Sunday, November 19, 2017

Traveling Route 66 - Westward Ho!

With all due respect to the uniquely talented Jazz pianist/Composer, Bobby Troup, I wasn't out to get my "Kicks on Route 66" this camping season - although I am playing one of his albums in iTunes on my computer as I create this posting. Sadly, there is very little remaining of the former "Mother Road" that connects Chicago to Los Angeles. Much has happened along the way since those early days when people traveled by car to "See America First", as the saying went. Traveling Route 66 really began shortly after the invention of automobiles and the idea of picnics and camping while traveling. In the 1950's, there came TV commercials to "See the USA in your Chevrolet". The country was awakening to post WW-II days of leisure time and family vacation trips to see and experience the sights and sounds of other parts of this great country of ours. The more I travel, the greater the appreciation I have.

This was the route I took. It's all Interstate Highway where Route 66 used to be.
Following the Eisenhower presidency came the Interstate Highway System and the Mother Road was supplanted by 70-75 mph super slabs of concrete with only fuel and fast food stops along the way. I can't help but think something has been lost with progress. I'm sorry, Bobby. The "kicks" you wrote about in your 1946 song are pretty much over these days. Everybody is in a big hurry to get there these days. They forget that it's the journey and not the destination that makes the trip worthwhile. I must confess, I grew up in the era of Interstate Highways, so likewise guilty.

Traveling thru St. Louis on I-70, I hardly noticed the Mighty Mississippi River.
I wanted to get an early start, but ol' Jim never really does. I had a few short errands to run, but was 97% ready. Fully stocked with food and the fresh water topped-up, everything inside my camper tied down, I took-off out I-70 via the south loop of I-465 around Indianapolis taking one last look at the city in which I grew up. It didn't seem like 'home' anymore. For me now, the idea of 'home' is a place I've never been. If/when I find it, I'll know where that is. It's not weird at all. Just recently, I attended my 50th High School Reunion. Lots of our classmates have traveled to and made lives in other cities across our country. We all agree that coming 'home' felt totally differently these days.

At St. Louis, I traveled where Route 66 used to be, now called I-44 thru Missouri and thru Oklahoma as a Toll Road. Altogether, I had to pay out $25.10 for tolls - four axles; car and trailer. The first night, I waited until too late to get a campground site - all the offices were closed when I called. Clearly, I was getting tired, so I pulled into a Visitor Center in Missouri somewhere north of Sullivan, locked everything up and hit the sack right there. I should have picked a better spot. All night long, I heard every tractor/trailer rig pulling-up the ramp. Stuffing cotton in my ears didn't help much. Since I wasn't connected to any outside source of electric power, I clicked on the furnace to see if it worked. I learned that the furnace runs just fine on the travel trailer's on-board 12v battery and propane, so I had heat and some lights, which weren't on long. I hit the sheets hard.

I must have been tired because I woke up 11-hours later. I fixed a sandwich, grabbed my last two bananas and some Lay's Stax chips to eat in the car and hit the road again. I don't think I'll ever try to over-night like that again anytime soon. So, onward through the rest of Missouri and into Oklahoma without problems. Traffic was light - mostly commercial trucking. I was thinking of maybe trying the Visitor Center routine again for tonight - picking out a different parking location than the entrance ramp the night before - just to save money. That way, I could keep driving longer and get closer to my destination - originally planned to be Roswell, NM. I pulled off to get gas as the sun was nearing the horizon. Clearly, I felt road-weary from fighting the constant headwinds by this time of day.

To look past the office building, you saw only trees. There IS a deep canyon back there.
I decided to camp, instead. Using a cell-phone app, I located this state park only 5 miles from the highway and stopped at the office. "Closed". I had already called ahead and spoke to a park ranger who said just come on in and someone will take care of you once you find a spot you like. It's very "self-serve". A warning sign just past the office said "steep grade". Well, no kidding!! The road was about a 35% grade with several switchbacks until I reached the bottom. I had no choice but to ride the brake. I started to worry if I had the power to get back up the next day. I did, obviously.

Red Rock Canyon State Park, Hinton, OK - the whole canyon was very colorful. Nice park. Peaceful area.
Following the road around, I found a nice spot and backed-in. I was only going to be there one night, so I leveled up, connected the electric power, but I didn't unhook from the car. About that time the Ranger came around to collect the rent. She politely asked me where I was from and about my destination and I told her Roswell, NM. "I'm going to the UFO Museum." She asked if I were visiting relatives? (As in UFO relatives?). We laughed as she gave me the receipt. I got a $2.00 senior citizen discount. I spent that back in the gift shop the next morning. I had to buy another hat pin. I think I have about 150 of them now from most of my travels.

Onward thru the rest of Oklahoma, into Texas and then into New Mexico. My mind was drifting a little bit as I thought about how the wagon trains negotiated these lands during the years of Manifest Destiny and the building of the railroads afterward. Driving into a headwind of 30 mph, I seemed to be getting nowhere fast, but compared to a oxen-powered Conestoga wagon, I was doing all right. I was "kicking" all right - at the accelerator pedal to maintain a decent speed. The minimum speed is 40 mph and you can be ticketed. I was okay on that, but fuel economy was going to really suffer more than it was already pulling my camper.

This is what I call "360 Horizon". No matter which direction one looks, this is the view, sans Super Slab that is.
No "kicks on 66" here, for sure. The land looks the same as it has for probably a million years. This is about the time one's mind wanders again back to the pioneer days and settling of the great west. I have yet to see anyone wearing a cowboy hat or riding a horse, but there are huge cattle ranches along I-40.  I decided to "sing" along with Joshua Kadison from his Painted Desert Serenade CD in my dashboard changer. Great album along the lines of personal experiences and living in a desert community. I've had it since it was new in 1993. Music becomes personal, somehow.

The Welcome Center is just on the other side of this sign. Great resource for anything New Mexico.
I had to turn-off my GPS unit. I had programmed my destination as Roswell, but decided to change my plans last night as I studied more maps back at Red Rock Canyon in Hinton, OK. The Garmin girl's voice kept telling me to turn around and take another road south thru Texas to get to Roswell. I knew where I was going. I just hadn't told "her" yet. Haha

New Mexico Visitors Center on I-40 West. The flags confirm the headwinds I'm traveling into.
It was just past this point a few miles that I made an almost critical error in gas mileage judgment. I looked at my gas gauge as I approached the exit that offered gasoline at a really high price - more than I had paid per gallon anywhere along this whole trip. Well, I'm no fool (or am I?). I'm not paying that price when there are sure to be several gas stations ahead who don't price-gouge weary travelers. I gave it a miss while looking at my gas gauge again. What I thought was 1/4 tank, was actually 1/8 tank. Would this be critical? It was too late to speculate. I was already well-past the exit ramp - past the point of no return. I was committed now.

I would soon discover that the New Mexico horizon was totally devoid of any exits for many miles, let alone fuel stops. I had mental visions of finding a dead steer skull in the desert as I walked many miles toward the next fuel source. Would someone, someday find my bleached skull and bones in the desert with a hand still grasping a faded red gasoline can? The gauge continued it's quick trip toward the big "E" and I slowed my speed to 50 mph still against a 30+ mph headwind to stretch fuel consumption. Things weren't looking good. I could feel the stress building inside of me.

I punched up the "Where Am I?" button on my Garmin GPS. Gas was available 10 miles ahead. Then 9.6, then 8.7. I definitely saw a pattern emerging. With the fuel level turning ever so toward empty, my anxiety level increased exponentially. At 5.4 miles on the Where Am I status, my Low Fuel indicator light came on. Add blood pressure to anxiety and you can feel the facial flush as I began to consider the long walk of shame. If I were a nail-biter, I'd have no fingers by now - just nubs at the second knuckle. I had no other choice. I soft-pedaled the foot-feed and kept going.

Ahhhh! An Exit!! I'm saved, ... maybe. Hey, it's the Old Route 66 cut-off from I-40! There are still parts of it left intact. A fuel station was in sight. I pulled-in to the Conoco-Philips 66 station and got my "Kicks" filling up my tank and being thankful to the Lord Above that I made it. My tank is rated to hold 22.0 gallons. I bought 22.008 gallons just to be on the safe side at $2.499/gallon and damned grateful to pay it. (The price I passed-up? $2.629/gal.)

Now, where was I? Tucumcari, NM. I had to find a place to park for the night while I reorganized my plans and route - also to calm my almost shattered nerves. My Good Sam phone app said there was a nice, affordable campground 1.4 miles away, gave the map to get there. I called ahead. Plenty of spaces. "I'll see you in a few minutes." It was late in the afternoon and I worried that it might be too late to catch someone in the office. I was told, but didn't remember that New Mexico starts Mountain Time. I'd lost another hour. Luck was on my side again.

That's Tucumcari Mountain in the background from my campsite - the only landmark in this part of the desert.
My body clock still a bit confused with local time, I woke up extra early to witness my first New Mexico sunrise. I've gained two extra hours since I left West Virginia and Indiana. I'm usually a sunset kind of guy - at least I'm usually always awake by then. LOL

Sunrise behind the Truck Wash across Mountain Road. Tucumcari, NM.
I piddled the day away, glad to have decent Wi-Fi at the RV Park to make more plans. I changed my mind a couple of times the more I read. There are a lot of really nice places to see and visit in the northern section of New Mexico before I head south. It's not like the Aliens in Roswell would miss me if I came a month from now. It was nice to get my land legs back after mile upon grinding mile along the highways. I was also rewarded with my first New Mexico sunset.

My first New Mexico evening sky-painting.
I decided to spend an extra day at the Mountain Road RV Park. Tomorrow morning, I will top-up my fresh water tank, take a nice hot shower and do my laundry while catching-up on my accounting software postings. There won't be much to count, but I'll know where it all went. Ah! It's a once-in-a-lifetime trip. It's only money and I'm not kicking about spending it.

- 30 -

Friday, October 20, 2017

Museum of the Marine Corps - 241st Birthday Celebration

Becoming a reality in November 2006, the long-planned and highly anticipated opening of the National Museum of the Marine Corps was finally opened to visitors. Although all the planned exhibits were not complete at that time, future expansion plans include exhibits of the entire 242-year history of the Marines up to now and beyond.

As the Gunnery Sergeant Hartman character said in the film, Full Metal Jacket; "Marines die. That's what we're here for, but the Marine Corps will live forever and that means you will live forever." It was a quote tailor-made for the National Museum and Heritage Center. From humble beginnings serving about American Naval Vessels prior to the Revolutionary War to the desert war zones around current theaters of operations, Marines are there and serving our country on the front lines every single day. From the very beginnings, the Marine Philosophy has been to take the fight to the enemy on their shores so we never have to fight them on our own soil.

I originally included this important stop along last year's Beaches Tour and the first stop on my way south along the Atlantic Coast. It was even more important for me to visit on 10 November 2016 - the 241st Birthday of the Marine Corps. Our Boot Camp Drill Instructor once told us that on that day every year, we could walk into any bar in the country and get free drinks. I've been testing that theory for many years now and have yet to confirm any truth in it. At the time the Senior Drill Instructor of Platoon 1066, San Diego, 1970 - Staff Sergeant Johnson - said that, I thought it sounded far-fetched. I had just turned 21 in Boot Camp and didn't even realize what day it was. It would be many weeks of hard training before I'd have my first legal beer ("Olympia" at the E-Club, 25¢ each).

I decided to camp as closely as possible to the Museum at Prince William Forest Park. It is a National Park, but not government run, so my Senior Pass was no good and I had to pay full price for camping. I was expecting half-price, but it was not to be. The private contractor/operators were very accommodating but they couldn't tell me anything about any "Prince William" on American soil.

Sites were arranged in line on the down slope of a hill with only water and electricity hookups. Early November in the Quantico, Virginia area, it gets pretty chilly at night. The leaves were just shortly past peak. I was glad I traveled with full propane tanks to keep the furnace going. I needed it.

I arrived in what I thought was plenty of time prior to their planned birthday celebration time only to find all the regular parking lots, reserve and overflow lots completely full. There were parking guides manning the lots who told me to park here. Once I got inside, the folks were spread-out around the museum and didn't appear crowded at all. The outside design is thought to be the artist's concept reminiscent of Joseph Rosenthal's famous photo of the second, larger Flag Raising on Mt. Suribachi during World War II. It's amazing the power of that one image. (As seen on the reverse side.)

Joseph Rosenthall's famous 2nd flag raising photograph that landed on every newspaper front page in America.
As I entered the building and just past the information desk, I was intercepted by a former Marine volunteer who shared a brochure and explained how the building is arranged and answered my questions. Photography is okay. I was glad of that. I only captured about 334 images during the course of my visit. I'm so glad I'm no longer hindered by 36-exposure rolls of film and could shoot away, experiment with dramatic mixed-lighting and take more than one shot to capture the image I really wanted. There are snapshots and there are photographs. I wanted to maximize my visit.

Vietnam Era scene of Marines vertical envelopment tactics just inside.
Marine Aviation is well represented in this area.
In the memory of my mind, I envisioned my junior high school Social Studies/History teacher hanging several model airplanes from the ceiling light fixtures in our classroom from both World Wars - Fokker D-VII, Spad, P-40, P-51, F4U Corsair and several others - just like you see the real ones here. We heard stories of Captain Roy Brown, Eddie Rickenbacker, the Red Baron von Richthofen. I don't think the Snoopy and the Red Baron song had been written yet in those days.

Photographed from the second level - pilot and rear gunner from WW-I era.
Most Marines aren't flyers, but we all start out the same way. We arrive on base, late at night and wait until we all arrive from towns large and small, all across this great nation. When we're all together, we are "invited, cordially" to get our grimy, civilian feet in the yellow footprints painted in rows on the concrete roadway. We had lots to do before we'd sleep again.

I was 20 years old when I first saw the yellow footprints on the deck.
This museum explores Marine Corps heritage and history. Every Marine's personal history begins in these yellow footprints. Marine Corps history can't be separated from one's personal history once past this point. As a Marine, we are taught the proud traditions that began with the very foundation of the Corps in 1775 at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. Those traditions become our own traditions. It becomes difficult to tell the Marine Corps story without telling our own membership story. Every Marine - past, present and future - is our brother and comrade in arms. We each have our role to play and victory in battle never comes without a price. We accept that challenge willingly for our parents, our children, friends, neighbors, our country and our flag.

Scene in Tun Tavern as Continental Congress authorizes the establishment of  Marines to serve along side the Navy.
This museum offers - free of charge to visitors - an accurate and interesting view of military service while in combat forward operations along side of many artifacts and examples of weapons used specifically by Marines. Be sure and look in all directions because not even the ceiling space has been ignored for displays.

Marines served on board navy ships during the Civil War as well.
Barely 20 years since the Spanish-American War, Marines were needed again to fight in a different climate and place. This time, in Europe.
Recruiting poster from WW-I era.
 Sitting on an ammo case in a muddy foxhole, this WW-I communications NCO gets the news and company reports from the field prepared to be sent to command.

Wouldn't you know it, I'd be back in the back of the museum when the call came out over the public address system that the 241st Marine Corps Birthday celebration would begin shortly. They were looking for the oldest and youngest Marines in attendance to check-in at the information booth. It wouldn't be long to wait. Since this was my first visit, I had no idea about what was to happen next, so I hurried myself back to the main area and waited - hoping to get a good vantage point to get the shots I wanted. I'm not shy about getting in front and shooting from the floor on my knees or moving around the room to get a better shot. I'm sure people thought I was either weird or some kind of journalist. I just take pictures - the ones I WANT to get, not the ones I have to get by being stuck and out of position.

Observing strict military decorum, a Marine Honor Guard brought out the birthday cake.
As the First Sargent drew his saber and cut the cake, the honor guard stood at attention as the oldest Marine in attendance (aged 95 and served at Guam during WW-II) was assisted as he took a small bite of the first piece of cake before passing the plate to the youngest Marine (aged 18), thus passing the "torch" to following generations. Afterward, there were elementary school children in attendance that presented the Marines some posters they made honoring the Marine Corps.

Everyone in attendance would be served a piece of cake. I got a piece too. Very tasty and fresh baked.

Just like I remembered from the base galley.
As we enjoyed our celebratory cake, I wandered around the area to capture more images of the awesome displays in the main area. I was struck at the realism of this depiction of an amphibious landing. As I walked around the display, I could only imagine what it must have been like for these men. Training gets you close, but it's never like real combat.

Inside the main atrium is this display of an amphibious WW-II era beach landing.
It's difficult not to mentally visualize yourself in combat with such realistic displays. This one is reminiscent of warm climate combat - perhaps even Vietnam.

What appears to be plenty of ammo will disappear quickly in a firefight at a cycling-rate of 500-650 rounds per minute.
No detail was left out in helping visitors experience a glimpse of combat situations. To get the next few shots, I walked through a weather door into a slightly cooler room to experience a taste of winter warfare simulating the South Korean peninsula back in the early 1950's.

Alone in a frozen foxhole, the artillery fight is just beyond the hill into the valley beyond.
Over the sound system in this room, the echo of artillery impacts echoed through the valley and radio communications were overheard directing arty fire closer to target.

Although wounded, Marines pass the word along.
As I stood there witnessing these scenes, my mind wondered thinking of my own dad who fought with the U.S. Army in South Korea during that struggle. Museums such as this often evoke personal memories or thoughts of the hardships of others who fought these battles so that the folks at home could be safe and secure.

It is more than appropriate to include an honor wall for those Marines who have earned the Congressional Medal of Honor dating back before the days of available photographic imaging.

This wall silently speaks for itself.
With silence and respect, I slowly walked around the museum taking a long last look to be sure that I had not missed a single exhibit in my desire to photograph everything. The experience may have only taken a few hours, but my photos will remind me of those memories for as long as I live.

For all Marines, this is a very special place and it has been a long time in coming to reality. The Marines take great pride in their history and it definitely shows here in this Heritage Museum. With new exhibits planned and building expansion already underway, this honored place will grow and grow in honor of the Few, the Proud ... The Marines.

After my self-guided tour, I adjourned myself to the Second Deck and into the Tun Tavern for a bite to eat and a pint of craft beer with my sandwich. I also received a 2nd complementary piece of birthday cake. It seems they had plenty to go around. This time, it was chocolate cake.

Since this is related to my topic, I want to add a photo of my friend and fellow Marine, G. David Yaros as he attends to his commemorative brick in the walkway of the museum grounds in remembrance of his older brother - also a Marine.

"Semper Fidelis", my friend, Dave.

~ 30 ~

Monday, October 2, 2017

Time-Out: 50th Anniversary - High School Reunion

 Let the word go forth ...The all-volunteer Alumni Association has been keeping faith with their charge and promise - made long ago - to hold reunions and functions pertaining to their classmates over the years beyond graduation day. This year, they tasked themselves with the 50th Anniversary of that much anticipated and celebrated day of High School Graduation. They planned an entire weekend of celebration for our glorious return to those days of yesteryear and friendships. In our hearts and minds, "It's Yesterday, Once More" if I may quote The Carpenters song title.

We had an early get-together at a local sports bar on Friday night for those who wished to get a jump-start on the weekend or maybe decompress a little from travel. There were cocktails and sandwiches, salads and appetizers with lots of conversation, laughter and smiling faces. Name tags were not optional. We had the energy of youth, but it was an early night for some.

The next day, we were invited to tour our beloved school. Of course some said, "We spent four years there. I think we know the building very well." I'm sure they were right - for their way of thinking, but that memory doesn't provide the tactile experience that being inside those familiar surroundings  actually brings to mind the emotional connection like no other. Although we graduated into our future 50-years ago, as we stood inside those hallowed halls today, (Now, I know what that means and feels like.) we emotionally flashed back to young teenage selves, once more. The hallways were empty. There was no shuffling of shoes, no quiet murmur or chatter between friends walking to class and no slamming metal of locker doors to be sure they locked. We made the only sounds that echoed with respect. The were literally, the "Sounds of Silence" as Paul Simon wrote.

Although the school received a new exterior facade to improve the window insulation properties from the energy stealing original design of the late 1950's, inside our hearts being inside the building created a glow just as warm. The building itself was designed for 2,800 students, but educated 3,400 annually within it's walls while we Baby Boomers attended. The cornerstone was set in 1960 and the first classes began in 1961. Our class of 1967, "The Class with Class" - was the very first class to attend all four years and graduate together. Fellow grad, Jay Gordon and I went looking for the cornerstone which we remembered was in the lower left looking toward the main entrance. The new facade covered it up. A school is so much more than a building. It's about friends, too.

Alan Ferentz and his lovely companion, Christine Rock Weber drove their RV across country from Southern California - taking their time, enjoying the trip and posting photos to Facebook along the way. Alan and I met at Purdue University the fall semester after graduation. Little did we know that we both attended AHS, quite possibly rode one of the two buses on our route home, grew-up in different neighborhoods 4-5 blocks apart along the dividing line between two elementary schools and never met. Small world. We coordinated our camping plans to be parked right next to each other in order to maximize our short time to reunite. That is, until I travel west to California .. hopefully soon.

This is a photo of an original artist's concept of our school showing the proposed football stadium that we didn't yet have. We had a football team and a practice field, but we had no stadium seating or floodlights - only wooden bleachers on both sides of the field. We held our Home Games at another field - Manual High School, I think, on the city's near south side. During our tenure, we sold light bulbs, obtained sponsors and solicited contributions from businesses. We sold ads for our annual yearbooks, but that money was used to subsidize publishing costs. With all combined efforts, we had our stadium built and the floodlights turned on during our Sophomore year. Putting all that work into building the stadium gave us all a real sense of pride and "ownership" of our school. 

As we began the tour, we assembled for introductory remarks by the present school administration and designated tour guides. Before us on several tables were pages from our senior class yearbook reproduced and left to be autographed for posterity, I suppose. I don't know who keeps these. I took my turn. I haven't seen that kid in many years.

Leslie Saure, IMHO, was THE classiest young lady in our class. I didn't know her, personally, but she was very well respected in many areas of study, extra-curricular activities and organizations - including President of the Alumni Association. (Consult your 1967 Accolade) Her smile is honest  and warm. She dated our Senior Class President and eventually married. Unfortunately, Gary passed away a few years ago at the top of his success.

Classmate, cheerleader, songstress, fashion model and actress Carol Sites talks with J. Michael Wilkes, Esq., who flew-in from Texas to be here. Mike and I were co-workers at the local music store, Pearson's Platters in our senior year and became friends. Carol introduces Mike to her husband (out of frame).

Who ARE all these old people? Well, 50-years ago, we were all just kids sharing the educational experience in an outstanding facility. We all agreed this weekend that we were very fortunate to attend Arlington High School. Here, on the steps to the 3rd floor (the main floor was the 2nd floor), just outside the Library (which is now a Media Room), we "tourists" pose for a group photo. It's funny, but I look at the faces of these people now, but my mind translates the sight into the memory image of the kids we were back then. How does a mind do that without blowing a gasket? Amazing.

Formal assemblies, Awards Ceremonies, Talent Shows, Musical and Dramatic Plays, Orchestra, Band and Choral Concerts were all held in this Auditorium. I first discovered the Junior Achievement Program in here my sophomore year and was selected to participate in both my Junior and Senior years. We could celebrate Christmas time, too. We had the finest auditorium in the city. After 50 years, the only thing that has changed was the "new" smell. Some professional theaters would be very fortunate to have such a facility in which to perform.

I had to get a shot of the Quadrangle as seen through a Student Cafeteria window. How many high schools have a quad? How many times in our high school days did we lunch in that cafeteria and daydream as we looked out onto that natural green space? What were we thinking about then? Did we ever stop and think about revisiting here in the future and looking back some day? BTW, the Senior Lunchroom is now a locked storage facility. So much for the benefit of being upperclassmen.

While I was getting the above image of the Quad, Leslie Saure' captured my capture. I thank her for the use of her image on my blog. We photographers never seem to have images of our own participation in events - we are always behind the camera lens and never in front of it.

I tried to shoot under available light at very high ISO rating, but it was ridiculous to try in the darkness without electronic flash. The planetarium has been moved to the back of the building. The school tour guide turned on the Planetarium Projector, but admitted that no one in the school knew how to operate it fully. President Kennedy was elected in 1960 and vowed to take us to the moon by the end of the decade. We also had our minds on the space program with great interest. (Editorial: I suppose we no longer reach-out for the stars in education these days.) I was hopeful for at least a 10 minute demonstration show, but it was not to be. Arlington High School was probably the only high school in the entire state of Indiana to have an Astronomy Lab which included the Planetarium. Jay Gordon and another unidentified classmate watch the projector rotation while I attempt the photographically impossible. (Go ahead and laugh. I had to try even though I knew better.) Thanks again, to Leslie Saure' for allowing me to use her images here.

Imagine Friday nights under the lights of our brand new football stadium - packed with fun-loving high school kids scanning the stands to see who else was here, cheering in unison with the loveliest cheerleaders in town and urging on their Golden Knights team to "Go-Fight-Win" while listening to some first class marching band performances at half-time and enjoying life in the stadium we worked hard to add to our high school campus. Alas, it remains unused for several years due to declining enrollments. It makes me sad to see the press box boarded up and painted over. It just makes me sad to think that greatness is merely fleeting.

The Hymn to Arlington

Here's to Arlington, sing we praise to thee!
May your hallowed halls resound with wisdom and might. 
As we meet the test, may we all be blessed, 
with the Grace of God whose spirit guides our days. 
Keep your heads up high, ever proudly, 
as we walk together onward through the years. 
Here's to our Arlington, Alma mater! 
Ever loyal shall we be to Arlington High

Words cannot express what it truly means to me - even now. Our school had it all - academics, athletics, journalism, theater, marching band and choral excellence. We even had a planetarium. We shared our various interests with intra-school and inter-school clubs. Our teachers were top-notch. We were able to sponsor two foreign exchange students each year through AFS-USA program. Our coaches were world class. We had Olympic Champion Wrestling Coach - Jim Ellis - who kept AHS teams at the top of the state standings. Our journalism (The Lancer our weekly student newspaper & The Accolade our yearbook) Department and all music departments were consistently earning awards and praise from impressive sources. Many of our classmates went on to college with good and solid preparation. Some prepared for the Vietnam War. We don't know how many. We also don't know how many classmates we lost in that cruel situation.

When we graduated we were proud of our accomplishments, our school and ourselves as proof by diplomas. Many received advanced education scholarships. Not a bad start in life, I'd say. Our graduating class was so large (623) that ceremonies had to be held in the State Fairgrounds Coliseum on a warm evening in June. After the trials and tribulations that life tosses in our way along the trail of life, we seem to always return to the mental anchor of our high school days -- truly, the best of times, the worst of times as teenagers can be and some of our best glory days. We had The Beatles and the Beach Boys. Our parents might have tried to tell us, "the best times of your life", but how many of us believed it at the time? Do we believe it now? Have we said as much to our own children and grandchildren? I think we know the answer.

If the few short years following grad day while in still in college with the Vietnam War raging, I would experience Marine Corps military training, beginning my family and buying our first home by age 24. Life comes at you hard and fast. You fly by the seat of your pants. Your life history experiences and education are your anchors and foundation. Fond memories and friendships need to be held closely in order to keep sanity while navigating rough waters of life.

It's heartbreaking that the Indianapolis School Board recently announced that our high school, Alma-mater and valuable part of our lives, will be closed as a high school due to continued declining enrollment. Last year, the school's total enrollment was about the same as our grad class alone. Arlington High isn't alone in it's demise. Three other high schools will also close and real properties and assets sold off as well. Our school will re-open next fall as a Middle School. Those kids will never have it so good. It's seems appropriate, somehow, that the FIRST class to attend all four years and graduate together should be the LAST class to re-visit the school in it's last year as a high school. Still, it is disheartening, but yet I remain happy to have studied there at all.


While I was revisiting old times, old places and (old) people, I stopped-by my old elementary school, Robert Browning Public School #73 on East 30th Street.

Nostalgia abounds today. This is the entrance to the gymnasium where I attended my first junior high "Sock Hop". Bonus points awarded in anyone knows what a "Sock Hop" really is. Does anyone in Indianapolis remember Sock Hops with the WIBC D.J.s? (AM only - years before stereo FM radio) One D.J. in particular - Jim Shelton - reminded us ... "Have a good time kids but let's keep it clean out there on the dance floor." as he stood on stage and put the spin on those 45 rpm platters. Ha-ha. 

Well, I guess that's it. The Reunion has been over for over 48 hours now and I'm still feeling emotionally drained, dazed and confused. Why? If I knew, I'd tell you. I just don't know how to feel. How am I supposed to feel? It could be that I miss those youthful days. Would I like to go back and start over? No. Well, maybe, although that's not possible. It could be that I wish I had done better and applied myself. It could be that I want to experience those days again and correct my mistakes. Sure. Who wouldn't? It could be that I'm getting old and coming to the realization that there are far fewer days ahead than there are behind me. (There's a giant killer for you Jack Beanstalk.) Mistakes can't be erased, only forgiven. It begins by forgiving oneself and continuing to move forward. What's done is done. Maybe you were doing the best you could at the time, after all? Maybe you were doing all you wanted to without much motivation. Either way, who I am today is who I probably always was, only older now.  Wow, I didn't want to hear that today. Maybe there is still hope.

~ 30 ~

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The 2016-17 Beaches Tour

As this is my third season as a full time RV’er, people asked me, “Where To” this season?

I only had two words:

T H E   B E A C H !!

At that point and having no specific plans it was all I could say. There were a few things I wanted to see along the way since there was a substantial drive to get there from a landlocked state. The only thing set in stone was celebrating the 241st  Marine Corps Birthday on 10 November at the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Virginia. That was such and awesome day, I have a separate blog article for that trip. After that, it became a race to be in the sunny south before the weather got nasty up north. For that reason, I could only stay along the way about one-week at a time at beaches along the way. As it turned out, I was right on schedule because I had barely arrived in Titusville, Florida when the snows began to fly up north.

I can’t explain my attraction for the beach - any beach - all beaches. Soon, I may have a favorite, but not now. All I know is that I wanted to go there, to be there and stay near there, but when I get there, I don’t know what to do with it when I find it. The beach is an opportunity to touch something of the eternal of the planet Earth for it has always been here. You can’t put it in a jar or take it with you. You can’t dig a foundation or plant trees in it. In human life, you can only experience beach moments that quickly become memories of the past. Like the photos I take - frozen moments in time that will never be repeated. Even the deepest footprints in the sand will disappear with the returning waves of incoming tides. Such is life - without a grave marker to say I was here but once.


The first stop on my beach tour was Virginia Beach - home of Naval Air Station Oceana. I reserved a spot a the Holiday Trav-L-Park for the week, but could have parked it anywhere as November is hardly peak season. For future reference, the Air Station is right next door to this camp and FA-18s take-off and land frequently, but .. that’s the way it is. This park has nearly 700 RV and text sites, so as you can imagine this is a busy place in-season. I was assigned a spot and settled in before I did a walk-around and take a few photos. The air had a chill about it, but it wasn’t exactly cold.

The fishing pier at Virginia Beach - closed for the season, but makes a great place for seagulls to roost at low tide.
I hadn’t planned a kayak trip or a bike tour, so I left them on their carrier racks on the SUV. This is a community - by nature of it’s many young, military families - is designed favorably for physical fitness and recreation. Later, I did take the bike down and tour the boardwalk on the bike with a camera shooting time-lapse mode images. I got a couple of hours worth of video-like images. I’m still developing a viewable technique, but these videos were a little wobbly. Lots of people visited the boardwalk (made entirely of cement) to jog or cycle the length and back. As the day grew cooler, folks returned home or attended to other weekend chores. A few people were surfing as the tide was coming in.

My campsite at Trav-L-Park right next door to Oceana NAS.

This nice little water feature entices guests into the Trav-L-Park. The ducks are decoys.
At the entrance to the park was this little bit of scenery - among others scattered around the camp. I always enjoy water features in a woodland environment. This one was at the entrance to the park. Another near one of the swimming pools, across from the office was a 12-foot statue of the Roman God, Neptune - similar to the larger one down on the Boardwalk.

The Roman God Neptune of the Seas welcomes all to the Atlantic Ocean at Virginia Beach.
From the Military Aviation Museum, this 3/4 scale French Newport XI is painted in Stork Squadron of Lafayette Escadrille.
I could only stay one week, but I got a pretty good taste for the area on my bicycle tour of the boardwalk and downtown community which was totally bent on securing the young tourist trade complete with tattoo shops, bars, t-shirt & bikini shops and the usual restaurant fare along Atlantic Avenue. Many were seasonally closed during my November visit.


Santa takes the helm at PirateLand Beach RV Camp.
It’s the end of the summer season, well past Labor Day and much, much closer to Christmas. In fact, when I checked-in to the PirateLand Beach RV Campground, a mannequin of Santa Claus was at the helm of the pirate ship decoration in the lobby. Of all the huge commercial campground that line the entire coast of the Myrtle Beach area, those who booked their stay over this particular 4-day weekend received a deal on the rent. I took that savings and added another three days to complete my week. Essentially, I saved a little bit of money.

My camp was under a tree. No campfires and too cold to sit outside and lounge around.
This camp has direct access to their own section of public beach. Most people walked it wearing the long pant-legs rolled up and barefoot and a hoodie type sweatshirt. It felt warm in the sunshine, but the wind was brisk. There were great mounds of sand that ran the length of the beach and heavy earth-moving equipment to manage it. At one point, I used the mounds as a vantage point for picture taking. As with many beach communities, there is an issue with beach erosion and so, therefore, it must be reclaimed. The angle of the sun during the day bounced harshly across the waves.

You can see the ledge in the sand created by the high water line of the incoming tides.

Incoming tides at Sunset are a powerful vision for me. The salt-sea breeze seemed cleansing.
I took pictures at various times of the day, but sunsets were fairly spectacular - especially as the tide was coming in. The smell of the ocean spray and the pounding of the waves presented a multi-sensory feast for all in spite of the chill wind. I spent a good deal of time walking the beach, but I also wanted to see what else was interesting about Myrtle Beach - the tourist destination. Make no mistake, they want your tourist dollars and offer medieval dinner shows and other quaint and interesting things such as the Boardwalk and Broadway on the Beach - a combination theme park, shopping center and collection of restaurants and clubs.

Along the Boardwalk at Myrtle Beach is Pier 14 - a fishing pier with a restaurant.
Arranged similarly to a carnival complete with Ferris Wheel and other rides, MB had something for every tourist.
First, I visited the Boardwalk to take some pictures. Commercialism to the maximum is the word of the day. From restaurants, gift shops, old type pictures, camel rides (really!), to bars and Ferris Wheel rides and fishing off the pier - Myrtle Beach has all that. Sure, there were guys playing football on the beach, but the days of sunning and swimming would have to wait for another season.  I can see the attraction to it all, but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I’m still glad that I went to see for myself.

Every Hard Rock Cafe has its own collection of Rock Memorabilia.
Seeing King Kong on a building along the highway for the first time, gave me a start, to be sure.
I had read about Broadway on the Beach, but mostly I wanted a cheeseburger at the Hard Rock Cafe. Wherever I travel, if there is a Hard Rock, I get the Legendary Burger and get a pin for my collection. I have a nice collection of pins from the places I’ve traveled and will add to that as I go. For the most part, I’ve given up buying baseball hats, t-shirts and coffee mugs, but I’m still tempted and I still succumb to that temptation from time to time. This beach is no place to save money, but if you want a good time, there is something for everyone in Myrtle Beach to do. Enjoy.


This was my second trip to Daytona Beach - third if you count and overnight stay and 4-hours on the beach behind the hotel. I was on my way home from a Glamour Photo Shoot and needed rest. I don’t count that one, although I did get a DB rain parka there - just because I swore off buying coffee mugs and stuff. I figured I could actually use the parka. So, since I had been here a couple of years ago, I decided to stay at the same camp I had before - Nova Family Campground in Port Orange.

Site #99 at Nova Family Campground in Port Orange, near Daytona.
After a day of rest from the road, I revisited the beach to see if it was still there. There were red flag warnings, so cars weren’t allowed on the beach until the danger had passed. They also instituted a $10 fee for driving on the beach. I didn’t pay it. I wasn’t staying. I found a place to park for free, grabbed my camera and took a walk in the sand. The surf was up and the tide was coming in. The wind was fierce, but there were still a few sunbathers willing to brave the elements to be at Daytona Beach for the day. I kept my hooded sweatshirt zipped-up and baseball hat on.

The lifeguard stayed bundled-up as tourists braved the ocean and breezes.
The ocean is beautiful even when it seems angry. It’s easy to say that from the solid footing of the shoreline. The only time I was ever at sea, the weather was very calm and I was on a U.S. Navy LST for a few days waiting for a Marine Corps amphibious landing exercise back in 1975. At least I can actually say I was officially sailing in International Waters - for a few days, anyway.

White-capped waves and a stout breeze along Daytona Beach boardwalk.
During my beach hike, I took a walk along the fishing pier. The restaurant was open, but I wasn’t hungry. I just wanted pictures of the day and go back to camp and keep warm. I saw a couple of kids out in the surf on boards. To me, they seemed to be very young, perhaps not even teenagers yet. However, their expertise with a surfboard was amazing. I watched them for a good long time as they expertly negotiated the power of the ocean for their own pleasure.

Young surfer catches large.
Otherwise, Daytona Beach was just as nice as always, but I was rushing to get farther south. Even the lifeguards were wearing warm clothing if you notice that detail in the photos. Off season visits have advantages, but if people-watching is your sport - save your visit for the correct season. Next stop is Titusville, Florida along The Space Coast. There is a lot to see and do in that area and I hope I can stay there a while and do them all. I may never be back this way again in my travels, so I want to do it all and do it well.


This area was originally planned to be yet another stop-over on my Beach Tour for the season, but there is so much to do in this area that I actually dismissed all my future soft-plans and remained in the Titusville area for four months. During that time, I was able to explore several area beaches, visit an Air Show & Museum, a Nature Preserve, the Police Hall of Fame, visit the Kennedy Space Center and view several space launches from Cape Canaveral. I came for the beach and stayed for many other reasons. The campground was comfortable enough, there was a Sam’s Club, Camping World and numerous grocery outlets nearby. There was even a small family-owned Italian restaurant within walking distance of camp. Actually, I surprised myself at staying so long as it was not the original plan.

The entrance to Cocoa Beach Pier from the parking area.
I was able to visit Cocoa Beach Pier at least four times during the Holiday Season. Most of the beach population were tourists and they take advantage of that with increased parking fees which fluctuate between $5-$15 depending on the day and time you visit. After prime beach time, parking is actually free because there are restaurants and nightlife associated with the Pier. Sounds pretty nice, actually, to have a nice dinner and a moonlight walk along the beach. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that restaurant/bar businesses increase when it’s a full moon.

You could rent an umbrella and beach chairs or bring your own. It's tourist season.
I went during the day, of course. Regardless of what folks might infer, all beaches are not the same. Many are the beaches that serve commercialism. All of the above are representative of those. Other beaches are nature sanctuaries and the Cape Canaveral National Seashore is one of those, but it also offers a pristine beach experience. I enjoyed going there as well. Cocoa Beach rents beach umbrellas and chairs, beach volley ball time and has a bar that makes “to go” drinks for beach walking. Once on the pier, you can pay to drop a fishing line over the side and order lunch from the restaurant at the same time.

Young surfer braves the waves near the pier.
Cocoa Beach Pier is a popular surfing beach. There is a webcam and the Surf Guru gives the surf report predictions online every few days. Once I found that website, I checked on beach/weather conditions often in order to maximize my beach experiences. I was fortunate to be there during students’ semester break, so I didn’t feel alone as the only tourist among locals. The beach was packed, most days - especially the week between Christmas and New Years Day. I just wanted some sun and to watch the surfers catch a wave and get pictures. As someone who once was part of the working press, I didn’t feel the least bit hindered in taking photos of kids playing in the sand with plastic buckets and shovels - digging their way to China or bikini girls wading out into the surf to take pictures and videos of the waves on their cell phones. As I later edited those photos, I wondered what purpose they served? I didn’t know those folks and didn’t even ask their names for any publication. I imagine I’ll eventually delete them.

Cocoa Beach Pier as the light begins to fade.
The evening time was the best for me. The sunset light changes things for photos. It was fast approaching what photographers call “the golden hour” when the color of light turns golden as it filters through the dust in the atmosphere and glances at earthly objects from the side, giving them more dimension on a flat, two-dimensional plane of an image.

This is the north side of the pier and surfers still try the waves.
I hurried to get as many photos as I could as long as the composition looked “artful” - whatever that is. I never went to art school. I just wanted an image I could be proud of producing. The pastel light of early evening was especially helpful. As the sun set farther down in the west, I got onto the pier and walked to where the last of the surfers were catching their final waves of the day. It was snowing back home, but here life was good.

Very near my last shot of the day from the pier watch the die-hard surfers.
Thanks for surfing-in. See you next time. The 2016-17 Beach Tour continues.