Sunday, April 24, 2016

Now for the big zip

Toolbox, Dewey and I were off on another adventure, Thursday, April 7.  We had reservations to do the Out of Africa zip line that flies over a wildlife park.  Woo hoo.  Hope we don’t get dropped into a lion’s den.
How much longer till lunch gets here?  (Photo by Out of Africa Wildlife Park.)
We met up and Toolbox got us there.  The road into the park dipped down steeply and you couldn’t see where it went from up above, so I was a bit nervous about getting in someplace I’d not be able to get out of easily.  No problem.  Although the parking lot was gravel.  Gravel is not my friend.  Never has been, but I aced this one.

The zip line folks wanted us to sign waivers.  I figured that covered them in case the cable broke and a rhino or tiger or hyena got us.  We signed anyway.  We were not allowed to take cameras or cell phones as they’ve had incidents of things getting dropped and harming the animals.

The next step was getting harnessed and then climbing more than 200 steps to get to the top of the first platform.
High above the ground, we took off ... and zipped along to the other side.
Zippity do dah, and off we went.  The zips are fast … and on the first one I was all about the zip.  But when looking down you see the animals, and the succeeding zips were more about seeing them and enjoying the view.

There was another one looking for lunch.  They were all looking for lunch.  They think we taste like chicken, you know.  (Photo by Out of Africa Wildlife Park.)
There was also a suspension bridge … I bounced up and down on it.  I think Dewey needs to get over a fear of heights.  Haha!!!
Suspension bridges are very cool ... especially when above a wildlife park.  What's down there?
I think Toolbox had a good time.
More zips, and then the last one.  This had three zip lines.  We went in groups of three and it was a race.  They said to use whatever means you needed to, to win.  Toolbox, Dewey and I were lined up.  The guide said 3, and I pushed off.  Funny.  Toolbox said I cheated.  All I did was compensate for him weighing more than I did.  I won!!!!!  Haha.

The zip crew.
From the zip went into the wildlife park.  All of the animals have come from bad situations, for instance, someone trying to raise a tiger in an apartment.  So, basically, they’re all rescues.

The first thing we were signed up to do was feed a tiger.  You do this through a fence, using one of those “help me pick it up” tools.  The tigers were quite accommodating and kept eating.  It was fun and helps pay for their food.

Yep.  I was not on the menu today.
Next we were going on an “inside-the-fence” tour that would include feeding a giraffe.  Cool.  I’m all about getting close to the wildlife.  Some of it, anyway.  We drove around and had zebras and a giraffe close to the vehicle. 

How many?  They kind of all blend together, but there's a young one in there.

Just doing a tongue test to see how long it is.
The guide said if we were brave we could put the giraffe food in our mouths and let it take it from us that way.  I used to feed my horse carrots that way. So I could, and would, and hopped over the seat to get closer to the giraffe.  That big, long giraffe tongue came out and gently snatched the carrot from me.  What a great experience.  I’d handed Dewey my camera.  For some reason he didn’t get the shot.  Crap!!!

This was the best we could do ... later, in the gift shop.
From there we wandered around and our guide told us about the animals and how they interact will all of them on a daily basis, except for the hyenas who will rip off your face.  Yep.  I understood that.  I looked at the hyenas, and they looked like they were laughing, saying come on in.  We’ll have fun.  I think they lie.
Jericho ...

Cypress says, "Tastes like chicken."
Leaving so soon?  I'm still hungry.
From there we ended our tour, and walked about until time to leave … and headed back toward town.  The boys and I separated, and Dewey and I made a plan to meet the next day … Arizona Bike Week was upon us.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Standin' on a corner

It was just Dewey and me today, Tuesday, April 5, and we were off to Winslow, a few hours up the road.  Winslow was founded in 1882, and was and is a railroad city.  We didn’t go to see a railroad.  But a little history is in order.  Winslow was named after a prominent railroader, General Edward F. Winslow.  Situated at 4,880 feet above sea level, the town’s location was chosen because it had the surest water supply required for the steam engines of the time, and it was an easy place to cross the Little Colorado River. 

The town’s attraction to us was based on a song, “Take it Easy,” by the Eagles.  “Well, I’m standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine site to see.  It’s a girl my lord in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me.” 

It was the Standin’ on the Corner Park for us, and we found it, just across the street from where we were standing admiring a huge 66 in the middle of the road, denoting Route 66.  This corner is considered the most famous one of the historic Route 66.  Everyone wants a photo on this piece of the highway, and we were no different.  We did have to scramble a bit to get out of the way of a few vehicles.  Haha!!
Run, Dewey, run.
The park itself features a life-size bronze statue of a musician, a flatbed Ford and a mural that depicts the lyrics of the song.  All that history was exhausting and required some ice cream, so we made our way back across the street to a place that made their own … oooooohhhhh.  It was sooooooo good.
Yep, standin' on the corner of Winslow history.  This area was dedicated Sept 11, 1999, as a tribute to the song of the 70s.
From there we found out there was a 9-11 memorial just down the road.  Dedicated to the horrific events that occurred Sept. 11, 2001, and a promise by this town to “never forget” we made our way to the east end of Winslow.  The memorial features two large pieces of the Twin Towers wreckage.  Standing 14 and 15 feet high, the beams bring home, once again, the ugliness that found its way to our country nearly 15 years ago.  I don’t believe that anyone who was in this country on that day will ever forget.  It’s certainly burned into my memory, and I only saw it on television. 
The flag in the background was flown at the Pentagon. 
The words, "United we stand" are to remind the world that we will not fear terrorism.
There’s a lot to see in the Winslow area, but we’d planned to carry on and head to Meteor Crater, a short distance down the road.  We had to make tracks as time was running out.  The crater closes at 5 p.m., and we got there about 3:30. 

A meteor collided with earth about 50,000 years ago, with the resulting explosion creating what’s now called Meteor Crater.  It’s said to be the best preserved impact site on our planet.  It was an incredible site, and we wandered to a couple of the lookout points.  I wished we’d had time to do the rim tour, but that wouldn’t happen today.
This photo is taken looking toward the center of the crater.

Looking left.

Looking right.
We did watch a movie with a giant screen and surround sound that simulated the meteor crashing to earth.  It was impressive as it showed it traveling 26,000 miles an hour, passing through our atmosphere, and striking Earth with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT. 
This photo was taken of the movie screen.  While it's not the best, the simulation certainly shows the power of a meteor impact.  I wouldn't have wanted to be in its way.
This photo was taken from the movie, as well.  It shows the crater as being more squarish than round.
The Holsinger Meteorite is the largest discovered fragment of the 150-foot meteor that created Meteor Crater.
The impact left a bowl-shaped crater about a mile across and more than 550 feet deep.  A 60-story building could rest on the crater floor and its top would just reach the crater rim.  Twenty football fields could be placed on the crater floor and more than 2 million fans could watch games from the crater’s walls.  That’s a lot of space being used.  In fact, the topography so closely resembles that of the moon that NASA made it an official training site for the Apollo astronauts.
This test capsule, Boiler Plate 29A, never flew into space.  Built in 1965 to test the systems that helped Apollo space capsules float upright after splash-down at sea, it represents a command module, the control enter for astronauts who traveled to the moon, and is the only portion of the Apollo spacecraft that returned to Earth.
Wednesday, April 6, was an easy day.  Once again it was Dewey and me and we decided to meet at the new Desert Wind Harley-Davidson.  I’ve also known this building as Chosa’s and Chester’s, so needed to find a poker chip or pin for this one.  Alas, Dewey got lost and his phone GPS was of no help.  It had overheated or something like that and wasn't working.  He was about an hour late in arriving, so we only had time to do a quick lunch before I needed to get back to the house to be there before Verlie got home from work.  It was time enough for me to find a shirt, or two, but no pin as their logo has a death head on it.  That’s a no go for me.  I’ll use a poker chip on my map.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Fun in Fee-nix

Memorials and serious stuff out of the way, it was time for some non-serious things to do around this town of Fee-nix (better known as Phoenix).  I was here for a couple of weeks, and there’s so much to do that sometimes it’s hard to make a decision. 

Mostly, I’ve spent time with Joe, Chuck and Dewey, or one or two of them, riding around, visiting Harley shops, of course, and doing touristy things.  And I’m home at night when Verlie gets off work and we can visit, do dinner or whatever.  As usual, ice cream and frozen custard played a part in our evenings many times. 

On March 31, Thursday, Joe and I headed to Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale, the one that puts on the official Arizona Bike Week.  We were going to meet Chuck and Dewey there and maybe have a bit of lunch, and wander around the shop.

This shop is huge, and with Dewey’s help we found a photo booth that they have.  Uh oh.  I’m in it for the “ham.”
There was a closet with all kinds of hats and fun things.
The next best thing for me was that there were bikes there representing all branches of the service.  They were all very cool bikes.  If I had a winning lottery ticket, Biker Bill would have the Marine bike.  They were all very nicely done, but there was a special one that the owner would be giving away to a Vietnam veteran.  This one had a more spectacular paint job.  Wow!!!

The Navy bike, and the others represent the other branches of the service.

This is the Marine Corps. bike I'd have loved to get for Biker Bill.

This is the one the shop owner built, with all of his Marine Corps. info on it and a painting of his wife.  This is the one he gave away to a veteran.
Our day was finished and Toolbox, Dewey and I made plans to meet up the following day (April Fool’s Day) to head off to the little mining town of Goldfield.  They also have a zip line and I wanted to introduce the boys to “flying.”

We met up at a Bass Pro and headed out to Goldfield.  The zip line here is totally different than any I’ve been on before, with no harness.  You sit in a two-seater chair, like a ski-lift or ferris wheel seat.  The only thing holding you in was a seat belt across your middle.  It didn’t feel that secure to me as we were whisked backwards and up to the starting point. 
Flying down.
The seat hesitated for a few moments at the top allowing you to look around and enjoy the view, and then it zipped downward, with a top speed of about 30 mph.  It was fun, and I’m glad to have done it, but it was pretty tame after the other ones I’ve done.  But it was a good introduction for the boys.
We think Toolbox enjoyed his ride.
Goldfield is a pretty cute little tourist mining town and we wandered around a bit, doing the mine tour and walking around taking photos. 
The cactus blooms were gorgeous and our timing just right to see them.

The saloon was welcoming.  But ice cream called our names.

"Get me to the church on time."  Someone made it.

The country around this little town is beautiful.  I love all the rocks and mountains around Phoenix.  I just don't care for the summer heat.  This time of year is just about perfect.
Then it was time for me to head home for the day.
April 3 was a Sunday, and we were heading south to meet up with Becky and Lauren and a couple of their friends for lunch.  Becky and Lauren lived in Alaska and I had met them through the HOG group.  They’d recently moved to Arizona so I was excited to see them since it had been quite a while.  I’m kind of betting that I’ll see more of them in Phoenix and its surrounding area than I did here at home.  What’s wrong with that picture?  Ha!!!
We got to the restaurant they’d picked, only to find out that it was closed on Sunday.  What?  We sat on a bench in the shade and waited for them.  Once they arrived, we went to a nearby Mexican restaurant, Nana’s.  Yummy.
Yep.  There we are.  And who do you think we have joining us?  Yep.  He told us, "I may not always eat Mexican food, but when I do, I eat at Nana's."  Good advice.
After lunch, what do you think we did?  We went to a Harley shop … of course.  There are a couple of things going for Harley shops, besides buying stuff or a new bike.  They're always a place to hang out and visit, and they always have clean rest rooms.
And some of them even have beautiful murals, except for the snake, of course.
We hung around, looking at bikes, and so on, and then knew it was time to head back to the house.  We had to say goodbye to Becky, Lauren, Tamara and Shane.  It was so much fun to see them, and ride with them, and meet a couple of new, fun folks. 
Different day, different things.  Up near Miami, Arizona, there’s a beautiful, large shrine that I’ve visited a number of times.  The shrine is filled with photos of loved ones gone, Madonnas and candles, both lit and not yet lit.  It’s on Highway 60, east out of Phoenix, headed toward Globe.  I introduced Dewey to this and he has lit candles for his daughter for two years.  I’ve also lit candles for friends who have passed.  On Monday, April 4, I met up with Dewey and we went and bought some candles to light for friends who have passed, in addition to one for his daughter and one of his sons who is now gone. 
It’s always a lovely ride, and one of my favorites … up through giant rocks, next to a canyon on one side and a rock wall on the other.  I do this ride often when leaving town, and it’s always enjoyable.  Today was no exception even if our mission was not an enjoyable one.
We got to the shrine and lit some of our candles.  We stayed a bit showing respect for our passed relatives and friends.  Then it was time for lunch so we headed up to Globe to a Sonic … read awesome milkshakes.  While we there we had a few more requests for candles.  So back we went … we had a total of 13 candles lit this trip. 
Too many candles ... and this is only for a small group.  We had arranged them all in a straight line but they wouldn't stay lit.  I put them in the shape of a cross ... they stayed lit.  ??
That’s way more candles than I'd like to see ... Julie, Jason, Elaine, Jim, Sabrina, Virginia, Tony, Zookeeper's mom, Bubz, Bev, Steve, Pam's dad, Deb's brother   … but not enough when you figure all those who have gone before us. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016


I’d arrived in Phoenix last night, but today, March 30, was meeting up with my friends, Toolbox of the Combat Vets, and Dewey from the Yukon.  Joe rode with me and we headed up to the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, about 40 miles away.  We didn’t participate in the formal escort ride, but arrived at the entrance just before it came into the cemetery, and pulled in to ride behind it as it went on in. 

The parade had two hearses, and we all continued down a lane that was lined with Patriot Guard riders on either side holding flags in honor of the veterans who were arriving from their final journey.  It was an honor to be a part of the ride, even for a short way.

We were here in memory of those who served … for a memorial ceremony for unclaimed veterans’ cremains as they were honored and laid to rest.  The event is organized by the Missing in America Project (MIAP).  I had no idea what that was, so I asked someone.  The members of this group find and identify, as part of the Veteran Recovery Program, unclaimed cremains of American veterans, including those that are at civilian cemeteries. They move them to an honorable final resting place, and provide a ceremony that bestows respect and dignity to those that have fallen, giving them the recognition they rightly deserve. 

MIAP works with private, state and federal organizations, including the American Legion, local funeral homes, state and national veterans’ agencies, to find veterans who have been forgotten, residing in an urn in a mortuary or a storage facility at a crematorium.  There is a chapter of MIAP in all 50 states, and the work they do was evident from what we saw.  While I don’t know how up-to-date these figures are, the website says progress is 1,961 funeral homes visited, 13,031 cremains found, 3,006 veterans cremains identified and 2,735 veterans interred.  And it appears this organization only began its work in 2006.

Some of the cremains arrived in a beautiful black motorcycle hearse and others in a white hearse.  They were precisely positioned between folded American flags, and handed from the hearses oh-so-carefully as they were given to ROTC members to carry to a table.  A second ROTC person preceded every urn carrying a flag for each veteran.
The motorcycle hearse was as polished as could be, and loaded with chrome and some very fancy gas-lantern-style lights.

Veteran cremains were carefully positioned in indentations in a form in the hearse, and then surrounded by American flags.
I could read the name on this one ... HN Lee Reynolds, Navy Korea, 3/27/1931 - 2/22/1985.  He died more than 30 years ago and was now receiving the honor he had earned.  And he was only one of those being honored today.

Each veteran was carefully handled as they were carried to their last ceremony.
This young lady cradled her vet's cremains, and I believe this photo shows the high dimension of honor and respect being paid to these veterans as they were taken to their final resting place.

Those being honored were saluted by many as they were carried by.

The urns were methodically placed and the ceremony began.
Once the 43 urns were in place there was a beautiful ceremony that included a bagpiper, a flyover with the missing man formation, a flag-folding ceremony, a 21-gun salute and the playing of Taps.  Each veteran’s name was read aloud and a bell sounded in their honor.  The veterans on this day ranged from some who had more recently passed to a few from the Spanish-American War. 

I love bagpipes, and always enjoy them when they're a part of a ceremony.
The Missing Man is truly missing as I didn't get him flying away ... but was so glad this was a part of the ceremony.
The bell sounded for each and every one.

Our flag being properly folded.
Throughout the entire process, the Patriot Guard Riders of Arizona stood with flags bordering the ceremonial area. 
Proud flags.
The ceremony was emotional and touching.  One family member had been located in Tennessee and she was there to accept a flag in honor of her fallen veteran relative.  The process MIAP goes through to reach this point is time-consuming as they must follow local, state and national laws in the identification, claiming process and interment.  It may take a year or longer to reach this point, but it is such a worthwhile project as all veterans deserve to be laid to rest with honor, showing that America appreciates their service.

After the MIAP ceremony there was a ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans -- a Welcome Home Ceremony, that also included the bagpiper.  Another emotional ceremony honoring those who have not received the respect they deserved. 

A color guard began the Vietnam Veteran ceremony.

There was a wreath in the veteran's honor, "VA proudly commemorates our Vietnam Veterans."

And a touching, "Welcome Home" speech.  It wasn't a long ceremony, but one that was sincere, welcoming and meant to help heal wounds that have festered for more than 50 years.
We then headed off to Camp Verde to participate in escorting one of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Walls to the Posse Grounds Park in Sedona.  The Wall that would be displayed is the largest of five walls at about 80 percent size of the original one that is displayed in Washington, D.C.  A traveling wall has been moving about since 1984 and is intended to give those who cannot travel to D.C. the opportunity to respect and share in the experience of honoring our heroes. 

The Wall is contained in this trailer, and this is what we'd be escorting to Sedona.

One very cool trike.

One of the police bikes that escorted us -- just like mine, mostly.  I would have worn a helmet if they'd just given me some lights and a horn to put on my bike and let me help escort.
There was a police bike and vehicle escort and roads were blocked everywhere for about 30 miles.  We rode along slowly, usually between 25-30 mph, taking in the flags being flown, the signs thanking the vets.  The path we rode on into the Sedona Posse Grounds Park was again lined with the Patriot Guard holding up flags, some of them saluting. 

Escorting the Wall (Photo courtesy of Joe.)

Shooting behind him as we escorted the Wall.  (Photo courtesy of Joe.)

The Combat Vets Chapter 32-3 riding in.

Other riders in the escort.

There were a lot of other vehicles, including a Purple Heart one. 

I always like to see big, military vehicles.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see the Wall in D.C., as well as a traveling one that came to Anchorage a number of years ago.  Original or traveling, they draw your attention with their simplicity and bring emotions to the surface that one like me didn’t know existed.

Some of the Combat Veterans.

The Wall trailer is a "stand out" kind of trailer, noticeable no matter where it goes.

Some really good guys, these.
The entire day was an emotional one; I cannot begin to know what all of the people involved with the organization of these ceremonies or those that were a part of any of the wars went through.  But I do know that I was honored to be a part of it.
These are some very special guys and I was glad to make some new friends.

Joe, Dewey and I joining our new friends for a photo op.
On Saturday, April 2, Joe, Verlie and I headed again to Camp Verde, this time to take part in the “Welcome Home, Ride to Remember, Vietnam Veterans Day” ride.  It was another long parade and there must have been more than 150 bikes of all different sizes, makes and colors.  Again we were escorted and roads were blocked.  This time not only were there people holding up flags and signs of welcome and thanking the vets, there were fire trucks parked alongside the road with firefighters standing at attention. 

The firefighters were standing at attention as we rode by on our way to Sedona.  (Photo courtesy of Verlie.)

The ride was something, with bikes stretching both ahead of us and behind us.  (Photo courtesy of Verlie.)
I saw a car stopped and a young man standing next to it saluting those in the parade.  There were others who gave a thumb’s up, or held up Welcome Home signs.  It was moving, and the emotions were flying high again.  We arrived to a sea of red, white and blue as the Patriot Guard stood at attention.  Tears once again welled up to see patriotism alive and well in this beautiful state.

Riding into the park.  (Photo courtesy of Verlie.)

The United States Marine Corps flag was proudly flying in all its beautiful color.  This one is also for you, Biker Bill.  (Photo courtesy of Verlie.)
The Mayor of Sedona spoke in honor of the Vietnam veterans who were not well-treated upon their arrival home, and welcomed them to the city.  It was a very nice speech, and the backdrop, with the traveling wall and the mountains, was perfect.

The Traveling Wall.  There were 57 Alaskan lives lost in this war. 
The Purple Heart wreath.
The Prisoner of War / Missing in Action wreath.

The Mayor of Sedona.
The Fallen Soldier Memorial.  The fallen ranged from 17 to 62 years of age, with 2,654 Air Force, 38,209 Army, 7 Coast Guard, 14,838 Marine Corps and 2,555 Navy casualties.  Most died in combat (38,572), while others died of wounds, or while missing or captured or other non-hostile reasons.
There were wreaths set up and the Fallen Soldier Memorial.  I dropped a House of Harley poker chip into one of the boots … as a sign of respect from the Great State of Alaska.  I meant no disrespect but knew that Biker Bill had fallen comrades and I thought this could be a way to honor their memory since I knew I couldn’t find any of them on the wall as I didn’t know their names.

Toolbox lost several friends in this war.
 Another event today was with the Combat Vet group that I was around.  They were inducting three new members.  I was glad to be able to meet some of the guys from this chapter and to take photos to share with them. I also had more House of Harley poker chips that shows a bearclaw and I gave each of the inductees one.  It was a small token that I could share.  It was a nice ceremony, and again, the backdrop of the wall made it perfect. 

The ceremony.

And the swearing in of three new members.
These displays of honor on these few days bring tears to your eyes, even for someone like me who has never served.  I felt like an imposter who was infringing on things that maybe should have only been for those who had served their country.  But I was there to honor and show respect.
As I walked around I remembered the name of one of Biker Bill’s fellow Marines that was lost in combat in Vietnam.  I went into the area where they had the computers set up to help you to locate your person on the wall so you could make an etching of their name.   I asked about Lawrence or Larry Andersen.  I believed the spelling to be “en.”  We didn’t find but a few, so we checked with the spelling of “on.”  Bingo.  We found nearly 200.  The guy behind the computer said, “Okay, let’s narrow it down.”  I didn’t know where Larry was from, but I had an idea of dates … 1966-1968.  We found five.  We narrowed it further … there was only one Marine.  Yep, a hit.  I got my piece of etching paper and pencil and went out to find Larry Anderson.  Toolbox helped me find it and I had Dewey photograph me making the etching that I would take home to Biker Bill.  I felt proud I could do this for him as I know these things mean a lot to him.

The old knees have a hard time of it, but we did it. 
The etching for Larry Anderson was complete.
The House of Harley poker chip was placed under his name for honor.
I wasn't the only one leaving something in memory of someone.
Later in the evening I phoned home and told Biker Bill what I’d done.  He asked, “Who’s Larry Anderson?”  And he burst into guffaws of laughter … that didn’t stop.  It appears that initials that I thought stood for Larry Anderson stood for another person, and he didn’t know any Larry Anderson.  Oh well.  Biker Bill got a great laugh, and I paid tribute to Larry Anderson from Spokane, Washington.  May he rest in peace, and thank you for your service, sir.

And this one's for you, Biker Bill.  Thank you for your service.