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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 26: Two West Point Chapels

Sanctuary Window!

The Cadet Chapel’s Sanctuary Window. At the bottom you can just barely make out the motto “Duty, Honor, Country”.

Our two-hour tour of the United States Military Academy — or “West Point”, its street name — included not just its storied cemetery, but a look inside two of their chapels — one over a century old, the other nearly twice that, each steeped in faith and history.


Cadet Chapel!

The Cadet Chapel, for all the Gothic architecture fans out there.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Normally we’ll choose one major locale as our primary objective, drive that-a-way, and concentrate on exploring the vicinity for a few days before retreating.

We crafted this year’s itinerary with a different approach. Instead of choosing one city as a hub, we focused on one of the motifs that’s recurred through several of our trips: grave sites of Presidents of the United States of America. Our 2018 road trip would effectively have the format and feel of a video game side quest — collecting nine American Presidents across ten presidencies, four states, seven days, and 2000 miles…

Cadet Chapel closeup!

The view as we walked through the front door.

West Point’s Cadet Chapel dates back to 1910, over 22,000 square feet of granite to hold a variety of Protestant services. Other chapels for other faiths can be found around campus, but they weren’t part of the official tour.

Cadet Chapel!

The vaulted nave, flags unfurled and Bibles and hymnals uniformly organized.

Cadet Chapel window!

One among the many smaller stained-glass windows lining either side.

organ!

Another special feature: reputedly the largest chapel pipe organ in the world. This is of course the organ…

organ pipes!

…while its 23,911 pipes are positioned all around the chamber — some as high as 32 feet tall, some jutting toward the congregation like so.

Before the Cadet Chapel, there was the Old Cadet Chapel, still around to this day. It was built in 1836, but relocated to the cemetery grounds after the completion of its successor. It still houses a Lutheran service on Sunday mornings. It also contains a bit of history acknowledgment. It was such a small, unassuming building compared to the newer Cadet Chapel that neither of us thought to take a photo on the outside.

Old Chapel inside!

This way to Sunday morning services.

Old Chapel plaques!

The part Anne wanted to see most in this chapel: on the east wall is a collection of plaques honoring the highest-ranking American officers in the Revolutionary War.

DAV plaque!

Credit where due, to the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Washington plaque!

Of course there’s a George Washington plaque, duh.

Schuyler plaque!

General Phillip Schuyler has been name-checked in four previous chapters in this series, and we’re not ready to let him go yet.

de Steuben plaque!

In the 1770s the American people in their teamwork development were somewhere on the scale between the Bad News Bears and the village from Seven Samurai. Someone had to show us how to fight and then form the Continental Army. That someone was Baron von Steuben, Prussian advisor turned American officer and later Washington’s wartime chief of staff.

Benedict Arnold plaque!

Just as Saratoga National Historic Park twice acknowledged the vital contributions of Benedict Arnold while dissing him at the same time, so does the Old Cadet Chapel contain a plaque holding his place but refusing to utter his name.

Proverbs 14-34!

Closeup on the wise words of Proverbs 14-34 above the pulpit. Righteousness is a noble goal for a nation to pursue, but sinfulness disgraces us all.

* * * * *

Our tour concluded close to 4:30. After Anne finally got to use the smashed-penny machine in their gift shop, we took our leave of West Point, headed southwest through the confusing town of Highlands, and completed at least two full laps around the area before I finally found a road sign I could trust to lead us toward the next highway out.

We headed southwest and stopped for dinner at a Shake Shack in an outlet mall in Central Valley, NY. They’d clearly had a rough day. The lobby was trashed. The employees seemed less than enthused. Our shakes were half melted by the time our order was ready. And they got Anne’s sandwich wrong. Of the three Shake Shacks we’ve ever visited, they’re now our least favorite, narrowly edging out the Manhattan location where they let non-customers occupy their tables and we had to eat while standing outside on the sidewalk. (Shout-out to the Shake Shack on Chicago’s Loop, our best experience with them by far.)

From there we crossed into New Jersey and located our final stop, an extended-stay hotel in Parsippany. We didn’t see too many other guests, though we did walk past a pair of somewhat tense women who seemed to have strutted straight out of a Real Housewives season, not the sort of folks we ever meet back home in Indiana.

The very friendly staff assigned us an enormous set of rooms. Plural. Two bathrooms, four beds, three TVs, and a full-service kitchen. The two of us just needed to sleep, but it was fun to use a real coffeemaker on vacation for once, and to pretend we lived in a mini-mansion for one night.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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