Tag Archives: quote

Slow Motion

Has it really been four + years, since The Rover has traveled Outside? I received that reminder earlier in the week, which did catch me by surprise, I have to admit. Seems like just yesterday. Time does have the habit of sneaking up on you, doesn’t it?


The Rover traveling down Route 66

I clearly remember this section of Route 66. I was traveling along, the only vehicle on the highway, when suddenly, out of nowhere, a silver Porsche blew past me. I saw brake lights, and the Porsche hovered in the opposing lane, off The Rover’s left, front fender. The passenger window was lowered, and a camera, with an extraordinarily large lens, appeared from the passenger window pointed directly at The Rover & I. One click later, I received a “thumbs up” sign, the camera retreated back into the car, and the silver Porsche disappeared down the brick-colored highway in a flash.

“Drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested.”
— Hunter S. Thompson — at Kickin’ it on 66.


A Map Quest

I’m a map guy. I admit it and I say it with pride. I like to see the whole layout, get the entire picture, as it were. Or, at least as much as one can get, without actually walking the trail.

I was commissioned recently to guide two teenage brothers on their first ruffed grouse hunt in Northern Minnesota. The Boys, aged 13 & 14, are not map guys. Certainly not paper map guys.

The plan was to camp along the shore of Lake Winnibigoshish, and walk the trails of the Chippewa National Forest. My first stop was the ranger station for a decent map.

On the drive up, The Boys had nothing but derision for my paper map fetish. “We can just google map it!”, they claimed over and over.

I tried to explain the need for an actual map. Technology isn’t always reliable, batteries die, charging fails for one reason or another, signal evaporates.

All to no avail. They were convinced that I was a dinosaur.

Upon entering the ranger station, I promptly stated that my only need was a decent map of the forest. I was just as quickly denied of my quest.

“I’m not allowed to sell you a map. It’s not my job, and no one else is here.”

I asked if he had maps available. He answered yes. I saw the evasive map plastered to the wall with a price of $14.96, tax included. A bit pricey, but I offered $15, and the qualified individual could complete the transaction later, upon their return. I received an apologetic no. Getting desperate, I offered $20, but received another negative response.

“It’s not my job. I’m not allowed to sell you a map.”

I wondered if that statement sounded as absurd to his ears as it did to mine.

Then the park employee committed, what I consider, a cardinal sin: “Just google map it,” he says.

It was a dagger to my heart. Now, I wasn’t just angry, but wounded. You know what they say about wounded animals…

The Boys beamed; The Alaskan fumed.

We took two ATV maps that divided the forest. We found them lacking. We also took some specific HWT maps, but found them also lacking. As suspected, we also, at very inopportune times, found the cell coverage to be lacking. But between the three sources, we managed to piece together a game plan, and always managed to find our way out of the woods.

Sadly, The Boys remain sketchy at reading a map, and good luck getting either one of them to fold a map properly.


Autumn in the Interior

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.”
—Oscar Wilde


Rest in peace, Senator

“This guy, he served his country.”


USS Abner Read


USS Abner Read

The U.S. destroyer, Abner Read, struck a Japanese mine off the coast of Kiska Island on the 18 August 1943 during the Battle of Kiska. The explosion tore off the ship’s stern. There were over 300 men on board the Abner Read that day, many were in their bunks in the stern when the mine blew at approximately 1:50am. 71 sailors died, but 20 were hauled out of the frigid Bering Sea waters.


The Abner Read after the explosion off the coast of Kiska

The crew was able to keep the destroyer afloat. The ship was shored up as best they could, the main compartment was kept water tight, and a homemade rudder was attached. Two U.S. Navy ships then towed the Abner Read to port.


The Abner Read in floating dry dock

Within months, the Abner Read had its stern repaired, and the destroyer rejoined the war.

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In July of this year, a research team funded by NOAA, discovered the Abner Read’s stern off the coast of Kiska Island. It’s general location has been known, and the team of scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the University of Delaware used multi beam sonar to locate the wreckage. They then sent a remote operated submersible down to the stern, which was in 290 feet of water.


Photo credit: NOAA

The stern section measures 75 feet long and 18 feet high, and is now covered in marine life.


Gun on Abner Read stern section; Photo credit: NOAA

Daryl Weathers was a 19 year old seaman on the Abner Read. He is the last known survivor from the destroyer on that August day in 1943. Weathers is 94 now, and lives in Seal Beach, California. When told that the stern section had been found, Weathers expressed surprise saying, “That’s the end of the world up there.”

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For its wartime service, the Abner Read received four battle stars from the Pacific Theater. In November of 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Japanese launched a kamikaze attack. A Japanese dive bomber (VAL) made it through the anti aircraft fire, although it had been hit. The bomber was able to drop one of its bombs down the destroyer’s smokestack, blowing up the engine room. The VAL then crashed across the main deck, setting it in flames. The Abner Read sank within hours.


The Abner Read is struck by a kamikaze attack in November 1944


Eight stars of gold on a field of blue


The Alaska state flag

In 1927, when Alaska was still a U.S. Territory, Territorial Governor George Parks persuaded the Alaska American Legion to hold a competition. The Governor thought it would help the statehood movement by having a state flag, so the Legion held a contest, open to all Alaskan children, to design Alaska’s new flag.

142 designs were sent to Juneau from all over the state. A thirteen year old living in Seward, John Ben “Benny” Benson won the contest with a simple, yet elegant design.


Benny Benson holding his design for the new Alaska flag

Benny Benson was born in the fishing village of Chignik. His father was a Swedish fisherman, his mother an Aleut-Russian. Benny’s mother died when he was just three, and the family home burned to the ground shortly afterwards. His father, John Ben Benson Sr, could not take care of his three children alone, so they were divided up. Benny and his brother were put into an orphanage in Unalaska; his sister Elsie was sent to a school in Oregon.

The Jesse Lee Home in Unalaska was home to hundreds of Aleut orphans. It eventually moved from Unalaska in the Aleutian Chain, to the town of Seward on the mainland. It was from here that Benny Benson sent his design for the Alaska flag, as a seventh grader.


The Jesse Lee Home for Children in Unalaska, circa 1901

Benson described his design to the judges this way: “The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaska flower. The North Star is for the future of the state of Alaska, the most northerly in the Union. The dipper is for the Great Bear – symbolizing strength.”

The Territorial Legislature approved the new flag in May of 1927, and Alaska officially flew its new flag for the first time on 9 July 1927. Benny Benson received a watch, with the flag design etched on it, as well as a $1000 educational scholarship, which he eventually used to become a diesel mechanic.

Benson Boulevard in Anchorage, which is a major east-west thoroughfare, is named after Benny.
A Benny Benson Memorial is located at milepost 1.4 of the Seward Highway in Seward.
The airport in Kodiak was renamed the Kodiak Benny Benson State Airport in 2013.
A school in Anchorage on Campbell Airstrip Road has been named the Benny Benson School.

Benny Benson died of a heart attack in 1972. He was 58.

The black & white photos courtesy of The Alaska State Library Archives


Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe, PA


Jim Thorpe competing in the Stockholm Olympics, 1912

Jim Thorpe is considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern times. After winning gold in both the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, King Gustav V of Sweden said to Thorpe, “You sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.”

Thorpe was a collegiate All-American, NFL All-Pro & charter member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame, and played baseball with three different MLB teams. He also played for a traveling professional basketball team.


Jim Thorpe Olympic statue near Jim Thorpe, PA

When in Pennsylvania for hockey, we traveled through Jim Thorpe, PA. Originally founded as Mauch Chunk, the community made a deal with Jim Thorpe’s widow in 1953. After Thorpe’s funeral in Shawnee, OK, city officials of Mauch Chunk bought his remains from his third wife, and Thorpe’s body was shipped to Pennsylvania without the rest of the family’s knowledge.


Jim Thorpe’s tomb

I had mixed feelings about the monument to Thorpe in Penn. On one hand, the tribute, if a bit dated and weather-worn, was well done and seemed sincere. On the other hand, it was hard to get past the fact that Thorpe has become a road side attraction. Of all the turn-offs I’ve taken traveling, this one was as surreal as any.


Thorpe’s football statue at the turnout/monument

Upon receiving Thorpe’s body, the communities of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk merged and were renamed Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. His tomb was built on a mound of dirt from his native Oklahoma and from the Stockholm Olympic Stadium, where he earned international fame.

In 2010, son Jack Thorpe sued in Federal Court to have his father’s remains returned to Oklahoma. After several court rulings favoring both sides, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 refused to hear the case, effectively ending the suit and leaving Thorpe’s remains in Pennsylvania. Jack Thorpe died in 2011.