8 Ball In The Wind

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lost Heroes

I was watching a DVD the other night; HBO's 'From The Earth To The Moon', and I realized that I was watching stories about my childhood heroes.  Then I realized that is something that has been missing in our society for a couple of generations.  I couldn't think of a real individual who I could say was good 'hero' material for a young person for the past couple of decades.  I am not talking a celebrity that can be idolized because of the character they play on TV or in films.  Or ahtletes who are idolized for their sports abilities.  But a real person who can be admired individually for their accomplishments.

I wasn't old enough to remember the Mercury space flights.  I do remember the Gemini missions.  To this day, I find them heroic in many ways.  They were still trying to figure out this whole space flight routine, and how to do things that now aren't even newsworthy today.  But in the mid 1960's, it was national news.  Two spacecraft making a rendezvous in space was something that had never been done before.  The same with actually docking with another spacecraft.  It was all being done for the first time, by a small group of men who were dedicated to the task.  Risking their lives to accomplish an extraordinary task.

Launch of Gemini-Titan 3.  The 1st manned Gemini mission

I can remember getting up at five and six in the morning, just to watch the rockets launch.  What seemed like such dangerous rockets with the small Gemini capsule on its top were worth watching.  Perhaps it was also the fact that the Gemini capsules had a sort of 'face' to them like a friendly mutt dog compared to Apollo's huge Saturn V rocket where you could barely even make out the capsule.  Maybe because for a year and a half, it seemed like so much was happening with Gemini that interest didn't wane.  Even as a kid, I knew it was very dangerous, and even the splashdown could be a disaster if the capsule sank.  Plus the live news feeds of the helicopters flying around and picking up the astronauts made for exciting TV for a 5 year old watching.

Gemini 7 from Gemini 6...1st rendezvous in space

To this day; the names Gus Grissom, and Jim Lovell stand head and shoulders above the other heroes of my youth.  Because they were real men, doing extraordinary things.  My old stingray bicycle was covered in decals from the various Gemini missions that came out of some cereal or other.  Yes, I guess as a little kid I was a space geek.  But these men were my heroes, and still are today.

Gus Grissom

Gus Grissom was my hero above all the other astronauts back then.  That may be why after his death; along with Ed White, and Roger Chaffee in the Apollo 1 capsule, I found it difficult to even like the Apollo astronauts, much less admire them.  Gus and Ed were gone in a flash, and that left only Jim Lovell, and to a lesser extent Neil Armstrong from my Gemini heroes left.  When they went up in Apollo, I still felt a bit of the awe from Gemini, but it was because they were still my heroes, and they still were having amazing adventures in space.

By the time the shuttle had come along, NASA had made space flight seem almost blase.  Now it was just a glorified airliner making regular flights.  No longer pioneers trying to understand a new frontier, or participating in dramatic discoveries and exploits.  They had lost the air of heroism in space flight.  Perhaps that is why there was such shock and disbelief when we lost the Challenger and the Columbia.  The public had forgotten just how dangerous space flight truly was.  That it wasn't as common place, and routine as all the sci-fi movies and TV shows made it out to be.

Those were amazing times which will not likely be seen again.  Society has changed, and it no longer seems to be appropriate to admire heroic individuals for doing extraordinary things as a daily job.  Risk seems to be something society wants to avoid now.  With society so afraid of risk anymore, it seems unlikely that we will have individuals risking everything in the search for knowledge, and discovery of the unknown anytime soon.  Today, the heroes of society are no longer the real risk takers.  The individuals who lay it all on the line because it is what needs to be done. Even our servicemembers, true heroes are not publicly praised as exhalted for the risks they experience everyday in the line of their duties.  As a group, they are somewhat exhalted, but in an unfocussed way.  No longer given heroes welcomes and parades down main street in their honor.

Today, society has new heroes; multi-millionaire athletes, and celebrities famous for nothing more than being rich and attractive.  People famous for attracting attention to themselves, but not necessarily for achievements of any real note.  We have lost our heroes, they have fallen...and it is our fault they have.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Got Me By The Balls

It's December here in the Cascade Mountain foothills.  The cold and damp is seeping into my knees, back, and fingers.  The weather and finances severely limiting my riding time.  All the while, Wanderlust has me by the balls.  Even my dreams lately have been traveling, or perhaps memories of places would be more precise.  Places I've been, or places I want to see again.  Just fragments of memories that stir things and make me get the urge to go.  

Dreaming of waking up under a freeway overpass outside of Junction City, Kansas.  The warm early morning sun shining down and getting me eager to move on.  But then, moving on from Kansas would be a dream at any rate.  Getting stuck there in that flat nothing would be a living Hell.

Thinking about places and times, and things I have done out on the road.  Knowing I am stuck here for the time being.  Unable to hit the road and see what is down between those white lines until Gypsy is up and ready to haul my ass there; I have to see it in my mind.
Little teases from the roads I have been on before, and ones I want to travel.  

It's just a matter of time before I lift the kickstand up and feel Gypsy rolling along the pavement as I let the clutch out in 1st gear.  Heading off on a long cross country ride the likes I havent taken in decades.  Thousands of miles rolling under our tires as we head down the road through half forgotten landscapes that only peak out from veiled and dusty memories.  The final, precise route remains to be determined.  Perhaps it only will be when I finally drop the kickstand down again in my garage at the end of the ride.  I know the basic stops along the route.  Waypoints to friends, family and places I want to see again while on this journey.  But which road will I follow to where?  That lies yet to be determined.

Three weeks, there and back.  It doesn't leave a lot of time to juggle, but enough to at least hit the high points.  I may not spend more than a few hours, or a day visiting old friends along the way.  But I have a job to do, a purpose for this trip.  That has to remain the focus, and everything else is just gravy to enjoy.  Somewhere north of 6,000 miles will be covered by me and my trusty 91 Evo, Gypsy Rose.  My mind keeps going over parts of the route I am familiar with, and building the yearning to roam again.  Waking to memories of the sunrise over Interstate 15 in northern Utah at 80 mph.  Seeing the sign denoting the fact that I am crossing the Continental Divide, while deep inside brightly lit tunnel in the Rockie Mountains on Interstate 70, and many more visions to be sure, seem to almost torture me with the need to ride.  Not just for a few hours, but days on end.  

The kind of riding I haven't enjoyed and endured since I rode for the Club as a Nomad.   It is as if the fires that have been smoldering for so long in my soul are slowly being fanned and banked in preparation for a long run that will burn itself into my memory.  I find myself praying it won't be my last big run, that it will be the reawakening of my traveling spirit.  But, at the same time, this cold dampness has me wrapped tightly in its grip.  The dull ache of it deep in my bones.  I am hoping the ache is my body fighting off the damnable apathy that comes with age.  Either way, something tells me this years run will mark a change in my life.  My instinct is that there is something waiting for me to discover on the road this year.  But until then, I am stuck here, unable to go, while Wanderlust gives my balls another squeeze as it shows me memories of the open road.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

Sunday, December 8, 2013


I really don't have a good excuse for not being as active on here over the past few weeks as I should.  Life has begun to get into something of a rut, and I just havent really been able to do much to bounce out of it.  Maybe I could blame it on the weather being so cold, the coldest in fifteen years they are saying.  But that's not really it.  Not really.  I just havent been able to get out and do much riding.  That's when I do my best thinking, and with the weather the way it's been the past couple of weeks I just haven't felt like going for a ride.  Outside of the last run we made up to Uncle Sam's and came home after dark in 35 degree temps, which damn near gave me freezer burn with the windchill, I havent done more than a handful of miles anywhere.  With the high temps hovering at or below freezing, I just havent had the desire to go out and freeze my hands off.

So, besides while I am at work driving the bus, I havent gotten any real road time.  Although, I have had some good ideas to write about while driving the bus, I cant pull over and write down notes so I'll remember what to write about later.

For now, that's my story.  My excuse, or whatever you want to call it.  But I am bouncing around an idea for something to write about now, that hasn't quite formed fully into even a concept.  More just a few images and a statement that connects them.  If I can get something a little bit more together I'll post it on here.

Until it thaws out a bit, I won't be catching anyone on the road...so just catch you around...