Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Breaking Day - A Poem

In the early morning before the break of day,
riding a motorcycle across the plains of Kansas.

Coolness rifles through the body,
you know that you are alive.

Riding west as the blackness begins to fade,
 the beginning of a new day is about to dawn.

You can see the sun rays coming from the east,
hitting above the horizon in the west.

As the east lightens,
the day is breaking.

There is anticipation of the sun on your back,
as the light from the east begins to shine.

The sun comes over the horizon the day has broken,
it is a new dawn, a new day with so many possibilities.

As the sun begins to hit your back,
it fills you with the warmth of life.

The sound of the road and the sun on your back,
guides you to your next destination.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Commercial Fishing: The first time I heard the word Sushi

The things you remember during your life that somehow shaped who you are. I grew up in Washington State in a small town in the Puget Sound.  The first time I heard the word Sushi was In high school.  Back in the day, I used to commercial fish with a High School friend in Oak Harbor Washington.  My friend had what was called a gillnetter.  It's a boat with a big spool that has a 1800ft net rolled up on it.  When fishing the net is laid out in a straight line.  The fish would run into the net while swimming and get caught in their gills.  We would then roll the net back up on the spool pick fish out of it in the process.

It was in the summer of 79. The state opened salmon fishing in Samish Bay for Nooksack River Kings. These fish averaged 30-35 pounds apiece and we were getting $3.50 a pound for them, that's 100 bucks a fish. Getting 10% of the total catch there were some nights I made over a $1000.00. That was a lot of money in 1979.  When selling these fish I asked the tender workers what was happening to them. He said, "These fish were going straight to Japan to be sold for Sushi." This is why the high price. It was the first time I felt I was living in an interconnected world.  I imagined 747 cargo planes full of King Salmon flying to Japan.

Those were some fun times.  Who would have thunk it, me catching fish that was going to be eaten by someone in Japan, it was hard to wrap my head around it, at the time.   I really don't remember the first time I ate sushi, it was years after hearing the word.  Once I tried it I loved it. I now eat it regularly. To think we gave the Japanese the fish and they eventually gave us the Sushi.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Biggest Things in the World: A Ride through Southern Illinois

We learned about Casey Illinois one morning while watching CBS Sunday Morning.  They had a segment about the town and it's world record big items. It looked like a pretty neat place.

Oh, they have the biggest rocking chair and the biggest mailbox in the world.  I'm kind of a nerd when it comes to this stuff, so with a smile on my face, I say, "I have to see that sh!!". Casey is only 250 miles from Clarksville sounds like a great overnight motorcycle ride.

We leave on a warm fall day.  We take Interstate 24 up to Eddyville then US Highway 641 and Kentucky 91 through Marion to the Cave in the Rock Ferry on the Ohio River.  After the Ferry crossing, we ride through the Shawnee National forest and cross the devil's backbone on Illinois Highway 1.  The Devils Backbone is a ridge that was created by an earthquake in the early 1800's in Southern Illinois.

Riding in Southern Illinois is always a good experience, with its wide curving turns and it's hills with changing fall foliage make it a great ride.  After leaving the National Forest the terrain flattens out and the road straightens out.  Which makes it a short trip to Casey.

Casey is a typical small midwestern town that decided to have some Big Things in a Small Town.  Most of the big items are located on the main street.  You can actually see everything in under an hour.  The Biggest Rocking Chair and the Mail Box are among my favorites.  You must drive to the Golf course to see the worlds largest Golf Tee.

We stay the night in a local hotel that is by Interstate 70 and have a great meal at a Mexican Restaurant that is by the hotel.  It is nice to be able to walk to a place to eat from the hotel.  The next morning we're up bright and early for the return trip home.  The hotel breakfast bar had been overrun that morning so we decide to eat at Reflections Cafe downtown.  It's near the biggest mailbox in the world and we stopped there to drop some postcards off.

After Breakfast, we get back on the road, we take the same way home.  Once we get down to southern Illinois we decide to stop in Elizabethtown at the E-Town Restaurant which is actually a small barge on the Ohio River. You had a choice between actual Ohio River Catfish or Pond Raised Catfish.  The Ohio River Catfish is some of the best that I ever had.

After lunch, we catch the Ferry across to Kentucky and are home in a little more than an hour. It was good to get home and reflect on some of the biggest things in the world, that is in a nice small town.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Ride to Ownesboro: A City on the Right Path

We have lived here in Tennessee since 1991 and have always heard good things about Owensboro, Kentucky.  We saw that there was an Airshow on the Ohio River there, so we decided to do an overnight motorcycle trip.  It's part of my plan of trying to see and understand more of the diverse State of Kentucky.

I have always been fascinated with the cities and towns on the Ohio River.  Which is considered the unofficial border between North and South.  Part of the so-called Mason Dixon line which originates in Pennsylvania. The cultural divide is most evident in the way people talk, their accents.  The southern twang largely disappears when crossing the Ohio River.

Kentucky is unique in the fact that it lacks a single cultural identity.  It tends to draw its culture from its border states.   Which is part of the reason it was divided during the civil war.  It was neither purely Yankee or Confederate.

We leave on a warm fall day traveling on US Highway 79 through Russville Kentucky, which was the Confederate capital of Kentucky during the civil war.  There we join Highway 431 for a great ride through the western hills of Kentucky.  With lots of turns and fall scenery, the 107miles rolls under our wheels with hardly a notice.

We arrive in Owensboro with the sites and sounds of airplanes in the air.  It was great riding through the streets with those planes overhead.  We get to our hotel which is right on the river and finish watching the air show on the rear patio bar.  Later in the evening, we take a walk through downtown Owensboro.

The downtown seems to be alive with new shops and restaurants.   It reminds me of downtown Nashville in the early 90's it seems to be full of energy.  We decided to have dinner at the Famous Bistro.  It was a great dinner of upscale Greek food.  It was crowded this evening so we were offered seats at a counter overlooking the kitchen.   I had the stuffed veal parmesan, the best I have ever had.

Sitting at the counter was good chance to talk to some of the staff and hear how Owensboro was really starting to move forward.  We were told about the magnificent river walk which we took a stroll on after dinner. The Riverwalk was one of the best I have ever seen with an enormous playground.  It actually looked like something you would find in Europe  It was nice to see families and couples enjoying the cool fall evening along the river.

The next morning we are ready for our return trip back to Clarksville.  It was good to return home with a better understanding of Owensboro and the State of Kentucky.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Motorcycle Ride thru North Georgia: The Band of Brothers Trip

A ride to Toccoa Georgia was a trip the I have planned for a while.   Toccoa the birthplace of the 506th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) as highlighted in Steven Ambrose's book and miniseries The Band of Brothers.  It was great to share this trip with my son who is a historian in his own right, who works for the Chattanooga Library. Toccoa is located in the northeast Georgia Mountains near the South Carolina border.

The plan; ride to Chattanooga from Clarksville. Get up the next morning ride to Toccoa through the Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia Mountains.  Go to the 506th Infantry Regiment Museum in Toccoa then ride back to Chattanooga. Then ride back to Clarksville the next day. It all happens flawlessly.

What we didn't expect is the beauty of North Georgia with its magnificent Lakes and Mountains.  The Museum was exceptional and Toccoa was a classic small southern town.  Toccoa trained 18,000 Airborne Troops in the shadow of Mount Currahee.  It felt good to see that mountain, 3 miles up 3 miles down was the running chant.  We had lunch at the Exfactor Grill downtown before heading back to Chattanooga.  After eating some great southern food we're off.

On the trip back to Chattanooga one thing stuck in my mind.  Georgia Highway 52 through the Georgia Mountain is one of the best motorcycle roads I have ever been on. We rode this rode completely by mistake.  A road that we were on had an accident, so we had to reroute to Highway 52.  I'm sorry about the accident but I'm sure glad we were forced to ride this road.

So the next day I make the trek back to Clarksville from Chattanooga.  There was a total of 779 miles ridden in three days an incredible trip.  One that, I hope to repeat in the future.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Downpatrick and the St. Patrick Center: The Burial Site of St. Patrick

We Americans are all Irish one day a year.  St. Patrick’s Day for most American’s is an excuse to drink too much and to wear green.  The fact is that St. Patrick is a mystery to most Americans.  It isn’t taught in school or even a topic in an undergraduate course in college.  Even though western civilization, as we know it, was helped by this historically distant figure.   This is our objective while in Belfast to uncover this mystery, the main reason we ventured into Northern Ireland.

North Ireland had a strange tinge of tension in the air that we felt all over the city.  On the bus ride from Belfast to the town of Downpatrick, we talk to a young man that had been beaten up by two young English loyalists.  Although technically, the war is over between the Protestants and Catholics.  It was still playing itself out at the street gang level between factions of younger hoodlums.

Downpatrick about 50 kilometers south of Belfast can be reached by bus in about an hour and a half.   It is a very scenic Irishtown set in a backdrop of rolling green hills.  The St Patrick Center is a short two-block walk from the bus station.  We have an excellent lunch at an Irish Pub before touring the center, which sits at the base of the hill where there Church and gravesite are located.

In short, St Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland and in the process of uniting the country.  Then, spread some of this civility to Europe by sending Irish scholars and priests to the continent.  The center provides a marvelous museum of Ireland and its progression. After touring the museum, we walked up the hill to view the Church and the gravesite.

Set beside a large cathedral lies St Patrick's grave and stone, although he is thought to be buried somewhere under the Church this gravesite is a beautiful symbolic representation.  After a tour through the Church, we head back to the bus station and the ride back to Belfast.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Kentucky an Unexplored Motorcycle Frontier: Highway 100 to Dale Hollow Lake

It's starting to become difficult to find new motorcycle rides here in Tennessee.  After riding to all 95 Tennessee Counties and over 10 years in the saddle locally, there are not many new roads.  So we turned our bikes north to the State of Kentucky that is largely a mystery; to test the waters, so to say.  Kentucky is a large motorcycle friendly state that has a lot of great roads and friendly people.  So we make reservations at the Dale Hollow State Park Resort and set a path through uncharted waters.

We leave on a late summer Saturday morning.   We cross the border on US Highway 31E North, crossing from Tennessee into Kentucky.   We stop for lunch in Scotsbourgh where we pick up Kentucky Highway 100.  This road is full of great turns.  If you ride this road hold on tight. It will definitely give you what you need.

We come to the Historical Marker for Camp Anderson. Since my
sir name is Anderson, it's hard not to feel a connection to this place.  During the Civil War Kentucky was an enigma, having both a union and confederate personality.   The Union Camp here on highway 100 was just one example.  The Confederates tried to capture me here but I had left just in time.  I'm everywhere just like on my motorcycle.

We stay on Highway 100 making our way to the Tompkinsville and the Old Mulkey Meeting House State Historical site.  The oldest meeting house/chapel in the state.  The burial site of many revolutionary war soldiers and Daniel Boon's sister, Hannah.  They were having a wedding there later in the evening.  It would be a special spot for a wedding ceremony.

We then head to our destination for the evening, Dale Hollow Lake State Resort, which sits on a mountain overlooking the lake.  We splurge and get a room with a lake view. It was great drinking coffee and taking in the lake views in the morning.

The next day we ride off the mountain to Highway 90 for a quick trip to Glasgow Kentucky, which is named after Glasgow Scotland.   We stop in the center of town take a quick walk around town to the courthouse square.   The Confederate memorial debate seems to be being played out in Glasgow.  They do have a memorial to the Confederate dead,  but they also have a memorial to an important African American woman in the square.  It seems like Glasgow is trying to find a balance to the whole question.

After leaving Glasgow it's a quick trip down US Highway 31E back to Scotsbrough.  We then re-joining Highway 100 for the trip to Franklin, KY and finally back home to Clarksville.  It was a great trip with a lot learned.  Kentuck has a lot of un-ridden roads which we will be exploring over the next few years.  It is a great state.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Two Old Soldiers Walking Hadrian's Wall

About a year ago an old Army buddy a fellow Warrant Officer Bob Gambert was telling me about this walk across England. A walk that followed a Roman wall that stretched from the North Sea to the Irish Sea. At the time I was limping around on a bad knee, all I wanted was for it to heal and feel better.   Walking was a struggle, but this walk was something I decided I wanted to do.  

Hey, I'm the Wandering Soldier right, what better to walk 90 plus miles with another retired warrant officer.  So after many a discussion over a beverage or two, we set a date for the next summer. So that gave me a year in which to lose a few pounds and get my knee right.  After a couple of cortisone injections and walking  60 miles a week for the last 3 months I'm ready to go. 

So we did it, we walked from  Wallsend, Newcastle to Bowness-on-Solway past Carlisle.  It was an amazing experience and an even better experience with a fellow Warrant Officer.  We took the Tube from Newcastle to start at Segedunum at Wallsend.   Segedunum is just one of many Roman Forts and Museum along the route.  When we started as 2 old soldiers, we immediately felt a kinship with this route.  We could feel the ghost of the Roman legions that were stationed on this wall.  One much like the Iron Curtain we had been stationed on in Germany. 

There were lots of challenging days with mileage total, over 90 miles walked over 8 days.  The first 4 days we averaged over 12 miles a day.  We stayed in Bed and Breakfasts along the route.  Most were marvelous English country homes. Some of these homes were actually built with stones from the Hadrian's Wall.   The beginning and end of the march there is not much of the wall left it was dismantled and used for other things.   

One of the more memorable B&B stays was like being in an episode of Downtown Abby. We all had drinks in the parlor then we're told to pass through for dinner.  Yes, he said it, "it's time to pass through". All of the people at the table we had already met on the hike it was very interesting. Also, Nelson Mandela had stayed here in the 90's. At dinner, our host told us stories about fox hunting. 

 Then there was the Nutbush B&B and Malcolm, what a great guy totally relaxed.  He took us to town to a local pub instead of fixing dinner at the house.  He was a joy to talk to who always had a laugh. I can't express enough my love for this place, Malcolm is the man. He made our stay so enjoyable. Very down to earth who made us feel like his home was our home. 

In the middle of the march is where the base of the wall still exists, you can see the wall in the rolling hills for miles, it's an incredible sight.  You can imagine what it was like to be a soldier on the wall.  Strangely,  a soldiers life hasn't changed much over the centuries.  There was guard duty, kitchen police, the local town where soldiers went to blow off steam.   The Romans built the wall to keep people out, but it ended up being an economic hub for over 300 years. 

One of the highlights of the March was our stop in Carlisle.   Carlisle Castle was a focal point for the wars between Scotland and England. Mary Queen of Scots was executed here in 1587. It was originally a Roman fort. There was a fantastic military museum there also of the British Border Regiment which was stationed here. 

On our last day of walking, we found a small church that offered tea coffee and biscuits for a small donation. They had a small museum in the church. It was good to get out of the rain.  It felt good to enjoy a hot cup of tea and warm up in this little sanctuary. 

It was an incredible 8 days that overwhelmed the senses.  A big shout-out to Baggage Transfer Plus and Ian Blythe. Who made our 90-mile walk across England worry-free. We had great accommodations and baggage transfers all across Hadrian's Wall Path. Would highly recommend this service. I would say this walk along the wall was one of the Top 10 things that I have done in my lifetime; a great experience.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Titanic Belfast

One of the many sites in Belfast to see is where the famous ocean liner Titanic was constructed.   Belfast is my favorite city in Ireland.

A tour through what is billed the greatest attraction in the world was a little overhyped, but Titanic Belfast was still a marvel to see. Not only was it located in the shipyard where the Titanic was built it also had a great story on the history of Belfast at the time.

We all know the story or we think we do.  The ship that was supposed to be unsinkable, a perceived modern marvel of man's conquest over nature.  It was a lesson that in some ways we have failed to learn.  The Titanic one of three Olympus Class cruise ships that were built on this site and is probably the most-discussed ship in modern times.

Titanic Belfast building is 8 stories of time travel during which this ship was being built.  Nicknamed the Iceberg by locals it is filled with a maritime history exhibit which is the huge backstory to this amazing vessel.  The building looks down on the shipyard slips where Titanic and Olympus were built.

A few years ago we visited Halifax in Canada.  This is where many of the recovered bodies are buried.  Rescue operations were mounted from Halifax.  They also have an interesting Titanic display in their Maritime Museum, with a lot of recovered debris.

Titanic is forever woven into the fabric of Belfast they are inseparable.  If you make it to Belfast make sure this is your first stop.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Belfast a City in Transition

In Dublin, we board a train at Connelly Station for the quick 2 hour trip to Belfast.  We leave Ireland and are going to Northern Ireland which it's part of the United Kindom.     For many Irish it's not by choice,  many in the country are not happy about this.   When we entered the suburbs of Belfast you started to see the Union Jack, identifying loyalist enclaves/neighborhoods that support the crown.

When you got off the train you could feel something in the air.  If you know the history of this place you can understand the underlining tension.  Even though a peace treaty between Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican Army, and the British Government has existed since 2005 you could still see armored police cars driving around the city.  We saw news stories of adolescent gang violence across Northern Ireland. Even with all this, we felt safe in the city even though it seemed divided in many ways.  Many establishments pride themselves on once being part of the Irish Nationalist Movement.

We're here to go to Downpatrick, where St. Patrick is buried and to see the Titanic Center in the harbor area, Belfast was more of a mystery to us.  We are in Belfast a very short time just two full days, but I'm very impressed by this place, it lacks the tourist elements that was in Dublin, which to me is a good thing.

The cathedral quarter is where all the churches from all the different denominations are which I find kind of odd, it was on a beautiful tree lined street.  It's hard to imagine this place during all the conflict.  The center of town is dominated Albert Memorial Clock one of Belfast's best-loved landmarks.  It is unofficially their own leaning tower, being that it is 1.3 meters off center at the top.

One thing I noticed things to seem to be cheaper here. In Ireland, we used the Euro and now the British Pound in Northern Ireland.  There is a strong union influence here in Belfast with union murals all over the city.

I recommend a trip to Belfast to anyone.  There is a unique feeling here that can't be missed. The city is booming with construction cranes everywhere, they seem to be transitioning into one of the most modern cities in Europe.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Trip to the British Isle's

What a trip, Ireland, Dublin, Belfast, then a ferry over to Great Britain.   A train from Stranrger to Newcastle.  Then an 8 day walk along Hadrian's Wall from Newcastle to Carlisle.  The whole reason why we came here.  After that down to Liverpool then another train to Holyhead to catch a Ferry which takes me back to Dublin.  It was literally, planes, trains, and automobiles, with a couple of ferries thrown in.

Hadian's Wall, from the North Sea to the Irish Sea. Newcastle to Carlisle across Great Britain. The length of Hadrian'sWall.   We walked over 90 miles during 8 days.  Walking along a wall the Romans built over 1000 years ago.  It's hard to imagine what it was like, but it's safe to say a soldiers life has changed very little since then.

Then it was off to Liverpool to see the Beatle sites and much more. I think that when most people think of England, London comes to mind. Liverpool is a hidden gem.  Liverpool was heavily bombed during the war so the city center is relatively new. Liverpool sustained the most civilian casualties during the Blitz. Who would have thought? But what I like most is the pedestrian downtown a huge outdoor mall and gathering place, full of restaurants and mixed use space. Let's not forget the Tate Museum where there was a great exhibit on the work of Otto Dix.

There were many great interesting people that I met on this trip.  Cabin drivers, bed and breakfast host's, fellow walkers of the wall.  They all had such interesting stories to tell.   A big shout out to Baggage Transfer Plus and Ian Blythe. Who made our 90-mile walk across England worry free. We had great accommodations and baggage transfers all across Hadrian's Wall Path.  It was a lifetime of great experiences.

It was a trip that I dreamed about for a long time and now it's over.  The memories remain, it will take a while to rehash them.  It feels a little surreal that all this happened.  I must get them written down before I forget, so stay tuned.