JoshuasTravels — Junior Year

Posts categorized “Junior Year”.

September 6th 2006

Bravo 249, CDT Fenton speaking. How may I help you SirOrMa’am?

Because spending five weeks at Camp wasn’t enough (generally speaking, it’s never enough), I volunteered for three more weeks of CTLT, making for an uninterrupted two months of Army Fun. CTLT is a sort of internship-slash-job-shadow where a Cadet, like myself, gets paired with a Lieutenant. This is neat for two reasons: you get sort of a preview of what you’ll be doing in a year’s time, and you get to spend time in a real unit, interacting with all the Officers, Sergeants, and Soldiers. You learn a lot of very practical things.

I volunteered for an Engineer unit: Bravo Company, 249th Battalion (Prime Power). And I really lucked out with the 249. Unique is a highly overused term these days, but that’s what they are. Their mission is to provide massive amounts of electrical power on demand, anywhere in the world. They’ve got some real powerful generators to help them do it (big ones, mounted on trailers, capable of powering medium-sized cities). More importantly, though, they’ve got the technical know-how to get it done.

Every enlisted soldier, as part of in-processing, takes a comprehensive test over 14-odd subjects. The top score is 130, the minimum 31. Soldiers that score 31 pretty much wind up with job titles like “infantryman” or “cook.” To branch Engineer requires a generally high score, but for Prime Power, though, the minimum is very high: 110. And all Prime Power soldiers are sent off to a year’s worth of college before they linkup with the unit. So Bravo 249 is filled with highly trained, very competent Sergeants and Warrant Officers. They aren’t any Specialists, Privates, or – for that matter – Lieutenants in 249. The platoons are called detachments, and they’re led by Warrant Officers (who know a lot more about electricity than any LT).

Bravo 249, like I said, is unique – it’s not part of the 82nd, or even the 18th Airborne Corps. I apologize for all the Army mumbo-jumbo jargon, but what I’m trying to express here is that the chain of command is very, very short. The Captain in charge of Bravo reports to the Colonel in charge of the 249th, who in turn reports directly to the Deputy Chief of Engineers, a General that wears two stars on his uniform, is the highest ranking Engineer in the Army, and generally spends a lot of time at the White House.

Seeing as there aren’t any LTs to mentor me, I bounced around the unit like a motivated, dedicated, and curious Ronin, learning about things on both the company and platoon levels. So it was a big help that everyone in the unit is knowledgeable and willing to take a minute and show the Cadet something.

Life itself is a lot better here at CTLT. They put all of us Cadets up at the Gateway Inn, a dinky little hotel right off post. The Internet access is on-again, off-again but it’s got clean, private bathrooms, and two big old queen size beds that we never have to make. I’m a pretty tidy person, but at camp you slept on top of your already-made bed, thankful to be shivering under a thin blanket rather than be scrambling to remake the bed during the next morning’s hustle. And that’s already assuming that you weren’t sleeping on the cold, hard ground.

Back in K-vegas, where I go to school, I couldn’t ask for a better roomie (that’s you, DM Redbeard). And it seems I lucked out twice: my roommate is a Puerto Rican named Jose Raymond Santiago. Santiago was in my platoon at camp, and I couldn’t really ask for a better CTLT roomie. He doesn’t steal any of my TA-50 (stuff), he racks out about the same time I do, and he’s always up for going and getting something to eat. I tell you what, after five weeks of Army food, I was ready all of it: gagburgers, gutbombs, french fries, greasy pizza, grapefruit, Juicy Fruit… [I] committed a little mortal sin. It’s good for my soul.

Living at Gateway isn’t great, but I can’t complain – CTLTing is predominately a 9-to-5 job, meaning we’ve got a time to decompress a little bit of the combat fatigue leftover from Camp, we get absolutely glorious amounts of shut-eye, but we still stay busy enough to make the time pass.

Now, then – that’s the setup, these are the stories:

I, for totally trivial reasons, had to make at appearance at the hospital during my second week. During the sign-in process, they asked for rank and I, being a Cadet, marked CDT (as I had a thousand other times on a thousand other forms) and thought nothing of it. When I turned the form back in, the receptionist looked at me a little funny, which should have alerted me that something was off. But it wasn’t until, 40 minutes later, a nurse opened the door and called for “Captain Fenton,” that I figured out something was, indeed, off. Captains in the Army usually have, say, 7+ years experience, and spend sometime in charge of a company (160ish soldiers). Cadets, on the other hand, have a few months experience, and we usually spend sometime in charge of other Cadets.

So, after scanning the waiting room, wondering if maybe my Dad had a real high-speed brother I didn’t know about (My mom has a high-speed brother, whose names is also frequently preceded by “Captain,” but I already know about him), I explained to the Nurse that, while I wrote “cDt,” the receptionist must’ve read “cPt.” The Nurse then explained to me that I was in the system as “CPT,” and that wasn’t about to change, and congratulations on being the only 21 year old Captain in the Army of this Grand Republic. I was promptly demoted upon exiting the hospital.

On one of the 249’s slower days, I got a chance to spend some time with a Topography Engineer unit on the other side of base. I got paired with LT Smith, who went to West Point and really changed my perspective on Pointers. Before him, the three or so West Point graduates I’d met had epitomized the Type A, Lieutenant-Never-Give-Up stereotype. LT Smith, though, was laid back, relaxed, and entirely squared away.

The Topo company was split into four platoons – a Survey platoon, a Terrain platoon, a Production platoon, and a Headquarters platoon. I saw a little bit of them all, but spent most of my time with LT Smith and the Survey platoon. They’ve got a lot of real high-speed and rugged GPS equipment, which they use to plot points on the ground, mostly in the construction of airfields. Since FAA regulations stipulate that all airfields must be re-surveyed every 5 years, they keep busy with a lot of traveling/training.

Since they were getting ready for a trip down to FT Hood, Texas next week, they were unpacking and testing all their equipment, and they let me play with a bit. What they do is really pretty incredible – they can, quite literally, take a dime-sized spot on the ground and give you coordinates with “sub-millimeter accuracy.” That’s crazy and what’s crazier is that, when they work in conjunction with the rest of their Battalion, they only need 72 hours to transform a big old piece of terrain (forest, desert, whatever) into an airstrip (clear it, survey it, pack it, set up defenses, etc) capable of landing a fleet of fully loaded C-130s (big old planes you can fit a few tanks into).

As far as traveling goes, there wasn’t much. Our first weekend up was a three day, and we spent it in South Carolina. We hit up Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Wilmington (where they filmed Dawson‘s Creek). I was joined by three other cadets, including my roommate, Santagio.

Now I don’t mind group traveling but in my experience, anything more than three makes for trouble. But there are certain undeniable benefits – shelter costs are split, it’s a bit easier to talk to locals, etc. I won’t say they slowed me down, but I will say they slept in few hours longer than I did, they didn’t like to drive more than 100 miles at a time, they wanted to stop at every store we saw and one of them was cell phoning it about half of his waking hours. The trip still went alright, and we got to see some real cool stuff, but I did break my own rules and I paid for it. Starting with, of course, the Cardinal Rule of Fentonian Travel: invite others to travel with you, but don’t break your plans for man, woman, or beast.

The funniest thing that happened on the trip happened in the South Carolina welcoming center, which is a little funny in-and-of-itself. None of the workers would talk about anything outside of South Carolina, and they shushed me anytime I asked. Still, I persisted and when I finally convinced the girl helping me to thumbs-up or thumbs-down a town right over the border, she made me promise I wouldn’t tell anyone (who would I tell?). If it sounds stupid to you, I suppose the hilarity is in the immediacy.

I also wandered into competing in the FT Bragg Invitational Swim Meet, which was a lot of fun. I was asked if I could swim on a Friday (I said I could). They didn’t tell me the meet was on Tuesday. Which was sort of bothersome, especially since Alcatraz was three years ago and I’ve been dry ever since. But a lack of swimming doesn’t correlate to a lack of exercise, and I keep in pretty good shape. The meet was spread out over two days, and I raced four events each day.

There was a time when I took swimming very, very seriously. I lived for the meets; the feel of the water, the thrill of competition, the stench of chlorine. But all that is behind me, and it was an altogether different experience, swimming for “just the fun of it.” I swam with two LTs and a few Joes under the 30th Engineer’s roster (including two relays), and we didn’t do to bad for ourselves. Especially considering that I got lost on my way there, running on deck just as they were clearing the pool to start the meet, so I started the meet sans warm-up, which was a bit daunting. But I preserved, got some medals, and had a jolly good time. The big competition was some soldiers from a Special Forces Training Group, which was a bit intimidating (only until I beat them, I mean….).

Our next trip was up to the Capitol area. It was a four hour drive to Richmond, Virgina and a two hour train ride from there to the District. Despite the opinions of some of the women I’ve dated, I’m not stupid enough to drive into DC. My roommate, being from Puerto Rico, wanted to see all the sights (I’ve been) so we did, and it was cool. We stayed in a funky little hostel in the Georgetown suburbs, sampled the nightlife, woke up, saw the rest of the sights, and went home. It was a pretty quick (30-odd hours) trip.

CTLT, in closing, wasn’t bad. Camp seems like it was years ago, and a lot of suck. In the end, it was just something I had to go through to get to where I wanted. But CTLT was something fun. I learned (a lot), I got to see a few parachute drops, I sat in on a few teleconferences with Germany and Iraq, and I did a lot of playing around with some really cool Engineer equipment.

And, as if this writeup wasn’t long enough, I’d like to take a paragraph to explain all the switcheroos surrounding my moniker. It’s a long-ish story that starts, ironically enough, with a little drinking. I swear I’m not the boozebag I make myself out to be, but that’s how it starts. I stayed a little to long in that familiar phase where you begin to think you’re the smartest guy in the entire world, and I wound up concluding a number of things:

that the purpose of a name is to distinguish human beings from other human beings -> that running into (on that particular day) three other humans called “Josh” defeated the purpose of that particular name -> that my middle name, Kirk, would now serve as my first name -> that, as a man of action, I needed to make the world immediately aware of this Change Of Plans

And that is the story of how and why I changed my name on Facebook and my banking statements. Yet, after a bit of thought and two instances of fellow cadets correctly guessing my first name (apparently I’ve got that “Josh” look), I have re-embraced my Josh-hood with… how do you say?… panache. Josh is my generation’s everyman; the common name of those that I will defend, write about, and represent, if life allows me the slightest opportunity to do so. I have, in closing, made note of those that supported my freedom of name-choice and those that did not. I will hold grudges accordingly.

Having said that, I must admit that I’m very excited to make it back to Kirksville. All this Armying has it’s place, and now it’s time to start wearing civilian clothes (although I will miss all the handy pockets: for the last two Saturdays, I’ve caught myself more than once reaching for things in pockets that aren’t there). It’s time to get back to that college environment – to see all my great MOpals, breathe that sweet Missouri air, do a bit of late-night socializing and all those things other stupid/smart things.

edit: Let me tell you a little bit about my aunt Jennifer. I visited FT Bragg almost exactly a year ago, under the auspices of training with my Uncle. The weather in Fayetteville went south, and my flight was canceled for three solid days. Jennifer bent over backwards two or three times to get me back to Portland and, consequently, off to Sydney. Even now, twelve months later, I still cannot express my gratitude enough.

I am now, through curious circumstance, writing this in the Fayetteville airport and stuck in much the same situation. My flights have all been jumbled up and my choices came down to A) wait a day or B) fly into St. Louis and footmarch it up to Kirksville. Remember when I said my roomie, DM Redbeard, was a top shelf guy? Well he, Kelly, Mary and I are thick as thieves, basically. Kelly and DM drove down to pick me up and take me back (six hours, round trip). Mary, who lives in St. Louis now, meet us all at the airport, and it felt pretty good, seeing all my hombres as I stepped off that plane.

JOSH fenton

August 13th 2006

My Summer, pt. I

Without getting too descriptive, the Army sent me off for 33 days of fun at what is known as Camp, LDAC, and/or Warrior Forge, depending on who you talk to, when you talk to them, and how important they think you are. About half of it is practical skills training (things like firing training rounds out of an AT-4, the Army’s modern version of a bazooka) and about half of it is leadership assessment (where Uncle Sam sizes up all the cadets). This is just an overview, but I’ll breakdown the big stuff.

The APFT (how in shape you are), Land Nav (how good you are with a compass), CWST (how comfortable you are in the water), BRM (how good you are with an M16), HGAC (how good you are with grenades). That’s what they test you on (some of it). They also constantly evaluate your ability to lead, to march and be marched around properly, and other ‘important’ stuff like that. The best part is the inordinate amount of BS you have to put up with at Camp (and, while I’m complaining about it: Life), but there’s really not much you can do about that. The crazy thing was, though, that the worst BS didn’t come from Up On High, it came from my peers – my unfavorite was the cadets with the “the rules don’t apply to me, but they apply to you” attitudes. Like I said, there’s not much more you can do about it (other than grin at the incongruousness of it all, of course).

The ironies of camp are amazing. On one hand, the Army spends a lot of time and effort and money on Warrior Forge. About 70% of next years LTs come through the WF system, so that makes sense. But we live in temporary barracks built for WWII (originally, they weren’t supposed to last more than ten years), we use rifles from Vietnam and before (I named mine Heidi (Klum) and she was an M16E1 – the E is for experimental) and the radios have been to ‘Nam and back. Between all the old equipment and the thick, fern-infested, jungle-like-forests of FT Lewis, it didn’t take much imagination to see yourself 20 klicks from the Cambodian border, surrounded by Charlie. Especially since a lot of our training was right under a major flight path bordering the base’s Drop Zone (where paratroopers land). This meant that at semi-frequently intervals during all hours of the day or night, military planes or other rotary-wing aircraft would come (loudly) screaming over our heads without warning.

When it’s too far to march (which wasn’t often) they drive us around in these Cattlecars that are too shoddy to be used for transporting real cattle. It was on the way back from somewhere, towards the end of camp, when somebody started singing Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise. Of course we all joined in, and after that, somebody started up with a bunch of old theme songs, starting with The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air. It was then, halfway through the second verse, when I realized that – for better or worse – those are the folk songs of my generation.

Camp culminated in a 10 day Field Exercise full of running around, pretending to shoot people and assault objectives, going on long walks (in full battle rattle, of course), leadership evaluations, sleeping under four hours a night, and not showering once. 10 days of suck, more or less. The Army’s got a variety of exciting tasks to pass the time, so it goes by a lot quicker than you’d think. Depending on the day, you might march all day and fight all night, or you could fight all day and march all night. Seven days in, we got to ride in a doors-open Blackhawk (a really fast helicopter) while it pulled off some crazy areal maneuvers (steep banking, treetop flying, climbing up high and then suddenly diving down, pretty much anything in the “throw up” category).

Strangely, though, the best part of the Blackhawk ride was right before we loaded up. We were all lined up, with our rucks front-loaded, ready to run up and buckle into the chopper when the CO (a fellow cadet in a leadership position) told us (in a vocal tone waaay more macho than his own) “I’ll see you on the ground.” I mean, c’mon, he might as well have added a “Remember your training. And you will make it back alive.” I guess you had to be there.

Two of my other favorite quotes from camp are: “Well, if Bravo Company jumped off a bridge, McNulty, would you?” just because it represents the mentality that Bravo Company is another single entity; I know I was starting to think that way. The other quote, though: “< big long story>….There’s nothing worse than a bunch of drunk 14 Bravos (enlisted Artillerymen).” And, just to keep things rolling, my two favorite SGTs in the Army are named SGT Sprinkle and SGT Wham. Well, that’s not true. But those are my two favorite names-I-have-personally-seen. I’ve seen cadets with name-tapes that read “Rambo” (who did fit the part) and “Charlie” (who was Vietnamese), but nothing beats out SGT Sprinkle or SGT Wham. There’s a very good chance that the protagonist of my first novel will be surnamed “Wham.”

Anyway, The average cadet walks 76 kilometers (41 miles) throughout WF, and I’d bet a full 20+ of those miles get humped during the 10 days in-country. And since I’m not trying to write a book here, I’ll just leave LDAC at that. I met a lot of people I’ll be working with in a year, I made a few good friends, I made a few new almost-enemies (if I wear a mutant, my power would be ability to quickly polarize those around me), and a learned a lot more than I ever thought I would (here’s a good for instances: while saying things like “ruck up, 2nd squad: we’ve got 90 mikes to make a 2 klick hump” can be fun, doing them isn’t quite as much fun).

I wasn’t rated as the Top Future Warrior Leader of the United States Army, but I was close enough to meet my (semi-)high standards (I don’t take it as seriously as some of the hardcore Killers). Parts of camp were great, parts sucked, but it’s over now. I’m not going to say it was “most demanding course the Army has to offer,” but I’m not going to let anyone tell me it wasn’t stressful, physically exhausting, or emotionally draining. It was all of that and then some.

I write this at FT Bragg, North Carolina, doing CTLT, which is a pseudo-internship-thing. For three weeks I’m assigned to a real unit in the real Army, giving me a chance to learn a lot of stuff I can’t learn in the Pretendland that is Cadetland. I’m with the 249th “Prime Power” Engineer Battalion, Bravo Company, a completely one of a kind unit. They are a highly mobile unit that can, in very little time, generate massive amounts of electric power for base camps, FOBs, relief from natural disasters, you name it. I’ll write more about it when it finishes up, but we get weekends and nights off, which is important for two reasons: A) you don’t get nights and weekends off at camp and B) it lets me get some traveling in. The next sendout will detail all that, though.

Josh “Cadet” Fenton

June 1st 2006

Des Moines plus

I had roughly a week between the end of finals and my flight back to Portland, so I speed up to Des Moines, Iowa (the “s” are _ilent, _tupid). My buddy Iowa (his parents call him Greg for some strange reason) was born and breed there, as were as his parents (and probably their parents). So, for the second time this year, I found myself sleeping on a couch in a buddies basement and, all in all, I’m getting pretty fond of it. The basements, they’re so dark, that I just konk out pronto.

Anyway, Iowa is truly God’s County and I really enjoyed my stay, although it was a lot different trip than I’m used to. The biggest difference being that I wasn’t running around like a maniac, trying to photograph everything. Nobody ran around anywhere. A DM Tuesday felt like a Portland Saturday. And get this – they grow entire FIELDS of corn. Yeah, it just grows there. No, I couldn’t believe it either. It’s real relaxed, too – I mean, when the corn grows just the same whether or not you stress out, why stress out?

I feel I should mention a couple cool things that have come out of Iowa besides corn (it leads the nation in hog, corn, and soy production although its only the 26th largest state, almost completely average) – John Wayne, Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Tom Arnold. The setting for the painting American Gothic is somewhere in Iowa. Like I said, we didn’t do to much. I got nine and half glorious hours of sleep every night. We took in a minor-league baseball game, the Iowa Cubs versus the Salt Lake Bees, which was a lot of fun. We toured the capitol, and just let me tell you about that:

Iowa, to me, is synonymous with the plain and simple and functional. I expected the capitol to be a plain brick building with a few offices. Nope. The thing must’ve been designed by Liberace, and it wouldn’t look out of place on the Vegas Strip. Everything – ceilings, carpets, location (perched on top of the biggest hill around and surround by cannons), the library, the senate chamber (complete with Jumbotron) was looking pretty gangsta. Took me completely by surprise.

But the end came much to quick, and we travelled twenty minutes across the mini-city to get to Stellas, a 50’s restaurant. Stella’s had been hyped by the Poppa ‘o’ Iowa – if you order a milkshake, they have a cute girl in a poodle skirt pour it into your glass from five feet up. The kicker? You hold the glass on your forehead while they do it. So you can believe the let down when I had to order my milkshake from a dude with dreadlocks. But the food was good, the company was better, and I was trucking back to Kirksville before I even knew it.

After that I was off to Sam A Baker State Park, down in southern Missouri. Me and some of the ROTC boys and some of their friends didn’t do much for a few days, but we did it real well – filling the days with floating trips down the local river, the nights with drink and talk, and all the meals were barbecued.

Then it was a long drive back to Kirksville, a short drive to Kansas City, and a long flight back to Portland, where I’ve been for a week and a half. And for a guy with nothing to do, I’ve kept busy – yard work, putting my room back together after my cousin moved out (it took four days), the daily exercising, meals with the fam (of how I missed them), meeting up with a just a fraction of the ORpals I need to see this break, etc. It’s been go-go-go.

But I’m planning on keeping this busy for the rest of my summer, which is a month. On July 1st I report up to FT Lewis, Washington for five weeks of getting compared to every other Cadet in the Army (every Cadet that plans on graduating next year, anyway). There’ll be leading and following and sweating and headgames and learning and teaching and planing and pretending to kill people and getting tear-gassed and never enough sleep and a lot of other stuff.

And after that, I go straight to FT Bragg, North Carolina, to job-shadow a few officers that do the exact thing I want to do (except I want to do it outside the Continental United States). And after three weeks of that, it’s straight back to Kirksville and my final, senior year. So, again, my summer pretty much ends July 1st and I plan on packing a lot of living into those 30 days.


Joshua 1:16:
“And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go.”

April 6th 2006

Seizing The Weekend

So Kelly, this girl I’ve been pal’n around with a lot lately, was up for an award from the Missouri Broadcaster’s Association. And since the banquet was in Lake of the Ozarks (just below the center of Missouri), we figured we’d make a trip of it. After Kelly (and Truman in general) robbed them of all the most important awards, we were off.

Branson, Missouri is billed as the heartland’s answer to Las Vegas. It isn’t. We spent the first night in that love-it-or-hate-it town and hated it. It’s about the most gaudy, hillybilly-entertainment thing I’ve ever seen. I’d wanted to stop in and catch a Ray Stevens show, because A) he’s sort of a childhood icon to me, right up there with Darkwing Duck and B) I heard he had a regular show down there. But when we got there, they told us that he’d retired last year. A bit nonplussed (I don’t think I’m using that word properly), we got some snaps in front of his theater and tore out of there like something really fast.

The next stop was Little Rock, AR, billed by Josh Fenton as “a fun mid-sized town.” I wouldn’t want to settle down there, but I sure wouldn’t mind living there for a few years. It’s relaxed, the weather’s warm, the people are friendly. Since my Australian travel guide served me so well Down Under, I grabbed an American travel guide at the local mall. The funny thing was that the travel guide didn’t really list much to do in Little Rock, except soak up the gee-are-8 atmosphere.

We stopped into the Clinton Memorial Library, which really wasn’t that exciting, then hit up the local Flying Saucer – a fairly well-respected chain of restaurants that specialize in serving excellent food and diverse brews. It thus occurred to me, whilst I was sipping one of them, that one of my life goals is to be one day referred to as a “beer enthusiast by someone who knows what they’re talking about.” I shared this revelation with Kelly and she laughed, then saw that I was serious and laughed some more.

But that’s the future and this is now; we were off to Memphis, Tennessee. For a while, we thought that we’d been in 3 state capitols over the weekend (driving through Springfield, MO and Little Rock), but it turns out that Nashville is the capitol of TN, not Memphis. It’s a mistake anyone would make, though – Memphis itself was named after the ancient Egyptian capitol on the Nile. See? Already my travel guide pays off.

So we hit up Beale Street, Memphis’s answer to the Strip, ate our fill of Huey’s Hamburgers and toured the night life a bit. I feel it’s important to mention the symbolic Mai Tai I had with dinner. Ever since watching Con Air, I’ve equated the south with Mai Tais and Yahtzee. And since Memphis is the furthest south I’ve ever been (I only ever just skimmed the top of Georgia), I couldn’t resist.

Graceland, by the way, sucked. They charge $25 per tour of the Presley house and you can’t turn around with seeing some over-merchandised Elvis crap. We had what fun we could and then struck out for the last stop before Kirksville – St. Louis. And we weren’t even in STL that long – just long enough to grab a few White Castle sliders, lose $20 (well, I did. Kelly’s a lot smarter than me) on the riverboat casino, gas up and skee-dattle.

It was a whirlwind trip, resulting in only 19 pics, but I’ll take what I can get.

the D.W.A. (Dane With Attitude)

pics, vids, a real good column and a link to a ROTCarticle

March 28th 2006

Spring Breaking

Spring Break came, went, and I took as many pictures as I could. We (Dave, Kelly, Mary Beth, and moi) spent the first weekend in Champagne, at the Illinois school system’s largest University. They snuck me into one of the bars and we had all sorts of good times that really can’t be translated or communicated via email.

Some of the stuff we did that weekend can, though – good eating being the first. We had some Steak and Shake (and I’m a man who loves his S&S), some Cozy Dogs (the original corn dog – they dip ’em in batter and fry ’em up right in front of you), and a Horseshoe or two (an open faced hamburger, smothered in cheese/ketchup). We got a little gluttonous there towards the end, but we all exercise pretty regularly and I’ve always tried to follow that sound advice of RA Heinlein: “Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. – moderation is for monks.”

Springfield, being the capitol of IL, makes a big stink about Lincoln. I think it’s bogus – he was born in Kentucky and spent the significant parts of his life either Sentoring or Presidenting in the DC area. But if you’ve ever met anyone from Illinois, you know they love their Lincoln all the same. So we wandered around and saw a lot of Land of Lincoln things.

I also had the misfortune of being in Springfield when all those tornadoes came through. Growing up in the NW, we go through earthquake drills quite regularly. I’m not going to lie – something about being smack dab in tornado alley, during tornado season, and hearing the warning sirens go off, well, it scarred the hell out of me. We were all there huddled in the basement, trying to play Cranium by candlelight. All my Midwest pals didn’t think anything of it, but man was it nuts – the winds got louder and louder, the lights flickered and then went out, the wind got even louder and then – all the sudden – things got real quiet outside. Too quiet. That was the worst. Oh man, was that the worst. Nothing bad really happened – I’ve still got full use of all ten fingers, but a few roofs got torn off four blocks away from the basement we cowered in (well, I did most of the cowering).

After that it was all pretty much downhill – we drove on back to Kirksville where we dropped off David and picked a whole contingent: my buddies Paul and Iowa, Iowa’s girlfriend and Iowa’s girlfriend’s sister. Also, Iowa‘s snowboard.

From there we drove straight through to Longmont, CO. My Pa grew up there, and we stayed with the grandfolks, which was nice. My Pa’s sister and her family live out that way, too, and we got to see them, which was also nice. Especially since we spent the whole day shredding (half of us skied, half snowboarded). It was real nice to eat some good food, hot tub it up, and relax with family. My hombres tell me they had a pretty good time, too.

For the short time we had in Colorado, we certainly kept busy – we spent two days sloping our little hearts out at Winter Park. At the end of our second day, we stopped in Idaho Springs (a litte town on the way down the mountain) and had good-good pizza at a place called Beau Jo’s. One of my ROTC bus also tipped me off to a microbrewery – Tommyknockers – two blocks away from Jo’s, so we checked that out and found, to our delight, that there was good-good beer to be had. And had it we did, because I turned 21 that very same day.

We also took a day to see Colorado without ski boots on, and trekked up to Estes Park (a charming mountain town) and the Rocky Mountain National forest. and since it’s such a beautiful state, we packed up a picnic and ate lunch right up there, among the peaks and trees and elk and Coloradoans. My G-ma told the story about my G-pa scarring off a bear that was after his new grill (a story I’ve loved to hear since I was a tot), and other fun stuff.

That’s about it – although we fit in more than we’re letting on – we packed up and trekked back to the MidWest, bellys full of good eating and quads aching from good slope’ing and ears popping from the altitude. On the way out of town we went by New Belgium brewery, the only brewery in the world which is entirely wind-powered.

Joshua 1:16
and what I will one day consider the worst column I’ve ever written

let's lose charley