Day 17

Posted in Uncategorized on June 30, 2018 by me

I haven’t written for awhile.  There’ve been a lot of long days and nights.  That’s not a bad thing though.  Weather and a lot of things caused some late starts, so there was a lot of riding late into the night.  And there were late nights with friends along the way as well.

I spent a day on the beach with my friends from Colorado then left the next day for St Augustine.  I got there a little later that night than I would’ve liked.  It was so damned hot that I pulled over to hydrate a little more than normal.  But I still made it in time to hang out with a guy who I was really good friends with in high school.  One thing that was neat about our group was that all four of us went into the military.  We just all chose our own route.  He went into the Navy, and I haven’t seen him too much since we got out of high school.  We’ve stayed in touch with phone calls, texts, emails and social media.  It was great to catch up with him.

The next day I headed to Charleston.  I had an interview the following day (Monday) at 8 am, so I wanted to get there early.  I pulled into town just in time to catch a marvelous sunset at Patriots Point, then rushed to get dinner at a wings place before it closed.  I made the interview in time and it went fairly well, there’s a follow up in Denver next week.  I don’t know a ton about the company yet, but I did really enjoy the guy who would be my boss.  I feel like I could learn a lot from him.

The bad part about the trip was that I got the word that John Shaffer passed away.  He was hiking with his family in NC when his dog fell into the water.  He jumped in after and they were both washed over a waterfall.  I checked in with other friends, thinking I might stay in the area a few more days to represent the family at his funeral but there were some issues getting the body back and he and his wife hadn’t done their wills, so there was some disagreement about how to proceed with his funeral.  Since it was going to be a couple weeks before anything was sorted out, I got on the road to Columbia and took my good friend to dinner.  I spent the night at her house, then left the next morning for Savannah so that I could go to campus.

The campus visit was great.  It was wonderful to feel like I was part of a real school.  I checked in with the disabled students office and got a lot more assistance face-to-face than I had over the phone.  Definitely got some good tips and suggestions to move forward with.  Stopped by the bookstore and got some schwag.  I forgot how awesome Savannah was.  I would’ve loved to have spent more time there, but I had to get back to Columbia.  Another dinner and night on the couch, then it was time to get on the road again.  Unfortunately I lost my phone, so was over an hour late getting on the road.

I headed up to Spartanburg and had a great burger at the Beacon, I’d never been there before, but I saw the sign off the road and gave it a chance.  I made it into North Carolina, and the rain hit.  And it hit HARD.  I ended up having to hit the hazard lights and get to the shoulder.  I was lucky I didn’t get hit.  I had to pull over a couple times on the way to Tennessee.  I wanted to get to Memphis, but only got as far as Murfreesboro.

I started off the next morning in the rain.  After being woken up by fire alarms.  I made it up to Nashville and met a friend there for lunch.  We’d met in Iraq, when she was working with the 101st in a building next door to ours and have stayed in touch since.  It was a great lunch, but over too soon, then it was on the way to Kentucky.  After Kentucky, I crossed a bridge into Cairo, Illinois, was there long enough to take some photos, then crossed the Mississippi and was in Missouri.  Ever since last year, I’d been wanting to go back to Springfield, so I got a hotel room there.

I woke up this morning and got to Hardee’s.  I’d been planning on getting breakfast there all trip, but something always came up, so I finally made it this morning.  Then I hit the local HD dealership for a chip, went back to the hotel and checked out, then got on the way to Grad School, for the burger I’d been dreaming about since last year.  After that, I went back to the hotel, grabbed my bags and hit the road.  I was chasing miles and chips so instead of going to Kansas and taking the direct route to Colorado, I ducked south and went to Fayetteville Arkansas.  I’d lived there as a little baby, but had never been as an adult.  It was gorgeous and a great ride.

After I stopped by the Harley dealer there, I shot over to Oklahoma, making it to the dealership outside of Tulsa just before they closed.  Had a great discussion there with a guy or two before heading to Wichita.  Tomorrow will see me on the way home, and crossing the 5000 mile mark.

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Day 8

Posted in friends, health, life, veteran with tags , , , , on June 22, 2018 by me

I’ve been away from home 9 days now, but don’t feel like I’ve been on the road that long.  I got to Alabama on Sunday night and didn’t leave til today, Thursday.  I spend the last three days in an advanced maintenance course for the M1 Garand.  The Garand is something I’ve considered buying for the last ten or more years, I just never pulled the trigger (get it?).  Late last year I got an email from the CMP about a lottery for a the advanced maintenance class (AMC).  The have 20 classes a year and 20 seats per class.  When you go through the class you learn how to maintain an M1 Garand, get to assemble one and if you desire, you can purchase the weapon that you built up during the class.  That sealed the deal, if I was going to buy one, wouldn’t it be cool to build it?

So I applied for the lottery, and figured if I won a seat, it was meant to be.  Obviously, I won a seat and paid for it last year, before I got downsized.  Since it was already paid for, it was easy to justify making this road trip.  I’d come out for my buddy’s promotion, then drive the short distance from New Orleans to Alabama for the AMC, then head home.  It was originally cheaper to ride the motorcycle out here for both than it was to fly out, rent a car, fly back, fly out, rent a car and fly back.  But the trip morphed and got bigger and bigger.

So today, after hanging around for the AMC, after we test fired our weapons, I got on the road.  I can’t speak highly enough about the class.  Out of all the blocks of instruction I’ve received during my 17 years in the military and all the classes I’ve taken in the IT world over the last 2.5 decades, this guy was easily the best instructor I’ve ever had.  Very smooth, great presentation skills, split the class up perfectly between instruction and hands-on, translated technical speak to everyday terms, etc.  The classmates were great, the experience was just what I needed.  It was wonderful to just build something with my hands again.  To be super focused for 2 and a half days on the task at hands, and to see the immediate results.  For 8 hours a day, we were just locked in a little classroom, working away.

It was good to get on the road again today, even though I got caught in multiple squalls and a hailstorm.  At one point, I finally pulled off because the lightening was too close and I was sick of my underwear getting soaked and not drying completely out before the next little pocket of rain came my way.  But eventually I made it to Ft Walton Beach, Florida.  A good friend of mine who I want to Iraq and Afghanistan with was staying with his family in Destin.  He was trying to make it to the promotion ceremony, but things just didn’t work out.  Even though he lives in Colorado, life conspires to keep us from hanging out as much as we’d like, so we joke because we frequently meet up outside the state.  Life has a way of making our paths cross.  I need to be in Charleston on Monday morning, and Savannah not long after, so this was a good way to kill until then, hanging on the beach with him and his family tomorrow, then heading out on Saturday when they leave.

He and his wife graciously offered to let me crash at their place, but I kind of like having my own room and moving at my own pace.  No one has to tip-toe because I’m not awake yet, I’m not sitting around bored because they aren’t.  So I had a room not far from Destin.  I checked in dropped my bags, then rode out to meet them.  This is tourist mecca now, so they’d been waiting at the restaurant for hours and still hadn’t been served.  The placed my order, so my food was hitting the table not long after I parked and found them.  And not long after that, the fireworks show started, literally.  The city of Destin puts on a show every Thursday night during the summer and I hit the restaurant perfectly to see it from their balcony.

After dinner, we put their kids in a car with his sister and he and his wife and I wandered and around and had more drinks.  It was nice to catch up with them outside of Colorado, everyone was de-stressed and relaxed and we were able to take it all in.  Then I came back here to the hotel room, finally got out of my still-wet underwear, got a shower and climbed into bed to type this and go to bed.

Content

Posted in health, life, love, meditation, relationships, veteran with tags , , , , , on June 19, 2018 by me

I’m still in Alabama and will be for the next two days as I’m taking this rifle class.  Not much new to say about that.  But I did muse about a word I used in a post earlier, “content”.  I’ve been working on that a lot lately, acknowledging that there are things I want, or that life isn’t “perfect”, but appreciating where I am and what I have.  It’s been part of my goals for meditation, learning to be in the moment.

At some point I have to figure out work.  I’m not hurting for money or anything, but the longer I’m doing the student thing, the more and more used to it I’m getting and the harder it’s going to be to go back to work.  Not sure if that looks like getting a full time job and going to school part time, or finding more part-time stuff.  I want to get the rental property thing going sooner rather than later, and that means I need to have a job to get a new VA loan.

Things could be better relationship wise.  But I don’t feel desperate to make things happen.  The relationship I’m in probably isn’t the perfect long-term one.  But do I have to rush to that conclusion RIGHT NOW?  Or can I enjoy knowing someone new, learning about them and letting it unravel a little more and make the decision with a little more information?  I don’t feel like I need to gnaw my leg off or anything.  There’s someone else who might be awesome for the long term.  But they’ve got their own stuff they’re working through.  Does that mean they’re the one and I just need to be patient?  Or if the timing isn’t right, it isn’t right?  Always that damned timing.

School could be easier.  It’s still a struggle.  But I’m learning how to ask for help.  It’s not perfect yet, but just like everything else, a work-in-progress.

The motorcycle ride doesn’t have to be a big, soul-searching, gut-wrenching experience filled with epiphanies.  Sometimes it can just be a motorcycle ride.  Maybe there will be that shakabuku moment.  Maybe there won’t.  But I’m riding my motorcycle cross-country.  Again.  Years after I maybe shouldn’t still be alive.  Several times over.  So that’s what I mean by content.

Day 5

Posted in Uncategorized on June 18, 2018 by me

It’d been years since I’d driven around Texas, six or seven at least.  What I remembered then were a lot of terrible roads, full of cracks and potholes.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out how much things had changed during the intervening years.  Google Maps directed me to take a lot of state highways and they were all smooth and recently improved.  The majority of them were four lane and divided, and the landscape on both sides was well maintained.  Even at night, there was enough distance between the trees on the side of the roads that you could see and anticipate curves and hills.  What was weird about the roads was that when you went through small towns there was tons of urban decay yet the roads themselves showed money and funding.

It was like a switch flipped going into Louisiana.  Potholes and cracks galore.  But the winds had died, so there was a weird stillness that I’ll never be able to explain.  It’s not that I didn’t have the sense of wind, I was traveling 70 or 80 miles an hour, so I could feel air movement, but I wasn’t fighting high winds.  And even though the state highways sucked, the interstates were smooth and well maintained, with none of the potholes we have in Colorado from the ice.  There were long, flat stretches, and the air was thick and heavy with humidity.  This all added up to the sense of stillness.  The engine just purred at a very low RPM rate because it wasn’t having to pull me uphill, the ear plugs and music drowned most of the noise out.  There was no rushing sound of wind in my ears, I wasn’t fighting the winds, just smooth, relative silence.

When I woke up on Sunday, I scooted to get out the door quickly.  I was supposed to meet a friend in Atlanta that night and I wanted to see the National WWII museum before I left.  It was only a couple blocks from the hotel so I threw on some shorts and flip-flops and got out the door.  Along the way I passed a bakery so I popped in for a key-lime tart, then got to the Museum.  There was a soldier in-line ahead of me, so I paid for his ticket and gave him the card for the book and asked him to spread the word.  The museum was great, what I saw of it at least.  I could easily spend a day at least there, but I had to scoot after just a couple hours.  I got the bike packed and hit the road.

I forgot the time zone change and traffic moved slow.  I guess a lot of people were coming back from the beaches.  I didn’t anticipate it.  So I made the decision in Mobile to change plans and head to Anniston instead of going to Atlanta.  Traffic finally cleared up and the going was relatively smooth until Google Maps dumped me off the interstate and onto a state highway.  Unlike Texas, it was a two lane, undivided road.  It was dark and there were low hanging clouds and a lot of fog.  It was crazy dark.  Small towns always shut down early, but it’s different in the south.  Lots of counties out here still don’t sell alcohol on Sundays and it’s not just Chik-Fil-A that isn’t open those days either.  Also unlike Texas, in a lot of areas the trees grew right up to the shoulder.  So it was really hard in the dark to judge what was coming up.  I left a couple of chicken strips from grabbing the brakes before I finally decided to slow down and admit I wasn’t going to make it to the hotel as early as I wanted to.

I finally got here though.  And it’s been a nice, quiet day.  Got showered, slept, did some laundry and homework.  Life is pretty good right now, so there’s not a lot of reflection going on.  Not to say that I’ve turned my brain off completely, I’ve just been fairly content.

Days 3 and 4

Posted in Uncategorized on June 17, 2018 by me

The original plan was for me to wake up early on day three and head into New Orleans to my hotel, hopefully get an early check-in, but at least drop my bags off, change and get to my friend’s promotion ceremony.  For a variety of reasons that didn’t happen.  I was slow to get moving, and hit rain on the way.  It was a pretty gentle series of thunderstorms, while I didn’t love seeing the lightening, there were lots of trees taller around than me, so I wasn’t fretting about it too much.  The way my bike is set up, my trunk wasn’t getting too wet, just my lower legs, face and forearms.  After 17 years in the Army, if I let rain slow me down, I’d be in serious trouble.  Unfortunately, all the drivers around me slowed down.  Then getting into the city, there were several accidents at key choke points that slowed me down.

The back up plan was supposed to be to go to my buddy’s house and change there, but traffic slowed me down too much for that, instead I head straight for NAS JRB New Orleans (Naval Air Station/Joint Reserve Base) and had to ask a cop for directions to his specific building.  I managed to put on a collared shirt in the parking lot, grab my camera, and was running up to the front doors of the building just as he was walking past them on the way to the auditorium where his promotion ceremony was being held.

Fortunately I got to see the whole ceremony, get some pictures, and then attend the refreshments ceremony afterwards.  His family was there, when his wife went to hug me, I declined, because I was still wet from the rain and sweaty.  I stayed a polite amount of time, then ducked out to get checked into my hotel and get a shower.  Along the way I ran by the Navy Exchange (think a version of a store similar to Wal-Mart) to pick up some single packs of detergent (which they didn’t have) to do some laundry at the hotel and in front of a parked plane to get some photos of a longboard I’d brought along.

I hit Friday afternoon rush-hour so it took way too long to get to my hotel.  I’d booked it online through HotWire, so I took a chance with it.  I was surprised by how nice a hotel it was and how close to all the fun stuff it was.  I was less than a mile from Bourbon street and right across the street from Harrah’s, just a block from the river.  It had been to see my buddy JC, but I was pretty certain he’d be hung up with family all weekend.  He’s a native of NoLa and his family is there and his wife’s family was flying in the next day, so I was surprised when he called me a little while later to say he was on his way into the city to pick me up.

I got showered and changed and met him downstairs.  We took his truck over to Harrah’s and parked in their garage and then headed to Drago’s for some amazing charbroiled oysters.  After that we wandered down Canal street and the tour started.

I don’t know why, but before then I didn’t realize that you could walk out in public with drinks everywhere, not just on Bourbon street.  I also didn’t realize gambling was legal.  So I was pleasantly surprised when I walked in the hotel and the guy offered me summer sangria while I was checking in.  So it wasn’t long after we left Drago’s before we stopped for the first of many drinks while walking.  After popping in and out of bars and restaurants and clubs he took me off Bourbon to a hotel with a rooftop bar and we spent awhile there, drinking and talking.

It was a great time.  In a lot of ways, we’re nothing alike, but we’ve stayed friends for almost 15 years, since before our deployment together to Iraq.  One story he loves telling is how when we were in Iraq we’d be in a super heated argument for awhile, and then all of a sudden one of us would ask the other if they wanted to go to lunch, and we’d go to the dining facility like nothing happened.  It was a night full of laughs and serious conversations.  After all this time, I still learned new things about him, stuff I’d never heard before.  I had been surprised when I was announced as a distinguished guest at his ceremony.  It was good to have a chance to thank him for that in person.  And good to realize that I’d had that much of an impact on his life, and great to be able to tell him he’d done the same for me.

After the club we went back to Bourbon street for more drinking and people watching.  It was past 3am before I got back to my hotel room.  I was in a new city, and a fun one at that.  I know I should’ve woken up early to explore and check it out, but it’d been a long couple of days.  The night before I left Denver I didn’t sleep much, crashing at a friend’s place.  If I’m not sleeping in the Fortress of Solitude, it’s rough.  So I got almost no sleep.  The first night on the road I probably slept ok-ish, but I had to be up early for day 2, and it was a long, long one.  The heat and sun took a lot out of me, and then I was up early on day 3 to get in place for the ceremony.  Between that and such a late night I slept til noon.  I’d told JC not to call me before then, so I laughed when he called me at 12:10.  His family was in town and they were on their way back into the city to go to the aquarium.

I went back to Dragos for a quick lunch, then met them at the aquarium.  That was great, and his family made me feel like one of them.  I was even part of the group photos.  After the aquarium, they headed home, so I started walking around and exploring.  I hit up the two Harley dealerships and got chips, wandered up and down all the little side streets and just loved taking it all in.  I was sitting down to dinner at Legacy Kitchen when he called again, saying they were coming to get me again.  He, his brother in law and father in law all showed up and we wandered around again, showing them the place.  It wasn’t quite as wild or fun for us as it was the night before, but there were more people, doing more stupid things than the night before.  I was really surprised that they came out again, and really humbled.  They just didn’t want me sitting in the hotel room alone.  It was a great ending to another great day.

Day 2

Posted in Uncategorized on June 14, 2018 by me

Ok, first off, a lot of these are being typed from the WordPress app on my phone, so expect for my spelling and grammar to be even worse than normal. And sometimes I’m a little zoned out from the road so I don’t catch the mistakes.

Today was my long day. I didn’t sleep well the night before I left Denver so I slept in longer than I meant to today.

The hotel was funny, at breakfast they had Texas shaped waffles.

I finally got in the road. It was warm enough that I started out ina tee shirt and regretted it by the time I pulled into the Harley dealer in Wichita Falls. I don’t know if sunscreen can go bad or what, but what I put in wasn’t working, so I bought a long sleeve be moisture wicking shirt as well as the typical poker chip. I was hoping to get more but didn’t see the two dealerships in the DFW area until after I’d passed the exit. And traffic was so damned terrible that I didn’t want to stop and go back. Hours to get through.

It was an interesting ride. Weird to go from the desert arid plains to all the moisture in the air in Louisiana. Three other thing I noticed was the weirdness of driving past these new trucks with the aerodynamic extras.

When you come up on those trucks from behind you hit all the turbulence. You force your way through that, and then I think there is a lot pressure area behind the cab, it sucks you back in towards the truck. Then as you pass the front of it you hit the turbulence from the air the truck is pushing ahead of it. That pushes you away in the other direction. Not enough to be dangerous, but the changes in the way the bike is being moved by the air is a little freaky at first. The gusts were strong enough this morning that you could really notice it.

Texas was interesting. I don’t think I saw ten motorcycles the entire day and most of those were in the DFW area. And not many Jeep Wranglers either.

Road Trip Day One

Posted in Uncategorized on June 13, 2018 by me

Today I started out. I didn’t the night in the south side of town to save myself from fighting traffic and was out by 6 AM. That got me down to Colorado Springs at the perfect time. I was in the early side of most civilian traffic and most of FT Carson was doing PT. The ride from Pueblo too the border was surreal. Almost killed me the last couple of times I did it. Rain and hail on my last big trip and crazy high winds in the fall when I went to Santa Fe.

There were gusts that were high enough that I was fighting the whole time, but I didn’t feel like I was going to get blown into the truck in the same next to me and die. It was chilly the whole way, I put a hoodie on when I was leaving Denver and didn’t take it off till I stopped for a late lunch just a few miles from the Texas Border.

The drive from the border to Amarillo, Tx was great. Good, relatively empty roads. High speed limits. Gentle, rolling hills and wide, sweeping curves that were fun to ride through.

Good nap at the hotel and dinner at a tourist trap, the Big Texan. It wasn’t that great and the service kind of sucked but you gotta do things like that sometimes.