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Disruptive Civil War Technology

If you manage any type of business, you likely have heard the term, “disruptive technology.” The term was first defined by Clayton Christensen in a 1995 Harvard Business Review article1 as having the following qualities.

  • A disruptive technology supersedes an older process, product, or habit.
  • It usually has superior attributes that are immediately obvious, at least to early adopters.
  • Upstarts rather than established companies are the usual source of disruptive technologies.
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First Motorized Crossing of the US in 1903

2022-05-31

In 1903, ten years before the idea of the Lincoln Highway came to be, and travel was dominated by horse and buggy, George Adams Wyman accepted a challenge to ride a motorized bicycle across the continent in 40 days, the first attempt by a motorized vehicle. The California Motor Bicycle Company provided the bike and expense money if he documented the trip in Motorcycle Magazine articles. (Marketing!) He was to receive a bonus if he completed the trip in 40 days. It took 50 days so he did not receive the bonus. But then, he did it by himself, without any support crew. You can only imagine the fragility of a 1902 bicycle with wooden rims and unreliability of a gasoline engine of the day. (His crankshaft broke, and he had to push the bike to Chicago.) Half of his 3500 mile journey was on the Union Pacific railroad tracks.

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Swedes Across America

2022-05-31

I stopped at the Lincoln Monument a few miles east of Laramie, and highest point on I-80/US-30. The visitor center there has a lot of information about the Lincoln Highway. It gives all the credit for the Lincoln Highway to Henry Joy, the president of Packard Motor Company and the first president of the Lincoln Highway Association. There is no mention of Carl Fisher, the man who originally conceived the idea. Curious oversight.

While there I met Henrik Bjorklund, a Swede who with 5 others is driving his 1959 Chrysler Imperial from Florida to Alaska, then ferrying from Alaska to Seattle and driving to LA. The cars in the tour are all Detroit chrome and iron before 1961. These cars are beautiful and immaculately restored. Henrik told me that they found the cars in the US, shipped them to Sweden, restored them and shipped them back for these tours.

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Small Town Iowa

2022-05-22

I spent time in two small towns, Missouri Valley Iowa and Cozad Nebraska. I stayed in their city park campgrounds and both experiences were great. These city parks are clean, safe and well kept… and inexpensive.

One of the reasons I like small towns and their parks is you come across truly interesting people and events. As it turns out Saturday night in Missouri Valley was the first dirt-track figure 8 race of the season. The eighth-mile track is a 5-minute walk from the Airstream.

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THE Railroad Town

2022-05-24

North Platte Nebraska is THE railroad town. It was created by Missouri Pacific, and the railroad still dominates the city. When Grenville Dodge was laying out the route for the first transcontinental railroad, he identified this location in central Nebraska as the ideal location for a routing, service and maintenance facility – the midpoint between Salt Lake and Omaha with plenty of land and water. When the track-layers reached the location, they built multiple tracks, sidings, work buildings and housing for the yard. The railroad brought over 100 workers to man it all. The place did not have a name, but soon acquired the moniker “Hell on Wheels”. It was established as North Platte in 1866 and became the western terminus of the transcontinental railroad in 1867 until the railroad was extended to Laramie.

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The Wall

2021-02-21

This is a long report, but there is a lot to say.

The wall is here. I found it in its many forms. If you drive along US-281, Military Highway, and look south, you will see many the barriers, both old and new. I have been joking about “Biden gates” but they won’t be necessary. The wall is bits and pieces with many gaps existing. It turns out that in this part of the country the wall is not built on the border , but as much as a mile away. US farmers have land and crops on both sides of the wall. Therefore it is necessary for the farm roads to pass through the wall.

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Battles at Bull Run

Two battles were fought at Manassas. The first in July, 1861, and the second thirteen months later in August of 1862.

I spent three days at Bull Run, walking the battlefields, researching the events and talking with park rangers and volunteers. Manassas is about the best curated of all the battlefields I visited. The National Park Service is trying to return the battlefields to the way they were when the battle occurred. That means removing trees and structures as well as planting trees and restoring or recreating structures. Manassas staff has made the most progress on these projects.

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Geekemeritus 2023 Review

Note: This report was prepared in January, 2024, but due to a “senior moment” (actually more than one), I thought I had posted it, but alas, had not. I only now discovered that.
So a little late, but here it is.

Well, it is the end of another year, one in which several long-time friends and family have died, and life has changed greatly for others. The reality of life’s brevity is finally coming to rest on me. Although I am not a fan of reliving the past, I think it is important to look at my year and revisit some of the events and savor those that were special in some way.

I covered a lot of ground in 2023 — About 10,000 miles, mostly on America’s byways. Only in the early 2000’s when I was flying between the US and UK have I traveled more. In the past 12 months, I…

  • Lived in the Airstream for 7 months
  • Spent time in 18 states and 4 Canadian provinces
  • Visited 11 Civil War battlefields
  • Camped in a World Heritage Site
  • Followed and explored the old Santa Fe Trail
  • Walked on the ocean floor
  • Climbed the Kill Devil hills
  • Camped on several American Indian reservations
  • Explored the original Manhattan Project site
  • Met many interesting people

Of all the places I visited, here is a severely limited list of stand outs.

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Why I Wander America

How many times over the past five years have I driven down a backroad on a sunny morning, to a place I have never been; just me, no other vehicles, and I find I am overwhelmed by what I see and where I am, I am so grateful that I get to do this. On the backroads of America there is a peace I have not found any other place (except for a little cottage on the Molokai channel). I get to experience places and things most people will never know.

It now occurs to me that I have never explained why I spend two-thirds of my time wandering around America.

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The Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum

2021-10-27

Evergreen International Aviation has a curious history. It was long considered a CIA front, but the founder, Delford Smith would not “confirm or deny” this. However, the fact is several of the company’s senior executives either worked for the agency or had close ties to it. Smith founded the company as Evergreen Helicopters in 1960. Over 50 years the company expanded to operate in 168 countries as both a private and government contractor. Evergreen has been associated with numerous high-profile activities from movies to forest fire water delivery. Beginning in 2013 the $1 billion company began chapter 7 bankruptcy and the assets were sold. The last fleet aircraft were several 747 cargo carriers, one of which (N479EV) was converted to an aerial firefighting tanker which flew numerous firefighting missions, until 2017 when it was destroyed for salvage. The final aircraft of the fleet, the Global Supertanker, ceased operations in 2021 and was converted to a freighter.

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Artist in Residence

The little airport in the town where I grew up built a new terminal (even though it has no air service). It houses administrative offices, and a large cafe. But the thing that makes it unique – or so they claim – it is the only airport terminal in the US that has a built-in brewery.

Anyway, I recently came across a brewery that has an “Artist-in-residence.” The Hook Hand Brewery & Taproom in Williamston, NC is such a place.

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Some Memorial Day Thoughts

Spending Memorial Day at Fort Sumter where the Civil War began reminded me that the first celebrations of Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day occurred shortly after at the end of the War, and one of the most remarkable was here in Charleston.

Late in the war Union prisoners were held on the infield of the race track at the Charleston Jockey Club. Over 200 died during the time and were buried in a mass grave behind the grandstands.

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Fort Sumter on Memorial Day

Fort Sumter1 was built after the war of 1812 as one of a series of coastal port defenses and named after a Revolutionary war hero, General Thomas Sumter. But it entered history as the site of the first shot of the Civil War.

It is built on a constructed island formed of 70,000 tons of granite shipped from New York and Vermont. The newly created island was allowed to settle for several years before the brickwork began.

Some day I will summarize the causes of the Civil War and the events leading up to the firing on Fort Sumter, but the brief list is:

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  1. The fort was named to honor the Revolutionary war general, Thomas Sumter. Camp Sumter (Andersonville) in Georgia was named for Sumter County where it is located. The county was named for Thomas Sumter. []

Camp Sumter

This is not a good place. This is Andersonville.

Between February, 1864 and the end of the Civil War Camp Sumter confined Union prisoners of war. Forty-five thousand came here, but only thirty-two thousand left. Thirteen-thousand died of malnutrition, exposure and rampant disease – a 29% death rate.

During the fourteen months Camp Sumter held prisoners, it was known as “Andersonville.”

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