Me and the Bishop


Those of you who have been reading my blog over the summer have seen a great deal about my motorcycle travels and my following the Trail of the Whispering Giants. A big part of that story has been my travels with my friend Matt Riegel, who for years has been the campus Lutheran chaplain at West Virginia University.  The month before we left on our annual summer motorcycle trip, Matt was elected as the ELCA bishop of the West Virginia – western Maryland synod.  This last weekend, in a beautiful church service, he was installed to his office.  I was fortunate enough to be able to fly out for the weekend from central Nebraska to join my friend (and many other friends) for this special day.

This is not a blog for discussion of my own religious beliefs and practices, so let me just send warm wishes to my friend and give “the rest of the story” for those of you following along at home.

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Telling Data-Driven Stories

This morning our Comm students at University of Nebraska at Kearney were fortunate enough to have a virtual class visit from Dr. Jan Boyles from the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University.  She talked with us about some great data-driven stories and some exciting tools to use in telling these stories.

Here some data-driven stories:

And here are few tools you can use for your own stories.

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Return of the Trail of the Whispering Giants

Me and the Worland, Wyo. Whispering GiantI moved back to the cusp of the West a little more than 7 years ago, and up until now I’ve viewed my motorcycling home as being back in the Southeast.  Yes, I took a ride down into Kansas, Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, New Mexico and Colorado a couple of years ago as part of my Iron Butt Association National Parks Tour, but I’ve always thought of West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee as my natural habitat to go riding. The Blue Ridge Parkway, The Cherohala  Skyway, US 250 across West Virginia, those were the destinations I always dreamed of.

And in one sense, none of that has changed.  I still dream of riding in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but after my recent trip to chase down Whispering Giants in Colorado and central Wyoming I can’t wait to get back into the Rocky Mountains and points west.

RotopaxAs I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I’ve spent my motorcycle time this summer on the Trail of the Whispering Giants as part of a fantastic Team Strange Grand Tour. Over Labor Day weekend I rode out west to track down two more of Peter Wolf Toth’s sculptures.

Before heading out on this ride, I made one new addition to my bike, a 1-gallon Rotopax gas can on a luggage rack that takes the place of my back seat.  Just in case…

Giant #11 – Loveland, Colorado, Sept. 5

Loveland rally flagFriday afternoon I rode out from Kearney, Neb. to Greeley, Colorado to meet up with retired Methodist minister and active long distance rider Phil Tarman, who a couple of years ago took an multi-month “Epic Ride” to celebrate his retirement. Had a bit of rain coming into Greeley, which was welcome just because it cooled things off a bit.

Bright and early Saturday morning, I headed on west up Highway 34 out of Greeley and past Loveland. Were it not Labor Day Weekend, I could have happily headed up toward Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, but the holiday weekend crowds held little appeal.

I found Loveland’s Whispering Giant in a pasture just a few miles out of town.

Loveland, Colorado giant

There was no plaque here, no identification, just the Whispering Giant with a small fence to keep the cows at bay.  This giant has definitely seen better days and is being held together with bolts and a heavy wooden support.

04_loveland back

From there it was heading north up into central Wyoming – one of the more remote areas I’ve ever gone riding in.  I stopped in Laramie for gas and something cold to drink, and while at the gas station I ran into Jim and Linda on their Harley from Broken Bow, Nebraska.  It turns out that Linda is a night checker at the HyVee in Kearney that my wife and I often shop at.

Jim and Linda with their Harley

Split Rock signAfter a run west on Interstate 80, it was time to head north on US 287 leading up to a truly remote State Highway 135 aka Sand Draw Road.  To give you an idea of what Sand Draw Road is like, my Butler Motorcycle Map has it labeled as a specific category of road – a Lost Highway. (“The faded paint of a centerline, or crumbling shoulder are all that remain to remind us of a more purposeful past. They are highways that seem lost in time.”)  Pretty much.  Also along this route was the barely marked, impossible to find on any map Split Rock National Historic Site.  A landmark on the Oregon Trail, this was a particularly interesting little unit of our National Parks System. Had I more time, I could have happily headed out on a hike her to explore this spot a little more.

Split Rock National Historic Site

Giant #12 – Worland, Wyoming, Sept. 5

Worland signFrom there it was up through Wind River Canyon, an absolutely spectacular segment of US Highway 20 that no motorcyclist should miss.  Again, no time to stop in the hot springs in Thermopolis. I have to keep moving on to Worland, home of my next Whispering Giant. This one was an easy find on the corner of Wasaki County Courthouse lawn.

Worland's Whispering Giant

Worland Rally Flag

From Worland it was time to head back east on US 16 aka the Cloud Peak Skyway that twists and turns its way up from around 4,000 feet, all the way up to nearly 10,000 feet, and then back down to near 4,000 feet – all with very little traffic.  Once coming back to civilization in Buffalo, Wyoming, it was time to hop back onto Interstate 25 and hightail it down to Casper, Wyoming.

The next morning was breakfast with my high school friend Sue Cunningham Burk and her husband, Richard. I then closed out the ride with a run down Nebraska State Highway 2 through the Nebraska Sand Hills. It’s a ride I’ve long wanted to take, but this was my first chance to see the truly beautiful part of my state.  If you’ve only seen the Platte River Valley that I-80 follows across Nebraska, you really haven’t seen what the state has to offer.

I arrived home about dusk Sunday evening having really connected to my Western motorcycling soul. I still need to get back to the Blue Ridge Parkway, but I’ve got these maps of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho that keep calling my name.  And there’s still that Whispering Giant in Bismarck, North Dakota (Mandan, actually, but close enough) that I really would have liked to have visited before the Grand Tour ends Oct. 31st….

My Labor Day Ride

Map of my Labor Day Weekend Ride

This story starts here.

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Body Image in the Media

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The World Trade Center in the Movies

Reposted from Sept. 11, 2011.

Before 9/11, the silhouette of the twin towers of the World Trade Center were one of the quickest ways movie makers had of establishing that we were looking at the NYC skyline.  Here’s a beautiful collection of WTC skylines edited by Dan Meth from more than 30 years of the movies that I found on Mediaite.

Twin Tower Cameos from Dan Meth on Vimeo.


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A Motorcycle Ride to the United 93 Memorial on a Rainy Summer Day

This has nothing to do with the media. It’s a brief story about a ride I took on my motorcycle to the United 93 Memorial on a rainy June day back in 2004. It was written shortly after I had recovered from a fairly serious illness, and I was happy just to be back on the road. I’ve taken to posting on 9/11.

Me and my old KLRTook a short ride last Saturday. The distance wasn’t much, under 200 miles, but I went through two centuries of time, ideas, and food. Which felt really good after having been ill for the last month-and-a-half.

Headed out of Morgantown about 7:30 a.m. on I68. Stopped at Penn Alps for breakfast. Nice thing about being on insulin is that I can include a few more carbs in my diet these days. Pancakes, yum! (Penn Alps, if you don’t know, runs a great Pennsylvania Dutch breakfast buffet on weekends that is well worth riding to. Just outside of Grantsville, MD.)

Then off on the real purpose of the trip. Up US 219 toward the Flight 93 Sept. 11 memorial. The ride up north on 219 is beautiful; I’ve ridden it before. I always like when you come around the bend and see the turbines for the wind farm. Some people see them as an eye sore; for me they’re a potential energy solution and a dramatic sight. Chalk one up for industrial can be beautiful.

Continue on up to Berlin, PA, where I take off on PA 160 into Pennsylvania Dutch country. I start seeing hex signs painted on bright red barns, or even hung as a wooden sign. Not quite cool enough to put on my electric vest, but certainly not warm. Then it’s heading back west on a county/state road of indeterminate designation.

Now I’m into even more “old country” country. There’s a horse-and-buggy caution sign. Off to the left there’s a big farmstead with long dark-colored dresses hanging from the line, drying in the air. They may not stay dry, based on what the clouds look like.

The irony of this ride hits pretty hard. I’m on my way to a memorial of the violence and hatred of the first shot of the 21st century world war, and I’m traveling through country that is taking me further and further back into the pacifist world of the 19th century Amish and Mennonites.

A turn or two more, following the map from the National Parks web site, and I’m on a badly scared, narrow road that is no wider and not in as good of shape as the local rail trail. (Reminds me why I like my KLR!)

It’s only here that I see the first sign for the memorial. No one can accuse the locals of playing up the nearby memorial. Perhaps more flags and patriotic lawn ornaments than usual, but no strident statements. And then the memorial is off a half-mile ahead.

The crash site is to the south, surrounded by chain-link fencing. No one but families of the victims are allowed in that area. Off a small parking area is the temporary memorial, in place until the National Park Service can build the permanent site. There’s a 40-foot long chain-link wall where people have posted remembrences, plaques on the ground ranging from hand-painted signs on sandstone, to an elaborately etched sign on granite from a motorcycle group. The granite memorial is surrounded by motorcycle images.

The messages are mostly lonely or affirming. Statements of loss, statements of praise for the heroism of the passengers and crew. But not statements of hatred. It reminds me in many ways of the Storm King Mountain firefighter memorial. Not the formal one in Glenwood Springs, but the individual ones out on the mountain where more than a dozen wildland firefighters died several years ago.

It’s time to head home. When I go to join up with US 30, it’s starting to spit rain, so I pull out the rain gloves, button down the jacket, and prepare for heading home. It rains almost the whole way back PA 281, but I stay mostly dry in my Darien. The only problem is the collar of my too-big jacket won’t close far enough, and water dribbles down inside. It reminds me that riding in the rain, if it isn’t coming down too hard, can be almost pleasant, isolated away inside a nylon and fiberglass cocoon.

I’m home before 1 p.m.. I’ve ridden less than 200 miles. But I’ve ridden through a couple of centuries of people’s thoughts, actions, and food. And I’m finally back on the bike.

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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

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Sex and the News

Over the last several weeks sex has been finding its way into the news in a variety of ways.  Here’s a quick summary of a couple of these stories:

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Rachel Maddow Praises Local Journalism

Regardless of how you feel about Rachel Maddow’s progressive politics, one thing about her and her MSNBC show that I think we can all admire is the degree to which she pays attention to and praises local news.  She and her staff spend a lot of time reading and watching local news rather than just relying on what Maddow calls “The Beltway Media.”

Maddow and her staff rely on local news to know what is happening around the country and frequently notes that the news out in the nation is often very different from what the national media cover.

When Alison Parker and Adam Ward of WEBJ Channel 7 of Virginia were shot and killed last week while on a remote broadcast, Maddow praised the hard work of community journalists and the work that the staff of WEBJ did while dealing with the death of their colleagues.  I encourage you all to watch this segment.  There is no footage of the actual shooting in this story.

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When journalists are shot and killed while on the air


As you can’t help but know by now, yesterday morning two Virginia television journalists were killed when a former employee of the television station showed up at their live broadcast and shot them.  The gunman then fled the scene, eventually killing himself while in his car on Interstate 66.

To tell you the truth, this is a really hard blog post to work on today.  I don’t want to talk about journalists being shot on the streets here in the U.S. I feel deeply of the families of victims Alison Parker and Adam Ward, along with all of their colleagues at WDBJ.

So I’m just going to post a series of links for right now.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the 2007 On The Media story about Chauncey Baily’s death.  Thanks to my friend Jerry White for reminding me more about the case.

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