Monday, July 31, 2006

Prelude across Minnesota and South Dakota


The World Famous Wall Drug Store in Wall, South Dakota. The highways are filling with Harleys, streaming in from all over the continent for the big Rally in Sturgis.




I kept driving west, hoping to escape the 98-degree ("feels like 105-degree") heat-wave. Approaching South Dakota's Badlands, I reached a cold front sweeping in from the northwest, bringing cooler temperatures and a bit of rain.



Hormel's "Spam" Museum in Austin, Minnesota. Unfortunately, it wasn't yet open (darn!)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Prelude cruises from Ohio to Wisconsin


The Cracker Barrel restaurant, Janesville, Wisconsin. Breakfast served all day long.



Heading west out of Chicago on a hot, steamy evening



Along Chicago's Lakeshore Drive



One of those NASCAR transports so common on our interstates



The Prelude visits the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Prelude visits East Aurora, New York


Priscilla and Becky at "Taste" coffee shop



Treasure hunting at Vidler's



Street fair, East Aurora, New York

Friday, July 28, 2006

Prelude sails from Waterbury, Vermont to East Aurora, New York


Priscilla learns she just won the lottery



Cousin Becky



Cousin Kathy



Cousin Priscilla



Key in hand, Cousin Priscilla welcomes the Prelude to East Aurora, New York



Saying good-bye to Jeff in Waterbury, Vermont. I'll be delivering Jeff's 1997 Honda Prelude to our niece Alana in Washington State.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Frank's Motorcycle Sales of Essex Junction, Vermont


Lester and the crew at Frank's helped me out several times during my Americas trip, performing repairs in Vermont and shipping parts to Brownsville, Texas and a tire to Lima, Peru.



Jeff chats with Dave at Frank's Motorcycle Sales

Tuesday, July 25, 2006



Mansion on the hill. Part of the extensive family holdings, Worcester, Vermont. Too many damn trees. We'll have to do something about that!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Along Vermont's backroads


Jeff let me ride his R1200GS (even though it's of the inferior YELLOW breed), while he rode his Honda "Blackbird" (which is mostly blue)



Unknown rider on the road through Smuggler's Notch, Vermont



Meanwhile outside, aboard her four-wheeler, Bob's granddaughter Kaelee drives circles around his shop



Back at Moshinskie Performance in Marshfield, Vermont. Jeff and Bob work on Jeff's Honda "Blackbird"



Jeff with FMCSA co-worker Judith, the one who keeps him in line and makes him look good

Friday, July 21, 2006

Shopping in Boston with Jeff and Kellie


Jeff, in a private moment...



Mission Accomplished!



Jeff and his daughter Kellie about to go SHOPPING at Wal-Mart!

Thursday, July 20, 2006



Inside the Smithsonian's American History Museum, a recreation of Julia Child's kitchen. I figured my sister Janie would appreciate this. I think Julia also liked cats - several cats were pictured on the walls.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A day in Washington, D.C.


Outside the White House, equipment is set up for the next "photo op"



Participants in CODEPINK's "Troops Home Fast"

In spite of their obviously weakened condition, they had spent the day visiting Representatives' offices in the Sam Rayburn House Office Building. Their intent is to personally deliver their message to every Representative.

CODEPINK has been one of the most tireless organizations focused on extracting our troops from Iraq and ending the senseless bloodshed. We each must find our own way to participate.



At the CODEPINK "Troops Home Fast" in Lafayette Park

Seated in the center of the above photo (pink tank top), is Diane Wilson. A shrimper by trade, Diane has faced some of the biggest chemical companies in the nation, forcing them to stop dumping toxics into the Gulf of Mexico. She wrote a book about it, An Unreasonable Woman.




Since May 14th, Jay McGinley has maintained a vigil across from the White House in Lafayette Park.

Jay is protesting the utter silence from the Administration regarding the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. On July 4th, he escalated the vigil to a hunger strike, and when I met him on July 19th, despite temperatures hovering near 100, Jay had desperately undertaken a water-only fast. This is not the act of a fanatic, but that of an heroic individual trying to awaken some trace of conscience in the American psyche.



Opposite the White House, this "peace vigil" has been maintained for 26 YEARS!


(You may have seen this woman in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911.) It was over 95 degrees this day, literally baking on the pavement where she is seated.





I had first walked to the White house south side, near The Ellipse. When I asked a White House police officer where I could find the "CODEPINK demonstration", he responded "Oh, Jesus!" Then he reluctantly acknowledged "I think it's on the north side."

I then approached a Secret Service agent near one of the parking lot gates and, just for fun, asked him. With barely-concealed disgust, he vaguely stated "it's on the other side."

Walking around to the north, I was surprised to find fewer tourists here, and much closer views of the White House. Pennsylvania Avenue, barricaded along this block, is now open to pedestrian traffic.



The White House south side



Crowds of tourists near the White house are closely-managed.


This 50-yard stretch of fence offers the only view from the south. Though the street is closed off to traffic, visitors are confined by White House police to the narrow sidewalk.





The National Gallery of Art website tells us "Ginevra de' Benci would have been about sixteen when she posed for this portrait, which was probably commissioned by her family to mark her engagement. Her painter was the aspiring artist Leonardo da Vinci, then twenty-two years old..."



At The National Gallery in Washington, one of Rembrandt's most profound self-portraits



Rembrandt self-portrait (detail)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sightseeing in Washington D.C.


The Ballston subway station, Arlington, Virginia. Moments after taking the photo, a man in a suit approached and said it's against the law to take photos here.



The National Air and Space Museum "Milestones of Flight" gallery. The X-15 on the right, Apollo Command Module bottom center, and the tiny Mercury space capsule on the lower level, just forward of the X-15's wing (See this link for further descriptions: Link)



The "Wright Flyer", first in flight



Mr. Jefferson, inside his memorial. Jeff noted this inscription on the memorial's walls: "I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."



Jeff reassures a despondent George Mason. "The country is not going to hell in a hand basket, George."




This is about as close as you can get to the Capitol before coming under surveillance. In fact, I think that police car ahead on the left is about to come after me.

Another trip


Arriving at the Holiday Inn, Arlington, VA. Jeff's room was well-stocked.


San Francisco Airport Departure terminal

2:30 p.m., Monday

A wonderful feeling of well-being. I’m about to travel! I just had lunch at Gordon Biersch (chicken Caesar salad and 20-oz. hefeweissen), I’ve got my Peet’s Coffee and a chocolate chip cookie. My computer’s plugged in to an AC outlet. The only problem is T-Mobile has the wireless concession, so no free internet service. But life is good.

I was thinking it’s outrageous that disposable plastic flatware is used in the “upscale” Biersch café, but I realize Homeland Security has probably mandated no access to metal utensils beyond the security gates. (Still, I’m tempted to inquire whether the First Class Lounges also use plastic.)

How do you reconcile this love of technology and travel (and all its attendant waste and pollution) with a love of environmental and social causes? The question dominated much of the conversation as Henry and Charlene delivered me to the airport (in their nice SUV.) They were coming to San Francisco anyway, and offered to bring me, rather than have me take the $28 shuttle. They refused any payment for the kindness. (After all, they countered, I had taken care of their yard while they were in Hawaii.)

Maybe the reconciliation must come through a cost-benefit analysis? Maybe by having the travel serve to improve the human condition. (Which none of my travel has thus far qualified as.)

Sitting in the restaurant, gazing out to the tarmac as several 747s departed their gates and ponderously lifted into the hot atmosphere, I divided my attention between the outside and the nearby TV broadcasting an MSNBC financial program displaying a banner “Mideast Crisis”. I was incredulous at the jocular bantering of the host of “Kudlow and Company”, as he questioned how the violence in Israel and Lebanon was impacting markets. As the various experts joked and clearly supported the “cleaning-out” ass-kicking that Israel is currently involved in, I was appalled. “Send these asshole clowns and their families to the front lines and wipe the goddamn smiles right off their faces.”

The 747s, as magnificent as they are, in a darker way exemplify the reality of classes, with their “upper deck” which only the affluent can access. I’ve never seen that space. But they are amazing, and if given the opportunity, I’m happy to ride in Economy. The fact that I have even flown in one sets me apart from most people on the planet.

Now is a good time to invest in defense industries and the Israeli stock market, they say. It is nothing but a game for these greedy lunatics.

Every time I experience the flood of such thoughts, I have to examine “what are my prejudices? What am I missing?” From one perspective, this is reality: standing on the sideline wagering “who’s going to obliterate whom?”

"Their loss is my gain. Let them burn. I get the spoils when they’ve killed each other off. Besides, it’s good for business, good for the economy. It’s all part of job creation, and jobs mean security, better schools and happier families. So let the fools bomb each other to dust." War gives purpose to so many of our lives.


THIS MORNING

Before leaving the house, everything staged and waiting for the appointed hour, I tuned into Rush Limbaugh’s show. Rush and the morons calling in to his show gave me a glimpse of a reality that’s difficult to grasp. Here, this nutcase is advocating the bombing of Syria and Iran! The most irresponsible boosterism imaginable.

It really makes me think there is no hope for humanity whatsoever. Extremists like Limbaugh, like the Sheiks he condemns, can undo the work of so many good-intentioned human beings. As I listen to his callers, I wonder “where do they find these people?” And how did our educational system utterly fail to have an impact?


***

My flight is on a division of United called “Ted, a part of United” (how witty!) It's no doubt intended to compete with Southwest Airlines. But United misleads you when you book reservations, giving no indication that you’ll be flying the budget airlines instead of the actual United.

Remarkably, the orange logo on the tail reminds me of flames. "The geniuses in marketing at work again."

I watch the pilots board ahead of passengers. A graying bunch approaching the age where stress takes its toll, I’m amazed how readily we entrust our lives to their care.

It used to be only crazy people talked to themselves. Now I’m surrounded by people who seem to be doing it. It’s harder than ever to tell the crazy ones.

We're flying an Airbus A319 to Washington. Isn't that a long way for this smallish aircraft?


***

After our 4:30 lift-off, we sail eastward through the hazy afternoon. Below, the Sierra’s Stanislaus National Forest is a patchwork of clear-cuts.

Flight attendants pass down the aisle. “Would you like to purchase a snack?” The $5 chicken salad or salami sandwich snack is a slap in the face for travelers. What happened to “complimentary” meals?

After this trip (paid for with accumulated miles), I don’t intend to fly United. Customer satisfaction means little. The amenities are disappearing, while the hassle and inconveniences are increasing.

In the cloud tops, there is a brown layer of haze. I worry it’s the result of man-made pollution, but perhaps it’s only from naturally-occurring forest and range fires.

Tried to monitor progress across the country, listening in on the cockpit channel. Some rough weather from the Sierras eastward. The pilots sought permission to “vector” around numerous thunderheads, occasionally getting into some moderate chop. On recent flights, I’ve almost been bored for lack of excitement. But the bumpy ride today reminded me of some past flying adventures that were just a bit too exciting.

Arrived at Washington’s Dulles airport around 12:30 a.m. It’s a huge place. And, even after a trolley ride between terminals, it feels like I walked half a mile to reach the baggage claim. Surprised to see a Gordon Biersch restaurant at this end of the line as well.

Called Jeff at the Arlington Holiday Inn. Stepped out into the 85-degree heat and high humidity. A different world. Only a few people quietly waiting at this hour. I think all the flights were now in.

Cars remained in motion around the airport. Security requires that no one stop, except for immediate loading or unloading. I began to recognize them repeatedly making the long slow circuit, slowing to look for someone as they passed the terminal.

Jeff arrived after about thirty minutes and I stepped into the comfort of his air-conditioned Honda Pilot.