Blue Moon of Kentucky Keep on Shinin'
Trip Start Oct 31, 2008
45Trip End Ongoing
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It was a travel day like all other travel days or so I thought. For the most part, my travels have gone very well, uneventful and that's the way uh huh uh huh I like it. My colleagues who have worked and traveled with me know that I can alway be found traveling with my Bose portable IPod player. I typically don't leave home without it as it is usually packed in a suitcase with my pillow wrapped around it for protection. This trip I decided to carry my Bose player in its case as a carry on along with another bag. It was really no bother and it fit nicely in the foot space below the seat in front of me on the plane. The flight to Louisville, KY was pleasant and restful. Upon arrival I grabbed my bag from the overhead bin and proceeded to the baggage terminal and the rental cars. All was going according to routine.
My car was ready and waiting and off I drove to my hotel in Elizabethtown, a short drive away from Fort Knox. Check in at the hotel was a breeze and I immediately began the tedious work of unpacking everything and settling in for the 45 day rotation. This rotation is unique in that it involves multiple short trips within the rotation. In other words, I will be traveling around during the 45 days. I pride myself on my ability to be flexible with change. Clearly flexibility is a necessary trait in my line of work. But the ironic thing is, I've found myself falling into routines on the road, especially when it comes to organizing my toiletries and how my clothes are arranged in the closet and where I set up my headphones and Bose portable IPod player. AHHHHHHHHHH!!! My IPod player, where was my IPod player? It was definitely not surrounded by my pillow in the suitcase. It finally occurred to me that it must be exactly where I put it - under the seat in front of me in the airplane. At least two hours had passed since the plane landed. For all I knew, the lady chewing tobacco in the seat next to me was now accompanying Bill Monroe and singing Blue Moon of Kentucky somewhere in the holler as the golden tones were flowing out of MY Bose IPod player. It was enough to make me holler or put in a plug of chewing tobacco.
Now have you ever tried to locate and call a specific office at a specific airlines at an international airport post 9/11? It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You know its there, but it's going to take forever to find it. And so it was with finding the lost and found office for American Airlines. After what seemed to be hundreds of calls and transfers and feeling ready to bale out of this haystack, I called the correct number. As I learned early on in life, the first thing you do after you say hello is identify yourself. "Hello, my name is Jeff Sherman." The woman on the other end of the phone interrupted me and said, "Oh, I bet you're looking for your Bose IPod player." I told the lady that she had the voice of an angel. She went on to tell me how my Bose IPod player had nearly caused an international incident. It seems that the passengers on the next flight boarded the plane and as the pilot was taxiing out, the mysterious black bag was identified. The plane was brought to a halt and after complex staff negotiations, the black bag was taken to the cockpit of the plane for the pilot's inspection. Finally, the windshield of the plane was opened and the black bag was lowered to ground control waiting anxiously below. Major Tom could commence his countdown with engines on and so could I as soon as I recouped my Bose IPod player. The lady with the angelic voice did not have an angelic look on her face when she returned the player, but I thanked her graciously and departed quickly. Anyway, a host of other anomalies occurred (forgot my medicine, assignment changed while in flight, etc.) that put my flexibility to the test and got this rotation off to a rocky start. The moment you think it is all caving in around you is when you find yourself in a beautiful cavern with unique rock formations all around you. Such was the case with my first side trip to Mammoth Cave.
Mammoth Cave. Over 300 miles long. The longest cave in the world. In fact, you can put the second and third longest caves together and Mammoth Cave would still be longer by over 100 miles. Can you wrap your head around that? There are many tours you can take from easy to strenuous. I wasn't sure how strenuous the River Styx tour was, but I was quite sure I was not ready for that. So instead a few of us decided on the Frozen Niagra tour. We ventured a quarter of a mile into the cave and spent about one and a half hours underground. The path was adorned with beautiful formations of stalactites and stalagmites and other formations that I can't remember. All I remember is that stalactites stick tightly to the ceiling and stalagmites might grow up to the ceiling. The only time I really remembering using those two words growing up was to describe the dried mucus formations that would grow in those human microcaves called the nostrils. I guess I was never meant to be a serious scientist. At one point in the tour, the guide had us all stand perfectly quiet with our eyes closed. Then he turned the lights off and had us open our eyes with our hand directly in front of our eyes. It was complete darkness and quiet. I could not see my hand which was within an inch of my eyes. The experience reminded me of the limitations of our senses and thus the limitations of our perceptions of reality. It was a very brief glimpse of what it must be like to be blind. I have much for which to be thankful.
Over the next 45 days, I will be traveling every week except one. This past week I ventured up to Sandusky, Ohio. Yes, you remember Sandusky - the home of Callahan Brake Pads and Tommy Boy (one of the classics by the way). Sandusky is located in northern Ohio on the shore of Lake Erie. It was a quick three day visit, but I had a chance to take a very brief side trip to Milan, Ohio, the birthplace of Thomas Edison. Mr. Edison's home is small and quaint. I found it interesting that you could pay a small fee and take a tour of the home. I figured that would take all of five minutes, that is, until I met the tour guide and curator, Larry Russell. I loved Larry Russell and I love guys like Larry Russell. He passionately described the history of Thomas Edison and the history of the home. He shared many anecdotes, described personalities, and told stories as if he were a personal friend of Mr. Edison. He was great-a true professional and expert in the life and times of Thomas Edison, his family and his friends. After at least an hour and a half with Larry, I insisted on getting his autograph on the pamphlet he handed out. I can't believe I forgot to take his picture or it would be in a position of prominence on this posting. My wife Ronda was telling me about a line in the book, The Screw Tape letters, where C.S. Lewis writes something to the effect that the closest we come to infinity in this life is living fully in the moment. I believe he may be right. I've been trying to live more fully in the moment and those moments with Larry Russell were wonderful.
A colleague and I also had time to walk along the shore of Lake Erie. It was interesting to watch the sailboats, seagulls, and in the distance, the roller coasters (the roller coaster capital of the world). I was able to document in photos, the adventure of a greedy seagull trying to fly away with a fish he had caught. The problem was that the fish was way too big for the seagull and he couldn't get airborne. The seagull swam with the fish in his mouth to the shore and managed to get the fish partially on the shore. The bird then flew out of the water to the shore to complete the hunt when the fish seemed to come back to life, escape, and swim off. The bird was visibly upset and looked around dejectedly and I am quite sure when he observed that I photographed his embarrassing escapade, he came after me out of anger. I had to turn and run. My colleague says that the bird was not coming after me, but I beg to differ I've seen that look before a few times.
As a result of my frequent trips during this rotation, I have been able to make a few quick side trips to areas of interest. For example, I visited the birthplace of one of my heroes, Abraham Lincoln. It's fascinating to think that you are walking around on the same ground on which Honest Abe once traipsed. A memorial was built on the exact site where Lincoln's birth cabin was built. It is the first memorial ever built to honor a U.S. President. Inside of the memorial is a cabin built during that same time although it is not Lincoln's cabin. There are 56 steps leading to the memorial which represent the 56 years of his life. The older I get and the more I do this work, the more I appreciate the history of our country. By the way, Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain were on the committee that was responsible for the memorial being built.
I would be remiss if I didn't make a pilgrimage to one of the holiest sites in America - the Louisville Slugger museum and factory in Louisville (Looavul), KY. There is nothing quite like a bare-handed (no batting gloves back in the day), choked up grip on a 34 inch, thin-handled, Rod Carew-signed, ash, Louisville Slugger especially as it connects solidly at the sweet spot opposite the trademark with a low inside fastball. Wow! Everybody take a moment of silence and think about that. I know a lot of you know what I'm talking about. To paraphrase Lou Brock, "If you haven't swung a Louisville Slugger, you haven't played baseball."
Additionally, I enjoyed a visit to Wisconsin Dells, WI. I had no idea about the geography of the area. My only frame of reference was, The Farmer in the Dell, and even though I was in Wisconsin, I didn't see any derryo's. Anyway, it was a nice scenic place to visit. I think dells are narrow passageways. If I'm not mistaken, these dells were divided into higher and lower dells and flooded to create some very nice waterways. The area is noticeably a tourist area. The photos I took do not do it justice. One thing I noticed about the Great Lakes region is the high number of deer that end up as road kill. I must have seen 15 deer along the road when I drove back to Kentucky from Ohio and I saw about as many in Wisconsin.
I apologize if this blog entry seems to be flailing around randomly, but I guess it kind of represents how the rotation has gone for me to this point. There have been travels here and there and I haven't been one place long enough to get into a consistent flow. Alas, my final story involves a visit a colleague and I made to Shaker's Village. The Shakers were a religious group that settled primarily in the eastern part of the United States in the early 1800s. They banded together in communes to practice their religious beliefs. They were nicknamed Shakers due to the physical manner in which they practiced their faith and moved their bodies to their music. They were "shaking" the demons off. They were unique in other ways as well. They believed in living a simple life and working hard. They grew their own food, made their own furniture, and raised their own animals. They also were a celebate faith. So, contrary to their name and Jerry Lee Lewis' song, there was not a whole lot of shaking goin' on. And like this blog entry, they kinda dwindled down to nothing. I'm sure I've oversimplified and have not done their story justice, but nonetheless, it's a unique chapter in American history. You guys take care. I'm not sure when the next entry will be, but I'll let you know.
Where I stayed