Saturday, December 20, 2008

America's 20th Century Veterans' Memorial

Unusual circumstances caused Ed and me to interrupt our journey on Interstate 80 with a stop in North Platte, Nebraska. My submission to CNN iReport about our RV cross-country trip grabbed the attention of the network producers. We weren’t just taking the typical trip to Grandma’s – struggling with Thanksgiving flights or driving cross town – we were motoring in our Prevost across the country from Oregon, to Ingersoll, Ontario, then finally into Greensburg, Pennsylvania. CNN was intrigued and requested more information to air the story. We needed a strong cell phone signal in order to talk with the CNN producer as prep for a later broadcast about our “going home for the holiday” experience. The cell signal strength in North Platte gave us indication that this important call would not be dropped. As arranged, Ed and I responded to the producer’s questions wile parked off I-80. We would go live on the air later in the day compressing our 45 minute call to a mere 3 minutes when broadcasting. With all this excitement, I hadn’t noticed what was beyond our coach window until I stepped outside for a breath of fresh air.

What is the place I wondered? There was a lake, picnic tables, statues, and a huge American flag waving in the breeze.

This was Iron Horse Park, a pleasant contrast to the typical commercial interstate truck stops and convenience store gas stations. It was a park where Interstate 80 crosses U.S. Highway 83 in North Platte, Nebraska.

Curiously, I wandered further from the coach drawn by the monument and the statues surrounding the flag. At the arched entrance way, I stepped back and shielded my eyes from the bright sun to read: “20th Century Veterans’ Memorial”.

When I stepped beneath the arch, I paused to admire a bronze statue called “Defenders of Liberty.” And then, I read the some of the thousands of names of veterans inscribed in the bricks that make up the memorial walls, the names of the true “Defenders of Liberty.” I didn’t recognize any names. These weren’t the famous military heroes. They were the honorable men and women who served in the military during the Twentieth Century. They’d served in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, and Coast Guard. More bronze statues on either side of the walkway paid tribute to each of these branches of military service.

At the “Place of Meditation” where the US flag waved, names of veterans from Nebraska preserved the memory of those who sacrificed their lives during Twentieth Century conflicts. The back wall of the Memorial was a brick bas-relief mural illustrating the struggle to preserve peace in the Twentieth Century.

While I quietly reflected on these heroes and the struggles throughout the world to keep peace, terrorism struck and the fragility of human life and peacekeeping efforts became front page news. Far from this Nebraska town, violence erupted in Mumbai, India. That very day, acts of terrorism would eventually kill 179 people. CNN covered this tragedy exhaustively for two days and understandably cut our story about a joyful ride home for the holidays.

Days later, I later I still followed this tragic news story and wondered about the possible memorial this latest conflict would inspire. It wouldn’t be dedicated to our U.S. troops or be along a US interstate; rather it would be in India and remember those who died in Mumbai.

November 26, 2008

America’s 20th Century Veterans’ Memorial

Iron Horse Park

Intersection of I- 80 & Hwy. 83

North Platte, Nebraska


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Black Friday 2008

Shoppers are at a retail outlet in Iowa were parked and ready to snatch up after Thanksgiving bargains before sunrise. When we parked our Prevost RV there, the lot was empty. These photos illustrate the challenge Ed and I encountered in maneuvering out of the lot. Cars parked us in and made passage very narrow. As we witnessed the shopping frenzy around us, folks came out of the store with carts brimming with purchases. Only one woman seemed sensible, she was buying blankets and gloves because she said she was turning the heat down for the winter. From all evidence of this traffic jam, parking lot and full shopping bags, Americans remain shoppers even in a down economy.

November 28, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Scenery From I-80 Road Trip

With the cost of diesel falling, my husband and I decided to drive home for Christmas to see family. We had been in Florence, OR in our RV enjoying the Pacific Coast. Now, we are making our way east in our Prevost, taking our time and enjoying stops at places like the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Utah and Cabella's national headquarters in Nebraska. The scenery is spectacular as we pull off for roadside rests. We're allowing plenty of time to make this run across Interstate 80. Our goal is to stop in Ingersoll, Ontario first then head south to Greensburg, PA. Happy holidays!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Golden Spike National Historic Site

November 24, 2008

ATK Rocket Display in Utah

Unimaginable! When people assembled for the Golden Spike Ceremony in 1869, they celebrated the completion of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad. Years before, the idea of creating a railroad to span the vast distance across the US seemed impossible at first. But, technology, human ingenuity, and manpower converged to the join the rails of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads- the unimaginable- came true.

I doubt anyone in the crowd at Promontory Summit would have dreamed that a over a century later, not far from there, the same elements of technology, ingenuity and manpower would conquer another vast distance – the distance beyond the land and mountains into the earth’s atmosphere and outer space.

The ATK rocket display on State Route 83 in Promontory, Utah is not a National Historic Site like the nearby Golden Spike. It may take another century for the National Park Service to conceive this idea. Still the ATK rocket display is free and open to the public on the grounds in front of the ATK corporate manufacturing complex.

ATK is a premier aerospace and defense company. It manufactures rocket propulsion systems and strategic missiles – the unimaginable in 1869, reality today. According to Wikipedia, in Utah’s Promontory Mountains, ATK manufactures the solid rocket booster (SBR) for the Space Shuttle. And, after the SBRs are retrieved from the ocean following a launch, they are transported to ATK (formerly Thiokol) for refurbishing. Though the plant and surrounding land is noticeably a secure area, the rocket display is easily accessible.

On display is a Space Shuttle Booster Separation Motor which can travel through the atmosphere at more than 3,000 miles per hour and altitudes of 24 nautical miles. Visitors can also see the TX-486 Patriot, noted as the US Army’s most advanced surface-to-surface defense system. Its engineering began in 1972 and it moved into production in 1981. More historic are the TX-14 Big B, known as “The Klunker” – designed in 1950 for the US Army Ballistic Missile Agency as a test vehicle for high performance propellants and insulated materials – and the TX-10, the 1950s prototype solid propellant rocket motor for the US Army’s surface-to-surface Lacrosse missile that was developed for use against tanks and bunkers.

The rockets make a striking contrast to the trains at Golden Spike. Could there have been a hint of the next transportation frontier back in the 1869? Maybe the unimaginable, the impossible was pondered because one of the locomotives at the Summit on that historic day the Golden Spike Ceremony was named The Jupiter.

November 23, 2008