Another new year .. if you’re reading this, then the Mayan calendar must have been mistaken .. so we’d better “get up, shape up, and show up” if we’re to continue this challenge and see if we can make it through another year. No one said it would be easy, did they? But first, I’m hoping you all survived another “Holiday Season” .. knowing it’s the most depressing time of the year, bar none.
There is a sacredness in tears .. they are not the mark of weakness .. but of strength. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief and of unspeakable Love.
I’m always a little happy, and a bit surprised that I didn’t eat the muzzle of a gun barrel. The “happiness” comes from it finally being over for another year .. and that we weren’t all overwhelmed by the commercialism that’s completely overridden what was once a truly religious event. But with all the new “political correctness” rules that have now consumed us .. I’m more surprised that I wasn’t arrested for farting in public or peeing in my own back yard. But you’ll be happy to note .. I’m not getting started on my soap box again today .. those issues would take volumes to cover and you don’t want to hear it anyway.
My traditionally joyous “holiday season” ended for me 22 years ago .. and all I’ll say is that I’d rather experience a hundred more excruciatingly painful trips in the back of an ambulance than suffer the emotional pains of the Heart. And with that, I suspect I’ve already hit the common nerve you came looking for today. Believe it or not .. I feel the energy you bring as you’re drawn back for another “adventure” .. with many of you anticipating the moment I hit that nerve. And just like me .. we’re hungry for “truth” .. and there are certain people we can always count on giving it to us .. while leaving some “food for thought” behind.
Certain things .. people, places, “holidays”, music or events are just some of the trigger mechanisms that bring back the past in an instant. Some can be overwhelmingly happy .. while others traumatic and penetrating as PTSD .. and that covers a lot of ground. Not just for the veterans who may be more subject to the demons .. but for any human being who has endured Life’s mysterious twists and turns.
Washington Irving wrote: “There is a sacredness in tears .. they are not the mark of weakness .. but of strength. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief and of unspeakable Love.”
I watch a lot of news broadcasts on many different channels. Yeah, maybe it’s primarily because they all appear to be in competition as to which network can have the hottest weather or traffic girls, or which one wears the tightest clothes or shows the most cleavage .. oh well, maybe that’s just me again. Regardless .. this year I did NOT hear or see one single mention of December 7th .. “a date that will live in infamy”. Well .. evidently not. Or, maybe now, we’re too afraid of offending anyone who remotely had anything to do with killing thousands of our soldiers and sailors on that date 71 years ago to even mention it. The effects of that day and the years of its aftermath changed the very fibre of this country. Makes me wonder now just how long it will be before we shouldn’t mention 9/11 again .. or have I said too much already?
Sure .. I’m a bit of a history buff amongst various other “interests”. Besides being the “pilot” I’ve often referred to as being .. I usually just say I’m a “jack of all trades, master of none”. Maybe that’s more appropriate .. but I guess I just get bored with whatever suits my fancy for awhile before I move on to something else. But the truth is .. I always come back to being that “pilot” on a Harley .. flying six inches off the ground .. because you NEVER get bored with that adventure. And if you do .. well then you’re soon dead, because you lost concentration. So there’s never a “dull” moment on that flight.
My intrigue of history is probably focused around the WW2 years .. partly because of my father’s enlistment and his involvement in the South Pacific Theatre (Adventure 25 – B25) .. but more importantly, by that “true character of Americans” throughout that era. The “real” men and women of my father’s and grandfather’s lifetimes are what I believe to be the backbone of this country. People talked .. people listened .. children had manners .. and respect .. and no one was afraid of hard work. Video games and electronic devices have pussified the youth of today .. and no one wants to put in “a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay”. Holy crap .. let me get off this box again before I get started on our worthless politicians!
Recently .. I got to take another trip back aboard a “time machine” that I discovered was permanently located in San Pedro, California. Docked, actually .. as I’m referring to the USS Iowa .. and it’s permanent home in Berth 87, Port of Los Angeles. My nephew, Brian, finally got his “Iron Butt” after riding 1013 miles during one of the three days it took him to meet me on the California coast. He had 8 days to ride the coast, take in a full Saturday at the National Drags at Pomona .. and just kick back with a margarita or two before rejoining the rat-race. A day trip to San Pedro tripled my satisfaction inasmuch as I got to 1) ride .. 2) quench my thirst for knowledge and adventure and 3) spend quality time with my nephew. This was early November, 2012.
Before long .. we were back in 1944 .. aboard this 46,000 ton battleship .. envisioning what it must have been like aboard as a sailor during the war .. to experience what must have seemed like a lifetime for them as an isolated, floating target in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Nowhere to go .. with your only two options as getting back home to your loved ones, after an indefinite tour of duty, or .. sinking to the bottom of the ocean if someone hit a “bullseye”. Humm .. just like riding a motorcycle .. live or die. But that’s no different than any breath we take .. we’re all running on borrowed time anyway, aren’t we?
The USS Iowa (BB-61) was the lead ship of her class of battleship and the fourth in the US Navy to be named in honor of the 29th state. The Iowa is the last lead ship of any class of US battleships, and was the only ship of her class to have served in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. Her construction started June 27, 1940 and she was launched August 27, 1942 with a total cost of $110 million. Current replacement cost is estimated at $2.5 billion. She spans three football fields long and stands 11 stories out of the water. Her widest beam width is 108 feet and overall weight is 45,000 tons. Her full load operational displacement was 58,000 tons.
This ship carried 151 officers and 2,637 enlisted men and could cruise at 33 knots. This ship’s speed, along with her firepower, made her a force to be reckoned with at sea. Her main weaponry included three 16-inch triple main gun turrets (9 guns, each 67 feet long); sixteen 5-inch secondary twin gun mounts and various .50cal and 20mm gun Close-in Weapon systems. One could only imagine how deafening that must have been with all cannons firing and nothing but pure adrenalin pumping through your veins.
When we first stepped aboard .. it didn’t take but a moment to realize that this entire ship was pretty much a heavy chunk of steel fire power .. with wooden decks. The hull of the ship was armored with 12.1 inches of steel and the maximum conning tower thickness was 17.5 inches. When we climbed to the bridge and stood by the Captain’s chair, we envisioned the sight of those gun barrels blazing. Right behind this narrow space was the “safety chamber” where the eight men most responsible for running the ship could complete those duties in a virtual “tomb”. It had small slits for viewing and, of course, there was a periscope. The door for this chamber weighed 4000 pounds alone. I couldn’t help but wonder just how fast that bunker would sink after a “bullseye”, and then discovering that a “hit” had rendered the door inoperable. Of course, that would be the least of your concerns if your ship were under attack.
As we toured the old heroine at our own pace .. I was amazed at the size of the projectiles that were fired from the huge guns. The HC (High Capacity) bombardment shells were 64 inches tall and each weighed 1900 lbs. The AP (Armor Piercing) shells were 72 inches long and weighed 2700 lbs. Each round was propelled by six (yep, that’s 6) 110 lb mini-barrels of powder. Each gun was capable of firing a round every two minutes. The bombardment ordinance that was used to shell islands in the Pacific (capable at a range of 24 miles) could blow a hole 20 feet deep and 50 feet wide. Just imagine the pre-invasion destruction created for the Marines after hours, and sometimes days, of this perpetual shelling? No wonder these old vets are all going deaf!
I found it quite ironic that one of the targets shelled for two days by the USS Iowa back in July, 1945, and just prior to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 15th, was the town of Hitachi, on Honsu, the largest of the four main islands of Japan. It’s fascinating the number of threads you can weave through the many suppositions of thought regarding “Hitachi” and the world of electronics that has enslaved our lives. There probably weren’t many palm readers connecting the dots back then .. but it’s always our hindsight that gives us such acute visual clarity.
Were we “taking aim” back then at the electronic root of our demise as a nation .. and of our youth .. which, as you know, ARE our future? God help us! And yes .. I said “God” .. because it truly has a plethora of meanings and will never be “politically incorrect” .. since all verbiage is subject to debate and interpretation these days, and sometimes it’s even influenced by the quality of “Medical Marijuana” you deny inhaling. I’m on a roll with these metaphors today, aren’t I? But that’s exactly what I’m counting on my true friends and followers getting a kick out of again .. “Indiana Joe” was never “pussified”.. and the Mayan mistake has allowed me to provoke your thoughts once again.
Each month .. as I grapple with ideas and ponder my ability to meet your expectations .. or more importantly, my very own .. I hope you realize how I’ve always managed to have a finger on “truth” somewhere within my thought. It’s that truth-fibre that always touches your Biker Soul, as I call it. Rebellious first .. committed, dedicated and loyal to your every friend and belief .. scarred from Life’s experiences .. intelligent and perceptive enough to always know where I’m coming from .. and if you didn’t at first, you’d find the “nerve” that stirred the emotions you weren’t expecting when you first bit into one of my “adventures”. You are the ones who understand tears .. and how everything in our realm of existence is connected in some way .. and half the fun is just figuring that out, or occasionally just stumbling across an “ironic coincidence” and immediately putting your math skills to work and see how it all adds up.
What must it have been like for those brave souls who volunteered to risk, or give, their very lives to preserve this great nation? I think of how that experience must have hardened so many .. yet gave them all such an appreciation of Life. Their work ethics, their ambitions, their very purpose of being is evidenced by everything they accomplished .. and by the values they tried to instill in those who cared to learn from what they had experienced. They were “the greatest generation” .. and I’m so fearful that today, nearly half of our “melting pot” is just looking for handouts.
The USS Iowa was awarded Eleven (11) Battle Stars in over 50 years of active service. It was simply an honor just to have walked the ramp to board that vintage time machine. One of the greatest memories of that day was seeing all the old veterans who came to pay their respect .. regardless of their branch of service. They, and many of their wives, “navigated” the steep ladders and stairways while exploring this warship. At various locations there were Veteran volunteers who would answer questions and give explanations .. and by the time we came up with another question there was someone else ready to divulge the secret.
Though I was a bit surprised at how the USS Iowa was a bit dwarfed by the nearby cruise liner, which probably held 5000 guests .. I still couldn’t help but swell with pride for this magnificent warship .. and for every hard working American who had a hand in her construction. This steel water warrior required over 800 miles of welding, 1,135,000 driven rivets, and had the electrical capacity to support the domestic load of a city of 20,000 people .. all connected with over 250 miles of electronic cables.
The “energy” that permeates the very soul of the USS Iowa shall forever be felt by all those who pay her respect. I hope you get the chance one day.
Until next time .. ride smart .. ride safe
and the Adventure continues …
I dedicate this to my dear friend and brother, Fireman Daniel C. Patterson, who died aboard the USS Tutulia in September 1969. His heroism saved the life of a comrade.