Tarmac ribbons criss-crossing the landscape, dusty back roads twisting between the cool shadows of ancient pines, and less traveled pathways connecting present to past, all I wander, seeking, seeing, with my keyboard and camera capturing scenes and stories to share with you.

Now in its seventh year, this venue has become an important part of my life, a place where I can express my thoughts and feelings about the things I see and do, hoping the process brings me a bit closer to friends and family who enjoy sharing my sometimes chaotic and often nonlinear observations and ideas. A journal, I suppose, but one with which I find pleasure in thinking others are alongside me on my journey.

Comments, thoughts, or just a friendly chat, use the response box below or email me at patrickgroleau@gmail.com.

May 30, 2013

OHIO TO MAINE ON TWO WHEELS - DAY 2

CAVEAT:  NOTICEABLY EDITORIAL COMMENTS

... today was of the greatest drives i've ever taken ... in my motel room for the night, it'll be a long time before i've fully processed this day, but in keeping with the spirit of this journal i will attempt to share with you the highlights of today's wandering ...

... i left new stanton with neither map nor gps in hand, simply wandering north under the assumption that sooner or later i'd run into route 30, the lincoln highway, which runs east-west across central pennsylvania  ...  when i found it i was rather disappointed, since this century-old first transcontinental highway turned out to be a quite modern multi-lane divided highway ... i drove by strip-mall after strip-mall, passed examples of pretty much every "big box" store in america, and, when i became stuck in traffic surrounded by nine different fast-food franchises, became nauseated by the smell of cooking grease ... it was twenty miles or so before i was finally navigating a typical state highway ... even then there was little evidence of the road's history ... mostly, the past was represented by dozens and dozens of closed restaurants, delapidated motels, and abandoned buildings ... it was an enjoyable ride, for sure, but nothing remarkable ... it took forever for me to find a small diner at which to get some lunch ... even then, although the waitress was very friendly, the sliced turkey was processed meat and the chips were from a plastic bag ...

... here alongside the original roadbed of the lincoln highway sits a house that probably dates back to a time predating the delineating of this section of country road as a part of the then brand-new national highway ... now it appears to have become incorporated into the confines of a huge automobile salvage yard ... i peeked through a window, it appears the workers have drafted it into use as an impromptu break room ... from what i could see, i have to wonder if their bosses know how much beer plays a part in their mid-day routine ...

... as i drove i passed patch after patch like this ... there was a time i knew someone who could identify any flower or tree, or, for that matter, most anything containing chlorophyl ... now, of course, as usual my lacking of pretty much any taxonomic skill whatsoever forces me to lump them into the general category, "really pretty flowers" ...

... other than a little blue sign put up by the state, barely visible behind an untrimmed bush, this was the first really noticeable announcement that i was nearing my destination ... making no comment as to the specifics of the message, i will note that it brought to mind the thought that memorials, despite all the lofty wordage to the contrary, are never really about the dead, but rather are primarily a means through which the living bring to focus their thoughts, ideas, hopes, fears, nightmares and dreams ... i paced it out, this sign is clearly located upon private property, and thus is perfectly acceptable under the dictates of the first amendment, but all i could think was that somehow it seems to use those who so tragically died to endorse the message it proclaims ... i don't think that's fair ... that is my opinion ...

... this is the walkway to the exact spot where flight 93 smashed into the earth ... only "authorized personnel" are allowed to walk beyond the paved sidewalk ... i had to wonder, "who is authorized ... why are they authorized ... how did they become authorized" ...

... currently the flight 93 memorial is a work in progress ... when completed the plan is for it to have an extensive visitors center and well over two-thousand acres of countryside landscaped with thousands of trees and flowering shrubs ... as of right now the projected cost is $60,000,000, but from what i've read i have a feeling that number is going to keep growing ...

... i will leave it to you to decide for yourself the originality of this design ... it seems quite familiar to me ... i do know that a great deal of time and energy was spent deciding the font in which the names of the passengers and crew of flight 93 are inscribed ...

... there are little alcoves within which visitors can leave mementos/offerings ... in the bright sunlight the 45° angled black stone shows quite distinctly the glaring white offerings made by birds ... i think that's going to be a problem ...

... you can stand within the memorial to the u.s.s. arizona and look down to the wreck inside which over 1,000 sailors are entombed, i'm trying to get the point of hiding from view the spot where flight 93 came to earth, but so far understanding eludes me ... as for the symbolism of the gate, i think that's something i'm going to have to ponder for awhile ...

... this couple took notice that each student in a junior high group had left a tiny personalized engraved wooden plaque beneath one of the names ... having visited the viet nam memorial in washington d.c. with well over a thousand 8th-graders, i had noticed, too ...

... this little girl, born after the events of 9/11, noticed that one of the last names on the wall was the same as her own ... she asked her father if they were part of her family ... he examined the inscription then answered that as far as he knew they weren't related, paused momentarily, then added, "but if you want it's okay for you to adopt her as a big sister" ... he, his wife, and their other daughter knew enough to walk away and leave her to her thoughts, and in this simple act they completed to perfection the flight 93 memorial ...

... for reasons i don't understand, i thought of my father, and i walked away in tears ...

... if it was me, of course, i would have left the landscape intact ... on the hill would be a parking lot and viewing area looking down across the fields to the edge of the woods where was gouged into the earth final proof of those who refused to be terrorized ... but, i know, it doesn't really matter ... marble, stone, carefully cultivated gardens and groves, this off-the-beaten-path spot in the pennsylvania hills is a place for one to sit and think about the events of that day, to reflect, to wonder "what would i do" ... i like to think that in the very final seconds of flight 93, after those courageous individuals had stormed the cockpit and served failure to the hijackers' heinous plans, for them was a brief blissful moment of peace when they gazed out the aircraft's windows and said to themselves, "what a beautiful place to die," for it is, indeed, a most beautiful place ...

... i wandered route 30 east ... instead of the interstate highway's tunnels beneath the mountains and huge excavated cuts through the steep hills, i soared up and down syncline and anticline ... my motorcycle purred, the rhythmic cycling of its throbbing motor saying to me, "i'm a machine, so of course i've no soul of my own ... if you will allow, however, i'll help you read the road so that its timeless story vibrates through my frame into the center of your being ... let the wind i create draw from you all that is tired and old, let my clean breeze sweep away life's unwanted and unneeded clutter and debris   ... no, it's clear i've no soul, but if you let go ... let go of the earth ... let go of gravity ... let go time itself ... if you do that, and let there be nothing but driving me, then you will be able to feel that in my gears and valves and bearings there is spirit ... and, in doing that, you will embrace yourself" ...


... i saw so much today, much more than i can relate here ... a quiet spot, where courage has been forever imprinted into the earth ... strange geometric symbols emblazened upon the sides of barns and the front doors of farmhouses ... a woman wearing a long blue dress, white bonnet holding her tightly coiled hair in place, atop a riding lawn mower trimming the long grass along the fence at the side of the road ... flattened stretches of forest, curving away from route 30 as they followed the contour of the land, all that remains of the lincoln highway of olden days ... a bearded man with rather obscene tatoos covering his arms, driving a shiny red harley-davidson with a chromed motor large enough to easily power a truck, pulling alongside me, pointing to my motorcycle, and saying, "that's bitchin'" ... a wicked old lady, who after giving me directions to ruth's diner, said to me, "enjoy your ride, young man, and may god be with you," and i felt good, not because i thought g*d was going to be with me, but because she had cared about me to make the request ... dead deer on the shoulder of the road, lots of them ... a live deer, who when i zoomed around a curve and surprised him in a single great leap he jumped from the center line all the way into the forest ... two nice men, stopped to take a break on their way home from seeing the rolling stones perform in chicago, who shared with me their encyclopedic knowledge of all things rock and roll ... at the truck stop, a little girl who said to me, "someday i'm going to have a motorcycle," and as her father passed by he leaned down and whispered, "i'm not sure i'm going to survive this" ... earth turned over dark, fresh plowed fields in which farmers inspecting the soil are not surprised to find musket balls, remnants of leather kit, and, occasionally, small pieces of human bone, for this is a land once stained with the blood of brothers fighting brothers ... a man wearing a funny hat and long-sleeved white shirt driving a wagon with a red reflector triangle hanging from the tailgate, behind him in the bed were four hispanic looking field workers ... a church with a sign, "we welcome all, no matter belief," and another place of worship, placarded, "repent or burn forever" ...

... along a tree arched section of the road, in the middle of nowhere, a very, very old man, wearing a plaid vest, sitting on a little bench ... i stopped and asked, "are you okay" ...

... "yes," he replied ...

... "are you waiting for a bus or something" ...

... "no" ...

... "oh, well, have a good day" ...

... "i live up on the hill," he pointed to an old brick house tucked up above the highway in a little fold of the earth, "sometimes i sit down here and every now and then someone pulls over ... sure beats the hell out of what's on tv ... thanks for stopping" ...

... we talked ... he had fought in korea during the war, so i remarked it was possible he'd run into my pa ... he didn't have any recollection of doing so, which means he probably hadn't since most people who met my dad never forgot him, but nevertheless it made the two of us feel connected ... soon, it was time for me to continue my wandering ... he thanked me once more for stopping ...

... "thank you, for your service, and, also, thank you for sitting by the side of the road" ...

... as i said, today was a wonderful day, wandering at its best ... hopefully tomorrow i'm on to another special place ...


May 29, 2013

OHIO TO MAINE ON TWO WHEELS - DAY 1

... i'm headed back to maine ... staying at a howard johnson's in new stanton, pennsylvania, tonight ... not very fancy, but the toilet works, sheets're clean, and, most important, tax included it's less than $50 a night ... my kind of motel ...

... it was very windy driving across ohio and west virginia, which was good since at times the temperature was above 90°f ... i lined the underside of my motorcycle's seat with heavy-duty aluminum foil, that and the padding i added seem to have helped quite a bit to keep my butt from cooking ... no more complaining, however, not after i met a canadian couple at the rest stop on i70 ... they were driving "fully accessorized" harley-davidsons, more chrome trim than a 1950's cadillac and giant full-height wind fairings ... both of them were cooked, i mean beet-red flambéed and sizzle-fried well-done ... they looked like they'd been working loading coal into a steam boiler ... ouch ... anyhow, i've decided that i like my motorcycle ...

... my first stop was a bridge in zanesville, one i've been wanting to cross ever since years ago i learned about it in an "architectural oddities" book ... doesn't look all that different, does it ...

   

... here's another shot, taken from a spot mid-river i managed to get to by jumping across some stones and a discarded automobile tire ... still, i'm sure you're remarking, it doesn't look all that impressive ...
   

... from the heights above the city, you might be starting to get an idea of the odd nature of this very unusual bridge ...
   

...  here's a zoomed in shot so you can get a closer look ... this is the the only bridge in the world you can "cross while staying on the same side of the river" (that's what is proclaimed, but i can't figure it that way) ...
   

... it's the famous zanesville "y-bridge" ...
   
 


... all the counties i've visited in ohio have really neat courthouses, and zanesville's was no exception ...
   


... this mystified me a bit ... i mean, i can understand wanting to keep it safe and secure, but does the owner drive it up the stairs to park it ...
   

... one of the most impressive things i've come across in my travels ... the stairs are part of the little park that overlooks zanesville, and i've a feeling that the rocks were the fix for a bit of a soil erosion problem ... but the slide, how cool is that ... it appears to be custom made, not "store bought" ... i'll bet the city workers who installed it probably invested a day's work in a machine shop and no more than a few hours setting it in place, and i'm sure the tin didn't cost all that much ... what a fabulous idea ... while i was packing up my camera and getting ready to leave a couple of mothers came over with their children and they all started making runs down slide ... again, what an absolutely fabulous idea ... (hmmmmm, in waterville, the old "kentucky fried chicken" sleddin' hill in the south end ... there's a thought) ...
   

... the last of my ohio courthouses, this one is in st. clairsville only a few miles from the west virginia border ...
   

... the suspension bridge in wheeling, west virginia ... it was built in 1849, then rebuilt after a windstorm destroyed the the deck of the bridge in 1854* ... i think it is one of the most beautiful suspension bridges in the world, even if, as you can see from the uplift of the roadbed on the eastern side, it is a bit asymmetrical ... it is a very light structure, with an open deck, and only cars are allowed to cross ... even  so there are signs warning drivers to "keep 50 foot spacing while crossing" ... on a motorcycle, of course, the open steel deck is a very slippery ride ...
   

... *the contemporary newspaper accounts of the bridge's structural failure are remarkably similar to what happened to the tocoma narrows bridge in 1940 ... had the designers read these stories they most likely would have known they needed to plan reinforcements for aerodynamic lifting movements of the lightly constructed deck that ended up crashing into the river ... that's one of the reasons the wheeling bridge has an open deck, to keep wind from turning the span into a giant wing ...

... those of you who are keen to such details, you can see washington roebling's hand in the cable stays that were added to the bridge in the 1860s (go back a few entries to his father's bridge in cincinnati) ...
   

... while enjoying the view i met a nice man who as an engineer knew all sorts of interesting things about bridges ... we talked about how suspension bridges were perhaps the purest of all architectural forms, combining elements of the mathematical, geometric and esthetic sublimes ... he made some rather humorous comments about the new east huntington cable-stayed bridge, to which i replied, "yea, they somehow talked maine into putting one of those things up in bucksport" ...

... a nice ride, today, even if it was hot and windy ... tomorrow i'm off to visit a very special place ...

May 28, 2013

MAINE TO OHIO ON TWO WHEELS - DAY 11

... as much as i've enjoyed my stay at the "hotel jon" it's time for me to turn my motorcycle around and head east ... this morning i took a nice back road drive over to dayton, where i spent a few hours wandering through all four of the giant hangers containing the fantastic collection of the united states air force museum ...

... one of the most beautiful planes of its day, the p-26 "peashooter" was the first all-metal american fighter, and the first pursuit monoplane used by the army air corps ... it was pretty much obsolete by the time it entered service, and soon after pearl harbor most peashooters were very quickly removed from the army air force's inventory by imperial japan's highly advanced mitsubishi zero fighters ...

... "five by five" is a p-47 thunderbolt ... flown by aces such as robert s. johnson and francis gabreski, as a model-building kid the "jug" was my favorite airplane ... it's 18-cylinder pratt & whitney r-2800 engine provided over 2,400 horsepower ... that much power coupled with the five ton weight of the p-47 resulted in cases in which during a dive the aircraft would approach the speed of sound ...

... although less glamorous than its hanger mate, the venerable flying fortress, more b-24 liberators were manufactured than the b-17, numbers so great that it still qualifies as the most produced american military aircraft ... here, of course, is a great example of what today would be considered "politcally incorrect" nose art ... the brits tended to paint the name of a sponsoring city on the sides of their bombers, they were shocked at the risqué—sometimes to the point of pornographic—adornments the yanks displayed on their aircraft ...

... i've always had a very vague recollection, but it was only in the year before she died that ma told me she believed my very first plane ride was most likely down to cayman in commander owen robert's demilitarized pby-5 catalina ... my memories are not clear enough for me to be sure of this, of course, but i like to believe it's true ...

... on the left, the "little boy," the atomic bomb dropped on hiroshima, on the right, minus its aerodynamic fins, a b-53 hydrogen bomb ... the world war 2 device weighed approximately five tons, and its yield of 20kt, or 20,000 tons, of tnt completely destroyed the city of hiroshima, killing over 100,000 people ... the b-53, the first weapon i trained upon, weighed approximately four and one-half tons, and using an atomic "trigger" to ignite a complicated fission-fusion-fission reaction had an explosive yield of almost 10mt, or 10,000,000 tons of tnt ... do the math, that's 500 times the power of the first atomic bomb ... a b-53 detonated at ground-level would produce a crater over a mile across ... to understand this, simply picture the mount st. helen's volcanic eruption—then multiply by 5 ... the little boy was invented to end a war ... despite the strategic air command's "peace is our profession" motto, and claims of "deterrance" by three generations of politicians, the purpose  of the b-53 was to enable its users to "win"... i often wish the museum would put a giant sign over these devices, in glowing red letters, proclaiming simply, "insanity" ...

... tomorrow i'm heading to new jersey ... part of my route will be a wandering along the old lincoln highway, and i've already marked on the map some spots that interest me ... now it's time to get a good night's rest ...

May 27, 2013

MAINE TO OHIO ON TWO WHEELS - DAY 10

... yesterday was just some take it easy time for me ... weather wasn't all that good, so i stayed close to jon's ... picked up three quarts of oil and did my first oil change on my new motorcycle ... instructions made it seem a bit complicated, but it turned out to be no more difficult than it was on my suzuki ... today i had planned to go down to cincinnati for a bbq with the rogers, but i wasn't feeling all that good and the forecast was for "chances of thunderstorms" in the evening, so i decided to stay in groveport ... i went out for lunch a chipolte's, then wandered a great circle of back roads for about an hour ... this picture represents what i notice most in this part of ohio, how an agricultural landscape has become transformed into an urban/industrial environment ... behind the old 10-15,000 square foot barn can be seen two 1,000,000+ square foot warehouses ...

... about a mile or so south of this location i had to turn around because a train was parked blocking the highway ... one of the local residents told me that it happens so often they're quite accustomed to having to detour via the overpass upon which i was standing when i snapped this photograph ... here the crops're going in as they have been for hundreds of years, but on the other side of the railroad tracks much of the land has been taken over by outlandish "mcmansions" centered in the middle of meticulously landscaped multi-acre lawns ...

  ... a peek into the past, the real estate sign at the edge of the road is the heading of the final chapter in the story of this old farm ...

... after this the battery in my camera died ... the extra battery was back at the house, so my picture taking was finished for the day ... now, a movie, early to bed, then tomorrow i'm going to make another visit to the air force museum in dayton ... after that i'll be heading east ...





May 25, 2013

MAINE TO OHIO ON TWO WHEELS - DAY 8

... today i took one of my favorite drives, ohio route 22 from cincinnati to circleville, then back roads to jon's house in groveport ... in sabrina i stopped at "kim's classic diner" where i enjoyed one of my all-time favorite meals ...

... that's right, a fried bologna sandwich with fresh made chips ... while some people consider this "economy" food, growing up in the groleau household, per gourmet guidelines established by pa, this was always welcomed as nothing but fine cuisine ... 

... i stopped in circleville to take a break, making sure to park so i could snap a picture of the "pumpkin festival" mural ... as i've said before, circleville was originally built upon the remains of a circular structure left by the ancient mound builders ... as the town developed it was decided to construct a street plan that was circular, so that a map of the town looked like a giant dart board ... it only took a short few years for everyone to realize that what had seemed a wonderful idea turned out to be the exact opposite ... having to guide teams of horses and oxen through the town in constantly curving paths was incredibly frustrating for all involved, and many people found the street plan a hinderance to urban development ... eventually the "circleville squaring company" was formed to reshape the layout of the town, and, in time, the orginal circular street plan was completely erased and replaced with a traditional grid pattern of streets ... nothing is left but the name "circleville" ... circleville is one of my favorite places in ohio ...

MAINE TO OHIO ON TWO WHEELS - DAY 7

... i began my morning by missing it, sleeping in until almost noon ... sounds a lot worse than it really was, since my wakeup was only about eight hours after i'd fallen asleep in the wee hours of the morn reading ... after c.j. treated me to a great lunch i took a ride over to microcenter to purchase a 6" usb cable ... odd, how there was a time i could spend hours roaming the aisles in the computer "superstore,"  while now i only stopped there because i know the shelf prices are even better than amazon ... in the parking lot i was fascinated by these shapes along the railroad tracks ...

... this evening jane and carl took me to see a cincinnati reds baseball game ... the park is huge ... our seats were three rows off the field, just below where the yellow-shirt vender is holding up a tray of cotton candy ...

... jane and c.j. ... a long, long time ago i served in the military with c.j. ... they have always provided me a second home in ohio ...

... after a few innings i decided to go on a little exploration of the ballpark ...

... atop the southwestern heights of the stadium i found an excellent vantage point from which to view john roebling's famous bridge ... when it opened in 1866 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world ... i hope the two young ladies were emailing pictures of the magnificent structure to their friends, i hate to think they were just playing angry birds ... can you imagine going back in time and trying to explain what's happening in this scene to roebling ...

... just recently opened, a new insurance company skyscraper now dominates the cincinnati skyline ... i can remember not all that long ago when the downtown was in a decline and there were some who thought it would be decades, or perhaps even longer, before the city would begin to recover ...

... tucked away beneath the stadium seats i found a little alcove in which there were fans who seemed to have settled in to the perfect combination of the noise of the crowd, creature comforts, and a great view of the game ... going to the ballpark to watch a live game on tv ... interesting, very, very interesting ...

... if nothing else, perhaps just an exercise in the application of the "zone system" to the geometric sublime ... there are times, i think, that me and my little camera belong back in the 1930s ...

... i bought a giant waffle cone filled with delicious united farmer's ice cream for jane and c.j. ... i got lost returning to my seat, so it was dripping a bit by the time i handed it to them ... this, of course, would be the "polite and neat" snapshot of them enjoying it ... (i'll hold onto the other picture until the time is right) ...

... after the game we were treated to the friday night fireworks show ...

... we all had a great time watching the pyrotechnics, but, as i'm sure is how it's supposed to be, the kids seemed to enjoy it most ...

... on and off during the entire evening in addition to the ballgame i enjoyed watching this mother cuddle, toss, tickle, raspberry and otherwise entertain her little boy ... brave little fellow, that's a chicago cubs hat he's wearing ...

... it was a wonderful evening ...






May 23, 2013

MAINE TO OHIO ON TWO WHEELS - DAY 6

... a cool, windy, rainy day in southern ohio ... c.j.'s in his little room doing c.j. stuff, which seems to include a lot of staring at a computer monitor and pondering ... three computer screens on his desktop, i wonder if the amount of paper is in direct geometric proportion to the amount of display space ... ha, i remember years and years ago when the technocrats prophesied a future "paperless society" ... yea, that and the helicopters we we're all going to have parked in our garages ... but, thinking how we can all play "angry birds" on our cell phones, i guess the digital revolution wasn't a total bust ...

... dodging the rainstorms, i took a drive up the wal-mart in lebanon to investigate a possible solution to my motorcycle's "hot seat" problem/feature ... bought this nifty all terrain vehicle seat cushion for $17, so far it seems to work quite well ... as comfortable as the seat was, as an added bonus this makes it more so ... only thing left to do is to find a talented daughter someplace who can modify the straps so the buckles stay beneath the seat ...

... i said to the dogs, "you guys've got a rough life, don't you" ... both of 'em gave me a stare, as if to say, "yea, and what time did you roll out of bed this morning" ...

... rainy and windy, so i'm in for the day ... finished one book, about to take up another ...