05 November 2012

2012 MICHIGAN Richland - The Wall

Our cool nephew, TC, advised us that the Viet Nam Memorial Wall replica was going to be at his school for a few days. He knew Uncle Mike was in a war and thought we might like to know about this. Yep, we did. Thanks for telling us, TC.

Mike served in the U.S. Army Aviation in the 1st Cav Division. In 1967-68 he was on a helicopter maintenance crew in Viet Nam. He doesn't talk about his experiences much, but I do know he enjoyed some good times there, worked with some great people, and had a pet monkey named Charlie.

We went over Friday early in the morning. It happened to be during the opening ceremony. We preferred to experience it on a personal basis, rather than with the huge crowd at the formal ceremony. So we wandered though the wall "museum," and listened to the patriotic music and speakers in the background.

Mike enjoyed the displays which included old worn boots (wishes he could get some like that these days), cans of C-rations, P-38 can opener (he carries his with him til this day on his key ring), notes to home from soldiers, dog tags, 1st Cav patch, and a purple heart. He showed me on a map of VN where he was stationed, mostly along the eastern seashore.

I decided to go back on Sunday to get an up-close view of The Wall. I asked Mike if he wanted me to look up any names and he gave me three--one from his high school and two from his outfit. Thankfully there is a directory with the 50,000+ names that are found on The Wall with the panel and line they are on. I found all three and took some pics. I had hoped to do one of those pencil rubbings, but the surface of this wall was flat with names printed on it. Many notes, fresh flowers, and remembrance bracelets were left in memory of names found there. A profound experience.

I was, on the other hand, against the war. Not against our guys who were actually fighting, like some people. They were following orders, in hopes that the higher ups knew what the hell they were doing. Back then there was a draft and guys had no choice (other than to go to Canada) about if they were going into the military or not, and where they would end up. And women were not allowed in the forces at that time. 

So I was one of the "peace-loving flower children" you read about in the sixties, who was against the war in general and who thought it had a lot to do with oil and money. That is oversimplifying it, but it was how I felt at the time. I went to peace rallies and marched the streets of Pittsburgh, NYC, and Washington DC.

Anyway, this was a very touching event. I shed some tears even though I did not know anyone personally that died in VN. One person from my high school was a long time prisoner of war--John Sexton. Not a close friend, but I imagined what he went through. Not possible. I was thinking, too, about all the men and women who are currently in a war on behalf of the USA. It may be different this time, but still sobering.

02 November 2012

2012 WILD WEST 22 - Rate the Rest Stop

Sometimes got "American Idol-ish" to pass the time on our travels. Would often discuss and compare road surface quality between the states, and also public rest stop quality. Came up with a "rating" system for that.

No Stars  -  None within 70 miles (an hour) or advertised, but locked up. This happened a few times and quite frustrating (in mind and body!!). Texas' public "picnic" areas on the Interstate were an example of you're invited to stop, but no restrooms of any kind available. Winslow AZ had one advertised, but it was locked at 10am.

1 Star  -  "Out house." We did not use any of these, but believe it or not in some areas there are still non-flushable public toilets along the road for traveler use. These were generally on primary (not Interstate) highways. Yes, better than nada. 

2 Star  -  Basic, flushable, but not clean. On Interstates and mostly in more remote areas. I guess too far or inconvenient to clean on a regular basis.

3 Star  -  Basic, flushable, and CLEAN. Unless it was the state Welcome Center, most fell into this category.

4 Star  -  Added some decor or unique visual quality/location. Also had either recycle bins or automated bathrooms (automated flushing, sink water, and hand-dryers). We like the eco-thoughtfulness. Weirdly many rest stops in southern CA and other SW states did not have recycle bins for bottle and cans. Northern and eastern states are much better at eco in rest stops.

5 Star  - Had everything--clean, decor or unique visual quality/location, recycle bins, automated eco-bathrooms. VERY few had all.

Bonus Star  -  Solar or wind turbine on the property to assist in powering the facility. We didn't travel to Ohio on this trip, but along OH-30 just east of the Indiana state line, there is a rest stop powered by wind turbines. We've seen others in Michigan with solar power on the rest stop property.

Off hand (because we talked about this star system near the end of our trip) not sure where rates what at this point. Thinking back though, I know we were way impressed by Minnesota, as they had a natural water feature at the two stops we visited. 

The New Mexico Welcome Center had a greeter that gave directions to bathrooms and the ladies' room "after each use" commode-seat wipe down were impressive. And it was built in traditional Indian ways--cut stone with no mortar.

The Texas Welcome Center had great mosaic art.

Also the Missouri Welcome Center's picnic tables were each set up with a little business design, which gave the illusion of a little town on Route 66.