2010.04.14 California, Ireland...it's all the same to me

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

I wanted to go to Ireland, but I ended up in L.A.…and Loma Linda.

That’s the kind of thing that happens when you’re more devoted to your children—and your bizarre reading habits—than your travel plans. Although, really, I was only considering Ireland in the first place because of one of my children.

Back when Maddie’s post-overseas study plans included a jaunt through Europe and a stint working on an organic farm in Italy, Rosie and I were going to meet her in Ireland.  I’d felt Ireland calling me for some time. It started around St. Patrick’s Day in 2001 when a little Irish band played at the hospice in the Bronx where I was visiting my mother a month before she died.

The music tugged at me, brought tears to my eyes. At once I felt pulled to get in touch with my roots while at the same time realizing my mother was fading away. I knew she’d never make the trip to see her ancestors…not that she ever said she wanted to that I can recall, but it was obvious that a mother-daughter trip to Ireland wasn’t ever going to be in the stars.

So, when Maddie thought she would go to Europe after a journey that would take her to Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Jakarta and Bali in Indonesia, we planned to meet her in Dublin and set out across the country, looking for the great green hills and dales, ancient castles, neighborhood pubs, the lilting beautiful sound of Irish accents and the lively music.

We checked flights, a variety of package deals including castle stays and free car rental, possibly cheaper versions involving hostels and public transportation and do-it-yourself arrangements that also included renting a car...which included the nagging little problem of driving on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road.

While we debated the merits of the different plans, the price of flights rose and rose. And then Maddie decided not to travel around Europe by herself; she couldn’t afford it anyway, she said. So, there didn’t seem to be much point in meeting her in Ireland.

Then I recalled the article I’d read in AARP magazine about Blue Zones, those places in the world where a high proportion of the residents live to be over 100 years old. Loma Linda in California, with its large population of non-smoking, physically active, vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists had been identified as the only Blue Zone in the United States.

I figured Rosie and I could just meet Maddie in Los Angeles, I could visit with my old friend Sondra who lives in Long Beach, and see what this Blue Zone business was all about.

We went in search of Loma Linda on a Saturday—and it was a complete bust. We drove around and around and found nothing but hospitals and a small college. There appeared to be no downtown area and very few people were out and about.

We stopped at the college library and discovered the school was on spring break. A security guard sitting in his car with nothing to do informed us that there was no downtown and the hours sign at the closed Seventh Day Adventist bookstore in the strip mall informed us Saturday is the Sabbath Day.

I probably shouldn’t judge all Blue Zones by Loma Linda on a spring break Saturday, but I immediately abandoned my future plans to visit the other four Blue Zones in the world. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more boring place...especially a place where there wasn’t even really a place.

It wasn’t a complete bust, though. Before leaving Morenci, I had discovered our old friend Laurie Smith lives only four miles from Loma Linda. We met her in the very lively, very vibrant, action-packed town of Redlands, just down the road from Loma Linda—that must be where everyone goes to die a young, but exciting, life.

And, later in our journey, as we traveled up the absolutely amazing coastline of California to San Francisco, we encountered so many similarities to what we figured we might have experienced in Ireland: Gaelic-typestyle street signs in San Luis Obispo, a castle in San Simeon, fierce ocean waves beating on craggy rocks, green-covered mountains shrouded in mist, and in San Francisco, a pub next to our hotel.

California appeared to have everything Ireland offered—but the biggest upside of this alternate journey is one Rosie observed.

“And we get to drive on the right side of the road here,” she said. “We can’t do that in Ireland.”

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
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    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Front.batter

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