This is one of my all-time favorite photos. I carried it in my wallet for a very long time. This was just before we loaded up in the old Ford pickup, moving in 1979 from Midwest City, Oklahoma to Bethel Heights, Oregon where my elder sister lived. My parents traveled with us on this long drive. It was also a journey on which I could have killed all three of us because I fell asleep at the wheel driving late one night somewhere around Salt Lake City, Utah. Fortunately it was a long straight stretch and my hands were centered on top of the steering wheel. We roared along a couple of miles at about 90 MPH and the pickup was quite overloaded. I woke up confused and thought I was way behind my parents, but they were trying to catch up to me. God had plans for me…
One of those oddball marches that I never hit again was around Tongeren, Belgium in 1988. Like most such landmarks in Europe, this one was undergoing some kind of preservation work. Oddly, it’s one of the few towns where I can recall the layout and the terrain, but I only ever saw it again once.
One of the lakes had a very picturesque dam. A giant stone sculpture of a lion stood at the centerpoint. There was a nice tower open to the public where I could get this shot after we crossed the dam. The other lake had more infrastructure, but we didn’t get a look at it from any good angle like this one. I was with my buddy, Mike Girdler and his dog, Sparky, a golden retriever.
Catholicism remains quite popular in the Benelux. This is just one of thousands of little shrines you find in rural areas. Standing near Maasmechelen, Netherlands, this one featured a small plastic bottle resembling a statue of Mary. These bottles are sold at the Miraculous Spring of Our Lady of the Poor in Banneux, Belgium. My own trip to Banneux was a disaster because someone removed the trail markers and they weren’t replaced until after I missed the route. Still, I remember seeing those water bottles in similar shrines all over the Benelux.