Conway Arkansas?? – Yeah… Ya see, Gome… I left Wrens to go to ‘Lanna. (Atlanta, that’s the way they say it there, OR… “HotLanta” – I prefer ‘Lanna.)
I’m telling you the truth when I say that ‘Lanna is a traffic MESS. I got stopped just outside of their perimeter-road; and couldn’t go anywhere.. ANYwhere… So, I just parked it at a Quality-Inn, and let my bud, Jon Jefferies, come over to see me. HE… lives there, I DON’T. – Get this… even Jon had a hard time getting over to the ol’ “Q-I” – But, it was definitely good to see him… He was the last on “the list”, — the list of peeps I wanted to see on this trip. — (that’s his black Beemer beside my bike)
Jon is a radio hot-rod, a “sports-talk” jock at one of ‘Lanna’s hot radio stations. He’s done well. He USED to be THE NUMBER ONE “Rock ‘n Roll’ jock at Omaha’s legendary KFAB. Seriously, at the time, he was hotter than Las Vegas on July the 4th . But… remember Harry Chapin’s song: W.O.L.D.? – Well, Jon too… got old, (if 31 is old) and they kicked him to the curb. But, he recovered well and went on to make a name for hisself in syndicated radio. Mind you, he’s still a punk; but people in ‘Lanna think he hung the moon. – Aint life great…
I bet you’re wondering if I got those damn ‘All-the-way-dogs’, right?? – NO! – It’s one of the few times I’ve been out-maneuverd by the fates. I had it all figured out. I blasted out of the Quality Inn… roared west on I-20; I was like a pro half-back, runnin’ with the football… maneuvering in and out of ‘Lanna’s traffic… leaving wakes of traffic tie-ups behind me… I’m serious, several times I was ‘floor-boarding’ my bike past 90.
I got all the way to the downtown-connecter that takes you to The Varsity and that ‘mother-blanker’ was backed up tighter than a constipated race horse. I actually screeched to a stop over in an illegal parking zone, right in the middle of I-20 West. “Well, ‘blank’” I said. “I guess I’m not going to the Varsity.’ – (blif / splik / drat / dagnabbit).
So, I recognized my fate, and limped away (almost got run over by a FedEx-truck as I pulled away.) – Depressed, I gave him the finger and roared past him… I’m serious, it was a major defeat not to get those dogs… they’re like an Olympic medal… “Who among us, cannot say, “All-the-way-dogs” are not the true mark of a champion?” – Like John Henry, the steam-drill had defeated me, and I limped out of ‘Lanna, (at about 87 MPH)
“Homeward Bound”, at last. I cheered up as I got closer to Birmingham, (somewhat). There’s an actual ‘traffic-column’ between ‘Lanna and Birmingham; the only birght spot was TWO truck ‘weigh-stations’ that held up my evil foe, “the trucks”. I cackled like a mad man, as I sped by them, noticing how many were shaking their fists at me. “We’ll get you, ‘motorcycleMan’; next time, next time, next time…. It grew fainter and fainter as I sped away in victory.
B’ham was rapidly behind me as I plunded thru Jasper, and on to Tupelo. I was just outside of “Tupes” when I faded, and ducked into Fulton, MS. – Fulton is named after Bishop Fulton J. Sheen of tele-vangical fame. They even have a bronze statue of him, next to highway 78… “touching”, if you think about it. – I spent the night at a VERY comfortable DaysInn… arguably one of the best “economy” motel chains in America.
I developed a ‘rating model’ on motel chains. I call it the “Motel-6” scale. The ‘Motel-6’ median point is literaly “6”… and everything is either lower than ‘6’ or greater than ‘6’. For instance, the Quality Inn in ‘Lanna was a Motel-6 scale of 8… pretty good, actually. The DaysInn in Fulton was very close to an 8, (I don’t like to get too granular.)
I had a fabulous ‘truckers-breakfast’ at the Huddle-House in Fulton before I split. I blasted out to Fort Smith, ARE-Kansas this morning, with the full intention of making it all the way.
A ‘Tampa-like’ rain engulfed me just before Conway Arkansas, and I took it as a sign from God that I ought to spread my message there. – The rain was so hard that I literally could not see five feet to either side of me. I had my rain gear on and everything, and I was SOAKED. – I actually ‘guessed’ there was an exit where I pulled off… and at the top of a rainy / foggy / misty hill there stood a… (wait for it…) a… “Days Inn” (can you hear the music??)
The lady at the front desk greeted me like I was her son… “Come on in heah, boy; you gonna catch your death out thea” – (She had no idea how right she was) – I parked my bike under the canopy, and wondered at the might of simple WATER.
After I checked in, and drug my bags into my room, the front desk momma… said to bring my clothes up to the laundry and she’d dry them for me.
You know, by and large, pretty much at the 90% level, Americans are great people. I’ve been about 40,000 miles on my various bikes since I turned 66… and I have never had even ONE bad experience. Oops… there was one guy who was gonna try and rob me, one time in St. George, but I explained to him why that was a bad idea… Let me know if you want to hear the story.
Also, I have one OTHER story I’ve been keeping from you… I don’t know, think I should share it? It involves the Poh-lece…
Just so you know, I’m leaving Conway in the morning and going to Oklahoma City, Okalhoma.. I don’t know why they have so many redundant cities in Oklahoma… After Ok-City (there, that’s better) I’m going to Amarilla… (that’s the way they say it); them Texicans…
PS – here’s my “Tracking-Page” (http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0seJseUF8nps5v94ORZolubfWN1AosNFO)
…is Tommy San Diego??
When last we spoke, I was telling you about my travails in Key West. Hey, I got over it… “It is what it is.” Suffice to say, I’m glad I had that date, I’m definitely not taking her to the prom. So, where’d I go, right? Well, I went up to Vero Beach; non-stop. That was quite the pull, 296 miles, on Florida’s Turnpike. WHAT a zoomy road.
The reason I went to Vero was to see Tommy Ellis.
I had my second “adult-job” with Tommy in 1967. That was 49 years ago. Tommy was manager of the municipal bond department of Norris and Hirshberg in Atlanta JoeJa. I’m telling you… we had a serious good time, drank a lot of whiskey, made a lot of money, and created memories while we did it. Tommy retired to Vero with his wife, Dot… in 1997. I’ve been wanting to see him, and Vero Beach for a LONG time. In fact, he was one of the several reasons for the trip; it wasn’t JUST to see Key West.
Tommy took me all over the place, — down to the beach, out to eat… shopping, stopping, and dropping some cash.
(Loggerhead-Turtle nest, protected)
I believe I could retire to Vero, it’s an attractive, quiet, well-managed little town. Tommy and his wife are “gettin’ on up there and aren’t as active as they used to be; but, in his prime, Tommy was Commodore of the Yacht Club, Potentate of the Wet-legged Sand Pebbles, and Grand Poobah of the Wet-Set. He loved the water, and became at ease with ‘water-folk’. — “Here’s to you, Tommy Ellis”… Glad I’ve known you for half a century, — we had some good times, didn’t we?
I spent two days with Tommy and Dot, then headed out to Wrens, Georgia. You heard me, WRENS, Georgia. What? Haven’t been there? Yeah, well… maybe you should. I left Vero at 7:30am on Sunday and arrived at Wrens 7 hours later; and 466 miles away from Vero…. 466 miles in seven hours on a motorcycle is pretty fast; one of my fastest times.
Why Wrens, right? I went to see Ted Johnson. — Ted was one of my first and best customers when I was in the bond-business with Tommy. Bingo, ANOTHER friend for 49 years. He and his wife, Clara Sue,
put me up for the night and stuffed me full of traditional southern, and South Carolina “eatins”. How about: oven-baked chicken, crepe-like cornmeal wafers, (uh-huh…) peas ‘n rice, on-and-on, and followed up with banana pudding.
This morning, before I left, she fixed a fantastic breakfast that included fried biscuits. You heard me, FRIED biscuits, IN bacon grease. (Don’t tell my cardiologist.) Hey, it was good too. I told Ted that if I lived with Clara Sue, I’d weigh 400 pounds. She’s a good cook and has even written a southin’ cook book. She gave me a copy. I’m gonna go home and fatten up my wife, the dogs and our bird.
This morning, I went to Atlanta… well, ALMOST to Atlanta. The traffic on I-20 west was stopped in BOTH directions… stationary… NOT moving, brick-like. So, what the heck, I worked my way over to the side of the road, and inched up an exit. Lo and behold… a “Quality Inn” was there. I was going to stop in Atlanta anyway, to see my old bud, Jon Jeffries… so; I packed it in about mid-day… and told Jon where I was. We’re going to dinner tonight and reminisce about our old days in Omaha.
TOMORROW… after I go to “The Varsity” — (the world’s largest drive-in restaurant) (http://www.thevarsity.com/menu.php) — AND… have a coupla ‘all the way dogs, some ‘rangs’, a fried pie, and a “P-C” — I’m headin’ out to Lost Wages. YEA!… — I’ve been on the road since
May 2nd and I miss my wife, doggies, bird, and tortoise. It’s funny how you can get a little “dreamy” about home, isn’t it? – I “googled” the mileage, and it’s only 1,966 miles to Las Vegas… look out trucks, here I come. “Zoom-Zoom”
PS – here’s my “Tracking-Page” (http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0seJseUF8nps5v94ORZolubfWN1AosNFO)
So… how was it, right? — Well, disappointing, that’s what.
Key West has a major problem on its hands… they want the tourist money…. But, they don’t like tourists. It didn’t matter where I went, the “feeling”, the “attitude”, the “demeanor” was all the same…. “Leave us your money, but get the hell outta here.” — Kinda sad, really…. Key West, in general, is like a mature “lady of the night”, she wants the money, but she’s had too many customers; the ‘thrill’ is gone.
As an example, I went into a marine (sea-stuff) electronic shop looking for lithium batteries for my tracking device. “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to have any AAA lithium batteries, would you?” The IMMEDIATE reply was, (without looking up) “Try the hardware store next-door.” So, I went over there and asked the same question… “Try the electronics store next door”, the proprietor said. I actually laughed out loud, and said… “She sent me over to see you.” He said, “Well, we ain’t got none.” So I walked out.
I got to Key West proper, was tired and ‘butt-sore” from all the riding and just thought “WTF” and pulled into a Marriot. The front desk clerk was nice enough, and when I asked her the rate, she said $247…. “For what?” I replied. She said, “It’ll be $347 tomorrow… the ‘tourists’ are coming in.” – No added ‘value’, mind you… they (Key West collectively) can just charge more. That’s how it is here, they all want “tourist-money”, but they just don’t want the tourist.
I asked the concierge in the Marriott for his recommendation for a “good sea food place.” He said, “Try the ‘Stoned Crab’ next door.” – So I go over, no one much was there… it STILL took a while to seat me… and after I looked over the menu, I ordered the “Fisherman’s Platter.” – Six shrimp, over-done/over-breaded whitefish, COLD ‘boiled potatoes’, and COLD corn on the cob (wouldn’t even melt butter.) When I asked the waiter about it, he copped an instant attitude and actually asked me with a snarl, “Do you want to send it back?” – “Nah…” I said… “just give me a check.” — $40. — I paid it, and he said, “Do you want to leave a tip?” – I said, “Yeah, learn how to cook your food; and get a better attitude.” He just looked at me… I walked out and went over to Pizza Hut and got a small pizza, ($12)… the PERSONAL size. Whoa…
So, I’m leaving in the morning… Gonna blast outta here. Gonna go see my bud, Tommy Ellis in Vero Beach. He told me to “Come on up.” — He added that “We’ll have breakfast at the Vero Beach Country Club.” I asked him how the food was over there.
The best point?? — I ‘turned around’ today… as of today, I’m headed back home; only 4,000 miles to go. After I see Tommy in Vero, I’m going to see Ted Johnson in Augusta, and then Jon Jeffries in Atlanta. THEN… I’m heading northward to I-40, and race trucks across America. It’s one of my favorite sports… It’s comparable to “running with the bulls”, in Pamplona…
Hey Hey TORO !!!!
PS – here’s my “Tracking-Page” (http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0seJseUF8nps5v94ORZolubfWN1AosNFO)
(That’s my motor-sickle helmet, in case you don’t recognize it)
When last we spoke, I had just left Foley, Alabama… and was on my way to Tallahassee, FL. – So, just to bring you up to date, I eased on past Tallahassee…. and cruised on down toward Tampa (to try out with the Buccaneers.) About 40 miles north of Tampa, the most hellacious rain I’ve ever seen broke out. I ducked (apt word there) into a Day’s Inn to wait it out. I am NOT kidding you when I tell you that it looked like fire-hoses in the sky… This is no joke, I put my hand out (from under the motel over-hang) into the rain… pulled it back and left a hole… that hole fell to the ground in splashes. That was the hardest, thickest rain I’ve ever seen… a first-class “Noah-type” rain… JAY-zuz (probably shouldn’t say that) what a rain; – prolly 8 inches in 2 minutes (not really, but you get the point) — I live in Las Vegas, we get four inches of rain a year… it’s scary to see that much rain. Nobody else was impressed but me… must come from living in ‘God’s City’.
While I was in upper-Tampa, I called a CanAm dealer in Fort Myers Florida to see if they’d look at a minor bike problem I was having… “Brake Failure Warning” – that little warning will get your attention. I also needed an erl-change, and they assured me they would get me right in if I got there early… So, the NEXT morning AT 6 o’clock in the morning… I blasted outta northern Tampa (thus missing my try-out with the Bucs, dang it) and three hours later was in Ft Myers, 9:17am to be exact. They ASSURED me they would get me “right in” right? — THREE HOURS LATER… my bike was STILL sitting in the parking lot in front of the service-bay. – “Hey man!! You gonna look at my bike or not??” — So they quit texting each other, stopped drinking coffee, surfing the Net, and telling stupid jokes long enough to get my bike in. Sheeeese… a guy could make a profitable business in Ft. Myers setting up a REAL motorcycle shop. I mentioned my disappointment, and they assured me they didn’t give a damn. Oh well… “Life on the Mississippi”, huh. But, if you’re ever in Ft. Myers… and need motorcycle help… DON’T go to SUNSPORT Recreation… ‘nuff said.
I spent the night last night in Everglades City. It’s WAY south of Ft. Myers, just north of Homestead (Miami) I found a great little motel, oddly enough named: The Everglades City Motel. It was also practically the only motel IN Everglades City. I Had a longish chat with the young motel manager there, Britany… She’s 22 and on her way to “life”. I gave her several sound pieces of advice (go forth / explore / other ‘B-S’)… and re-called that I didn’t listen to other people when I was 22… and shut up. She was a nice girl, too… what every father would want their daughter to be like… “Hand-Salute, Miss Britany; I bet you’ll do well in life.”
So FINALLY, I’m cruisin’ in to Key West this morning. I’m only a coupla hundred miles away. All my life I’ve wanted to see the Keys… I’ve driven my bike 4,000 miles to get here… and tomorrow’s “the day” – You think I’ll be disappointed, or elated? (I don’t know either) But, I’m generally an optimist, so I’m hoping for the best. Gonna see Ernest Hemmingway’s house… eat some good seafood… enjoy the Keys before they’re underwater… and ‘in general’ become a ‘lay-about’ for a couple of days.— Stay tuned and I’ll tell you if I saw Ernest Hemmingway’s ghost (boo…)
Several peeps mentioned that my ‘tracking-page’ isn’t working… I’ll get some new ‘battrys’ today, and see what’s wrong. Thanks all…. For letting me know.
“She’s my ‘Tallahassee-Lassee… down in F-L-A…” What a great song…. Been singing it all day.
I had lunch with one of my all-time favorite buds this past Saturday, Clayton “Corky” Harris. He is a fellow, ‘raconteur’, ‘rake’, and a ‘ramblin’-man’ I went to high school with. When we were in high skool, he and I “Tee-Peed” Angelon Gafford’s house so many times.. her FATHER fired a shotgun up in the air to get our attention (it did.)
On other occasions, we drank whiskey, looked fer girls, and had your general “Happy Days” blast. It was actually hard for me to conceptualize, — while I was sitting across from him (over turnip greens / fried okra / catfish / “sweet-tea” / and ‘chess-pie’…) that it had been 53 years since we had graduated from high school. Much of the stuff we reflected on, I can’t share with you; suffice to say, we had a good time.
From B’ham, I went to Shelby, Alabama to see another ‘half-century’ friend, Jerry (Bull) Dozier.
Jerry’s from my hometown of Graysville, one year younger. We communicate regularly, via email, and I told him I’d come by to say ‘Hello’. He lives by ‘Lay, lake’ (great name for a lake, don’t you think?)
It’s kinda odd how we all went in so many divergent ways. Bob went into the Navy; Jack into electronics, and Jerry had a long career with the football team of “Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner, and Smith”, later to be called just ‘Merrill Lynch’.
The diversity of our hometown was weird / gigantic / even strange. One of our hometown buddies went on to be president of Alabama Gas Corporation; another was a multi-millionaire ‘coal-broker’ in Kentucky. Another is a software hot-rod in Philadelphia… I myself became a ‘pole-dancer’ out in ‘Vegas at the ‘Razzle-Dazzle’ Club. (Get in touch if you want any tickets.)
Back to Jerry, he was the perfect host and took me for multiple boat rides on ‘Lay’ lake… (Lotsa jokes there…)
fed me dinner of grilled cow, and ALL the fixin’s (including chocolate ice cream for desert.) It really was great to see him, and we picked up just like we had left off… 50 years ago.
From Shelby, I went down to Daphne, Alabama (think Mobile, here) to see Corky’s (above) fraternal-twin sister, Cathy.
She fixed this fabulous ‘vegan’ lunch,
and showed me around FairHope, Alabama;
arguably one of the prettiest little cities I’ve ever seen. (My hometown of Graysville could take a tip or two from Fairhope.)
I had a little dental problem early on in my trip, a dental-bridge dislodged and I had to have it cemented back on. Sooooo… I was blasting through Foley, Alabama, and noticed over on my right “Dentistry of Foley”, with young Dr. Alan Allgood presiding. (“Allgood” is a pretty good name for a dentist, don’t you think?) – I did a standing-wheelie-U-turn and roared in to see if they could work me in. “Sho-huff”, no problem…” I asked him if he had any other patients from Las Vegas, and he said I was the first. He quickly put ‘Humpty-Dumpty’ back together again, and I was on my way.
I stopped a bit early in Tallahassee today, cuz I was ‘tard’… Cumulatively, ‘motor-sickle’ ridin’ gets to you, and every now and then you have to ‘get off the road’ and chill… so that’s what I did.
In the morning, I’m going to make a ‘fast-blast’ to Tampa… gonna try out for the ‘Buccaneers’ while I’m there.
I’ll be back in touch… enjoy the pitchers…
PS – here’s my “Tracking-Page” (http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0seJseUF8nps5v94ORZolubfWN1AosNFO
One of the reasons I wanted to go on my “Magical-Mystery-Tour” motor-sickle trip was to see old buds, childhood friends, adult-hood friends and memorable events. And, speaking of childhood friends… this guy…
Jack Turner, was one of the best. The house I lived in in my early childhood (say, 1 to 5) didn’t have any running water. Please, no pity here; we were just fine… not ‘street-urchins’, we lived in a bit of a ‘shotgun-shack’ (that’s where you can shoot a shotgun in the middle of the house and it won’t hit anything) that didn’t have any running water. So…. ‘whad we do’, right? Well my mother sent me over to the Turner’s to “borrow” water. (Huh…? Wha…?) – Yep, I took a largish porcelain-covered bucket over to the water-hydrant they had in their yard, and filled that bucket up and ‘wagged’ it back to my house. Heck, I was only 4 or 5 years old, and the bucket weighed about a third of what I weighed. I had to go back and forth several times to get the water we needed for that particular day. — I think that’s one of the reasons I like the pool where I live. It’s a bit of a “Hollywood” pool, and sometimes when I’m lying around the ol’ poo’… I wonder how many buckets of water it would take to fill it up. I did a rough calculation one time and the number “a bunch” came out.
Anyway, in my struggles with that damn water-bucket is how I came to meet Jack Turner. He was a little older than me (two years) and he came out to help me wag it back one day. He took one side of the steel bail (of the bucket) and I took the other. Together, we got that bucket back and forth to my house. Mind you, he never complained about helping me, and in fact, probably considered it part of his chores too. That became the start of a friendship that has lasted, (let’s see now… I was about five at the time…) so how does a 67 year friendship sound to you? SIXTY-SEVEN YEARS?!?! – We have visited off and on, ‘from-time-to-time’ over the phone, and even though we rarely (I mean RARELY) saw each other, the friendship endured.
I went to see Jack Turner yesterday; and we picked up just as if we had last seen each other yesterday. He still lives in the same house he and his (still lovely, seriously) bride bought when they first got married. They just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. — Jack actually has that quality of “endurance”. He could ‘endure’ when he helped me carry that water, and he has practiced that tenet across the decades. It’s a quality I admire.
Jack and I played “soldier” when we were growing up (where we blew up “G. I. Joes” with firecrackers (and cherry bombs)… and M-80s) –
If you’ve never heard a REAL M-80 go off, and seen the damage it can do, you haven’t lived. I wish I could get my hands on some ‘them baby’s’ right now. They would definitely wake up the neighborhood. We put cherry-bombs and M-80s in slingshots and lofted them into the heavens. “Timing” was the ‘key’. I held the slingshot in my left hand; put the M-80 in the leather pouch of the slingshot, and Jack lit it. Ya kinda watched it burn down a bit… THEN… at the precise/practiced moment… you let that big boy fly. I’m telling you… when you did it right… it was a HUGE adrenalin rush. Of course… sometimes… ya got the timing off a little, and the damn thing went off right over your head. BUT… isn’t that how one learns? The ‘failed’ experiments are just as important as the successful ones; right? —
We got pretty good at ‘M-80’ and ‘cherry-bomb’ experimentation and could eventually loft those boys practically anywhere we wanted to. Say, for instance, kinda/sorta over the local cop car with Police Officer Blaylock in it. Never got ‘caught’, – fell under suspicion one time. Police Officer Blaylock went to talk to my mother about it one time… but, no sanctions were imposed. I LOVE cherry bombs… I’m not telling you what else you can do with them…
As an example of what I’m not telling you…. In the military… a ‘professional’ model cherry bomb could be ‘attached’ to a random propane tank… say, with a ‘timer’ attached to it (often a cigarette) and one could ease on down the road and be somewhere else when the… uh… fireworks went off. I’m not saying I did that in my military days; I’m just saying it “could” be done. American ingenuity; don’t you just love it? (hey, I’m not telling you about the good stuff at all.)
So yesterday I spent a most pleasant afternoon with Jack Turner and his wife, Glenda. We reminisced about everything… from how we learned to drive… (a 1936 English Ford, with 36 horsepower); to random, scientific experiments with ‘carbide’ (it’ll make hydrogen gas if you add water)… thus, producing a mixture of Hydrogen and Oxygen. Arguably, one of the most powerful explosions you can make, if you add a ‘spark’ to the mixture; say like a match attached to the tip of a blow-dart, shot from an improvised blow-gun pipe (ya see, you needed to be a considerable distance away from the combining of hydrogen and oxygen to produce water)… (I LOVE science.)
Jack was Huckleberry Finn, and I was Tom Sawyer… (or maybe the other way around.) Jack and I parted ways when he went into the Army, and I went off to college. But you know what? I thought about him often in my Army days; especially when it came to lofting cherry bombs over fences or using what was locally available to create a ‘disturbance’. You just never know when… what you learn in childhood, can come in handy as an adult, – do you now?
Just so you know… I VALUE water these days… I remember how precious a spilled drop was from my childhood. – Gonna see Corky Harris for lunch today… at “Niki’s West”, one of my all-time favorite eateries… Gonna have some turnip greens, — doncha know.
I saw a true American hero yesterday. Nope, it wasn’t John Wayne / Clint Eastwood / or Roy Rogers either. This was a REAL hero. I grew up with him. He caught LIVE snakes with his hands. He says, “Snakes don’t bother me too much” He said that while I sat with him, and he told about his fist being around THREE ‘sea snakes’ (they call ‘em “three-steppers” because that’s how many steps you get to take if one bites you.) This American Hero said “Aw… snakes never DID bother me too much” He was right, too… He had 20+ gallon-jars of snakes in formaldehyde in his basement room when we were growing up. Snakes he had CAUGHT. Would you do that?? – To this American Hero… it was normal; ya see folks, he wasn’t afraid of snakes; or ANYTHING else, for that matter.
He was a Navy SEAL and went to Viet Nam TWICE… He was ON THE COVER of “Soldier of Fortune” magazine! (He SHOULD have been on the cover of TIME Magazine.) Know why he went to ‘Nam twice? He took the place of a friend of his who had gotten married two weeks earlier. He wanted his bud to enjoy his honeymoon.
This American Hero showed me his “trophy-case” he took down from a wall. In it were about 15 medals; his Seal medallion, (that right there, ain’t easy to get, by the way) – He was “AirBorne”; he said he thought it was silly… “piece of cake”, he said. Ask somebody with that designation and see what THEY think about it…see what THEY say… He had “this-medal”, “that-medal”… you wouldn’t believe it. He was the only one who came back alive from TWO missions… No, this American Hero is definitely NOT afraid of snakes… OR ANYTHING ELSE either. – His wife, Pam (of forty years) chuckled and said, “Bob still thinks he can kick anybody’s butt.” Get this… this guy was sitting on a chair… he goes to dialysis every other day, has had THREE heart attacks, one heart-valve replacement, is a diabetic, and creaks when he walks — and his wife thinks he’s joking when he says he can STILL kick anybody’s ass. I grew up with this American Hero; I’ve got news for you…He’s not joking.
His name is Bob Summerlin, and he and I grew up in Graysville, Alabama. We were Boy Scouts, “EAGLE” Scouts together. He was a “man’s-man” back then… And he is today. He took me and another childhood friend, Rob Coats for a ride to show us his garden. He stealthily put a loaded pistol on the floor of his truck when he got in. He said he thought maybe something was after his prize, Cochin chickens… Yeah, right… I sat over on the passenger side of that F-150 and I knew EXACTLY what that pistol was all about. You see, Bob Summerlin ain’t afraid of snakes. You better write that down, Mister… because he ain’t joking.
Bob Summerlin served his country because it was the “right” thing to do. He became a Navy Seal because he thought that was the best way to fulfill his obligation to his country. He went BACK to Viet Nam because he wanted his Seal-friend to ‘enjoy’ his honeymoon. — Yeah right… he went back to Viet Nam because it was the RIGHT thing to do… AND because “he AINT afraid of snakes”… nor anything else. He lives in Pinson, Alabama and raises chickens. He has a garden where he raises veggies “mostly for other people” (he left out the part about “who can’t do it for themselves”) – It’s open for whoever wants to come by. He not only raises chickens and grows the best garden I’ve ever seen; this MAN… this man who has had three heart attacks, is on dialysis, TWO strokes (“minor”, he assured me.) This real-live John ‘F’ Wayne, By-God, All-American Hero, who ‘aint afraid of snakes’, grows a garden for other people who are “less fortunate” than he is – The ‘snake-eater’ himself, grew a garden, just for you, my fellow Americans; and he’s BEEN doing it for half a century.
Bob Summerlin, Eagle Scout, Navy Seal (Seal Team TWO, — Seal Team One was already full.) Viet Nam vet TWICE… grows gardens for people who are ‘less fortunate” than he is. Let that sink in a bit. He packs a gun in case anything is after his chickens… He says he can STILL kick anybody’s ass if they start ‘messing up’ – What do YOU think? Who would you bet on?
I have shivers of respect when I’m around Bob Summerlin. Not many of us have ever had the chance to actually see a legend. You can see ‘Trumps’ / ’Hillarys’ / rappers / snappers / and ‘wanna-bees’ on TV every day. Bob Summerlin was the “real deal” when it mattered…. And he still grows groceries for other people less fortunate than he is. He’s a REAL American Hero… and I wanted to come see him, and pay my respect. I wanted to see him and tell him he ‘mattered’. I wanted to touch his bruised dialysis-forearms and offer him some comfort and solace.
This decorated, SEAL, American Hero, two-toured Viet Nam vet, this “snake-eater” vigilante-for-what’s-right’, this MAN who went BACK to Viet Nam for a friend. – Isn’t there a scripture passage about that somewhere? Something about someone laying down their life for a friend?
Folks, I walked on honored ground yesterday… I touched the hem of an Apostle, a Champion, a red-blooded, by God American Hero who “aint afraid of snakes.”
I got ready to go late in the afternoon; we all knew that was the last time we would ever see each other again. Bob’s wife asked me where I was going to stay last night, I told her I had my GPS set for Adamsville. She gasped a little and said “Don’t go there, you’ll get robbed.” Her husband, the American Hero, winked at me and said, “Don’t worry about him, he’ll be just fine.” – Bob and I passed a secret message between each other at that moment. He knew, and I knew… that we were raised in an age where we didn’t worry too much. I knew I could call him, and he knew he could call me. We’ve been knowing that for 60 years.
I gave him a hand-salute when I left. He had asked me a whispered question before I got on my bike: “How fast will it go?” — Ya see, Bob had wrecked his Shelby 427 one time… because snakes aren’t the only things he’s not afraid of. I told him how fast it would go… even spun the rear tire for him when I roared out of the street he lives on. He knew, and I knew… “This one’s for you, Bob” — YOU are my hero… America’s hero… You keep raising those chickens and growing those vegetables. The rest of us are going to see if we can get your likeness onto Mount Rushmore!
“Fair thee well”, my friend… you TRULY made a difference. It has been my honor to know you.
Welp, I went down to the “Big Easy” last night. Thank God for GPS’s. HaHa… I out-smarted the little gremlins who travel with me again. I set the SPECIFIC destination ON Bourbon street in my GPS… AND… set the hotel where I’m staying (LaQuinta) in too (for the return trip.) – I don’t know about you, but there’s an argument to be made that a GPS is THE BEST invention ever made. I rate ‘em up there with motor-sickles, condoms, cell-phones, whuskey, and attractive wimmen… You gotta admit, that’s HIGH PRAISE for an electronic ‘deevice’. (Practicing my ‘southin’.)
Anyway, I eased on into the French Quarter… and parked in the underground parking of a fancy French Quarter Hotel. The valet parking guy said, “Hey are you a guest here, or just checking in?” – I slipped him a twenty and said, “Hey man, I just want to look around and make sure my bike’s safe.” He smiled, slipped the bill into his pocket, and said, “Park it right over there, sir… I’ll keep an eye on it for you.” (He ‘safe-guarded’ my helmet too.) – Aint ‘Merica great?
I think the major difference between New Orleans and Las Vegas is that NoLa is “free-er”, less inhibited. Mind you, out in Lost Wages, we’re certainly (ahem…) ‘open’ about what you do… but… we’re the tiniest bit more mercantile about it. NoLa is more bohemian. Take a look at this picture…
That’s a guy in a FUR body suit, lying down in the street, soliciting “donations”. I don’t know about you… But I prefer beggars who are a touch more energetic than telling me to “roll me over and put it in my pocket.” I AM a fan of innovation though, so I tossed a buck in his begging apparatus. I was surprised and amused to see that others had done the same. I’m going to suggest that to some of my begging-friends out in Las Vegas.
One street “musician” I saw was actually getting donations from ‘clapping’ his hands handily. No money for an instrument, I’m guessing. Another musical group I saw actually passed a metal bucket around. One guy in the audience started taking money OUT of the bucket. The leader of the musical gang snatched the money and bucket away from him, (Probably told him to get hisseff a fur suit, doncha know.)
I tell you, the French Quarter and Bourbon street are great, tho… Lots of interesting people, ESPECIALLY the “Aunt Graces and Uncle Walters” from out of town. I overheard one Uncle Walter telling someone on the other end of his cellphone that: “You wouldn’t BELIEVE what I’m looking at… there’s a lady not too for in front of me, who has practically NO clothes on. Everybody acts like that’s as normal as apple pie.” (She was good looking, too…)
So, after gaping everybody out, and going through some souvenir shops, I decided to have dinner. I TRIED to have dinner at the Oceana Grill. TOO long a line to get in… and TOO CROWDED inside. I took a glance at several other places, “Desire” caught my attention… but, I just couldn’t be satisfied they washed their dishes good. They seemed to be too much into ‘Desire’, and too little into ‘cleanliness’ (which is next to ‘Godliness’, you know)
I settled on Remoulade’s.
I had ‘ersters’
and stuffed crab shells
(all for $28)
Do you think any restaurant owners do any skimming out of the cash register? Heck, a guy could steal half that money, and STILL make a profit. I always, ‘kinda-sorta’ wanted to be in the restaurant bidness. “Tom’s Foolery” is what I’d call it. I’d serve Virgin beef, roof-topped-raised chickens, and fresh vegetables right out of the can. My pitch would be that your hair will start to grow back, your love-life will get better, and you’ll lose weight; in fact, the more you eat, the more weight you’d lose. I’ll bet you anything that would be a great restaurant. – “All for under fifty bux” would be my catch-phrase. (What a deal)
After dinner, I walked around one more time to make SURE I didn’t miss any ‘riff’ and ‘raff’ that could have eluded me earlier in the evening. (I did.) – I’m an early-bird; I think everything worthwhile happens BEFORE 11 o’clock at night. I am WAY wrong here. In the Big Easy, 11:30 or so is daylight to the minions on Bourbon street. The REAL crazy people come out at midnight, doncha know (Boo y’all)
Hey, I went and found my favorite parking lot attendant and scooted on out of there. When I got back to the motel, there was another motor-sickle rider who wanted to talk to me about my CanAm Spyder. So, we did a little motorcycle-talk for about fifteen minutes. Get this… HIS motorcycle had been stolen… they even had it on video tape… several guys came by in a truck and LIFTED IT UP, and put it in the back of the truck. He asked me how I protected mine… I said, Mister Smith, and Mister Wesson protect mine. — I DID sleep a little fitful last night… I THINK it’s hard to lift up a CanAM and put it on a truck. I MAY have misjudged the difficulty of that exercise, tho…
Welp, I’m on to Tupelo this morning. Gonna see my bud, Rob Coats… AND… (according to Robbie) “THE BEST” car museum in the world. (They better have some Mustangs in it.)
I didn’t leave Paree, Texas till about 11:00 yesterday morning; I got to Alexandria, Louisiana about 4:00ish in the afternoon. I gave a LOT of thought to staying. I was sitting under a spongy-wet cloud of rain that was dripping all over the place. It annoys me to be ambivalent about riding on a particular day. I like it “black or white”… a ‘Noah-like’ rain, or ‘Sahara-desert-like’ dryness. Naturally, that rarely occurs. Yesterday was a perfect example…. “Coulda stayed”/”Could also ride” — What the hell, when in doubt, ride…
It was a ‘fast-dash’ across the top of Texas and easing on down to the middle of Louisiana… Alexandria…. specifically. — Why Alex, you might ask? — Well, it’s the hometown of my Omaha-bud, Ralph Gauthier, of course. I’ve known Ralphie since 1995. We worked together at a large technology firm in Omaha. I value the concept of “Friendships-of-a-Lifetime”, and Ralph definitely falls into that category for sure, (many of YOU do also.)
Ralph is an ‘all-American hero’, the last of a breed of guys who always try to do the right thing. He works in “customer-support” at a technology firm, and I guarantee you, his customers like him, and listen to him. He’s got a house in the ‘burbs, 2.4 kids, drives a B-U-I-C-K, (for crissakes) and goes FISHING with his kids. Might as well be Andy Griffith, right? – Well, actually, that’s right; he IS kinda like ol’ Andy. By the way, America was built on bedrock-kind-of-folk like Ralph, and I truly value his friendship now, and over the years.
All that being said… he IS a funny guy… I even shoved a gun into his belly one time; he was so funny (you’d have to be there to get the humor.) He got BANNED from an entire building one time; he’s a ‘god-fearing atheist’, a staunch non-exerciser, and a profound “truth-teller” (HIS truth of course, but he says it well.)
So Ralphie, I’m in your hometown… I couldn’t resist. I’m gonna spray-paint your name and phone number on the side of the motel I’m staying at…. “This Bud’s for you, Ralphie!”
I’m ALSO only 200 miles from New Orleans. Gonna zip into ‘NoLa’ this afternoon. I’ve been here before, about six times altogether. Went to two SuperBowls… three Mardi Gras, and mistakenly took my second ex-wife there (Jaws-II) — Not only that, I walked into a bar there one time, sat down at a barstool, and ordered a beer. The guy two stools down from me told me: “If you don’t get the blank outta here, I’m going to cut your throat.” I thought that was pretty bold for an opening bid, so I heeded his advice, and left. – I have a hard time with actual crazy people, they ‘bamboozle’ me. So I try to avoid them.
Going to be on Bourbon Street tonight; ‘rocking ‘n rolling’. — Not really, more like ‘strolling the streets’ and staying out of trouble. You give up a lot when you quit drinking/smoking/carousing/and ‘joking’ — Ah for the good ol’days.
Check out this pic…
What do you think it is? – Well, it’s one of the first EKG machines, circa 1930… Probably came out of Dr. Frankenstein’s house… it sure looks gruesome.
Check out this pic…
Pretty much sez it all, huh?… Yup, I’m in Paris; intentionally; – it’s ‘on the way’; PLUS… I always wanted to see Paris (TX) – I’ve got one other place I’d like to see… Orange, Texas… I always wondered how it got its name. Same with ‘Paris’, doncha know. I have half a mind to ride down to ol’ Orange; think I should? I’ll let you folks decide. Is it on to Orange, or on to N’Orleens? Lemme know.
You know, it IS a small world; the couple I got to take that ‘Smile’ picture above is from NEBRASKA, my adopted home-state. AND… they used to live in Las Vegas (As Johnny Carson used to say: “I kid you not.”) They were delightful, fer sure. Oh… get this… I stopped in another small Texas town along the way to have a do-nut. The young guy behind the counter was from Korea. I actually told him that he seemed a bit ‘educated’ to be running a do-nut shop. He told me he was an engineer!! He was running the shop a couple of weeks for his parents, who helped put him through college… (wait for it…) by running a do-nut shop. – Is that a great story, or what??? I gotta tell you, “Aint America Great!!”
You know, actually… I hear variations of that story all the time. One of the reasons I like to ride my bike is the spontaneous nature of it. You just never know who you’ll meet, or what conversation you’ll have. Another ‘fer instance’, I saw this sign along the way that read, “Pecan Valley Nuts, up ahead”. (Who wouldn’t stop for that, right?) So, I pulled in and wondered around the establishment. They had a small deli toward the back and on the menu was: “Home-made Pimento Cheese sandwich” Are you kidding me? My mother used to make pimento-cheese sandwiches all the time, (we were ‘pore’) I LOVE those thangs. Haven’t had one in 10,000 years. I had TWO…. Then, as I wondered around the shop, I met the female owner. She had enough energy to run for president, and I told her so…
We had a longish conversation about how she started her business, pretty much from the side of the road selling PERFECT pecans. Fascinating story… Seriously… So, I bought TWO ‘three-pound’ shelled-halves from her… AND… a bottle of PeeCan “erl” – (‘that’s ‘oil’, city-folk), and had everything shipped to my home address in Las Vegas. When she told me the total, I gulped a bit… and said “go over that for me, just so I’ll understand.” – She did… and I marveled that I might have just bought the world’s most expensive pee-cans… She assured me I’d recover, and I’d always think of her when I had some ‘bacans’ (that’s another way you pronounce it in the So-uth) Hell, she might be right… she WAS a right-handsome woman. (Naturally, I invited her out to Lost-Wages… She said she’d try to make it.) — See??? “On the road-on a motor-sickle” You never know who you’ll meet.
Yesterday was my 7th day of being ‘on the road’. It’s tuff, grand, miserable, and victorious. The musical group, “The Band”, was on the road for 16 YEARS! Can you imagine? Hey, I’m a big fan of that group; they opened for Bob Dylan. I went to the concert in Atlanta back in the 70’s. Then-governor Jimmy Carter was in the audience. Everybody in the arena was smokin’ dope. I think even Gov. Carter (me too…) It was a GREAT concert… “The Band” stole the show. There was even a movie made about them. It was called: “The Last Waltz”, a seriously great movie. Check it out sometime, you’ll be impressed.
But the actual point I’m trying to make is… they were on the road for 16 years… and I have only been ‘OTR’ (on the road) for seven DAYS. So far… I’ve been 1,674 miles (Hey, that’s 240 miles a day… pretty good, on a motor-sickle.) I washed clothes last night; it’s hard to do most times; Ya gotta wait till the washer/dryers are free to use… then hang around a bit to make sure it all works well… but in the end, you get a great, over-looked luxury: clean clothes… (under-appreciated, fer sure.)
I’m gonna be in N’Awleens this coming week. Then Tupelo (gonna stay an extra day) then on to Birmingham and my old stomping grounds. Gonna mosey up to Cullman, to see an old GF… then, back down to Montgomery to see a childhood friend, Jerry Dozier. I’m looking forward to this coming week. It’s one of the reasons I decided to do the trip in the first place.
I’ve already looked at the “weather-map” and I’ll be rolling into some rain today. I DON’T LIKE TO RIDE IN THE RAIN… (but I can do it) It’s a ton easier on a three-wheeled bike, than a two-wheeled bike. Nevertheless… it’s STILL a bit dangerous. So, “send me some love” today… And I’ll get back atcha tonight…. Tell you where I am… It’ll either be Alexandria or N’awleens. (Go Saints!) – Or maybe Orange, Texas… who knows.