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.

  • Camp Sumter / Andersonville Prison – Today, Andersonville is a manicured park, and had I not read prisoner diaries, and studied the old photos, I would have been completely ignorant of the horror that occurred here. In 14 months, 45,000 union prisoners were sent to Andersonville, but only 32,000 left. The rest are buried in the national cemetery there, shoulder-to-shoulder, creating an unbroken sea of white grave markers.
  • Lunenberg, Nova Scotia – This World Heritage Site has been on my to-do list for several years. This little fishing village was founded in 1753, named for Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg who later become King George II of Great Britain. It has been lovingly cared for by its residents since and is considered the best preserved example of a British colonial settlement in North America. I was not disappointed. I was fortunate to find a camp site in the “Municipal Campground”, on top of a hill a short walk from the old town center and docks. Nearby are Peggy’s Cove built on a rock promontory overlooking the North Atlantic, the SwissAir 111 memorial, and Hubbard’s Beach where the wildly raucous Canadian TV series “Moonshine” is filmed.
  • Bay of Fundy – I had not really thought of the Bay of Fundy until Lisa told me about the fifty-foot tides that occur here. A good place to experience the tide changes is at Hopewell Rocks, a New Brunswick Provencial Park. At low tide you can walk for a mile in mud on the ocean floor among the towering rocks. All in all a fun day.
  • Shediac, New Brunswick – this is a pretty little town on the Northumberland Strait where I arrived on July 1 and camped near the water. The campers there were preparing for an evening of party and fireworks, and only then did I recall from the Michigan days that July 1 is Canada Day. The fireworks had to be in the top 5 of any I have seen, the people were nice, and a great time was had by all.
  • Gettysburg – Gettysburg was a disappointment in many ways, mainly because of the rampant commercialization. Unlike all other battlefields I have visited, the park is operated by a concessionaire. The visitor center was more like mall with stores and restaurants than a battlefield visitor center. There is a price on everything, including exhibits and even the introductory video. This is  made worse because they do not honor the Lifetime National Park pass. So I left the “mall” and spent several hours driving through the park, the Eisenhower farm and the Soldiers Cemetery. There were few people there, and it was quiet and a place to reflect. I discovered that the platform where Lincoln stood is not in the Soldiers Cemetery, but adjacent in the now-private Evergreen Cemetery.
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory – What was once the atomic research site in the 1940’s is now the center of Los Alamos. The current national laboratory is about a mile away and covers 25,000 acres. The technical buildings where the work was done are gone now, with only the pond, the old lodge, and a few houses remaining. The house on Bathtub Row where Oppenheimer lived is not open, but as I walked by, there was an old guy raking leaves in the yard. He had the door to the house propped open and his radio playing, and I asked if I could go in. “Sure.” he said, “But don’t tell anyone.” So I walked through the rooms where Oppie and Kitty lived, and the desk where Oppie worked at night. It looked like nothing had changed since 1945, but I suspect that the originality had been somewhat restored for the recent movie.
  • Trinity Site – Unfortunately I could not go there. There is an open house twice a year where tours are given, but I missed it by a couple of weeks. I was able to explore a bit of White Sands, and it does not require much imagination to see the bright light on that July morning that lit up a thousand square miles.
  • Las Cruces New Mexico – I spent all of December here so I could replenish prescriptions and the like. It is a nice “little big city” in the morning shadow of the Organ Mountains. All is dry and brown over the winter, but there are miles of pecan trees and vineyards, and I can imagine springtime is rather beautiful. The 200-year-old plaza in Old Mesilla (a National Historic Landmark) is how I imagine Santa Fe was before all the wealth arrived. Mesilla is a village of about 1,800 residents, and all of them, together with visitors like me gathered for Christmas Eve on the plaza with hot chocolate, cookies, much singing and a good time had by all. I like Las Cruces.
  • Money! – My cryptocurrency account increased by 40%. Unfortunately there is not enough to matter, but I have learned something new.

So now on this New Year Eve, I am camped off-grid by a small lake on BLM public land between White Sands National Monument and Holloman AFB. It is quiet, dark and peaceful — although a bit cold. Sunset provided the fireworks.

I can’t end this year without some comment on the state of America and the world. I have never been a political person. In past years, when I was totally preoccupied with work and other projects, I had little time for the outside world, much less political goings on. In the past year or so, I finally looked up and discovered that our country had become a financial, social and governmental disaster area. A large portion of our population has substituted fabricated ideologies in place of science, common sense and morals. Philosophies that are totally opposite to those that have build America for the past 250 years. Truth can be anything you want it to be. The rule of law has been replaced with “progressive interpretations” of the law to support those twisted beliefs. Elected officials appear more interested in their “optics” rather than solving problems. Good people seem to do nothing but lament the decline. I fear that if corrections are not taken soon to relieve some of the pressure and frustration, a socio-political explosion could make the events of January 6 look like a garden party.

My primary hope for America now lies in the Convention of States initiative. The CoS is based on the provision in the 5th Amendment that allows We, The People to take control of government. It is the only provision our founding fathers made to arrest a tyrannical or incompetent federal government. The 5th Amendment says,

“…on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States [now 34 states], shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States [38 states].”

–Bill of Rights, Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution

This is a high bar, and will take much time and effort, but it is naïve to believe that the elected congress and federal bureaucracy “lifers” who created the current mess is capable, or even willing to fix it. To date, 19 states have completed application for Convention, North Carolina has passed the application in one legislative chamber. Hawaii appears to be close to passing, meaning that only 13 more states are required.

Opponents argue that a 5th Amendment Convention of States will “destroy our democracy,” but it is hard to imagine how the process that created the Republic will now destroy it.

If you want to learn more, look no further than . So here’s to hope for 2024.

I don’t yet have any firm plans for 2024 trips, although I am considering a slow journey through historic locations in Kansas and Missouri. We will see how it goes.

“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

John Stuart Mill, 19th Century English philosopher

Happy New Year.

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