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.
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.
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.
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.
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.