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Yep – some said I was a bit daft to try to ride a 400cc scooter on a 3,000 mile trip, but I did it anyway. I left McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, September 15 about 10am and made the boring two-hour ride to Corpus Christi. There is no other way to get there besides the super-slab, but after that, my route took me through small towns and roads less traveled.

As the miles rolled by, the sun left and the drizzle came out. For this first leg, there are no pictures - my small camera is not weather sealed like my big cameras are. Besides, I've ridden this route before - http://burgmanusa.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=57584 and that post has lots of photos.

I've ridden in rain before - no big deal - but I did discover that it is best to wear the rain pants as well as the rain jacket. Just damp - not soaked. But, other than having to watch out for idiot cagers who panic in rain, it was no problem. The day went by smoothly and I bunked in for the night near Galveston.

I had intentionally mapped out a long route to get to Columbus, Georgia. Eight states - a long trip, made longer on purpose. Why Columbus? Its near Ft. Benning - where I first entered the Army in 1966, did my training, learned to jump out of airplanes - and was one of the original members of the 199th Light infantry Brigade (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/199th_Infantry_Brigade) - the unit I served in Vietnam with in 1967. I planned on attending a reunion of the men whom I served with in Company C, 2nd Battalion 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (http://www.tallcomanche.org/index.html) in Vietnam during my second tour in 1969. I have the decals of both units on the windshield of my Burgman.

Six o'clock in the morning.

Normally, I consider that a condition, not a time. But - I was up and at 'em at 6 the next morning. It wasn't even light outside. The motel's breakfast nook wasn't open either, so I fired up the scoot and was on the way by 6:40am.

A quick Egg McMuffin and a big cup of coffee (most of which went into my Thermos mug), and I was on the ferry from Galveston to the Bolivar Peninsula by 7:30. It was a nice ride up the almost rebuilt sliver of land (destroyed courtesy of Hurricane Ike) to see some beach fishers.



By the time I finished the coffee, I was back on the mainland and watching the landscape transition from the bayous and canals into the piney woods of east Texas.



East Texas reminds me of deep south Georgia (or Jawja, as the natives say) because the land is full of pine trees, the spoken accents are the same and the mix of black and white folks is like Georgia's. I cruised on one small county road and was treated to neat homes with ponds and horses and comfortable brick homes. It was also the first time I had a chance to ride anything that approached being twisty.



When I stopped to take this photo, I noticed them accumulating on my clothing - and on the windshield - and on the bike. Not smashed - they were just flying around and landing. They were love bugs - another reminder of deep south Georgia. Once I got rolling, they got thicker, and of course, they began splattering all over the windshield. The piney woods breed lots of bugs.



But that was the last of the photos. Just like the day before, it rained the last part of the day's ride. Not a heavy nasty rain - just somewhere between a drizzle and light rain. Just enough to annoy me. But I made it to my motel room in Texarkana. It was on State Line Road - and my motel was on the Texas side of the street.

The belly was full, the bike was locked - and I was in snooze land very soon. Off for Memphis in the morning. The local TV weather forecaster told me I would be traveling right along with a cold front - supposed to rain all the way to Tennessee.

Oh well - I get wet on purpose once a week anyway.

The old gentleman had pulled up his favorite chair on the front porch, morning coffee in hand. He watched the sparse traffic go by on US Route 82. His little town of Buckner, in southwest Arkansas, doesn't see much excitement, but when a funny looking red scooter went by, honking its horn, and the rider waving at him, he had an answering wave, delivered with a big gap-toothed grin.

That happened about 7:30am. The sun was supposed to be up by then, but I never saw the sun the whole day. From the time I left my motel in Texarkana until I pulled up at the motel in Memphis, it rained - sometimes a pestering drizzle, but at other times it was a harder steady rain. I had picked a great route - US 82 was two-lane, lots of small towns and a 55mph speed limit - perfect for my kind of cruising. But, I couldn't see the vistas and I had to dodge the splashes thrown up by the big trucks. Then, once over the Mississippi River, I took State Route 1 along the river through a lot more small towns. Sure, a ride is always fun, but some rides are more funner than others.

No photos - sorry, but the same excuse holds - I didn't want to get my camera wet. And it’s too bad because the bridge over the river was new - and quite striking. There was even a place I could pull over and take a picture of the barge being pushed downstream. Some of the countryside homes were also snap-worthy.

I stayed fairly dry. I say "fairly" because I had a good rain suit and my feet were (mostly) protected by the floorboards, but my gloves are just plain kevlar - not waterproof. They were pretty soppy - I had dishpan hands by the time the day was over.

It was a soppy Memphis that greeted me. Riding in the rain tired this old man. After finding dinner, I came back into the motel and walked by the scooter. She looked forlorn sitting there in the night rain. Not a very nice way to treat a lady who just added three new states to her discoveries, eh? But, I couldn’t figure out a way to get her into my third floor room.

The weather and I seemed to be married. I tracked the same low pressure zone the entire trip - I kept chasing it. The next leg was planned to be a fairly short ride to Huntsville, AL, where I was to spend a couple of days visiting my sister.

The next morning I slept in and had an extra cup of coffee with breakfast - no sense in setting out early if there was still rain in the area, so I didn't leave Memphis until 9am - and the skies were still threatening and cloudy. A glance at the radar on my smartphone told me the rain was ahead of me, but there were little patches of wet stuff hanging on here and there.

I had no desire to find myself in a patch.



US 82 across the top of Mississippi and Alabama is four lane, but it’s more like an overgrown two lane. There wasn't much traffic and (typical of back east) the speed limit is only 65 mph. I still had lots of small towns to ride through. Much of it is near the Tennessee River, so I even dropped off to look at some of the power plants built and run by the Tennessee Valley Authority, the depression era government agency that brought electricity to the area.



Seeing kudzu draped everywhere, I thought a word of explanation might be in order for my western friends. Westerners - think tumbleweed. Kudzu is a non-native plant brought into the US to control erosion because it grows very fast. It does that all right - but it also has no natural enemy, so kudzu grows unchecked and chokes off trees and other native plants. It’s a noxious weed, just like tumbleweed, which is really Russian Thistle and was brought into the US by accident.



I stopped for fuel about every 150 miles (or so). People are always curious about my unusual machine, and most of the questions are "How fast does it go?" and "What kind of mileage does it get?" The answer to the first question is "I don't know." Supposedly, its top speed is about 92 mph, but I have no desire to go that fast. I had it into the mid-80s once, while passing, and it was rock stable and still accelerating. As to the second question, mileage varies according to the wind, but I am usually around 60 miles per gallon of regular gas.



Then the scoot rolled into its fourth new state - but this is the first time I have been able to record the event with a photo. Then on to my sister's house where I spent two days before going on to Columbus.

Bad golfers keep playing golf because once a year they make one really great shot - then they tell themselves that if they did it once, they can do it again. They put up with all the bad shots as they wait for next really great shot.

The ride from my sister's house in Huntsville, AL, to Columbus, GA was like that - it was the kind of day that makes up for the nasty rainy days. This was a ride made in motorcycle heaven.



Cruising along the Tennessee River in northern Alabama, the sun was out and the temperatures brisk. Mists rose off the water and filled the valleys. The road dipped and turned and was great fun.



A left turn at Gadsden, Alabama, put me on a wonderful two-lane road towards Georgia. In one area, I must have some distant relatives living there. Besides this church, there was also a Youngs Farm Road and a Youngs Station Road. I know some of the critics reading this will want to admonish me for the lack of an apostrophe, but look at the sign - it is "Youngs", not "Young's."



There was little traffic - just the occasional pickup truck - but the scenery was great. Nice curvy roads cutting through idyllic farms. Alabama morphed into Georgia, but I could scarcely tell the difference. The speed limit was a comfortable 55 mph, but I rode even slower than that - just to enjoy the view, the sun and the road.



Riding is hungry work. I try to eschew the chain fast-food joints so I found the Smokin' Pig barbeque place in Bowden, Georgia. The only thing better than the food was the slow Southern drawl of the waitress as she asked "Whatcha want, honey?" I fielded a few friendly comments about my unusual ride, then one of the older men noticed the Purple Heart tags on the bike and I was bombarded with "Welcome Home" from many of the other patrons. Nice people in Bowden, Georgia.



As you travel southern back roads, you see lots of small churches tucked into the trees. This one is typical, and notice the year of its founding. This is a conservative land of slow change - and the people rely on their faith a lot. As I stopped to take the photo, I wondered what it would be like to attend a worship service at one of these small rural churches.

Then on to Columbus. My ride was for fun, but it is also to bring me to a reunion of the men I served with in Vietnam in 1969 - the men of Company C, 2nd Battalion 5th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. I am intensely proud to be associated with these fine men. Yes, we're a step slower these days, and at each reunion, I see more canes and wheelchairs, but these are men who are proud of their service and are thankful they are getting older. Old age is a gift denied to some of the men we knew many years ago.

The reunion being a huge success, it was time to get the scoot back on the road, but on the day of departure, I woke sneezing. I had caught a cold sometime during the weekend and it manifested itself the first day of the trip home. I wear a Nolan N90 helmet – a modular style designed so the entire front part flips up out of the way - a very handy design indeed when sneezing my head off. I got fairly practiced at "Ah ah ah - flip up helmet - CHOO!" I wonder how many windshields I gummed up that way.

I wanted to pack up the bike and be on my way as early as possible, but breakfast brought lots of conversation with the guys and it was after 8:30 before the wheels started rolling. There was no traffic in Sunday-morning Columbus. The four lane highway went through Ft. Benning, then for a wonderful short time, I had a nice twisty two-lane road with bright skies. Great!

But, that all disappeared once I got to Eufala, Alabama. I rode a four-lane down to the beaches of the Florida panhandle. I had chosen a beach-side route in the hopes I would see seafood shacks and little towns. Instead, I got four (sometimes six) lane divided highways populated with fast food joints and the kind of chain retail outlets that are homogenizing America. All too often the beach front was crowded with multi-story condos.

Boring.



It stayed that way until I got to Pensacola, then I had another brief spate of cozy two lane roads until I had to get on the Interstate into Mobile.
Motel room, eat dinner quickly and sound asleep by 9pm - and didn't set an alarm. Seven in the morning found me awake, with the cold slackening and I was ready for another day on the road.

Mobile is in the boot heel of Alabama - just that little part of the state that touches the Gulf of Mexico. I sometimes refer to it as "LA" - Lower Alabama.



The day dawned full of sun and good feelings. It didn't take long to get to the state line and then I was in Mississippi again, but further south than on the ride east. Nice two-lane roads, through the pine trees and small towns.



Then the scooter got to add still another state to its list - the eighth state of the trip, Louisiana. The Mississippi state route I'd been on just changed numbers to a Louisiana state route and I continued going through small towns, over rivers and across swamps.



About noon, I arrived in Clinton, Louisiana. My stomach was starting to think my throat had been cut, so I looked around and found Jimmy's Cafe. I knew it must be good because of all the pickup trucks parked in front. I knew it was safe because both of the town's police officers were there too.

Jimmy's does not offer fancy dishes. Étouffée was not on the menu nor was any other Cajun food that might take time to prepare. Rather, Jimmy's is a place for hamburgers, BLTs, chili and other simple fare. I enjoy finding places like this - they're much more fun than the typical chain fast-food place.

Back to the road and on to St. Francisville, a gorgeous little town filled with antique shops, beautiful old churches and neat lawns.

Then - Becky Sue lied to me. Becky Sue is the disembodied female voice in my GPS. On the way out of St. Francisville I headed towards the bridge over the Mississippi River - - and found this.



There was no bridge. You can see the road climbing the far bank, but the bridge was gone, probably a victim of Hurricane Katrina.

Actually, Becky Sue had not lied to me - I just hadn't updated her maps. I bought her last year so assumed the maps were up to date. Obviously, my assumption was wrong. As I pondered what to do, I heard Big Phil laugh at me - he had told me not to depend too much on technology.

I was to find out later that there never was a bridge there – the road had been served by a ferry that has been replaced by a new bridge.

Fortunately, it didn't take long for me to find the bridge, and I was on my way again. Late afternoon found me in Crowley, LA, for a good night's sleep after another day's adventure.

The ride from Crowley, LA, to Houston was scheduled to be the shortest day of the ride -a mere four hours. I wanted to enjoy dinner with Trang (a former Vietnamese student of mine now a doctoral student at the University of Houston) so I planned an enjoyable route to bide my time.



From this photo, taken in a tiny town near the coast, can you tell what area I am in? Its Cajun country - the "French Culture" as they refer to it. The small town of Gueydan is in the heart of the state's rice growing area and calls itself "The Duck Capital."



As I ride through the rural American South and in many rural areas of West Texas, I see places like this. Seeing them makes me curious - what is the story behind these old broken homes? Was there a family fight when the family scion passed away? Did the kids move away from home to find a job? Did the former owners just get tired of floods and hurricanes? I'll never know, of course, but it is fun to let the imagination run wild while riding.

But I soon came to Lake Charles, Louisiana, and I got on the Interstate.

Yuck - how I dislike the Interstate when I'm riding. Oh, the bike does just fine, but the noise of the big trucks when they are right next to you is deafening. People drive too fast - or worse, too slow - and nobody seems to see the world outside their windows. I crossed the river and the state line and then got off the super slab and back onto some small roads. I found a Mexican cafe for lunch, then launched into Houston traffic, headed for the area around Hobby Airport on I-45. Again - the definition of craziness is the interstate highway.

As always, it did my heart wonders to spend time with Trang. Strangely, we didn't go out for Vietnamese food as I didn't want to ride all the way over to the Bellaire area of Houston. It spooks me to have her on the back of the bike without her wearing real protective gear.

As I rode back to my motel room after saying goodbye, I thought about the next and last leg of the trip ahead. Eager to get home, yet truly enjoying the trip.

I've made the trip from the Houston/Galveston area before - there's no sense in boring the reader with all that. Besides the fact that temperatures were well into the 90s and I ran into a stiff wind all day, the last leg of the trip was unremarkable.

But the whole trip - the entire 3,085 mile trip - was fabulous! I enjoyed every single minute of it - even the rain-soaked days, the times I was on the Interstate, the times when I got lost, the times when I was flipping up my helmet to sneeze. All of that was enjoyable.

Why did I enjoy it?

My answer is similar to that of the mountain climber - a variation on "Because it’s there." It was challenging and I found that I had set a challenge for myself that I could meet.

For me, a large part of the quality of life is determined by taking risks - calculated risk. Different people may calculate their risks differently.

Risk keeps you sharp. If you are trying to mitigate the possible harm from taking a risk, you must think and plan and work. I like that. My terror lies in becoming a TV vegetable, rendered incapable of thinking or doing, but only drooling in front of the television. I truly believe God gave each of us something important to do with our lives, and if we are afraid to take risks, we are afraid to accomplish what we are called to do.

Riding long distances on two wheels satisfies my need to take risks.

I don’t have a music system on my bike - and that is on purpose. Being a bit of a loner, I enjoy the time to have conversations with myself - to think about things - to ponder - to be introspective. Maybe I could have been a monk, except I’m not crazy about that whole celibacy thing.

Will I do it again? Oh yeah - I have some ideas rattling around in my head. Life is good. I have been richly blessed.
 

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Thanks for the wonderful story! May you do it again and again! :thumbup:
 

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Looks like you had a great trip.
 

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Wonderful story and pictures! Thank you for sharing!

Your picture of the abandoned building brought back some memories. I went canoeing with my oldest daughter up in the Everett tideflats area where the Snohomish river empties into Puget Sound. We spotted lots of old rusted ships that looked like they were being salvaged for metal. Then as we went further along, we found one area with about 10 boats that were partially sunken. In some cases, we could poke our noses in the openings to the boat with the canoe. I couldn't help but wonder what stories those boats would tell if they could speak.

Chris
 

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Wonderful trip, story, pics....That type of ride is exactly the type of thing I love to do, alone or with company. I haven't been on a trip that long yet, but 1000miles is a good start. I am really glad you took the time to document it.

/Applause
 

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Doug thank you for sharing this with us, you are an accomplished wordsmith. :thumbup:

The 400 is more than man enough for this sort of trip, in truth the 200-250 model could probably make a good fist of it too.
 

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Very good photos and story.

As I stopped to take the photo, I wondered what it would be like to attend a worship service at one of these small rural churches.
Stop in and you would be welcome and made to feel at home. :thumbup:
 

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Discussion Starter #10
bearcat said:
. . .At 73 i wonder if I'm too old to do a long ride by myself. ???

Brad
Don't know, Brad - but I'm only four years behind you! Try a longish trip and find out.

BTW - I cannot ride without your backrest! I am a walking commercial for your work and customer service.
 

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Doug,
Great travel story. I enjoyed your trip. Most importantly Welcome Home and thanks for your service.

I was 101st airborne in Vietnam 68 - 69 so I really appreciate your two tours. How true to really appreciate life since we made it back when many gave thier all.
 

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Doug, Thanks for the write-up. There is not a day that goes by without my thoughts wandering to a long ride somewhere. After 16 months of riding every day it has not happened yet. I like the challenge and the thought process for preparedness you mentioned. I can relate to that and for me it is what makes riding fun. I have been accumulating the necessary gear and am ready to go but I need a reason that is better than getting cigarettes at a lower cost in another state. :lol: It will happen soon. Stories like yours make me look out the window at the Burger and think. Thanks :thumbup: , John
 

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Fantastic pictures and great trip and story, but why did you put your egg mcmuffin and coffee in your thermos ? :lol:
 

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Discussion Starter #15
mikeyMarine said:
Fantastic pictures and great trip and story, but why did you put your egg mcmuffin and coffee in your thermos ? :lol:
Mikey - you always are good for a laugh! I love it when somebody points out an idiot mistake in my writing.

BTW - know Bartow quite well. I went to school in Lakeland and my son and his family live in Orlando. At least, in central Florida, you have a few dips and doodles to ride in rather than the table-top we have in south Texas.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Hammer said:
Doug, Thanks for the write-up. There is not a day that goes by without my thoughts wandering to a long ride somewhere. After 16 months of riding every day it has not happened yet. I like the challenge and the thought process for preparedness you mentioned. I can relate to that and for me it is what makes riding fun. I have been accumulating the necessary gear and am ready to go but I need a reason that is better than getting cigarettes at a lower cost in another state. :lol: It will happen soon. Stories like yours make me look out the window at the Burger and think. Thanks :thumbup: , John
John - yours may be the best compliment I've had in awhile. I'm glad to hear my trip inspired you.

So, here is the excuse you need. You are invited to ride to deep south Texas this winter and enjoy some of our abundant sunshine. (You'll have to figure out how to ride between the blizzards while still up north.)
 

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Great story, thoroughly enjoyed reading it! And Ft. Benning! Wow, it's been years since I've been there. I did my basic training there back in '91. Our dorm (barracks to old timers :eek:) ) was at Sand Hill, but we did a lot of training in the older facilities as well. I remember going to the Airborne jump towers to watch fireworks on the 4th of July, seeing Rangers in their black berets and enjoying the night with pride.

I, too, am filled with wanderlust. I teach at a college here in Pa am have my summers off. I am going to do a Saddle Sore and become a member of the IBA, that I know.

Did you take anything special with you? Tire repair kit, air compressor or otherwise? A friend of mine road his Harley across country with the shirt on his back and cash in his pocket and nothing else. He got two flats along the way and called the motorcycle towing service thru HOG to take him to the stealership to have it repaired. Me? I would have been much more prepared! But, didn't know what gear you carried as your trip turned out successfully.

Finally, to leave you with a quote from a book I read called, "Into the Wild". I think it captures that burning desire in all of us to do and be more and seek adventure:

“make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”

Morris
 

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Discussion Starter #18
black51 said:
Great story, thoroughly enjoyed reading it! And Ft. Benning! Wow, it's been years since I've been there. I did my basic training there back in '91. Our dorm (barracks to old timers :eek:) ) was at Sand Hill, but we did a lot of training in the older facilities as well. I remember going to the Airborne jump towers to watch fireworks on the 4th of July, seeing Rangers in their black berets and enjoying the night with pride.

I, too, am filled with wanderlust. I teach at a college here in Pa am have my summers off. I am going to do a Saddle Sore and become a member of the IBA, that I know.

Did you take anything special with you? Tire repair kit, air compressor or otherwise? A friend of mine road his Harley across country with the shirt on his back and cash in his pocket and nothing else. He got two flats along the way and called the motorcycle towing service thru HOG to take him to the stealership to have it repaired. Me? I would have been much more prepared! But, didn't know what gear you carried as your trip turned out successfully.

Finally, to leave you with a quote from a book I read called, "Into the Wild". I think it captures that burning desire in all of us to do and be more and seek adventure:

“make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”

Morris
Morris - you must be an English professor! Great quote, and may I assume it from Krakauer's book? I have always thought that to seek a risk-free life is the most foolish risk of all.

As to what I took - I always carry an small air compressor with me, even during my daily commute. I carry Slime as well, but did not need it. Besides the tool kit that comes with the bike, I also had a medium size crescent wrench, a quart of oil and a spout (didn't need oil), an old towel to wipe off the seat after a rainy or dewey morning, a roll of duct tape (never know when that might come in handy), lip balm (sunny days were tough on my lips), small LED flashlight (cheap one from Harbor Freight) and my cell phone charger. I didn't have any mechanic problems other than my cup holder slipping on the handlebars - and a small Phillips head would have been nice. I also carry a heavy plastic covered lockable cable with me, and in most cases, I secure the bike to something permanent at night. Yeah - I know - who would want to steal a scooter, but I do think kids might want it to ride and wreck. Obviously, a determined thief would have bolt cutters, but the cable is for the spur-of-the-moment person.

Benning - of particular interest was the Infantry Museum ( http://www.nationalinfantrymuseum.com/ ). For all you old and not-so-old former grunts out there, this is a great experience. They've done a superb job.

Thanx - -
 

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Actually, I teach technology courses for business (Excel, Access, etc.), web design and Photoshop and computer programming to engineering students (C, C++ and C#). But I read constantly. And yes, that was from his book. I saw the movie and it just didn't do the book justice (do they ever?).

Thank you for the information. That sounds about what like I carry. Instead of an air compressor I have a very small manual foot compressor (Mini Foot Pump). I also carry an LED flashlight that I got at Meritline.com. 1,000 lumens for $12.99 and it works brilliantly.

I am planning to head back to Benning and see the museum. And how things have changed since I've been there. I still have the letters I received from home while in basic and they bring back a lot of memories!
 

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Great narrative. I'm from that part of the country, born and raised in a small town in SE Arkansas, attended school in Baton Rouge, LA, and married a woman from Pensacola. Would love to ride down there sometime.

Thanks for sharing.
 
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