Friday, September 28, 2007

Tracking down lost cemeteries

Over the course of the past few weeks Debby and I have been visiting old cemeteries and photographing headstones for Debby's genealogy project. Some of the cemeteries we have been looking for are old and long-forgotten. The locations are either not on the county maps or are put in the wrong position. Quite a few of the cemeteries end up being located in the Hoosier National Forest or in wooded areas on private property.

Locating these became quite an issue as you can probably imagine. Debby did find a website that had some of the cemeteries in question listed along with latitude and longitude. This proved to be a blessing in locating them. I downloaded a copy of Google Earth and went to work. I found that some of the Coordinates were slightly off but they got me to the area in question. It amazed me at how the headstones popped right out at me in the pictures. I had to maintain a pretty high altitude to keep the picture in focus, but it was impressive at how the cemetery showed up on the aerial map.

The next thing I did was convert the coordinates to GPS format and make way points for each location on my GPS. The GPS basically took us right to the location of each cemetery. Once we got to each cemetery I rechecked the Latitude and Longitude of it and made notes so that I could come home and remark them on Google Earth. Modern technology is a wonderful thing. While I was doing that, Debby would be searching for the stones and photographing them.

A lot of people will do a rubbing on the headstone if it is worn to make out names, dates, and etc. but Debby has a little trick that she uses that has made photographing worn stones possible. The process is relatively simple, takes little time, and does not harm the stone in any way other than possibly removing the lichen that so often builds up on our native limestone headstones. The trick involves shaving cream, a 4 inch drywall knife (putty knife), and a towel. You spray some shaving cream onto the monument and then take the putty knife and smooth the cream into the depressions where the carving is. You will see the letters and numbers, as well as any ornate carving, pop out at you. Take the towel and gently wipe the excess shaving cream off. The end result is all of the embellishments on the stone stand right out at you and make a highly photograph-able monument. One thing to remember is to take either some water and an extra towel along or some baby wipes for your hands because this can get a bit messy. You do not have to do anything else after photographing the stone since the shaving cream will just fade away.

Anyway, Today's topic was going to announce the publishing of the fruits of Debby's labors on the Family Tree Maker website but we ran into a glitch with their server and could not get it uploaded. Hence, today's blog comes quite late. A soon as we get it up, running, and accessible I will post the address on here. Debby and I have spent several quality hours together discovering old cemeteries in Lawrence, Jackson, Monroe, Daviess, and Brown counties. We have driven several miles and hiked quite a few in the woods as well. It has been fun discovering family history and documenting the locations of our predecessors.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Motorcycle Therapy and Friends

I have owned a few motorcycles and I think that everyone should have one. Well, OK let me take that back. I do know a few people that are dangerous enough just driving a car let alone add balancing something on two wheels into the equation. Anyway among the motorcycles I have owned includes a 1985 Honda V30 Magna, a 1980 Honda CX 500, a 1978 Honda GL1000 Goldwing, and my current ride, a 1996 Yamaha XVZ13 Royal Star Tour Classic, which is pictured at the top of this page.

The Honda Goldwing was fully Vetter-equipped and a grand touring bike for a bike of its age. I added a nice touring saddle, driver's backrest, passenger armrests, floorboards, heel-toe shifter, driving lights, electronic ignition, and upgraded the carbs. The bike was made for the open road.

In 2004 Debby, my daughter Ashton, my buddy Stan, and I decided it was time for a road trip. We had been talking for what seemed like ever about doing this. So, we loaded up our stuff and took off westbound on US 50 towards Colorado. US 50 proved to be a challenging road and having never undertaken such a long trip we learned a lot about motorcycling long distances. Even though there are still complaints about why the state of Kansas even exists, the memories are good.

2005 brought the big Yamaha into the picture. It is an infinitely more comfortable bike to ride than the 'Wing. Using lessons learned from the Colorado trip I started looking at building a trailer to transport our luggage in. After looking at several options I decided to build my own using a car top carrier and a small trailer frame I bought at Menard's (my favorite place in the universe). The trailer was built and its maiden voyage was to Asheville, NC. This time our group was accompanied by my brother Mike and his wife Shannon and my cousin Kyle. We packed eight people's luggage in my small trailer. A real testament to Debby's organizational skills! It was a wonderful trip and enjoyed by all.

2006 was a shorter trip due to Amanda's illness. This time the trip was only four days in Bardstown,KY and surrounding areas. the trip had to be kept close in case we need to get back home. Stan rode solo but we were joined by Mike and Lisa Kurdziolek on their new Honda VTX 1300 Shadow. Stan also upgraded to a gargantuan Kawasaki Nomad for this trip. This trip was very relaxing and laid back.

2007 took Stan, Mike, Lisa, Debby, and I back to Asheville, NC for a week of exploring. We stayed outside of Asheville in a small place called Saluda. The log home we rented was like a paradise. The week was very pleasurable and was made better by the fact that such great friends were present. We rode some great motorcycle roads such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, Cherohala Skyway, and the legendary US129 (the Tail of the Dragon).
After returning from Asheville we decided a weekend trip might be in order- Just Because. Ashton rejoined the group as Stan's partner since she was home on leave. We loaded up on Friday night and headed to Frankfort,KY for the weekend. A no-schedule trip, just play it by ear when we got there affair. Once again a nice ride with close friends.

I am not detailing the rides too much here because Stan, official scribe if the tribe, has done an excellent job of posting all of the details on his website. I will provide links to his narrative and pics below:

Colorado 2004:

Asheville 2005:

Bardstown 2006:

Asheville 2007:

Frankfort 2007:

Our trips are always fun and relaxing because we are out in the open with the wind in our face, being free and relaxed, and not constrained by time. Getting there is half of the fun! The best part of these outings is the fact that everyone is a lifelong friend and enjoying each other's company. We always get together and have a blast planning next year's ride(s). We have a couple of big ones planned for 2008 and 2009 so I am sure there will be lots of interesting stories and adventures to tell of.

Maybe the medical profession with all of its various specialities should take a look at the motorcycle as a valid therapeutic treatment. It obviously should be called Motorcycletherapy. If that ever happens and there is such a thing as a Motorcycletherapist, sign me up!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A tribute to Amanda

Debby and I have seven kids. Shayne, Amanda, Johnny, Ashton, Dennis, Logan, and Kyle. Whew! Although most people's initial reaction is "Oh my God! How do you stand it?", life has been an adventure, a good one at that. Having all of these kids I have found out that each one has a different and unique personality. In general we are blessed to have so many different characters running around. They are all great kids.

Amanda was the oldest girl. Amanda was one of life's free spirits and a very creative thinker. One Thanksgiving Day 2005 her husband brought her to our house and told us that she was ill and they could not figure out exactly what was wrong. My wife and I took her to the Emergency Room and lab tests showed an abnormality. By the end of the weekend we were at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis. The diagnosis was Myelodysplasia, a form of leukemia. A bone marrow transplant was the treatment of choice to solve the problem. Amanda's transplant physician was Dr. Robert Nelson. Dr. Nelson has to be one of the most compassionate and caring physicians God ever put on this earth. Amanda and Dr. Nelson had a very special relationship. Despite the bone marrow transplant and receiving arguably the best care in the world at IUMC, Amanda slipped from us on April 26th 2007.

Throughout the entire treatment process Amanda remained strong and very positive. Even when her mother and I both knew she was terribly ill or hurting, if someone would ask her how she was doing she would use her best chipper-sounding voice and reply, "Oh, I am OK." Amanda underwent some treatments that I question myself if I could do. Oh, and she did it with a smile. Despite her diminutive size (5' 1"/100lbs) she proved to be a Giant. I have dealt with some rather large foreboding people throughout my life and Amanda proved herself to be bigger, badder, and tougher than all of them put together. As far as I am concerned her courage and bravery will remain unequaled. Amanda was just 21 years old.

The loss of a child is a completely heartbreaking experience and the most tragic event of a parent's life.When my father passed away I saw a look on my Grandmother's face that I could not describe. It was a terrible lost and hollow look. I saw the same look on some friends of ours when they lost a child. I now know what is behind that look. I know how it feels. Time stops, the world is crashing down on you and there is nothing that can comfort you.

Amanda did give us a small gift, specifically her mother, that final Thursday night at IU Medical Center. A gift that I and hopefully everyone present in that room will remember. When the oxygen mask was removed from her face the last words she said were to her mom. She stated in her most pleasant voice, "Mom, don't fight it." Amanda left us just a few minutes later with dignity and grace. Her words that night still loom in my head. The words were meant to comfort her mother who had been doing double-duty as Nurse at home and Nurse as a profession. That night her mother was there at her side just being mom. The words comfort me because I know Amanda had fought a long hard battle . I knew she was exhausted and I knew she was ready for peace. I accepted the fact that the battle was over when I heard those words. I will not ever accept the fact that Amanda is gone.

So little Miss Moo-Moo you may be gone but your memories live on. You taught me and everyone around you how to fight the best possible fight, what dignity and grace are, and that size is not an issue if you have determination. You are in the truest sense of the word, a warrior. I will always miss you and be grateful for the lesson you taught me. Rest in Peace Amanda, you fought the good fight.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Welcome to my new page!

Greetings from Bedford, Indiana. I am preparing this page to relay and express ideas and happenings that I feel are noteworthy. I will be adding more as time goes on and I get better at this.

Some of the things that I will discuss experiences on are:

Motorcycle trips

Motorcycle accessories and DIY projects that are easy to do.

Home Improvement Projects

Good Friends

Genealogy and locating lost relatives and cemeteries. (Debby's pet project)

The loss of a child.

And more rambling thoughts to come later...

In the meantime, Check back often and see what I have posted. Feel free to comment or request.

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