Saturday, August 25, 2018

Life in the 82nd Airborne Division

I was in the 82nd Airborne from 1981 until 1989. The 101st Airborne from 1991 to 2001. I’m writing this because I get a lot of questions about what the Army was like from Civilian friends. Sure it looks fun but it gets monotonous. 

I was in logistics but you still have to do all this quote “fun stuff” on a regular basis. Qualify with your weapon, 12-mile ruck march once a quarter, Gas Chamber every 6 months. Jump out an airplane every few weeks which takes about 8 hours before you actually leave the Aircraft, most of them being at night. Then there is PT every morning at 630AM 5 days a week, 6 days if you fall out of a company run on Friday. Oh,  I forgot all the different 24-hour duties you have the privilege to pull.  Charge of Quarters (CQ),  Guard Duty, BN/BDE Runner and Driver, then there all the field exercises with the well-loved Kitchen Police Duty (KP).  Some people don’t last 3 years much less 20. Sure it got a little easier in the 101st Airborne no planes to jump out of and as you make rank you don't have to do some of these.  

 I compare the Army with professional sports in that it’s a young man's game. A lot of people have to leave for medical reasons, no room for OSHA standards here. I personally have bad hearing; a bad shoulder, knee, and ankle. I would not have changed a thing and kind of miss it sometimes for just a small moment.

 Lots of people had it a lot worse than I did. Especially some of the Vietnam vets I served with in the early 80’s. And the ongoing mess we created in the sandbox. I retired Feb 2001 but got a little taste of it as a contractor in Afghanistan. I tried to steer our sons away from the Army, but every service has its challenges. I do believe that we should bring the draft back for the simple reason that the defense of the nation should be a national responsibility that everyone should bear in some way.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Riding the Great River Road: Day 3-The National Motorcycle Museum

Today is day-3 on the Great River Road.  I leave Muscatine, Iowa planning to take a little detour.  I ride about 30 minutes west to the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, I learned a lot about the man who while president, was blamed for the great depression.  He actually excelled at being a lifelong humanitarian and one of the founders of UNICEF.  An organization dedicated to providing developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.

After leaving the Historic site, I start to make my way back to the River Road when I come across an outrageous surprise.  The National Motorcycle Museum as I ride by it I decide to make a u-turn for a visit.  It was a pleasant surprise.  They had Evil Kenevil's jump bike there, a great Indian collection also, over 400 historically significant motorcycles.

After about an hour in the museum, I make my way back to the River Road.  I stop for lunch in Guttenberg Iowa right on the river.  The Kaffee 1858 & Public House had a friendly staff and a great Ruben Sandwich. After lunch, I ride up the River to Effigy Mounds National Monument.  Which is an old Indian Mounds burial complex, the mounds sit on bluffs that overlook the Mississippi River.  There are 3 mounds next to the visitor center also.

After viewing the mounds I cross the river into Wisconsin at Prairie Du Chien for the final leg of my ride today.  I travel up Wisconsin State Route 35 right along the River it is a magnificent ride. Going through several small towns on the river along the way.

I make it to my final destination for the evening La Cross Wisconsin, just in time for a traffic jam downtown.  It is good to get to the Hotel and reflect on 3 days of riding the Great River Road.  Tomorrow Merrill Wisconsin.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Great River Road: Day 2 Missouri Route 79

I've had a lot of good luck dodging the rain when I ride.  Well, today my luck ran out. After leaving Ste. Genevieve, I stopped in St. Louis to see Presidents Grant's Farm a National Historic Site.  I then start to make my way up Route 79 on the Missouri side of the Great River Road. 

Once on 79, God starts to spit. I stop to put my rain suit on before the heavens open up.  I pretty much ride in a downpour all the way from St. Louis to Louisiana, Missouri.  To my luck, the rain lets up, and I really enjoyed the ride from Louisiana to Hannibal.  Majestic rolling hills, views, and turns above the mighty Mississippi.   

Hannibal, the home of Mark Twain, the original river traveler, the house he grew up in is located in the old downtown in this great river town.  After stopping to get some pictures I make my way across the river, back to the Illinois side of the River Road.    

After passing through river towns like Quincy, Keokuk, Nauvoo, and Ft. Madison, I stop for the night in Muscatine.  Some of these places have seen there better days and have an eerie sense of abandonment.  Like the water that flows past them has drained the town in some way.  Muscatine though seems to be thriving and is a good break after a long ride.  

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Great River Road: Illinios Route 3

This is the first leg of my ride to Wisconsin on the Great River Road.   I've been on this road before all the way to Chester and then to Ste. Genevieve.  

My first stop this day was at the Fort Jefferson Cross overlooking the Mississippi River, an impressive site.  In the distance, you can see the adjoining Mississippi and Ohio River bridges on the very bottom tip of Illionios.  This is the start of Illionios Route 3 on the Great River Road. 

The road from here is on a bluff, with some nice turns and hills.  As I cross the Ohio River, I see where the Ohio joins the Mississippi.  After I cross the river, I make a right on Route 3, and I am on my way. 

My ride up to Chester on route 3 is in between the Mississippi River and the Devils Back Bone.  A mountainous ridge that was created by the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12.  The ride alternates between bluffs and a floodplain, with plenty of magnificent scenery.  It is what we ride for. 

I cross into Missouri at Chester Illinois the home of the creator of Popeye the Sailorman. Once in Missouri, its a short 30-minute ride to Ste Genevieve  This is my first overnight stop on the Great River Road. 

I cannot express my love for this town enough.  This is my second time here, Ste. Genevieve is a place like no other.   You feel like your in France when you are in this town. In New Orleans, the French architecture is drowned out by everything that’s been built in the last 300 years, not here. Some of the oldest structures in the western US, dating back to the 1600’s.  To include the oldest brick building west of the Mississippi.

This is a nice start to a 3-day Motorcycle Ride on the Great River Road.  It's going to be fun to see the rest of it. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Riding the Great River Road

Going up to Wisconsin to see some family. I’ve always wanted to ride the River Road along the Mississippi River and Wisconsin Rivers up to Merrill Wisconsin. So this is a good excuse to get it done.  

The Mississippi River is the lifeblood of the Nation. Most of the water that flows between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains makes it to this river.  Before motorized travel, it and its tributaries were the highways of our nation. My parents were born in a small river town alongside the Wisconsin River which is part of this great watershed.  The journey there from Tennessee is one that I need to make. 

It was a unique experience riding along these rivers, on a motorcycle following the Mississippi and Wisconsin river all the way to this small river town called Merrill.  These River towns hold many stories of America, many good and some not so good.  

So I spend 3 days riding 1020 miles on these river roads, and I'm much better for it.  I see a part of America that is a forgotten mystery, almost drowned by the water itself.  The great motorcycle roads like Illinois Route 3, Missouri Route 79 and Wisconsin Route 78 revealed this mystery. The sites and the slow hum of the V-Twin while taking a tight turn along a river can reveal a lot.  It can generate new questions also.

So I ride from Wickliffe Kentucky, through St. Louis, to Hannibal Missouri of Mark Twain fame, and beyond on the way to Merrill, learning much and understanding little.  One of my favorite quotes explains it all, "Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it."