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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Panther Valley Couple Crosses USA in a Vegetable Oil Powered Bus

Reprinted from my old hometown newspaper - The Times News

You may remember that Nancy and I owned a bus back in the 1970s. Here is a neat story about a young couple that built a bus to run on vegetable oil and used it to cross the USA.

AL ZAGOFSKY/TIMES NEWS Amber Breiner and her husband, Josh Finsel, converted a 1992 Bluebird school bus into a mobile home, called a schoolie, to return to Pennsylvania from Oregon. Toward the rear, Josh demonstrates how the custom tanks of the schoolie are filled with waste vegetable oil, which they got free from restaurants along the 3,000-mile journey.
(This is Part One of a three-part series – How we got our yellow schoolie)

"I never imagined we'd buy a school bus and convert it to run on veggie oil," began Amber Breiner as she recounted the story of how she, her husband, Josh Finsel, and their three-year-old daughter, Ada, crossed America on a yellow veggie oil schoolie.

Although the trip comprised over a year in its planning, the actual trip from Eugene Oregon to White Haven, took only 10 days. According to Amber and Josh, the veggie oil schoolie had no problems and "it was a lot of fun."

The Finsels made two conversions to the retired school bus – one to renovate the interior into a motor home, and the second to convert the fuel system to run on waste vegetable oil.

The story began in 2004 when Josh and Amber were both working for Youth Services Agency as adventure counselors at camps for adjudicated teens. Josh was working at their boy's camp in Penn Forest and Amber was working at the girl's camp in Kunkletown.

"I wanted to learn to play the guitar," said Amber. "We had a mutual friend who knew Josh was a guitar instructor."

After three lessons with Josh, "he stopped returning my phone calls," said Amber. "He had feelings for me and I had feelings for him, and we were excited like two new friends meeting. We had a lot in common - a love of photography, the environment, and organic food, but it wasn't a good time for us to get together.

After a while, when Josh became available, he called Amber. She was no longer interested in guitar lessons, she had been teaching herself to play, but she was interested in dating Josh. A year and a half later, they married.

Josh's interest in organic farming took him to work at the 14-Acre Farm in Summit Hill. Amber, now pregnant, had applied to graduate schools and was accepted to a program in Public Administration and Non-Profit Management at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon.

They overpacked their Subaru with all their worldly possessions, squeezing their cat into a space reminiscent of the flux capacitor from Back to the Future.

Amber would start school the following year. In the meanwhile, they raised their daughter and started a wedding photography business.

As her program was in sight of completion, "we knew we were going to come back to Pennsylvania," Amber said. "Our family ties there are very strong and we wanted our daughter to grow up around our family. It's important to us."

But how were they going to get home? In the three years they were in Oregon, they had acquired a household of personal and business belongings plus "we had a lot of stuff for our daughter." Their first thought was to rent a U-Haul.

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AL ZAGOFSKY/TIMES NEWS "I never imagined we'd buy a school bus and convert it to run on veggie oil," said Amber Breiner as she recounted the story of how she, her husband, Josh Finsel, and their three-year-old daughter, Ada, crossed America on a yellow veggie oil schoolie.
Josh wanted something with some room so Ada would be able to play. Amber and Josh wanted to be able to camp along the way. "We thought about a conversion van or a VW bus," said Amber.

They remembered back before they left, the band Hot Buttered Rum played at the Mauch Chunk Opera House. "They traveled in a tour bus that was converted to run on veggie oil," Amber said.

They looked on Craig's List and found a converted tour busbut at $17,000, it was out of their price range.

They began researching their options and learned about schoolies, former school buses that were converted into mobile homes. They checked online sites and answered ads.

"We looked around town but decided that we didn't want to buy someone else's schoolie," Amber said. They learned that after so many years, school buses had to be retired and generally, these school buses are traded into a dealer for credit towards a new school bus.

"We decided we would buy one from a dealer," Amber said. "In our minds, if it came straight from the school district, it would be well maintained."

Josh had spoken with people from Green Eye Auto, a company that specialized in converting diesel engines to run on waste veggie oil. He learned what would be needed in a vehicle that he could convert to run on veggie oil.

They wanted a bus with automatic transmission, with undercarriage storage to locate the veggie oil storage tanks, and a flat front called a transit style.

They sought one final piece of information - advice from an experienced bus driver. That would be Josh's Uncle Hilbert - who drives a bus for the Lehighton School District.

"We asked him, what's his favorite bus?" said Amber. "Josh was looking at all different kinds of engines and options."

Uncle Hilbert said, "I don't know anything about the engines. My favorite is bus 19. That's what I get in and drive."

At the bus dealer, they found a bus retired from the Sweethome School District. "It had everything we wanted: automatic transmission, undercarriage storage, and a flat frontand it was number 19. We laughed about it and took it as a sign. The price was right. The guy gave us a break because the tires were down. We paid $4,600," said Amber.

(Continued in Part 2 Converting the yellow schoolie to veggie oil)

Friday, November 28, 2008

We Spent Thanksgiving at Disneyworld

It is Black Friday at 9 AM. I woke up to an empty bed because Lulu went out on the streets at 4 AM to compete in Black Friday shopping. I know nothing other than getting a text message at 6 AM stating, "Bargains galore!" I am still in bed at Wayne and Shirley's apartment in downtown Orlando. I guess Keith is in the other bedroom - not a creature is stirring.

What are we doing in Orlando and Disneyworld? Keith's Georgetown Hoyas are playing in the Old Spice Basketball Classic at the Disney Milk Fieldhouse. So instead of flying to Tallahassee - Keith caught a flight to Orlando where we picked him up Thursday.

Our neighbor Shirley keeps a spare apartment in Baldwin Park in Orlando. She teaches at the FAMU law school here - and commutes down once a week. It is a pretty apartment overlooking a lake near Winter Park.

On Thanksgiving - we spent most of the day in Disneyworld. The first Hoyas game was at 1 PM - after that we were the guest of Tim Howard's famiy. Tim was Keith's roommate at Georgetown. His family is staying at the Disney Swan Hotel. Instead of cooking a turkey meal today - Lulu enjoyed a private catered dinner in a suite overlooking EPCOT.

After dinner we returned to Wayne and Shirley's apartment. Lulu wanted to get some sleep for her big shopping venture today. She took the van and a GPS - I hope she can find her way home.

After another Georgetown game against Tennessee today at 1 PM - we will point the van north to Tallahassee. We hope to be home in time to pick up the newest Seminole fan at the TLH Airport. Sally Bair - an old friend from Pennsylvania is flying into town to see the Florida at Florida State football game and attend the Bobby Bowden luncheon on Monday before she returns home.

Sally will stay in our guest house - Keith will inhabit his old bedroom with us. We are still searching for four tickets together for all of us for the Saturday 3:30 game. The entire world expects the Gators to clobber FSU - but there will be four fans - hopefully together - cheering on the Noles. Tickets on Craigslist started at $150 but many can be found now for under $75. Getting four together will be a little harder. Usually I wait until game time for deep discounts but with so many guests - we would like to sit together.

Sally Bair is the biggest Penn State fan of all time. We attended the Orange Bowl with her when PSU played FSU. It was called the Geezer Bowl and it went into overtime - before Joe Paterno's Nit's beat Bobby Bowden's Seminoles. Sally is an educator in the Pennsylvania school system near retirement - and we hope we can deliver a Seminole victory to her at home before one of her favorite coaches falls over on the sidelines.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Florida State's Myron Rolle is Worth the Hype

This story was written by Bob Garbordi - Executive Editor of the Tallahassee Democrat

This is a story you have to love, and you just absolutely have to share with your friends and family.

I called my wife when I got the text alert saying that Myron Rolle had been named a Rhodes Scholar. She told my daughter and a group of friends. And so on.

And yes, sent a breaking-news text alert out the minute the scholarship was announced. The truth is we can use more stories like Myron Rolle – check that, more people like Myron Rolle.

Sure, the media made a lot of it. He got more attention than America’s 31 other Rhodes Scholarship winners. Good for the media for recognizing a Florida State football player for his academic and personal success.

I’ve always been bothered by the term “off-the-field success.” That just means life. What good is being a good football player if you don’t live your life right?

Rolle has lived his 22-year life very well. That’s why he got a police escort to Byrd Stadium at the University of Maryland on Saturday night, why the crowd stood and cheered his entrance, why his teammates mobbed him and dumped celebratory Gatorade on his head.

Winning the Rhodes Scholarship is not like winning a Heisman Trophy. Media hype can't help you win a Rhodes Scholarship. According to the Rhodes Trust, “extraordinary intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship.”

In other words, just being smart isn't enough. Having a “fondness” for sports helps. You must also display “sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship.” And you must demonstrate an ability to lead with a “moral force of character.”

Smart. Physically fit. Committed to your fellow man. A leader. Rolle deserves to have the media spotlight his accomplishments.

On this, T.K. Wetherell is absolutely on point: "We've been getting a lot of attention for (athletes) who get in trouble," the FSU president said. "I'm not going to apologize for the ones who do the right thing."

Myron Rolle graduated in 2 ½ years with a degree in exercise science and having completed the pre-med requirements. That plus being one of the premier safeties in the ACC, if not the country.

That plus he’s the founder of “Our Way to Health,” a fifth-grade curriculum that addresses diabetes and obesity for students at a charter school run by the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Not to mention he won FSU’s Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Award, which provides $4,000 for undergraduates to pursue research in their field of study, and the Vires Award, given annually for "intellectual and moral strength."

That's just for starters. There is much more to this young man.

FSU should brag on Rolle but also on itself.

Three Rhodes Scholarship winners in four years: Rolle, Garrett Johnson and Joe O’Shea. Johnson was also an NCAA champion in the shot put; O’Shea was student-body president. FSU's other Rhodes Scholarship winner was Caroline Alexander in 1976.

But none got the attention in the media of a big-time football player that Rolle is getting: Sports Illustrated and the Chronicle of Higher Education joined the Tallahassee Democrat in flying with Rolle from Birmingham, where the Rhodes Scholarship was announced, to Maryland. ESPN and the Miami Herald have done stories, too.

So FSU has no reason to apologize for the hype around Myron Rolle. No one is bothered when the school hypes an athlete for the Heisman, and this -- well, the Rhodes Scholarship is so much better than that.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Florida State's Myron Rolle awarded Rhodes Scholarship

By Gerald Ensley
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Myron Rolle admitted his heart was pounding.

Thirteen finalists for the Rhodes Scholarship sat before the committee late Saturday afternoon in Birmingham, all hoping to hear their name called.

The committee chairman announced the first name — and it wasn't Rolle. Then the chair paused for three seconds — and called Rolle's name.

In that moment, the Florida State defensive back had joined the long line of presidents, authors and inventors whose resumes include the world's most prestigious post-graduate scholarship.

"Those three seconds seemed like an eternity; my heart was pounding," Rolle said. "The first thing I did was put my head down and thank God for the opportunity and moment. I knew it wasn't just me in the room. I had a lot of help from a lot of people."

Rolle was selected from 13 finalists in District 7, which covers Florida, Alabama and Tennessee. The other student selected was Parker Goyer, a Duke graduate now at Harvard.

Two of the other District 7 finalists were from Tallahassee: 2003 Maclay grad Adam Kircher, who now attends Stanford, and 2004 Leon High grad Elliot Hawkes, who attends Harvard.

The U.S. each year sends 32 students — two from each of 16 districts — to do postgraduate study in Oxford, England as Rhodes Scholars. More than 7,000 men and women have been Rhodes Scholars since they were first awarded in 1903.

Rolle, a junior eligible for next spring's NFL draft, said he has not decided whether he would accept the Rhodes Scholarship or pursue pro football. If he accepted, Rolle, who wants eventually to be a physician, would spend one year studying medical anthropology.

"The Rhodes — where the future is going with that — I want to make that decision with my family," Rolle said. "We haven't really talked about the future yet."

The selection — fittingly in the city where FSU head coach Bobby Bowden was born and raised — came shortly after 5 p.m. EST. Within minutes, Rolle was whisked off to catch a private plane to play in the FSU-Maryland game at 8 p.m. EST.

The plane was a corporate Lear jet provided free to FSU by Bob Basham, chairman and co-founder of Outback Restaurants, who is benefactor of the FSU business school and has a son and step-daughter who attend FSU. Reporters from Sports Illustrated, the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Tallahassee Democrat, plus a freelance photographer , accompanied Rolle and FSU athletics academic advisor Bill Shults.

Rolle texted friends before takeoff. Once airborn, he ate a sandwich, napped for a half-hour then listened to his iPod. As the plane landed, he was listening to Ice Cube's "Today Was A Good Day."

The hour-and-half flight had Rolle in Baltimore just minutes after the game started. Following a police-escorted race to the stadium — monitored by ESPN broadcasters — Rolle was suited up and on the field by the second quarter. After embracing his parents on the sideline, Rolle entered the game with 1:30 remaining in the first half and FSU ahead 21-0.

Rolle became Florida State's third Rhodes Scholar in four years and fourth overall. Previous Rhodes Scholarship winners from FSU were student body president Joe O'Shea (2007), track and field All-American Garrett Johnson (2005) and best-selling author Caroline Alexander (1976), a Tallahassee native who was selected in the first year women were eligible.

Rolle is believed to be the first major college football player selected for a Rhodes Scholarship since Cory Booker, a Stanford tight end and now mayor of Newark, N.J., who was chosen in 1992. Other major college football winners have included Ohio State receiver Mike Lane (1985), Southern Cal quarterback Pat Haden (1975), Army's Heisman Trophy winner halfback Pete Dawkins (1959) and Colorado halfback and U.S. Supreme Court judge Byron "Whizzer" White (1938).

Rolle's pursuit of a Rhodes Scholarship had gained national publicity, in part because it has become unusual.

Elliot Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Trust, estimated "three to five" of the annual 32 Rhodes Scholarship winners are varsity athletes. But he said it is "rare" for a Division I football or basketball player to be chosen, because of the time demands of those sports at that level.

"A generation ago, you could be a varsity athlete in those sports and still compile the record we're looking for," said Gerson, himself a Rhodes Scholar (1974). "But the time commitments are so much more demanding now."

Rolle had spent weeks preparing for the final 20-minute interview, participating in seven mock interviews with tutors and former Rhodes Scholars.

FSU professor Sally Karioth, who mentored Rolle during his yearlong pursuit of the Rhodes and accompanied him to Birmingham, had worried Saturday's 20-minute finals interview was too short. She said Rolle's reserved personality does not lend itself to an immediate appreciation of his intelligence, dutifulness and long list of accomplishments.

"He's solid as a rock. But (the committee members) are not going to get that in 20 minutes," Karioth said. "It takes a long time to realize he does the right thing over and over. He doesn't seem to fit his bio until you know him long enough to know that he not only fits it, but he is a shining example of it."

Rolle conceded he was thinking about that — "I'm a little introverted" — but opened up the interview with a few joking comments about television coverage of the recent presidential election, which brought chuckles from the committee.

"Once I got them laughing, I relaxed," Rolle said. "The pressure went down and I started enjoying the moment."

Rolle said the toughest question in the interview was about care. Rolle said he was dismayed 45 million Americans have no health insurance and said health care should be "more of a right than a privilege." He shared a story told to him by fellow Tallahassee candidate, Elliot Hawkes, who was in a bike accident in Switzerland and received fast, extensive treatment.

"If that can happen to a stranger in Switzerland," Rolle said, "it should happen in the United States."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

FSU Has A Rhodes Scholar - Myron Rolle

As I type this story - Myron Rolle is in a private jet zooming at 30,000 feet to College Park, Maryland. At 5 PM - he was receiving his Rhodes Scholarship at a ceremony in Birmingham, Alabama. In two hours - he will be on the football field with the Seminoles paying the Maryland Terrapins.

Rolle left high school early to matriculate at Florida State University. Since then - he has been carrying a heavy load. Besides being the starting safety for the Seminole football team - he has completed his undergraduate degree in 2 and 1/2 years. He has carried a 3.75 GPA in a difficult pre-med program.

This could not have come at a better time. The FSU football team has been in the spotlight for different reasons - ranging from several players being suspended for cheating on a music test - to four players being involved in a brawl on campus.

Tonight at 8 PM - Florida State plays the University of Maryland - it is a must win to have any chance of playing for the ACC title.

Rolle has already spent one summer at the FSU Study Center. Rhodes Scholars study in Oxford - about one hour outside London. He is the 4th FSU student to win this award. The Rhodes Scholarship may be the world’s most prestigious postgraduate academic award.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bowden Speaks Out About Fight

Article published Nov 16, 2008
Bowden wants players to learn to 'back away'
By Steve Ellis
It is a message that Bobby Bowden has delivered numerous times.

“Back away.”

But Florida State football players apparently didn’t do that last week during an on-campus brawl. And, as a result, five receivers were suspended for the Boston College game. The group included three of FSU’s top receivers in Corey Surrency, Taiwan Easterling and Bert Reed.

“I’ve done this every year: ‘Men, you have to back away from trouble’ ”, said Bowden who told the players to call police if they find themselves in a similar situation. “You might look like a coward but you must back away. As a football player you do not have a chance. Just back away. If someone is harassing you. …. My number is listed. Call me.”

Bowden handed down the suspensions prior to the completion of the FSU Police Department's investigation, an unusual move for the veteran coach. Bowden, during his first in-depth interview about the fight and suspensions, said on Sunday that he believed it was necessary.

“The fact that they went over there,” Bowden said. “Sure, they knew something was up. Yet you could see why several of them would go -- have to go over there and protect so-and-so.

“My thinking was: ‘Well, you shouldn’t have gone over there in the first place.’ ”

Three of the players disciplined had been suspended for various reasons before. Bowden said he believes a message has been delivered.

“I’m sure they got the message because these kids that were suspended came by my office and cried: ‘Why me? I was just trying to help my buddy.’ And stuff like that. (They) couldn’t believe they were going to be suspended. I’m sure they got the message and they’ll get the message to all our kids. It could happen again but buddy, they know what will happen if it does.”

More discipline could be handed down for those apparently tied to the fight with Phi Beta Sigma.

“I hope there is no more bad news so we can get the full team working out there,” Bowden said.

He added: “To me it makes a lot of difference of who attacked who.”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Reporting from FSU Game with iPhone

PICTURES - Heisman Trophy Winner Chris Weinke - The view from our seats.

It is 40 minutes until game time. We are sitting in the president's
box - front row 50 yard line.

We have plenty of food and drinks. Lots of people are working the crowd.

Weather is clear and cold.

FSU is wearing black with maroon numbers. I cannot read the numbers from here.
Flags are standing straight out.

Lulu is enjoying black martinis.

TK and his wife greeted us.

There is a very dramatic fly over of two giant helicopters. The pilots bring them down close enough to be lit up by the stadium lights - it seems almost dangerous. From this cocoon high above the stadium you would swear you were looking down on the choppers as they peeled off. The two best things tonight about the president's box is that it is not cold and windy in here. After living 55 years through the winters of the hills of Pennsylvania - you never forget how the wind feels if you have a loose sleeve or a shirt untucked.

More later....

...FSU loses by 10....

Morning After - A lot of folks are very sad with last night's loss to Boston College. It felt as if the old Seminoles were coming back - but now one realizes we are stuck at 7-3 with a very difficult Maryland team on the road next week followed by a Florida team that many think will play in the national championship game. If FSU gets in a bowl - we could very easily end up 7-6 - for the third year in a row.

All of this makes one realize how "unnatural" it was that FSU went 19 years in a row in the top 4 in the country. It is a distant memory when FSU won every game in the Atlantic Coast Conference for 7 straight years. But many FSU fans feel like their birthright is being stolen away. They blame the coaches - they blame the kids - they blame the fans. But one must realize we are like ants on a log going down the river - no one is really in control but we all thing we are steering.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Honda Introduces a Car That Gets 60 Miles Per Gallon

I just got home from Proctor Honda in Tallahassee after taking my car in for regular service. In the showroom - they proudly display an innovative car - a vanguard of fuel efficiency and economy.

This Honda gets an honest 60 miles per gallon. It is not a hybrid and does not require special fuel - just good old regular gas. It has a two-cylinder air-cooled gasoline engine that directly drives the front wheels that have 10 inch tires. It has a 4-speed standard shift mounted on the dashboard. It seats 4 people and has a small hatchback for cargo.

The amazing thing about this car is the window sticker of $1525. That includes an AM-FM radio. Another interesting gas saving feature is the hand choke.

Although this little orange beauty has a prominent place in the Proctor Honda showroom today - the car was introduced to America in 1972.

Lulu and I got married in 1971. We spent our honeymoon on Miami South Beach in a motel for $8 a night. The next summer - we decided to return to Miami. Before we left Pennsylvania - we bought a brand new car. It was the 1972 Honda 600. Even then I was a bit tight with spending and the $1525 price caught my eye.

Up until 1972 - Honda only sold motorcycles in America. The Honda 600 was marketed through cycle shops one full year before Honda introduced the world famous Civic in 1973.

We bought the car in Scranton and drove it non-stop to Miami - 1300 miles down US Route 1. Even though gasoline only cost 25 cents a gallon at the time - living on a $6000 a year teacher's salary demanded thrift. We were able to make the trip on $8 of regular leaded gasoline!

In about 24 hours we were in Miami - our funds were running low. When I dropped by the local Honda shop to buy an oil filter - the sales manager encouraged me to sell the little cars for him. He offered me a flat $60 commission for every car I sold. I only had to sell 100 of them to match my annual teacher salary.

When I returned to my classroom in the fall - my students got great pleasure out of carrying my little ride up the school's steps giving me a bumpy ride home.

Honda went on to be one of the most successful auto companies in America. In a few years - they started making their cars in Ohio. Maybe they should consider re-introducing this innovative car. At present fuel prices it would sell like "a Honda."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Our Email Trip to Portugal

We just got home from a fantastic trip to Portugal. Lulu was invited by the Ministry of Education to be a guest speaker. They had been using her book to set up a model evaluating system of school libraries and someone suggested they go right to the source. At first we were skeptical - but everything turned out wonderfully. They had translators and earpieces so everyone was on the same wavelength. Since every student in Portugal studies English - it was second nature to them.

We had great flights - stayed at a very nice hotel - and ate way too much good food. Portugal is a big producer of sugar and they aren't afraid to use it in their cooking. It was hard to find a restaurant that displayed fake sugar sweeteners. The hot chocolate was fantastic - you could almost stand your spoon up in it. The national bird is a small custard tart called a pasteis.

On the way over to Europe and on the way back - we were able to visit our grandson in Syracuse - but that is another story.

Our plane got to town about midnight and we are still a little jet-lagged - but the memories of this trip will linger a long time.

Enjoy the slide show above. I had to whittle 250 pictures down to 66.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Last Day On The Road

It has been a fantastic 11 days on the road - but it is time to come home. As much as we look forward to our own bed and all of our own toys - this day is the hardest one of all.

On this trip - we got to see Jack two times - once on the way to Europe - and once on the way home. He is such a little guy - but he is growing so fast. Lulu and I have grown head over heals in love with him. He is such a happy baby - and his parents are absolutely fabulous with him. They are both busy with research - jobs - and schools - but it is easy to see who comes first.

As I look at this picture of Drew - Jack - and me - flashbacks of my 60 years come flying back from the deep corners of my mind. In one memory - I am the baby - Drew is my Dad - but grandfather Roy Everhart could not be there because he went down on a ship in WWII long before I was born. It is a void not ever having met my grandfathers. In the next flashback - Drew is the baby - I am the Dad - and a much gentler coal miner Dad is hovering over to help any way he could. Dad gave me everything he could. Now - I just imagine the wonderful future both Drew and Jack are going to have. Drew is a much better father than I ever was.

Here's hoping I am still in the picture in 30 years - and I get to see 4 generations of Everhart's all lined up. That would make me very happy.

Yes - the last day of this trip is the nicest and the hardest.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Our Last Day in Portugal was Spent in Sintra

Sintra is a quaint town high in the mountains overlooking the Atlantic Coast. The King of Portugal had a palace here to enjoy the summer breezes. Also the Moors had a castle here to defend their territory in the 800's. Today we visited both places.

The day started out with a 40 minute train from Lisbon. When we got to Sintra - we took a tour of the King's Palace. Portugal is world famous for its ceramic tiles and this palace was no exception. After the palace- we took a bus to the top of the mountain to see the Moorish Castle.

This area of Europe was Moorish Territory for centuries until the crusades cleared the Muslims out. We were really surprised to see how large the castle was. It reminded me of the Great Wall of China.

After spending a few hours shopping and eating in Sintra - we returned to Lisbon for our last night in town. We went to the old downtown square to enjoy a little shopping and supper. Then we took a cable car to one of the 7 hills of Lisbon. The hill was a great place to catch sunset and dusk overlooking the city.

After a cab trip back to the hotel - we enjoyed a bottle of champagne to celebrate one wonderful trip to a very beautiful country in Europe.

Pictures -
1.Lisbon is famous for cable cars similar to SanFrancisco.
2.Lisbon at dusk. See St. George Castle on the far hill.
3.Moorish Castle Wall in Sintra.
4.Tile sidewalks all over Portugal.
5.View of Sintra from Moorish Castle.
6.These girls thought they were in "les-bon."
7.King's Palace in Sintra.
8.Streets covered with tiles.
9.More tiles inside King's Palace.
10.Tile train station in Sintra.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Where Did You Experience the Obama Election - We Did It in Portugal

We are spending a fantastic week in Lisbon. Thanks to computers and the internet - we got to enjoy what was happening in America. Thanks to the people of Portugal - we saw how much the world looks to and admires America. 

The Portuguese people are very friendly and engaging people. they love to practice their English on American visitors. Crowds also packed the streets and cheered for the election of Brack Obama. 

Lulu's conference is over and we are just enjoying touring this fantastic old city. There is so much history here. 

For centuries - they ruled the seas. Vasco de Gama sailed from this city to discover the new route to the East by sailing south around Africa. They invented some of the first ocean worthy ships that safely discovered the new worlds.

Lisbon is an excellent port on the Tagus River outlet to the Atlantic. The river is about 2 miles wide here and turns to make and safe harbor against the ocean storms. 

Pictures - 
-View of downtown from St. George Castle high above the city.
-Dinner in honor of Lulu by the Portuguese bureaucrats.
-People listened to translators with earphones like at the United Nations.
-Lulu at the National Tile Museum.
-Bull Fighting Arena.
-Europe's largest mall in Lisbon.
-All sidewalks are made with pieces of marble made into mosaics.
-Vasco de Gama tomb in monestary downtown.

So the email that brought us to Portugal was not a fraud. Lulu got to tell her story about "evaluating school libraries." And the Trailing Spouse got to carry her bags.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Harry's Visits Birthplace Home

1. Our first faucet
2. Our first bathroom
3. Our first home facing the Blue Ridge Mountains

On Thursday while driving from Allentown to Syracuse - I decided to visit my very first home. It was a beautiful fall day - sunny and mild - so the one mile jog off Route 309 was a nice place to stop.

In 1948 - I gained the address that would be listed on my passport forever - RFD 1, Andreas, Pennsylvania. While Dad was working in the mines in Coaldale - he attempted his hand at farming for 8 years. The family of 5 bought 10 acres with a house and barn that was planted at the base of the Blue Mountains. From the front door you could look up the northern face of the range to see where the Appalachian Trail passed on the way from Maine to Georgia.

On a cold February night in 1948 - there was a heavy ice storm that made the roads impassable. Supposedly - Dr. Weissner came by horse sled to await the birth of the last remaining "Everhart" name carrier. The doctor arrived before midnight on the fifth - rolled up his coat for a pillow on the sofa and took a nap. At 4:44 AM - they put a piece of ham on a stick out the window and the stork traded it for a baby. The doctor charged $15 - Finishing touches would have been $5 more.

The old plank home had electricity and a hand crank phone. It was heated by a coal fired kitchen range with a register in the ceiling that made the bedroom above the warmest room in the house. Although it was my sisters' bedroom - they chose that to be my place of birth.

The kitchen below had a cold water faucet that Dad ran from the hand pump outside. But if you wanted large amounts of water - you hand pumped it directly outside. On Saturday night when it was bath time - we had to carry many buckets of water to the coal stove to be heated for the bath for Sunday School the next day. Being the youngest - I always was first in line to use the tub. Good thing they didn't throw the baby out with the bath water. We all used the same bath water.

Outside the bedroom window - a few years later - Dad would put up a television antenna that would receive 3 channels from Philadelphia on the other side of the mountain about 70 miles away. I recall seeing Harry Truman on the tube there - along with Howdy Doody - Milton Berle - and others.

We didn't have an indoor toilet - and I was probably one of the few that had a "bathroom" on the other side of the highway. The highway today turns out to be a sparsely used but paved road. I remember asking Santa Claus for a black rubber flashlight to take people to the "two holer" toilet at night.

Things changed when the mines slowed down. Since Dad was working fewer and fewer shifts in his 25 years as a miner - Mom had to take a job in the mill in the thriving metropolis of Tamaqua about 10 miles north of home. For a while in the summers - my 11 year old sister Gail was left in charge of 5 year old me and 8 year old sister Judy. Those two young ladies spoiled me rotten as best they could. Since the closet neighbors were 1/2 mile away - we were on our own. Today - they would probably arrest my parents for child abuse - but things were different then. I would not want it any different. Maybe it is what we were thinking when we "made" Drew walk 1/2 mile to Kindergarten every day. He had perfect attendance.

After spending 6 years in our "country estate" - it was time to move to the big city. With one month in a one-room school with Kutztown State Teachers' College rookie Leah Wertman Fritz - we moved to town and rented a row home with city water and sewer. We could afford cable TV in a couple years. Now instead of cranking a phone you would tell the operator what number you wanted. People would call us with "2384J." The lady operator would often listen in on the phone call to "collect" important information.

So - we only lived in the farm house for 6 years - but it has placed an indelible mark on my life. Sometimes - I feel like escaping to that cocoon of innocence. Life in West Penn township seemed so much simpler then. But sometimes at night - when I hear the train whistle as a freight passes through Tallahassee - it reminds me when Uncle Roy used to blow the whistle as he used to wizz by on the Lehigh New England. His freight passed along the foot of the mountain about 200 yards down in the woods from the front door. The tracks are long gone - but the memories aren't.

It was just the 5 of us against the world at that time. The world was winning. But we didn't know any better. We felt rich.

Joe and Jill Biden at 11AM Today Outside Lulu's Window

Today at 11 AM - Joe and Jill Biden will be speaking on Landis Green at Florida State University. Lulu's office window overlooks Landis Green. Probably the Secret Service would not allow her to have her window open during the event - it would be an excellent "Lee Harvey Oswald" position on the second floor above the crowd.

You can watch today by clicking on "Joe" in the title above to see the event live. We will be watching live from Portugal.

Last night - we watched the FSU at Georgia Tech game live using our computer and slingbox. It was after midnight over here as FSU fumbled on the 3 yard line in the last minute fail to close their come form behind victory.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Greetings From Lisbon Portugal

Pictures -
1. Our hotel and "limo." Maria took us to old downtown Lisbon and then to our hotel.
2. Still in our "sleeping clothes" - we visit Pasteis de Belem.
3. Ross Todd - Maria - Nancy - and another "minister of education" having small yellow matter custard tarts.

We boarded our Lisbon bound plane in Newark at 8 PM last night. Lulu used one of her old tricks. She booked our seats - window and aisle - with a seat between us empty. It worked so we had three seats for the 7 hours flight. Better yet - our row had 110 volt electrical outlets - we were able to use our computers on the plane. That was good because Lulu had to prepare her powerpoint slides for the lecture.

After a short delay - we got out to the end of the runway - and the pilot had to take the plane back to the gate to remove an ill passenger. After a quick turnaround - we were up in sky over Manhattan zooming eastward toward Europe. The flight was uneventful and 7 hours later we buzzing downtown old Lisbon at sunrise. Portugal is 4 hours ahead of Tallahassee so as I write at 1 PM here - it is just turning 9 AM in Eastern Standard Time.

It took a long time to go through customs even though they did not touch our luggage. "bringing in a couple of keys - don't touch my bags if you please - Mr. Customs Man." But as soon as we got through the doors- I saw the sign for Dr. Everhart. Maria from the National Ministry of Education was waiting for us. My visions of a stretch limo vanished as we drove away in a Volkswagen Gold Diesel - but the next stop was more than worth it.

Instead of taking us to the hotel - Maria took us to old downtown Lisbon - to the world famous Pasteis de Belem. The Pasteis are more world famous than Philadelphia Cheesesteaks. The little yellow custard tarts have become a new Everhart favorite.

Even though we were jet-lagged and ready for a little nap - we wanted to be alert to cheer for the Noles against Georgia Tech. We will watch the game live with the slingbox on our computer at 7:30 PM over here.

So now we are free until Monday when Lulu has to give her presentation.

Maria told us that they have been using Lulu's textbook as a source for their model library evaluating program. When they were organizing this conference someone suggested they try to go right to the source and get the author. There is an old saying that you are not an expert until you are 100 miles from home.

How about 3500 miles?