Dave Volk: Down The Road - 2014

November 20, 2014

First blizzard of the year has hit so most definitely time to throw the golf clubs and summer clothes in the car and head south.

Rapid City, SD - Nov. 10
Volk Snow 395

Hard to believe this will be my fourth trip to Florida and my fourth edition of “Down The Road” travel blog.

I’ve been a bit of a slug this summer and have stayed pretty close to home. Golfed a lot, which nonetheless didn’t seem to improve my game. Anyway, more than ready to begin my annual pilgrimage.

Am leaving even earlier than last year and will depart on November 21st. Like last year, when I left before Christmas, I will once again be away from my Midwest roots for another major holiday, Thanksgiving. Again, as I mentioned last year, I was in Vietnam in 1970 for all the holidays that year.

I remember well that Vietnam Thanksgiving. I and some others were coming back by chopper to our basecamp late at night. As we trudged; cold, tired and wet, back to our hooch’s we were surprised to see that the mess hall was still open. More surprising was that they were still serving turkey, dressing, potatoes and gravy, which was hot and delicious! So, even in that depressing place, so very far from home, I found something to be thankful for………thankful that my fellow soldiers, who worked in the mess hall, had been kind enough to stay open late so that GIs like us could enjoy a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving

Though I will be on the road over Thanksgiving not to worry as my wonderful friends in Atlanta have graciously invited me to their place for Thanksgiving and won’t be eating turkey roll in some Georgia diner on the 27th. So, gobble, gobble, you’all.

I re-read some of my previous blogs so as to keep repetitions to a minimum, and I was struck by how often I mentioned that one of the great benefits of my road trips was the opportunity to see old friends along the way, and how important it was not to lose touch with people who are important to you. Those comments became particularly poignant this year as I lost two close friends; among those people I saw every year on my trip.

Charlie Smith, former Treasurer of Wisconsin, and Harlan Mathews, former US Senator and Treasurer of Tennessee. Both WWII veterans who spent a lifetime serving their country and state and raising wonderful families. They were dear friends who I will miss a lot. I am so glad I got to see them these past few years on my journeys.


I am going to take a somewhat different route this year, although as always I will be at the vagaries of the weather. I am also going to slow down a little. No more 600-700 mile days.

First stop will be St. Joe, Missouri. It is a neat, historical town, which has an excellent western museum including the house where Jesse James was killed.

In 1882 Jesse was living in St. Joe under the name of Thomas Howard and was entertaining his friends the Ford brothers, Charley and Bob. 

While dusting a picture Bob Ford shot him in the back for the reward money.

Volk JesseJames01 500
Volk JesseJames02 190
Library of Congress

Later, while living in Colorado, and bragging about his deed someone returned the favor and shot Bob Ford in the face with a double-barreled shotgun.

"But that dirty little coward /
That shot Mr. Howard /
Has laid poor Jesse in his grave.”

Volk Monument 203

 From there it is on to Springfield, Illinois. I have always wanted to visit Abraham Lincoln’s gravesite and see some of the places from Lincoln’s early days.

A good friend Brian Duffy lives there and I will camp with him. Duff is one of a whole gang of crazy Irishmen from Illinois that I met while working with the Vietnam Veteran’s Leadership Program under Reagan. He’s a good guy except for the fact that he is a Navy man, and seems to take a little too much pleasure in winning money from me every year after the Army-Navy football game. This year will be different and the Black Knights of the Hudson are going to give those Annapolis Squids what for. Of course, I am a Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bear fan so what the hell do I know about winning sports team.

From Springfield it is an easy glide down to Nashville and after seeing friends there will head for Atlanta and settle into the ‘Volk Room’ at my friends the Smith’s for Thanksgiving.

As in the past you can post comments, thoughts or suggestions to the blog or onto Facebook.

I will have another post after leaving Nashville and another upon landing on the beach at Casa Del Mar in Longboat Key.

Hope you all have had a good summer and enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving, and glad you are joining me going ‘Down the Road.’

VoteVolk 73PS: I was going to write a postscript about the recent election but each time I tried it just came out grumpy. So I’ll just say that, like most people I am glad its over, and wish those elected well. Although I spent many years in politics I do not miss it and much prefer spending time with 3rd and 4th graders through my children’s books.


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