Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Living in Europe: American Workers Should be Envious

Some of the greatest years of my life were living and working in Europe with my family experiencing the continent as it should be.  We got to see how Europeans live and the freedoms that they experience.   Most of my time was spent in Stuttgart Germany one of the larger cities in the state of  Baden-W├╝rttemberg. 

In Germany, I ran an office with 50 German National Employees.  To say their working conditions were better than most Americans is an understatement; 37.5 work week; provided Dental and medical care with prescription drugs, with 6 weeks vacation and not to mention their generous defined pension plan. When I had to lay 15 people off, the unemployment benefits they received were unbelievable.  The 1st Year full salary 2nd year 50%; all were offered retraining programs with job placement assistance. All we're working again in a short period of time.  This is standard for all German Workers. When I would tell them that in America people would lose homes because of medical bills they would act as we live in the stone age. In some respects American workers do.

Most of the Germans that worked in my office lived in nice condos or houses drove Mercedes and BMW's built for the Autobahn. Most only had one car due to great public transportation some only using their cars on the weekends and during vacations. Tax rates are higher, but there not paying $800 a month for medical or dental care. Their property taxes are much lower. They were just average non-college educated workers all though well paid. Their German taxes were in the 30 percentile. I would argue that tax rates aren't indicative of your quality of life. 

When my son picked me up from Seattle-Tacoma Airport, he was telling me about the 1000 people living under the Interstate 5 viaduct near Boeing field. They would say what kind of society does that. I didn't find that anywhere in Europe.  They do in fact incorporate real Christian values into their public policy much more than the US. Many would go on Vacation to America every year and would love to come by and tell me about their adventures.  Sure life isn't perfect in Europe, but it always seemed much more orderly and safer.  Life there seemed so much more relaxed and stress-free.   Isn't this where freedom lies. 

The stress level of Americans seems to be at an all-time high, 1 in 3 being one paycheck away from poverty and homelessness.  I recently heard, 7 out of 10 American's don't have $1000.00 in savings.  There is a better way of living, and I have seen it.    What is the definition of Freedom we always hear about how free we Americans are?  We must find a way for more Americans to share in the American dream instead of the hollow reality.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A 1600 Mile Round Trip Ride to Carlisle Pennsylvania

I had to go see an old friend in Pennsylvania.  We originally met up in Virginia and continue our trip up to the Iron State.  This would end up being a great trip through Kentucky, Virginia then Pennsylvania and then coming home via Maryland, West Virginia, and then again Kentucky.  There were some surprises and unexpected mountain roads that tested the soul. It was good to get out and see an old friend and a big part of the nation in Electra Glide Classic style.

Here are the best roads of the trip, some moving me to tears and others to frustration.  I really don't think people realize how many Mountains are in West Virginia.  So many in fact I don't think anyone could ride every road there in a lifetime.  Or the majestic beauty of the Lincoln Highway through Southern Pennsylvania.  I discovered a lot on this trip so much, in fact, I want more.  Riding the Allegheny Mountains was an unbelievable experience.  It was travel crack for the soul.

  1.  The Cumberland Parkway: This is a high-speed blast across Kentucky heading east on the Cumberland Parkway and Kentucky Highway 80. This is my favorite road to head towards the east coast.  Where I live in Tennessee you take Highway 68 to Bowling Green.  Then a few miles north on, Interstate 65, jump off on the Cumberland Parkway exit.  It feels like you have left earth and are now are in the twilight zone.  This is a major freeway with almost no traffic.  A beautiful superhighway all to yourself running through the hills of Kentucky.  A great way to get to eastern Kentucky and from there to the east coast.  You can run fast and hard on this open road.

2. Hazard and crossing into Virginia at Pounds Gap:  Once in Hazard I head to Pounds Gap and Virginia on Kentucky Highway 15, then US Highway 119, which runs into US Highway 23. These are winding mountain roads.   It feels good to get off the 4 lane highway and get on some real motorcycle roads.  It is a long winding trip through the Appalachian Mountains to Pounds Gap.  Once crossing into Virginia at Pounds Gap you are now on the east side of Appalachia which drops you into the Shenandoah Valley.

3. Lees March into Georgia US Highway 15 to Gettysburg and Carlisle.  US Highway 15 cuts through the middle of Virginia.  It traces General Lees march towards Gettysburg during the Civil War.  The highlight of this ride is crossing the Potomac River above Washington.  A long 2 lane bridge over a beautiful river with great scenery.   The rest is a great ride through the farmland of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

4. The Lincoln Highway US 30 to the Flight 93 Memorial:  From Carlisle, it is a short ride on US Highway 11 to Chambersburg where we join US 30.     US Highway 30 Americas first road part of the Lincoln Highway this section runs through south central Pennsylvania.  It is an outstanding drive past old log cabin Toll buildings.  This used top be a horse and buggy road. A great valley ride leading up to challenging switchbacks through the Allegheny Mountains.  What a great ride.  This road passes the Flight 93 Memorial a must see, an amazing story of courage and lives saved on 911.

5.  US Highway 220 and US Highway 50 :  Cumberland Maryland the Mountain Gateway through West Virginia.  This was a long haul through the Mountains.  Following a valley south on US Highway 220 you leave Pennsylvania and enter Maryland.  Once passing through Cumberland, Maryland you are in the thick of the Allegheny Mountains.  You will eventually get to US Highway 50 west to start the long trek west through West Virginia.  You will ride over 3 mountain passes before finally getting to Interstate 79.  I have ridden a lot of mountain highways the shear length and time of the ride makes US 50 seem like riding 3 tail of the dragons.  I am relieved to get to the Interstate.

6.  Interstate 79 the Mountain Highway:  Interstate 79 is an unusual ride on a high speed Mountain Highway through the remainder of West Virginia.  At times it feels like you are riding on the Top of the world when the interstate crest several mountain tops.  It is a quick trip to Charleston West Virginia for the last leg of the trip.   The views and the unique characteristics of this Interstate makes it a ride to remember.

7.  US Highway 119 a four lane Mountain Road:  One of my favorite roads of the trip, a tight fast four lane road through the last part of West Virginia and into Kentucky.   It is a thrill riding this road with all it's tight turns and mountain views.  I made a quick stop at Mountain State Harley for a tour of the shop and the new Milwaukee 8 motorcycles.  Great looking and sounding bikes, but I'll hold on to my 2013 Electra Glide Classic.  US 119 runs its course in Pikeville Kentucky and I am anxious to get home but one more road to go.

Well I'm back where I started the final blast on the Cumberland Parkway and Kentucky Highway 80.  It's good to get back home and reflect on a great trip and great time.  Riding and walking with an old friend.

Monday, October 3, 2016

A Trip to Houston

Getting ready to get on a plane to Houston to see my old neighbor Army buddy Reggie Dixon with Titan and Texan football tickets in hand.  This trip brings back a lot of memories.  The last time I went to Houston in the early 80's the plane didn't land.   I was selected to attend the 82nd Airborne Convention as part of an active duty contingent that parachuted into a field near Houston for a convention demonstration.

I remember during the pre-jump briefing we were told there was a picket fence running through the middle of the drop zone.  We were jumping steerable parachutes so we were advised to slip away from the fence.  During the jump I landed into a big patch of mud. After a short walk to the buses we were off to the convention.

While attending the Convention there were a lot  WWII vets there who were still relatively young in the 80's.  I got to meet the trooper that was hung on the clock tower in town of St Mere-Eglise and many others that parachuted into D-Day.  I wish I would have had the foresight to take a camera and take notes.  Although I do remember I was getting to meet history, but I have forgotten most that I met and their  stories.

 It was a fabulous time those old vets treated us like we were there with them on that day and we felt like we were in a sense.  Each regiment had there own hospitality suit.  It was fun going from suite to suite meeting those old troopers who treated us with such great camaraderie.  For that week I never had to purchase a meal or a drink.  Although us active duty troopers were housed in a national guard armory we were bused everyday to the convention hotel which I can remember being near the Astrodome.  Each old timer had their own unique story for that day and now much of it is lost to history.