture into a big city on my first 
night out.    My brother Craig says there is an excellent WWI museum in Kansas City, and since the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI was last year this seems like a good time to visit.  Also, as a lifelong Chicago White Sox fan, it will be nice to be in a city that has a baseball team that actually knows how to win.  There is also a great old hotel called the Phillips where I will stay and I have a hankering for some of those great Arthur Bryant Kansas City ribs.

Not exactly sure of my route out of KC but on one of my earlier trips I went through Metropolis, IL.   A town devoted to Superman.  I saw a few of the attractions but didn’t quite locate the giant statute of the ‘Man of Steel’.  So am going to try for that siting this trip.  As someone who grew up in Mitchell, SD, home to the World’s Only Corn Palace I have a natural affinity for tourism kitsch.   Additionally, throughout my road trips I have always searched for “Truth, Justice and the American Way!”  

Choo-Choo 400I have also made it a goal to at long last stop and see the ‘Choo Choo’ in Chattanooga.  Will do so this trip. Probably won’t be a long stop. While you could spend days looking at the World’s Only Corn Palace, how long will it take to look at a train?   

Since this is my fifth trip I feel like some of my narrative has grown too familiar and repetitive so I am thinking of perhaps adding a fictionalized adventure.   Perhaps a tale where I meet a beautiful woman of mystery (think SHARON STONE for the movie version) in Paducah, KY, and together we thwart a nefarious plot by jealous knitters from Illinois who are bent on stealing precious quilts from the National Home of Quilting, located in Paducah. (Look it up). 

Dave15 250Then on to Atlanta where I will check into the ‘Volk Room’ for Thanksgiving with Army buddy Skip, lovely wife Margaret, three cats and some other orphaned friends they invite to their feast.  I will also watch my Bears beat the hell out of the hated Packers of Green Bay.  (Some friends have suggested that I should strive to be more optimistic and there isn’t anything more optimistic, in all of North America, then thinking the Bears will beat the Pack in Lambeau Field.)  Picture to the right is from last year’s Thanksgiving game just before Packers shellacked my Bears 

Then off on Interstate 75 and the long, straight ribbon of highway south to Florida.    I will probably stop in Jacksonville, FL as I have niece Aly over there that I like to spoil a little.   Then down past St. Augustine and Orlando as I start to close in on Longboat.   After unpacking and a trip to Publix for supplies, I will be standing tall in the late afternoon with a large Siesta Key Rum and coke and a thick wedge of fresh lime.  There I and my fellow Casa Del Marians will watch that huge sun drop into the Gulf of Mexico.   Then my first trip to the Lazy Lobster for a bowl of the best Lobster Bisque on the planet.   Ah, life can be good. 

Hope you will join me on my 5th Anniversary trip.   Also, wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

(I enjoy hearing from you while I am on the road.   In addition to being emailed the Blogs will be posted on Facebook and you can message me through that, or just send an email.  As in the past I ask your indulgence for my grammar, usage, tense, etc.   My books are scrubbed by any number of people smarter than me but the Blogs are kind of done on the run)

 Send your comments to Dave via Facebook or email.

If you'd like to read Dave's "Down the Road" blogs from previous years click on the links below:

Down the Road - 2013

Down the Road - 2014