Western Colorado

Pagosa Springs

The drive from Red River southeast toward Taos and then northwest through Carson National Forest was beautiful. West of Tres Piedras, New Mexico the highway winds through rolling mountains, past lush meadows and across a couple ridge lines where there were still a few patches of snow hanging in there. Eventually the route crosses into Colorado to wind its way up and then down into the cool town of Pagosa Springs. It was really a pleasant drive, despite the jackelope in the Class A holding up a long string of traffic who couldn’t—or wouldn’t—squeeze more than 40 miles an hour out of his rig. I got around the lineup using a few straightaway sections of passing lane.

Tuesday started with phoning in to my 121 life group to hang with the guys for an hour. Followed that up with a hike along the raucous Piedra River. Started out as a beautiful day—sunny, warm, fun trail. Then a thunderstorm built up and dropped rain, small hail and lightening bolts. Like a dumbass, I’d forgotten a rain poncho (always carry rain gear in the mountains!) and I quickly got soaked and cold. But the rewards of the mountain rain aromas, the echoing of the bone rattling thunder and the dramatic colors of cloud and sun sparring were worth every shiver. Just before the storm blew in I’d spent maybe 20 minutes just sitting on a rock enjoying creation. The storm reminded me of what a thunderous God we have!

Finally back at camp I took advantage of their shower facility because I knew I wanted lots of hot water and didn’t wanna fill my holding tank. LOL, I felt a lil bad abot how much hot water I used but so it goes.

Wednesday I ventured outside my comfort zone and hit the hot springs at the resort in town. Going for a quick soak after a workout or rough day, sure, but just sitting around for a couple hours soaking in communal juices is kinda a stretch. But I gotta say, it was cool (the water was hot, lol) and I got a check in that box. Followed that up with a visit to Riff Raff on the Rio for their Yak & Tequila Chorizo meatloaf. It did not disappoint! The brewpub’s beers are good but didn’t really knock me back. The view of the river and mountains sure did.

Durango

The easy 90 minute drive to Durango landed me at the Riverside KOA north of town. Nice campground nestled in the trees alongside the fast-flowing Animas River. This location flooded out last year after the rains followed a pretty devastating fire and it’s been nicely rebuilt.

Historic Durango is a cool town with several hotels, restaurants, pubs & breweries. I bypassed the numerous gift shops to sample a few brews instead. While meandering around Durango I wandered into the railroad museum at the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. This donation-only eclectic museum is packed with railroad memorabilia, antique cars, an old Indian motorcycle and tons of other seemingly random stuff. It’s definitely worth a visit if you like trains.

D&SNGRR

I’ve wanted to ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for as long as I can remember. So I ponied up $200 for a seat in the Alamosa parlor car. The four hour trip, each way, is nothing short of amazing! The Alamosa is the last car in the train so you get outstanding views from the back platform.

I’m not sure why I like trains so much but I do. The coal-fired steam engine just sounds so cool as it chugs up the track. And the screeching and clacking of the wheels really is the rhythm of the rails is all (you) feel. The four-hour trip was over before I knew it. The slideshow pics simply fail to render how gorgeous the scenery is.

Our porter, Ellie, was wonderful. Her knowledge of geography & history and a commitment to superb service made the trip so enjoyable. Each round trip up & down from Durango to Silverton consumes five to six tons of coal (all shoveled by one guy) and about 10,000 gallons of water, which we replenished at a couple stops along the way.

The short layover in the mining town provides only time for lunch and a quick shopping stop for those so inclined. I didn’t mind since I was spending the next two days in Silverton. I was glad I did not opt for the quicker return via bus. The train ride is just too good and is clearly one of, if not the best tourist attractions I’ve ever experienced. If you’re ever near Durango be sure to take this trip. If you’re not near Durango go there.

Our return trip downhill was cold, sometimes rainy & the skies threw down some sleet and hail. But that didn’t dampen the experience I just threw on a heavier sweatshirt.

D&SNGRR Videos

Rhythm of the Rails
Animas River & Train View #1
Animas River & Train View #2
Animas River Rear View #1
Animas River Rear View #2
Cliffside View #1
Cliffside View #2

As a side note, I’ve added a page that shows the National Parks & Monuments I’ve visited. Check it out here.

An Uncommon Field

My drive through south-central New York into Pennsylvania was another pretty drive, even on the interstate highway. I encountered occasional light to moderate rain making my way to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville. I might’ve mistimed this visit because the National Park was pretty busy, I assume because it was yet another holiday weekend (dang holidays bring out the tourists, lol).

Man, even the drive from the US highway into the memorial site sets the tone for the visit. This is a well designed place of remembrance and honor. The park roadway winds past the Tower of Voices and continues a couple miles to the visitor center which overlooks the crash site. Nicely, introspectively and respectfully designed, the center provides good coverage of that horrendous day’s events while lending focus to Flight 93 and its heroes. This solemn place extracts feelings of sadness, gratitude, respect. It’s a fitting tribute to the men and women of Flight 93. Beautiful field spoiled by blood, recaptured to honor a tragic memory of an event that undoubtedly saved hundreds, maybe thousands of lives. I’m glad I went out of my way to experience this important slice of our history. “A common field one day. A field of honor forever.”

And so, that’s it for Pennsylvania. I had visited other key sites in the state earlier this year and recapped those visits here. I slacked in front of the TV watching football Saturday evening and all day Sunday, and plotting the last weekish of my summer journey. There’s still a couple/few places I really wanna visit so stay tuned! The trip ain’t quite over yet.

Kentucky

The Genesis Museums

For some time now I’ve been intrigued by the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, both projects of reputable Answers in Genesis. So since I was within relative spitting distance I decided to pay them a visit. The Creation Museum is just southwest of Cincinnati and the Ark Encounter is 45 minutes south of there.

Ark Encounter
Ark Encounter
Ark Encounter
Ark Encounter
Ark Encounter
Ark Encounter

Gotta say, I was a little disappointed in both. I’d visited the Museum of the Bible, in Washington DC last year and found it absolutely amazing. Information there was professionally presented in an intellectually challenging way. I think my takeaway on these two attractions is they are also well-done but seem to target a different audience: kids. Must be lots of kids in home schooling because the Creation Museum had lots of ’em, along with many seniors riding many scooters. The pervasiveness of strollers and scooters at both exhibits was unreal.

Anyway, both exhibits do a good (if somewhat elementary) job of explaining and promoting the Biblical view of the creation and destruction/re-creation story. I might not recommend traveling here just for the two museums but if you’re in or passing through the area, they are certainly worth seeing—especially if you’ve got kids or someone along who doesn’t buy the Biblical accounts. The museums present compelling information for the Creation by God worldview.

In the afternoon I backed into a really nice site at Elkhorn Campground where Elkhorn Creek flowed gently past me. I initially thought about cutting my stay here short but given the peaceful site along the creek and a couple breweries in Lexington and the Buffalo Trace distillery right next door, I’ll hang here until Friday morning when I make my next lap toward home.

Thursday was a kick-around Lexington kinda day. Read: I visited a few of their breweries. I started with  Country Boy Brewing where friendly & cute beertender Kelley and I chatted. Country Boy has 24 of their own beers on tap—every one of them quite solid especially 2nd Crop Wet Hop IPA and Little Black Train, a stout. West Sixth Brewing had an unique Oktoberfest with Dry Hopped Cascade that worked. The Heller Heaven Double IPA was also pretty tasty. Finally dinner at Mirror Twin Brewing—a superb BBQ chicken pizza topped off with a spritz of Kentucky bourbon—paired with the decent Citranomical IPA, but my favorite brew here was, interestingly, their Not Your Moms Pumpkin Pie.

I visited no distilleries while in Kentucky; just wasn’t feeling it. Will catch them next time since Kentucky is pretty centrally located.

Land Between the Lakes
Campsite - Prizer Point KOA
Campsite – Prizer Point KOA

An easy four-hour drive on the Bluegrass Parkway and then the Western Kentucky Parkway, both of which slice through the middle of the state, took me to Prizer Point on the east shore of Lake Barkley. Really a nice location where I backed the trailer onto a site literally hanging over the lake. This would make a nice week-long stay in the summer, as the KOA here includes paddle-boards, kayaks and other water sports in the site fee. As it was, I just stayed tethered to the truck, wanting an early start in the morning for the 7-hour drive to Hot Springs. I’ll spend two nights there, hopefully with TV signal to enjoy the Saturday evening and Sunday games from the comfort of my recliner since it’s supposed to rain all weekend. Weather-permitting I’ll be home Monday and will recap this incredible trip then.

Abe’s Town

Springfield, Illinois is a nice town. I see why Abe Lincoln liked it. There’s really nothing spectacular about it; it just seems like a nice place to live as long as you’re willing to trade mountains or beach for corn fields. Really, though, the downtown was kinda cool in a not-overly-touristy-way and the suburb southeast of town surrounding Springfield Lake has some beautiful properties and homes.

I checked out the town’s historic sites:

  • Abe Lincoln Home
    Abe Lincoln Home
    Abe Lincoln Neighborhood
    Abe Lincoln Neighborhood

    Abe’s & Mary’s home in a renovated neighborhood in the center of town. The National Park Service has done a nice job making this look like life in the mid 1800s. Their house was bigger than I expected (not sure why).

  • The old train station, now a special museum exhibit on the Hollywood movie about Abe, didn’t hold my interest. Would’ve been better just left as a simple historic place without the clutter.
  • The Abraham Lincoln Museum, which did draw me in for a  couple hours. The hologram presentation was especially good. The museum has several exhibits that are worth checking out; it’s a good place for a survey course on who was one of our best presidents. (They almost sold me a “I Miss Abe” t-shirt!)
  • Finally, the Old Courthouse. Great architecture, good displays, very interesting first-person account of the winding down of the Civil War by General Grant. Was kinda cool to walk the hardwood floors and sit at the tables where Lincoln himself practiced law.

The following morning I steadied myself for the 300 mile Interstate slog to Fort Wayne. I’ve said before how I enjoy the old US and state highways more—and I’ll post about one of those soon. Anyway, the trip from Springfield to Bluffton, Indiana (south of Fort Wayne) was uneventful. I enjoyed a great time visiting friends in Ft. Wayne: good food+good friends=good times. I even scored a care package for the road! Glad we were able to visit! Next up: Michigan for the month of July!

Calvin Coolidge on the Declaration of Independence

US Flag

I recently became aware of this insightful speech. Our 30th president revealed his wisdom 98 years ago but the truths are ever-relevant. The highlights are mine. I remember from school days that excessive highlighting can dilute the impact of the highlights themselves. So, sorry for so much highlighting here  but the speech is just so damn good!

Enjoy the holiday. May God continue to bless America!

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — July 5, 1926

We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. The coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it the more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation. It is to pay our tribute of reverence and respect to those who participated in such a mighty event that we annually observe the fourth day of July. Whatever may have been the impression created by the news which went out from this city on that summer day in 1776, there can be no doubt as to the estimate which is now placed upon it. At the end of 150 years the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in grateful acknowledgement of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.

Although a century and a half measured in comparison with the length of human experience is but a short time, yet measured in the life of governments and nations it ranks as a very respectable period. Certainly enough time has elapsed to demonstrate with a great deal of thoroughness the value of our institutions and their dependability as rules for the regulation of human conduct and the advancement of civilization. They have been in existence long enough to become very well seasoned. They have met, and met successfully, the test of experience.

It is not so much, then, for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound. Amid all the clash of conflicting interests, amid all the welter of partisan politics, every American can turn for solace and consolation to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States with the assurance and confidence that those two great charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken. Whatever perils appear, whatever dangers threaten, the Nation remains secure in the knowledge that the ultimate application of the law of the land will provide an adequate defense and protection.

It is little wonder that people at home and abroad consider Independence Hall as hallowed ground and revere the Liberty Bell as a sacred relic. That pile of bricks and mortar, that mass of metal, might appear to the uninstructed as only the outgrown meeting place and the shattered bell of a former time, useless now because of more modern conveniences, but to those who know they have become consecrated by the use which men have made of them. They have long been identified with a great cause. They are the framework of a spiritual event. The world looks upon them, because of their associations of one hundred and fifty years ago, as it looks upon the Holy Land because of what took place there nineteen hundred years ago. Through use for a righteous purpose they have become sanctified.

It is not here necessary to examine in detail the causes which led to the American Revolution. In their immediate occasion they were largely economic. The colonists objected to the navigation laws which interfered with their trade, they denied the power of Parliament to impose taxes which they were obliged to pay, and they therefore resisted the royal governors and the royal forces which were sent to secure obedience to these laws. But the conviction is inescapable that a new civilization had come, a new spirit had arisen on this side of the Atlantic more advanced and more developed in its regard for the rights of the individual than that which characterized the Old World. Life in a new and open country had aspirations which could not be realized in any subordinate position. A separate establishment was ultimately inevitable. It had been decreed by the very laws of human nature. Man everywhere has an unconquerable desire to be the master of his own destiny.

We are obliged to conclude that the Declaration of Independence represented the movement of a people. It was not, of course, a movement from the top. Revolutions do not come from that direction. It was not without the support of many of the most respectable people in the Colonies, who were entitled to all the consideration that is given to breeding, education, and possessions. It had the support of another element of great significance and importance to which I shall later refer. But the preponderance of all those who occupied a position which took on the aspect of aristocracy did not approve of the Revolution and held toward it an attitude either of neutrality or open hostility. It was in no sense a rising of the oppressed and downtrodden. It brought no scum to the surface, for the reason that colonial society had developed no scum. The great body of the people were accustomed to privations, but they were free from depravity. If they had poverty, it was not of the hopeless kind that afflicts great cities, but the inspiring kind that marks the spirit of the pioneer. The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them.

The Continental Congress was not only composed of great men, but it represented a great people. While its Members did not fail to exercise a remarkable leadership, they were equally observant of their representative capacity. They were industrious in encouraging their constituents to instruct them to support independence. But until such instructions were given they were inclined to withhold action.

While North Carolina has the honor of first authorizing its delegates to concur with other Colonies in declaring independence, it was quickly followed by South Carolina and Georgia, which also gave general instructions broad enough to include such action. But the first instructions which unconditionally directed its delegates to declare for independence came from the great Commonwealth of Virginia. These were immediately followed by Rhode Island and Massachusetts, while the other Colonies, with the exception of New York, soon adopted a like course.

This obedience of the delegates to the wishes of their constituents, which in some cases caused them to modify their previous positions, is a matter of great significance. It reveals an orderly process of government in the first place; but more than that, it demonstrates that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the seasoned and deliberate thought of the dominant portion of the people of the Colonies. Adopted after long discussion and as the result of the duly authorized expression of the preponderance of public opinion, it did not partake of dark intrigue or hidden conspiracy. It was well advised. It had about it nothing of the lawless and disordered nature of a riotous insurrection. It was maintained on a plane which rises above the ordinary conception of rebellion. It was in no sense a radical movement but took on the dignity of a resistance to illegal usurpations. It was conservative and represented the action of the colonists to maintain their constitutional rights which from time immemorial had been guaranteed to them under the law of the land.

When we come to examine the action of the Continental Congress in adopting the Declaration of Independence in the light of what was set out in that great document and in the light of succeeding events, we can not escape the conclusion that it had a much broader and deeper significance than a mere secession of territory and the establishment of a new nation. Events of that nature have been taking place since the dawn of history. One empire after another has arisen, only to crumble away as its constituent parts separated from each other and set up independent governments of their own. Such actions long ago became commonplace. They have occurred too often to hold the attention of the world and command the admiration and reverence of humanity. There is something beyond the establishment of a new nation, great as that event would be, in the Declaration of Independence which has ever since caused it to be regarded as one of the great charters that not only was to liberate America but was everywhere to ennoble humanity.

It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.

If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination. But remarkable as this may be, it is not the chief distinction of the Declaration of Independence. The importance of political speculation is not to be underestimated, as I shall presently disclose. Until the idea is developed and the plan made there can be no action.

It was the fact that our Declaration of Independence containing these immortal truths was the political action of a duly authorized and constituted representative public body in its sovereign capacity, supported by the force of general opinion and by the armies of Washington already in the field, which makes it the most important civil document in the world. It was not only the principles declared, but the fact that therewith a new nation was born which was to be founded upon those principles and which from that time forth in its development has actually maintained those principles, that makes this pronouncement an incomparable event in the history of government. It was an assertion that a people had arisen determined to make every necessary sacrifice for the support of these truths and by their practical application bring the War of Independence to a successful conclusion and adopt the Constitution of the United States with all that it has meant to civilization.

The idea that the people have a right to choose their own rulers was not new in political history. It was the foundation of every popular attempt to depose an undesirable king. This right was set out with a good deal of detail by the Dutch when as early as July 26, 1581, they declared their independence of Philip of Spain. In their long struggle with the Stuarts the British people asserted the same principles, which finally culminated in the Bill of Rights deposing the last of that house and placing William and Mary on the throne. In each of these cases sovereignty through divine right was displaced by sovereignty through the consent of the people. Running through the same documents, though expressed in different terms, is the clear inference of inalienable rights. But we should search these charters in vain for an assertion of the doctrine of equality. This principle had not before appeared as an official political declaration of any nation. It was profoundly revolutionary. It is one of the corner stones of American institutions.

But if these truths to which the Declaration refers have not before been adopted in their combined entirety by national authority, it is a fact that they had been long pondered and often expressed in political speculation. It is generally assumed that French thought had some effect upon our public mind during Revolutionary days. This may have been true. But the principles of our Declaration had been under discussion in the Colonies for nearly two generations before the advent of the French political philosophy that characterized the middle of the eighteenth century. In fact, they come from an earlier date. A very positive echo of what the Dutch had done in 1581, and what the English were preparing to do, appears in the assertion of the Rev. Thomas Hooker, of Connecticut, as early as 1638, when he said in a sermon before the General Court that—

“The foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people.”

“The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God’s own allowance.”

This doctrine found wide acceptance among the nonconformist clergy who later made up the Congregational Church. The great apostle of this movement was the Rev. John Wise, of Massachusetts. He was one of the leaders of the revolt against the royal governor Andros in 1687, for which he suffered imprisonment. He was a liberal in ecclesiastical controversies. He appears to have been familiar with the writings of the political scientist, Samuel Pufendorf, who was born in Saxony in 1632. Wise published a treatise, entitled “The Church’s Quarrel Espoused,” in 1710, which was amplified in another publication in 1717. In it he dealt with the principles of civil government. His works were reprinted in 1772 and have been declared to have been nothing less than a textbook of liberty for our Revolutionary fathers.

While the written word was the foundation, it is apparent that the spoken word was the vehicle for convincing the people. This came with great force and wide range from the successors of Hooker and Wise. It was carried on with a missionary spirit which did not fail to reach the Scotch-Irish of North Carolina, showing its influence by significantly making that Colony the first to give instructions to its delegates looking to independence. This preaching reached the neighborhood of Thomas Jefferson, who acknowledged that his “best ideas of democracy” had been secured at church meetings.

That these ideas were prevalent in Virginia is further revealed by the Declaration of Rights, which was prepared by George Mason and presented to the general assembly on May 27, 1776. This document asserted popular sovereignty and inherent natural rights, but confined the doctrine of equality to the assertion that “All men are created equally free and independent.” It can scarcely be imagined that Jefferson was unacquainted with what had been done in his own Commonwealth of Virginia when he took up the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence. But these thoughts can very largely be traced back to what John Wise was writing in 1710. He said, “Every man must be acknowledged equal to every man.” Again, “The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor, and so forth. …” And again, “For as they have a power every man in his natural state, so upon combination they can and do bequeath this power to others and settle it according as their united discretion shall determine.” And still again, “Democracy is Christ’s government in church and state.” Here was the doctrine of equality, popular sovereignty, and the substance of the theory of inalienable rights clearly asserted by Wise at the opening of the eighteenth century, just as we have the principle of the consent of the governed stated by Hooker as early as 1638.

When we take all these circumstances into consideration, it is but natural that the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence should open with a reference to Nature’s God and should close in the final paragraphs with an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world and an assertion of a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Coming from these sources, having as it did this background, it is no wonder that Samuel Adams could say “The people seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven.”

No one can examine this record and escape the conclusion that in the great outline of its principles the Declaration was the result of the religious teachings of the preceding period. The profound philosophy which Jonathan Edwards applied to theology, the popular preaching of George Whitefield, had aroused the thought and stirred the people of the Colonies in preparation for this great event. No doubt the speculations which had been going on in England, and especially on the Continent, lent their influence to the general sentiment of the times. Of course, the world is always influenced by all the experience and all the thought of the past. But when we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence we are not required to extend our search beyond our own shores. They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live. They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit.

Placing every man on a plane where he acknowledged no superiors, where no one possessed any right to rule over him, he must inevitably choose his own rulers through a system of self-government. This was their theory of democracy. In those days such doctrines would scarcely have been permitted to flourish and spread in any other country. This was the purpose which the fathers cherished. In order that they might have freedom to express these thoughts and opportunity to put them into action, whole congregations with their pastors had migrated to the Colonies. These great truths were in the air that our people breathed. Whatever else we may say of it, the Declaration of Independence was profoundly American.

If this apprehension of the facts be correct, and the documentary evidence would appear to verify it, then certain conclusions are bound to follow. A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.

We are too prone to overlook another conclusion. Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

In the development of its institutions America can fairly claim that it has remained true to the principles which were declared 150 years ago. In all the essentials we have achieved an equality which was never possessed by any other people. Even in the less important matter of material possessions we have secured a wider and wider distribution of wealth. The rights of the individual are held sacred and protected by constitutional guaranties, which even the Government itself is bound not to violate. If there is any one thing among us that is established beyond question, it is self-government — the right of the people to rule. If there is any failure in respect to any of these principles, it is because there is a failure on the part of individuals to observe them. We hold that the duly authorized expression of the will of the people has a divine sanction. But even in that we come back to the theory of John Wise that “Democracy is Christ’s government.” The ultimate sanction of law rests on the righteous authority of the Almighty.

On an occasion like this a great temptation exists to present evidence of the practical success of our form of democratic republic at home and the ever-broadening acceptance it is securing abroad. Although these things are well known, their frequent consideration is an encouragement and an inspiration. But it is not results and effects so much as sources and causes that I believe it is even more necessary constantly to contemplate. Ours is a government of the people. It represents their will. Its officers may sometimes go astray, but that is not a reason for criticizing the principles of our institutions. The real heart of the American Government depends upon the heart of the people. It is from that source that we must look for all genuine reform. It is to that cause that we must ascribe all our results.

It was in the contemplation of these truths that the fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution. It was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook the balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guaranties of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever-broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.

Under a system of popular government there will always be those who will seek for political preferment by clamoring for reform. While there is very little of this which is not sincere, there is a large portion that is not well informed. In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought. Their intellectual life centered around the meeting-house. They were intent upon religious worship. While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live. While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.

No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.

NWWIIM & USSA

Pulled into a campground in the woods between Gulf Shores, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida about 4pm after an easy 204 miles drive from New Orleans and a 3-hour visit to the USS Alabama in Mobile. But first, lemme recap the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

What an awesome place! This is probably my favorite museum of all time. Dad would’ve loved it. It’s informative, creative, compelling. I learned a lot and gained even more respect  for the men & women who fought (and still fight)  for our nation’s values and freedom. I hope future generations continue to visit and soak up a core of what makes America great. I fear the leftist/snowflake/ineedmysafeplace generation we seem to be raising won’t care about museums like this some day. I fear it, but I pray I’m wrong. One  of the really cool things that bring the museum to life are the WWII veterans who share their stories, both on video and in real life. You can talk to them. Gain their insights. Appreciate them. I loved how Sgt. John  Emery, 16th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 1st Division, put it:

When you talk about combat leadership under fire on the beach at Normandy, I don’t see how the credit can go to anyone other than the company-grade officers and senior NCOs who led the way, It is good to be reminded that there are such men, that there always have been, and always will be. We sometimes forget, I think, that you can manufacture weapons, and you can purchase ammunition, but you can’t buy valor and you can’t pull heroes off an assembly line.

Amen, sir.


Today I turned off the highway at the east side of the Mobile tunnel and visited the USS Alabama battleship. Another very cool tour opp. Dang those things are big—and it’s a small boat by today’s standards! Walking through the decks and compartments you can just about feel the war going on around you. Definitely worth stopping in for a few hours if you’re in the neighborhood.


Now I’m hanging at the KOA until Monday, just chillaxing and watching the Masters tomorrow. Then headed to Savannah, probably in a one-day drive. My volunteer gig with Samaritan’s Purse  in Jacksonville, AL got cancelled since they finished up their work early. So maybe I get points for my heart being in the right place? LOL. It’s time to throw a steak on the grill…

Savage Island & Thereabouts

My campsite on Savage Island was perfect: level,  a pull-through, and looking into the woods. I had passed a cool looking restaurant on the river just outside the state park entrance so after making sure B was settled in I headed back out to Fish Tales for dinner. As soon as I walked in and everyone in this small local pub greeted me, I knew I’d found my spot for the next few days. While they only had a couple craft brews on tap, it was still more than I expected. I chose the Gangway IPA from Red Hare Brewing Company and rated it a 3.5 on Untappd. Paired well with the blacked Mahi, cole slaw & a few hush puppies.

In the morning (the 11th) I headed up to Savannah, about 30 miles north. Kicked around town. Savannah is cool but didn’t knock my socks off. Maybe better with a group to enjoy the countless pubs… The historic houses are great, the park squares are nice; all-in-all I certainly can’t dis the town but one day was enough. I will say, southern friendliness was in play. Great people. I wrote about Service Brewing there a couple days ago, so …  moving on to Fort McAllister! (Oh yeah, I had an appetizer dinner snack at… Fish Tales!)

Next day. LOL, I guess I was just clueless. I thought forts had walls. I knew maybe they didn’t have to have moats (I think castles have to have those) but I really thought forts had walls. Even the cardboard box forts I made when I was a kid had walls. Whatever. Fort McAllister was an earthen berm fort on the Ogeechee River—and it was an effective barrier to enemies. Very cool to experience. Georgia has done a fine job preserving and presenting Fort McAllister. I fully enjoyed walking through the fortress: it’s magazines, palisades, parade grounds and museum. Interesting how walking through history brings history to life. I get annoyed when my wireless hotspot gets cranky; I can’t imagine what life was like as a Civil War soldier sleeping on cots (if lucky) and spending every waking (and sleeping?) moment batting away the incessant flies. (What the hell do they eat when people aren’t around?!)

 

After enjoying the fort I tracked down a FedEx package which I’d rerouted to the local Walgreens when FedEx failed to figure out that they were supposed to hold it at their own FedEx Office store in Savannah. No problem (as everyone seems to say here); it worked out better this way. Business done, I returned to (yep!) Fish Tales for din-din! Then back to the campsite for a morning departure to Charleston.

Charles Towne

It’s been a nice relaxing few days in Charles Towne (original spelling). Lake Aire is a nice quiet RV park in the woods with a meandering lake. Yesterday a black lab mix was having the time of his life running and jumping into the lake then swimming to the other side. I watched him do this probably 50 times! You could just about hear the dog giggling the whole time. Really fun to watch.

Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter

Saturday I visited Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Enjoyed the 30-minute ferry ride and an hourish to tour the fort. The fort marks where the Civil War began and, like I’ve said before, it’s a pleasure walking through these historic grounds.

After leaving the fort I set out to see what old Charles Towne was all about. Since I already had a good curbside parking spot (many garages are too short for my truck) I decided to re-feed the meter and walk the mile or so through the French Quarter to the historic district—until I saw one of those bike rental racks right by the truck, and $12 later I was wheeling down the road on a powder blue bike. (Nope, no pictures!) Goofy color aside, being on a bike was a great way to see the town through the congested, narrow streets. My rented wheels allowed me to see what I wanted to in less time which was great because it was already after noon and I also wanted to check out a couple of Charleston’s craft breweries.

Charleston Oldest Liquor Store in US
Charleston Oldest Liquor Store in US

The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon and Old Slave Mart Museum each gave good insights to what the town was like back in the Civil War era. Interesting how the town settled on the Ashley river side of the peninsula then moved to the opposite side along the Cooper. The docent also explained about the evolution of the exchange building. The slave mart museum was also interesting with its displays about the disgusting human abuse practices which contributed to the Civil War. Visiting these museums was definitely worth the $14 combo ticket.

Once I got the culture checks in the boxes I headed up to Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company, a sleek & popular place where I tasted through a flight of their beers and had the best Cubano sandwich I’ve had outside Tampa’s Ybor City. The four 4-ounce beers I had rated in the mid 3-s on the Untappd scale. From there I swung by the smaller and more-to-my-liking Palmetto Brewing Company. Palmetto’s Lowcountry Pilsner & Lindy Hop’d IPA were fine beers—worthy of buying a t-shirt that was on sale. I topped off my brewery tour at Charles Towne Fermentory on the road back to the campground. This brewery sites on the Savannah Highway and is a local joint with good beers on tap. Nice way to round out a tour in a city with upwards of 30 breweries.

Sunday I went to church at 121cc.com and then headed over to Low Tide Brewing. Fell in love with Low Tide; it’s my newest favorite brewery. Their Ocean Course Pale Ale is the best pale ale I’ve had in a loooong time. Followed up by the  Purdy Good IPA, which is a 4.25 point Really good IPA. Gonna revisit them Monday afternoon. Afterward I headed back to the site to settle in for the oncoming storm, which passed by here with less bluster than the weather geeks expected.

Monday (as I write) is a chore day: laundry, cleaning up B, organizing some stuff and route planning for this week. Looking forward to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Kitty Hawk and then heading into Virginia. Stay tuned!

Flying Machines, Shipwrecks & Big Lights

From one end to its other, the OBX is a very cool strip of sand. When I arrived by ferry on the island of Ocracote I knew I was gonna hang here longer than I originally thought.

My drive northward up the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway took me through Ocracote, Hatteras and a few other villages to the KOA near Rodanthe. Although it’s a bit of a parking lot style campground, the place is nice, very well maintained and convenient to entire the Outer Banks.

The day after I arrived (Thursday) I headed north about 35 miles to Kill Devil Hills. I needed some diesel exhaust fuel that I could get at an auto supply store. But really, my main reason was to visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Kitty Hawk gets all the history book love, but that’s because it was the main community back in the early 1900s. The first flight took place at Kill Devil Hills, a couple miles south of Kitty Hawk.

The National Park Service memorial is really very cool. Spacious. Inviting. Simple. Pretty. Check the photos in the slideshow attached to this post. I especially liked walking along the exact path where man’s flight first went down (ugh, unfortunate phrase)—a mere 12 seconds and 120 feet long. It struck me as apropos that I noticed both a small single engine prop plane towing an advertising banner and, much higher up at 35-40 thousand feet, jet trails of a flying machine on a trip a bit longer than 12 seconds. I wonder if Orville & Wilbur had any idea…

A late lunch of a good burger & decent brown ale at Outer Bank Brewing Station would negate the need for much dinner once I got back home so I visited the Bodie Island Light Station. The third lighthouse built on the OBX, this 3rd generation 164 foot tall beacon on the island starting shining in October 1872.

Next I stopped in for a Flagship IPA at Watermens Bar & Grill—a cool place on the west side overlooking 30-mile wide Pamlico Sound. I didn’t know you could stand on land on  the east coast and watch a sunset over water. Very cool!

Friday I headed 35 miles back the opposite direction to Hatteras Island. I’d sailed past The Lighthouse several years ago, so visiting it was a gonna be great! The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest in the United States and its white rotating light flash every 7.5 seconds is visible from all directions miles away at sea. The 7-minute, 257-step climb to the observation deck of the 210-foot high beacon is worth every breath (and every dime since the NPS comped free tickets for the first day of the season). The views are freaking amazing!

I also briefly visited the Graveyard of the Atlantic museum in Hatteras Village… ’nuff said; I guess was just hoping it was gonna be more shipwreck oriented. I’d spent more time at the lighthouse than I thought I would so I grabbed a sandwich and brew at the Wreck, near the boat docks and then headed back north to my 4-day home.

My plan for  Saturday is to take care of a couple maintenance things, walk the beach a bit, and prep B for a departure after watching (attending?) 121cc.com services Sunday morning. After online church, I’m headed to Greensboro to help out with a Samaritan’s Purse tornado recovery project for a few days. Also gotta get an oil change and tire rotation done while in Greensboro. After that … we’ll see!

Pics of The Outer Bank (click image to view full)

 

FXBG

I didn’t really know what to expect in Fredericksburg, being so close to the madness of Washington DC. But I liked what I found!

The KOA I had reservations at on the south end of town is tucked away in a little forest. Beautiful. After spending the morning domesticating (laundry, cleaning B), doing some work (finally received a wire transfer from my customer in Germany) and getting a haircut I headed over to the Fredericksburg National Battlefield even though I’d heard it was unimpressive. I’d heard wrong.

Sunken Road Wall
Sunken Road Wall

Walking the Sunken Road and Marye’s Hill, where 20,000 American brothers died, was in a word, sobering. 20,000 lives; let that sink in. Just considering the ground I was walking was (is) stained with the blood of

FXBG Cemetary
FXBG Cemetary

countrymen from 150+ years ago made me sad for the divisiveness yet grateful we put that ugly past behind us. Now if we could just reconcile our inane separation today… ugh, I won’t go there. My takeaway is: civil war sites are sacred. Visiting Gettysburg in a couple days…

The Fredericksburg National Cemetery on the top of Marye’s Hill is a quiet, solemn place. Many grave markers are simply plot numbers followed by the number of unknown soldiers buried there. Many more soldiers died and rest in  unmarked graves. A couple poems on NPS signs intrigued me:

On fame’s eternal camping ground,
Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.

And…

The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo.
No more on life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.

Again, it’s just sobering.

After walking through the cemetery and reflecting on the sacrifices, I headed over to Strangeways Brewing to sample their brews. Good call. Awesome place, people & brews. Tasted a sour ale that was good enough to get a crowler to go for Julie. They have 40+ of their own beers on tap. Yep, it’s my newest favorite brewery!

Tuesday I kicked around Fredericksburg. Cool town. Good lunch at an Irish pub, couple brews at Red Dragon Brewery. Ran a few errands and just before settling in for the quick trip up the road to Gettysburg Wednesday I continued a few miles past my campsite to the Stonewall Jackson Shrine.

House whee Stonewall Jackson Died
House whee Stonewall Jackson Died

It’s a quiet, pretty place. (I wonder how long until some dumbass libtard organization demands it be torn down and a safe-place erected in its stead? Can’t we just let history be history?)

Whatever. I’m heading thru Harpers Ferry and Antietam on my way to Gettysburg. More on that later. G’night!