Sunday, November 6, 2016


Ginger was our first Land Rover. Purchased while her was working overseas. I retired and joined her shortly after she began work. She purchased Ginger and had the Defender waiting in our open air carport when I arrived. 

Her was working long hours, seven days a week, so I had the days and surroundings of the big city to learn to drive on the other side of the road, play with photography and visit historical places. I published a web site for a year to occupy my time and a few years later, Apple decided not to support the software and all was lost. 

Had it not been for Ginger, I/we would never ever looked at a Land Rover as a vehicle to own. Of all that we learned overseas during her tour of duty, falling in love with the Defender and Land Rovers has stuck like glue.

We tried everything we could to have her sent home, but not possible due to the year of the vehicle and restrictions. We paid 10% for her of what it would cost to find and purchase same vehicle here. We had a year of traveling and sightseeing in her that will never be forgotten. Here are just a few of the photos of her, and native wild life we saw, in some of our travels.

Shot from inside Ginger; Cannon 50D, 200mm telephoto.

Stories from that time on the road are more than time will permit here. Suffice it to say, that it was a time of great adventure. The best way to see any country is to live it while you are young.


A hearty group of men and women that we rarely see while they are building, maintaining or repairing our electrical supply. If you happen on a crew out in the ugliest of weather this winter, take time to drop off a few doughnuts and some hot coffee. They will appreciate it more than you know. Sadly, some folks come to rag their ass as to why it is taking so long for them to return service. But in the small neighborhoods, who have been w/o power for a few days, these crews are more often met with home made soup and warm food that says thank you for your long hours of work in the worst of weather. Be one of those people.  


"Five generations, one American's family and not a corner of this house that I do not know, that is unfamiliar or has not produced a memory.Every inch of the river behind explored in childhood. My first swimming lesson and chasing with our dogs as they floated by. I shake my head and think “hot summer days wasted away with floating dogs and not a care in the world.” Many memories here, too many to recount and log. But maybe more important is that the memories justify what I have done. Permission, if you will, to start over at this time of my life where all of these memories of a wonderful life began. 

Our folks have been gone for awhile and sister June passed away last year. Old age and natural causes too caught up with her. My brother never paid any attention, that I am aware of, to this part of the country, let alone the small town and the house. He was more than glad to sell his share to me and June's family was more focused on the money, than the place. So it is mine and begs to what real reason or purpose.
I am surprised that the town sees this house as livable. She has good bones, but needs a good investment in time and money to bring her back to her original life. The van and trailer, parked out back, are loaded with personal items, most though left behind with family and friends. I sense a new simplicity here today. Nights will be in a sleeping bag with Van Gogh at my feet. He has not learned to swim yet, but a floating dog is a must this summer. Cooking and camping between the house and the river sounds adventurous but I give that notion about three days.
I must have been an oddity today walking around the house and staring over the house from the street. Enough so that neighbors walked over to check out the parked van and my wanderings. Nice folks, interested in the neighborhood and strangers in their midst. My general plans to live in the house, while restoring it, brought mixed reviews. Conversations of congratulations, welcome to the neighborhood, let us know if there is anything we can do accompanied by body language reminiscent of a “fool now plans to live across the street from us.” Who knows, a few months of hard work and a first coats of paint just might just bring an invitation to a home cooked meal or an apple pie. 

I remember neighborhood get togethers here. I wonder if people still do that?

I know I am still naive. I have never been able to change that and it has not always served me well. A few hard lessons have been learned from going with the heart instead of the head or a mixture of both. I believe that arriving here today is that mixture of both. Van Gogh lends credence to this tonight. From the moment we arrived here this morning, he has walked this property with knowledge and the comfort of home. He reviewed the rivers edge like an old friend and checked on me more than ever before. He has not barked at anyone or anything yet, but did put himself between me and our new advancing neighbors. All seems to have met with his approval so far. He has picked our first nights sleeping spot in the van, leaving me little room to join him. Some things remain the same.
The candle light on this old table is flickering as the sun fully sets. I can hear distant laughter from across the rivers edge but the flow of the river quiets most distractions. Tomorrow and the week ahead forecasts good work weather. A good nights sleep is in order, along side our new old house."


I have no memory where I found this story. I remember it touched good places inside of me and I immediately wanted to walk over introduce myself and meet Van Gogh. I would want to stop by often, help if I could and visit. I would love to find the rest of the story if the fellow has continued with his writing and life change adventure. I would soak up every up and down he would go through restoring his old house to bring her back to as good as new. Maybe this post will help find the author, Van Gogh and a continued story. 


I was nineteen turning twenty when I arrived at Ft. Wolter's Texas in 1966. I got off the bus filled with other soldiers arriving to report for duty. It was early evening and too late for base arrival and check-in. We were told to get a room and report to the base at 0800 the next morning. It was a sleepless night as I would officially enter the class of 66-15 for Army Helicopter Flight Training the next morning. A new mixture of excitement mixed with the unknown. 

The first weeks were filled with academics. Basics in military procedures as a potential new warrant officer, aerodynamics, mechanical systems and navigation. Fail this first month and you were out. A drop-out would keep the rank of E-5 and move into some other Army training program. I had never learned how to learn and spent many a long night "learning" through repetition and memory. But learning of things I loved taught me how to learn, how to think, how to problem-solve and invoke common sense in the process to solutions. Learning became fun and easy. But that first big do-or-die test had me up many a night before the exam. 

The classes were close to the flight line. We could see and hear helicopters in the air all day and see the flight line from many of our classroom windows. A constant motivator. 

The first month passed and we were taken to the flight line to be assigned to an instructor, meet him and schedule our first orientation flight. Words to this day cannot express the overall excitement and glee that lived in me those first few days on the flight line.

Maybe 3-5 students per instructor. Cannot remember exactly. We met him, sat at a briefing table and I was to be the first to get an orientation ride the next day. Half of our days were now spent in class and half on the flight line and flying. 

We arrived to the flight line the next day and I quickly learned that my flight would be postponed one day because (I cannot remember). Then the next day, same set back because (I cannot remember). And on day three, I was walked to the flight line, to the idling helicopter and helped inside. I was so  excited that I could not even buckle myself in. In a few minutes we were at a hover, conversing with flight helmets and push to talk buttons. From a hover to forward flight, the little loss of altitude dip and then into forward flight. Learned all about this in classes and felt it for the very first time that day. 

We flew around the air field and got to see the basic layout of Ft. Wolters and the outlying community.  I saw the old hotel I spent my first night in and  instead of the full hour planned introductory flight, my first flight lasted a half hour that went by like 5 minutes. 

We all soloed in about 10 hours or so and our buses back to the base would stop at the big mud/water hole where freshly soloed candidates were carried to the waters' edge and thrown in as an official recognition of having soloed. Successful solo were three normal take-offs and three normal landings in front of our instructor, standing there along side the runway.

We progressed with all flight maneuvers and quite often, returned to our barracks to learn that one of the boys was let go from not having 20-20 vision, or air sickness or even fear of flying helicopters. Our initial class was getting smaller. Those of us still left were becoming helicopter pilots. 

Near the end of this stage of our training, our flight instructor invited us over to his house for a few beers and a Texas-sized BBQ. This was another feather in our cap as fledgling pilots. Recognition. We were to graduate this part of flight school and move on baring any unforeseen event.

We learned that our instructor had been Navy Blue Angel pilot flying the F8F Bearcat. And no, I do not remember his name or even what he looked like. Much history is lost in the excitement of the moments.

The steaks were thrown on the grill and our instructor sat down with us and started to tell flying stories. We learned he flew with the early Blue Angels as he  sat with us, telling stories that movies are made of. We sat in awe and were with him through every flight to the women in the stands, who would come up and hand their phone numbers to the pilots walking from the flight line

The man was a hero and every day there after we tried to fly, in keeping, to perfection for this man. He graduated us successfully in this first stage of flight training. We were helicopter pilots on our way to complete flight training at Ft. Rucker, Alabama. But this was my very first adventure in real flying stories and experiences from an elite pilot and from one of the best. What were the chances that I would draw an instructor pilot that flew with the original Blue Angels.

You will enjoy this.  Makes my heart pitter patter.

It is moments like this that are of historical value to me. I wonder if  the children and young adults will ever understand this. That they are an extension of great people doing great things in the building of this country and the maintenance of freedom?  That all that has gone before them rests on their shoulders now, to continue?


I will finish this post this morning with you, sharing new members of the family. Jemma arrived last winter, early one evening in pouring down rain. Purchased from the UK, traveled by ship, cleared customs in New York, loaded onto a car delivery trailer and completed her "coming to America" here in middle New England. All within 5 weeks from the day we ordered her. She is a 1986 Land Rover Defender and spent her days serving in the UK as a radio communication command vehicle. She has 190K kilometers on her, rattles when she is at idle and purrs on the back roads. In keeping with older military vehicles like this, she is a little noisy and the wind whistles through her. No power steering but surprisingly comfortable to drive and ride in. 

Land Rover shut down the Defender line just a few months ago. All of these vehicles were hand built. Jemma has been rebuilt from the ground up and for all practical purposes is a new used Defender with a 30 year history.  

Will share her travels with you as winter two unfolds.

     BEFORE JEMMA CAME BAM (Bad Ass Mobile)

Before Jemma, we looked for over three years for another Defender. We finally came across a Land Rover D2, a rather menacing-looking, limited series left-hand drive Westminster. The price of these used is actually pretty reasonable because they tend to lose their head gaskets anytime after 100K miles and their original owners can't, or won't, find a mechanic who knows the fix. But BAM was not a hangar queen; she had a new engine and excellent bones in and out. Original owner, always garaged and driven-to-church-on-Sundays-only sorta find. Her said yes and we did. 

What is amazing to us is that both Jemma and BAM came at prices less than an off-road 4x4 ATV at local sports outdoor dealership. 


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