Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Michigan Yooper Trip

Wow, glad Memorial Day is over. That one is one of those emotional roller coaster days for me. Now I can go back to my every day thoughts. Seems pretty good to get back into my daily routine of being up and wide awake at three AM. I got through the day by staying busy, being surrounded by my loving family and had the good fortune of having friends visit Spadoville throughout the day.
In the meantime, I was thinking I need to tell you what else I've been up to over the past week or so. If you remember, my good friend Hal from California is visiting. We set up some studio space in my newly claimed downstairs living area and created a place to play and record music. The old members of the Dump and Shortcake Band got together, and along with Hal, we have laid down some tracks. We recorded some of our original stuff and covered a few tunes we all like to do. I'll post some of those music sessions in another post at another time.
For now, I'd like to show and tell you about our motorcycle trip into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Namely, we went to the end of the Keweenaw, that piece of land along the Southern shore that juts out into the big lake. Known as the U. P. for Upper Peninsula, the locals slang it to Yooper.
Map of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula

Our ride used state and county roads to get us from the far Western reaches of Wisconsin, where I live, to Michigan. We tried to take it easy and find some rustic and unique less traveled roads on our way there, but in anticipation of riding in the dirt, gravel and mud way up in the Keweenaw, we just ended up making a bee line.
Road signs stating the obvious

We did get on a few out-of-the-way places, one being blowing right through a “Road Closed” sign on Gogebic County 519 and talking the construction workers into letting us pass over, around and through the work zone. They were pretty good about it. The foreman took one look at the knobby tires and all-terrain look of of our motorcycles and knew there wouldn't be much that would cause us not to make it.

Our first rest stop along the shores of beautiful Great Lake Superior's South shore

After the work zone, we found a beautiful paved section that wound us to the South shore of Lake Superior and the town of Ontonagon. We spent the night there in Scott's Motel. A very clean and beautiful place. It was just a mile or so West of the town center. We ate dinner at a place called Syl’s Cafe and had one of the ethnic delicacies from that part of the world, a pasty.
A traditional Pasty

The Pasty is the Cornish miner’s version of a hand held meal. A lot like a Mexican burrito or an Italian Stromboli. A delicious crust filled with beef, onions, potatoes and rutabaga. With all the copper mines that were the mainstay of the economy in the U.P., the Pasty still thrives.
The next day, we went through Houghton and stopped in Hancock for a fabulous breakfast at a place called Kaleva Cafe.

Eagle River waterfall at Lake Superior

We arrived in Copper Harbor, which resides at the North end of US Highway 41, and secured a room at the King Copper Annex Motel by asking the cleaning lady, a wonderful soul named Dot, if we could ride for now and check in later. She wrote a note to Mary, the desk clerk, and told her to save a room for Joe and Hal. Quaint service for a tourist area.
The far North end of US Highway 41. Only a short ride to Miami from here

With the peace of mind that we had lodging for the night, we headed for the end of the US 41 highway where the road turns into a dirt and gravel track. We went right to it and started putting our bikes through some mild abuse over mud holes, water crossings, large gravel boulders, sand, dirt and blown down tree branches.
We followed a small scale map and used a GPS as well as watched for any signs on the roads that were left over from when the trails were used as a roadway for snowmobiles. This area is a mecca for the snow machines with an average of well over 200 inches per year. This past Winter, with strange extremes throughout the land, Michigan’s UP only saw around 120 inches of snowfall.
Handwritten road signs deep in the wilderness

Our goal was to find the path that took us to the far extreme Eastern point of the peninsula and a view of the Manitou Island lighthouse. Another friend told me to look for snowmobile trail marked as Trail 134. We did see some signs and followed a few gravel tracks that lead us to dead ends, water and mud holes so deep we didn’t dare try to traverse them and loops that had us going round and round in circles.
Manitou Island Lighthouse, seen from High Rock Bay at the far East end of the Keweenaw

We finally found the roadway that took us to our destination and enjoyed some time sitting on the windy sunlit shore of High Rock Bay
My Triumph at High Rock Bay

The return trip to Copper harbor and the promise of a hot shower and a good meal drove us. But first, we had to take care of our machines. We weren’t worried at all about cleaning the mud off of our fenders, after all, it was a badge of honor as these photos of my Scrambler can attest, but we did need gas.

A little mud badge of honor

The only gas station in Copper Harbor was closed. After some local inquiry, we found out that the family that owned the gas station was struggling with a series of illnesses in the family. The nearest gas was 16 miles away in Lac LaBelle. We had enough to get there and fill our tanks and headed out South on US 41, looking for the road that would lead us to the petrol.
When we got there and spotted the single lowly pump standing in a gravel driveway close to the lakeshore of the Lac LaBelle Lodge, Store and Rentals, they were closed. A walk around the property produced a woman that asked us if we needed gas. She told us that she’d turn on the pumps when she affirmed that we were indeed in search of the liquid gold.
Liquid gold indeed. Over $4.75 per gallon. Makes you feel totally violated when they gouge you like that. Captive audience I guess. No gas within 50 miles, so, jack up the price.
We filled up and rode back to Copper Harbor and the Mariner Restaurant and Bar for some evening sustenance. A short trip to the local grocery store for water and a snack to carry with us on the next days ride had us enjoying the lake shore view from our room through the sliding glass doors, which we kept open through the night.

Our view from our room at the King Copper Annex Motel in Copper Harbor, MI

The morning had produced some over night rain. That took the last of the mud from the trails off of the exposed surfaces of the bikes. It was time to head back South, but first, we planned to ride the gravel Mandan Loop one more time and take an alternative route towards home. My motorcycle failed to start and we ascertained that I had some sort of battery and/or charging system problem. We borrowed some jumper cables and got the bike started and running, with a new plan to get to a larger town and buy a set of cables in case they were needed on the ride back into Wisconsin.
Parked at the motel

We made it back to Hancock and remembered a large hardware store located next to the aforementioned Kaleva Cafe. We stopped in and ate breakfast there for the second time and bought a cheap set of jumper cables before we got back on the road. 
We did use the cables numerous times on the way home as my motorcycle was not charging my battery. The system quit about 90 miles from home. I had Mrs. Spadoman bring me my spare battery from the workbench, dropped it in the bike and resumed the trip towards home. We decided to get home and abbreviated our trip with the promise of returning next year and ride even more of the dirt trails. The ones on the way there, on the way back and while we’re there as well.
We made it safely back to River Falls and my Scrambler is now in the shop being attended to so we can leave by the end of the week. Hal feels the need to return home and I will ride with him as far as the Utah/Colorado border. He’ll go it alone back to the Northern California coast from there. I’ll return home and wait for the next adventure and call this one a huge success.
I’ll leave you with this short 30 second YouTube of our motorcycles in action.  In the meantime, stay tuned, as there are more adventures to come.

Peace to all

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

It's been 42 years and 3 months since I returned home from the American war in Vietnam. Not a day goes by that I don't have some kind of remembrance  from that experience. Good, bad or indifferent, I relive being there in some way shape or form. In November, when Veterans Day rolls around, I have strong thoughts as well as on Memorial Day, which is being celebrated this weekend.

There is a huge sale at Home Depot. Walmart is open, as are all the corporation stores. People work on holidays. They are not off at the lake, fishing. They are not free to attend the parade of guns and ammo that show our country's might. Makes me wonder about the propaganda films that we saw in the 1960's of what we called "Red China" and the USSR. Parades of tanks and soldiers in lock step, like Hitler's Nazis. How are our parades any different on Memorial Day?

They are different for different people. Some folks actually memorialize those that have served their country. They honor those that actually thought they were fighting for someone's freedom and not for a corporate czar to make money off the war effort. There are some that remember what it was like to face bullets and shrapnel and watch their Brothers and Sisters die in combat.

I'm one of the latter. I wish I could go back in time and stand up to the government that perpetuated the war and tell them, "No, I won't fight and kill for you any more".
But I can't. And time has passed. All I can do is remember those that have fallen before me either on the battlefield or from emotional and physical wounds that are the direct result of being a Warrior, a combat infantryman, a soldier. Someone in service to their country, their family and their community.

Enjoy your weekend. Pray for Peace and an end to war. As we Bless America, Bless the world. Pray that other nations put an end to war as well. Stop the killing.

I will leave you with an essay I wrote years ago. I post it pretty much every Memorial Day. This year will be no exception.

May Peace prevail on the Sacred Earth Mother

The Warrior

Veterans are Warriors, men and women who are trained to kill, for society. Men and women who have taken the life of another human being. Even those Veterans that did not see action in the form of combat signed up or were drafted and followed orders. They would have given their life if asked. They would kill if they thought, at any brief moment in the throes of war, that they had to. 

All soldiers, no matter what their military occupation is, are taught how to go to combat before learning any other skill or specialty. In basic training, these killing skills are taught to every soldier. Killing is the soldier warrior's job. The warrior is somehow stripped of the belief that life is too sacred to erase, then they are taught the details of exactly how to kill people. With a weapon, with their hands.

They are forced to practice it over and over again until it is automatic, regardless of how scared they may be. Even if their hearts are pounding or if they are scared senseless, these warriors can still load, fire, and erase the life of the human being identified as the enemy. They kill, if not for themselves, for the soldier next to them who is a trained killer like them. A Brother or Sister, and for the society that has required their services as a killer. 

Everyone who is trained to kill has lost something of themself and must find a way to control the imbalance that results. The military calls that control "self-discipline." Without it we would have millions of Timothy McVeigh's eliminating their perceived enemies with the lethal skills that they were trained for. These skills given to them with the approval of the rest of society. The military does not want nor allow this same “self discipline” to weigh in during the wartime activity. 

We demand the warrior be disciplined and control themselves but when they return we treat them terribly. For those who have taken a life in a war and dealt with death, this discipline is a life-long struggle that is never truly resolved. They see the dead and relive the killings in their dreams. The soldier who kills another soldier or civilian comes home and one day realizes that there is a family somewhere in the world, in their own home, lacking a cherished family member. There are children who no longer have a Father, Mother or Brother, Women without their husbands and husbands without their wives. No chance to fulfil the dream of growing old together. 

That soldier who took a life may look at their own children when they get home, perhaps even years later, hug that child, and think about another child whose daddy or mommy they killed. How easy it would be for his or her child to be the parentless one. That soldier, trying to become a human being again, will not know what to say to anyone on this earth about this feeling. They will wonder if anybody understands what they are feeling, or if anyone can. They may be able to share this feeling only with another Veteran, yet feel ashamed at reminding that Veteran of what he or she is also struggling to deal with. Worried that if he or she talks about it, they might be judged as bragging.

The real warrior is abandoned into silence. They fall upon the discipline that was introduced in them but they fall alone. Many Veterans forever fight this never-resolved battle. 

Listen to the Vietnam War Veterans. Listen to how they were received when they returned to this country. Listen to the Gulf War Vets that must fend for themselves as the very government that asks them to lay down their bodies vote down funding for proper and substantial treatment of their wounds. 

In the case of the returning Vietnam Veterans, some were spat upon. Others had to withstand an onslaught of name calling that included things like baby killer and murderer. Society does not know this agent of death that is a warrior. It does not possess the skills nor the knowledge to reintegrate these people into society. Society asked them to kill on its behalf, but does little to return the warrior to a rightful place as a caring, compassionate member of a family and community. 

They ask us to kill and teach us this skill, but not how to heal.

Can the community do anything to help with this return to so-called normal society? The Warrior Veteran needs to be brought back into the Circle of Life. How can they find spiritual peace and understanding from the community? Only if the circle of their community is a healing circle.

Does the community ever rent a room, invite the Veterans, feed and honor them and listen to their stories of the atrocities of war or the horrors of being the deliverer of death to another by accident or for survival? When do they hear about arms blown off a man who walked down a road not knowing mines were there? Who will listen to the warrior's scramble for words that describe an incoming napalm strike on a village? Who hears the break in their voices? 

These things happened. The blood and destruction has been seen by the Veteran. The community must acknowledge the sacrifice their Veteran was willing to give. Society and the community can not know and understand or postulate a reason for what has happened, for that same society and community allowed the war either by electing people into office or by sitting by and watching war upon war unfold without lifting a finger to stop it.

Who will sit and listen to the stories of these Veterans? Will the people of the community come forward and listen or will the Veteran be doomed to the darkness of a house where no one visits? Will the people lean down to say hello to the Veteran in the wheelchair whose legs are missing because they were blown off in a battle, or will they cross the street in avoidance?

Many Veterans that seem like they are of sound body suffer with the intrusive thoughts of having to experience death first hand and in many cases, by their own hand. They are also in darkness. A Veteran struggling with his thoughts as he tries to understand PTSD is forever and constantly bombarded by shame, guilt, depression, anger, confusion and loneliness.

This Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is grossly misunderstood by most people. Some even say things like, “Get a life” or “Get over it.” when they hear of a Veteran that asks for disability for the loss of control of his own life from the struggles with PTSD.

A warrior is a hunter with death and blood on their hands and real horror to relive in their dreams. They are the ignored and too often the wounded walking suicide-to-be. They are the men and women with visions that they cannot, but want to, leave behind. They constantly try to be sorry for their actions but fail because the destruction of their own heart will not allow it. The blackness is there, forever. 

The Warrior accepts the inevitable truth that they will live and die lonely as they struggle to be understood.

Think of these things the next time you see a Veteran. And remember, those who the Warrior fought because they were told they were the enemy are Warriors too. They and their families will suffer the same as “our side”. They also have PTSD. The Mothers and Fathers of those also cry at the loss of a loved one. Brothers and Sisters, Grandmothers and Grandfathers will miss them. We are all on the same side as far as issues with our Warriors.

The Native American communities have been stepping forward for many many years. They welcome back their Warriors. They have ceremonies and honoring Pow Wow’s for the Veterans. They are not glad there is war. But they realize this. The Veteran, drafted or enlisted, whether a regular Army soldier or a National Guard member who was deployed into war, was following orders because they took an oath. They were all willing to sacrifice their own life if need be. They accepted the pain and suffering that happens to them as a Warrior from witnessing the death and destruction firsthand. This is what is honored in the Veteran. Honor the Warrior, not the war.

After Vietnam, society had much confusion about the war. Let us not make the same errors in the way we treat our Veterans that are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Let us make ammends to ALL Veterans from ALL eras, combat and non-combat. 

Honor the dead. Heal the wounded. Work for Peace and End All War
Do this often, not just this weekend. Stop judging others. Stop hating people for their different religious beliefs, sexual orientation, politics and Race. Follow the Golden Rule as this is how you want to be treated. Change one small trait or flaw in your life and work for peace amongst mankind. Do it for the children of the future.

Peace to all.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Short Intermission

My friends, this post will be short, sweet and to the point. I am home for a few days. After two weeks on the road driving to and from California, I returned only to pack up and leave again last Tuesday to attend a solemn Native ceremony along the shores of the Great Lake Superior. I had my close friend from California with me and we shared some wonderful time with some of my local friends at one of the most beautiful places on earth.

We are at home now, at least for a short time, here at Spadoville. We will spend the next few days working on home improvement projects, playing with the Grandkids, playing music and packing the motorcycles for another journey, this time to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We will be leaving Wednesday morning.

Please forgive my absence from visiting your pages. Also, know that I have sent the most powerful positive energy I can muster in your direction in hopes that you are getting through whatever troubles or triumphs you may encounter as best you can.

Peace to all

Monday, May 7, 2012

Time to Head East

Time flew by and we spent the day packing for the long trip home. We still have to load the bikes on the trailer and secure things in the car, but that will wait until we eat dinner. I will have a report about the trip, all phases of it, the food, the flat tire fiasco, the motorcycle riding, the music studio sessions and the visiting of people and places.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a few photos from out here in Humboldt County, California.

This beautiful scene of green hillsides and rocky relief is right across the road from the next photo at Cape Mendocino
Hal stands by, ready to resume our ride after a short visit with the Pacific Ocean

Yours truly at Centerville Beach near Ferndale, CA
My friend Steve, from Fortuna, CA on the Gibson SG
Here's Hal, on the Fender Stratocaster. Hal lives in Fortuna as well
This is Jake on Drums, Hal's son. He lives in San Francisco, CA

On Bass is my friend Dave from Woodbury, MN. Dave took the trip with me
This is The Band we put together. I played with some keyboards and a little bass guitar. Dave and Steve grew up together in suburban Chicago and played as teen agers in LaGrange, IL. Hal is married to Dave's sister, Ellen, (not pictured). Hal and Ellen are very close friends to me and Mrs. Spadoman as is Steve. So, this gathering was like a mini reunion of people that are as much a family as a family can possibly be. It was very enjoyable. We couldn't find enough hours in the days to do all we wanted to do and visit all we wanted to visit.

Lastly, I believe this to be a Cedar Waxwing at the feeder. Please correct me if I'm wrong. A lot more photos in the upcoming travelogues for this trip. In the meantime, take care and be well.

Peace to all

Friday, May 4, 2012

Long Desert Highway

Haiku My Heart
May 4, 2012

Join in on the Haiku fun every Friday at Rebecca's recuerda mi corazon blog.

Coloring is fun

Desert driving is like that

Just stay in the lines

Two thousand four hundred and twenty two miles across the country, from Wisconsin to the California coast, and you're bound to see some places like this along the way. This spot is along US Hwy 50, dubbed The Loneliest Road in America.

We arrived safely and have been filling our time playing music and hanging out with friends. I did get on my motorcycle between raidrops for a short spin into Eureka to see some old friends and one new one, the four month old child of one of the people I met when I participated on The Longest Walk back in 2008.

Busy in the days ahead. Funny, I drive all this way to prepare for and talk about the trip home and the motorcycle journey we are planning upon arrival in Wisconsin.

Another report will update our progress when I get the chance. In the meantime, enjoy your day and the Haiku.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Short Notes From the Road

Just a few words about the trip to let folks know I made it out to the West coast. We left last Saturday morning and drove 650 miles to Hot Springs, SD. Spent the night there and the plan was to continue to Grand Junction, CO to stay with friends. Never made it as a tire blew out before we even got in to Colorado. Lucky I have Triple A. A complete saga of the tire fiasco will be one of the stories I tell you in a more thorough report.

Losing a day of travel to mess around with tire issues set us back, but we did manage to make it to Craig, CO for the second night. Then, the third day, we got to Delta, Utah with my wallet a lot lighter for a set of Goodyears. But I did manage a lunch with my friends in Grand Junction while Sears was mounting the new tires.

Day four was a long haul. Delta, UT to Willits, CA. Almost 800 miles. We are less than 150 miles from our destination and will wrap up the traveling today, Wednesday, May 2. One of the friends we will be staying with has a birthday today and we'll be celebrating this evening in Fortuna, CA, but not before I unload my motorcycle off the trailer and take a short ride into Eureka to have a cup of coffee with two special friends that I met on The Longest Walk in 2008.

I've taken a few camera shots, but haven't really concentrated on travelogue photography so far. I will get the camera out in earnest now that I'm here and will mount the GoPro on the Triumph when we get the bikes out on the Kings Range along the coast and in the redwoods.

Great weather, for the most part. No heavy rain or snow. Some strong winds here and there that cut into the gas mileage. So far, we haven't paid more then $3.99 per gallon and saw it as low as $3.45 in Southern Wyoming.

Haven't got too many food stories to tell as we have been eating home made food, sandwiches and tasty snacks from home to keep ourselves healthy and thrifty. One meal out per day is the norm. We did have a good breakfast at a truck stop in Lusk, WY and a great lunch at my friend's restaurant, Diorio's, in Grand Junction, CO.

We'll be out here for a week or so before we load up and head back to Wisconsin. For now, I'll be enjoying being back on the coast with friends. I know I'll feel really good after I pay a visit to Mother Ocean.

Peace to all.