Roads Not Taken

by Bob Sparrow

Two roads diverged in to a wood, and I

Took the one less traveled by ,

And that has made all the difference.

                                                                            Robert Frost

No, this is will not be a dissertation on Robert Frost’s most-misunderstood poem, but rather the musings of this traveler, who has found too many ‘Road Closed’ signs during this pathetic pandemic!  They are all roads not taken!

And while I have thought that I was on this mythical road to nowhere, I discovered that there is indeed a Road to Nowhere; it is in North Carolina, but it actually does go somewhere, it starts in Bryson City and ends at a ‘tunnel to nowhere’ inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

People who were more ambitious than just building a road or a tunnel to nowhere, created a Highway to Nowhere, actually there’s several of them, the most famous is in Baltimore, where one mile of freeway runs through a park.  Not to be confused with AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, which it may seem like we’re on right now, but there really is one of those too, in Western Australia, so named for the number of fatal accidents that occur there. What you don’t learn from these blogs!!!

And as we think about ‘things to nowhere’, and what more appropriate time to think about that than now, how can we forget the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, which got a lot of national attention when Sarah Palin was governor of Alaska and the Vice Presidential running mate of John McCain in 2008. The project encountered fierce opposition outside Alaska as a symbol of ‘pork barrel’ spending and was never built.  So apparently  you  still can’t  get  to  nowhere  from  Alaska.

Personally, I can’t think of roads to anywhere without thinking of the ‘Road to . . pictures;’ yes, that what they called movies back in the day.  The ‘road pictures’ starred Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, who were always in some far-off country, fighting for the affections of Dorothy Lamour.  And even though I knew that these movies were filmed on the back lot of the Paramount studio in Hollywood, using blackface ‘natives’ and phony sets, they gave me the travel bug and the desire to create my own ‘Road Pictures’, which I subsequently did when I traveled to a number of exotic destinations like Kathmandu, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. But, ironically, I have never been to any of the seven destinations depicted in those ‘road movies’, but they’re on my bucket list!  For the record, they are, Road to Singapore (Year made: 1940), Road to Zanzibar (1941), Zanzibar is a city on an island off the east coast of Tanzania, Africa.  Who doesn’t want to go there?!!  Road to Morocco (1942), Road to Utopia (Alaska) (1946), Road to Rio (de Janeiro 1947), Road to Bali (1952) and Road to Hong Kong (1962). In the movies, Hope was constantly breaking the ‘forth wall’ to address the audience directly, such as when Crosby was getting ready to sing, Hope would turn to the camera and say, “He’s going to sing folks, now is the time to go out and get some popcorn”. There was actually an eighth picture that was going to be made in 1977, called Road to the Fountain of Youth, ironically, Crosby died of a heart attack that year – if he could have only gotten to that Fountain of Youth!  Little-known-and-less-cared-about-fact: Two of the very top singers of their generation, Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley, died in the same year within a couple of months of each other.

Critically, these movies probably get a grade of C-, and perhaps that’s even being a bit generous,  The plot lines were rather thin and predictable, but Bob Hope was funny, especially when he’s adlibbing, Bing Crosby could sing and Dorothy Lamour was certainly worth the boys fighting over.

OK, sorry for droning on about movies that were made some 70 years ago.  Forgive me, my cabin fever is beginning to boil over – there have been just too many roads not taken!  I can’t wait to get on the ‘Road to Anywhere’!






By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Obviously they didn't want to hear my insurance woes.

Obviously they didn’t want to hear my insurance woes.

Our final day in Washington DC dawned bright and beautiful.  We rose early, anticipating our 9:30 tour of the Supreme Court.  As those of you who follow this blog know, I have lost my health insurance, so I viewed this as another opportunity to plead my case.  After all, if the Highest Court in the Land won’t hear me out, who will?  Unfortunately, those nice people who run the Metro apparently weren’t aware of  my plight – or our schedule.  There was a huge back-up that caused us to miss our tour.  On the upside, we got to experience – and smell –  the local Metro riders at very close range.  Despite missing the formal tour, we were still able to view the inside of the building and see the Supreme Court chambers from the hallway.  It is MUCH smaller that you might imagine.  I mentioned this to my neighbor who has argued before the Justices and he agreed with me – he said he had been in small town courtrooms that were significantly larger than the Supreme Court.  So just like the First Ladies’ ball gowns, things are not always the size you would imagine.  As you can see from the picture (left) they apparently knew that I was coming ahead of time.  Of particular interest to us was the exhibit that depicts Sandra Day O’Connor’s rise to the bench. Upon graduating from law school the only job she was offered was as a legal secretary!   But she forged ahead and has been a great example of determination and fortitude.   We visited the gift shop which sells all sorts of  Supreme Court mementos, but somehow I thought it would be hard to take the Justices seriously after seeing them on shot glasses and bobble heads.  We decided to bypass the tchotchkes and move on.


Me...being totally ignored by the Speaker of the House

Me…being totally ignored by the Speaker of the House

Our next stop was an appointment with Shelley’s congressman, Ron Barber.  Actually, our appointment wasn’t with him, but with staff that draws straws to see who has to lead the tours for constituents.  We made our way into the bowels of his office building finding, once again, that the office of a Congressman is not as large as you might expect.  Think of your dentist’s waiting room and you’re very close to the size of your elected official’s place of work.  We had a wonderful tour of the Capital Building – the artwork and statues are truly breathtaking.  The capital dome is currently under repair but even through the scaffolding we could see its beauty.  As we entered the National Statutory Hall we passed by the Speaker’s Office.  I wanted to poke my head in, certain that he, of all people, would be sympathetic to my loss of insurance.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t there.  Or so I was told.  They never let me get close.  But then, as if by miracle, as we were touring the Hall, we heard some rustling and sure enough, the Speaker was walking right by us to his office.  I shot up to the front of the crowd, jumping up to get his attention.  You can see his reaction in the picture (right).  Harumpt!  All I can say is, he’s just as orange in person as he is on T.V.


We moved on to the Senate Chamber, where we spent a long while, mainly because Abby loved being there and seeing all the goings-on.  Which, frankly, wasn’t much because they were in recess.  Senator Landrieu gave a speech with no one in attendance except the acting chairman.  It’s rather odd to see a Senator give a speech to no one.  Then again, the CSPAN cameras were on so for all I know people back in her state were listening with rapt attention.  Several senators, including our own John McCain, walked through the chambers while we were observing so at least we knew he was working…or passing through on the way to the men’s room.  We then progressed to the House Chamber where I was almost taken down by Security.  We had been through security check lines every where we went in Washington but it would seem they are most sensitive when it comes to protecting members of Congress (which is a bit odd given their popularity level).  In any event, one half of a foil from a stick of gum set off the alarms.  Sheesh!   Once in the famous chamber, we tried to imagine State of the Union addresses from the past and where everyone sits.  As it happens, there was an active debate on the floor concerning the definition of full-time work.  Having spent my career in Human Resources I wanted to chime in with my opinion but I got the distinct impression they were not taking comments from the gallery.  Besides, I already knew the Security Guards on a first name basis.  One more disruption from me and I would have been touring the Capital clinker.

A beautiful building, and the cafeteria serves a great chocolate chip cookie.

Our beautiful Capital, and the cafeteria serves a great chocolate chip cookie too.

Once our term on Capital Hill ended, we took a pedi-cab back to the Smithsonian American History Museum.  Unfortunately, several busloads of intermediate school kids had been let off there to further their education.  Here’s all I’ll say about that:  if you are going to send your child on field trip to Washington, they should be going on tours, not goofing around with their friends as if they’re at the food court of the local mall.  I think I’m getting old.

Finally, we ventured back to Bethesda and to Tommy Joe’s for dinner.  It was our luck that it was Trivia Night.  We named our team “Elementary, My Dear Watson” and took second place.  It was delightful to play as a team; because we spanned so many decades between us, we got most of the answers right.  We only lost because we didn’t quite understand the bonus point system, which Abby tried in vain to explain to us.  We should have let the youngest of our group be in charge.  Anyway, we won a $20 gift card for our efforts.  And Watsons, being nothing if not thrifty, used it when we toured Bethesda the next day.

All in all, I have to say it was the trip of a lifetime.  Even though I made no progress regarding my insurance.  To spend five days with my niece was a gift – we have always enjoyed each other’s company so it was special to share this with her.  And I have to say that if my two great-nieces are any indication of the future generation, we’re all in good hands.  They “get” history and appreciate those who have gone before them.  And for the 26 miles we walked in four days, they were extremely kind about “waiting up” for their Old Aunt Sue.