Wild and Crazy Adventure

Over the course of my bicycling life which began at age ten I have read a number of books dealing with bicycle adventures. Most were accounts of cross-country journeys. One was about Thomas Stevens the first man to circle the globe on a high wheeler bicycle. Another chronicles Jon Haldeman’s effort in the Race Across America. There were several other’s too. Then there were some movies like American Flyer which kicked off Kevin Costner’s career as a movie actor. The most notable bicycle film is Breaking Away which featured Dennis Quaid as a teenager. All of them offered me hours of wonderful entertainment and motivated me to do crazy things on a bicycle. That is as crazy a thing as I could do. Read my post on Nova Scotia titled My Side of the Story, and you will see just what I consider to be a wild and crazy adventure.

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Early this week I used my usual process to find a book in library: walk in, head for the new-book racks, scan the titles and covers, pick up the first thing that strikes your fancy. This time it was a book called This Road I Ride, by Juliana Buhring. The spark that lit the fire of desire to read the story was the image of  bicycle wheel on the cover. That is it, my super simple system to find worthy books to read. I was not disappointed, and I was right. The story is a bicycle adventure.

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What fascinated me about  This Road I Ride was the story leading up to the ultimate adventure which was a bike ride around the world. Juliana is the product of a religious sect called The Children of God. Something of a hippie free love movement, the sect raised the children by sending them to foster care parents within the sect in all parts of the world. By the time Juliana was four years old she began a journey living in thirty countries all around Asia, Africa, and Europe. She ultimately left the group to be on her own.

Her decision to circumnavigate the world was the result of losing her true love to a crocodile while he led a kayaking group down the Congo river. She wanted to do something to memorialize his memory that was equal to his way of life and his personal philosophy. This book will someday become a movie.

What Buhring did in two hundred and twenty-four pages was to tell her early life story, how she met and fell for her love Hendrik, set her goal to become a Guiness Book record to bike around the world, describe the ride, express  her psychological and philosophical leanings, emote her physical and mental stress, and do it in a way that keeps the reader wanting to hear more. She described how traveling into the wind was more difficult than pumping up a hill in such beautiful detail that it reminded me of too many times when I thought I would much rather climb a hill than push into the wind. A hill ends, but the wind usually doesn’t. Her book is short of a miracle.

If you are into stories about people who lead fascinating lives, this one is a must.

 

Bear With Me

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Life is like a road trip. Often, we spend time on a super highway with a very definite destination. At other times we are on a side road through a very dark and dense forest with lots of curves, and the destination is unknown. My life is now on one of those twisty paths where the next mile is unknown, and the destination is unclear, yet the journey consumes life.

My writing has been sparse of late because of the twists and turns of daily living. Many unforeseen incidents have arisen which have taken precedence over the joy of transferring thoughts to paper. A friend with dementia, a child with cancer, a second house that needs preparation for sale, all of these twists have cut me off from the interstate headed for enjoyment.

Perhaps, when this curvy road straightens out, and I return to the super highway, then, Grumpa Joe’s Place will again become a priority. Until that happens, please bear with me.

He Has Learned So Little

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Most people learn from their mistakes, but not our President. His latest appeal to Hollywood to take up the gun control fight is a prime example. His reaction to the terrorist action of a single nut job from South Carolina is to appeal to movie makers to begin a brainwashing campaign to get America off guns. Last week I watched a movie titled “Django.” I have previously maintained that when Hollywood gives up its love affair with making films that have little regard for life, then I will change my attitude about “we the people” owning guns. Django is a perfect example of a story loaded with hatred and divisiveness settled by killing. There is little question that some of the characters portrayed in Django deserved killing, but depicting the action on movie film in a glorious superman saves the day way is not what it will take to make me hand over my gun. If anything, movies like Django glorify Blacks killing Whites. We wonder why there is a rash of black on white crime in America? Tell me that Django has not contributed to this terrible disease?

Obama has solidified our right to own guns by his charge to Hollywood to take up gun control as a campaign. Why? Because if Hollywood does, they will go broke overnight, and we all know that one-percenters don’t like not making money. Writers will also have to write stories of people killing people without using guns. Where should Obama be putting his emphasis? Where should he begin? We learn the most when we are infants and young children. Our minds are like sponges soaking up knowledge. A child’s parents are the primary characters filling these tiny sponge brains with the stuff that will drive them later in life. Without parents the kids don’t stand much of a chance.  Obama should lecture people about keeping  kids with two parents. He can’t do it because his mother raised him by herself, and he has no clue about what a father’s role is. He seems a good father to his own daughters which is a sound example, but it is not enough. In his role as President he must encourage parents to rear children with character, morals, and rules. Instead, he transfers the job to Hollywood. He fully expects movies to raise our kids. What I see are children who see too many movies with the wrong messages like Django, i.e. solve your problems by killing your way out of  them.

Isn’t that what the kid in South Carolina did? Isn’t that what the Sandy Hook kid did? How about the movie house killer? These guys have major problems and they see killing as a way t o get the attention they need. Wouldn’t it be easier if they had parents who took the belt to them for disobedience or for showing signs of wrongful behavior?

Think System

This week, I had the pleasure of attending my youngest grand daughter’s band concert. She is eleven years old and has chosen the trombone as her instrument. It was comical when she walked out on stage with her band members because my Jenna is now five foot four and the tallest one in her class. The Music Man flashed back in my mind as we sat and listened to the best concert ever performed. I felt the same pride as the parents of the band taught by Howard Hill began to play. He taught using the Think System which didn’t require knowing anything about music. I know her maternal grand mother beamed down upon her with heavenly pride. My Barbara was a musical person who played and sang beautifully all her life. Her paternal grandfather who is over six feet tall beams with pride when he sees her height.

The flashback to the Music Man also brought back tender memories of my first love Barbara. The movie was current when we courted and when we saw it we fell in love with each other and the music too. We adopted “Till There Was You” as our song, and sang it to each other many times during our time together. I sang it to her as my last farewell just before she lapsed into coma. The concert brought me joy because I heard my grand-daughter play her trombone skillfully. It brought back fond memories of great times with her grand mother, and then it brought me into sadness as I remembered our last moments together.

Writing for the Sake of Writing

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The wine buzz tonight is taking my head into a tail spin. I guess three glasses of wine is too much for my feeble brain to handle. I just read a chapter of my book to Peg, and for once she didn’t fall asleep. Either the story was good, or she was awake. Earlier we went to a local place called Ryan’s Pub for a wine, and some fish. Being it is Friday during lent it is a meat less day. Ryan’s is a mile and a half from our house, and we have driven past it for ten years without ever going in to check it out. Well my virginity is gone, we walked through the portals for the Friday night fish fry. Lo and behold I spy my friend Al sitting at the bar when we walk in. This is better than I imagined. I ordered a Cab for my self, and a lemonade for Peg, and two Walleye dinners to go. We kibitzed with Al while we waited. I’m telling Al and Peg that the last time I was in this place was thirty years ago for a going away party for an engineer from work. Don’t ask me who was leaving I don’t remember, but I do remember the place. It hasn’t changed much in thirty years. Then I proceeded to talk about my old friend Pat from work who owned the place with his daily presence. He lives right around the corner a block away. A few minutes later a short thin guy with bowed legs, white beard, cowboy boots, and cowboy hat walks in. I ask the barkeeper Heather if that is Pat. She says “it sure is.”

I walk over to him fortified by four ounces of Cab, and greet him with “Hey you old bowlegged sum-na-bitch how are ya doin?” He looks at me with a long dumb look. “You remember me don’t ya?”

“Yeah, but I don’t remember your name.”

“It is me , Joe from Panduit.”

“Oh yes I remember now.”

First impressions hit hard sometimes, and when I looked into Pat’s face I saw an old man, a very old man, a lot older than I ever remembered him to look. Pat was a vigorous young tool-maker who grew up in suburban Harvey, Illinois and moved to live in Tucson, Arizona for a several years. He loved it there, and never got away from the cowboy look. He returned to Chicago to work at the Panduit plant in Tinley Park for his old school chum Roy Moody. Before Pat moved to Arizona he was a motorcycle racer. He loved speed on two wheels, and loved the adrenaline rush he got from speeding shoulder to shoulder around a clay track at ninety miles per hour. Of course his knees are shot, and he has lots of broken bones to his credit. When the weather was right he rode a motorcycle, when the weather wasn’t right he drove a pick up truck. He and his wife raised two kids on a mini-ranch in Frankfort, IL. He still lives there.

One of the most spectacular wakes I ever went to was for Pat’s first wife Bev. She and he were riding home on his Harley one Sunday night about ten p.m. with the Bike Club when a rider in front of him lost control,and began swinging in broad “esses” across the road in front of him. Pat T-boned him going sixty mph. The two bikes went in different directions. Pat’s wife who sat behind him like a proud Harley Girl went flying over his head and landed on her neck, crunch! She was dead with a broken neck.

Pat was President of his Bike Club and his wife was first lady. She was one of the most beautiful women I had ever laid my eyes on, and now she was dead at age thirty-five. The wake was in Frankfort at Gerardi’s Funeral home. Back then Frankfort didn’t have more than twenty-five hundred people and Gerardi’s was a small place. Because Pat and I worked together my wife Barb and I attended the wake. At the time we lived in Alsip twenty miles north of Frankfort. We approached Frankfort on US Route 30 from the east. I noticed many Harley riders going the opposite way. We knew when we arrived at Gerardi’s because there were motorcycles parked two inches apart wrapped around the entire building. I remember saying that if I kicked the first bike they would all fall over like dominos. The line of people attending the wake wrapped around the building too. We assumed our place in line and patiently waited. A number of big brawny Harley guys carried Pat out into the parking lot on a chair for him to get some air. His wife was dead, and he looked like he rolled over the road for a mile or two before he finally came to rest. Lots of black and blue with red raw abrasions on his arms and swollen head. He didn’t look too healthy, but he was alive. The big guys set him down in the center of the lot. The line of people walked past him to the parlor. He sat there swilling a beer accepting condolences like a man who has lost his partner in a bike accident.

Inside the Parlor, we finally got to pass Bev’s coffin. She wore her best Harley attire. Her black leather Jacket with the club emblem was hanging on the kneeler in front of the casket on display. She looked as beautiful as ever.

Funny what memories a little Cab, and a chance meeting of an old friend will induce.

Teaching Street Smarts

Kee-rraap it is cold outside. My walk today was longer than usual, but also faster than normal. Longer because the biting cold wind against my rosy cheeks stung to high heaven, and fast because my motor wanted to get me the hell into the warmth. It has been almost three years since I have enjoyed such extreme temperature. The past two years in Arizona conditioned me for a low of fifty-five. A minus two degree windchill is fifty-seven degrees lower than I can withstand. Nevertheless, I am staying in Frankfort this winter so I need to get out for some conditioning, and I got it.

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Yesterday was worse because the high temperature peaked at eighteen degrees. At least today, it is a balmy twenty-eight. The wind chill has been the killer on both days. What saved yesterday was seeing a delightful movie. Peggy and I watched “Saint Vincent.” It is what I call a sleeper. I haven’t heard people talking about it, yet it spoke to me when I reviewed the films playing this week. I totally enjoyed the story and the characters. The actors were cast perfectly for their roles.

This film is a comedy, which is what I wanted to see, and I did laugh at some of the stuff going on, but I cried too. Somehow, when I cry, it cannot be funny. The theme of the story dealt with broken homes, bullying, family bankruptcy, aging, grief, desperation, and survival.

Bill Murray plays the part of Vin (Vincent Mac Kenna) a Viet Nam era vet who lives alone, and dislikes people. He smokes too much, drinks too much, and gambles too much, but he is the hero of the story. He becomes a caretaker for the smart kid Oliver who just moved in next door, and whose mother Maggie(Melissa Mc Carthy) works too much to get by. Needless to say, Vin’s tutoring of Oliver (the smart kid Jaden Lieberher) cannot be classified as politically correct. The education Vin gave Oliver falls into the subject of “street smarts.” Oliver handles it well, but his errant father doesn’t want Oliver to be near Vin, even though the father hasn’t donated a penny to his well-being. All the father did was to complicate the story, which I loved, but Oliver and his mother did not.

There are some lessor characters in the story like Father Geraty (Chris O’Dowd) who teaches Oliver at Saint Patrick’s Catholic school. There is also Daka, (Naomi Watts) Vin’s hired and pregnant girl friend who is his occasional underpaid companion, and Vin’s bookie Zucko (Terrence Howard) who only wants Vin to pay him back. Put these people into the mix along with a good storyline and one has a very entertaining story.

To me the star of this movie is Oliver. The kid is perfect for the part, and he is an excellent actor too. I nominate him for Best Supporting Actor for the 2015 Oscars.

See the movie on Tuesday at Marcus for five bucks. I saw it on Wednesday for seven, but it was worth it. Six-fifty for a small pop-corn is worse than three sixty-nine for a gallon of gas where is the Occupy Wall Street crowd on that one?

 

Thank You Texas

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Thank you Will Gober from Midland, Texas for a truly inspirational piece.

TEXAS GOODBYE

This is why America will remain strong. We take care of our own as well as others who may not deserve taking care of. I just wanted to share with you all that out of a horrible tragedy we were blessed by so many people.

Chris Kyle was Derek’s teammate through 10 years of training and battle. They both suffer/suffered from PTSD to some extent and took great care of each other because of it.

2006 in Ramadi was horrible for young men that never had any more aggressive physical contact with another human than on a Texas football field.

They lost many friends. Chris became the armed services number #1 sniper of all time. Not something he was happy about, other than the fact that in so doing, he saved a lot of American lives.

Three years ago, his wife Taya asked him to leave the SEAL teams as he had a huge bounty on his head by Al Qaeda. He did and wrote the book “The American Sniper.” 100% of the proceeds from the book went to two of the SEAL families who had lost their sons in Iraq .

That was the kind of guy Chris was. He formed a company in Dallas to train military, police and I think firemen as far as protecting themselves in difficult situations. He also formed a foundation to work with military people suffering from PTSD. Chris was a giver not a taker.

He, along with a friend and neighbor, Chad Littlefield, were murdered trying to help a young man that had served six months in Iraq and claimed to have PTSD.

Now I need to tell you about all of the blessings.

Southwest Airlines flew in any SEAL and their family from any airport they flew into
​…​
free of charge.

The employees donated buddy passes and one lady worked for four days without much of a break to see that it happened.

Volunteers were at both airports in Dallas to drive them to the hotel.

The Marriott Hotel reduced their rates to $45 a night and cleared the hotel for only SEALs and family.

The Midlothian, TX Police Department paid the $45 a night for each room. I would guess there were about 200 people staying at the hotel, 100 of them were SEALs. Two large buses were chartered (an unknown donor paid the bill) to transport people to the different events and they also had a few rental cars (donated). The police and secret service were on duty 24 hours during the stay at our hotel.

At the Kyle house, the Texas DPS parked a large motor home in front to block the view from reporters. It remained there the entire five days for the SEALs to congregate in and all to use the restroom so as not to have to go in the house. Taya, their two small children and both sets of parents were staying in the home.

Only a hand full of SEALs went into the home as they had different duties and meetings were held sometimes on a hourly basis. It was a huge coordination of many different events and security. Derek was assigned to be a Pall Bearer, to escort Chris’ body when it was transferred from the Midlothian Funeral Home to the Arlington Funeral Home, and to be with Taya. A tough job.

Taya seldom came out of her bedroom. The house was full with people from the church and other family members that would come each day to help. I spent one morning in a bedroom with Chris’ mom and the next morning with Chad Littlefield’s parents (the other man murdered with Chris). A tough job.

George W Bush and his wife Laura met and talked to everyone on the Seal Team one on one. They went behind closed doors with Taya for quite a while. They had prayer with us all. You can tell when people were sincere and caring

Nolan Ryan sent his cooking team, a huge grill and lots of steaks, chicken and hamburgers. They set up in the front yard and fed people all day long including the 200 SEALs and their families. The next day a local BBQ restaurant set up a buffet in front of the house and fed all once again. Food was plentiful and all were taken care of. The family’s church kept those inside the house well fed.

Jerry Jones, the man everyone loves to hate, was a rock star. He made sure that we all were taken care of. His wife and he were just making sure everyone was taken care of….Class… He donated the use of Cowboy Stadium for the services as it was determined that so many wanted to attend.
The charter buses transported us to the stadium on Monday at 10:30 am. Every car, bus, motorcycle was searched with bomb dogs and police. I am not sure if kooks were making threats trying to make a name for themselves or if so many SEALs in one place was a security risk, I don’t know. We willingly obliged. No purses went into the stadium!

We were taken to The Legends room high up and a large buffet was available. That was for about 300 people. We were growing.

A Medal of Honor recipient was there, lots of secret service and police and Sarah Palin and her husband. She looked nice, this was a very formal military service.

The service started at 1:00 pm and when we were escorted onto the field I was shocked. We heard that about 10,000 people had come to attend also. They were seated in the stadium seats behind us. It was a beautiful and emotional service.

The Bagpipe and drum corps were wonderful and the Texas A&M men’s choir stood through the entire service and sang right at the end. We were all in tears.

The next day was the 200-mile procession from Midlothian, TX to Austin for burial. It was a cold, drizzly, windy day, but the people were out. We had dozens of police motorcycles riders, freedom riders, five chartered buses and lots of cars. You had to have a pass to be in the procession and still it was huge. Two helicopters circled the procession with snipers sitting out the side door for protection. It was the longest funeral procession ever in the state of Texas. People were everywhere. The entire route was shut down ahead of us, the people were lined up on the side of the road the entire way. Firemen were down on one knee, police officers were holding their hats over their hearts, children waving flags, veterans saluting as we went by. Every bridge had fire trucks with large flags displayed from their tall ladders, people all along the entire 200 miles were standing in the cold weather. It was so heartwarming. Taya rode in the hearse with Chris’ body so Derek rode the route with us. I was so grateful to have that time with him.

The service was at Texas National Cemetery. Very few are buried there and you have to apply to get in. It is like people from the Civil War, Medal of Honor winners, a few from the Alamo and all the historical people of Texas. It was a nice service and the Freedom Riders surrounded the outside of the entire cemetery to keep the crazy church people from Kansas that protest at military funerals away from us.

Each SEAL put his Trident (metal SEAL badge) on the top of Chris’ casket, one at a time. A lot hit it in with one blow. Derek was the only one to take four taps to put his in and it was almost like he was caressing it as he did it. Another tearful moment.

After the service Governor Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, invited us to the governor’s mansion. She stood at the door, greeted each of us individually, and gave each of the SEALs a coin of Texas. She was a sincere, compassionate, and gracious hostess.

We were able to tour the ground floor and then went into the garden for beverages and BBQ. So many of the Seal team guys said that after they get out they are moving to Texas. They remarked that they had never felt so much love and hospitality. The charter buses then took the guys to the airport to catch their returning flights. Derek just now called and after a 20 hours flight he is back in his spot, in a dangerous land on the other side of the world, protecting America.

We just wanted to share with you, the events of a quite emotional, but blessed week.

Punch-line:
To this day, no one in the White House has ever acknowledged Chris Kyle.
However, the President can call some sport person and congratulate him on announcing to the world that he is gay??? What the hell is happening to our
society, our honor and our pride??

 

 

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