Monday, August 8, 2011

Dignified Transfer

Dignified Transfer.  Bringing home the remains of our fallen military.  It's one of the best (and only) things we can do for those who have given us their ultimate sacrifice to insure our freedom.  And it's a small token of appreciation, of respect and empathy, to show the families of our fallen.

I'm humbled by the 30 bodies being flown into Dover AFB this week after the helicopter crash in Afghanistan last Friday.  In-your-face proof that my freedom, our freedom, has a heavy price.  Their sacrifice falls on a grateful heart.

I'm saddened by the almost constant flight of helicopters and jets over my house, bringing Generals and other dignitaries to Dover in preparation for the arrival of the fallen and their families.  Did you know every single body is received by active duty airmen, sailors, or soldiers and a General from their specific branch of the military? They're transferred to mortuary services, cleaned and prepared, and flown home with an active duty escort to be buried.  If you haven't seen Taking Chance you should.  It chronicles such a trip home and highlights the truth that the loss of a warrior is not just a family's loss, but a nation's loss.

I'm heartbroken for the families whose lives will never be the same.  Parents, siblings, spouses, children, all gathered on the tarmac as their loved one's remains are carried out of the belly of a plane, draped with an American flag, carried by the somber white gloves of comrades.  Their sacrifice is just as great.

I'm proud to be part of a military community that takes such care in dignified transfer, proud of my husband who is playing a small role in the supervision of tomorrow's homecoming, proud of his commanders who have spent all their time and energy since Friday planning the most appropriate tribute to our fallen and their families.  It's the least we can do to show respect.  Notice here, on the left, how often dignified transfers are still happening, and see below what care is given to each.

I don't write this to spark political opinion or debate over the war.  I write this to convey my profound sense of gratitude to those who have served, are serving, or will serve me . . . you . . . the nation.  I write this to take ownership of my freedom.  For their sacrifice is not lost on me.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Miles for Minutes

No  apologies this time for my month-and-a-half long hiatus.  Just acceptance of where I am.  Right here, right now.  That's what I'm learning from yoga these days.  Acceptance.  ;)

I'll get into the reason for my absence later.  I just wanted to take this moment to share with you what Scott and I did yesterday.  We have been loving the warm, sunny days of this Delaware Spring.  There has been much sunbathing (for me, anyway), walking the dog, leisurely reading on the deck, and motorcycle riding. Yesterday we participated in our first charity motorcycle ride in an effort to raise money to buy phone cards for troops overseas.  It's called Miles for Minutes.

We've never ridden in a pack before, but we met up with some other Air Force bikers to ride up to the rally together.  There were almost 20 of us, riding two bikes to the width of the lane, and the attention we drew was comical.  Sounded like thunder rolling down the road.  Every IHOP and Waffle House we passed was full of families stopping in the parking lot to watch and point.  Little kids in the back seats of the cars we passed were smiling, wide-eyed with excitement and waving.  Yes, I waved back.  I'm not too cool for that.  I just pretend to be a bad-ass biker mama.  Trust me, I don't even come close to it (as I witnessed at the rally).  And I'm okay with that.

When we arrived at the rally I was stunned at the number of bikes.

Remember, we're in lil' ol' Delaware.    And I didn't see many out of state bike plates either.  About 600 bikes took the the road, escorted by police!  And I thought 20 bikers drew a lot of attention.  Ha!  We were closer to the back of the pack, but  we couldn't see the beginning or the end, not even when we hit several miles-long straight-aways on the highway.  Sadly, my phone video doesn't do the sight justice, but at least you get the idea.  Can't see it well but the entire length of our lane behind us is filled with bikes.

Those guys right behind us were truly bad-ass.  They had custom made choppers and oozed cool from every pore in their body.  We, on the other hand, are total posers.  Evident by my constant picture taking and recording.  I screamed Rally Virgin.  It was awesome.  Sadly (or maybe not) I did not get any pics of the bad-ass biker mamas.  I think that would have crossed the Rally Virgin line.  But know that I spared you many saggy boobs and nipples.  Someone should design a Harley Davidson lingerie line.  Bras.  Get some, ladies.  Just sayin'.

In all, it was a fantastic day.  Virgins and veterans, bad asses and posers, all coming together for a good cause and good fun.  While war seems to be the norm for our nation these days, it's nice to know that folks are still thinking of the troops who protect our freedom.  Thanks to Miles for Minutes the troops will be making extra phone calls home to talk to their loved ones.  Next time you see a veteran (active duty, guard, reserve, retired, male, female, young, old, etc.) tell 'em, "thanks for your service."  You have no idea how meaningful those four words are to them and their families.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

We're Famous!

All along the Tail of the Dragon there were tents set up with photographers at them.  After passing the first two, I finally caught on and realized they were selling their pictures online.  So by the third tent I got a little smart.  Check us out at the link below.  It's the first picture in a series of 12 of us.  If you flip through all twelve quickly it's like watching our ride in slow motion. ;)  Fun!

Friday, April 29, 2011

We slayed the Dragon!

Destination:  Tail of the Dragon

Where:  Deal's Gap, NC

Stats:  318 curves in 11 miles

Sometimes words can do no justice.  Take a minute and a half and watch this video to get a glimpse of the madness!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hiking and wildlife and BEARS, oh my!

In an effort to catch you up on the last two days of adventures I'm giving you the shortened version of our multiple jaunts.  While this trip is a motorcycle trip, we can't help but get off the bike to stretch our legs and take in the awesome scenery.

View from Clingmans Dome:  Elevation 6,643 ft

They truly are smoky-looking mountains.  We rode to Clingmans Dome (third highest point east of the Mississippi) and parked the bike.  To get to the observation tower, which boasts 360 degree panoramas, we hiked half a mile.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.  I was panting after the first tenth of a mile! 

The parking lot we hiked from is located in the center of the above picture.  Half a mile doesn't sound very far, but a very steep hike and thin air makes this a workout!  But totally worth it. :)

Since we're in the mountains, surrounded by national parks and forests, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to see some wildlife.  We ventured out to Cades Cove.  There are never any guarantees that you'll see anything, but about half way through the 11 mile scenic loop we came across these little guys hidden in the brush.

Clearly these deer are used to seeing people.  Or it could have been Scott's deer calls, which he learned from his Aunt Joy.  "Here deer!  Here deer!"

They could have cared less that we were there, as long as we didn't eat their grass.  This guy was so comfortable around us he proceeded to relieve himself right there!  Don't worry, I didn't catch that on film.

We were happy to see some sort of wild life because this scenic loop was a one lane, one way road.  And everyone was crawling at a snail's pace to try to see something.  Anything.  Even dumb birds!  We were hoping to see one of the 1,500 black bears we read about on the web and in the local maps and guides, but it wasn't looking good.  Until we rounded a corner and saw this...

I'm guessing he's about two.  Not really a cub, but not big enough to be scary...

until he looks you in the eye and starts walking toward you with his sharp claws clicking on the pavement.  Then the mom next to you tells her kid in a panicked voice to, "hurry up, get in the car," and you realize you don't have a car to get into.  Stupid motorcycle.

Guess we didn't look that appetizing.  AWESOME!

Next up . . . Dragon Slaying!  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Smoky Mountain Adventures

The adventures began yesterday.  The Weather Channel said Tuesday and Wednesday would be full of thunderstorms that seem to be sweeping through the nation right now, many of them severe enough to bring hail and tornados.  So rather than sit in the hotel room all day, or ride the motorcycle in the rain, we decided to go exploring in the car.  Sadly, the rain never came, and still hasn't another day later.  Wish we had been on the motorcycle!  Oh well.  We made up for it today.

Yesterday's destination: Fontana Dam.

This dam is an awesome sight.  Built in the 1940's, it now powers much of the Tennessee Valley.  It's opened in the fall to drain Fontana Lake by as much as 50 feet in preparation for the rainfall of Winter and Spring.  You can walk or drive across the dam to enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where nature trails abound.  Based on the rain prediction we didn't bring our hiking shoes.  We'll have to try hiking again later in the week.

Lake Fonatana is beautiful in itself; the bluest water surrounded by lush mountains.  We were so happy the sun came out to shine down on this slice of Heaven.

We hopped back in the car and traveled along the Nantahala River.  The winding mountain roads were so fun to travel.  Every few miles the trees along the road would open to a sweeping view of the mountain range.  And the river offered quaint scenery and little surprises like this suspension bridge.

Only four people are allowed on the swaying bridge at a time.  Fortunately, we were the only two around.  Scott tried his hardest to sway and shake me to fear.  Little does he know my hometown has a larger, higher, swingier bridge than this.  Ha!  I laugh at your silly attempts to scare me!

And I was thankful I grabbed my camera again.  Doesn't this look like a Bob Ross painting?  "Happy little trees..."

So pretty up here!  I'm off to dinner, then to load and edit pictures from today's motorcycle ride.  I'm excited to share more of our Smoky Mountain Adventures with you.  Stay tuned...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Much Needed Break

It's been five weeks since I last posted.  I can hardly believe it.  But I threw myself into school work and never looked back.  Until now.  Because it's SPRING BREAK!  Wahoo!  Usher in the warm weather and margaritas!

I'm thankful for the distraction school offered, but last week I saw how badly I needed a break.  We were dog sitting for my cousin and his wife.  We drove two hours to Baltimore to drop Bailey at home.  His mamma and daddy would return later that night.  I opened my purse to pull out my keys that had their house key attached and my stomach dropped.  The keys were back in Delaware.  Two hours away.  And my cousin was still in the air and couldn't be reached.  Oh. Crap.

It gets worse.  There were multiple things throughout the day that should have set off warning bells for me. The feeling that I was missing something when I packed up Bailey's bowl and toys.  The fact that I was so dead set on remembering to put gas in my car.  Scott recommended taking his car that was full of gas so we didn't have to leave earlier.  We were already running behind as it was.  "Problem solved," I thought.  Not once in these situations did I think to remember my KEYS.  Now I'd have to return to DE with Bailey (which was actually a plus because he's such a great puppy) and figure out when I could return him later in the week....OR make his poor, vacation-worn parents drive four hours round trip because of my stupid mistake.

Fortunately, things worked out.  After eating dinner on Panera's patio, where we could sit with Bailey the Beagle and give him water, we looked up my cousin's flight status.  They had landed!  And they had a spare key!  Once we retrieved it we made sure Bailey was settled in.  The day was saved!  But I definitely needed a break for my brain.  I'd been on autopilot for too long.

I can't even count on both hands how many similar incidents there have been recently, though they were much less detrimental.  Scott is pretty certain I have early onset Alzheimer's.  Feels that way sometimes.  I honestly don't remember conversations he says we've had.  Kinda scary!  So my brain gets a much needed break next week.  I will be studying daily because we come right back to finals week, but at this point it's just review, no new information.  We're packing up the motorcycle and hittin' the open road.  Off to Tennessee to ride through the Smokies.  Smokies by day, study by night.  I'm sooooo looking forward to the break.  Let's just hope the weather holds.  I'll be sure to post pics and stories of our travels here.