Things to read...

If time is short, I'd suggest reading at LEAST The Prologue and Legend of The Pinto Bean Posts!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Day 2, The Adventure-- Continues...

I awoke early this morning from a cold nights sleep in the back of the Bean when my alarm woke up. I instinctively reached over and smacked the snooze button, aka The Drool Button. RTD promptly laid back down and we went back to sleep. A few minutes later the next alarm went off. Unfortunately it's hard to smack a robin, especially from the comfort of one's sleeping bag. Anyhow, as I said, I woke up cold... Where's all this global warming I heard about all last year?!! I was half tempted to fire up the Bean to contribute a little carbon, but even I'm not that big of an eco hater (ok fine... I am, it's just that gas is too pricy!!) Well I got outa the Bean just as the Park Ranger came up to get my tag #. So much for my plan to stay for free and sneak out! (Ok not really, but I must admit I briefly considered it... danged integrity... thanks Army...) We talked for a bit about his having been in the Navy, and my Army life. Then he headed off to kneecap the guy next to me for actually attempting to get out w/o paying, and I kept breaking camp. A few minutes later a retired Chinook pilot happened by and we traded stories, too. Never got his name, but to the CW5 who gave me $20, these five gallons of gas are for you! Finally I ran up the the sink area to brush my teeth whilst Rockstar barked loudly at everyone he saw. Ahhh the sounds of the great outdoors... Birds chirping... Squirrels squeaking... Retarded Boxers Barking.... wait what?!

Anyhow, we got on the road and headed back onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. Now I have to say this road is absolutely unreal. The speed limit is 45mph, which is great, and the curves are long and sweet. The BRP follows both the ridge up into elevations of 4000+ feet, as well as through valleys at just 1000 ft. The backdrop for this is rustic country as far as the eye can see. There is not an advertisement to be seen, and commercial trucks aren't allowed. The green mountains of Virginia rise and fall as you cover the miles, anxiously awaiting whatever breath taking view might be around that next curve. The 1st few miles for me were bright yet foggy, which made it all the more beautiful. About every four to five miles there are pull-offs where you can have a scenic view of the valley below, or the mountains above depending on where you are. While pull-offs are numerous, traffic was sparse at best and I passed more bicyclists that anything. In addition to the scenic views are numerous exhibits such as a pioneer farm, old train tracks, millhouses, and numerous others. The only detractor I heard of from anyone was while at a rest stop with a walking trail... I overheard someone mention something about a big ugly brown truck choking them out for miles while going 5 mph below the speed limit. There was something about saliva on their windshield or something like that. Luckily, I guess I never got stuck behind that jerk. Ahhh, the winds of fortune blow strongly my way.

Anyhow, on to the funnier stuff! While the humor is past tense, I was reminded of it today by a certain sign I saw. Now I've NEVER seen a sign like this, but my life would have been a lot more pain free had I have... See, before my crash I was an AVID motorcyclist. Rabid might be a more fitting word, but whatever. However, along with being and avid biker, I also seemed to develop a knack for ending the ride well before my motorcycle did. In short, I crash. A lot. Sadly, this was a trend that was foretold early in my life, when I was learning to ride. My first bike was a Honda 250 Twinstar, and I was about twelve. It took maybe fifteen minutes to lay it down. Yeah... that's not the shortest ride I've ever had. Or even the second shortest.

My dad got me the little Twinstar to teach me the fundamentals of riding, and apparently crashing. I took to riding very quickly, and crashing even quicker. The first one was just a minor slide out, which broke the shifter, and I was unscathed. After that, I did relatively well with my little rides, until we moved to TN. Once we got to TN, the bike needed some work, and after a few years of sitting around, I finally enlisted a neighbor to help me do it. Basically, the carburetor needed a rebuild, and we were just the guys who shouldn't have been doing it. It was through this little bit of mechanical apprenticeship that I learned one of life's valuable lessons; there should NEVER be left over parts. Ever.

Well this time there was, but at fourteen, that was irrelevant. The important thing was, I now had a freshly rebuilt carburetor. Well 99% of one at least! I somehow managed to get the carburetor back on, and actually start the bike. I was about to learn another valuable lesson... I got the bike started, and donned my helmet (safety first), and hopped onto my idling steed. I kicked 'er into 1st, and let out on the clutch, the bike managed to take off, and go up the tiny bump on my driveway, where I cracked open the throttle. The bike took off, me aboard, and the trees began moving closer. I let off the throttle so as not to hit them when lesson #2 reared its' head; always CHECK the throttle to make sure it works all the way, not just at idle, after messing with anything throttle related (yeah this applies to brakes, too...) Well with the trees looming like the defensive line of the Green Bay Packers, I decided to dump the bike. This was easily acheived by blindly panicking, turning the handlebars, and of course forgetting that most important part, letting go. Hello broken arm, how are you? And so began a long love affair of damaging my right arm. I got the last laugh, though, as now there's not near as much to damage! Haha.... stupid arm, I win again!

Well, I suppose that's enough for now... Needless to say, the arm healed nicely, and presented itself for many more future incidents.
Tune in sometime in the future for contuinued motorcycle mayhem stories such as "So there's scars on BOTH cheeks? Ouch!" and "My name? Oh that's easy it's...... Uh-oh".

I've gotta face for radio!

Just a quick line while I have net access. I'm confirmed for Monday morning on 98 Rock in Baltimore, so if you want to listen, I hear there's some good country stations there! Hehe I appreciate them inviting me on though, so hopefully i'm not a disappointment! Anyhow, more posts will follow later, and in a more humorous style. I saw funny things today....

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The first day...

Well everybody, as my teaser alluded to, I've successfully not broken down yet! Yayyyyyyy This first day has gone well, though maybe a bit slow... I woke up this morning at nine, hoping to be on the road no later than eleven. Yea, good intentions, right? Instead I absently wandered the house looking for all the stuff I'd forgotten to pack. It was a lot of stuff. I slowly managed to get everything loaded, and RTD followed me closely. Very closely. In fact the more I packed, the closer he got. By the time I had the truck loaded, I think we may have needed surgical intervention to remove Rockstar from my hip. I think maybe he was worried I was going to leave him... I should be so lucky... That's ok though, I had chili tonight for dinner. My motto is strike first, strike hard!

Well after I got the truck loaded, I went ahead and did what I've been planning on doing forever; hosing my lawn with weedkiller! I figure since I am in a house, I need to ensure that I have a lawn that is something other than weed. Since you can actually count the blades of grass through the clover in my entire yard, I decided to do something about it. I figure I'll let my roommates deal with having to see the barren desert all summer, at least I'll be seeing green!

Anyhow, green is what I saw today... miles and miles of it. I headed up through Bristol as so I could get a glance of the Coliseum of The Redneck Nation, the Bristol Motor Speedway. I gotta say, that thing is huuuuuuuuuuge!! You can see it looming in the distance for quite some time, a man made mountain in its' own right. I then headed into Virginia into some not so man made mountains. I took Highway 58 to the Blue Ridge Parkway, where I am currently hiding out! Let me tell ya, it's beautiful so far. I decided to come this way after a conversation I had in Bristol.

I stopped off at a Starbuck's after it dawned on me I might need a little more direction other than "drive northeast". While there, I happened to run into a reporter who saw my sign on the back. After talking to him for a few minutes, he called his editor, who promptly sent over some photographers. Yup, they knew there was a celebrity in town! Anyhow, they got there and started taking pictures of Rocky, while I slinked off into the background and gave my little interview. After we were done talking and sipping on our tasty frappucinos, they asked which way I was going, and I mentioned the HWY 58 route. They said "oh you don't wanna go that way, not in that big ol' truck!" I inquired as to why not, and they informed me it was a winding road. Jackpot! THAT'S the kinda road I wanna see!

Well after I got on it, I was simply amazed at how curvy it was. The Miss America contest doesn't sport curves like this! The other thing I noticed was a lack of motorcyclists.... This a dream come true road, so if any of you bike, head on up there and get on it!! I tried to take a lot of pics, but they are all fuzz, and I think my camera may be toast... :( Anyhow, the only other glitch right now is the ac/dc inverter isn't powering the laptop so I'm gonna have to cut this short. Hope to get it figured out tomorrow though!! Sorry if the blog wasn't that entertaining today, I'll try to fix that, too! Until then!

Just a teaser....

Yup... the Bean made it through it's first day, which I had no doubts it would! I'm currently setting up camp on the Blue Ridge Parkway.... Stay tuned for more!!

(Just wanted to post this for the doubters!!)

It's go time!!

He's no Dobe, but does that EVER say class!!

Well, by the time many of you read this, I'll probably be broken down on the side of the road somewhere. Supposing that DOESN'T happen, I'm hoping to head on up to Virginia somewhere, and stop wherever the sun sets.... Today has been quite the busy day preparing the Bean for its' maiden voyage as a house. The leaks have mostly been stopped, the brakes checked and rechecked, and a sound system revamp implemented... I'm now going to be able to entertain myself on the CB Radio, so expect at least one post somewhere along the way about my running in terror from a bunch of pissed off truckers when they get stuck behind the Bean at its' max cruise speed of 65mph. In addition to the CB, there's now a satellite radio hook-up, and GPS to ensure that I spend a minimal amount of time paying any attention to what it is I'm SUPPOSED to be doing. Like, you know, driving.

Entertainment was not the only implementation of the day, either! Needless to say, there were a number of trips made to a variety of stores for me to purchase all the stuff I forgot. I now also have a spiffy electric fan in the back to cool me down on those hot steamy truck stop nights. No lot lizards, please. A plethora of bungee cords was also purchased to ensure that I can't possibly find the one I need at the very moment I need it. Yeah, that's how I roll. Don't hate. I also promptly used one of the bungees to "install" a seven gallon water jug with easy access to the back door. It will likely become known as "the shower". Tomorrow I'm loading the cooler and my storage box in and then I'll be set! Yeah, I decided to get the storage box since I went all out and got the finest linens wal-mart had to offer! yeah that's right, I'll be reclining in air mattress bliss on 300 thread count sheets. Try not to wish you were me... Or Rockstar.

Speaking of Rockstar, let's get down to the stuff you REALLY wanna hear. Did anything funny happen with RTD today? Funny you should ask. Of course there did... I decided that in the interest of NOT dragging a rabid, retarded, worm infested fleabag across 36 states, I was going to have to get a few things done. So I took a good shower and the problem was mostly solved already. After that I loaded up Rocky and headed to the vet/boarder. Now MOST of you are probably gearing yourself up for the prerequisite "dog hates vet" story. Oh no no... Remember, this is Rocky The Destroyer we're talking about. He fears no vet. Actually, truth be told, RTD LOVES the vet. Seriously.... Anyhow, we loaded RTD into the back of Brittany's Honda Element since the Bean was partially loaded, and Matt wasn't around to volunteer HIS car, and headed out into the dreary day. I wasted no time in turning on the wrong set of windshield wipers, and the back window one went on. I peered into the rearview mirror and was greeted by a sight all should see at some point in their life. RTD was intently focused on the wiper, and his head was bouncing back and forth like a metronome. Amazingly I managed not to hit anything whilst laughing hysterically. Rocky just continued to be a bobblehead. Another good day was on the way.

We rolled into the vet where I realized I'd forgotten the leash, and went inside to get one. Rocky ran around and peed on all he could. Brittany just shook her head in disbelief. Finally, RTD was reigned in and we got him inside, where again, he began to pee on all he could. Twice. Now this is not typical RTD behavior, but this week has been new to him, so he was forgiven. Then he popped some anal gland goodness for us all to enjoy. The forgiveness was wearing off quickly. I went ahead and ordered the full workup, and we were ushered down the hall to the 'patient' rooms. RTD was sorely disappointed. See he's been there enough to know which door goes where, and he was crushed he wasn't going to the "boarding" door. Now most dogs have to be dragged down that hallway of abandonment. Rocky drags his handler down the Hallway of Infinite Possibilities every time he goes there. The newness never wears off, and I secretly wonder if there isn't some sorta pet spa back there. Maybe a little massage table and a steam bath? Couple of cats laid out by a pool, dogs trying hard to splash them before the five o'clock Gravy Train bell goes off? Given the way RTD heads out there, this may in fact be close to the truth.

Well we were in the room when the tech came for The Destroyer. I asked about microchipping in the event someone makes the mistake of stealing him. I figured whoever it was would want to know where to bring his stupid arse back to once he realized his mistake. I also had them express the ever so popular anal glands. Better safe than sorry. They then returned with RTD and three syringes for his shots. They then braced for the worst as they administered the shots. Rocky managed to accumulate a puddle of drool, and never so much as batted an eye. Then they came with the roundworm stuff, and nonchalantly got down to squeeze the tasty banana serum into his mouth. Well of course since no pain was involved, he was having none of it. It took three of us to hold him down while they squirted it in, and he still managed to slobber about 1/2 of it back out. Now that he looked rabid, it was time to go terrorize the other patrons. We headed to the checkout counter while RTD made his attempts to pee on the chairs again, and the techs gave us the evil eye. Finally, we headed back to the car for the ride home and the ever waiting Bean. Another day at the vet a total success for all involved. Except for whomever was next to sit in the middle chair. Sorry about that!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's tales from the road. Will I break down? Will the truck break down? Will gas prices rise more to make up for the fact that crude oil prices fell 8% today? Only time will tell!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Quick Update!

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm proud to announce that tomorrow will begin my month or so long string of breakdowns and misadventures as I travel around thge country, and jump in various bodies of water. Keep a watch to see when/where I'll be next! Also, i'll try to update if I do any interviews or radio stuff so that you can listen or avoid at all costs, depending on your views! Anyhow, it appears that this is gonna happen, so wish me luck!

And as always, donations are VERY much appreciated! (and needed... )

Rocky meets Pimp Hand Strong

<---- Not PimpHand Strong, but a close cousin!

Well ladies and gentlemen, so far my blog seems to be a raging success. I'm getting several repeat viewers, and even a little feedback. At this rate surely there are bound to be people who DON'T personally know me reading, so I'm getting to be a happy guy. While donations aren't pouring in, positive feedback is, and that makes me happy, too! Well today, I received an interesting e-mail containing a donation of sorts. Apparently my tales or Rocky lore have reached some pet owners, and the owner of a local pet foods store wanted to donate food and treats for RTD. Who was I to say no! Anyhow, we exchanged a few e-mails, and I decided to head on up there. Right after Starbuck's.

Well we loaded Rockstar into the Bean, and headed out for today's adventures. As is becoming usual, the Bean ran like a champ, and before we knew it, we were knee deep in coffee goodness. We didn't even leave the characteristic black fog behind us anymore... Ahhhhh life is good. Well after downing some joe, and listening in on a random lady's conversation, I decided that the next stop would be the pet store. This was an easy decision to make, since as usual I didn't have much else going on.

Upon our arrival at the store, I unloaded Rockstar and he immediately set about attacking the leash. Now I have no idea where he picked up this little habit, but it gets old pretty fast... See what he does is to run from side to side, whilst attempting to chomp on the leash. This pretty much results in my stumbling over him about 637 times, and my hand becomes caked in Rocky Drool. Fortunately, it was a short walk across the parking lot, so this didn't last long. Once inside, we were greeted with a menagerie of foods. This was a virtual cornucopia of pet treat goodness. As far as the eye could see, about 45 feet, were all manner of tasty treats for dog and cat alike. Rocky was gonna love this. Rocky wasn't even paying attention.

We walked up to the gentleman at the counter, and asked is Mrs. Valerie was there. He informed us that in fact she was not, and we stood there looking awkwardly at each other. I then asked when she might be back, and he replied "Wednesday". I began to get a little worried. Surely no one would be so mean spirited as to set me up for some prank like this. I quickly listed in my mind possible suspects. It was a long list. So ok, SURELY no one would do this to Rockstar! Longer list. Dang. I then told him I'd been getting e-mails from Valerie inviting me to come let RTD sample the goods, and pick a few choice morsels for the trip. He then told me she was in Ohio. Uh-oh.

Anyhow, he then went in back, and after a few minutes returned with another lady. I was just about to implement escape plan nine-alpha and extricate myself from the building. Unfortunately, nine-alpha is a top level secret squirrel plan, so I can't reveal the plans publicly, but it's safe to say the casualties would have been immense, and it probably would have kept CNN busy for days, weeks if the news was slow. Well with the declaration of a state of emergency averted for now, I decided to see what the lady had to say. Happily, she greeted us by name, and my fears began to disappear like a buffet at fat camp. She explained that Valerie had let her know that we were coming, and that Rockstar was to be well equipped upon our departure. Rocky still wasn't paying attention. At least not to us...

It was at this time that Rocky finally got close enough to his new found friend, Pimp Hand Strong (aka Kitty, but PHS is much more fitting!). See, RTD LOVES small animals. At home I have two ferrets, Sampson and Snatch. Never in the history of ferrets have there been two more conniving and cunning little creatures. In this relationship, Sampson is the Brawn, Snatch is the Brains, and Rocky is the gullible Mark. The moment they get out of their cage, excitement begins. They usually spend the first two or three minutes rounding up all of Rocky's toys and hiding them. Rocky usually realizes this, and tries to save at least one by holding it in his mouth. This never lasts long. Once all the other toys have been cleaned up, they set their sights on His Precious. Generally the plan is for Sampson to harass Rocky until he drops it, at which point Snatch will run out and grab the toy and disappear. I honestly think I can hear the sweet sounds of ferret laughter over the slow sobs of Rockstar. Yes, two pounds of fury will quickly overcome sixty pounds of ignorance. Anyhow, with all the toys safely stowed away, the game changes. This is the part Rocky likes...

See, Rockstar and the ferrets like to play chase. This involves one or the other of the ferrets sneaking up behind Rocky, chomping on his his hind end, and then rapidly running for the nearest cover... Once Rocky realizes the ferrets have just made him their b***h, he will quickly retaliate. This involves him chasing down the offending Mustelid, and slobbering all over him. Once the slobber has been suitably applied, RTD will the turn and run off. The ferrets will then usually give chase. This game lasts for about seven hours in Ferret Time, or about five minutes to the rest of the world. Ahhh the wonders of ADD... Sadly, RTD is often left wanting more tag time, and I am usually left holding two drool covered animals. Amazing how I have but one hand, and now no one who reads this will ever shake it for fear of drool. Probably a wise choice.

Well back to the pet food store... Apparently Rocky made target acquisition and lock the moment we set foot inside, and I as usual failed to notice. Rocky anxiously bided his time, waiting until we were close enough to make acquaintances. Pimp Hand Strong apparently sat there quietly hoping not to be noticed. Anyhow, as soon as Rockstar was in lunging distance, he took his chance to make a new friend. He quickly generated no less than 2.6 gallons of friend-making drool, and prepared to introduce himself. It was at this time the PHS taught Rocky the origin of his name... Rocky leaned in to kiss, and Pimp Hand let loose with the fury of a thousand suns. The action was fast, the noise unreal, and the nose quickly bloodied. Rockstar reeled backwards as Mr. Strong set up for a few more slaps. What Rockstar failed to know was that not EVERY small animal in the world wants to be his friend. Or covered in drool. It didn't take long for Rocky to learn this lesson. By not long, I mean he spent the rest of the trip attempting to get back within drool range of Pimp Hand, who spent the rest of the time counting his benjamins (Benji's?) and giving RTD the evil eye.

Well after this incident, we set about trying to find some food RTD would eat. Sadly, his small mind was too focused on PHS to even consider food, and the kibble was left dry, the ginger snaps untouched, and I'm not even gonna think about the three foot long dried up Bull Penis we saw. Ahhhh the feelings of inadequacy... Well we made several selections for treats, picked up 40 lbs of Canidae, a new squeaky toy, and finally a "My Dog is my Co-pilot" bumper sticker, and prepared to head to the door. While all this was going on, Rocky attempted to befriend several customers, and generally destroy the place. I've never seen a bull in a china shop, but I've seen a retarded boxer in a pet food store, and I can tell you it's NOT PRETTY! Well finally, we took a few pics for them, and headed back home to work on the Bean.

Needless to say, more hilarity ensued.... Since time is short, I'll just give a brief synopsis of the lessons learned:
  1. Metal parts of the engine can be hot. Very Hot. After burning my thumb on the hot side of the air conditioner line, I jumped around like a small child on an anthill.
  2. Tint and metal hooks will never be friends. Need I say more. While attempting to install my privacy tint on the back window I gouged it up pretty badly. Then I tried to fix it. Even more badly...
  3. Beer and mechanics don't go together, but they make it a lot more fun... After my middle manager DoorMatt put the lower radiator hose back on, it now leaks. Badly. Bad DoorMatt! Bad!

Anyhow, I know you were all anxiously awaiting another "Daniel's too stupid to read directions, and he SERIOUSLY wants to be a doctor??!!" post but Pimp Hand stepped/slashed in and changed our lives forever! Maybe that story will go up another day...

I'd also like to extend a special thanks to Natural Pet Supply, and Mrs. Valerie Whaley and the other employees therein. Rocky will now eat the ginger snaps and kibble. Still no word on the Bull Penis.

Stay tuned next time for more tales of forgetfulness by the future of medicine (future title of "Hey Where'd the Retractor Go??")

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Pinto Bean has pulled through!!

We await with baited breath to see how the Bean made out.... Did it pull through?? Is the whole trip falling apart? Does anyone know who REALLY shot JR?? Stay tuned!

Well for those of you who have been anxiously awaiting the news, you can finally put the methamphetamine down, your sleepless night has paid off! The Bean looks like it is gonna make it! In my never ending quest to prepare the Bean for the upcoming adventure, I've been busily working away to get that last little edge... Needless to say, it of course went slowly and painfully, mostly due to my inability to do anything right... Read on to find out more!!

Well the other day I decided that in the interest of actually COMPLETING this little shenanigan, I probably ought to invest a little time and money in some maintenance and upgrades to The Bean. Actually, I thought about this about five months ago, but in the interest of ensuring that it was done incorrectly the first time, I waited until the last minute. My plan was a complete and total success!!

My "plan" (by plan, I mean a loose association of random ideas, mostly centered around working on the truck, and one or two involving food, and something about monkeys, but whatever) was to do stuff to improve the gas mileage, durability, and comfort of the Bean. This encompassed all synthetic fluids, new brakes, belts, electric fan, and general tune up for the durability/mileage part. For the comfort there was a good vacuuming, window tint, CB radio, and yes.... wait for it.... Fuzzy Dice. NOTHING says class like Fuzzy Dice. And a disco ball. I haven't yet found the disco ball....

Anyhow, the brakes and transmission fluid actually got done a few months ago because my roommate needed a vehicle after his car died of heart failure, and I didn't want him suing my pants off for turning him loose in what was quite possible the most dangerous vehicle this side of Arkansas. I'll refrain from writing any stories about THAT debacle, as mostly it involved a lot of cussing, a little whining, and not a whole lot of humor...

The most recent round of maintenance occurred this weekend, mostly out of necessity. Fortunately, to ensure that everything went as unsmoothly as possible, I enlisted a couple of unfortunate compatriots in my devious "plan". Enter unsuspecting victims one and two, Matt and Brittany. They had no idea what they were in for. They'll probably never help again. Suckas! I mean, buddies, pals, friends!!

The day of maintenance started out much like most of my days do now, with absolutely no direction, except coffee. After said coffee, we headed on over to the parts store to get what I could remember we needed. Needless to say, I couldn't remember it all, but I wasn't telling anyone. We rolled up to the parts counter with a vengeance, and I started making my demands. I quickly realized that the unfortunate clerk available to assist us was no MENSA candidate. That's ok, because neither am I. I helped him scroll through the various pages of parts for a 1984 Suburban, and tried not to get too exasperated when he forgot what it was we were doing. Finally, after reminding him it WASN'T a 1987 model, I managed to start getting a few parts. He first disappeared to the back for belts, and quickly returned with a few. I trusted they were correct, given they were listed by part number. I was wrong. We then inquired about the fan, to which he pointed me down the aisle whilst he wandered in back to find different ones. This was MUCH better than when I asked at the OTHER store, and the guy honestly replied with "Electric fans? Like, for your house?" Yeah dude. My house. That's why I came to an auto parts store. I left after that exchange...

Anyhow, after a few moments of searching I came across the fan I knew would be capable of keeping my precious bean from blowing chunks all over West Texas. I was getting excited. We returned to the parts counter where I asked if the fan included a thermostat. I might as well have asked if he could render a Ph.D dissertation on string theory in astrophysics. I started to wonder if maybe I needed Rocky to interpret. After a little longer, I came to the conclusion that "no, it didn't", mostly by reading the side of the box. Hey... nobody was asking me for any dissertations, either. I made the appropriate selection, gathered up my collection of assorted fluids and headed to the counter to be checked out. Young Einstein again "assisted" us in this process. Again, things went wrong, but you'll hear more on THAT later...

We then loaded back up in the Bean, and headed for that great bastion of obesity, Wal-mart. Upon arriving I carefully parked the Bean next to the cart return and headed inside. I secretly hoped maybe it would get a few more dings. I wasn't disappointed. Once inside we quickly rounded up the rest of the gear we needed, procured the must have fuzzy dice, and beat feet for the door. My excitement continued to grow. Everyone else's sense of dread likely also escalated.

Once home we made short work of ensuring all the parts were spread evenly around the Bean, to ensure no one person had exactly all the parts they needed at that moment. While this was not a conscious effort, it happens without fail anytime more than one person is involved in a project. Ask a coworker to assist you sometime in any mundane project you encounter, and see if it doesn't prove true. After the parts were suitably scattered, I went about assigning tasks to my minions. Mechanical ability was not taken into consideration, because I was busy doing what I do best, telling other people what to do! Matt was assigned to change the rear axle oil, and Brittany dispatched to the engine oil job. Meanwhile I got under the hood and tried to look appropriately busy while hoping not to start sweating. Supervising is hard work.

About five seconds later, problems arose. Brittany informed me she didn't know HOW to change oil, and Matt informed me he needed the drain pan she had, and was refusing to relinquish. Using my catlike aviator instincts, I quickly revised my plan and put Matt in charge of directing Brittany in her efforts to change the oil. I had just impressed myself. Not only was I supervising, I now had a middle manager. The model of efficiency was unparalleled. A single bead of sweat rolled down my temple. With those two back at work, I went back to looking busy.

Unfortunately, as often happens in my attempts to be unproductive, work gets done. I pulled the old fan and clutch out, and got to work changing the belts. Of course the first one went easily. The second one, not so much. Dr. Partscounter had given me the wrong length belt. Somehow he went back with the right parts number and came back with the wrong belt. I kicked myself for not bringing Rocky in. This was not to be last time I regretted this. Luckily and uncharacteristically, the 2nd belt was in pretty good shape, so I elected to reuse it. I'll be paying for this later, I'm sure. After getting the belts on and requesting the my lower manager file a report on his employee productivity, I got to work on the electric fan.

The fan excites me. Not in that titillating sense of the word, but in the one more mpg sense. While this will be minimal, over 13,000 miles, it's a gold mine. I'm excited even now! I quickly tore into the box like a kid at Christmas, eager to see the savings. I pulled the fan out, removed the directions, and threw the over my shoulder. I'm a carport cowboy dangit. Directions are for the ill informed. I'm a God amongst tools. Mostly, I'm just a tool. I immediately set about attaching the fan to the radiator. This involves four little ties that go THRU the radiator, and have a locking clip on the other side. Once locked in place, they can't be undone. Luckily I mastered counting to four about halfway through anatomy last year, so I knew this was NOT going to be a problem.

Two hours later, Brittany handed me the clippers to cut the excess tie off the last of the four poorly designed, possibly satanic, and now installed clips. I sat back to admire my work. By this time most everyone else was done with their work, so I had people washing windows and doing other menial work. If I was sweating, I wasn't going to be alone! While admiring my mechanical prowess, I decided to have a quick looksee over the directions, mostly for a laugh at the lesser-abled. It was now that, predictably, I saw a few key words. "Fan is assembled from the factory as a pusher fan. To use as a puller, remove fan blade, reverse direction, and reverse wiring." Anyone want to guess which one I needed?

Well I figured reversing a blade can't be that hard, and looked down to find the bolts. "Odd" I thought, "there's no bolts here." That would be because they are on the other side. The side pressed against the radiator. The side held oh so firmly by the Demon Clips. Stupid directions! Did they not KNOW I'd be using this fan??? Who uses a pusher fan??? This is craziness! Well not to worry, I decided I'd just install the aforementioned thermostat and get new clips later. Now I just needed the thermostat. It was no where to be found. I assembled my managerial team and their employees, and we had a quick meeting. It was decided after a few choice words that in fact no one had misplaced it, but that it was never put in the bag. Dr. Partscounter strikes again!

We headed back to the parts store where we encountered the manager who'd been supervising the upcoming genius when we were there earlier. He said when he saw us "Oh did you come back for your thermostat?" Nope, just here for couches and end tables.... Anyhow, with thermostat in hand, I asked about a new set of Hellclips. The new guy looked around and quickly deduced they were sold out. I was starting to like this new guy... He was much improved over the Dr. He then went on to call another store and confirm they in fact had them. I was writing down his name for my firstborn. Hope it's not a girl.

We finally rounded up the offending clips, and headed back to the house. This time I opted to actually READ the directions, and got the fan back in in under an hour. After that I checked the work of my management/labor team, and pronounced the work to be done for the day. We then rolled the Bean out of the cave like some resurrected mastodon, and fired her up. No longer did the Bean answer with the howl of a seized fan clutch. Now the Bean purred away quietly as a kitten, albeit a large brown kitten, with a bad case of gas. I also took a moment to spray down the carburetor with cleaner, and managed to find the elusive exhaust leak that's been driving me nuts for the last month. With all this done, we called it a day. High fives were exchanged by those capable of such maneuvers, and I think Matt may have done some screaming cheetah flips in celebration of our success. Either that or he got in his car and drove away as fast as possible, vowing never to return... Anyhow, still more work needs to be done, which will invariable lead to more stories... until next time... Daniel

A preview of next time:

"Directions? Pshhhh those are for people who don't know HOW to wire up electrical stuff... Step aside!"

Monday, May 26, 2008

In other news, the Pinto Bean underwent surgery today

We await with baited breath to see how the Bean made out.... Did it pull through?? Is the whole trip falling apart? Does anyone know who REALLY shot JR?? Stay tuned!

It's all... About... The... Benjamins???

Good morning world! I'm posting this today, memorial day, to talk about a few things that are near and dear to me. Basically the intent of this post is to answer several e-mails/questions i've been asked about the donations. Read on!

A number of people have asked about the donations. Specifically, what do I intend to do with "the leftovers"? Well I must admit I'd not really considered the possibility given that right now that's not a forseeable issue, but in the event it happens, here's "The Plan".

Most all of us know someone who's gone off to combat. I guess if you're reading this, you at least "know" me. A few of us even know those who went off to combat, and sadly never returned. Today is memorial day, a day set aside to remember those who paid for our freedoms with their lives. Whether it was a "just war", whether you feel your freedoms were that much more protected, or whether you don't care about soldiers or freedom at all is irrelevant here.

Well what I ask is that in addition to remembering the fallen, you also take a moment to remember those that stumbled, our combat wounded. While the returning soldiers go through the honor of at least some sort of ceremony, even so far as a parade in their hometown, there are no honors for the wounded. The plane lands at Walter Reed, and you're moved on to your new life with all the fanfare of you're morning mail delivery.

Once at your final destination, a unique parade awaits. There is ticker tape, lights, people, and the works. The ticker tape is from an EKG, the lights above the surgical theater, the music provided by the rythmic beeps of various monitors, and people dressed not in the uniforms of a marching band, but in the austere sterility of the hospital that is now your home. The emotion is sadness, for there is no joy at this parade.

Finally you arrive at your room, where if you are fortunate your family awaits. Often times the rapidity at which you've been shuffled into this new and unfamiliar world prevents even this comfort from becoming a reality for at least the first day or two. Finally, a new day breaks through the curtains of your room, and meanwhile life goes on in the rest of the world.

For the returning uninjured, this is a day that has been so eagerly anticipated, so looked forward to, and so welcome in its' arrival. For the wounded servicemember lying in their bed, it's a day that was dreaded and unsuspected, a day that crept up upon us without so much as a whipser of warning. While our friends move back into their daily lives, holding their children and running to wal-mart, the injured wonder if they can hold their child with one arm, whether running is possible when there is nothing below the knee. On either leg.

It's on this 1st day back you meet a group I am intimately familiar with. Amongst the doctors and nurses, all dedicated to providing you with the utmost care, while remaining detatched enough to remain sane comes a representative. They come to see you, knowing what it's like to be there. They know because they themselves WERE there, often not long ago. This person who comes to see you is from The Wounded Warrior Project. For me, this person was Brian Neuman.

Brian lost his arm at the shoulder when an RPG came through the Bradley he was in. He lost his arm, and his interpreter lost his life. Brian then came to BAMC in San Antonio, TX for rehab, and this is where he ultimately retired from the Army and took up his current post as the WWP representative there.

The day I met him he came baring a gift. This gift was a backpack, and in it were things that the average person would wonder why they'd gotten them, but the wounded know why. Shorts, shirts, toiletries, a CD player, a few other things. The things you'd pack when you were going to stay somewhere. The things you didn't pack, because you didn't know. See when you are injured, you leave the country with nothing. If your unit has time, you MIGHT have a personal item or two. I had my laptop, my Cav hat, and my pillow. I only had those because my roomate then 1LT Mark Jordan knew I didn't travel without them, regardless of the situation. Thanks, Mark!

After giving you these trivial things to help you feel human again, the WWP guys help guide you through the endless paperwork you have to fill out, and all the other things you now need to know, and wish you didn't. Finally, after all this, they help in your rehab.

They help not by changing your bandages, by pushing you harder in rehab, or by influencing the military in their decisions about your future. They help by getting you out and showing you that you are still alive. They take you on hunts, fishing trips, ski trips, sporting events, and all manner of recreation. Later they help by tring to make sure you are prepared for a job in the civilian world, or that the VA is holding up their end of the deal in your new life. They do all this not because congress set aside some portion of the budget to help them. No government agency mandated their existence, nor does any government agency hold sway over their direction. They do this because they've been there. They do this because people they've never met helped.

I write all this because people have asked about my donations. While I'm asking for donations, and will certainly need them to finish my trip, I have plans should I get more than needed. While some people question the authenticity of me and my trip, and others see me as just another vet asking for money, there's no doubt that these guys are for real. What I ask is that those who can or want to help me on my journey please donate to my cause, I also ask that the naysayers follow the link to the WWP site and maybe help there. In the end, if I DO have more than I need, my intent is to take what's not needed, and donate it to the WWP. Hopefully this will answer the questions of those who feel I may be cooking up a great personal windfall with my stories. These men and women of the WWP have done so much for a group that is completely forgotten by most everyone. If you don't want to help me, please go help them!!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Johnson City Press

Well ladies and gentlemen, as I mentioned before, the Johnson City Press has run an article about my rolling catastrophe. Hopefully the people who've e-mailed me claiming I was a scam artist will now see that I am in fact actually for real, and probably not to sharp anyhow! Well here is a link to the story, so please go read it and enjoy!! I hope to be able to post on their website as a second blog!!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Indiana Rocky and the Anal Glands of Doom

In honor of the new Indian Jones movie that just came out...

Well ladies and gentlemen, it seems that stories of Rockstar seem to have touched a heartstring with my loyal readership, so in the absence of “real updates” to post, I will attempt once again to amuse you with tales of Rocky lore. Sadly, while it might sound like a lot of artistic license is being taken with these stories, I caution you that so far, they are all true. Yes, this REALLY did happen…

Many people have asked me about my sanity at the idea of being in close quarters with Rocky for weeks on end. Fortunately, given my ADD’ness and general ability to forget most anything relevant, I’ve been thinking that it can’t be THAT bad. Of course, I’m wrong. See, Rockstar has an amazing ability that MOST biologists would tell you reside only in the Mustelid family. For those unsure of just what a Mustelid is, thank your stars that you don’t know. See Mustelidae is a large family of animals that encompasses such cuties and minks and ferrets. It also contains other not so cuties like wolverines, skunks, and apparently the very elusive and rare North American Tiger Striped Retarded Boxer. To learn more, continue on!

Rocky and I had been living here in Johnson City for about four months when I learned of Rocky’s somewhat unique ability. At the time, I was renovating my house pretty much all at once, so I was living in the back bedroom. I had gotten goofball his own little bed to sleep on in the hopes he would stop attempting to use mine anytime he thought I might not notice. This pretty much meant anytime I wasn’t actually IN the bed. No one ever explained the concepts of forensics to Rocky and it probably would have been a moot point anyhow. Besides, I didn’t exactly need world class training at the Body Farm, blacklights, and a back up team from CSI: Miami to identify the thick coat of dog hair and 3.4 gallons of drool spread liberally across my pillow. Somehow, Rocky has yet to figure this out, and this is a struggle that continues to this day. Anyhow I digress… So RTD was asleep in his bed, as I was in mine. Copious amounts of drool were to be found at either place, being it was about 2:30 in the morning. Anyhow, I awoke to the sound of Rocky growling.

Now while Rockstar might be only sixty pounds, he has a growl that’s reminiscent of a crate of bowling balls turned loose in a cement truck. “Menacing” is a word that comes to mind. So is “coward” but that comes later… Well RTD growled, then got up and wandered the house, growling the whole way. I continued to attempt to sleep, and eventually he came back and began making sweet sweet doggy love to his bed again, and all was well with the world. After about fifteen minutes or so, I again woke to the sound of Rocky growling, and this time I was slightly more concerned. By slightly I mean I only cussed at him a little while rolling over and trying to get back to the land of superchargers and clapping (both things I’d like to do…)

Well I have to say now that the neighborhood I live in isn’t exactly crime ridden. The worst I have to personally experience is somebody came by and egged he Pinto Bean once. Of course I found this to be hilarious, and felt kinda bad that youth around here wasted their egg on the bean. The stain is still there today. Outside of a few random eggings, I think about as bad as it gets might be one old man going and peeing on another’s petunias in the interest of sabotaging their “Yard of the Year” award. Luckily for me, I have no petunias, and the weeds and clover I’ve so carefully cultivated here aren’t in the running this season. I tell you all this to make the point that growl or no growl, there ain’t a whole lot here to worry about. That being said, back to the story!

So Rocky again decided to get up and wander the house growling while I contemplated locking him out of the bedroom. Again. While I was busy looking for a coin to flip, I hear him come back down the hall and stop. He then growled once more much louder, and I gave up on the coin and decided to just lock his little arse out there. It was at this time that all hell broke loose! Rocky suddenly went ballistic. I suddenly went concerned. Rocky then started barking, scrambling, and huffing, all while deploying his secret defense mechanisms and going straight to DEFCON 5. North Korea crossing the DMZ would not have elicited THIS much of a response from the Rockstar. Well I immediately flipped on the light while yelling loudly at whatever was going on in the hall. In my minds’ eye I pictured Rocky fighting valiantly against masked intruders while trying hard to keep them from getting to me. I knew that my boy could be counted on to sacrifice himself if it only meant buying me and extra second or two. I also thought about the fact that my sole line of defense right now was my one good arm and the now possibly soiled pair of underoos I had on. Things might be about to go badly. Oh how right I was…

I finally got the lights all on and stepped out to the hall, where I encountered quite the site. Rocky was in full offensive glory, sixty pounds of attacking teeth, muscle and bone. At least this is what I would like to have seen. Instead RTD was sixty pounds of quivering and quaking fear, curled up wide eyed and shaking in the corner farthest from my room. My sole comfort was taken in the fact that HAD there been an intruder, they would likely be laughing so hard at this point, they might be easily overcome by the one armed man. It was at this time that my senses came face to face, so to speak, with Rocky’s last line of defense. There in the middle of the hallway was a neat circle of moisture. As I approached this little fairy ring of funk, my sense of smell was overcome by a powerful odor. This was an odor unlike anything I’d ever experienced. The great poo ponds of Afghanistan couldn’t hold a match to this. For that matter a match held to this might have caused a global catastrophe…

I ambled over to the ring of droplets and did the most regrettable and stupid thing I could think of, I touched one and took a little whiff. After my color vision returned, my nose stopped running, and my overall sense of nausea went away, I realized what I’d encountered. Rocky had forcefully, violently even, expressed his anal glands. If anyone HAD been in the house, they were likely outside burning their clothing by now, and wondering if they’d ever smell again. Rocky was still quaking in the corner, my little hero. Well I then spent the next twenty minutes or so trying to bleach and Lysol this off of the floor, much to no avail… I then went ahead and showered, hoping to at least get the smell off me. Finally, I notified the United States Geological Survey that no, we weren’t the epicenter of a great new quake, nor was the EPA really all that necessary but thanks anyhow, and headed back to bed. I looked around the next day, but never was able to find the source of RTD’s little episode.

Well anyhow, I mention all this because as I’ve learned, this has become a relatively regular Rockstar occurrence. While he no longer chases bogeymen through the house, he does make a point about every other week or so of expressing his glands. Unfortunately, he now does it while lying in bed, usually during my most peaceful nights of sleep. I now will awaken to repeated long, slow sluuuuuuuuuuuuuurping sounds of RTD attempting to either cover up the evidence, or freshen his breath. At that sound I just get up and boot him out of the room, then bury my head deep into a pillow and cry a little. Rocky just goes out in the hall, hops on the couch where he’s not supposed to be and happily goes to sleep, mission accomplished.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Things to come...

Well today was the last day of finals for Quillen College of Medicine, so excitement abounds! I hope to start getting more updates on here, as well as some new stories and of course the road trip! A couple of notes for those who care! In one week I've gotten 1800+ views, and have started getting several return views from people I don't share DNA with, so that's great!! This weekend or early next week, the Johnson City Press is doing an article on this trip, so look for that! Also, I HOPE to be on a radio station up in Baltimore talking about whatever they want to talk abot, so i'll be sure to put notice on here so you don't accidentally switch to that radio station and hear me.... Yeah, I have perfect face for radio, and the voice for sign language... Finally, a celebrity gossip site is going to post an interview with me, for which I will be VERY appreciative! I'm sure at least four of you are thinking "wait what? Celebrity gossip? Dude and we didn't even suspect you were LIKE that! It's ok, I'm not, but they graciously offered to support my cause, and I certainly won't refuse help!

Anyhow... A list of a couple inwritten stories that are rolling around in my tiny head. A short list, because there's not much room up there.... Expect to see these in the next few days!!

Indiana Rocky and the Anal Glands of Doom

How Working on my Truck Taught me I Don't Need to be an Obstetrician

It's all..... About.... The.... Benjamins???

Who else knows!!

Here's a link to an earlier article written about me by the JCP. I must again thank them for agreeing with someone other than me that this harebrained trip is worth reading about!!

As always, your feedback ad ideas are appreciated!! Good or bad!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Rocky Chronicles:

The Rocky Chronicles: A Star is Born... A Special Star... Like, Should be Wearing a Helmet. A Special Helmet
A Rockstar is born…

Well, quite a few of you, my newfound fans and devoted supporters (ok… both of you, Hi Grandma!), have e-mailed wanting to know more about the four-legged furball that will be occupying the copilot seat for this great tragedy on wheels. Being that I will certainly cave to the whims of my readership all in the name of glory, your collective wishes shall now be granted!
Name: Rocky Apollyon (The Destroyer, in Greek)
A.K.A: Rockstar, HEY!, Come here you!!, What in the?!!, Oh I can’t believe this!, or most any noise that seems to be made in his direction…
Age: Maybe 3?
Weight: 60 lbs
IQ: The scale started at 1. He didn’t make it that far.

When I first retired out of the Army, I did what most twenty something males with no life/direction do and promptly moved back in with my parents. While there, it came time for my OTHER dog (Chip) to move on to that great fire hydrant factory in the sky. I decided that in order to make up for the fact that I was another loser living at home, I would quickly seek out another companion to make me look more normal. Sadly I failed miserably and ended up with the Rockstar. If there is ANYTHING in the world that can make a one armed dude appear even less normal, it’s a completely retarded boxer. I went above and beyond.

I first heard of Rocky through my parents, who I think may have mostly been hoping to get me out of the house long enough to change the locks. He belonged to some west Tennessee locals of the reddened neck variety, and nobody was really QUITE sure what the deal with him was. I headed down to the local gas station where his owner was busy selling 40’s just as fast as they could, and inquired within. I l was told that Rocky was supposedly a full-blooded boxer, aged two, and was currently residing in their basement. The translation was “he looks a lot like a boxer and he’s kinda young, and oh yeah, he spends a little time in the basement.” I got directions to the house-o-rocky, and headed on down to see this amazing little dog.

I pulled in and was immediately met by quite possible the meanest boxer I’ve ever encountered. Now for those not familiar with the boxer breed, they tend to be pretty sweet. Anxious and excitable, but sweet. Cerberus, the three-headed hound that guarded the gates of Hell was a lapdog in comparison to the snarling, snapping, mouth foaming ball of joy that was tethered just out of reach of my oh so tasty arse. I was becoming a little suspicious at this point, but against my (or anyone’s) better judgment, I headed for the door. Those who know me well know that this is pretty much par for the course for me. “My God! That sounds like a HORRIBLE idea!! I’m in!”

I knocked at the door and turned back to make sure the hellhound hadn’t gotten lose and waited. After a moment, the door was answered by the mister of the house, and he didn’t seem amused. I let him know I was here to see Rocky, and decide if I wanted him. He returned after a moment with the antithesis of Satan-on-a-string just a few feet away. He explained that Rocky was the spawn of The Beast to my right, yet wasn’t much like him. He calmly explained his attempts to make Rocky a more worthy dog, and the failure that had ensued due to a possible slightly below average intelligence level. He then politely asked if I might like to take Rocky with me then and there. I believe the actual wording was; “This dumass dog is the son o’ that one right thar and I’ll be dammed if he ain’t crap like him. I done put this dog in the basement fer the last two years an’ it ain’t made him mean at all. Matter o’ fact he’s about the dumbest dog I ever seen. You taking him with you now right?” Meanwhile, Rocky was running around in circles at approximately just below the speed of sound while alternately drooling, self asphyxiating, and jumping all over me, the bushes, the car, and things only he could see. I was skeptical, to say the least.

I went home to explain to my Dad that Rocky was a bust, and ask for a new key because mine didn’t seem to be working now for some reason. Dad and I then had a long talk about “potential” and “latent ability” and a lot of other key words I don’t remember anymore, and it was decided that I would bring Rocky there for a few days before I moved, as a test run. There may have been a little more discussion about my planning to move. The words “expedite”, “soon”, “before sun-up” might have been mentioned too, but my memory is foggy in my old age. Anyhow, long story short, I went back to the shanty the held my newfound little buddy, braved Cerberus again, and loaded Rocky into the car. Twenty-five minutes and six gallons of drool later, we were home. The Rockstar was mine. Damn.

Anyhow, it was only a matter of days before I loaded up my u-haul and headed east. It was decided Rocky would ride in the truck with dad, mostly b/c he was the only one with the patience to NOT strangle him. To give you an idea of the “New Rocky”, picture a four year old kid, hopped up on chocolate, Pepsi, and oh maybe a little crystal meth. Now double that, and attach never ending spittle cannon to one end, and spin it in circles. For eight hours. I think that gets the point across.

Well we made it to Johnson City in mostly one piece, and no matter how hard I tried to leave Rocky at truck stops along the way, someone always got him back in the truck. Well once here, Rocky and I had a few growing pains, to say the least. First, we had to establish WHO was in charge. After living for two years in a basement, Rocky was a little slow on the uptake on “how things work”. We quickly settled on an understanding that as long as he quit peeing all over everything, I’d remove my foot from his hind end. By quickly, I mean about a month. In Rockyspeed, that’s pretty danged fast. Things progressed well for the summer whilst I worked on the house, and Rocky came to realize a few things such as which one of us sleeps on the floor, insulation, while being tasty goodness, is not for digging, and most importantly, the poles downstairs were NOT trees even if they are covered in wood.

The trouble, and the last name, came about when medical school started. Surprisingly, the school expects their future doctors to spend a lot of time there doing such things as “learning”. It took me a bit to adapt to this, but I did. Rocky on the other hand was now left at home to his own devices for hours on end. It was at this time that his breeding as the Spawn of Satandog took hold, and he rose to his full glory. Rocky developed what the vet termed “separation anxiety.” The only separation I was concerned with was my foot from his rear. Rocky would systematically destroy all the fit into his drool filled mouth. He was meticulous in his work to destroy everything. Nothing was safe, not even the toilet plunger. The vet recommended Xanax. I think she meant for me. I however was undeterred because I knew which one of us was smarter. I went out and bought “Time Out”. For those unfamiliar with this witches brew of evil, you spray it on stuff, and it stops animals from chewing it. In theory. Anyhow, the stuff tastes a lot like pure evil mixed with unholy goodness. A mere drop will ruin your palate for about three hours. Two drops will have you retching, and drinking jalapeno juice just to taste something better. Don’t ask me how I know. Remember I’m the smart one here!

I returned home with what was to be the Bane of Rocky in my bag and went about preparing the house. I was excited. Never again was I to return to a house that looked like the Tasmanian devil got into a fight with a pack of cracked out badgers again! With a smug look and a pat on the head, I left Rockstar and headed off to school, giggling at the unholy goodness that awaited my little canine buddy’s mouth. All day I daydreamed of Rocky licking the floor just to get the taste out of his mouth. I pictured him dry heaving around the house in pure misery. Mostly, I smiled. Classmates thought maybe I’d won the lottery, but no, I’d done better. I’d conquered the beast!

At the end of the day I drove home as fast as I could hoping to be able to still see the lasting effects of Curious Rocky’s encounter with the one-armed man. I threw open the door ready to see my living room in undamaged glory, my dog with his tail tucked, and maybe even happy fairies. Instead I was met with destruction. Utter chaos. My eyes finally came to rest on the ultimate insult. There, alone in the middle of the room, lay the bottle of “Time Out”. The top was chewed off, the contents spilled onto the floor where they were eagerly lapped up. Yes, due to some unknown genetic flaw, chromosomal rearrangement, or just plain retardation, Rockstar thought this stuff to be Doggy A-1 Sauce. A single tear of defeat rolled down my cheek. Actually I think it was drool slung onto me by little Mr. Sunshine. That day, I went out and bought a 100’ dog run. This was also the day I learned the two trees in my backyard were precisely 100’ 8’’ apart, but that’s another story.

Finally, Rocky has settled down a little, and spends a lot of time on his dog run. The stories of his complete lack of intelligence are astounding, but not to all be told at once. Most people who meet him agree that a special helmet is in order, or at the very least, so Xanax. For us.

Next time: The Day Rocky ate Four Pounds of Fudge. Either that or The Day Rocky ate Two Pounds of Trail Mix, which might be retitled as “The Technicolor Poo and the Big Red Lawnmower.”

Monday, May 19, 2008

T- minus...

Well as it stands now I'm shooting for next Wednesday, the 28th to begin this little debacle! The Johnson City Press will be covering it, too, so look for that! There will be a link here to it, too! Any correspondence sent to the PO Box will be picked up by some unlucky schmuck, and forwarded to somewhere I KNOW I'll be, so please refrain from mailing your biological weapons to me until later, so as to avoid hurting that poor guy! Anyhow, back to studying for finals!!

The Legend of The Pinto Bean

The Legend of the Pinto Bean
AKA: How I came to own this behemoth

Hopefully at least four or five of you have taken the time to read my whole blog, and are now anxiously wondering HOW/WHY I have the Bean. At least one of you might even be a bit envious… Its ok, I understand… Not everyone can pull off the sort of coolness required by The Bean. Don’t worry… Neither can I. Without further ado, the legend!

Our unit, R Troop, 4/278th Cavalry was activated to go to Afghanistan on 22 Oct 2005. The big plan was to fly our Apaches down to Fort Hood, where we would undergo weeks of pointless training of how to do a ground convoy so we would be fully prepared to fight in Afghanistan. Right. Ground convoys. Apparently someone didn’t get the memo that we WERE PILOTS! Anyhow, there was flying involved, too. There we learned how to fly/fight in Iraq. Yeah… Another lost memo… Anyhow, when we got to Fort Hood, we obviously were sans vehicles. Well this of course was on purpose, since we were told by out higher ups that we weren’t allowed personally owned vehicles (POVs) at Hood. Unfortunately, no one seemed to have remembered to send this memo to the higher up units we were joining, so we were the only guys on the ground with no transportation. Luckily the Idaho unit we fell under saw the problem and was completely sympathetic to our plight, and supplied us with no less the one single van. For about 45 people. The van couldn’t leave post either.

Well being the super squared away Lieutenant I was (read: not too bright), I decided I would get a vehicle for at least the pilots to use, since we were separated from the enlisted guys, and they needed the van more than us. I went down to that great bastion and reserve of crappy vehicles owned by soldiers and for sale on post, the aptly named “Lemon Lot”, and began my search. After a long fifteen to twenty seconds of perusing the lot, I saw what was to be our future, The Bean. Now mind you this was not just any old vehicle, this was a vehicle with CLASS! This was a vehicle with STYLE! This was a vehicle with almost as much rust as undamaged pain AND to top it off, a “SPOILED DOBIE ON BOARD” sticker featured prominently on the rear window. Namely though, this was a vehicle that could hold twelve strapping combat ready highly trained ready to kill attack pilots. It was perfect. It was $1500 dollars.

I quickly called the number on the window and arranged a test drive. The owner showed up and amazingly happened to be a Kiowa pilot. I knew this was going to go well. We fired up the Bean and headed out to the open road. Much to mine (and probably his) amazement, EVERYTHING worked! Ice cold air, check. Windows, check. Cruise control, check. Fifteen hundred bucks, not so much. Anyhow, we returned triumphantly to the parking lot where the owner immediately went about attempting to unload the Bean as fast as his hot little hands could sign the title. At this point I stopped him, and began what was to be a long round of negotiating. It went a lot like this:

“So, you want fifteen hundred huh?”

“Yeah, that sounds fair.”

“I’ll give you a thousand.”

“A thousand? That’s not enough!”

“Look! Quick! A roll of twenties! Cash!”

“Sign right here!”

We then both walked away, no doubt thinking the same thing…. “Sucker.”

We then hopped in our newfound prize, and went back to the company area to show off our gleaming new possession. We pulled up at the barracks and I knew then I was a hero. The stares of envy were nearly too much. Yes, people came from all around to admire the Bean. The call went out, beckoning all far and wide to gaze upon our new steed. It got a little garbled by the wind and sounded a lot like “Hey everyone! Come look at this piece of crap the LT just dragged in! Stupid LT”. I think it was actually “Wow everybody the LT just saved us all! I love this new thing! Hoist him, upon our shoulders so that he might know our joy!” Oddly, there was no hoisting.

Anyhow, by now you’re wondering HOW it GOT the name. Amazingly, the Bean was unnamed at purchase, so a dilemma was in the works. Fortunately, it was quickly solved when CW3 Flanigan arrived. Tim walked over, tossed away his ever-present cigarette while trying not to laugh, and said these fateful words, “Well we don’t have String Bean anymore, but at least now we have The Pinto Bean.” The christening of a cherubic newborn could scarcely have been more beautiful. There were even tears of joy at this great event. Then people asked if I was gonna take them to go get some danged food.

Anyhow, String Bean had been Mr. Flanigan’s beat down and never washed green Jeep Cherokee back in TN. String Bean had been with Tim since Germany, and was near and dear to his heart. While being ugly as all get out, it was reliable as can be, and well known amongst all who came to our airfield. Tim unfortunately had to sell String Bean to one of the sergeants in the unit before we left who, sadly, washed, polished, and cleaned her until she was no longer recognizable as the String Bean. Anyhow, it’s because of Mr. Flanigan that the Bean is named, and will remain so for as long as I own her. Sadly, Mr. Flanigan will not know of these adventures as he was killed in action the first week of July, 2006, when his aircraft went down outside of Kandahar. I still remember the last time I saw him. Through my morphine laced haze he told me “LT don’t you worry, we’ll see you when we get back to the states.” Tim left behind two young children, a loving wife, a lot of friends, and memories to last a lifetime. I know now if he were here and heard of my trip, he’d likely say “LT are you serious? That’s the stupidest plan I’ve ever heard of! Good luck man!” I’ll see you on the green, Tim.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


As I sat in Starbuck's coffeeshop today, I realized this may be harder to write than expected. never mind the fact that i'm typing at 25 wpm with one hand, I'm thinking mental. I have relived this in my head numerous times, and retold the story in ad nauseum. I however have never tried to write it down, a process which has made it much more "real" to me. I came close to tears, which would have only been the second time i've cried over this since that first day. Amazing are the power of words.

Hopefully I'll be able to to turn this trip and my story into some sort of readable/organized book. Please let me know what you think so far. In the interest of that I present to you for your reading enjoyment, The Prologue.

“Well hell. There goes med school.”

I sat there stupidly staring, feeling the anger rise within me, at the sleeve where moments ago my hand had been. People often reflect on their having survived some great tragedy with the thoughts of impending doom and life’s end they had at that very moment. Not me. My feelings and thoughts were centered on the future, and what wasn’t going to happen now.

I remember the violence, and then the lack of violence. I looked at the sand just in front of my feet and the hot desert stretching for miles in front of me. I knew the desert shouldn’t be in front of me. Not like this. I should be looking at the ORT, the gauges, the fire control panel. Instead all I saw was rocks, scrub and dirt. The smell of jet fuel, oils, and a dozen other odors I couldn’t place reached my nose. What I didn’t notice was the coppery smell associated with what was to come. I was hot, sweaty, miserable, and couldn’t hear shit. It occurred to me that I wasn’t wearing my helmet now, and I knew I’d not taken it off. I was taken off for me, not by hand, but mechanically. That wasn’t all that was taken off for me as I was soon to learn.

Between the heat, desert, odor and pain, I often joke that I first feared that I’d arrived in Hell on an express train. I continued to survey the landscape spreading out before me like a set from a bad western. How different it looked from the ground, the desert. Usually I witnessed it from above, feeling sympathy for the poor infantrymen on the ground, living the life I’d once lived. Now here I was again, the poor bastard on the ground, and as usual not by choice. I could feel my back, and it hurt. I wondered if it was broken, but my feet still moved so I figured it wasn’t. It was, but I didn’t know that yet. I then noticed the dull ache in my right arm, and knew it was broken. I’d felt this pain before, usually shortly after making an early departure from the motorcycle I was riding. I looked down to see how badly it was broken, and badly it was.

I was greeted not with an arm bent awkwardly at some unusual angle. No it was much more minimalist than that. I was instead greeted with just an empty sleeve, bloodstained, yet oddly not all that tattered. I stared for unending moments at that hollow sleeve while wrestling with the bleak future that was presenting itself to me. The future was making its’ introduction to me, and I didn’t even have the hand to shake and make acquaintances with. My dreams of med school went the way of my fingers at that moment. It wasn’t supposed to happen like that, and yet it did. I laid my now useless stump on what was left of the radio panel on my right side, and looked to my left to see if maybe my hand was there, a misplaced glove waiting only to be found and donned. It wasn’t. Given the training I had in an earlier non flying life as an EMT, I realized that if they didn’t find the hand and quick, it wasn’t going back on.

Unfortunately my training as an EMT seemingly ended at the knowledge that if I didn’t find the hand there was no hope for it. I continued to just sit there and bleed while growing angrier. The tourniquet in my survival vest was the farthest thing from my mind. The fact it was designed to be used with just one hand was just slightly farther away.

While I sat there enveloped in my own anger, the Blackhawk that had been the whole cause of this episode was landing. The EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) team we had just been escorting moments ago got out with a whole new mission; recover the downed pilots. My backseat pilot was already out of the broken bird, but dazed. That left only me. The EOD team made it to me and went about getting me out. I mostly just sat there, too dazed and angry to be of help. As they dragged me from the cockpit, the pain in my back alighted with renewed vigor, and I’m pretty sure I yelled at them. The dragged me a few feet away and laid me up with my back against a ditch where I could see the Apache while they went to work on me.

I surveyed the bird from my new vantage point and thought to myself “this isn’t good. It shouldn’t look like this at all.” I remember noticing that all the blades were gone. Not just broken, gone. I could see that where the cockpit once was, there was only emptiness. The aircraft towered over us, a great warbird now grounded and sitting on its’ own tail, too broken to ever fly again. The EOD soldier was kneeling in front of me with his back to me and my right arm tucked under his arm so as I would not be able to see what he was doing. This is textbook procedure to keep a wounded comrade from losing hope at the realization of their injuries. I stared at his back, the aircraft, and his back again. Finally I think I tapped his shoulder and said “hey, I know the arm is gone, just put the tourniquet on.”

With the tourniquet on, the EOD guys asked if I could walk. I told them I could, and with assistance we made our way to the awaiting Blackhawk. They grabbed my backseater, CW4 Belisle and tried to get him on the aircraft too. He told them he couldn’t find his M4 and started again looking for it. They grabbed him again and told him if he didn’t get on the aircraft now they were leaving him here. He then got on the helicopter and away we went, back to the field hospital at Qalat, Afghanistan.

The trip to Qalat was hellishly long; at least it was to me. The reality was it was only a few minutes south of where we made our unscheduled landing, but to me it might as well have been on another continent. I lay up against Johnny, alternately trying not to cry, vomit, or get more pissed. Every bump and shake of the hawk sent pain shooting through my body, reawakening me to the situation I was now in. About every two minutes or so I would look up at Johnny and ask “Johnny, what happened? What the fuck happened?” Every two minutes or so he would have to reply with “I don’t know man, I don’t know.”

Finally we landed at Qalat and the field hospital it contained. I’d landed at this same Forward Operating Base (FOB) many times before, and even stayed here for two weeks just a few days prior. I didn’t expect to be back so soon and never like this. Someone came and opened the doors to the Blackhawk and asked again if I could walk. Again I said I could, and they helped me out. I got out of the aircraft and walked a few steps. I then stopped and looked over to my right and could see another apache. This one was whole and good and currently spun up to a hundred percent and ready to fly. I could see the pilots in the cockpit looking back at me. I knew it was Mr. Philamalee and Mr. Call in the bird, and that they were about to go where I had just been. I looked at them a moment longer and then looked back toward the field hospital and the safety it represented. Finally I looked at the rocks of the landing area and thought it odd that they seemed to be moving towards me. I was a million miles away by the time my body hit those very same rocks. I never even felt the fall.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

PAYPAL information!! Please Donate!! I can't make this trip w/o support!!

Since a few people have asked how to donate, here is the paypal link address!!
Please donate! You can also click the 'Donate' button to the right! With the ever increasing cost of gas, I need the help or I will not be able to complete this journey!

Please help!! I can't go all the way without it!! or

Thanks everyone!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

First update!

Sorry to anyone who's reading this but until I finish finals here at Quillen College of Medicine, updates will be sparse!!

So far, the truck is being readied for the trip! By readied, I mostly mean it is sitting out in front of my house collecting an eco friendly layer of tree sap, pollen, bird poo, and whatever else settles on it... Yes, it will not be washed before I leave! The coat that nature is applying will be worn with pride on the Bean!

Anyhow, I plan on hopefully getting the new U-joints on next week, and some synthetic rear axle oil in it to maybe gain 1mpg. Over 10,000 miles, that adds up!! Also, I have had a few donations so thanks to those of you who did!! I've also had a few letters on encouragement, and even one letter telling me what a loser I was for being a warmonger and how I deserved to lose my hand! My reply: "life is hard, but it's harder if your stupid." A quote regularly attributed to John Wayne.

Finally, I'm meeting with the editor of the Johnson City Press next monday to see about getting some new play with this so wish me luck! My journey as a Nation Traveling Author starts now! Ok well.... tomorrow... or soon....


Monday, May 12, 2008

Vet Plans Road Trip to Meet America & Needs Your Help

Below is a copy of the iReport submitted (pending approval) and also a copy of his original post asking for help...but there's a little more to it. Unfortunately, the original budget for the trip is going to fall far short. When the planning started, gas was at $2.15/ the date of departure gas will most likely be close to $4.00/gallon. I need a little help! Any little bit helps and donations are greatly appreciated. Donations can be sent via Paypal. Feel free to send inquiries, comments, suggestions, etc to the trip's email address And feel free to share this w/ family and friends!!!

Daniel McConnell thought nothing of his country's request to relocate to fact he welcomed the challenge and the adventure. Unfortunately, his all-expenses-paid tour of Afghanistan ended early when the Apache he was piloting crashed in the barren landscape. Through a miracle, he escaped with his life. However, he did not come home unscathed. He lost his right hand below the elbow and sustained a traumatic brain injury among other injuries.

The one thing he's never lost is his passion for life. After several months at BAMC in San Antonio, Daniel returned to Tennessee where he is now in medical school at ETSU. Effects of the his brain injury and the obstacles presented by being an amputee increase the difficulty of medical school, but have not held him back. He continues to embrace life and has become an inspiration to others.

A little more that two years after his return to the states, his country is calling him again but in a slightly different way. It's calling him to explore the countryside and meet the people he sacrificed so much for. Year one of medical school is rapidly coming to a close and the summer
break is to be used to 'set yourself apart' from other med students.

Daniel decided when he heard that, that he would set himself apart...and not by doing research like everyone else. He decided that since he dedicated eleven and a half years to this great country (and even lost body parts for it), he wanted to see it and meet his fellow Americans.
He's planning to make a big circle around the country...starting in Tennessee driving up to Maine, over to Oregon, down California, and then across to Key West. He will be driving (and living in) his old '84 Suburban affectionately known as the 'Pinto Bean' with only the company of his furry, four-legged co-pilot named Rocky. He's planning to stay off the beaten path and see as much as he can with plans to write a book about his adventures.

He is planning to hit the open road towards the end of May. (Unfortunately, when he originally budgeted, gas was $2.15/gallon and now it's rapidly approaching $4.00/gallon...we're hoping he won't have to cut his trip short.) But he is looking for suggestions for the book. What would you like to read about? What part of American culture do you think has been missed by mainstream media? Do you know of any 'must-stop' destinations?

You'll be able to follow his trip on his blog: He won't be posting the juicy stories since they'll be reserved for the book, but he'll try to post updates along the get out your maps and stick pins to track his progress!

Original Help Request:
Well ladies and gentlemen, I'm appealing to the unwashed masses for some help and ideas. Please take the time to read this and see what ya think. First, a brief history. I was an Apache pilot in the Army until I lost my arm below the elbow in a crash in Afghanistan. After that I was booted out of the Army b/c they wouldn't let me fly anymore (FAA signed me off as A-OK, but that's another story.) Anyhow, I'm now in medical school in East TN, where compliments of a traumatic brain injury and the amputation, I've been having quite the experience.

Well this summer is the only one we get off (eight weeks) and the school recommends you "do research or work in a hospital to 'set yourself apart' from other medical students." Well I figured a few months ago that if ALL med students are doing research etc, HOW does that set you apart?? Well this is where my idea comes into play. Do read on….

I've decided that since I gave 11.5 years of my life to this country, and even lost body parts fighting for it, I want to SEE it, and the people who live in it. My plan is to drive basically a big circle around the USA from TN to Maine, then Oregon, down Cali and off to Key West. I have a beat up 1984 Suburban I've been preparing for the trip, and my plan is to live in it, along with my mildly retarded Boxer. I hope to see a lot of sites, stay off the interstates, and meet a lot of interesting people along the way…

Anyhow my ultimate goal is to maybe write a book about it, the stuff I see and the people I meet, along with the life I've led so far (I've done a LOT of stuff….) My question for all of you all is "what would you want to read about? What ideas do you have?" Also, given that gas is approaching $4.00 a gallon, and I budgeted for this back when it was $2.15, does anyone care to contribute, b/c I'll sure appreciate and need it!! I've considered a different vehicle, but I HAVE the suburban, and I can live in it whereas a car would be too small, and the tent thing is a little hard with one arm… Anyhow, please at least suggest ideas, and if ANY of you are on other forums and care to repost this, I'd sure appreciate it!!