A Redleg Ride to Los Alamos

Here is a motorcycling blog I’ve been reading lately, Redleg’s Rides. Charlie6 went to Los Alamos recently. There are a couple of good pictures of the “Fat Man” and the “Little Boy” in the post. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, head on over and find out.

The Northern Paiute of Northern Nevada Prior to 1860

The Northern Paiute people made their life in present day northwest Nevada over thousands of years. They lived off the land and moved regularly following the animals or the ripening season of the plants. Due to the rugged and spare environment, their culture was one of hospitality and limited possessions. Archaeological sites near present day Lovelock, Nevada indicate the Paiute’s ancestors lived there back to 2,500 BC. However, the arrival of the Americans and competition with them for scarce resources would change their way of life.

Through Paiute folklore, we also know that there were other indigenous people in the area as well. Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins in her book, Life Among The Piutes, tells a traditional Paiute story about a tribe of cannibals that lived near the Northern Paiutes and spoke the same language. The Paiutes had tried to bring the tribe to peace, but could not get them to give up their cannibalism, so this tribe of red-haired people were exterminated by the Paiutes in a great cave fire. Winnemucca Hopkins claimed to have a traditional dress that was trimmed with the red hair.1

From the early 1820s, maybe earlier, a few whites had explored the Great Basin area. Fur trappers had made their way down from the Snake River valley in the north. Fremont’s expedition had traveled through and mapped the area in 1844. There were hostilities with some of the white parties, but the volume of contact remained low for decades. However, from the 1840s, the real threat to the Paiute way of life came from the immigrant trails through their homeland. At first, the Paiute and the transient settlers managed to co-exist, but as the gold and silver rushes engulfed the area around Virginia City, whites began to settle and spread out into the Paiute heartland. The core problem was not merely a question of personal space, but a more basic conflict over culture and the use of scarce natural resources in modern or traditional ways. This made the opportunities for conflict much more numerous.

You can find out more about the Northern Paiute in my book on The Paiute War of 1860.

You can also use my Battlefield Biker Ride Guide to the Paiute War of 1860 to visit the sites associated with the war.

Buy the Battlefield Biker™ Ride Guide to the Paiute War of 1860

1 pp. 73-75 Hopkins, Sarah Winnemucca. Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims. Reno, Nev: University of Nevada Press, 1994.

Image credit: Public Domain. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.

U.S. Army Rangers Destroy German Artillery at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day 6 June 1944

In between Omaha and Utah beaches in Normandy lies a promontory called Pointe du Hoc. Prior to D-Day on 6 June 1944, the Germans had six 155mm artillery pieces that could effectively fire on either Omaha or Utah beaches. Pointe du Hoc (typo’ed as Pointe du Hoe on many D-Day documents and maps) was target number one for the Americans to neutralize.

Feeling the pointe was unassailable from the sea, the Germans focussed most of the defenses facing rearward. The Americans, knowing this, sent their elite infantrymen, Companies D, E & F of the 2nd Ranger Batallion, to scale the seaside 100 foot vertical walls of the pointe in an attempt to surprise the Germans.

The pointe was subjected to an unprecedented aerial and naval bombardment prior to the invasion. You can see the effects of this in the giant craters that still exist here today. The firing lifted just before the Rangers were to land at 06:30. This is where things begian to go wrong.

At approximately 06:20, the Rangers’ landing craft were heading for the wrong pointe (Pointe de la Percee, a similar pointe) 2 miles closer to Omaha beach. The Ranger leader, Lieutenant-Colonel James Rudder, noticed the error and corrected the flotilla. However, to correct, the Rangers had to run parallel to the coast and against a strong tide. Swells engulfed several boats, including a supply boat. This meant they were 40 minutes late, short of men, food and ammunition. The delay meant the Germans had begun to re-occupy the pointe after the aerial and naval bombardment had lifted.

The Rangers landed at the base of the cliffs at approximately 07:10. Using grappling hooks and ladders, the first elements were up in 10 minutes. The Germans killed and wounded 15 by firing down on the Rangers and dropping grenades on them, but supporting naval fire suppressed them enough to allow the Rangers to get on top of the pointe.

The next problem came when the Rangers realized that the guns they had come for were not there. However, being trained to never dally around, the Rangers began to move toward their next objective which was to get to the main road (today’s D514) and set up a blocking position. Some Rangers had to fight from trench to trench to move forward, but others had a clear run to the road. Once at the road, elements from the 3 companies that had landed on the pointe set up blocking positions on the road and began immediate patrolling of the area. A CP element and an element trapped by snipers and an anti-aircraft position on the western side remained on the pointe.

Back at the road, the patrols were out. During 2 of these patrols, the missing German guns were found hidden in an orchard. One of the patrols with two Ranger sergeants moved to the south of their positions along a farm track and hedge row. At the end of the track, they found the heavily camouflaged guns in the orchard. They could hear their German crews being briefed and formed up in the distance. The Rangers destroyed the guns with thermite grenades. They quickly made their way back to the highway and sent a messenger to report to the CP back at the pointe.

After landing late in the face of determined opposition and not initially finding the guns, the Rangers had accomplished their mission in approximately 2 hours. Colonel Rudder sent the message that still inspires soldiers today; “mission accomplished – need ammunition and reinforcements – many casualties.”
Rudder thought that his scheduled relief would arrive at any minute, but only a single platoon had made it through. The near disaster at Omaha Beach was preventing the mass of the Rangers’ organic reinforcements from reaching Pointe du Hoc. Rudder and his decimated force were alone. Over the next 2 days, there were 5 German counter-attacks. The Rangers, initially strung out over a mile from pointe to the road, were forced back inside a 200 meter perimeter. They fought for their lives on low ammunition and little food to avoid being pushed off the cliffs and into the sea. In the end, the 190 man strong Ranger force was down to 90 that could defend the position. On D+2, the relief force arrived. The Rangers had taken 70% casualties, but a near mythical founding chapter of an elite force had been written.

In my current life it is hard to imagine the amount of personal sacrifice required for such an undertaking as Pointe du Hoc. This is one of the reasons I ride to these historic battlefields. I may never have to do what these Rangers did, but I have a responsibility for keeping the institutional memory alive. An excellent description of the action can be found at the US Army’s Center for Military History.

Not far from Pointe du Hoc is the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. It is well worth the visit and the new interpretive center there is superb.

Super Sausage Cafe and Other Cool Places

One of Britain’s coolest features for riders – cafes catering to bikers near great riding roads and tracks. This is the Super Sausage Cafe. I like the fact that Gareth Owens of the My Biking Life blog is documenting these.

Best Lessons from the Zen Motorcyclist

I found The Zen Motorcyclist blog today. I was not aware that Bud Miller was the same as the guy in RoadRunner Magazine.

Anyway, he has posted a version of the article he had in Roadrunner back in July 2016. It is about the lessons one learns in riding motorcycles and how to share them with others new to bikes.

There were a couple of great quotes and I recommend reading the whole thing, but below was my favorite

I’d tell him that the confidence he gains from riding will reach into other parts of his life and that things which have always scared him no longer will. He’ll grow to fear no situation, person, or circumstance; he’ll come to realize that the obstacle is the path. “Motorcycles will make you formidable,” I’d say.

I wholeheartedly agree. When I am out on my bike, especially in bad weather, looking for a historical point of interest that no GPS is going to guide me to, I feel strong and formidable. I have more gumption, more discipline, and more drive than in any other part of my life. The bike is my steed and I am a traveler that needs no excuse, no introduction, no reason to exist. I just am and that makes me happy. I think that exploring historical battlefields helps with this feeling. I can imagine what life was like at that time. I can imagine the conditions. I can get the feeling of being part of history, not just reading about it.

Thanks, Bud.

Vietnam and Laos Tour with Ride Expeditions

This would be a fun trip. I’d like it even more if it had a Ho Chi Minh trail element to it.

Image Credit: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Operation Cobra, the American Breakout of the Normandy Beachhead

On the 24th of July 1944, the German forces around St Lo, in Normandy, did not have a clue about the hell that was about to be unleashed upon them. Their dispositions looked like this:
German positions prior to Operation Cobra
To the west of St Lo, you can see the area that the Americans chose to breakout from the close hedgerow fighting that had so favoured the Germans for the months of June and July 1944.
Operation Cobra Map

The Allies delivered a devastating aerial bombardment on the German front lines in the area on 25 July 1944. The line did not immediately give way. This was due to the American infantry not pushing quickly at first. Who could blame them? They had just spent 2 months fighting in the hedgerows and had learned to be cautious. Additionally, the lingering shock of the bombardment, which also killed and wounded several hundred Americans was still wearing off.
However, the American Commander on the ground, General J. Lawton Collins, saw no need to delay and committed his exploitation forces on the morning of the 26th. This was risky, because if the Germans had managed to slow down the attack further, it would have meant an American traffic jam right on the front lines. Luckily, they couldn’t and the Americans pushed right through and found the German line disintegrating like it had not done for the Americans before in Normandy.
Thus began the great race from the beachheads to the German frontier that occurred over the next 2 months, including the liberation of Paris and most of the rest of France.

I rode through the breakout zone in 2008. The ride from Gavray to Avranches is an especially nice twisty rode

Ride Recommendation

Check out the Terre Liberte’ route of Cobra- La Percee (the Breakout). Here’s a Google map of part of the D7 route that I rode.

Change the Oil, Keep Riding

This is why I love my Suzuki V-Strom 650. This point from Motorcyclist reader Dean Zatkowsky/ Ojai, CA is exactly the way I feel,

Since it has proven to be the perfect motorcycle for the boring rider I really am (as opposed to who I imagine I am while ogling your magazine)

I bought the bike based on a lot of articles like this. The V-Strom 650 is a light and care-free bike that needs little to keep it going. It handles a passenger well when someone wants a ride and that same capability lets it haul a lot of camping gear in line without huge panniers hanging off the side.

I got rid of my big adventure bikes and move to this 650 for the road and light off road travel and a Honda CRF 250 L for my off road riding. Both of them bought new cost less than one of the big adventure bikes.

As you can tell, I’m very happy with mine.

Trans America Trail

This looks very cool.


Freedom and Whiskey Go Together

Cross Posted at Hillbilly Haiku and The New Yeoman.

I actually agree with the premise, but this video, though entertaining, is more about the new whiskey craze than talking about how whiskey is related to freedom.

I’d like to see a full length documentary about how whiskey, commerce, and treating people like adults is what makes freedom.

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