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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Settled in on the Maine Coast

You would think that with all the scenery on the Maine Coast, I could be more creative than to attach more dog pictures. I promise to do better. Yesterday morning it was in the low 90s. The record for the day in Bangor was broken by several degrees. Yesterday morning I set up a small 12V fan. Six hours later a back door cold front settled through, and the overnight low was 48! Today was sunny, dry and about 70 degrees. We took advantage of a vacant beach at low tide to let the pups off lead. The terrain they are perusing is where I harvest my mussels. I couldn't resist including the "portrait" pictures of Belle and Baxter.
Tonight the little Weber grille is fired up for an extra thick steak accompanied by some sauteed squash, zucchini, onions and starch. Life is good.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Two posts in one day

After we got set up, not for the night, but for the month, we sat outside watching major ship traffic into Searsport. Jim Baker, the owner, stopped down to say, "hello" while we were having our own private happy hour. Later Durelle wandered around looking to get a good shot of the pups and I. She did pretty well.

Arrival in Belfast, Maine

Finally!! We arrived at the Moorings RV resort about 1320 after an easy drive from Littleton, MA. It was in the 80s on the highway, but it is 69 here on the shore with a sea breeze. It is 75 in the bus. All windows are open and it is an absolutely spectacular day. We are ready to relax. The picture was taken through the windshield of the bus. You can see a bulk carrier coming out of Searsport Harbor.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

West Point Graduation 2010

We are done with the festivities. It's back to shorts, polo shirt and bare feet. We have both had enough protocol for a while. It started Friday afternoon with a black tie reception at the Commandant's quarters. The picture shows me in a tux for the first time in 25 years. It was held outside in his handsome garden with plenty of high end snacks and an open bar. As you might imagine, restraint was the order of the day. From there we walked to Washington Hall for the graduation banquet. The speaker was the Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey. Transportation to and from all the events was provided by the AOG (Association of Graduates). Today was graduation; always a hectic time even without the additional constraints of a presidential visit. We got a real break as far as the weather was concerned. It was warm, but not hot with a light overcast...ideal if you have to sit in the sun for three hours. First we went to breakfast at the Supe's house. It was very nicely done as you would expect. The Secretary of the Army and a few congressmen were also present. At the stadium the metal detectors and wands were operated by the secret service, and there were several dozen of them all over the grounds, but everything went smoothly. We were transported with police escort. Durelle and I were in separate mini-buses. The four 2Lt bar presenters went to one side of the stadium and our wives were escorted to the Superintendant's Loge under the press box. There were just over a thousand graduates, and they came off both sides of the stage in fairly rapid order. The academy has it down to a science. At each stage exit there two members of the class of 1960 alternately handing out their first "brown bars". The four of us were listed by name in the program and announced individually by the Adjutant to be recognized.
The President did just fine. He rendered the appropriate courtesies at the appropriate times in the proper manner. His speech did a great job of recognizing the class and the institution. The non-traditional part of the speech was right down the middle, too. The point was that it takes more than a great military to remain a great nation. All aspects of society must contribute, and a strong economy is essential to our ability to exert global power. There were no controversial sound bites here.
From there we went, again with police escort, to Eisenhower Hall where the Supe individually gave the oath of office and the ceremonial pinning on of bars with family to nine distinguished grads...valedictorian (a woman), the First Captain, the class president, etc. Again, the four members of 1960 were recognized. Then we had a lunch that was the best meal of the week. From there it was back to RV and returned to earth. Sure, there were some hassles, but it was a moving and significant experience.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

North Dock on Graduation Week

We got away uneventfully Wednesday morning and drove the 45 miles to Round Pond, a military recreation area and campground. We were scheduled to spend two nights here until we moved to North Dock on the post at West Point. Normal policy allows RVs on North Dock only on Friday and Saturday. Less than a month ago it was decided to permit RVs for all of graduation week, but apparently no one told the AOG (Association of Graduates) who was coordinating our visit. It is now a reservation only spot and I had a reservation. As a result every parents’ club for a thousand miles descended on the place. Fortunately I found a guy who could make things happen. He was only an Outdoor Rec Coordinator at Round Pond, but he said, “I’m going to North Dock (about a half hour drive). Start packing up and I’ll call you after I’ve found you a spot.” About an hour later he called. With the help of some MPs and a tow truck, they found me a spot. He was waiting here when I arrived. For those of you not familiar with the post, it is a densely configured old Revolutionary war fort replete with 12-15% grades, very sharp turns, one-way streets etc. North Dock is not actually a dock, though it may have been at one time, but a paved area behind a seawall on the Hudson River. It is congested on football weekends, packed for graduation and completely over the top with security with Obama coming to be the graduation speaker. Wheeling a forty footer around under these circumstances was a bit challenging, but we are set up with a partially blocked view up the river. The weather is in the mid-80s and mostly clear skies. It is a beautiful warm (hot)day with a few clouds. The weekend promises to be the same. I'll be wearing a straw hat with a black band, so if they show four people handing 2Lt's bars to the new grads as they exit the stage, look for the fat guy in the straw hat.

50th Reunion

Tuesday was the Alumni Parade that is a traditional part of graduation week at West Point. It is the least favorite of the cadets because it is the longest lasting parade. In this case there were 800 graduates from the classes of ’35, ’40, 45, ’50, ’55, and ’60 ready to march (slowly) across the plain to lay a wreath at the monument of Sylvanus Thayer prior to the actual parade. We were beset by a cold steady rain. So the old grads did their march, but the parade itself was cancelled. We then adjourned to Washington hall for a lunch of cordon bleu. Of course we arrived ahead of schedule, so we waited and visited for a half an hour until lunch was ready…at least we were out of the rain and visiting is what we do best. There were presentations made to this year’s group of distinguished grads. Then ’55 and ’60 made presentations of gifts to the Association of Graduates. Actually, ’60 made two presentations, and I had the honor of presenting one of them. At the conclusion of the agenda the Supe made some closing remarks, ending with, “I blame the Chaplain for the weather and applaud the Commandant for canceling the parade.” Then he called for the benediction. The Chaplain approached the mike, paused, and said, “About the weather…you must remember that I’m not in management, I’m in sales.” When was the last time you heard a benediction get a round of applause? He finished with a conventional benediction.
At each table of ten, a cadet was detailed to accompany the grads and guests to provide local color and information. At our table was a cadet Jameel (not his real name…more later) who is the only Iraqi exchange cadet that has ever come to West Point. He will graduate Saturday with a degree in chemical engineering, and he hopes to go to grad school before he returns to Baghdad. His real name is hidden so as to protect his parents in Baghdad. We had a wonderfully interesting conversation.
The next event was a memorial service for 113 fallen classmates in the cadet chapel. It was an excellent and unique service. Of the 420 living graduates, 285 were present along with an equal amount of spouses, widows, children and grandchildren of deceased classmates. We even had a 94 year old mother of a classmate who was KIA in Vietnam. Later at the dinner dance she out danced a lot of folks 20 years her junior. At the dinner dance the first dance was done by the couples that had been married in 1960. There were 58 couples of us crowding the dance floor. That’s out of a graduating class of 550. That’s probably not going to happen again.
Wednesday we head for the FamCamp at Round Pond as we prepare for our role in graduation.
The picture of Durelle signing a wine-stained tablecloth is an interesting story. In 1960 there was a Valentines Day party at the on base quarters of the post eye surgeon whose daughter was dating one of my classmates in cadet company H-2. Their place had become a home-away-from-home for much of H-2. When wine was spilled on the embossed, damask tablecloth, we wrote off the table cloth and bought the hostess a new one, but first we all decided to autograph the tablecloth. Jitske and her mother then embroidered all the signatures and washed it. You can see in the picture that the stains are still there. Jitske recently found it and brought it to the reunion. For those H-2ers and their brides, such as Durelle, who were not at the 1960 party thus had a second chance to sign fifty years later.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lickdale, PA

We are at Lickdale...but we arrived about three hours later than planned. When we pulled into the KOA in Enfield, NC last night I noticed that the right front corner of the bus was low. It appeared that either the air bag was deflated (air pressure was normal) or the ride height sensor or leveling valve were at fault. Good Sam sent out a guy who recycled the system while we were in our campsite and everything appeared normal. Things were also normal when we started up this morning. At a rest stop for the dogs at 1130 we parked at a spot with a significant slope to the right. The clearance between the right front tire and the fender was about four inches less than normal. I called the Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. In Gaffney,SC. They made arrangements for me to drop in at a Freightliner shop in Fredericksburg, VA. They worked me in while we went to get lunch and visit Verizon to repair a bent pin in the connector between my new phone and its charger. Back at Freightliner it was the classic "cannot duplicate" dilemna. Adding an unscheduled three hours to a 400 mile day was not easy, but we managed fine. Happy hour and supper were a little late and the dogs were confused. We did stop in WV and fed and walked them at close to the normal time.
Tomorrow we have a 200 mile day to the parking lot of the Marriott in Tarrytown, NY. Before we leave tomorrw we will drain and flush the holding tanks and top off the fresh water tank as we are facing several days of dry camping AND more than the usual number of showers. We should have some good pictures for the next post.

Friday, May 7, 2010

One week 'til departure

We have picked up the bus from ProTech. (Thanks Wayne and Diane for another nice job) We had three double pane windows replaced as they had lost their seals. The also replaced one of those awkward day-night shades. The dining room table is piled high as a staging area. We retrieve the bus from storage first thing Tuesday morning, plug it in to get the fridge cooled down and spend two days loading. It will be hot. We'll depart Thursday the 13th and stop in Enfield NC. The second day will take us to Lickdale, PA where we'll fill the water tank and flush the holding tanks in preparation for five days of dry camping with lots of showers. We'll be in the back of the Westchester Marriot for my 50th reunion.
The pictures were all taken, one right after the other, while standing in the same spot in the back yard. The killdeer is sitting on her nest on the ground.