Tag Archives: quote

Michael Collins

Michael Collins in the command module simulator prior to Apollo 11; Photo credit: NASA

Astronaut Michael Collins, the command module pilot for the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, passed away on Wednesday. Collins was 90.

“I am too old to fly to Mars, and I regret that. But I still think I have been very, very lucky. I was born in the days of biplanes and Buck Rogers, learned to fly in the early jets, and hit my peak when moon rockets came along. That’s hard to beat.” —Michael Collins


General Grant National Memorial

National Park Week Day III; Today’s Theme: Military Monday

General U.S. Grant National Memorial

I was on my Amtrak Railpass tour of the Lower 48, when I was lucky enough to be invited to spend some time in New York City. While exploring the campus of Columbia University, I decided to walk down to General Grant’s mausoleum.

Let Us Have Peace

General Grant died of throat cancer on 23 July 1885. The mayor of NYC at the time, William Russell Grace, immediately offered a place in his city for the mausoleum. Grant himself, had only one request: That he should lie beside his wife Julia when she passed. That left out the military cemeteries, which did not allow women to be interred at that time.

Memory of the country’s Civil War was still fresh, and any funding need for a memorial to the General who ended the war, was met with enthusiasm. Not to say that there wasn’t controversy. Washington D.C. felt that they should get his memorial, and there were design competitions and delays. Still, construction began in the summer of 1891, and Grant’s remains were transferred to the red granite sarcophagus on 17 April 1897. The monument was dedicated ten days later on the 27th, which would have been Grant’s 75th birthday.

The 8.5 ton red granite sarcophagus, the final resting place of General Grant and his wife Julia

Julia Grant would die five years later in 1902.

The National Park Service assumed authority over the tomb in 1958. In 1991, efforts were made to bring attention to the deteriorating condition of the mausoleum. This was not the Park Service’s finest hour. A Columbia University student, Frank Scaturro, who was also a volunteer at the Grant Memorial, tried in vain to bring attention to the lack of maintenance at the tomb. Graffiti and vandalism plagued the Memorial, and the building was in very poor condition. After two years of being ignored by the Park Service, Scaturro wrote a 325 page whistle-blower report to both Congress and the President.

In 1994, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to  “restore, complete, and preserve in perpetuity the Grant’s Tomb National Memorial and surrounding areas.” The restoration of the Memorial was completed in 1997, and the site rededicated on 27 April 1997 – 100 years after the original dedication.

When I was there, the Memorial had a jazz concert playing nearby, and the grounds and Riverside Park were immaculate. It is a very peaceful setting above the Hudson River.

Approximately 80,000 people visit the Grant National Memorial in non-pandemic years.

Find your Park!

Virtual Cranes

“When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.” –Aldo Leopold – Marshland Elegy, A Sand County Almanac.

The sandhill cranes of Wisconsin

I’m slow to embracing the virtual world, but now that winter has arrived in the North, and plenty of time on my hands, but without the inclination to travel anywhere, I’ve done some virtual exploring.

In the spring, the Platte River in Nebraska is the place to be, to see the siege of sandhill cranes flying through to eat and rest before heading further north. In the autumn, however, the Wisconsin River near Baraboo, WI is a major stopover for this ancient breed of birds.

The Aldo Leopold Foundation usually offers tours and blinds for crane viewing and photography in the fall, but 2020 is not the year for those types of activities. Instead, they offered a virtual visit to the Wisconsin River and the over 10,000 cranes that are camping out along its banks. I joined one of these visits this week, and found it incredibly informative, and well produced. Still, no virtual visit compares to seeing the sandhill crane in person, or hearing and feeling that prehistoric bugle as it flows through you from across the terrain and the eons.

Luckily, next spring, I won’t have to go beyond my deck to experience them again.

The above video is one done previously by the International Crane Foundation and the Aldo Leopold Foundation.


Sid

Sid Hartman with his trusty tape recorder

Growing up in Minnesota, there were two people that everyone knew by only their first name. One was Prince, the other was Sid.

Sid Hartman was the sports reporter for the Minneapolis paper. He also had a show on the juggernaut, at the time, WCCO radio.

Sid literally started out on the ground floor of the newspaper business, selling the papers on street corners of North Minneapolis when he was nine years old. In 1936, he dropped out of high school in the 10th grade to take over the best intersections. By 1944 Sid had made his way to the sports department, and he wrote his first column for the Minneapolis paper in 1945.

Sid with Twins legend Rod Carew

From the sports desk, Sid became the de facto GM of the Minneapolis Lakers, when he was 27. He delivered the $15,000 check himself, at the Detroit airport, to have the Detroit Gems, of the NBL, to move to Minneapolis. The Lakers won the NBL title their first year. Behind George Mikan, the Minneapolis Lakers would go on to win 5 NBA titles before moving to Los Angeles. While doing that, he kept his day job as a sports reporter. He was also instrumental in the Washington Senators moving to Minnesota, to become the Minnesota Twins.

Sid came out of an era where the term conflict of interest was rarely uttered. He considered himself a reporter, not a writer. Sid based his entire reporting ethos on building relationships. Sid was an unapologetic “homer”. He loved Minnesota and its sports teams, but nothing was more dear to his heart than the University of Minnesota.

Sid with UofM great Tom Chorske, and Lord Stanley’s Cup

The gag line, “Sid’s close, personal friends” started on ‘CCO radio. From Bud Grant to George Steinbrenner to Bobby Knight, everyone in the sports world seemed to be Sid’s close, personal friend. When Grant was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it was Sid who introduced him.

Callers to Sid’s radio show who disagreed with him on any issue, were dismissed as “Geniuses”. How dare we second guess the “experts”. Of course, disagreeing with Sid was half the fun, it was the main reason we called in.

Sid passed away on Sunday at 100 years of age. His final column was in that morning’s paper. It was his 119th column of 2020. Impressive. Sid had 21,235 bylines with his name on them for the Minneapolis paper over a career span of 75 years. He also spent over 65 years on the radio, doing one sports show or another.

STRIB writer Jim Souhan wrote recently that it wasn’t like Minneapolis had their version of Sid Hartman, Minneapolis had the only one. There wasn’t another version in New York, or Chicago or Los Angeles. Sid was unique; there was only the one.

There have been a lot of tributes and online salutes, but the one by Ryan Saunders, the coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves was the one that hit home the most. The final line says:

Sid was a remarkable example of living life to the fullest and finding your passion – may we all learn from the legacy he leaves.

Rest in Peace Mr Hartman


Denali in the clouds

Film Friday:

Denali

Camera: Minolta SRT-201; Film: Kodak 35mm, Ektar100

Today is your day
Your mountain is waiting
Go, get on your way!

— Dr Suess


A Tribute:

In all the photos, there you were, right in the middle of the gathering.  Often surrounded by kids, and almost always wearing a huge smile.  My favorite photo of you though, is an old, black & white one, and it’s just you.  A young high school athlete, looking confident, about to go on a date, standing in front of a first car.  A 1950 Ford.

We went through some tough times, the three of us, with you leading the way by example.  Somehow, even working two jobs and extremely long hours, you were always there.  There were dance recitals and football games; you must have rushed through the entire day, but there you were, off to the side, quietly watching.

When you couldn’t be there, you found someone who could.  I often wondered at that sacrifice.  How difficult was it for you to allow someone to stand in for you?  There were camping trips, fishing trips, outdoor adventures that you knew fueled a flame, yet you had the bravery to allow another to strike the match.  I never asked you about that, and I never told you, that I knew all along, that it was you who provided the tinder.

There were a lot of sporting events, however.  Williams Arena, Mariucci, Memorial Stadium, The Met, the Dome.  We ran the gamut. We sat in the rain, in the cold, in the sun.  We saw the first Hobey winner in action.  We tailgated. We watched as the goal posts came down and were carried across the parking lot, but you wouldn’t let me liberate your seats, even though I brought a tiny socket set for the occasion.  You were the one to give me that set in the first place, which I may have reminded you of at the time.

I followed a different trail, and I know it was difficult for you.  Every year, my eyes seemed to search a little further west, and eventually I found my way to Alaska.  That fact did not thrill you, but you tolerated it, as best as you could.  Every year you came up, and every year I hoped you would see what I saw, feel what I felt.  Then one year, we were sitting at the gate, waiting for you to board the airplane for the flight back to civilization.  That one had been a fun visit; we had gone all over the state, and we had met a lot of different people.  You said, “I get it now.  Alaska suits you.  You belong here.”  That was probably the best gift I have ever received.

Our paths have diverged now.  Advice I will have to obtain from the archives.  Luckily for me, the archives are full.  Pictures may be few, but memories run rampant.  Life is a short game, but you played it extremely well.  You taught a lot of people that kindness was a strength, and wisdom something hard earned, tainted by experience.

I do not have any answers.  Mostly there are only questions right now, and a huge empty void.  Over the years, I have shared a poem with a few people that I originally found by reading Ernest Gann.  The poem is often attributed to Henry Van Dyke, or the Rev. Luther F. Beecher.  Take your pick, but for me, it originated with Gann.

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze,
and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch her until she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says: “There! She’s gone!”
Gone where? Gone from my sight – that is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side,
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of her destination.
Her diminished size is in me, and not in her.

And just at the moment
when someone at my side says: “There! She’s gone!”
there are other eyes that are watching for her coming;
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:
“There she comes!”

 


“Words of advice and caution”

Considering a trip to Alaska?

Resurrection Bay

“If you are old, go by all means, but if you are young, wait. The scenery of Alaska is much grander than anything else of its kind in the world, and it is not wise to dull one’s capacity for enjoyment by seeing the finest first”

— Henry Gannett

The Harriman Alaska Series

Bear Glacier

“If you are old and want to see the finest scenery in the world, there’s no time like the present. And if you are young, what are you waiting for? Check the ferry timetable, grab a sleeping bag, and go. Stay for a while. Believe me, it could be the event of a lifetime.”

— Mark Adams

Tip of the Iceberg

My little corner of Alaska

On a personal note: I took the second quote’s advice, loading my Labrador Retriever, camping gear and typewriter into a 1974 Ford Bronco, drove across half of the northern U.S, and took the ferry from Bellingham, WA through the Inside Passage to Haines, Alaska, and stayed a while…

In fact, today is the anniversary of my arrival to the State of Alaska.

It has been several events of a lifetime. With a little luck, I expect to have one or two more.

Cheers!


A Pale Blue Dot

Happy Earth Day:

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Earth, caught in a ray of light; Image credit: Voyager 1/NASA

The image was taken by Voyager 1 at the suggestion of Carl Sagan on 14 February 1990.  At the time, Voyager 1 was 4 billion miles away from its home planet.  As the spacecraft was approaching the fringe of our solar system, engineers turned it around for one final glimpse at Earth.

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Artist rendering of Voyager 1; Credit: NASA

‘Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.’

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994 

 


The Great Race of Mercy

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Ryan Redington comes into the village of Ruby, Alaska; Photo credit: ADN/Loren Holmes

Due to the coronavirus scare, about the only sporting event still taking place in the United States is the Iditarod sled dog race.  Interestingly, the Iditarod commemorates the 1925 Nome Serum Run.

 

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Known at the time as the Great Race of Mercy, the race against time stands alongside the Good Friday Earthquake as one of Alaska’s defining moments.

Curtis Welch was the only doctor in Nome in the autumn of 1924.  He had placed an order for diphtheria antitoxin, but it had not arrived by the time the port was entombed in winter ice.  In January of 1925, Welch had diagnosed the first case of diphtheria.

His pleading telegram to the outside world read as follows:

An epidemic of diphtheria is almost inevitable here STOP I am in urgent need of one million units of diphtheria antitoxin STOP Mail is only form of transportation STOP 

With the area population around 10,000, and close to 100% mortality rate, the situation was dire.  After the 1917 influenza, in which half the native population perished, time was of the essence.

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Nome, Alaska circa 1916

The mail route between Nenana and Nome was 674 miles.  The only diphtheria antitoxin was in Anchorage.  The antitoxin was put on the Alaska Railroad to Nenana and then hauled west by dogsled.  The rural Alaskan mail carriers were the best dog mushers in the State, and the vast majority were Athabaskan.  “Wild Bill” Shannon was the first musher to take the serum from Nenana.  The temperature was -50F when he left Nenana with a team of 11 dogs.  When Shannon reached the village of Minto at 3am, it was -60F, and Wild Bill was suffering from hypothermia and frostbite.

The serum went from relay team to relay team.  At times, the serum was brought into various roadhouses to warm up.  One musher at Manley Hot Springs had the roadhouse operator pour hot water over his hands so that they could be broken free of his sled’s handle bars.  It was -56F.

By January 30, a fifth death, and 27 cases of diphtheria had occurred in Nome.  Plans were made to fly serum in, but they were rejected by the Navy and experienced pilots because of the weather.  The relay went on.

Leonhard Seppala left Nome for Shaktoolik to take his place in the relay.  He faced gale force winds and -85F wind chill.  His lead dog Togo traveled 350 miles in total.

Henry Ivanoff’s team was tangled up with a reindeer.

Charlie Olson took the serum from Seppala, his team was blown off course by the winds. He passed the serum to Gunnar Kaasen in Bluff, AK.  Kaassen waited for the weather to improve, but it only became worse, so he set out into a nasty headwind.  His lead dog was Balto.  Kaassen could barely see the first two dogs in front of his sled because of the blowing snow, but Balto led the team through high drifts, river overflow and heavy winds.  At one point, a gust of wind flipped the sled.  The serum was thrown into the snow, and Kaassen’s hands were frostbit trying to recover the cylinder of serum.

In spite of the hardships, Kaassen reached Point Safety ahead of schedule.  The next man up, Ed Rohn, was sleeping, so Kaassen and his team led by Balto continued on.  They arrived in Nome at 5:30am.  The relay of dog teams traveled the 674 miles in 127-1/2 hours.  Not one vial of serum had been broken.

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Gunnar Kaassen and Balto

For the first time since the Last Great Race first ran, mushers this year are not being allowed into villages due to coronavirus concerns.  Checkpoints are in tents out on rivers away from communities.  Spectators have been told not to show up in Nome to cheer as teams cross under the famed burled arch on Front Street.

If nothing else, 1925 shows us how vital it is to step up and come together at a time of crisis.


But, you’ll have to check the antlers…

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The moose is a better mascot

A rather cheeky response to Western Airlines.  This was probably a local advert; I spotted it at the Pioneer Air Museum.  It certainly would have been a hit in Alaska in the 1970’s.