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

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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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Reporting a cable/internet outage via cable

I’m at home tonight trying to get work done to get ready for the semester that starts Monday, and the internet is not working well.  As I’m being frustrated, I see tweets flow slowly in, including one from my local favorite BBQ joint that their Point of Sale system (POS, which also has other unfortunate meanings) won’t work if the ‘net is down.

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We had a bit of a conversation that was eventually picked up on by one of our local news anchors who was crowd sourcing a story about internet and cable being down using Twitter.

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Twitter can be a great tool for covering breaking news that affects a lot of people in your community.

UPDATE: Apparently the problem was a cut cable by a contractor.  But no word going out on Charter’s Twitter feed about this widespread central Nebraska problem.

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How we pay for mobile service is changing

Cell service 2015Up until recently, if you live in the United States the purchase of a mobile phone was tightly linked to your purchase of a multi-year wireless provider contract.  If you got a simple flip phone or basic internet enabled phone, you might pay little or nothing for it in return for signing the two-year contract.  You might pay anywhere from $20 to $200-300 for a smartphone – essentially a mobile computer that includes a phone.

But you really wouldn’t have any real idea of what the device itself cost. Despite being old technology, an unlocked flip phone ready to use costs somewhere between $25 and $100.  And a smartphone purchased without a phone contract can cost upward toward $650.  But until now, you really wouldn’t know what the true cost of your phone was because you paid for it over the course of two years as part of the cost of your phone contract.

Of course, if your wireless provider was paying for an expensive new phone for you, they would also expect you to stay with them long enough to pay the cost of the phone back to them.  And Lord help you if you broke that expensive phone before your contract was up.  You would have to find a used or refurbished phone to use in its place, or if you were lucky get the shattered screen replaced.

But over the last couple of years some big changes have taken place.  People are increasingly using their smartphones for e-mail, text, apps, and web browsing rather than making phone calls.  On my iPhone I send a lot of folks iMessages rather than texts, which matters when you are sending messages internationally.  In essence, wireless providers are more in the business of providing mobile Internet than they are phone service.

So it should not come as a surprise that Verizon has now announced that they are getting out of the contract/phone business and into the business of selling month-by-month service with big packages of data paired with essentially unlimited phone and text service that is completely separate from your purchase of mobile devices.  They will still happily sell you a phone on credit that you can pay for over two years, but that credit contract will be (as I understand it) separate from your wireless agreement.

The Washington Post, in their excellent article on the subject, points out that this means a lot of people are going to be coming to terms for the first time with what their wireless service and smartphones actually cost.

Must reading for both media literacy students and mobile consumers.  I assume that means almost all of us.

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The Joy of a Great Movie Theater

Forty-seven years ago my parents drove our family from small-town Iowa to Des Moines so we could see the movie 2001 – A Space Odyssey at the River Hills 70 mm theater. For you too young to remember, that was the biggest film format of the late 1960s, at least for commercial films. That movie made such an impression on eight-year-old me that I can still tell you what the trailers were that we saw (Ice Station Zebra and Shoes of the Fisherman)

Ever since that night, I have been in love with going to see movies in the biggest theaters with the best projection system. This last year I got to see Interstellar at a museum 70 mm film IMAX theater and Avengers 2 at a commercial digital IMAX theater. Tonight I was lucky enough to be able to catch the new Mission Impossible flick at commercial IMAX well.

(I really enjoyed it.  It was a lot of fun. Though Mad Max Fury Road is till my favorite movie of the summer. )

If you really want to rediscover the magic of a movie, go see it at the best theater you can. That may not be a big one. Kearney, Nebraska, where I now live, is blessed to have The World Theatre where my wife and I can see the small movies and old movies that would never otherwise come to central Nebraska. Nearby Lexington has The Majestic staffed by volunteers so residents don’t have to leave town to go to the movies. And when I saw Gravity, it was in 3D at my local commercial theater, but it was great to see it the way the director intended it to be seen.

Movies on devices are fun, but get out sometime soon to see a movie on the best theater you can – however you define best!

(NOTE: I wrote an earlier version of this post on my Facebook page, and a high school friend of mine noted that she did not like devices for movies – theaters were best.  I’d have to agree, but I do like devices for rewatching movies I’ve seen before.)

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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

After a couple of weeks of motorcycle travel posts, we’re back to your regularly scheduled media content.

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Gone Riding – Headed Home

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My dad on his back porch.

After parting company with the Biker Priest in Duluth and picking up a couple more Whispering Giants, it was time to start the long ride home.

My first stop along the way was St. Paul, Minn. where I spent the evening with siblings, a cousin, and spouses. Lovely dinner and a chance to talk.  The next morning I went to mass with my brother and his wife where I got to hear my brother accompany the service on his guitar (along with a piano).

TreeTrimmingFrom there it was a hot, hot ride down to Iowa to spend a day or so with my parents.  Mom and Dad are both in their late 80s, and there’s always something for one of us kids to help with when we come to town.  In my case, it was trimming back the bushes and tree that were threatening to conquer his backyard. Trimming trees for my dad is not as exciting as motorcycling round the Great Lakes, but it sure is nice to see my folks.  I also had the chance to visit my 98-year-old Aunt Marion – my dad’s older sister.

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My Aunt Marion and me.

I hated giving up on the Great Lakes 100 ride, but a wonderful visit with my family was more than enough compensation.

From Iowa, it was a hot day of riding, interrupted by breakfast in Ankeny with my grad school buddy Brian Steffen.  And then home to my wife, youngest son, and mum in law.

Nine days of travel, 11 states and provinces, two countries, seven Whispering Giants, and 3,500 miles.

“Proceed as the way opens.”
–William Least Heat Moon

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