Weekend road trip


Clifton Gorge is a 268 acre preserve located in Greene County, Ohio. The gorge was formed by interglacial and post-glacial canyon-cutting into the area’s dolomite and limestone.

The cool and damp north-facing walls of the gorge create the perfect environment for hemlock, red baneberry, and the rare snow trillium.

The Little Miami State and National Scenic River makes its way through a narrow channel which was formed by wearing away and connecting a series of potholes in the bedrock.

Clifton Gorge, situated at the eastern outside edge of John Bryan State Park, is an excellent place for hiking and photography, and to enjoy nature at its finest.

So put on your favorite pair of hiking shoes and join our grandson, Tyler, on a recent trek through the gorge. By the way, Tyler is currently training for the Bluegrass Brawl 12, a mixed martial arts title fight held on May 9, 2014. Tyler and his competitor are the opening match on the event fight card.

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Well, you never caught a rabbit


I’ve always enjoyed listening to tales of the “good old days,” and no one could tell them better than my wife’s grandmothers. Their childhoods were spent during times when people struggled to survive, but their families managed to get by. In fact, both ladies attended college, which was a huge accomplishment in those times.

They were fortunate to have lived good and long lives.

The eldest of the two grandmothers passed away just short of her 105th birthday. It was a real treat hearing of her travels to foreign lands—an African Safari, to name one excursion—and about the days when she used to tag along on a horse-drawn wagon with a traveling doctor as he made house calls throughout the community. The story about the time when she was in a high-speed buggy crash was one of my favorites.

Denene’s paternal grandmother, Mary, left this earth at the age of 94. She wasn’t one for chit-chat, so when she spoke it was to deliver a statement of importance. However, when she told of the time she dated country music legend, Ernest Tubb, there was a playful twinkle in her eyes. I believe her times with Tubb were a highlight of her life, especially the night of “the” party.

As a young woman, Mary lived in the mountains of western Virginia, and it was there where she and Tubb attended a party. Mary told me that she and Tubb were socializing with the others at the gathering when Tubb told her there was someone he wanted her to meet. So she followed her date to a corner of the room where a small crowd had gathered around a young, good-looking man who seemed to be at no loss for words. Mary said the man was arrogant, cocky, and far too sure of himself. She didn’t like him. Not at all.

Tubb told Mary the young man was sort of new to the music business and was looking for a break. She wasn’t at all surprised when he accepted the crowd’s invitation to perform. At the conclusion of the song Mary told her date that she didn’t believe the man had any real talent and that he would never make it in the music business. Tubb, on the other hand, said he thought the youngster had a big career ahead of him.

The young man was…

My mother was a huge Elvis fan her entire life. She had a large collection of Elvis memorabilia that I somehow inherited when she passed away. To this day, I can’t help but smile and think of my mom when I hear an Elvis song, or when I see Lisa Marie perform, especially at Sun Studio.

Denene and I found ourselves just a few blocks from Graceland this week and, well, there was no way we could pass up the opportunity. We were, however, a little apprehensive about dragging a UHaul trailer through the mansion gates, but our fears quickly dissipated when we saw car carriers, tow trucks, and motor homes parked at various angles in the paved parking lot. My mother would’ve crawled up the hill on her hands and knees over a bed of broken platinum records, if that’s what it took to get a peek inside of heaven on earth, that most holy place known as Graceland.

So, this one was for you, Mom. Here’s your peek inside the home of The King. And, Mary, I believe Ernest Tubb called this one right.

Lisa Marie’s swingset

Out of everything to see at Graceland, I think what will stick with me most is Elvis’ obvious love for his daughter, his generosity to people who needed a hand, and the fact that you can absolutely feel Elvis’ presence in the home.

I do not believe The King has left that building.


*     *     *

“Hound Dog”

Elvis Presley

You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog

cryin’ all the time.

You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog

cryin’ all the time.

Well, you ain’t never caught a rabbit

and you ain’t no friend of mine.

*By the way, we’re slowly making our way across the country, taking in a few of the hot spots as we go. We did, however, resist visiting Toad Suck, Arkansas.


It's a mystery


A mystery tale has begun and it’s yours to solve.

Today’s photos, starting with the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, will assist you in arriving at the solution to the puzzle.

Add the stunning views from the Pacific Coast Highway and…

the charm of San Francisco Bay area towns, such as Benicia.

Of course, we mustn’t forget the arts and…

did I mention the views…

along the coastline?

And there’s this.

And this.

Now, for the final clue—shadows.

Can you solve the mystery?


Dog days of summer


It’s fun to step back in time and read some of the tales we so proudly wrote “back in the day.” You know, to see how we’ve progressed (or regressed). Here’s one of my early attempts at writing. The exercise was to tell a story, complete with a twisted ending, in 300 words or less.

Dog Days of Summer

The beach had always been much-needed mental therapy for Clara Ruth. Medicine for the soul she called it. Brilliant sunshine to warm her face and bare shoulders. Foamy seawater sizzling around her ankles. And that delightful salty air was nothing short of heaven on earth.

She cherished the screeching and shrieking seagulls. She adored the feel of the wet sand oozing between her toes. Not to mention the ocean breezes that brought the scents of coconut tanning oils, warm popcorn, and greasy French fries wafting down from the crowded creosote-soaked boardwalk.

As a child she’d liked nothing more than visiting the seaside arcades to play Skeeball, winning long ribbons of blue tickets that she’d exchange for cheap novelties, like a bamboo back-scratcher or a squirt gun. If she was lucky, and, if her parents had brought enough quarters, a plastic pail and shovel for making sandcastles. Secretly, though, she’d kept her eye on the big, white stuffed unicorn. But no one, not even the grownups, ever won enough blue tickets to take home the top prize.

But things had changed over the years. Those days were gone forever.

Wonderful memories, all of them. She’d have given anything to have those days back again.

The sun was bright and hot and nearly directly overhead. Not a single cloud to block the heat. But, for all she knew, it could have been midnight beyond the dark glasses she wore.

A lone tear, caught in the lower lashes of her right eye, finally spilled down onto her cheek. She mopped it away with the back of a hand. Using the other, she extended her red and white cane and urged the dog to guide her home.

She’d had enough therapy for one day.

Friday before Christmas


We walked away from the sunset, a smoldering and dazzling sphere of yellow and orange sinking into the marsh, heading toward a powder blue sky, the color of my grandmother’s favorite Sunday-go-to-meetin’ dress.

Ahead lay the heavens and the sea, a palette of azure and soft pinks and violet.

The small island is finally at rest after a summer filled with squeals, laughter, picnics and volleyball.

Sea foam sizzled softly as it met the cool sand, leaving behind tiny shells and tidbits for the gulls to peck.

Tranquility was plentiful.

And then it was night. And it was the Friday before Christmas.

And all through the streets and beaches, not a creature was stirring. Not even the police.

We searched high and we searched low.

But we found no one. Nothing.

Time had stood still.

Then, peeking from above, there it was. As plain as day.

A star? A planet?

Could someone, perhaps three wise travelers, use the bright light to lead the way?

I wonder. I wondered, indeed.

After all, it was the Friday before Christmas.

Beach Party


Once there was a lonely stretch of beach, where not a creature stirred, not even a crab. Not a flopping fish or screeching gull. No swooping pelicans, laughing boys, or squealing girls. No sandcastles, no taffy. Or flying discs or balls bouncing.

But all was not lost, for a single word was heard. Yes, it was that word. From where it came was not known. Perhaps from the lips of the Christmas tree, or those of the cat beneath the hat. But it matters not from where it came, because they answered the call.

And then it happened. There was no place to stand on the wet sand or the dry. They came from high and low. From beneath the rocks and from towns far and near. The cheese and the gator. The young and the old. The hot and those very cold. They each heard the word, and all answered the call.

You, too, have heard the word—that single word—the single syllable that stirs the blood and moves the feet. The five letters that… Okay, enough with the corn. Let’s PARTY!

And then there were these two hardcore party animals…

So how’s your weekend? Doing anything fun?

12 reasons



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The last of the Mighty Midgets is docked near San Francisco, where a handful of dedicated Navy vets spend their days lovingly breathing life back into the heavily-armed WWII amphibious ship. These 387-ton LCS (Landing Craft Support) ships were designed to lay close-range supporting fire for landing forces on the islands of the South Pacific.

The LCS featured a flat bottom which allowed it to beach and provide cover fire for U.S. forces. Once the missions were complete the ship was able to pull itself back into open water using an on-board winch attached to a cable and anchor dropped just prior to beaching.

A couple of weeks ago, Denene and I had the pleasure of boarding the surviving LCS-102, and were treated to a tour-for-two guided by Navy vet Gordon Stutrud. In the manner that new parents proudly show off photos of their children, Stutrud led us through the floating tank that once had been home to over 70 sailors.

As we made our way into the belly of the ship, it was quite obvious that our guide was silently reliving his days at sea more 50 years ago.

As Gordon talked, explaining in detail each nook and cranny, I found myself thinking about the hardships of living aboard one of those floating powder kegs. Spaces are extremely tight. Ceilings are low. Hallways are narrow. And, well, see for yourself…

And we sometimes complain about a restless night. Imagine sleeping in close quarters like these, with 64 other people.

Then there was the challenging task of cooking for over 70 crew members. Of course, the galley was spacious and equipped with top of the line equipment.

Chefs were highly trained in the culinary arts.

On-board communication systems were the best technology that money could buy.

Voice tubes—brass pipes—ran from the engine room to the control room. When commands were given to speed up or slow down, they were shouted into the voice tube(s) and were easily heard and understood at the other end of the tube.

Sure, these things seem a bit primitive, rustic even, but nothing could compare to the “facilities.” There, it was three at a time while sea water gently flowed beneath. We heard stories of prankster shipmates setting toilet tissue on fire and sending it “adrift” in the current where it would quickly heat up the “buns” of the men seated downstream.

Still, the real purpose of the LCS was on deck—the weaponry. The crew needed a massive amount of firepower, not only to support landing parties, but to defend themselves against kamikazie pilots, and suicide swimmers and boats. Firefights were described as beyond intense and beyond any attempt at descriptions by writers and those seen in film. Yet, only six of the 130 LCS’s built were destroyed by enemy attack. The Mighty Midgets were capable of holding their own in even the worst of attacks. In fact, they were capable of reducing enemy aircraft to tiny bits of metallic confetti.

So let’s take a peek at the ship’s firepower.

First, the ammunition. The first photo shows Gordon holding the smallest of the rounds (including tracer rounds).

Next are the larger rounds. Gordon is there to show size comparison. Imagine what rounds this size could do to a target. By the way, there’s a chance that you’d find cordite in a few of these rounds. But this was basically the end of times for cordite.

Now for the big guns, the 40mm’s and more.

Close up of gun sight. You can see these in position (on either side of the gun barrels) in the preceding photo.

Gordan demonstrating the crank used to move and position the larger guns.

.50 caliber machine gun (above).

Denene with the twin 20mm guns that were often used against enemy aircraft, and for laying down cover fire for beach landings.

Below is the original flag flown on the LCS.

The experience on-board this mighty ship was beyond daunting. Listening to Gordon describe living and working on a LCS was priceless. His pride for the U.S. armed forces, especially the Navy, and for our country, is immeasurable. It would be impossible to repay our service men and women for all they’ve done for us and our country. Nothing short of impossible.

Here are a few more photos taken on the LCS.

Engines used to power the LCS.

Radio room.

Executive officer’s dining (wardroom).

Executive officer’s cabin.