African Connection links are now in the sidebar to the right, just below the My Travel section.

Click here to see a La Crosse Tribune article about the mission in Uganda.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Are we There Yet?

Or How I started out blogging and ended up in Olathe (and then wrote a post with a whole bunch of links)

Why did I start a blog? This isn't a rhetorical question; I really want to know. First one to figure it out gets a prize. Some facts that might help you get to the bottom of this issue: 1) I like to write. In fact, I took a class once. 2) Daughter MckMama started blogging and I became intrigued with the medium, being oriented towards using computers as I am. And 3) It seemed a good way put the words and pictures in a place where I could always find them. This last advantage really hit home when I lost my handwritten journal with all of my notes and sketches from two trips to Uganda (Out of Africa).

"Are we there yet?" "No, not yet."

So the moon and stars aligned a couple of years ago and I entered the blogosphere with The Fourteen Percent Ride. There, I related my experiences of getting into cycling and the subsequent preparation for and participation in my first tour - Seattle, Washington to Missoula, Montana in 7 days. My goodness, what an experience! And writing about it gave me a chance to relive it; that was nice. And I can still find the posts and relive the ride whenever I want. "This blogging thing is alright," I concluded.

The tour ended on the campus of the University of Montana on Saturday, June 23, 2007, a day that included a ride through Paradise. But the blog was on a roll and I kept writing. Still mostly about biking, I did digress from time to time to write about other things, including announcing, in the very big shadow of the REAL announcement posted at My Charming Kids, the birth of granddaughter "Small Fry" (Breaking News), and posting a weak imitation of sportswriter Furman Bisher's annual list of things for which he is thankful (Thankful).

"Are we there yet?" "Soon. We'll be there soon."

I learned a few things about blog building along the way and at some point added a hit counter. It was fascinating to see that people were actually visiting stumbling in, some from other countries! The service (StatCounter) also provided some information as to how the visitors had made their way to the blog, including being sent by Google when it appeared I had something that was in some way (however obliquely) related to the search query. There were some unusual connections and I wrote about them in my post entitled Searching. My engineering background led to the post called The Last Word on Wind and at one point, I even tried my hand at poetry (On Riding).

But I was stretching the blog well away from its intended purpose and decided to bring it to a conclusion. This happened on March 2, 2008 when I wrote a short tribute to my father-in-law: Mighty Proud.

Of course, if you are still reading, you know the end of The Fourteen Percent Ride was not the end of my blogging. The Long White Line started with a report on a very unusual sighting (Rethinking Things) and soon became the journal of my two big tours of 2008 - Rocky Mountain National Park and Switzerland. This last tour ended with me in a crumpled heap on the side of a rural road near Langenthal (Roadside Reflections), the pain of the experience eased somewhat by the realization that I could get a LOT of mileage, or maybe that would be wordage, out of the incident.

"Are we there yet?" "No, not yet. And don't make me stop this post!"

As before, I kept writing after the tours. But this time, I know that I can just keep on going, a blog not necessarily needing to have an ending. And I've learned through the overwhelming support given MckMama during grandson Stellan's recent health drama that a blog can really connect people and while it is electronic, I wouldn't call the connections "virtual" by any means.

"Not yet."

Yes, a good blog can be a powerful force. Consider this: during the two years prior to Stellan's hospitalization, my two blogs received a total of about 3,500 visits. Then, MckMama posted a picture of Stellan and me (It's a Good Friday) at the hospital in Minneapolis, including a comment about and a link to a posting on The Long White Line (Glad to Help). In the next 24 hours, my little blog hosted over 21,000 visits! Now that's clout. In fact, I'm thinking about using this line whenever I meet up with an obstreperous salesperson or customer rep, "I know MckMama; she has a blog and she's not afraid to use it!" That'll open a lot doors, don't you think?

"Are we there yet?" "Yes, we're there!"

Right. We have finally arrived. Olathe. The one in Kansas. As I looked at the StatCounter log trying so hard to keep up with the sudden surge in visits, I noticed that I had attracted MckMama had sent a reader who was from Olathe. I've heard of Olathe, if you can believe it. In fact, I have a connection of sorts. Odd, I know, for someone who grew up in the south and never got farther west than Davenport, Iowa until he was a sophomore in college. But it's true. My mother was in the service during WWII, stationed in Olathe. What I'd always found rather strange about this, is that she was in the NAVY. Now I don't know about you, but NAVY and KANSAS don't naturally come to my mind when I think of logical pairs. But then, I guess that's why the facts of her service stuck in my mind. That and my interest in planes. You see, she was at the base outside of town, instructing soon-to-be Navy pilots in the fine art of instrument flying using the LINK flight simulator. That was way cool.

So, seeing that there was at least one person (or at least one internet service provider) left in Olathe, I decided to do a little research. Olathe is a city in northeastern Kansas. In 2007 there were 118,000 residents, so it isn't such a small town. However, Olathe's current size is attributed to the completion of Interstate 35, connecting it with Kansas City. So it might not have been such a big place in the mid 1940's. This idea is reinforced by the fact that the location of the United States Naval Reserve Aviation Base, Olathe, Kansas, as it was first called, was noted in some quarters as being "two miles east of Gardner, Kansas," indicating little faith that the general public would have any idea where it was if Olathe was the only reference to its location.

According to an article entitled Naval Air Stations in Kansas During World War II (the plural "Stations" is NOT a typo), the base was officially renamed the United States Naval Air Station, a catchy name if ever there was one. I'm sure the Navy spent many months and thousands of dollars sorting through the options before coming up with this. The article goes on to inform us that, "The purpose of the Olathe air station was to provide primary flight training for naval cadets and quarters for traveling officials." Further, it states that "during the two years the air station served as a primary training facility (July, 1942-September, 1944), nearly 4,550 cadets were trained and only 25 fatal accidents occurred." I'm pretty sure my mother wasn't responsible for any of the latter incidents, as the LINK trainers were pretty well planted in the floor.

My mother's description of her job was that she would sit at a little desk, flick a bunch of switches and watch a bunch of dials. These actions set flight scenarios into motion and recorded the pilots' reactions. Pretty important stuff actually. I'm sure a lot of the pilots that passed through Olathe were glad they had these harrowing experiences BEFORE they actually got into them in a real airplane.

Link Trainer with Operator and Trainee

I have seen LINK trainers at air museums in San Diego and Palm Springs, but never thought much about Olathe past the incongruity of the Kansas/Navy thing. But now I know. I'll bet it's a nice place. Maybe I'll find a cycling tour that goes through Olathe. For now, having found Olathe such as I have, I'll continue on in my journey. Go ahead, ask it, "Are we there yet?" No, not yet. But I'll let you know...


Linda said...

Well, welcome to our great state of Kansas! Are you following a specific highway? Highway 24 or 36, or even I70? I live right off I70 at exit 62. Let me know if you are coming this far, and I'll get out and honk at you, at least!

It is amazing that when you mention McMama, so many people make the connection.

Stay safe, and have fun.

Lana's Blog said...

Yes, welcome. I am Linda's twin sister and live across the street from her. I moved here 6 years ago and really enjoy KS. I hope your travels are safe and fun.

I love MckMama and her MSC.

Anonymous said...

Apparently you have a blog and you're not afraid to use it, either! Way to go, Dad.

P.S. I just called you with a Mac related question. Can you call me back when you get a sec?