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.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 25: West Point Cemetery

Custer closeup!

The plaque on the obelisk of General George Custer, Class of 1862.

Public tours of the grounds of the United States Military Academy, a.k.a. West Point, come in two sizes, the 75-minute version and the two-hour version. Anne, ever the American history aficionado — frankly, it’s kind of what she went to college for — signed us up for the deluxe version of their tour that included a walk through West Point Cemetery, an officially designated space since 1817. We weren’t given time or directions to inspect every individual grave, but those we spotted — whether with our friendly tour guide’s assistance or through our own recognizance — was a veritable who’s-who from the past two centuries of American history, from the Civil War to Iraq.

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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 24: Admitted to West Point

five-star generals!

Some of your favorite high-ranking U.S. generals were alumni.

Given the choice, I’d rather be early for appointments than embarrassingly late. I’ve lost count of the number of really close calls I’ve had in my life, when a confluence of my mapping skills, sense of timing, and unexpected obstacles balanced out and saw us arrive at a given destination a heart-stopping minutes before showtime.

The official instructions to our next stop ordered us to be there thirty minutes before takeoff. Despite the previous 90-120 minutes’ foul-ups and misjudgments, we pulled into their parking lot at fifteen minutes till. Anne had given up on making it. I thought we could pull it off, but allowed I might be wrong. It wouldn’t be our first time prepaying for a tour only to have something go afoul and lose us our nonrefundable fees. But no, the sight of the front-gate tank told me we were right where we were meant to be, which is a miraculous thing given that the directions had stopped making sense or matching anything in sight several turns ago.

We were therefore a bit flustered when we walked into the visitors’ main check-in lobby of the United States Military Academy, more commonly known to us civilians as simply West Point.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 10: Sinking Feelings on a Battleship

Wisconsin wide!

Battleship! Not from Milton Bradley!

Given that America’s east coast is the home of numerous military hot spots, it followed that the Virginia area would offer touring options for at least one of them. Our warcraft of choice was a bit of a drive from Virginia Beach, but seemed like an interesting idea at the time. We might remember it more fondly if it weren’t for my ongoing physical issues, and if hadn’t taken us two tries to gain battleship access.

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Our 2004 Road Trip, Part 4 of 10: The Cannons of Niagara

Fort Niagara!

Because someone has to keep the peace on Lake Ontario.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Once upon a time in 2004, Anne and I got married and had a honeymoon! A week later, we (and my son) embarked on our fifth annual road trip: a drive northeast from Indianapolis up to see the watery wonders of Niagara Falls and its adjacent tourist traps.

Of the four Great Lakes we’ve visited, Lake Ontario was the only one considered a strategic location worthy of a military outpost by both the French and the British back in the eighteenth century. For fans of natural attractions and American history — you can bet my wife qualifies — Fort Niagara State Park is a logical addition to your upstate New York vacation itinerary.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #14: War Wings III

F11F-1 Tiger!

This F11F-1 Tiger served from 1961 to 1963 as one of the Blue Angels. Now it’s retired and sunning itself in New York City.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

On our two trips last year, I found myself in the presence of two different aircraft collections: one at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, which keeps several full-size wartime plans suspended in midair inside a multi-million-dollar building; the other, at the unrelated National Museum of WWII Aviation in Colorado Springs, which is relatively newer and dreams of funding that same square footage someday.

We found the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum doesn’t have quite as large a fleet as those two, but the worthy assortment on its upper deck, lacking the specialized scope of those other two museums, includes vehicles from other wars and eras, not just World War II.

Side note while you’re scrolling through the photo gallery: film fans may recognize the Intrepid from its big scene in I Am Legend, in which our hero Will Smith hangs around the upper deck by himself and whacks golf balls toward Manhattan for fun. I guess that’s one way to pass the time after the apocalypse.

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2016 NYC Trip Photos #13: The Intrepid Walk at Dawn

USS Intrepid!

Love, exciting and new! Come aboard — we’re expecting you!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

We saw our first battleship on our 2008 road trip to Virginia Beach, which included a side stop in Norfolk to tour the USS Wisconsin. That story hasn’t yet been represented here on Midlife Crisis Crossover, but the short version is that it was huge, our veteran tour guide was a nice gentleman, the day was sweltering, and we hardly got to see inside. Our 2015 road trip through Alabama to New Orleans allowed for a digression in Mobile, home of the USS Alabama, which allowed us access to more areas of the ship while offering zero protection from the South’s summer heat. Frankly I have no idea how our soldiers can stand to serve on these things without roasting to medium well within minutes, but God bless ’em all for being better, sturdier people than me.

When most folks think of New York City, “battleship” isn’t usually among the first 500 words that come to mind. For us that changed when we learned the eastern shore of the Hudson River is the home of the USS Intrepid, docked on the western border of Hell’s Kitchen, several blocks from our hotel. It was convenient, it was showy, and it had a few special exhibits that dovetailed with our geek interests. So that’s why it was our first attraction on the morning of Day Four, and why this entry was nearly titled “Battleship III”.

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The Springs in Fall — 2015 Photos #23: War Relics II

Fuselage!

Some airplane restoration jobs take a tad more paint than others.

Visiting the National Museum of WWII Aviation without my wife was a bizarre experience. She’s the one who’s a WWII aficionado, the one who aced history classes left and right, the one with the PoliSci degree, and the one who doesn’t need a tour guide through museums like this. While she spent another Colorado Springs morning fulfilling the company business obligations that made this trip possible, I did the best I could to take photos and notes of what she was missing. Maybe she already knows it all, but if I could bring her just one new trivia tidbit, then this tourist’s mission was a success.

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The Springs in Fall — 2015 Photos #22: War Wings II

Douglas A-1 Skyraider Missiles!

The wing of a Douglas A-1 Skyraider housing presumably unarmed missiles.

Last July my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the National World War II Museum in scenic New Orleans, Louisiana. Anne is the big, big WWII buff in the family, but I enjoyed myself well enough to devote four chapters to it in our nearly completed July 2015 road trip series (here, here, here, and especially here). Four months later, I was surprised to discover Colorado Springs has a place that’s the perfect sequel — the National Museum of WWII Aviation.

I previously posted about my Day Five visit later that evening from the hotel and used up most of my intro material in that one sitting. The single plane pictured in that entry, their F7F Tigercat, was hardly the only aircraft on the premises. The museum is 30% display cases and 70% actual war planes in various states of disrepair, restoration, and flight capability. Tonight’s presentation, then: another batch of World War II fighter planes to go with our July set.

Right this way for another lineup of America’s WWII airborne warcraft!

The Springs in Fall — 2015 Photos #16: The Air Force Academy Is…

Thunderbolt!

A tiny Thunderbolt is one of several statues on display in the Honor Court next to the Cadet Chapel.

While the distinctive Cadet Chapel is one of the most impressive architectural features of the U.S. Air Force Academy, it’s not the only sight to see. Visitor access is limited to select areas within their 18,500-acre campus, but in all honesty, the fact that we civilians are allowed within a thousand yards of the place is generous in itself.

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2015 Road Trip Photos #38: Battleship!

USS Alabama!

In game, you sink Battleship. In real life, battleship sink YOU.

After lunch, Day 5 saw us heading east along the Gulf Coast, back into the state of Alabama, slowly through the city of Mobile in congested traffic, and down to the shore of Mobile Bay, where they’ve docked the kind of enormous boat that would’ve been a big help against Jaws if it would’ve fit anywhere near Amity’s beaches.

Welcome aboard the U.S.S. Alabama.

Right this way for the scenic tour!

2014 Road Trip Photos #24: American Doomsday Machines

Bunker Entrance!

Down here in the bunker, during Armageddon you might not have needed 3 million SPF sunblock.

Conscious survivors of the 1980s remember the uneasy Cold War days, when tensions between America and the USSR were at their peak. Each side had their credos, their agendas, their grudges against each other, their spies, their cross-purposes, and their active, massive, scary nuclear arsenals in case the other side got any deplorable ideas. Movies like WarGames, Fail-Safe, The Day After, Dr. Strangelove, and 60% of all post-apocalyptic sagas mined our fears of mutual assured destruction for cautionary tales, humanist allegories, and disturbing visuals, all the more frightening to us youngsters because we couldn’t be sure that the adult politicians in charge wouldn’t do something stupid and trigger the end of the world.

Both countries still have their differences today, but relations aren’t at anywhere near the same state of hateful paranoia, so everyone’s cut back on their standby nuclear stockpiles. Out in the middle of the North Dakota flatlands, there’s one distant, decommissioned hideout codenamed Oscar-Zero where the U.S. military once stationed a handful of men 24/7 to oversee the controls and prepare to throw the world’s deadliest switches in case the American President declared Game Over.

Today you can bring in the whole family for a visit. There’s a guided tour and a gift shop.

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