DARPA wants to go to a galaxy far, far away…

Well, maybe not another galaxy, but at least another star.

DARPA’s new frontier: Distant space travel

From the article:

This isn’t about going to a nearby planet, like Mars. And it’s not about using robotic probes, which doesn’t interest the Defense Department, Neyland said.

But even the nearest star beyond our sun is 25 trillion miles away. The fastest rocket man has built would take more than 4,000 years to get there. This isn’t just about thinking new rocket methods, Neyland said. It’s also about coping with extended life in space, raising issues of medicine, agriculture, ethics and self-reliance, he said.

Pretty cool stuff.  I recommend they read The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, starting with Red Mars.  Even though they were just headed to Mars, it had some pretty good stuff about surviving independently for long periods of time.  Excellent read, too.

And yes, I did just recommend reading a science-fiction book series to get some ideas for an actual space mission.  After all, I hear science-fiction is a precursor to science-fact…


Motorcycle Trip 2011

Well, last week was my big motorcycle trip for this year.  I’m gonna do this review in “highlights” format instead of a big long story style.  I would have blogged about it as we went, but not every place we stopped at had wi-fi or good cell phone service.

The trip was made with two of my buddies from The Living Room, Wayne and Dave, and one of Dave’s friends, George.

Day 1Start: Martinsburg, WV; End: Fancy Gap Cabins and Campground; Fancy Gap, VA

This was the day we really put some miles under us as we were trying to get down the Blue Ridge Parkway a ways in order to cruise around the rest of the week.  We were all pretty beat by the time we got to our cabin, which was late.  We actually thought we missed the campground turn-off from the Blue Ridge Parkway and turned around, back-tracked a few miles, then pulled over and called them.  Turns out we were only about a minute away when we turned around!

Today’s highlights and pitfalls:

  • Wayne losing his kickstand off his Harley in Dave’s driveway.  I was behind him when it fell off, but thought he had just ran over a pipe or something and drove around it to continue on.  The guys at the campground were able to give him a giant block of hardwood to carry and use as a kickstand, though!  LOL
  • Wayne running out of gas one the Blue Ridge Parkway before we got to our late lunch at Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant.  After coasting downhill for a few miles, and then pushing his bike for about half a mile, he finally conceded and let me hook his bike up to mine with long bungee cords and tow him to the restaurant!  EDITED: In Wayne’s defense, he was trying to let Dave know for about 25 miles that he was going to run out of gas, but Dave’s headset was off.

Day 2End: Big Lynn Lodge; Little Switzerland, NC

Today’s highlights and pitfalls:

  • The phenomenal customer service at the Big Lynn Lodge!  They were awesome from the time we walked into the lobby.  Not only were they super accommodating about where we could park our bikes without fear of them falling over, but they told us the best place to park so it would be closest to our rooms.  Then as we were leaving to go ride “The Diamondback”, they ran out and told us they were upgrading our room from a single four-person room (two full beds, two bunk beds) to two two-person rooms with queen beds, mountain view, and nice flat parking spaces right out front!  Our rooms included a great turkey dinner and choice of breakfasts.  I would recommend this place to ANYONE who is traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  • Riding “The Diamondback.”  I know I mentioned it in one of my other blog posts, but now that I’ve ridden it, I AM A FAN!  Riding this road was like being on a roller coaster!  It wasn’t NEARLY as extreme as far as turns goes and was FAR more enjoyable.  I would ride this road forward and backward a few times just for the fun of it.  This may be my favorite short motorcycle road I have ever ridden.

Day 3End: Chattanooga, TN

Today’s highlights and pitfalls:

  • Wayne getting a new kickstand!  And then losing the spring off of it in the rain on the way to Chattanooga.  LOL.  Poor guy!
  • Visiting Bridal Falls in/near Highlands, NC.  We got lucky and just happened to be under the falls taking pictures when the sky opened up.  So another 10-15 minutes looking at the map and putting on rain gear and we were ready to head out… just in time for the rain to pretty much stop.  Haha.  Isn’t that the way it usually goes?

Day 4End: Cookeville, TN

Today’s highlights and pitfalls:

  • This morning before we left Chattanooga, we discovered that the bracket that held Wayne’s muffler on was completely broken through and apparently had been for some time, because the neck junction where his muffler joined the pipe was cracked about 60% of the way around.  He ended up staying behind as we headed to Lynchburg so he could get his pipe and the bracked welded at the local Harley dealership.  This was the worst pitfall we encountered the whole trip.
  • Touring the Jack Daniel’s Distillery was definitely my favorite part of today.  That was SUPER cool.  Being a Jack fan, it was neat to see the history behind the whiskey and learn what the actual difference was between the various labels they offer.
  • Having lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s was also a very cool experience.  Family-style dining, awesome food, and an entertaining hostess.  If you’re coming down to Lynchburg, you might as well call ahead and make the reservation to eat here.  You won’t regret it.

Day 5End: Kingdom Come State Park; Cumberland, KY

Today’s highlights and pitfalls:

  • We visited the Cumberland Gap National Park overlook.  It was nice, but compared to some of the views we got on the Blue Ridge Parkway, it wasn’t anything spectacular.  There’s plenty of other stuff to see there (I personally wanted to visit the caves), but we were on a time crunch to eat up some miles so we didn’t have quite as far to travel tomorrow on the way to my family cabin.
  • Camping at Kingdom Come State Park was a lot of fun, outside of the obnoxious teenagers who decided they wanted to “camp” just a few spots down from us.  We had hotdogs and beanie-weenies with Oreo cookies for dessert.  I got to show the guys how to use a pull-off can lid as a spoon, so that was cool.  I also found out that my little one-man tent and ground mat work just fine, so that was good since I bought them specifically for camping from my motorcycle.

Day 6End: “The Farm”; Czar, WV

Today’s highlights and pitfalls:

  • Just getting back into WV was nice for me.  Not that I wasn’t having fun, but I like when I’m on a road trip and I cross back into the WV borders.  We crossed the New River Gorge, which I did last year, so it was nothing new.  Still made for a nice view, though.
  • I really enjoyed being able to take one day of my vacation and spend it visiting my grandfather at our hunting cabin.   We had a big dinner of deer steak, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, biscuits, green beans… it was delicious.  If you see a jar of cherries in the fridge, though, DON’T eat them.  Their poison.  You’ve been warned.

Day 7End: Martinsburg, WV

Today’s highlights and pitfalls:

  • The nice breakfast of scrambled eggs and biscuits was delicious, again courtesy of my grandfather.  I had my own small skillet of eggs since I don’t like rabbit food (peppers and onions) in mine.  Just ham and cheese for me, please!  Thanks!
  • About 20 minutes down the road from the farm, the license plate bracket that Wayne had fabricated for his bike BROKE!  Of course we got pictures of this, too.  He blamed it on the gravel road leading up to and from the farm, but I think it was road gremlins.  LOL
  • Traveling a different route home from the Farm than I usually do was nice, especially since we had pretty good weather.  I had ridden it once before several months ago, but it was literally raining the ENTIRE way home.  All four-and-a-half hours of it.  Anyway, we traveled down through Elkins and hit Seneca Rocks, so we ended up traveling through some nice WV country.

Total miles for this trip?  2,140!  Now THAT’S what I call a good motorcycle trip!  I’ll try to insert some pictures from the trip a little later.

I’m a Blue Ridge Parkway End-to-Ender!

So I just discovered this today while looking up route information about the Diamondback, Route 226A, in NC.  I had no idea there was a Blue Ridge (BRP) Parkway Foundation, let alone an official recognition program for the end-to-end traveler of the BRP.  Well this year will likely make the second time I’ve traveled he whole BRP – the first being last year’s trip with the bikers from The Living Room – so I filled out the form and submitted it!  Can’t wait to get my certificate and pin.  🙂

American Legion Riders to hold motorcycle run

American Legion Riders to hold motorcycle run – The Journal.

This is the American Legion Riders of Post 14 here in Martinsburg that are holding this run.  I’m the Assistant Director of our chapter this year.  It’s to benefit Mountaineer Boys State.  Read the link.

New Shoes for the Warrior

Well, I figured with a 10-to-11-state (not really sure how many) motorcycle trip coming up, I should probably have my tires and brake pads looked at to make sure I’ve got enough left for the ride.  Turns out, not so much.  Only about 500 miles or so on the rear, and the front I’ve felt like I needed for a while anyway.  Blarg.  There goes $550 (total, tires and labor).  I really should start transferring more per month into my “Upkeep and Maintenance” savings account.

Here’s the tip for the day, kiddos:  when riding a motorcycle, don’t skimp on good protective gear (helmet, jacket, gloves, etc…) or good tires.  The good tires are the only thing separating your bike from the pavement, and in case those fail, your gear is the only thing separating YOU from the pavement.

Lots of motorcycle ridin’ coming up!

Man am I getting excited about it, too! This Saturday there is a 100-mile charity ride that Bikers Against Child Abuse are hosting.  Kickstands up from Martinsburg Motorsports here in Martinsburg at noon sharp!  Any bikers in the area should be sure to swing on by!  Registration is only $10 and is from 9:30-11:30am.  This is a rain or shine event, and the weather man is calling for rain, so be sure to bring your wet-weather gear!  The only way I won’t be there is if my Tae Kwon Do test for my next belt gets moved up to this weekend.

The first full week of next month I’ll be heading down to Deal’s Gap, NC to ride “The Dragon” with a bunch of bikers from my church, The Living Room.  This is their second year doing this run.  While there we’ll be staying a what is basically a luxury cabin overlooking the Smokey Mountains.  I’ve seen pictures, and it is awesome!  It’s got its own theater room! The guys had a blast last year, even with the weather being pretty poor (from what I heard).  I unfortunately didn’t have the leave time built up to take last year’s trip, but this year I made sure to plan for it!

I’m leaving a couple days early to ride down the entire Blue Ridge Parkway with two of the guys.  We’re gonna take Saturday and Sunday to do it, that way we can just take our time and cruise along and enjoy the sights.  With the route we’re taking, it’s about 670 miles (one way), which means it’s actually FURTHER than my Vermont trip I went on last year!  Right now the plan is to ride back by myself with a route that takes me up  through TN, into KY, and then across through the western side of WV to end up in Fairmont for my buddy 2.0’s birthday.  Whether that happens or not, we’ll see, but that’s the plan.  Total route distance that way (including back to Martinsburg from Fairmont) would be about 1,420 miles (or so).

Then, at the end of the month over Memorial Day weekend, it’s time once again for the XS East Motorcycle Rally!  This is the one I went on last year to Vermont, but this year it’s in Somerset, PA, which is only as short 115 miles away.  Each planned route for that rally (Saturday and Sunday) is between 120 and 130 miles.  I would have liked to have ridden a little further, but this is still nice since I can make it to the rally point in less than two hours.  I may not even take a full day of work off that Friday!  Ok, doubtful, but it could happen.  My buddy Ralph that I rode with last year is the one organizing this year’s rally, which is cool.  Part of the route takes us to the Flight 93 Memorial, which means I will have visited each crash site in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Much further down the road, on the second weekend in July, I may ride back down to Tennessee to LibertyCon 23 in Chattanooga.  I just found out that Larry Correia will be there for the event!  It’s about 560 miles there, but it’s all pretty much straight down the interstate, so it shouldn’t take me forever to get there.  If I take off that Friday to ride down, that would give me all day Saturday to hit the Con, then I could ride back home on Sunday.  I normally wouldn’t consider doing this except for the fact that Larry pretty much never makes it over to my side of the country… at least no where near D.C. (can’t imagine why he’d NOT want to visit our center of “democracy”… *rolleyes*  LOL).  July should be a good month for riding, anyway, so I won’t mind getting another 1k+ miles in.

So as you can see, I wasn’t joking about getting some good riding in here in the next few months!  Hopefully I’ll pick up a few more charity rides in-between.  Well, as usual…

Keep the rubber side down, and your powder dry!