Thursday, March 29, 2018

Volksmarching and the American Volkssport Association (AVA)

A Volksmarch was something we used to do while stationed in Germany years ago.  It was a cheap day out for our family of four. It was fun to get out in the German countryside and get some fresh air. Translated from German Volksmarch means Peoples Walk.  We would look at the Stars and Stripes for a march nearby.  Then drive to it on Saturday mornings.  There were usually 6 or 7 to choose from in the Ashbach and Stuttgart areas.

Our favorites were in small German towns that would have an event; their prize was important. For example, you could go walk a 5k, 10K, or a 20K course.  After the walk, you would get a prize, most of the time a beer mug. In addition, you could get lunch, usually German sandwiches, and a beer at the town community center after the march.  I was a young American Soldier walking through Germany during the 1990s; life was pretty good.

Fast forward to 2018.  Now that the boys are gone, we were looking for something to do, especially when we get an RV and travel around the USA. Unfortunately, volksmarching in America never seemed to live up to my German expectations until I got a different perspective.   The American Volkssport Association seemed like a good way to keep track of kilometers walked and see some good sights.
Most of the American clubs sponsor year-round events, where at any time, you can go walk the route and get a stamp at a walking box left at an establishment along the route.

So we joined the American Volksmarch Association (AVA).  Click on the preceding link for more information.  They also have special themed programs that are interesting. For example, we are enrolled in the  Appalachian Trail Special Program.  We must walk a portion of the Appalachian trail in all 14 states that the trail passes through.  We have until 2028 to get this done,  plenty of time to complete.

So this is the new adventure in our lives.  Traveling through the USA and walking.  It reminds me of that line in one of my favorite movies.  The Shawshank Redemption,  "You better Get busy living or get busy dying."

Monday, March 19, 2018

Collins Barracks, Dublin

As a Career Army Officer and history buff, I am fascinated by all things military.  When I was in Ireland I ran across this place Collins Barracks, a magnificent example of an old European Garrison.  Occupied by the British from 1701 to 1922, then the free Irish from 1922 to the present makes it the oldest continually run military garrison in the world.

Currently, some of the buildings house the National Museum of Ireland. In Ireland, we were constantly reminded of the fight for Irish independence and Collins Barracks is no exceptions.  Renamed after the father of modern Ireland Michael Collins.

We arrive by Taxi and immediately are impressed by the stark architecture of the Barracks and its traditional military courtyard where many a review of troops has taken place.  Inside the museum are exhibits dedicated to the British Garrison, the 1916 and 1922 Rebellion's, and the current occupant the Free Irish Army.

While there a group of young recruits were touring the museum with their Irish Drill instructors.  It's a place every soldier has been, the beginning of the process of becoming a soldier.  Seeing those young soldier file into and out of the Museum seemed like a window into my own past.  They are starting a journey that will change the course of their lives.

It seemed many were just going through the process not understanding the connection that they have to everyone that has gone before them. That will change in the coming weeks and months of training.

Collins barracks was an unexpected surprise and one that reminded me what a wonderful life I've been given and thankful for the great memories that I have.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Tennessee Highway 128

There are moments on my motorcycle that capture that feeling of pure exhilaration.  It's a feeling of right now there is nowhere else I'd rather be.  Riding on Tennessee Highway 128 from the National Battlefield at Shiloh to Clarksville was one of those moments.  Although 128 is only a short part of that route, it was one of those rides where you wanted to turn around and do it again.

Leaving Shiloh, I was looking for the most direct path back to Clarksville at the same time avoiding all major highways.  The original route that Google maps picked for me took me through Waynesboro.  I have been that way before.  I wanted something different. So I see, what is this road through Clifton?  It looks like a big snake on my iPhone Screen.  The decision has been made.

I leave Shiloh working my way through Savannah TN, after crossing the Tennessee River it is a short ride to the left turn on to 128.  From Bucktown to Clifton it is your average country road in Tennessee, which to say is still a blast to ride.  Once passing through the town of Clifton things get interesting.

As you leave Clifton you start to climb a large ridge with multiple switchbacks with tight corners.  At the high point of the ridge, the trees have been cleared creating panoramic views of the Tennessee River Valley.  This is where I think it's good to be alive.

Heading down the ridge towards Linden there is more of the same, it is a snake of a road.  It is a ball buster of a ride. As I join Tennessee Highway 13, that takes me to Clarksville.  Highway 128 stays with me, it will be with me a long time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Great Western Tennessee Run

I've ridden to all 95 Tennessee Counties as part of winning the 2015 Tuckassee Harleys Owner Group Director's Challenge.  So when they publish the challenge for 2018, I looked at the destinations, then said we can do this SH&*

So this last Sunday I ride down to Columbia and visit me a dead president, James Polk.  He really wishes they had Motorcycles back in his day.  So after chalking up the first destination, I realize that for the next 3 days it's going to be in the 70's.  This being February I decide the weather was too good to pass up.  Time to play hooky and knock off the 4 western destinations on a 2-day 500-mile ride.

So I put the trunk on the bike and I'm headed out early Monday morning.  Some very nice roads to West Tennessee first US Highway 79 to Paris, then state route 54 then 89.  I arrive at my first destination, the Full Throttle Distillery in Trimble, TN.   A small batch distillery that is in a town of about 600.  I only stay a short time buy a bottle of Whisky for my son, then I'm off.

Next stop Memphis, first Sun Studios in the downtown.  Then to South Memphis and Graceland.  Sun Studios sit's in a resurgent neighborhood unlike the area around Graceland which has seen it's better days.  Graceland the home of Elvis Presley for anyone that didn't know.  I have been through this house it is actually worth seeing.  A mansion during the 1960's would now be a regular house in an upscale neighborhood.  It's still decorated in that 70's style of gold furniture and shag carpet.

I get the required pictures to prove that I was there, then I head out of town.  Relieved to leave the city behind.  I have been to Memphis a few times and I have enjoyed my stays here.  There is still a lot to see, like Stax Records, just not on this trip.  I'm on a mission to visit all the required sites in Western Tennessee.  Memphis is a unique city in Tennessee and does have a tarnish reputation; it reminds me of New Orleans due to its Musical Heritage.  WC Handy put his mark on this city with the invention of the blues. I've ridden in Memphis a few times and the inner city streets have almost no real traffic.  It is kind of bizarre.

My next destination in the National Battle Field at Shiloh, but it's getting late and I need to rest.  So I find a cheap hotel room in Bolivar, TN.  A town named after Simon Bolivar the 19th Century South American Revolutionary.   The name of the motel is called the Aristocrat. I know what the term Aristocrat means and it can’t be applied to this motel that I’m staying at. Hey at $57.00 a night I’m still not complaining.

Hey, when I travel alone I like to find the cheapest sleeping arrangements possible with walking distance to restaurants. A nice Indian family owns this place which is in Tennessee near the Mississippi border. Apparently, they just got a new card reader for chipped cards. The lady checking me in had to go get here Middle school age son to show her how to use it. It was all good, actually, he reminded me of my son Thomas. Who had to show me how to disable certain channels on Direct TV. I didn’t tell her that part though. I worked with a lot of Indians In Afghanistan. I think they might end up ruling the world someday.

The next morning I'm up early and make it to Shiloh before 9-AM after a 40-mile ride.  I have been to Shiloh a few times, one of the more significant battles to happen during the civil war.  This is where Grant put the Western Army of the Confederation on the run.  Over 3200 soldiers were killed on both sides, which ended in a decisive Union Victory.

This was my last stop for the director's challenge on this trip.  When at Shiloh I decided to walk through the National Cemetery it was a relaxing experience.  Before it was the cemetery it was Grant Headquarters.  Now it is a holy place filled dead American Soldiers.

So it's another 3 hours from here to the house.  It is a great ride home over some of the best roads in Tennessee.  A great 2-day ride and one I needed to get done,  5 HOG chapter destinations down another 15 to go.  It's going to be a fun summer. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

An Amish Fish Fry

Where we live in Tennessee, we are surrounded by Amish Communities.  When riding my motorcycle, I see them on the roads in horse and buggy.  We see them in their tractors at the Home Depot and the Wallmart.  Strangely enough, we have very little interaction with the community directly.  They seem to live in their own world of Tennessee and Kentucky, and we live in ours.

I have always been fascinated by the Amish's and their simple but hard agricultural lifestyle.  So when we're invited by a family friend to an Amish Fish Fry Fund Raiser, we jumped at the chance.  The Amish every so often in the local area will have a fundraiser, usually once or twice a year.  The funds are used to pay for medical bills throughout their community.  This coming together for a common cause illustrates how tightly knit their community is.

We arrive at a large steel building that seems to be used as a community center.  At the door, there is a donation box where you are handed a paper plate.  As you go through the buffet line, there are homemade beans, both white and baked, along with coleslaw and cornbread.  At the end of the buffet, you are served 3 generous pieces of catfish by an Amish Lady.  My guess farm-raised by the Amish themselves.  We sit down to eat at long folding tables and chairs.  It is a sight to behold, Amish and non-Amish sitting down to eat in the same room and all for and a good cause.  Plus the food was outstanding.

Living in Tennessee over the years I have had some contact with the Amish, one time spending eight hours with an Amish man who installed my wood burning stove at my lake cabin.  It was fascinating to hear about his lifestyle and their devotion to God.  On a trip to Shipshewana, Indiana we visited the Menno-HOF which is a museum that tells the story of the Amish and Mennonites.

While at the dinner I can't help thinking about this great country of diversity that we live in.  We are all in this world together, it is in our American nature to come together and help each other when we can.