Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Shot to the Heart

It has rained here in Aiken, SC almost every day for over a month.

I live in a community called Cedar Creek and the development has four ponds that have been stocked with fish for over 10 years.  I have just recently taken up the sport again because I can be at a pond in less than five minutes and fishing in less than seven.  All of our ponds are catch and release only.

In the past month, I have caught perhaps six bass that weighed over a pound.  This is a nice sized fish and fun to catch.  Plastic worms are the lure de jure.

Because of the rain every day, the water in Golden Pond has backed up to places that have not seen water in a decade.  Due to this change in water location, the pond has begun to take on a pale brown color.  The water is clear, just pale brown.  This color comes from the fallen leaves that are now underwater and are releasing tannins that color the water.  The father back you go into the sources of the rainwater wash off, the darker the water gets.  I have found a place that I can get to and cast my plastic worm but the water is shallow and full of weeds, twigs and other traps for lures, even weed less lures.  There is one place... each time I cast to it, some kind of fish hits the lure but does not seem to be big enough to get the whole thing in its mouth.  Yesterday I hooked a bass in this small area, but loss the fish because it wrapped the line around an underwater stump and freed itself.  The day before that, I cast my lure to the left versus the right and caught a one pounder.  Lots of fun in this very restricted area.

To day I fished this same spot and got hits in both directions but nothing on the hook.  I gave up, crossed the water farther up stream and began the walk to my next fishing area.  I must have done this a dozen times. Each time I pass, I view a water spot that I am sure has fish, but it is too well protected by many saplings and lots of underbrush.  This time, I think I see a place where I might be able to make a short cast.

I work my way through the brush, keeping an eye out for Copper Heads or other pit vipers, and finally get my rod through a hole in the brush and cast up stream about eleven or twelve feet.  A very short cast.

As the lure approaches the shore, about three feet from my feet, an apparition appears.  It is a monster Bass.  I can see the entire fish, which is, at a minimum, two feet long.  He does not see me, but does see the worm.  With the confidence of the meanest dog on the block, he moves with the determination of a Dallas Class Attack Boat.  With just a modest effort, he sucks the worm in his great maw and turns to head to deeper water.  He is in no hurry.  He disappears from sight and I am leaning forward to give him as much line as I can but it runs out in a hurry.  My right Wellington is already in the water and my left foot is hooked around a sampling to keep my balance while casting.  I bring this left boot into the water and strike the bass with all my strength and limited rod movement.  Then the shot to the heart.  I can taste the adrenalin.

I have awakened Lucifer.  The fish is really strong and is peeling line off the reel.  I cannot allow him to go for the reeds and underwater brush.  With my left hand I make a quick twist of the break and now get some control over Moby Dick.  I can see it coming, the line is moving right to left and he is coming to the surface like a Titan missile.  This is where he gets a chance to throw the hook, break the line or change direction to the weeds.  I suck air as the monster clears the water. He has jumped so high that he leaves his body length of air between himself and the water.  An amazing feat of strength.  It is a sight I will never forget.  The Bass is shaking his head and body so violently that he breaks by six pound line with no difficulty.

Immediate disappointment!  But hold on.  I just got a chance to see the miracle of an award winning Large Mouth Bass.  This vertebrate is a wonder of nature's evolution.  Powerful, muscular and imbued with instincts that allowed him to avoid capture.  After some thought, I am thankful to have had the experience.  Since it was a catch and release anyway, the only part I missed was beaching this fine example of a true game fish.

But, here is the lingering memory that I will cherish until my end of days.  A maroon 9" swishy tail plastic worm making its way to the end of my rod tip.  Then...a head as big as two of my fist slides out of the deep and I see all of him as he gulps the worm and heads for deeper water.  I am a lone witness to the superb performance of one of nature's marvelous creatures.  I am humbled.

He is still out there!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

How is an American

How is an American

At the military academies, freshmen are required to commit to memory a variety of nonsensical paragraphs they must be able to regurgitate perfectly every time an upper classman demands it's repetition.
For example, "How is a cow"? "She walks, she talks, she's full of chalk, the lacteal fluid extracted from the female of the bovine species is highly prolific to the nth degree."

In this case, I believe nonsensical fits, oh so very well.

But the title of this musing contains the challenge of investigating those "things" that give an American the right and privilege to announce him/her self as an American.

I am always happy to announce that I accident of birth, an American citizen and by the grace of God a southerner.  There is humor here, but there is also truth. The first step to being an American is to be a citizen. We will put the "how" to become a citizen aside for a later discussion.

If you were born in this country, you will find few that argue you were fortunate indeed. To be born here is one of the luckiest things that can happen to a human on this planet. There are other countries that can provide life styles similar to ours in government, wealth and freedom. None reach the level available in the US.

Birth only provides automatic citizenship, it does not make an American. Here is my list of things that help breed US citizens into American citizens. I can not do all the things in my list but I am working on it.

1. Attend grammar, middle and high schools in the US.

          While in school;
Place your right hand over your heart, face the flag and repeat the pledge of allegiance to the American flag EVERY day.
Learn how to fold, display and respect the American flag.  Know that the American Flag is not just a nation's ensign.  It is also used to signal distress.  It is used to cover the caskets of veterans during internment ceremonies.  This use of the flag is its most sacred chore and deserves the highest level of respect by those present. The  Amrican flag may be the most recognized flag on the planet and  there are no circumstances under which this flag is lowered for another.  To fail to show respect for the National Anthem and the American Flag for the purpose of advancing a personal or political agenda is inappropriate and diminishes the quality of American citizenship. 
Although hard to sing, always sing the National Anthem as it was written at events where all should join in. The National Anthem is not a composition of music that should be toyed with in any way. Recent music and Hollywood stars have made the Star Spangle Banner the object of Hip Hop and demographic cultural music renderings. None of which show respect for, or understanding of, the history that made this music our anthem.
         Render unto teachers the respect of self-discipline.

         Focus on your classes that instruct you in the history of our nation both the good and the bad.  This will be most difficult because a class in civics is seldom taught in today's schools. You can not do this if you are unwilling to listen to a point of view that is dramatically, emotionally and philosophically apposed to everything you hold in lifelong reverence.  In this country, speech is an unrestricted right except where the speech can  cause physical or mental damage or cause  injury  those or loss of property.

        Memorize the preamble to the Constitution.

        Know and understand the Bill of Rights.

2.  Join the Boy or Girl Scouting experience. Regardless of where you live, be able to tie a Bowline, a half hitch, a sheepshank and a square knot.

3.  Spend two years of your life in service to your country. (Military, Peace Corps, Remote Teacher, etc)

4.  Prepare yourself for College or a Trade.  Do not drop out!

5.  Stay away from drugs.

6.  Go to church and decide for yourself how an organized religion fits into your life. Know the Lords Prayer and the Nicene Creed. The object here is not to commit to a religion but to see how man, with the use of language, can worship an idea and promise to be good.

7.  Do your best to find and join a person, an idea or an organization in which your personal interest must come second or third to the interest of the joined group.

8.  Travel to the specter that is the US National Park System. The Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, Yellow Stone, Crater Lake, Mount Zion, Hovenweep  and East Glacier.  Ride the Blue Ridge Parkway from end to end. Visit every museum on the mall in Washington, DC. Visit the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials.

9.  Know the names of the Americans who wrote: The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, The Constitution, The Bill of Rights and the Federalist Papers. Take your time and read these documents cover to cover and understand what you read.  You can never really understand America until you understand what makes it all happen

10.  Understand that in this country an oath of office does not define fealty to a person or even a nation.    Our fealty, if that is a good word, is to the Constitution of the United States.  Our collective fealty is to an idea of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  For US office holders: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.  Be able to articulate the difference between a democracy and a republic. Understand, in your best intelect possible, the genius , the perspiscacity and their writing skills that came together to produce the longest living document that  defines the steps to obtain, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

11.  Name the Capitals of all 50 states. Be able to tell what states border each other. If you do not understand the geography of our nation and the world, you will never understand world history nor current events. 

12.  Vote.

13.  Most of all, take justifiable pride in the history and the uniqueness of our nation. Regardless of the chatter, there is no place like this nation under any star. Know this stuff and get in the face of those who would denigrate or apologize for America's history. Our history has moments of blackness, but it is also filled with monumental acts of kindness, bravery, sacrifice, emotion and philanthropy.
BE VISIBLY PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN. There are billions who would change places with you in an eye flash.

Some other thoughts from a male American.

Learn how to cook and clean up.
Know how to sharpen and use a pocket knife.
Learn how to swim and help someone who can not.
Know how to build a fire in the rain.
Go to a church or Scout summer camp.
Learn to shoot a bow and arrow and a fire arm.
          Make as many friends as you can, but treasure the one or two with whom you can share almost anything.

          Learn how to make change without a pen or paper.

         Although considered sexist for decades, treating the ladies with deference is good manners and reflects the special place that women hold in our societies.

        Play a musical instrument or sing in a choir.

        See the movie "Pay it Forward" and live by its creed.

       Watch a professional baseball game from the stands. Root hard for your favorite and eat a couple of dogs and have a beer.

      Drink an RC cola and eat a Moon Pie.

      Study hard.  Make writing a clear and concise sentence a major goal of your education. College not for you? Pick a skill, learn how to do it in a formal training environment and make a life.

      Love one woman.

     Think hard how you will raise and support children.


    Run for office.

   Never stop reading.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

2013 Carthage NC Trip

9 April, 2013
A Trip to Carthage, NC

Perhaps a little background is required.

I am an ardent admirer of the subtle contacts that people have with one another but marvel at the less than subtle disregard most have for an opportunity to make a new friend and/or learn a volume about the ways and means with which our fellow travelers on the planet live out their lives. How do they revere friends and loved ones? What are their political understandings? How do they fill the needs of worship for an idea that can be justified only by faith? What idea; what conviction, what act of evil would justify giving up their lives? There exist no two humans who possess identical thoughts on these and a myriad other issues. It is this characteristic that draws me to interact with all those wonderful people and all their unique lifetime experiences.

It is my observation that people have daily experiences of which they are aware, but have little idea what these experiences may mean to their lives and futures. So my metaphor for these happenings is to view each person on the planet as a ball of plasma wandering its way among the galaxies. When an individual has any experience, there is a jet of plasma that shoots from the ball of plasma and into the black void that is space. These jets, I refer to them as historical strings of experience, swish through space until the jet or string of one person comes in contact with another string. Not all of us have the personality and hyper gregarious nature that allows us to see or feel something that seems clear to us as being important. Important enough to step aside from our current path and eagerly seek the excitement and gratification that almost always comes from following our visceral intuitions to begin a conversation with the person who is a complete stranger.

If you have not practiced this, it is harder to do than one might expect.

If neither player stops what they are doing and investigates the circumstances, no communication occurs and the moment passes. It passes with little chance that such a similar meeting can take place in the future. At my age, I do not want to miss a single experience.

Like most, I was too busy with family and work to even make record of these events during my school and work years. There is simply not enough time and energy to investigate these random coincidences of our lives.

Until now! Retirement has freed me of this restriction.

I make every effort to follow such leads, even if it's a bust. A sense of self gratification comes regardless of the inconveniences that may accrue from the effort. The enlightenment comes from the observation that the meetings are not left to chance, but are the product of an individual's willingness to break from the routine and follow the plasma string.

Disappointments are few.

Fulfillment is the rule of the day and it brings the most distant star into sharp focus and reveals a treasure for all to see and admire.

The treasure is a man.

 Not a modern man as related to the contemporary human condition, but a man molded by the hard times of the last century's depression and World War II. He is thin of build with a head full of white hair. He has, by all accounts, conducted himself with honor and provided food, shelter and enlightenment to his family. He is a man of modesty and genuine affection and good will for his fellow humans. He is, of late, the primary health giver for his wife. The burdens of this responsibility lay heavy on his shoulders but he accepts this condition of life as just one of its many facets. I would count myself as the most fortunate man around if I could be half the citizen he is.

The man is Earl Ingram and he is 90.

Lt Earl Ingram was just a kid when he was a platoon leader in the Second Infantry Division of Patton's Third Army. Earl's 2nd Infantry Division, the 16th Armored Division, the 98th Infantry Division and a host of others including the resistance fighters of Plzen, Czech Republic, forced the occupying troops of Hitler's Wehrmacht to abandon their occupation of this city just a few kilometers east of the German speaking Sudetenland.

At the end of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia, the citizens of Plsen started their first annual celebration of the liberation of Plsen's people from the grip of the Nazis. This is a three day event and just a handful of US servicemen have survived to participate. Earl has been a guest eighteen times of the Czech Republic to help them celebrate this festival.

I met Earl at the festival in 2012 and it was he who provided me the clippings from The Pilot of Southern Pines newspaper written by John Chappell.

The clippings revealed that one of NC's finest, Lt. Robert Hoyle Upchurch, had finally been returned to his homeland. I immediately decided that I had to meet these people and see the memorials that speak so much of a community's commitment to remember those who have fallen in the service of our Nation.
For those of you who have read my blog, you know the story of Lt. Kirkham. If you do not know the story, go to My Blog.

In brief, my goal, while I was in Prague and so close, I wanted to pay my respects to a fellow combat aviator who had been killed in the line of duty very, very close to the end of the war. I was close and I was motivated.

There is little doubt that writing the story about Kirkham was a seminal moment in my life. With the exception of my wedding to the lovely Margaret Page Anderson, no single event has so forcefully spun my attitude of all that surrounds me.

The Ride

clip_image002It is an all day ride from Deland, Florida to Aiken, SC. Deland is the home of Richard K. Ward. Late of the USMC and American Airlines but employed by a firm, at present, from which he achieves success and gratification. Some how, Dick and I became close friends as companion F-4 pilots and then had geography separate our families and our lives for a couple of decades.
At one time in the past, Dick, along with fellow Harley riders, Gus Fitch and Stu Schippereit, the Valkerie rider, Steve Senna with Rex Decker along with our departed friend Jeff VanSyckle, the Honda VTX and Goldwing riders would hit the road and ride for weeks. In one combination or another, we rode to Bike Week at Dayton, Bike Week at Sturgis, Thunder Beach at Panama City Beach, Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap, the west coast and the PCH, all of Nova Scotia, every province of Canada except the northwest territories and Indian country, the four corners of the US, the Arctic Circle and every paved road in Alaska, both ends of US Hwy One, every state in the contiguous 48 plus Alaska, drank more Blue Elixir (Bombay Sapphire Gin), consumed more calories than was healthy and...met a thousand people who had stories but we were unable to record them all.

Dick is a close and valued friend and soul mate. I use the term soul mate because Dick is a believer. Dick is as keen, if not more so, than I with regard to Strings of Historical Experience. Dick can ride a mean bike and put words together that any scribbler would be proud of.  Like Forest Gump used to say, "We go together like peas and carrots."

All grand things suffer the ravages of time and our ability to leave our families and jobs becomes problematic, while other responsibilities begin to take their rightful place in the priorities of our lives. The bottom line is that we simply have ridden our last long trip and I am saddened that we will never share a Toddle House Hash Browns All the Way or three to a room at $45 per night, eight hours in the saddle while it rained on us the entire trip from Banff to Jasper, Alberta and back, the visitation to the lower worlds and spray from the river Styx as Stu lead Rex and I into a thunderstorm of monumental proportions. The list is endless and the memories smell of oil, gas, road kill, skunks and diesel fumes.

All that is left are these memories and they will simply have to do.

Short trips are OK as well.

The trip to Carthage is about four hours but Dick will join me and spend the night in Aiken the day before. As is our habit, we meet in Surrancy, GA and ride together back to Aiken. Another habit is to stop at the rest area on Hwy 301 just short of the Savannah river and log in to the books to help the staff keep the place open. I need to make a phone call so as we stop and park, I notice a middle aged man sitting on a three wheel tricycle that is configured for the rider to be recumbent while he pedals.
I get off the bike, knowing, just knowing that this is a good omen for our trip and that Dick and I are getting ready to follow up on a Historical String of Experience.
The rider, Jeff Heller, is from NYC and is riding to Florida. Here is how I described the meet on my blog.
"Jeff is a New York City liberal who has a heart of pure gold and a mild mannered way of expressing his ideas. He told us he was a part time nurse and a part time lawyer who's main interest in life seems to be the legal support of those immigrants requesting asylum in this country. Jeff and I differ in major ways on most political subjects of the day, but he and Dick and I were able, through civil discourse, to find small areas of agreement on some things that could lead to compromises."
Jeff Heller

This appears to be a skill not well learned in the halls of the Congress.

We can not sign the log books because the place is closed on Mondays and there were lots of folks planning on making pit stops here and were more than just a little peeved at having to find a place down the road.

I have exchanged emails with Dick Heller but after my last mail that included attachments containing much of my political thoughts I have not heard from him. Perhaps my comments were just too over the top. I do wish he would comment, but silence is also his right.

Our ride on Tuesday from Aiken to Carthage, GA is very pleasant and proceeds without a hitch.

clip_image006We arrive at the Flying Tiger Restaurant and are greeted by the owner and operator Leon Zhang. Leon is Chinese and an American citizen. I note some memorabilia from the Flying Tigers but do not warm up to the theme of the restaurant yet. The other guests have not yet arrived so we shed some of the leather and cool down with some lemon water and sweet tea.
John Chappell arrives a few minutes later and immediately begins to regale us with the history and customs of Carthage and the surrounding area. (I add this as an after thought. John Chappell is a one in a million kind of guy. His background is seeded with acting, the "science" of drama, journalism, writing, history and the telling of tales and stories that surely must have been the way of leprechauns, fairies and unicorns in the day of Hans Christian Anderson. He has a head full of reddish white hair that is always akimbo but only accents his personality and story telling. Although I have already mentioned his interest in all things history, some one needs to sit him down and do a video of... "John Chappell and the History of Carthage, NC".)
clip_image008John is a staff writer for The Pilot newspaper and was the author of the piece done on Lt. Robert Hoyle Upchurch. It is immediately clear that John is a unique character and it shows through his eyes. Eyes that appear to have a permanent glint filled with mischief.

He is as jolly as Old Saint Nick.

Earl Ingram arrives about ten minutes later and when all have sated their empty stomachs, I ask John to start the story on Lt. Robert Hoyle Upchurch. Well Lt. Upchurch will have to wait because John is off and running on Pleistocene epochs of sand and clay formations right here in Carthage. His lead in history is actually very interesting, but we do not have unlimited time so I ask him to run right into the story on Upchurch.

To do this, John asked us to follow him around the restaurant as he points out the history of the Flying Tigers and Lt. Upchurch.

 It was truly amazing. Unless you get up close and read the labels and articles, you would completely miss this well told story in a Chinese Restaurant.

On October 6, 1944, 21 year old Lt. Robert Hoyle Upchurch was killed in a US P-40 fighter aircraft. After what is believed to be his first combat mission with the 74th Fighter Squadron of the Flying Tigers, the flight of P-40s stopped at an intermediate base to refuel and then headed for the home base. The weather worsened, and Lt. Upchurch was last seen flying into the weather dangerously close to a mountain range. It was the residents of a town, Ch'en Hsien, in Guidong County, in Hunan Province, who made the trek to the crash site, Shang Pau Has, and gave Lt. Robert Hoyle Upchurch a ceremonial internment close to Santai Mountain. In 2005 the KIA/MIA Accounting Command team from Tripler Hospital in Hawaii in cooperation from a similar team from China finally listened to an old man who said he was 15 when the aircraft crashed and they followed him to a site and finally found Upchurch's last remains.

It had been 61 years from the date of Lt. Upchurch's death until his memorial service on 8 April, 2006. The space for the memorial was donated by the owner and operator of the Carthage area airport, Roland Gilliam.

When I first started this project, I was sure I would find all sorts of character traits, experiences and family history that would help me draw a conclusion on the character and culture Virgil and Doyle might have shared in their short fighting war. Strangely, this was not the case.

Both Virgil and Robert came from homes of strong family bonds and they would have had similar ideas about God, Country and apple pie. Since most of the country was rural, many citizens had little money or time to spend on the luxury of cross country travel. So they would have had little cross pollination on the dramatic differences that existed within their states when compared to one another.
North Carolina would still be in the rural and agricultural south. Jim Crow laws still flourished in the south with which Robert would have been well aware.

We all have prejudices but we do not always act on these feelings. Our two WW II men would have carried their prejudices to war and had these feelings enhanced or changed in some way by their experiences with other kinds of people outside of their hometown experiences. I use this example because most men who returned from their experiences in the service had their prejudices modified in some way that would manifestly change the way they saw the world in the future. Had these two men survived the war, they would have arrived back in their hometowns as changed people.

They would have matured quickly by an accumulation of loneliness, fear, sleep depravation, strange places and strange foods and the continual pressure to perform and not screw the pooch. They would have had visited upon them more acts of stupidity, mendacity and cruelty than they would have experienced in a lifetime back home. Their very souls shocked by the evil that begets man's inhumanity to man. Most of all, they would place value on ideas and concepts that were nonexistent prior to their enlistment. The line from a popular song of the day is germane: "How you gonna keep them down on the farm, after they seen Paris." All of these changes would not have necessarily been for the best and each veteran addressed his own demons in his own way, but most, without professional aid, chose silence.

The fact that these two men did not return from the war, did not mean that their impact on their communities ceased.

clip_image012Give a moment to the following: Think how many people of different races, languages, cultures and belief system took part in the creation of memorial sites in the state of North Carolina, the province of Hanan, China and Plsen and Trhanov/Ujezd, Czech Republic. Its the pride and national feelings of John Chappel, Roland Gilliam, Leon Zhang, Pat Waters, Doug La Violette, Earl Ingram, Marion Kirkham, George (Jiri) Lavicka and, to a minor extent, myself who keep these people and the sacrifices of millions in our memories. This mental pause, harkens us to an everlasting truth. Civilizations require the codification of laws and good manners for us to exist with one another in peace and harmony. These men nearby help make that happen.
Earl Ingramclip_image014Pat Watersclip_image016
Roland Gilliamclip_image019Marion Kirkhamclip_image010
John Chappellclip_image021George Lavickaclip_image026
Doug La Violetteclip_image023

When national and international laws fail to neutralize the tyrant of the day, we, the policemen and politicians of the world, may send these young men to compel the tyrant to change his ways and use force if required.

But because of the unspeakable horror and evil spawned by war, we, as a people, should make this decision to engage in mortal combat with a fellow human being the hardest task a nation can undertake.

 Lt. Virgil P. Kirkham  Lt. Robert Upchurch                          

If we, as a nation, can maintain this philosophy, then the sacrifices of Lt. John Upchurch and Lt. Virgil Kirkham will go into the history books as a job well done.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

2013 NC Trip

This Monday, 8 April, 2013 I traveled to Surrancy, Ga to meet my good friend Dick Ward and to give him some company on the last half of his trip to Aiken.

We stopped at the Georgia welcome center on Hwy 301 for me to make a phone call.  Before I made the call I noticed a slightly past middle aged man sitting on recumbent bicycle resting in the shade of the portico of the Welcome Center.  He had a friendly face and welcoming smile.

I told Dick I had to go talk to this guy.  For those of you read this blog, you may be familiar with my concept of "Historical Strings of Experience".  Well, I felt one of these coming on and I was, this time, prescient for my new acquaintance, Jeffery Heller, was a soul mate with the gift of gab.

Jeff is a New York City liberal who has a heart of gold and a mild mannered way of expressing his ideas.  He told us he was a part time nurse and a part time lawyer who's main interest in life seems to be the legal support of those immigrants requesting asylum in this country.  Jeff and I differ in major ways on most political subjects of the day but he and Dick and I were able, through, civil discourse, to find small areas of agreement on some things that could lead to compromises.

All three of us agreed that our discourse was one that would probably never occur in the halls of Congress or in the comment sections of the New York Times or the Washington Post.

Meeting Jeff was, at once, a new experience to talk to a long distance bicycle rider and consult with an informed citizen with ideas about how this Nation could be better.

We could use millions with the character, devotion and dedication possessed by Jeff

Monday, March 25, 2013

2013 Sebring Trip

For several years, Jim Bloomquist and I have been riding our bikes to Sebring, Fl to enjoy the 12 Hours of Sebring road races.  I have always picked the Vetts to win the GT class, but, alas, they have always been beat by the BMWs or Ferrari's.  Not this year!!  So in memory of their win and Rex and Deb Decker's love of Vetts, I have included a bunch of shots of Vetts at the races.

You will also note that there are several pics of my buddies in different positions of semi Somnambulistic repose.  It is hard to believe that anyone can sleep while the race is in progress, but we all do it.  Do not be surprised if Dick Ward does not have his own pics of me catching flies.

Believe it or not, this is Jim trying for the umpteenith time to get a seat pad that will make  his tush comfortable.  This one failed as well.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Brother in Arms

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Brother in Arms

We made eye contact as I exited a family restaurant on a Sunday morning where  Jim Bloomquist and I had just finished a filling repast.  The place was on Hwy 19 just north of the "Forest" and close to the town of Palatka, Fl.

He arose as I passed him and he seemed to follow me out to my bike.  As I neared the bike, I heard him exclaim, "Semper Fi" Marine.  As all Marines do, I turned to face the source of the salutation and return his Semper Fi.  On the outside chance that some reading may not be familiar with the expression " Semper Fi", it is a contraction of the Marine Corps' motto, Semper Fideles, which, when translated from the Latin means, Always Faithful.

This happens all the time when I am on a motorcycle ride because I wear my summer leather jacket with all the USMC patches and stuff.  This story would not have been possible without the jacket.

Regardless of the history or circumstance, this human has successfully completed the requirements of the recruit depot and advanced infantry training schools and is automatically rendered the respect he or she deserves unless this concept is proven to the contrary.

My fellow Marine was short, very thin, with reddish gray hair that was very thin all over.  His skin was the pallor of a smoker and he looked none too healthy.  We chatted pleasantly for several minutes and I then attempted to extract myself from the conversation because my riding partner was waiting on me.

This man appeared to have endured the travails of rough life.  If he told me the correct dates of his service in the Corps, 1963 to 1967, that would put him in his late seventies.  Although appearances can be deceiving, I would guess that most of that time he spent doing hard work for meager wages.

Men like this are visible all over the 50 states and are lost creatures whose age and health have made them dependent on something or someone.  This man is close to being down and out.  It will probably happen regardless of his immediate future.

He may or may not have had a wife and kids. He may have known true love but it does not matter now. 

I speak now with the conviction of a prophet.  With all that life has thrown at this man he can still recall that hot, steamy day in the barracks and on the grinder, when he knew, for the first and possibly the last time in his life, he had just completed the requirements to belong to an elite group.  A group that puts the mission of the group above all.  That electric moment when the DI puts two Eagle Globe and Anchor emblems in you palm and you close those moist clammy fingers around the cool black metal that were the object of your dreams in the squad bay.  That his fellow brothers, who will ultimately end up in harms way, would give up their lives to protect his and that he can count on their loyalty through out.  He has a swollen chest from the pride of his accomplishments in this caldron and he knows, he feels, he inherits the history and traditions, he soaks up the culture and he will bleed for the right to issue a hearty Semper Fi.  For after a lifetime of  "nothing special", he will be able to tell himself that he once was the pride of the nation.  He was once a member in good standing in the United States Marine Corps.

May his creator find a place for him where the streets are guarded by United States Marines.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

2013 Ride to Elberton, GA

A Tuesday Ride

This is just a collection snippets from a normal Tuesday ride with friends from Cedar Creek. The riders were Jim Bloomquist, Mark Hahn, Bruce Jones, Jim Byrd and me, Gus Fitch.

The clips were recorded from a Drift HD170 video cam mounted to my helmet and edited through iMovie software on my iMAC.

It will be mostly boring to those who don't ride and even to some who do ride, but there are some interesting views.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Sunrise of Wonder

Yesterday, Sunday, January 13, 2013 I  joined a group of riders from Columbia, SC who were taking a short notice ride to the SeeWee Seafood Restaurant on Hwy 17, just on the edge of the Francis Marion National Forest northeast of Charleston, SC.  I have never been to or heard of this place in 71 years of knowing SC.

So, I was excited about the ride and the food.  The plan was for me to meet the other riders in West Columbia at Micky Dees on the corner of I-26 and Charleston Highway.  It would have been easy to hop on I-20, transition to I-26 and meet the guys and gals at McDonalds.  Out of habit, I chose not to go via the slab but opted for the back roads.  Not out of habit, I decided to wear my video cam on my helmet for this trip.  These two actions netted me some really spectacular views of a sunrise from which I chopped out several snapshots which are part of this posting.  If I can get the darn thing uploaded to my blog site, all will be Jake.  The resolution of the pics is not good enough to use full screen .