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A Visit to the Udvar Hazy Air & Space Museum

| February 19, 2024 | 0 Comments

I went on a field trip to the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport yesterday. The main purpose was to expose my grandson, Kieran, to the wonders of human flight. It turned out better than I expected. They have a truly impressive collection of equipment, from the origins of flight on bicycles with wings to the landing on the moon. It is kind of amazing that the time distance from one to the other was about 60 years.

In any event, here’s a gallery of pictures from the visit.

My Friend Samer

| January 3, 2024 | 0 Comments
Recent Photo of Samer (L) with My Co Chair for the Meeting, Jay Footlik

In the late 1990’s soon after the Oslo Accords that provided some hope for peace in the Middle East, I participated in a program designed to teach political communications skills to young political leaders from Israel and the Palestinian areas. We met in Paphos, Cyprus, followed by visits to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. There were eight “delegates” from each side drawn from the Fatah Party for the Palestinians and the governing Likud Party from Israel. It was an extraordinary group of young people who were willing to explore the possibilities that Oslo provided. The whole experience was life changing for me.

The leader of the Palestinian group was Samer Sinijlawi, a truly extraordinary young man in his twenties, wise beyond his years, who showed a zest for life and a world view that was both realistic and optimistic. His leadership skills were very apparent, even at that young age. Let’s just say that the group of Palestinians were very passionate and he had his hands full as their leader. He seemed destined for great things in the new circumstances that Oslo promised. I haven’t seen him in decades, but I’ve often thought of him while watching developments in the Middle East. Frankly, I worried about the safety of him and his family. And I wondered if he had maintained his positive attitude in the face of so many set backs since we’d last met.

Then, last week I read the attached op ed in the New York Times, bravely written by Samer. Like anyone who cares about the people in Israel and the Palestinian areas, I grieve deeply about recent developments. The suffering on both sides is unimaginable. It is a horrific situation that has, I assume, caused many people in the region to simply give up on peace. But apparently not Samer. His extremely well-written and courageous column actually gave me hope. And reminded me of my deep admiration for Samer. He remains a true leader. I hope and pray that his voice is heard by all people of goodwill who can still see the light in these very dark times.

Fuller 70 for 70

| June 20, 2023 | 0 Comments

Yesterday, we rode 80 miles, which gave me the opportunity to do my 70 miles for my 70th birthday. My previous two attempts ended prematurely with unfixable blowouts. The ride was delightful. Strained a bit at the end and was always anxious that a hard bump would generate a flat.

But I made it and it felt good. Even more importantly, I felt like I’m prepared for this week. I don’t usually train for these rides, but this time I did, sort of. Certainly did more riding that I ever have in anticipation of a ride.

Here’s the Moment I Hit 70 Miles

Fuller – American Pie

| June 18, 2023 | 0 Comments

One of the unexpected periodic opportunities I get from the Fuller rides is to experience pop and rock song lyrics. On a previous ride, I was “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.” On another trip, we stayed in Tonopah, made famous in Linda Ronstadt’s song, Willin’ with the lyric, “I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonopah”. I’ve also seen a “dead skunk in the middle of the road,” made famous by Loudon Wainwright III.

Last night, I checked another box. The song is American Pie by Don McLean. The lyric is “drove my Chevy to the Levy and the Levy was dry.”

In New Rochelle, we’re staying at the Holy Family Church, which is next to Iona College, of which Don McLean is an alum. Across the street from the college, the go-to student bar is now called the Beechmont Tavern. It used to be called The Levy when McLean was a student. Get it? One night, the bar was out of beer, leaving “the good ole boys…drinking whiskey and rye.”

There you have it. One of the many mysteries in that song solved.

Formerly Known as The Levy
The Proof
Fuller Riders

Fuller Bike Adventure 2023 Take 2

| June 17, 2023 | 0 Comments

This is the first time I’ve done two Fuller Rides in one year. As I write, I’m on the train from Boston to New Rochelle, NY to join the ride.

I honestly don’t know what pulls me back to these rides. The cause, the “living simply” experience, the camaraderie of my Fuller friends all play a big role. Honestly, the riding itself, while enjoyable (mostly) plays a smaller part of it.

This ride is different in a number of respects. It’s shorter than others. I usually do two weeks. This is only one week. Three hundred and fifty miles. I will be riding through my home region, New England, though not close to Boston, sadly. One big positive difference is that I don’t have to pack my bike in a box for air travel. I’m joining and departing the ride by Amtrak. Packing the bike is literally my least favorite part of these rides. It’s a huge relieve not to have to disassemble, pack, unpack and reassemble the bike twice, which was the case for almost all the other rides.

Amtrak, the ONLY way to travel with a bike
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Storyworth: How Did You Bring Peace to the Middle East – Chapter 2

| October 15, 2022 | 0 Comments

Two years after our experience on Cyprus with the Palestinians and the Israelis described in a previous chapter, my friend Jay F. came back with a new project related to the earlier one. Jay was working for the Peres Center for Peace, named for Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shimon Peres, whose executive director was a man named Uri Savir. Uri was Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo Accords, a peace agreement from the early ‘90s between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He was portrayed in the movie “Oslo” as a slender, dashing, charismatic and irreverent diplomat, a characterization of him wildly at odds with the man I got to know on this project. He was in fact smart, irreverent, funny and charismatic. Other qualities in the portrayal in the movie seemed exaggerated for dramatic effect. But that’s another story for another time.

Jay came to me with a project called the Millennium Peace Calendar. It was a large poster-sized calendar that the Peres Center had created with young Israelis and Palestinians from the West Bank who drew pictures about their dreams for peace. Those pictures decorated each of the months in the 12 month calendar. The calendar was signed by the Pope, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and other world leaders. It was designed to be a fundraising vehicle that would provide financing for computer centers that the Peres center would establish both in the West Bank and in Israel that would allow young people from each community to communicate with one another and build relationships across the two communities. These relationships would break the chain of hostility by developing a generation of Palestinians and Israelis who had friends on the either side of the Jordan River.

I had been at FleishmanHillard for two years by that time. I was a little more established and so I had a little more ability to get the company to approve this project. Of course, unlike the previous project, this would have been a paying client. But payment was somewhat contingent on the success of the project. In other words, we had to sell calendars. All FH asked was that we don’t LOSE money on it. I only had to break even. In the end, we never came close.

The first meeting with Jay and a woman from the Peres Center was on a Monday in early September of 1999. Since the calendar was for the year 2000, there was no time to waste. Once my general manager at FH approved the project, we had to move quickly. In fact, I had to be in Tel Aviv by the following weekend for a meeting at the Peres Center for Peace that following Monday….with Shimon Peres, the former Prime Minister of Israel. Less than a week away. And, I had to have a plan for the project by then. Yikes.

I wrote a plan in my hotel room in Tel Aviv that forecast that we would raise $10 million dollars from the calendars. We would sell them for $100 a piece. Our chief targets would be the American Jewish community.

I presented the plan to Shimon Peres and the Chairman of the Board of the Peres Center, Dov Lautman, who was the head of the Sara Lee company in Israel. They approved the plan, but before I left the meeting (after getting the picture with Peres below), Lautman pulled me aside and said, “This project HAS to work. The Peres Center is struggling financially right now and if this effort fails, it could destroy the organization.”

Me and Shimon immediately after I told him I was going to raise $10 million for his non-profit with the Peace Calendar.

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Storyworth: Who has been one of the most important people in your life? Can you tell me about him or her?

| October 14, 2022 | 0 Comments
Mary Beth and Me (when I was younger and skinnier)

So many people. I could write a book about the people who had major impacts on my life. For purposes of this question, I’m going to set family aside, since by definition, they have had the most impact on my life. But that’s all of our jobs, to positively impact members of our family. Non-family members who intervene positively on our lives are, I think, a special breed. So I’ll focus on that category. And I will start with a list and finish with the person who had the greatest impact.

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The Fuller Center Ride – Catchup

| June 20, 2022 | 0 Comments
At the conclusion of the ride, we dip our front tires into Lake Erie to symbolize the conclusion of the ride. I’m second from the left.

It’s been a month since the conclusion of the Fuller Center ride and I’ve been tormented by my commitment to do a conclusionary post. My tendency of procrastination is at its peak when it comes to writing. It is only the point at which the pain of guilt from resisting writing something I need to write exceeds the pain of actually writing that I finally succumb. So, here I am. I’m going to begin trying to catch up. The picture above is the end, but I’m going to pick up where I left off and see if I can establish some record of the ride for posterity.

Actually, I had planned an extensive project of retro-posting a day by day account of the ride. Yeah, right. That wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I will recount the highlights and lowlights in a single post so I can get this off my conscience. And I’m just going to write stream of consciousness and go wherever it takes me.

I left off on Day 2 in which the trailer needed repair. So, I’ll pick things up on Day 3.

DAY 3 – June 15th

Glendale to Louisville – 59.4 miles

It was a relatively short jaunt from Glendale to Louisville. Unfortunately, it was a day of flats for me. I got three. They were all slow leaks, so I didn’t realize my tire was going flat until one of other riders pointed it out to me. All lot of the riding that day was on the shoulder of busy 2 or 4 land roads with a good number of trucks. The flat was caused by a wire from a retread from one of the trucks. I pulled over in a clearing to fix it. It turned out to the site of a fatal accident that killed two people, Donald and Sheila Williams. As it happened, our stop was one day before the 38th anniversary of the accident, as you can see from the monument. Sorry about the bio break being taken by the rider in the background who helped me with the flat. Didn’t notice when I was taking the picture.

Donald and Sheila Williams, Died June 16th, 1984, May They Rest In Peace

We didn’t get the whole wire out, which caused two more flats before I finally fixed it permanently that evening. No more flats for the rest of the ride.

DAY 4 – June 16

Louisville – Build Day

Showers at the the Louisville Fire Department. Firefighters working out. A couple of riders took advantage of the cold plunge.

Day 5 – June 17th

Louisville to Warsaw

Today’s ride was 81 miles, so not nothing. We were challenged with a passing thunderstorm that required us to take cover at a gas station. The timing was pretty perfect in that this was our scheduled rest stop. The rain continued a bit even after the storm passed. So, we had to dig out our rain jackets from the trailer. But it did cool things down.

I took some heat over my jacket. Not the day-glo style designed for visibility

There was one big hill at the end before a nice down hill glide into Warsaw, a very nice resort town on the Ohio River.

Me and Ray Arriving in Warsaw

We had a nice dinner at a restaurant on the Ohio River.

Left to Right: Diane, John, Mark, Tim, me, Alex, Sandi

OK, I’m going to post this and continue posting updates subsequently.

Fuller Ride: Day 2, Bowling Green to Glendale

| June 14, 2022 | 0 Comments

So this week hasn’t gone quite as planned. Certainly not with respect to my attempted daily dispatches. The toll that COVID took on the riders and others before I arrived reduced the support team to such a point that the logistics of the day to day existence, separate from the ride itself, became significantly more challenging than usual for these rides. Much more of the time not on the bike was spent either obtaining food, eating food, locating and taking showers and other of life’s necessities. There was simply no time for me to write the daily blog posts I had planned to do. . So as a result, it is one week in and I’m only now reporting on the day two ride, otherwise know as “the ballbuster.

But first, to pick up where i left off, we had arrived in Bowling Green to the news that our trailer had a potentially catastrophic mechanical problem, something to do with the springs that would have caused the trailer to flip if not fixed immediately. So, we had to rent a new trailer while the first one was repaired. Suffice to say, that introduced some complications.

The route on Day 2 was 72 miles from Bowlig Green to Glendale, Kentucky. The heat index would go to over 100 degrees and there would be lots of hills. i made it to 60 miles before I hit the wall. My fancy new bike allowed me to do the hills better than in past rides, but, for some reason, it doesn’t seem to be able to control the heat. I asked for a pick-up at the top of a hill and was told that the van was on the way. So, I waited with the two “sweeps,” the guys who stay to the back of the pack to make sure everyone makes it. After a seemingly inordinate wait, we learned that another rider was suffering from heat stroke and they had called an ambulance. We actually saw the ambulance go by. I thought about flagging it down so I could hop in the back, but didn’t do it. In any event, the necessary triage meant that I had to get back on the bike and keep riding, with frequent stops. There was one more big hill that I managed to clear with the encouragement of the sweeps.. The van did eventually pick me up after about 5 miles more of riding.

Day One: Nashville to Bowling Green

| June 14, 2022 | 1 Comment
Early in the Ride We Crossed the Cumberland River

A baptism of fire, almost literally. Today’s ride was 70 miles with one big hill going into the first rest stop, which I cleared pretty well. It got hotter and hotter as the day progressed. Not surprisingly, the pedaling got tougher. As I approached the second rest stop, the temperature was in the high 90’s and I wasn’t sure I would make it.

One of my hopes for this ride was to get some good pictures. So, I packed my camera and telephoto lens in the bike bag with tools and extra tubes. When I pulled into the second rest stop at the 50 mile mark, I was spent. So, I removed my bike bag. OMG it was heavy. I gave it to another rider and he said, “Holy shit! That weighs more than your bike! What are you nuts?”

He was right. It literally did weigh more than the bike. So, don’t expect any awesome pictures on this trip. I’ll be using my phone, except when we’re at the church. I’m not lugging the camera with me anymore.

There was also a very tough stretch on the ride that seemed to be a favorite for truckers. It was the worst of all worlds. Two lane highway, with very narrow shoulders and teeth rattling rumble strips. Dump trucks, tractor trailers, etc. zooming by. Most gave us wide berth, but some did not. It was disconcerting.

Looking back, I suspect part of the reason I was having trouble was that I was listening to the January 6th hearing on my bike. I was mostly riding alone, which was good, since I’m not sure of the politics of my fellow riders. But, when Liz Cheney said “an apparently inebriated Rudy Giuliani” I laughed out loud and noticed one of the other drivers on my tail. So, I shut it off.

I’d been holding off on listening to music so that i don’t tire of my playlist too quickly. But, with 10 miles to go, I had to pull over under a shady tree to collect myself. When I started out on this final stretch, I broke down, and put on a playlist from a previous ride. The first song that came on was Gimme Shelter and my legs just start pumping. I was renewed, energized. Next up Stage Fright by The Band. Another winner! Loan Me a Dime by Boz Scaggs. I was cranking.

It worked well for most of the way. But i have to admit I arrived at the church in pretty rough shape.

Tomorrow is supposed to be longer, with more hills and hotter.