2 Wheels To Adventure

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Alaska/Canada Trip--2006
Two "Adventure" Bikes

Ride boldly, Lad,  fear not the spills! (From "The Man From Snowy River," by Banjo Paterson) 
I'm not the man I used to think I was. (RBW)
"Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!"
(William Butler Yeats)

For a looong discussion on motorcyling in general and Adventure riding in particular, see the archives (or scroll down) for the first post on September 28, 2006.
It gives some opinions and ideas, along with a bit of philosophy; one (old) man's view of the world of 2 wheels.

New Scooter---2014 R1200RT
Cap'n Ron in the Straits of Georgia
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Funeral

We attended a funeral a week ago last Saturday. Another WWII veteran has left us. This was Pat D____, one of our airline pilots, long since retired. He was one of the good guys. Pat was a ball turret gunner in WWII, and flew 35 or more missions over Germany. After the war he learned to fly and eventually became an airline pilot, retiring after many years plying the skies in DC-3s, F-27s, DC-9s, and (I think) 727s. Every time I think of Patrick, I have to think of one of the most stark of WWII poems, The Death Of The Ball Turret Gunner:


The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

By Randall Jarrell

From my mother's sleep, I fell into the state

And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.

Six miles from earth, loosed from its dreams of life

I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters,

And when I died, they washed me from the turret with a hose.


I first heard the poem in an English class many years ago, and it has always stayed with me, as, before, and after I met Pat, it reminded of my uncle, mentioned here in an earlier entry. My Unk always told me of much courage it must have taken to screw oneself into a ball and wriggle into that turret, sans parachute, exposed to the withering blasts from Focke-Wulfs and Messerschmitts.He once had to remove a young airman from flying status and consign him to ground duty because he had, frozen with fear, refused to get into the turret. Unk said that it was not a case of cowardice, but just paralyzing fear. The guy physically could not do it any more, and Pete gave him a break, and got him transferred on some excuse that avoided exposing him as a "coward" in the face of the enemy. Pete said that he understood fear, and that he dealt with it every mission. He said that he was scared, as scared as any of them, but he was the aircraft commander, and he could not show that fear. He had to be the standard that set the example for the rest of the crew.

It brings to mind that still outstanding war movie Twelve O'Clock High. If you have never seen it, get it on Netflix or however you can, and watch it. If you have seen it, watch it again: especially look for the scene when Gregory Peck " (General Savage) is about to climb into his B-17 for a mission, and is overcome with "the shakes." It is gripping, and gives us armchair soldiers and airment a faint idea of what these men faced every day. The Eighth Air Force in England in WWII had 20,000 casualties, most of which were KIA. That is a stunning number, ranking right up there with the German U-Boat casualties or those of other very high risk wartime specialties.

So, Pat is gone, but not forgotten. He was one of the best, one of the WWII generation that is shrinking rapidly, to be replaced by another "Greatest Generation," as we continue to pursue wars, whether as justifiable as WWII or not.

It is people like Pat, my uncle, and many thousands of other combat veterans of all our wars that make me wonder just what the military authorities are thinking when they award combat medals to UAV pilots who operate their machines from a base thousands of miles from danger. What have these people done to warrant badges for heroic or sacrificial acts? Does this in any way cheapen the awards given for real risk? Just asking... I also understand that these drone pilots receive combat (hazardous duty) pay.

5:35 pm mdt          Comments

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For future use

Our New Best Friend, TRES

My Hero, Uncle Pete, two days short of his 90th birthday.

Meet Mort--- Mortem "mors me cum equitat"
The view from 50 feet up the mast
The Old Guy At The Helm Of "OH MISS"
Adventure Bound
The Old Guy, Back Home Unscathed
2005 BMW K1200LT, long gone to bike heaven
"Der Klunkenschiffter" at age 4, 102,000 miles