31 May 2011

NWS Earle, NJ - WOW!

We sort of happened upon this base in northern NJ when we were looking for a place to rest for several days before going to Newport RI and all the energy and activity the Girls require!  The base is large in land area but not big personnel wise.  It has plenty of igloos for storing munitions, something I can understand!
Here is what those Navy 2000 pound shells look like before it reaches its destination.  Don't think the Navy has ships that fire shells this big anymore.
The RV park is small, about 20 spaces, but nicely arranged and only had about 6 RV's in it while we were there; all had FL tags except one.  The MWR staff was exceptionally helpful and we enjoyed our stay.  I got some nice carving in on my T-12 Roadester and it helped me build some confidence and skill.  The inclines were long, but gradual so I got a good workout without getting frustrated by having to get off and walk.  My deathgrip on the handlebars is getting looser and I am remembering to stand-up and keep my arms straight as I climb the inclines. 

We toured some of the area including Ft Monmouth, about 20 miles away.  It is scheduled to close soon under the last BRAC.  The PX was closing a few days after we were there.  The Commissary looked like it might be staying open; there was not one on NWS Earle. 

We left there Fri AM at 0800 for Newport RI about 240 miles away through NY City.  Got off to a bad start when I turned south on a limited access highway immediately outside the base.  It took an hour and 20 miles of wondering thru the small towns around the base to get back on the road in the right direction. 

About an hour + later we hit the NY City traffic.  I figured everyone ought to drive an RV through NY City once!  Things were not going too bad, we were in a traffic jam/parking lot approaching the George Washington Bridge for about an hour, but traffic was moving, just very slowly.  Then I got a leg cramp and despite my best efforts I could not stay behind the wheel!  Fortunately, in the jam BJ and I could switch places safely and quickly.  She did a magnificent job of driving through the City.  And, I worked most of the time on getting rid of the cramp.  Once we got across the bridge, traffic picked up fairly quickly; roads were very rough though, I expect it is the winter wear and tear.

Once we got to the CT boarder and shortly thereafter the Welcome Station we stopped and I took back over the driving.  It was about 120 miles across CT then we entered RI.  We followed a SR to Newport and came in from the east.  Several scenic bridge crossings on that route.  We arrived at the Melville Pond Campground about 1630 and were ready for a drink and some relaxation.  But, first things first.  The Girls arrived shortly afterward to welcome us and that took priority.

BJ and the Girls!
We have been here a few days and are enjoying it, even if it is too cold!!  It is foggy in the AM and sun does not come out until 1400 it seems.  But, we are enjoying time with the Girls and exploring some new territory.  Last time we were here was 35+ years ago to attend  friends' wedding in the middle of the winter.  All we remember is snow!!

More reports to follow soon!!

24 May 2011

Gettysburg Battlefield

While at Ft Mead, south of Baltimore, we decided to visit Gettysburg, about 60 mile NW of us.  We made arrangements to meet Dennis and Judy, our friends from the FamCamp at Andrews AFB, there.  They had left Andrews and were in a campground near Gettysburg.   

Our vehicles, both land and water!
We met up with them at the Visitors Center and after a quick tour of that very nice and modern facility headed out on the self-guided auto tour.  We stopped first at the battle ground next to the cemetery where Lincoln made his Gettysburg address.  As we walked the cemetery we were struck by the great number of unknown soldiers buried there, both Confederate and Union soldiers were buried there.   All were American Servicemen.

As we continued to tour the battlefields we were struck by the great variety and number of monuments that were placed all around the battlefield.  You had monuments to the Generals, to the soldiers, to various units and to the losses the States suffered.  There were monuments from Southern States as well as Northern States.

A general's monument

A soldier's monument

The PA Monument which we happened to see on our way out after we enjoyed a late lunch with Dennis and Judy was the largest monument by far at Gettysburg - they were the "host" I guess.  It had the name of every PA soldier that fought at Gettysburg engraved on the monument.  The leading PA generals names were chiseled in the granite walls, the other names were on bronze plagues surrounding the base and lower level of the monument.

The PA Monument at Gettysburg
It was an interesting afternoon in nice weather, cool but not raining for a change!

To avoid some of the confusion about getting there, on the way home BJ pulled out her iPhone and practiced her map reading skills on it.  While she needs some more experience, it did help us get back to Ft Mead without some of the scenic tours I have been known to conduct!

We have enjoyed our chance to tour the early history of our wonderful country, but we are getting anxious to see the Girls and get on with some warm weather.  We are missing both!!

Valley Forge, PA

From our RV Park just inside NJ we headed to Valley Forge, the winter encampment for the Revolutionary War Army.  It was only about a 60 mile trip but it was raining all the way and of course we moved from one congested Interstate to the next.  We got off at Springfield, PA to find a place to eat.  Lo-&Behold there was a Moe's - but, it didn't look like the Moe's we know but we went anyway.  Well, this is apparently Homer Simpson's Moe's!  Inside there was a nearly life size plastic statute (didn't expect bronze, I hope) of the Simpson family overlooking the dining area.   Fortunately, my back was to them so I enjoyed my meal.  It was very good!!  We moved on and after a few wrong turns and scenic detours we arrived at the visitor's center in the rolling hills that dominate the area.

Valley Forge was the third of the eight American winter encampments during the Revolutionary War. It is the best known of the eight, however, because it is recognized as the birthplace of the Continental Army.
The Arch at Valley Forage
General von Stuben, a German officer that was part of General George Washington's staff, was a major factor in the birth of the undisciplined group that started the encampment after being defeated at Philadelphia by the Brits.  It then withdrew to Valley Forge; close enough to keep and eye on the Brits, but far enough away to prevent surprise attacks.   Von Stuben, started organizing the various disparate units into a cohesive fighting force.  He instilled discipline into the troops and taught them how to fight as an effective Army rather then a bunch of separate groups!! 

One of the first priorities was providing shelter for the men.  The men built small huts that they would live in for the winter!   Each hut housed 12 men and a fireplace and not much room for anything else.  
A 12-man hut

I bet by the end of the winter these were real cozy cabins with 12 men in each one of them!!  As a matter of fact by late Spring, Washington had some of the soldiers move across the river to a more "healthy" campground and soon they all were there!
Interior left side of a hut

There were several references and monuments mentioning the unknown soldiers that died at Vally Forge.  About 12,000 men started the encampment and by the time it was over there was only about 6,000 troops left.
The leadership of Washington seemed to be an important element and a key part of the effort.  His quarters and office were located there and it helped insure he was in direct contact with the troops.  They saw him frequently and that was important.  

It was a fascinating story of an epic event in our Nation's early days.   While it was not the coldest or longest winter encampment it seemed to be the most important as it was the crucible that a rag-tag group entered and the Continental Army emerged from.  Even though victory at Yorktown was still several years away, this was an important step that contributed mightily to that victory.  

23 May 2011

Moving on - Again

We departed Ft Mead and headed north on I-95.  Our destination was Timberlane Campground in Clarksboro, NJ across the Schuylkill River from Philadelphia, PA.  
Jojo Kemp

BJ and Jo
We enjoyed our stay at Ft Mead and highlight was Sunday afternoon when Joe Kemp and his 5 year old son, Jojo, spent the afternoon with us at the RV.  It was the first time we had seen Jojo since he was a newborn infant 5 years ago.  He is about a month older then Reagan and we think they would be good friends.  It was good to catch up with Joe and fun playing with Jojo.

Joe was immediately interested in our Trikkes and knew about them.  He had seen an info commercial on them on TV several times and had an idea how they worked.  In about 5 minutes he was up and going on one.  He made several loops around the campground including the inclines that are challenging to new riders especially. 

Joe on my T-12 Trikke

17 May 2011

Baby, It is Cold Outside

This is ridiculous!  We have enjoyed our touring of mid-Atlantic area where there is so much US history!  We moved from Andrews AFB just outside the Beltway SE of Washington DC to Ft Mead about half-way between Washington and Baltimore.  And, the weather added rain and fog to the cool temps.  I understand summer is here from the last weekend in July to the first weekend in Aug.  In the meantime we are cold!!

In DC the days were bright, but not warm and the nights were down right cool - too cold to be comfortable sitting around outside the RV.   I could stay warm by huddling around the grill if I was cooking!!

Because the FamCamp was behind the Golf Course and most of the road was not paved I had no chance to do any carving on my Trikke I am sorry to say.  I am getting the hang of my new T-12 Roadster and better able to climb those inclines I use to think were mountains.  Here at Ft Mead the terrain is rolling, but rather gently, so I can do fairly well on it.  Today I found a warehouse row that was about 1/2 mile long and level and not used so it gave me some good ground to carve.  However, there were regular cracks in the pavement (frost heaves it looks like) so it was not perfect.  BJ @ First Coast Trikkes told me of a rails to trails path in RI that I am looking forward to riding.  It is 14 miles long, i.e. it runs from one end of RI to the other, I think.  I have Googled rails-to-trails and found an abundance of them.  Some as short as a half-mile (not interested) and some  way too long with many in the right size!  May try one before we leave this area, will certainly start looking for them as combining geo-caching and carving on the Trikke should add to the enjoyment of both!!  Even though some geo-caching terrain will not be compatible with carving!!

My fingers are cramping up from the cold, need to get my gloves back on!!  Good-by cold world!!

15 May 2011

A Tale of Two Mills

BJ wanted to go to Savage Mills, which I understood was a shopping mall not far from Ft Mead, MD.  We found it without much trouble in the nearby town of Savage.  As we approached it I thought we were in the wrong place.  It was a scenic venue in a hollow along the Little Patuxent River.   It was a collection of buildings built from 1816 until about a century ago.  Now it is a collection of arts and crafts dealers and antique shops and used book shops with a nice deli and a first class tavern.   BJ immediately started in on the arts and crafts shops, my mission was to walk off the lunch we had finished a little earlier so I could enjoy a beer in the tavern.  As I walked around I started reading the historic notes about the facility.  The main building was the Carding Building, a 5 story building along the river bank.

The first three stories were built with the stones from the nearby riverbed and when it got to be too difficult to lift the stones above the 3rd floor they started making bricks from the local mud to finish the rest of the building.  The power was furnished by a large mill wheel driven by the river.  This was a mill that took raw cotton and produced canvas sails and other military cloth goods thru the Civil War for the Union.  It remained in production until after WW II!

Several other buildings were added after the Civil War to help in the processing of the cotton and the plant remained in production until about 1947.   After that for several years it was a "Christmas DisplayVillage" and in 1974 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.  Today the historic complex of buildings with over 175,000 square feet is now home to major collector quality antique centers, home furnishing stores, craft galleries, artist studios, specialty shops, destination restaurants and banquet facilities.

Next we headed for Arundel Mills between Savage Mills and Ft Mead.  Once we found it, it was an eyeopener!  It was a mall, a KING size mall.  Very noticeably larger then any mall we have seen in Orlando or Jacksonville.   The few times I go to a mall I find a parking place outside of the popular locations and walk to the mall.  Well, at this mall the entire parking lot was full.  Full to overflowing; we had to drive around waiting for someone to leave so we could park.   

Arundel Mills
This is a regional mall between Baltimore and Washington, two huge population centers so it has an ulta-large pool of potential customers and that it is nearly a mile long and over a half-mile across!!  There is some separate off site parking to handle the crowds with shuttle running to and fro to the mall itself.  One of the many anchors is a Medieval Times entertainment complex with the knights on horses, etc!!

13 May 2011

Touring the Capital!

While in Washington DC we stayed busy touring.  We met a couple in the FamCamp, Dennis and Judy, that joined us most of the time and that made it more enjoyable.  On other visits to DC we have intended to use the subway system but never managed to quite make it.  We drove into town, with the accompanying frustrations and delays.  Well, with Judy and Dennis we headed off to the nearest Metro station about 6 miles from Andrews AFB.  

Parking was not a problem.  We could opt for the Kiss & Ride or the Park & Ride!  I liked the Kiss & Ride but BJ said we would do the Park & Ride!   
Once we got into the station our first goal was to get the requisite fareticket  needed to get through the gates to the train platform.  They are only sold in automated machines.  The problem was the time of the AM when we were there the sun was shining in right on the machines and we could not read the step-by-step instructions on the screen!  And since we had no idea what we were doing it made a hilarious scene - too bad a mini camera was not recording it all.

However, despite these difficulties and with the help of some very patient attendants we managed to get faretickes for each of us.   So now we head thru the turnstiles.  You stick your fareticket in one end and pick it up out of slot on your way thru.  You have to use the same ticket when you enter and at the destination where it prints your remaining credit on the ticket!   We had to change trains at L'Enfant Station.  The trains traveled on different levels, so not only did we have to find the right level, but the correct direction on each level - all underground like moles!!

At any rate, we managed to make it to the Mall downtown with the Congress at one end and the Washington Monument at the other.  We spend Monday at the American History Museum.  Tuesday we did the Air & Space Museum part of the day and the Natural History Museum the rest of the day.  We had driven out to the Manassas National Battlefield Park on Sunday so we were all ready for a rest on Wednesday.  I was thinking of visiting the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum, a Smithsonian facility at Dulles Airport, on Wednesday after I went to an RV shop in Manassas to pick up a part we needed.  But, by the time I fought the traffic on I-495 and I-64 to Manassas, going right by the facility, I did not feel like fighting the crowd in the parking lot and getting in to facility so I passed and returned to Andrews.

International Spy Museum
The next day BJ and I headed back into DC on our own, Dennis and Judy were still taking it easy.   We tried a different route on the Metro and managed to get to the International Spy Museum several blocks off the Mall.
American Art Museum
We spent several hours there going thru the maze of exhibits they had laid out to make it more interesting.  Afterwards, we had lunch at a nice pizzeria across the street and then went into the American Art Museum with the American Portrait Gallery in what was originally the US Patent Office.   One of many interesting exhibits was the one created by an eccentric gentlemen in DC after he got out of the Army following WW II.

Throne Of The Third Heaven Of The Nations Millennium General Assembly 

It was constructed by James Hampton (1909 - 1964), a janitor for the General Services Administration, over a 14 year period from 1950 until the time of his death, after which it was discovered in a garage he rented near his apartment in Washington D.C.  Made of scavenged materials, minutely detailed and finished with glittering foil, The Throne is composed of some 180 pieces, occupies an area ofsome two hundred square feet and stands three yards in height at its center.    If you are interested, there is an essay on this eccentric, but focused man at this link!

We drug ourselves back to Andrews thru the turnstiles and Metro stations and started preping to depart for Ft Mead the next day.  We had a great time in DC and plan on visiting again (the fairtickets we have left are good forever) but it is time to move on!!

07 May 2011

Civil War Battlegrounds

After a cold, wet, gloomy Wednesday when we stayed huddled in the RV, barely surviving the cold, Thursday was a bright and sunny if not really warm day and we headed out to explore the area.  We spent much of the day in and around Fredericksburg, VA visiting the many Civil War battle grounds.   We started with a short visit to Jackson's Shrine not far from here.  It was the farmhouse where he was taken after being mortally wounded in a "friendly fire" incident.
Next we moved on to the Battle of Fredericksburg which was conducted in Dec 1863.   The thing that struck us was the massive loss of life due to the frontal assaults conducted against entrenched troops, and at this battle, Confederate artillery on the high ground behind the entrenched Confederate troops.
The "Sunken Road" where Confederate troops were entrenched against repeated frontal assaults.  Over 8,000 Fed troops were killed or injured in one afternoon and still failed to reach the Sunken Road
However, what the Federal generals found out partly at this and several other campaigns following this major one was the Feds could replace lost resources (blood and material) faster and easier then the Confederates with their smaller population and less industry!  The Federals gradually moved to a war of attrition after these encounters around Fredericksburg.  The Federal resources were much deeper and eventually it made the difference!!  
On the high ground behind the Sunken Road where Confederate artillery was positioned there is now a Federal cemetery that was established immediately after the war.  Over, 15,000 dead Federal soldiers are there and the names of over 12,000 are known only to God!
The cemetery on the high ground behind and above the Sunken Rd. Note the missing headstones.  

This is the "headstone" for unknown soldiers.  They fill the space in pic above between the headstones with names on them.  The top number is the plot number, the bottom number is the number of soldiers buried in the plot!

We next moved on to the visitor center for the Battle of Chancellorsville, 27 Apr to 6 May 1863.  Most battles were named after a community; however in this case it was a single building that was a wayhouse at the intersection of two roads outside of Fredericksburg.  Again Lee outmaneuvered the Feds and won the battle.

Our next stop was at Spotsylvania, 8-21 May 1864.  A  notable part of this battlefield was the Bloody Angle, a slight angle in a trench line that the Feds charged trying to break the line.  Hand-to-hand combat raged for 20+ hours in rain and darkness and cold and the bodies just piled up. It gave Lee time to reinforce the line behind the Bloody Angle and when that was done his troops withdrew to that line and held it against the Feds until they withdrew from the battlefield.

An interesting part of the day was finding our way back to Ft AP Hill.  These were all back roads and ill marked, especially without a map.  We took what my kids would have called "the scenic route".  However, on the bright side, BJ used it as a chance to develop her skill with the mapping program on her new iPhone!  It did help us get back to AP Hill.

The next day was little less sunny, but we headed to Richmond to see the Richmond National Battlefield Park.  It was in downtown Richmond on the river and was at the site of a former foundry that produced some weapons during the Civil War.   Unlike Fredericksburg, most of the battles were in surrounding areas and seemed less significant.  We also visited the VA State Capital on its beautiful grounds in downtown Richmond!  This building was designed by Thomas Jefferson in the old Greek style that was typical of public buildings at the time.  He felt it was important that our nation show its culture and strength in public architecture.  He fought hard with the politicians of the time to make sure they did not upset/change his designs.
He won most, but not all the battles, and in later years after he was gone, subsequent politicians maintained his style and intent in a fairly consistent manner!  Later they added two "wings" because they needed more room and that was the best way to add room and preserve the integrity of Jefferson's design.  

We enjoyed our visit to Richmond and the ride back was a lot less "challenging" then the previous day.  We got on I-95N and headed back to our exit for Ft AP Hill.

04 May 2011

Moving North - Slowly

After leaving FL for NC, we enjoyed a warm sunny weekend at Lake Waccamaw NC attending a family wedding.   
The weather was clear, sunny and warm and the wedding was even nicer.  It was good to see a lot of the family we have not seen for awhile, including some new members.  We parked on the lake shore in the yard of a family member, but had little time to enjoy the lake. We did get to spend an hour one afternoon on the dock enjoying the view and visiting with Martha, BJ’s sister.

About 10 miles from there on the way in we lost a shroud off the front RV roof air conditioner.  We did not know it until after we got there but remember it because there was a bad bump in the road and shortly afterward a car passed us with a lady sticking her head out the window pointing up with her arm!  We stopped shortly after that when safe but could not find a problem.  It was only after we parked and I climbed up on the roof that I found the problem.  Well, Lake Waccamaw is scenic place but not an economic powerhouse!  No RV parts stores available. 

However, my new Trikke T-12 Roadester was at Martha’s when we got there.  I had ordered it before we left FL and it took me about 2 hours to assemble but another two days to get the tires aired up.  They take 80 psi and that pressure is not commonly available at gas stations in this rural area.  Nonetheless, I got them aired up and tried out the newer, bigger Trikke the day before we left.  

We left Monday AM and had a nice trip north.  While on the road we contacted an RV dealer in Richmond and ordered the shroud so that is taken care of.  It will be in by the end of the week.   We arrived at Ft AP Hill, a US Army base north of Richmond a little bit and settled in at the FamCamp.  This is a very large training/maneuver base started up before WWII and certainly simulates the land mass in Europe.  Wooded, rolling terrain that is similar to much of Europe, but not much related to where the action is now.  Nonetheless, it is used to train all the services in warfare in this environment!

Talking about environment – we caught up with the winter so we are slowing our northward movement for a while.  High today is supposed to be 63 degrees!! Low last night was in the mid-40’s and supposed to be lower tonight!  We are planning on touring some of the Civil War battlefields around Fredericksburg and Richmond tomorrow if the roads are cleared by then.  We plan on moving on to DC this weekend and spending about a week doing the tourist thing there. 

After that we will move on toward Philadelphia where we hope to get a good Philly Cheesesteak and then maybe to the Hudson River Valley around the USMA for a few days before heading to RI to see the grandkids and their handlers.