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On the Road Again

We often hear that retirement is difficult. The active breadwinner feels a loss of self worth, doesn’t know how to fill the day constructively with his newly available leisure time. This is especially the case when only one spouse has taken the leap. Here is a healthy creative option.

Having traveled frequently while working, I determined that, after I retired six years ago, one of the goals I wanted to achieve was to set foot in all fifty states. America is truly a beautiful place that Hashem has blessed with fertile plains, imposing mountain ranges and magnificent waterways.

My travelling for business and vacations had taken me to Asia, Central America, and Israel (more that twenty-five times) so I considered myself a seasoned traveler who could plan how to  travel to places where an observant Jew might encounter difficulties. The key to a good trip is to plan meticulously and research availability of Jewish communities who are most often hospitable, willing to help answer any question and provide Shabbos hospitality when required.

With these principles in mind I set out to visit the 11 remaining states I had not yet set foot in.

In October/November of 2011 I decided to visit Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas (I had already been to Houston), Oklahoma and Arkansas. I set out using the internet to arrange a flight and rental car in New Orleans and contacted the AAA for maps and tour books. Using the internet to check out local Jewish communities and Kosher food establishments and the AAA tour books to determine what sights I was interested in seeing, I mapped out the trip on a day to day basis calculating how long the drives would be between the different states.

I also purchased and  downloaded the latest version of  maps  and points of interest from my GPS provider to be sure that this key piece of equipment was up to date regarding new/closed roads and points of interest. A good portable GPS with real time traffic information is invaluable and eliminates the anxiety about getting directions, making last minute changes in plans and not   being  able to see street names/roads at night when one finds oneself in the middle of nowhere. I loaded all my hotel, points of interest , Kosher restaurant information, etc. into my GPS device before I left. I also prepare a folder and spreadsheets with the information for each state.

On my trip South I flew to New Orleans and went directly to a Walmart to purchase a small cooler, tuna fish, vegetables, paper goods, etc. I checked into my hotel in Metairie (close to the Kosher Restaurants and Chabad shul) and drove to the French Quarter (not recommended for frum people),  and the Riverwalk (there is a Holocaust Memorial designed by noted Israeli artist Agam). In the evening I davened at the small Chabad shul in Metairie and had dinner at Kosher Cajun.

The next day I drove to Mobile, Alabama and toured the USS Alabama, a de-commissioned battleship as well as the USS  Drum,  a  WWII  submarine. I enjoy military history, aeronautical displays and found these exhibits fascinating. I also enjoy baseball and was amazed to see that Bob Feller, a Hall of Fame pitcher, served on the Alabama during WWII. His bunk was marked with a signed baseball and glove.  Also of note were the huge shells that were fired from the ships main large guns that could be accurately fired up to 21 miles. I had lunch at a picnic area adjoining the USS Alabama exhibit on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

I drove through the beautiful town of Mobile and saw some of the typical well kept Southern homes before driving on to Biloxi, Mississippi. In Biloxi, I walked along the beach and drove around town before heading back to New Orleans.

The experience of diving on the many causeways in and around New Orleans is also memorable. Imagine driving on a 26 mile long bridge where, for almost all of the time, the water is only a few feet below the bridge.

The next day I visited  the  World War II Museum and took the city trolley  lines   to   the   Garden District ( an upscale neighborhood with unbelievably beautiful homes and the Touro synagogue — one of the oldest continuously functioning  synagogues in  the  United  States)  and  the French Market. I was disappointed that there were no public tours of the Superdome available.

On day four I drove to Dallas, Texas (about 500  miles)  and  picked  up some Kosher supplies at an Albertson’s supermarket. The next day I toured Cowboy Stadium, a 1.3 Billion dollar amazing edifice. Although  I  am  a New York Jets fan, my son-in-law and grandchildren are avid Cowboy fans and were so jealous that Zaidy was actually on the field and in the locker room. I did, however, purchase an array of souvenirs to maintain Shalom Bayis.

My next stop was Dealey Plaza and the Texas School Book Depository from where Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated John F Kennedy. I remember exactly where I was on Nov. 22, 1963 when President Kennedy was  assassinated. The excellent Sixth Floor Museum that details the events of that day is a must see.

After the museum I walked around the west side of downtown Dallas (there is also a Holocaust Museum in the area) and took the relatively new DART light rail system around various parts of the city. (I hope Yerushlayim’s  new  light rail system works as well as the Dallas system.) A Senior Citizen all day pass is only two dollars and you can hop on and hop off at any point along the system; a great value.

The next day was Erev Shabbos and I spent a few hours and the Frontiers of Flight museum at Love Field (the old Dallas airport). One of the volunteers who flew in WWII gave me a personal tour of the exhibition that included the Apollo Seven space capsule.

Shabbos Hospitality was arranged through a contact I  made  in  NYC who had been to Dallas. I thoroughly enjoyed Shabbos at Cong. Ohr Torah and the meals at the Rav’s home Friday night and one of the mispalilim on Shabbos afternoon. The community is wonderfully warm and inviting.

It’s a wonderful  experience  to see how frum families live outside  the NYC metropolitan area. One must, of course, engage in Jewish geography, and I was amazed that one of the other local guests at lunch (a young Rebbe at the yeshiva) knew my son-in-law who lives in Detroit. The young Rebbe’s father, it turns out, is also best friends with my first cousin (who established the first Jewish day School in Dallas in the early 1960’s).

Sunday morning I went to the first minyan and then directly to the nearby Tom Thumb Supermarket that has a strictly Kosher bakery and glatt Kosher takeout store. I purchased salads, sliced Turkey and some pareve pastries for the rest of my trip. I drove to Oklahoma City, checked into the hotel and walked to the National Monument commemorating the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995. The Federal Park Rangers did an excellent job describing the memorial.

Monday the weather  was  projected to be stormy so an extra unplanned trip to Kansas was not in the cards. I spent the day visiting the Science Museum and the Crystal Bridge flora and cacti exhibition. That evening the hotel was jolted with a magnitude 4.7 after-shock, attributed to a larger earthquake that hit Oklahoma the prior week, and caused some serious damage in outlying areas. In addition there were several tornadoes that touched down about twenty miles from Oklahoma City, but there was, Baruch Hashem, no significant damage from this earthquake or the tornadoes.

Tuesday, I drove to Little Rock, Arkansas and in the afternoon drove to the State Capitol building, the Clinton Library and a scenic overview of the Arkansas River. I was astounded to   see a full aisle of Kosher products in the local supermarket. Not having checked because I was only going to be in Little Rock overnight, I can only presume that there is a local frum community.

Wednesday I drove to New Orleans passing through beautiful parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana where the highways were lined with beautiful trees whose leaves conveyed a wide spectrum of fall colors. I stopped at the visitor’s center at historic Vicksburg overlooking the mighty Mississippi River.

Thursday I flew home concluding a wonderful trip driving 2018 miles   and costing about $2500.

In November, 2012 I spent five days visiting Kansas and Nebraska (and Iowa and Missouri where I had been previously).

I stayed  in  Overland  Park,  KS, davened at Cong BIAV and found a wonderful Kosher supermarket with prepared take- out less than a mile from my hotel.

I visited the Harry Truman Library and saw the Sefer Torah and Menorah that Chaim Weitzman gave President Truman when he recognized Israel as a new State. The World War I Musueum is also a wonderful place to visit as is the Hallmark Card Corporate Headquarters where one can see how greeting cards are made.

I was also able to arrange a private tour of Kaufman Stadium (home of the Kansa City Royals) and got to go onto the field, into the dugout, clubhouse, press room and VIP boxes. For a sports fan this was an awesome tour.

I drove to Omaha and back in one day (about 300 miles) and toured the city by car. The “Bob” a pedestrian bridge named after Senator Bob Kerry that crosses  the Missouri River – the boundary between Iowa and Nebraska.

Total driving during this trip was about 750 miles and the cost was  about $1,500.

I am now planning to visit the four remaining states on my list: North Dakota, Montana, Oregon and New Mexico.

I want to thank Hashem for the beautiful country He has blessed us with and my Aishes Chayil for allowing me to continue my journey through the states.

— By Joe Farbowitz Between trips Mr. Farbowitz spreads his residence between the Jewish communities of Kew Gardens Hills and Staten Island.

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