Sunday, June 19, 2011

Somewhat Daily Dose of Wow! 19 Jun 2011

Today I took a little train ride here in Cripple Creek.

And this is what I saw:

Tripping to Cripple Creek

I have the camper back again and we are away for the weekend. The camper's little boo-boos from the long trip to Texas and Florida and back and then back to Texas again and back again required a little trip to the camper hospital for a short stay and some repairs. But I have her back, almost as good as new (although truthfully, she could use a bath and a coat of wax). She was all ready to go, and then the thunderstorm rolled in. So we waited it out while I put together some groceries for the trip.

My first stop on my way out of town was to Elk Mountain Brewery to refill my Growler. I like a dark beer, so I ordered the Amber Brown. It wasn't until I had reached Cripple Creek, unhitched and set up the camper, and reach for the growler for some liquid refreshment that I realized the bartender had written Amber on the lid. I had to laugh. Sometimes Maxwell is just too damn obvious.

I didn't get out of town without incident. The camper will have to go back to the repairman for a little fix:

In case you don't see it, this side is supposed to look like the other side:

You should see the other guy.

It was actually an inanimate object. One of those heavy reinforced concrete pillars to protect the ATMs from terrorists.  I cut it just a little close. Was really glad I didn't have a passenger in the car giving me hell. I pretty much took care of that myself.

I picked the first RV camp that sounded like it was off the highway and off the beaten track. Cripple Creek Hospitality House & RV Park is all of that, and comes with a story or two. The Hospitality House is the old Teller County Hospital. It is just up B Street from Teller County Junior and Senior High School and was built at the height of the gold rush in this area, 1901.
The RV park is better than some I have been in, but is not for the usual KOA camper. It comes with full hookups and wifi and, fortunately, no cable TV. The wifi allows me to entertain myself when the weather gets a little iffy. For instance, as I write this the wind is howling around outside, and it is nippy.  

There aren’t many other campers here. Perhaps it is because it’s so early in the season. I’m not complaining. I pretty much have a nice little area all to myself with good views all around, and less people is less stimulating for the dogs (we’re working on the whole territorial barking thing – it isn’t going well).

I took them, the dogs that is, out for a long walk this morning. Up and down the hill and back and forth on the grid of streets that go down the mountain from the Hospitality House. At 10,000 plus feet, the exertion got my cardio-respiratory system cranking, but did very little to calm the dogs down. So many smells! So many unfamiliar critters! And, “OMG Jack, do you see THAT! Is that horse shit? OMG it’s my FAVORITE!” Inevitably, the most exciting smells and sites have to occur when I am fighting my way to breathe and keep my feet moving on the uphill portions of the walk.

We came across the Cripple Creek volunteer firefighting and rescue squad doing some training on a Saturday morning. As we stopped to watch, the trainers were emphasizing the need to communicate loudly and clearly that the ladder was going up, coming down, or coming through. Each of the trainees had to be able to handle the ladder independently: carry it to the wall, get it up against the wall, and then get it down and carry it back – all without injuring themselves or others. No wonder firemen are in such good shape!

It was lunch time when we returned to the camper from our walk. Some ground beef seasoned with fresh onion, garlic, basil, oregano, and parsley. Followed by a pint of Amber Brown, a half pint of blue-berries and a nap. The nap was also delicious, by the way.

When this summer thunderstorm passes there will be another long walk up and down the mountain followed by leftover seasoned beef with some rice for dinner and a salad of fresh things from the garden. Not my garden, but somebody’s organic garden.

If I am lucky, and the free wifi internet connection connects, I will be able to post this at some point and then play some word games with my word-game pals in Canada, Omaha, San Francisco, Texas, and Hawaii while I finish the last glass of Amber Brown. Cheers!

Note: It's Sunday and the internet is back up and I have decided to stay another night here on the mountain. It feels like home.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Message From Bill

My dearest friend of a thousand years has been encouraging me to listen to Crosby, Stills and Nash on Pandora. I'm a paying subscriber, because of its flexibility to my moods, so had been planning on getting around to it (really I was). Then I got two more nudges from other places to listen to Crosby, Stills and Nash. It was a quorum, and so today I plugged in CSN and within minutes realized that the music was speaking to me in a very specific way today. And so, with thanks to Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Taylor, Fleetwood Mac, The Zombies, and the Beatles:

The Message

Just a song before I go.
Carry on.
If you can't be with the one you love,
Honey, love the one you're with.

Never going back again
Running on empty.
Jackson Brown in my dreams.
If I can get you to smile before I leave--
--Can't you see the sunshine?
--Can't you just feel the moonshine?
I'm dying ain't I?
I'm on the dark side of the moon.
It's the time of the season for loving.

To everything, there is a season.
Turn, turn, turn
A time to every purpose under heaven.
You were going your way;
I was going mine.
Can this road be taken at all?

Because I'm still in love with you
I want to see you dance again.
Get back to where you once belonged.
There is that fine sense of humor when I'm feeling down.
Crazy love.
Nobody left to please.
Bye bye, baby.
Know I love you.
Write if you think of it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I just spent the past eight days with a group of 300 or so of my closest friends, my fellow vets. We were Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines -- and there were even a few Coasties in there, as well. Some of us were first-termers-and-out, others gave a few more years, and a good many of us went for the whole Monty and stayed 20-30 or so years. Now, to be clear, I don't know all these folks intimately but in a sense we have intimate knowledge of one another.

We've been there, where-ever there was and were ready to do whatever our leaders required of us. Sometimes our leadership was in synch all the way up the chain of command, and sometimes it wasn't. The American Civil War, whose sesquicentennial we commemorate this year, was such a time when there was schism in our national leadership, and I can only imagine the horrendous torment of facing your former comrade and classmate across the battlefield.

I served from the end of the Viet Nam War through the Cold War and Desert Storm. I served on Okinawa and in the Republic of Korea and in one of the most beautiful little towns in the country, San Angelo, TX. My son served in a forward support position, but behind the lines of battle, during the Iraqi containment and the invasion of Iraq, and has since put boots on the ground in a DoD supportive role. My niece serves still and has only returned to the mainland from her first overseas  assignment. She was on Okinawa for twelve years, excepting some time in training and in the air over hostile territories. My father and my uncles served. My great uncles served. We are Army, Navy, and Air Force (with Air Force leading the pack, by the way). We invested in this country with our lives, and we expect that the promises made to us when we took the oath of enlistment will be kept.

And that's what I meant when I said that I spent the past eight days with 300 of my closest friends. We know that we and our families are at risk. We know this especially because of who we are. We are the County Veterans Service Officers all across the country, and we see the crippled veteran.There are sooo many ways to be crippled -- and these wars we have been involved in have been especially crippling. Our VietNam vets are coming down with diseases tied to Agent Orange (aggressive cancers, Parkinson's Disease, diabetes, and more). If they were there, they were exposed. Our current crop of returning vets have suffered injuries on an astronomical scale. Devastating brain injuries, loss of limb, losses that you cannot imagine. Not to mention the crippling nature of poverty. We also see his widow (or her widower) and his or her orphan. And while the cost of living has increased in the last several years (gas and groceries), recognition of that in VA income tests hasn't changed. So a WWII widow grossing $13,000 a year in Social Security, before taxes and medicare premiums of about $7000, is considered to be too affluent for VA widow's pension. How would you like to pay your rent, utilities, and groceries for a year on $6000. Maybe you'd like cable TV to keep you company since you can't get around much anymore? Or maybe you'd like to travel to see your grandkids? Did I mention that poverty is crippling?

We see the veteran and his widow and orphan, and we see the dangers in this economy. We were at risk on the battlefield and we are at risk at home. I thought we were better than that.

When I sat down to write this piece, I was contemplating the origin of the salute that is shared between comrades in arms. I won't go into the arcane rules the modern day soldier follows. The origin, though somewhat romantic, was very functional. It began in the days when knights, and those rich enough to afford their own army, wore protective helmets with visors. When they would meet one another on the road, if they were not hostile they would lift the visor and make eye contact and exchange a greeting. Perhaps, "Good morning, good sir." To not return the salute would be an insult at best and a hostile act at the worst. These little bands would come to know one another, and when an outside force attempted hostilities, they would band together. Over time, they established protocols so they could tell their side from the hostiles, and the salute evolved as one of those protocols.

The salute has a long and honored history as a recognition of the respect we have for each other. That is why I hope you will join me in a salute to my fellow vets, and to his widow and orphan. Don't let them be forgotten.