Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Road South

After the friendship reunion with the gang from Florida, we began making our way southward. We will visit family and get our annual medical tests and dental cleanings done in middle Tennessee before moving on to Auburn for a football game or two and a visit to Auburn's Vet School Clinic. 

First Stop:  West Point Military Academy

There are a few things at West Point we missed on our last visit. 

I strolled Lexie and Ozzie around leisurely while Wayne busied himself with history.  We snapped a few photos.

The Honorable Army Mule
The mule has been West Point's mascot since 1899 and promotes the spirit of the Corps of Cadets.
Mules were very important to the Army in the late 1800's and on to World War I.
While not used as standard Army mounts, mules were known to be stronger,
more surefooted and more intelligent than horses. 
Added bonus: they eat less.

West Point Cadet Chapel was dedicated in 1910.
It has a cross-shaped floor plan, soaring arches and ornate stone carvings.
This chapel hosts the largest chapel pipe organ in the world with more than 23,000 individual pipes.
 The campus view from the chapel was beautiful the day we were there -- clear with bright blue skies.

Looking out over some of the main buildings of West Point from Cadet Chapel.

Finally, we spent some time around West Point Military Academy's Michie Stadium.

Michie Stadium is named for USMA cadet Dennis Mahan Michie, born at West Point in 1892.
Michie was killed in action in San Juan, Cuba in 1898. 
Eight years before his death, Dennis Michie organized the first football game played at West Point Military Academy.

The USMA football equipment truck.  Nice.

Second Stop: Carlisle, Pennsylvania 

That's where we took on our first hitchhikers -- the dreaded brown marmorated stink bugs. They became an immediate nuisance and caused us to keep the coach windows closed. While we worked hard to keep them out, we knew they were getting into the coach at every opportunity.

Third: Manassas, Virginia --

Catching Up on Forty-Two Years...

Another bonus in retirement is having time to look up old friends. Another bonus in retirement during this particular time in history is having access to data at your fingertips and cell phones.   Through membership in one of those "people finding" groups, Wayne gained access to names and telephone numbers of old high school friends, Army buddies and college buddies. 

To this point, he's surprised his old Army Sargent in Franklin, North Carolina and now he's found another of the guys with whom he served at Grand Isle, New York. He was thrilled to hear his friend Richard Drake's voice on the phone and couldn't wait till we reached Manassas, near Richard's home.

What a great reunion this would be!

Richard (L) and Wayne in Richard's fabulous gourmet kitchen.
Richard's family was the original Drakes Cakes Drakes. The Drakes Cake name and the original recipes have recently been purchased and the old Drakes Cake Devil Dogs are back on store shelves.  Of course that was cause for still more celebration. 

With the Devil Dogs
While Wayne had often heard Richard speak of the sweet girl who would eventually become his wife, he had never met Kim. This trip we did meet her and fell in love with her.  Such great folks.

Blurry but beautiful, Kim, Richard and Wayne
In all, Wayne enjoyed three short but valuable visits with Richard. We did our best to encourage Richard and Kim to consider the RV'ing lifestyle.  What great fun it would be to cross paths with them along the road!  We will see.

Our campground is at nearby Haymarket not far from the significant Civil War battlefields of First Manassas. 

First Manassas

The First Battle of Bull Run, known as First Manassas by Confederate forces, was fought on July 21, 1861. While there, we returned to the battlefields and re-studied the Civil War during that time.  We're both always saddened at this part of our country's history. 

Looking out from Henry Hill Visitors Center toward Brawner's Farm property.
In addition to the Henry Hill Visitor's Center and Brawners Farm, the Stone House is available to visit. The day we were there, the Stone House was closed, but the grounds were available to walk. 

This poster puts America's war casualties into perspective.
Each red soldier represents 10,000 deaths.
Notice how the Civil War casualties dwarfs those of World War II.

There's plenty to do in this are to 'while away' a few hours. We explored the museum and saw the displays of uniforms, weapons and field gear.  There's a 45 minute film shown at the Visitors Center, but we didn't watch it this time.  We did browse the bookstore, but left without a purchase.

There's also a self-guided one mile battlefield trail that we didn't walk as lunchtime was drawing near and that's an event we just don't miss.

Another "to do" item at the Battle of First Manassas is to pay honor and have your picture taken standing alongside the statue of Stonewall Jackson.

"There stands Jackson like a stone wall" -- statue base inscription.

The dreadful mormorant stink bugs, first encountered in Carlisle, Pennsylvania have overcome the family farm campground at Haymarket.  The awful boogers literally will fly into your mouth. I'm sure all the coach openings are invaded and we'll have stink bugs to fight for a long, long time. 

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