I was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. While it’s by no means the largest city in Ohio, there is a significant amount of history here; home of the Wright Brothers, Charles F. Kettering, Delco, National Cash Register, among many other things. Through the winter months you’ll occasionally find me posting photos of random old locations from time to time. Despite being a history buff, it’s probably fair to say that I don’t have any particular loyalty to Dayton; I’ve reached the point that if I see snow ever again… it will be too soon.
My folks are originally from eastern Kentucky; as previously mentioned, I try to get down that way as much as possible. I realize that Kentucky may not be considered “The South”, but I do feel like those near “southern roots” influenced my fondness for Appalachia, a slower lifestyle, and definitely southern cooking.
“They say that in the Army, the chow is mighty fine! …who said that?!?”
After high school I spent several weeks shopping around for a recruiter in order to join the military. There’s a Hollywood line from “Jack Reacher” that holds some truth:
“There are four types of people who join the military. For some, it’s family trade. Others are patriots, eager to serve. Next you have those who just need a job….”
My grandfather and many of his brothers served; photos on the wall at my grandmother’s house include pictures of family in WWI uniforms, and my grandpa in WWII and activated to serve for Korea. My dad also served; back in the 70’s when it was a less popular profession in the U.S. That considered, intentionally or by accident, I was instilled with a certain sense of duty for civil service. Shopping around for the “best deal” I was foolishly truthful to the Air Force recruiter about possibly having asthma as a child, needless to say, the phone didn’t ring a whole lot after that (too much paperwork involved). Realizing that the Army National Guard was offering 100% paid college tuition, I decided that the Guard seemed like the best deal on the table. I spent weeks trying to pin down the local recruiter (they have districts, you can’t just find another one). Once I finally got the ball rolling with the local guy, I rapidly learned that there’s nothing wrong with you unless the government can prove it; there’s a pile of paperwork talking about falsifying government documents etc., but the truth is, if you CAN do the job, the Army wants you, they just don’t want to deal with the paperwork when you CAN’T do the job. In short: “Kid, can you run two miles? Yes? Then there’s nothing wrong with you unless the doctor says so.” I did get some medical paperwork in order to cover the two screws I had in my ankle from middle school (I was hit by a car crossing the street), but with that in hand I was off to military processing station for aptitude testing and medical screen.
“Life is about choices”
Day 1 at the processing station was a slam dunk, I scored high enough on the aptitude test to qualify for any job in the Army. I had big dreams of becoming a helicopter pilot, so I wanted to become a mechanic and eventually become a Warrant Officer so I could fly. Day 2 was quite the opposite, while physically fit, the military informed me that I was color blind so the recruiter offered me 3 jobs. I had no idea; obsessed with aircraft since age 7… my dreams were pretty well crushed. Still eager to serve, I chose the least “crappy job” I was offered, signed the line, and shipped off to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, before my 19th birthday.
That less crappy job was “Radio Operator Maintainer”, looking back that actually paid off in several respects, and was probably somewhat of a natural fit, as I do like the sound of my own voice… Sitting in detention for talking during class, I used to tell my elementary school teachers I would become some “great orator” someday… who knew?
After I signed the papers but before I shipped out for basic training I got a call from my best friend one night in October. He said he had a haunted house lined up with a couple girls we knew and asked if I wanted to go. “Are you kidding? When do we leave?” Long story short, a spunky firecracker from “north of town” put her number in my phone that night; after years in the Army, 6 months of training, 2 years in the Middle East, Hurricane Katrina relief, and countless schools and drill weekends, that sassy girl is my wife of ten years next May. Army life is brutal on relationships, but she is a true exception that she, like me, understood my sense of duty to serve, and stuck with me through some really rough times; I thank god for her.
“His hands will always remember the rifle”
I signed my Army enlistment documents in August of 2001; by January 2003 I received orders for an all-expenses paid vacation to sunny Kuwait (and subsequently Iraq). Chrissy, just my girlfriend back then, stuck with my through the train-up and deployment with an almost 15 month turnaround. A few more schools, and a 3 week excursion to Louisiana for Katrina relief, we decided to get married in May 2006. I shipped out for Baghdad in August that same year. Another 15 months and I had exceeded my contract obligation. Ultimately I decided that the Army was temporary, and marriage is forever, so I took my papers and went home (passing up $15k tax free in the process).
There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss something about the Army; it changes the way you see things, teaches life skills, and builds irreplaceable friendships that span a lifetime. At the same time, I lost a friend over there and another since coming home; all the while, here at home, watching other friends desperately struggling with relationships and reintegration. As a result, I now spend a fair amount of my time volunteering with veteran focused charities.
College Graduate at 30
Sitting in the desert for a year, I had a lot of time to stare up at the stars and figure out what to do with my life. I knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working for the cable company, so I vowed to get into college as soon as I got home (2007). I spent three semesters in high school on the drafting board (yes, with pencil), so I figured Mechanical Engineering was the only thing that could hold my focus for 4 years. Spring semester of 2008 I started taking classes at Sinclair Community College downtown. 25 years old in community college wasn’t necessarily “old” (there were a lot of people laid off from General Motors back then), but life experiences were vastly different when I started going to Miami University a couple years later. At any rate, working a full time job as a technician, and then a dispatcher, I finished my Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering in four and a half years; again, Chrissy stuck with me.
“For the Ride”
There I was, 30 years old, days from having my diploma in hand; for graduation my wife bought me the motorcycle I’d been lusting over for almost two years, the 2013 Triumph Speedmaster. For folks that have been keeping up with the blog, that was probably the beginning of a true riding obsession that has taken me to interesting places, meeting new people, philanthropy, and great food.
While working full time as an engineer, I try to write weekly about food, rides, the latest maintenance issue, or farkle I bought for the bike. If you’re new to the blog, I also have a Moto Bucket list posted; years in the desert showed me that time is precious and life will pass you by if you’re not paying attention; grab a hold of it and live it up while you can. Ultimately I have two main goals, get to a point where I can feasibly ride a motorcycle 365 days a year, and travel as much as possible while sharing the tales about both with the world.