Posts Tagged With: vets


laurel_showerFrom Bathroom Designs

I had intended to go to Modesto with Jim to have a muffler installed on his Bronco, do a bit of shopping and go out to lunch.  But, my contractor wanted me to pick a handicapped shower on-line, so I stayed home.  Anything I liked, like the one in this picture, didn’t fit the space well.

5LDS6033B17T-sHandicapped model

The ones that fit the space, were smaller than this, with no color border, very antiseptic and plain. I spent a lot of time and visited 25 websites and learned about ADA approved showers and the cheapest I could find was over $2,000 and ugly. Not the least bit of character like the one in this picture. No fun, but I’m determined that the future with the multiple amputees from the recent wars, is going to demand more handicapped rentals. And, as we age, we may need some assistance, too.

Jim’s day was no fun, so I’m glad I didn’t go with him. He broke down on the road. A water hose got a hole in it and he was out of water. He thanked me for always keeping a big jug of water in the cars, (I always have a change of clothes and water in the Bronco, too.) “It saved my life”,  he told me. ” I made an emergency repair in the hose and used that water to get me to a place with a service station, and then a Napa Auto supply for a fix.”

He was late for Mitchell Muffler in Modesto.  Bobby Brown waited for him, the vet we met at the Defender Lodge. He left just before Jim arrived. He got the new muffler installed. It breathes easier, his mileage should improve and all the rattles and noise he was hearing is gone. The price was about $300 with taxes out the door, thank you Jeremiah.  And, Bobby Brown called him and asked him how he liked his service?  Terrific, in a word. Thanks Bobby.  What a crazy day for both of us.

I’m still working on the bathroom redesign. Managed to get out to do a little watering yesterday. And, I took pictures of some of the artwork on the walls at the Hospital and Defender Lodge when I was there. Got my art fix, and I’ll blog them tomorrow.


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Rolling down Michigan’s interstate Highway 75, you don’t see much. This scene is what passes for a mountain in the flat, Great Lakes State rubbed flat by a glacier millions of years ago.

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At a rest stop I photographed what I believed to be poisonous sumac. I remember it as a child when I grew up in the Upper Peninsula. I made pink frosting with the berries with my mother’s warning ringing in my ears. “Don’t taste it, remember, it is poisonous.” I looked it up on the internet and  found out it is a harmless relative of poison sumac. It can cause a rash, and that’s it.

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I saw several old barns and managed to catch two of them. By the time I get my lens cap off, open the window and aim, with the motor home on cruise control, I usually miss.

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I call them endangered species. What I missed, a truck with 22 tires, eleven dullies per side, racing  down the road. The second item I missed:  a sign on a tiny building, about 4 feet tall and 3 feet square with a satellite dish attached to the roof and this sign:  My Wife Wanted To Come Home and I told her I’d build her a Place Of Her Own.  Third: we’ve seen two WORKING drive in movie places. Also endangered species.

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We reached Indian River and had the good luck to pull into Post #7439. We were just about to have a cocktail when Dave, Leo and Ray pulled in and invited us in for a beer. Dave is 60, Navy, Viet Nam era. Leo, 85 years young, WWII. Ray, age 80, a veteran of the Korean War. A super friendly bunch of guys who welcomed us and traded stories with us for a couple of hours.  In fact Ray taught me about a place in California I’d never heard of. We were pointed to a better road than the Interstate for tomorrow, and reminded of a number of sites to see.  Vets! It doesn’t get better than this bunch of Brothers. Thanks, guys.

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The sun was barely up. Jim and I,  dressed in our morning sweats, were finishing our blog. Jim said, “Let’s skip breakfast and go watch the balloonists take off.”  In the park field, people were scattered about, laying their balloons on the ground.

The Freedom Flight and Ride began the previous night in town. The balloonists gathered on both sides of the street in Gallup,  fired their propane burners to form a flaming  arch for the motorcade of biking vets to ride through. That was the ride, which we missed. Now the flight part at the Red Rock Park grounds. (You can double-click any of these photos to enlarge them.)

Having never been to a balloon launch before, what struck me first was the number of people it takes to launch a balloon.  Ken Ferguson’s  crew put down a huge tarp, dragged out their balloon, and laid it out.  Ken answers to Fergie.

As they tested their burner and began laying out their balloon, the sun was just touching the tops of the rocks.

As the balloon inflates, crew member Debra,  assists the balloon in spreading and unfolding.

What soon resembled colorful, beached whales were sprouting up all over the field.

Balloonists congregate in clubs and have a working crew that assists the balloon owner/pilot. Crews worked swiftly, without much comment, but the propane burners filling the balloons could be heard all over the field.  I video taped a partial launch that you can see and hear at this link:

Everywhere I turned, balloons began  puffing up like giant marshmallows.

I got giddy with excitement and wanted to clap or shout each time another one became upright.

Up, up and away.

Soon dozens of them were flying as I watched, transfixed.

The heated balloon rises, but the wind dictates where it will fly.

Jim the technical person, wanted a blow-by-blow of what it takes to launch a balloon and attached himself to Fergie. He was very  friendly, patient  and informative.

The balloon is now full and is beginning to lift off the ground.

There she goes, hauling the gondola (basket) upright. Kind of taking on a life of her own.

Fergie’s balloon, named  Itsa Touchie Subject,  is upright;  the flyers are climbing aboard, and off they go.

It may seem obvious, but it is important for the members to be able to recognize the balloon in the air for the chase team to spot and follow.

Balloons from a distance can look much alike. You must know your colors or you might chase the wrong balloon.    Jim told me we were invited to ride in the vehicle with the chase crew.

At one point we were flying along this dirt road only to find ourselves fenced off.  Debra, in the balloon van  ahead of us,  found and opened a gate. There are often two chase vehicles.

Brenda, our driver, re-routed and got stopped for a minute by wild horses crossing the road as we bumped along. But, she spotted the Itsa Touchie Subject  just as it was about to land.

All hands steadied the basket while two people unloaded.  Jim and I were invited to take their place for the second “hop.”  I was bowled over by the generosity of this crew. Realize, not everyone can afford a balloon. A second-hand one, just the balloon, can cost upwards of $20,000.  It is an expensive sport. Crew members participate so they can ride. They gave up their ride for us and Thank You is hardly adequate.

The balloon from inside the basket.

Fergie gave a couple of blasts of propane and in seconds we were floating upward and waving to the ground crew.

I spotted the herd of wild ponies we met earlier on the road.

Flying is  sensuous, serene, beautiful.

The Freedom Flyers dotted the sky as we ascended to about 800 feet AGL. (Above Ground Level)

Part of the pilots job is to scout out a landing spot big enough for the balloon;  hopefully near a road where the pick up van can get to you;  and in a place un-fenced so no one has to heave an 800 pound or heavier  basket over it.

A couple of planned bumps, and we were down. The pilot keeps the balloon inflated enough to give the spotter something to see. When he is positive he’s been found, he can let the air out in a very precise fashion.

Everyone but the pilot bails as the balloon loses air and drags the basket over on its side. The ground crew lays out the tarp in the path of the falling balloon. Sometimes it is a miss, as in this case. The wind is a wiley engine.

The basket end cords are held taut. A crew member pulls out the top so it doesn’t fold deeply inside the balloon.

The balloon is “milked”, lifting and stripping  air out. Then crew members place velcro ties loosely about 3 feet apart.

Once it is secured and disconnected from the basket the lines are neatly tucked into the final fold.

The tied balloon is shouldered by half the crew, as others move the bag up three feet at  a time so the balloon can be stuffed into its bag. The tarp too, is folded and stuffed in a separate bag. The balloon alone weighs about 300 pounds.

Then the basket is loaded into the van. The flight is over, but not the fun.  Fergie referred to a ceremony that takes place after a flight.  I’m just beginning to get acquainted with the crew and loving every minute of it.  This wasn’t just a balloon ride.  We were included in every aspect of the ballooning sport.

More tomorrow. In the mean time, if you’d like to look at a partial  album where you can click on a slide show and see pictures full screen size, click the following link:

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If you like a good ghost story you might enjoy this one. Before we left Smethport, PA. we saw a sign to visit the old jail where the ghost of Ralph Crossmire appeared after he was hung by his neck until dead. We didn’t visit the jail, which is run by the local Historical Society, I believe, but I did go on-line and read his whole story. You can check it out at:

Smethport was a nice town, friendly and pretty with a good sized lake and park.

A huge flock of Canadian Geese make this lake their home. Above is a small portion of the lake and a small portion of the flock.

I walked around the lake on Goose Chasing Trail, appropriately enough. I saw along this wall of greenery on the trail many berry bushes and a huge plop of bear scat. Not a place to walk at night. The park had ball fields, several childrens playgrounds, tennis courts, a skate board area; You can fish and kayak, and sail boats and swim here. A huge barbeque area for group affairs plus many strategically located more private picnic areas with benches. I crossed two bridges over the water. For a small population of about 19,000 people, it was commendable. If I were to chose a place to live in Pennsylvania, this might be it.

Down the road apiece was this figure attached to a hunt and bait shop. Methinks the area is a great hunting, fishing and skiing area, judging from the mountainous terrain of the Allegheny Mountains. And, the main grocery here had better prices compared to what we were paying for items in Ivoryton and Dartmouth.

Yesterday, I attempted to get a picture of a snowmobile crossing sign and missed several of them. But, I finally succeeded after three tries on this stretch of road headed for Ashtabula.

Our journey was somewhat eventful in that a truck turning right pulled within inches of us at a stop light, then backed up and made the narrow turn. I was so transfixed I didn’t get his picture. Likewise when we came to a very narrow underpass. This one, pictured below, was lower than normal, but not so narrow. The transportation department gave plenty of warning that it was coming up. Twelve feet seven inches. The motor home is Eleven feet two inches.

Then, we stopped for lunch and a stretch at Union City and wondered what all the yellow ribbons were for? Maybe vets? Maybe cancer awareness? Its a local thing.

Signs we saw, but not in time to get a picture:
(That was Conneaut)
(On cape cod, we saw a DEAF CHILD sign.)
That last one really has me curious. We saw it in three places in two small towns???
Life on the road is fun even whizzing by. We made it to Ashtabula.

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