Posts Tagged ‘Spain’

An Early Retirement Gift to Myself

I recently completed thirty years of service with the Federal government and became eligible to retire.  And although I am not retiring quite yet, I decided to buy myself an anniversary gift to celebrate the milestone.  And when I saw this bike on eBay I knew what the gift to myself should be.

The newest addition to my collection of bikes is a Surly Disc Trucker.  Surly‘s Long Haul Trucker (LHT) enjoys a reputation as one of the best riding and most value-packed touring bikes out there.  It’s been around long enough to be tested in the real world, in all kinds of places, with all kinds of loads on all kinds of roads.  My 2012 Surly Disc Trucker is an LHT but upgraded with disc brakes to provide a bit more braking performance than the standard rim-brakes that the LHT provides.  Other features of this bike include:  thicker-walled and larger-diameter 4130 CroMoly steel frame tubing than standard sport-touring frames;  a longer wheelbase than you’ll find on a road or hybrid bike, making for maximum stability, comfort and responsive handling under load, and all the braze-ons you could want, from rack mounts to water bottle cage bosses to spare spoke holders.  And the componentry includes:  a Cane Creek 40, 1-1/8˝ threadless black headset;  a Shimano UN-55 square taper interface; a 68 x 118mm bottom bracket;  a Shimano Sora FD-3403 silver front derailleur and Shimano XT RD-M771 rear derailleur; an Andel RSC6, 26/36/48t. square taper interface crankset, and; a Shimano HG-50, 11/12/14/16/18/21/24/28 /32t cassette.  Finally, and with all due respect to Surly’s limited factory available colors of Super Dark Green or Blacktacular, the color of this bike has also been upgraded to custom powder-coated Hi-Vis Neon Yellow.  Combined with matching Deda bar tape and Hi-Vis yellow Ortlieb waterproof front and back panniers, the bike will be almost impossible not to see when I’m out touring.

And going on occasional long-distance bike tours is something I’m looking forward to doing after I retire.  I’ve already planned and mapped out a few different bike tours I will be doing.  One is a tour of the lighthouses of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which would involve riding from north to south down the coast, and then looping back around on the mainland and ending up back at the northern-most lighthouse again.  I also will being doing a tour of the Great Alleghany Passage and C&O Canal Towpath, a 336-mile route without any cars or motor vehicles that connects Pittsburgh with D.C.  Along the way it also allows riders to take in a number of small historic towns, state parks and other attractions along the way.  A bike tour along the lower coast of Florida on down to Key West is also on my list.

While there are plenty of other bike tours I would also like to do here in the United States, I would also like to do a bike tour across Northern Spain.  The route there is called El Camino de Santiago.  Also referred to in English as The Way of Saint James, it is a network of spiritual pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Greater in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

It’s been a long journey to get to the point of being eligible to retire.  And I look forward to more journeys in the future.

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The George Gordon Meade Memorial

The George Gordon Meade Memorial

The George Gordon Meade Memorial is a public artwork by American artist Charles Grafly, and is located at 3rd Street and Pennsylvania Avenue  (MAP) in northwest D.C. Residents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania commissioned the sculpture to commemorate the man who is best known as the Union General who defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg, which not only involved the largest number of casualties of the Civil War, but is considered a major turning point of war. The statue is part of a group of statues entitled “The Civil War Monuments in Washington, D.C.,” which are spread out through much of the central and northwest areas of the city. They are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.

Born the eighth of eleven children, George Gordon Meade was born in Cadiz, Spain, where his father worked as a U.S. naval officer.  Following his father’s death when he was only 13 years old, Meade’s family found itself on the brink of financial bankruptcy and returned to the United States in 1828 to settle in Pennsylvania.  In 1831, at the age of 16, Meade received an appointment to the United State Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1835. He then served in the U.S. Army briefly during the Seminole War before retiring. He worked in the private sector as a civil engineer until 1842, when he asked to be reinstated to the Army. He was appointed a second lieutenant in the Corps of Topographical Engineers, and served constructing lighthouses and breakwaters in New Jersey and Florida. Four years later during the Mexican-American War, he was present but saw no major combat at several major battles. He returned to topographical work after the war in near the Great Lakes until his services were again called upon at the outbreak of the Civil War.

Despite being one of the few Union generals who began his life and career in a foreign country, Meade quickly rose through the ranks. Meade was promoted from captain to brigadier general, and helped work on the defenses of Washington before joining the army of the Potomac under General George B. McClellan. He was involved in the Seven Days battles at Mechanicsville, Gaines’ Mill, and Glendale, where he received several serious wounds. After recuperating, he went on to fight at the battle of Second Manassas, the battle of South Mountain, Antietam, the battle of Fredericksburg, and the battle of Chancellorsville. By 1863, Meade was given command of the Army of the Potomac, succeeding General Joseph Hooker just one month before meeting and defeating General Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg. Subsequent to his victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, Meade was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army, and went on to be involved in the Bristoe Station and Mine Run campaigns, and the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. General-in-Chief of Union Forces Ulysses S. Grant requested that Meade be promoted to major general, which was approved by President Abraham Lincoln. Meade served under General Grant for the last year of the war, but was not present at the surrender of Lee’s army in Appomattox, and was largely overshadowed by Grant.

After the war, Meade returned to Pennsylvania and held several military commands. While still on active duty, he died in1872 in Philadelphia, from complications of his old wounds combined with pneumonia.

The D.C. memorial to Meade consists of a cylinder shaped statue featuring a figure of the General on the front. Meade stands in front of six allegorical figures standing side by side. They represent Loyalty, Chivalry, Fame, Progress, Military Courage and Energy, and were thought by the artist as the traits needed to make a “great” general. Loyalty and Chivalry are shown removing Meade’s cloak, which symbolizes the “cloak of battle.” Loyalty also holds a wreath and garlands above Meade’s head, representing the Meade’s deeds. There is also a figure representing War featured on the back of the memorial. Atop the monument is a gold finial with the state seal of Pennsylvania, and an inscription at the base of the monument reads, “The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to Major General George Gordon Meade, who commanded the Union forces at Gettysburg.”

The memorial was originally installed in 1922 at Union Square near the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, but was moved into National Park Service storage in 1966 due to construction. In 1983 it was finally installed at its current location.

 

SimónBolívar1
The equestrian statue of Simón Bolívar, located at the intersection of Virginia Avenue, 18th Street and C Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, is a public artwork by Felix de Weldon. It depicts Bolívar wearing a military uniform with great detail, including the gold medallion that was given to him by George Washington.  He is shown riding his horse, and holding a sword in his right hand and wielding it upward over his head.

Bolívar is remembered as “El Libertador,” or The Liberator, so it is befitting that his statue is part of a series, entitled “Statues of the Liberators,” honoring liberators and other national figures of western-hemisphere countries.  The statues can be found along Virginia Avenue between 18th and 25th Streets, near the headquarters of the Organization of American States in northwest D.C.’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The statues were erected by various Latin American countries, and are maintained by the National Park Service.  The sculpture of Bolívar was authorized by the U.S. Congress in July of 1949, and installed at its current location in June of 1955.  It was donated by and the installation was paid for by the government of Venezuela.

Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar y Palacios Ponte y Blanco, more commonly known as Simón Bolívar, was the son of a Venezuelan aristocrat of Spanish descent.  He was born to wealth and position, and travelled to and was educated in Europe, where the thought of independence for Hispanic America took root in Bolívar’s imagination.  The Latin American independence movement was launched a year after Bolívar’s return, as Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Spain unsettled Spanish authority.  Bolívar became an outstanding military general and charismatic political leader, and played a key role in Latin America’s successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire.  He not only helped drive the Spanish from northern South America, but also was instrumental in the formative years of the republics that sprang up once the Spanish had gone.

Having also traveled to the United States, Bolívar was an admirer of President George Washington, with whom he shared two commonalities.  First, like President Washington, Bolívar was a Freemason.  George Washington and Bolívar also shared the same objective, namely, independence for their people and the establishment of democratic states.  But Bolívar differed in political philosophy from George Washington and the leaders of the revolution in the United States on two important matters.  First, unlike his northern counterparts, Bolívar was staunchly anti-slavery.  Second, while he was an admirer of the American independence, he did not believe that the same governmental system could function in Latin America, and establishing a republic there would require making some concessions in terms of liberty.

Bolívar is considered by historians as one of the most powerful and influential figures in world political history.  Yet today, outside of Latin America where he is still practically worshipped, his name and who he was is almost unknown.