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Wendy & Skip's RV Adventures – Traveling Around Our Beautiful Country

Here it comes: Super-Trip 2024

There’s no doubt that all of our favorite parks are out west. The problem with parks “out west” is that they’re all out west. Like way out west. The closest of the “out west” parks might be those around southwest Colorado and that’s 1500 miles away (which is 5 RV-days). So, we don’t do our favorite parks as often as we’d like. Last time we did a loop around the out-west territories was 2000.

But it’s 2024 and we’re doing another such excursion. But this one is even bigger, better, and bolder than past trips. Not only does it include all of our favorite out-west parks (the Utah parks, Glacier, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone), we’re throwing in two of the best parks in the known universe: Banff and Jasper national parks in Alberta, Canada. And then, since we’ll be “in the area” (in our family’s sense of the term that upstate New York is “in the area” of Atlanta), we’ll swing by Fort Drum to visit son #3 and his family, stopping by the Air Force museum in Wright-Patterson AFB since it’s sort of “on the way.” Totals for the trip: 2 months, 7500 miles, 11 favorite parks, and a bonus family stop.

We’re scheduled to leave mid-July and be back mid-September. Updates along the way will follow …

February 2024: “To boldly go where no man has gone before…”

As mentioned in the previous post, throughout our tour of Kennedy Space Center, two themes recurred. Our trips to the moon (in 1969 and the one coming up), our trip to Mars, and whatever lies beyond that, all are born of two foundational imperatives: a zeal for exploration, and a commitment to scientific and technological advancements necessary to achieve the seemingly impossible.

Although I’m not sure NASA actually ever said as much, it was apparent that NASA believes, for the good of the space program, both of these imperatives need to be amped up. And in my view, devotions of these sorts are not only good for the space program, they’re good for the country. In fact, both of these derive from a sense of national optimism, something our country sorely needs.

At one point in one of our tours, the guide said something like, “yes, yes, yes … there are lots of benefits to our space program: advances in engineering, medicine, material science, computing, and so on. But the exploration of space is essential even without these benefits. It’s in our nature. It’s inherent in some early caveman thinking, ‘I wonder what’s over that hill?’ To stop exploring is to deny our humanity.” During the early days of the space program, that sentiment was part of our national consciousness. It wasn’t just James T. Kirk; we all thought of space as the “final frontier.” But what NASA senses is that our national sense of common wonder, our sense of destiny, our willingness to take risks and bear costs together, our unifying national purpose, all have been dissipated in a sea of competing interests. No doubt there are lots of reasons for all this: fracturing political ideologies, the distractions of trivial technologies, other national and international priorities, lack of national leadership, and so on. Even as our space program is privatized, though, a robust space program cannot survive without national (and international) excitement and fervor. Rekindling those fires is part of what constitutes the Kennedy Space Center experience. As I wrote after our visit in 2017, KSC is all about “the glory of exploration, the human need to go new places and learn new things, and the indomitable human spirit that allows us to achieve the impossible.”

The second focus at KSC is on STEM education, and in particular vitalizing STEM studies in secondary education. Over and over again, STEM, STEM, STEM. It came up in tours, in displays, in interactive games, and even entire buildings directed at young people. Everywhere. Constantly. After a while, I began to wonder whether the emphasis was truly necessary. When I was young, we didn’t need an emphasis on STEM. We were going to the moon and everything in our country was tied to moon-driven STEM-stuff. But one of our guides made an insightful observation … the more common technology becomes, the more our technological achievements seem easy and mundane, the less focus science, technology, and engineering get in our daily lives. And that’s especially true for young people, most of whom have only seen a world where technology is commonplace and easy. Why worry about STEM education when for a couple hundred bucks, you can take the entire computing power of the country and put it in your pocket? Spend years studying thermodynamics and differential equations? Meh. I’ll just google it. But without both competence in such things, and even more importantly, enough education to appreciate competence in such things, a space program yields to the challenges that seem too daunting.

Anyway, those two essentials are part of what makes the KSC experience so memorable. These two seemingly incongruous, yet fundamentally linked, emphases. The philosophical, abstract, near-spiritual essence of humanity’s need to explore, grow, and achieve, combined with the practical, prosaic, even terrestrial details of what it takes to travel, live, and even thrive in the most hostile environment imaginable. KSC puts these together in a way that is new and exciting every time we go there. What a combination. And what a place. We’ll be back.

February 2024: Kennedy Space Center

This is our third trip to the Kennedy Space Center (one in 2015, noted here, and one in 2017, noted here). It had been long enough since our last visit, though, that we decided our memories could use a boost, so we took two days for this visit, which was definitely the right call.

For those of us who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, it’s easy to be a total, whacked-out, loony space nut. It all started for us when the Ruskies launched Sputnik, which led all of us to keep an eye on the sky lest nuclear bombs start raining down from the heavens. And then President Kennedy announced that we were going to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, which led all of us to see our national destiny as tied to a lunar landing. So, basically, the whole country went crazy with rockets. Heck, we were so rocket crazy that even our cars had fins!

So, a visit to Kennedy Space Center is in many ways something like coming home. It’s all the stuff that we grew up with, and it’s also everything we’ve seen since then, and all the things we hope to see before we kick the big bucket in the sky. And this trip was worth it on all counts.

First, we took the super-duper, pay-extra, two-hour bus tour of the launch facility, which was doubly worth it in that our guide spent 40 years as a NASA engineer and Mission Specialist and was as close as one can imagine to a human incarnation of Google. We heard later that he has something of a reputation among the other guides because his narration is so fact-filled that many tourists find their eyes rolling back in their heads, but for those like us who want those kinds of fact-filled narrations, keep our eyes in the unrolled position was easy. And then, as it turned out, the very same guide was conducting the guided tour of the Atlantis space shuttle exhibit, so we jumped in on that as well.

Second, we did the super-duper, pay-extra “breakfast with an astronaut,” in this case Bob Thirsk, a Canadian engineer and medical doctor who did two trips to space, including a 180-day stint on the the International Space Station. And not only did Dr. Thirsk give us a wonderful, hour-long opportunity to ask questions and get to know him personally, he then conducted an hour-long lecture on what it’s like to blast off into space, spend six months in space, and then return.

Finally, we got to spend a lot of time in KSC’s “exploring Mars” exhibits. A few years ago, we went to the “Biosphere 2” facility in Tucson. You may recall, the original BIosphere was an attempt back in 1991 to seal up eight people in a huge, self-contained structure where they would live for two years, producing their own food, using plants to produce oxygen, recycling waste to grow the plants, blah blah blah. It was sort of like the grown-up version of those terrariums you made as a kid with the plants, the puddle of water, and a little frog (that promptly died and got dried out and your mom told you to get that stinking jar out of the house). That Biosphere experiment had basically the same outcome (mainly because, among other things, they ran out of oxygen) (oops).

Inside the “Biosphere 2” facility, a supposedly self-sustaining environment capable of supporting humans.

Anyway, as we were touring the facility, I kept thinking, “This place would be great if we could build it on Mars!”

That’s what a large part of the KSC Mars exhibit is all about. In 2020, scientists identified 14 technical hurdles that must be overcome for man to successfully travel to and from Mars. The most interesting ones revolve around the fact that the mission would take roughly 3 years each way, and there’s no way to stockpile enough food for a mission of that duration. Therefore, there has to be a way to grow (!) food for the mission. Combine this with the effects of microgravity over such a long period, shielding from ionizing radiation, and the absence of technology sufficient for propulsion and power for such a mission, and one might think that the challenges are insurmountable. Well, when Kennedy announced we were going to the moon, Americans had spent a total of 16 minutes in space. In that same way, just because going to Mars seems impossible now doesn’t mean we won’t be walking around on the Red Planet in a few years. The current plan is to be there by the late 2030s. I hope I live long enough to see it.

There’s one other thing to say about all this, but I’ll make it a subject for the next post. As a preview, though, NASA fully realizes that to move into the next phase of space exploration requires two things: a zeal for exploration, and a nation committed to scientific and engineering excellence, both of which, given a wide range of factors, are considerable challenges. More to follow …

February 2024 : Disney? – Yup … Again …

I know … I know. Seriously? Back to Disney? Again? At your age? Really?

Actually, yes. But it’s not that weird, at least not inside the deep recesses of my psyche. As we’ve said countless times before, there’s something about this place that’s rejuvenating. (Now that I think about it, I wonder if “rejuvenating” is etymologically related to “juvenile”? Better not go there. Where was I? Oh yeah … Disney …) Just being in a place where everything is geared towards perfection is, what’s the word?, uplifting, encouraging, revitalizing, renewing, something. It’s like that scene in Wizard of Oz where it’s a black-and-white world of storms, and tempests, and destruction, until Dorothy opens the door and walks into a world of color. That’s what Disney is for us … a respite from a world of black and white turbulence into a moment of renewal.

Disney Springs. I know there are things about Disney that make people cringe. Like “commercialization.” As Alfred (Miracle on 34th Street) said, “There’s a lot of -isms in the world, but the woist is commercialism.” And it’s true. We decided to take a free afternoon to check out Disney Springs. If commercialization were a theme park, it would be Disney Springs. If you think “shopping” is a mundane and unfortunate diversion from actual life, you should see a place designed for people who want to immerse themselves in, bathe in, luxuriate in the shopping “experience.” And it’s not just snooty, overly indulgent items that constitute the shopping gestalt. I mean, there’s actually an M&Ms store (no kidding), with lines of people waiting to get in!

Just as one example, it’s actually possible to buy a pair of Mickey-shaped small plastic boxes filled with M&Ms for, get this, $40!

And so it goes. Over 160 acres of stores, bars, shows, and restaurants. But here’s the deal: so what? I understand that, among young people, “hanging out at shopping malls” is their favorite pastime. And yes, there was a time when I thought bar hopping was pretty much as good as life could possibly get. And our own grandchildren relish going to restaurants where the decor features jungles and dinosaurs. Would we go to Disney Springs again? Never. Well, maybe. All bets are off if a grandkid insists. But in the grand scheme of things, there are worse things in life that a family yucking it up because they just got their picture taken with a giant M&M. And even Disney Springs, as raw as that is, does nothing to detract from the world of color at Disney.

EPCOT. Although we spent five days at Ft. Wilderness, we only did one theme park, but given that it took 20,000 steps to do it, that was about all our rapidly deteriorating bodies were in the mood for. And it was worth every one of those knee-pounding strides. Three things stood out.

In my mind, Guardians of the Galaxy is by far the best ride at Disney. And that’s from someone who knows nothing about Marvel characters and cares even less. But the ride is great even without the comic book overlay. It’s a “roller coaster” of sorts, I suppose, but it’s really more of a speed run, fully enclosed in a dark building, featuring cars that rotate 360-degrees as they bank and drop racing along the tracks, making six different drops, several which of produce negative g’s. All of which occurs surrounded by amazing special effects and accompanied by Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears). Totally amazing. While the ride is thrilling and unbelievably well done, it’s not particularly intense, at least not by roller coaster standards, and we saw numerous children in line for the ride. I would have said that it’s a perfect ride for everyone, except that Wendy, who loathes roller coasters, hated the whole ride and wouldn’t speak to me for a couple hours, not only because she thought I duped her into going on the ride, but because she was struggling not to upchuck the roast beef lunch we just had.

The ride is so popular that one has to participate in a “virtual queue,” and even jumping into the process at the first available second (literally), I was still in “Group 90” and we didn’t get on the ride until 5 hours after signing up!

Special experience number 2: dinner at La Hacienda de la Angel. Although the campground was basically empty, and our week at Disney occurred (mercifully) without any school/college spring break crowds, all of the restaurants were booked solid. So, having a full day planned at EPCOT, we took the only slot we could get: an early dinner at La Hacienda de la Angel. Wonderful. Actually, amazingly wonderful. It seems like most of the Mexican food we get along the east coast is “Tex-Mex,” which is OK, but it’s not the kind of gourmet Mexican food we grew accustomed to in California. But gourmet style fare is exactly what this restaurant provides. After starting off with hand-made guacamole, Wendy had spiced shrimp served in soft tortillas, and I had the carne asada. This is definitely our new favorite restaurants and will be our first choice for EPCOT days from now on.

Special experience number 3: Luminous. At 9:00 pm, in the large lagoon at the World Showcase area of EPCOT, there’s a fireworks and fountain extravaganza that Disney calls “Luminous: The Story of Us.” I think there’s some insipid “why can’t we all just get along” back story to the production, but what makes it memorable is that the word “extravaganza” doesn’t even begin to do the event justice. The “set” for the show consists of a large barge in the center of the lagoon, surrounded by maybe a dozen smaller barges, all of which serve as launching pads for hundreds of fireworks, dozens of illuminated fountain effects, and criss-crossing searchlights, all of which are coordinated and set to the music, in such a way that the display literally fills the entire sky. I couldn’t get a decent picture myself, so here’s one swiped off the internet, but even this fails to capture the full effect:

And that goes on for nearly 20 minutes! I can imagine there may be folks who, after 12 hours dragging the little darlings around EPCOT, wonder if staying around for a “fireworks show” is worth it. The answer is yes; “worth it” is an understatement.

So, after a brief three-day stop at another ham radio thingie, we’ll be heading over to the Space Coast, another of our Florida favorite stops. Stay tuned …

November 2023 – Giving Thanks

This year, for a variety of reasons, we found ourselves without plans for Thanksgiving. So, we ended up footloose and free to do whatever struck our fancy. But because we are who we are, our “fancy” isn’t all that fancy. In fact, it’s kinda odd. So, for Thanksgiving, seeing as how we were pretty much open, and seeing as how we have a brand-new RV, and seeing as how we thought it would be “funny” to do Thanksgiving in a camper, we decided to take our new camper on the road do Thanksgiving in a brand new way.

The challenge, of course, is that it’s still Thanksgiving, which means there’s an obligatory set of activities that can’t be neglected just because we’re in a camper. So, the next part of “funny” meant figuring out various ways to do the entirety of our Thanksgiving festivities in a small recreational vehicle. In lesser hands, that would be a problem …

That part was easy. The hard part was a dinner: How to do turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc. etc. etc., which really was beyond what we could do in a camper? What to do, what to do? And how to make it “funny”? Hmmm … Then it hit us: Cracker Barrel, the ultimate in Southern cuisine and, as it turns out, they were open and doing a Thanksgiving special dinner!

As it turns out, though, we weren’t the only ones with the same idea. In fact, the place was jammed. Like Mumbai jammed. There was a 90 minute wait to be seated. And even the country store was packed, which would have made it hard to buy various Southern novelties if we wanted to, which we didn’t. So we waited…

But funny things come to those who wait. And eventually we got seated, and the meal was GREAT! (Well, “great” in a Cracker Barrel sort of way. But memorable nonetheless.)

A Southern-style Thanksgiving, with all the fixin’s, and even with wine. Sort of. It was canned Italian wine, of the “Roscato” family, fresh out of the refrigerator and ice cold. Go figure.

Friday it was more football. And then dinner at a local Mexican restaurant because, well, Mexican food is another great Thanksgiving tradition. In Mexico, at least.

So, chalk one up to another page in the family book of memories. And the challenge now is, how can we possibly top that?

August-September 2023: Ft. Drum, NY

Every now and then, life serves up an unexpected adventure. Driving from Maine to Vermont, as a stop on our way to Ft. Drum, provided one such circumstance: US Highway 2. One would think that a major U.S. east-west highway would be relatively easy traveling. And it would be, if it were paved, which it wasn’t. Seriously, 28 miles of dirt, rocky, rutted, narrow cart path, supposedly “under construction,” but feeling more like a water buffalo trail through outer Mongolia. Your tax dollars at work. Anyway … where was I? … oh, yeah … traveling towards Ft. Drum.

We made a quick overnight stop to see Wendy’s “ancestral estate” at Lake Placid, where she and the family would go as kids, and is actually an important enough historical site that it is featured in the guided tour of the lake!

“Gull Rock Camp” was originally built in 1902 with separate cabins erected for the different purposes. Wendy’s great-grandfather, Carle Cotter Conway, bought the “camp” in 1922 and had a seven-room structure added on to the site in 1926. What he was most famous for, though, was his love of very fast, very noisy speedboats. He sold the camp in 1959 and it’s currently owned by the heiress to the Calphalon cookware fortune. I married Wendy based on her assurance that this estate came with the deal. Not exactly. Hmmm…

Eventually, we made it to our campground near Henderson Bay, right on Lake Ontario. Son #2 was still on a training mission, so we spent the first few days hanging around with his family.

When the kids started school, we had a day off so it was off to visit 1000 Islands National Park in Canada.

Here’s something that’s weird… (Or, as they say in Canada, “J’ai un œuf dans le nez…”) (Or something like that … my French is a little rusty.) The rocky terrain of the 1000 Islands region, known as the “Frontenac Arch,” is the remnant of a huge mountain range of the ancient continent Pangea (except it’s now called Rodinia because, um, I forget) and consists of rocks that are 1.2 billion (!) years old, making them plus-or-minus the same age as the rocks at the bottom of the Grand Canyon! And because of its weird geology in the middle of an otherwise normal landscape, the area houses all sorts of plants and animals that aren’t even supposed to live there. We were only there for a few hours, but this would definitely be the sort of place to attend a ranger talk from someone who actually knows what he’s talking about.

Son #2 eventually showed up, so we got to spend a few days catching up. And, since he’d been gone for a while, we were able to babysit the boys, allowing for a spousal night out on the town…

And then it was time for a 3-day drive back to Atlanta, followed shortly thereafter by delivering ACE to its new owner. And the end of one epoch in our RV lifestyle, to be followed by another. More to follow …

August 2023: Acadia National Park

After the family left the Lake George RV Park, we took a couple days to mosey eastward. The first stop en route was Dolly Copp campground in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, which was significant because it was exactly the same area we spent our honeymoon 51 years previous!

A hike to Glen Ellis Falls on our way to Mt. Washington.

Of course, back then we were tent camping …

And where we were in New Hampshire in 1972, we were actually backpacking through these mountains! (Let’s say that now our standard for “roughing it” is considerably higher.) But the area is still as beautiful, and Mt. Washington still has the worst weather on earth.

After a couple days, we arrived at Acadia National Park. We had been tracking the weather on coastal Maine for weeks, and it had been what one would expect at coastal Maine: cold, rainy, and generally dismal. Except that when we got there, it remained sunny and warm for the entire week. I’m sure that’s a blessing bestowed upon us as a result of my conspicuous clean living. Actually, maybe that’s not it.

Atop Cadillac Mountain, this is pretty much how the weather was all week!

Traveling around the country, we’ve gotten used to dramatic vistas, but Maine presented us with a different kind of beauty.

For photography, clear blue skies are basically boring. But there was one (but only one) morning with enough clouds to make for an interesting sunrise.

We spent days hiking and touring around and never grew tired of the scenery. Acadia gets more than 4 million visitors per year, making it one of the busiest national parks in the U.S. But, as usual, nearly all of those people never go more than a couple hundred yards from the nearest paved surface, so hiking along the coast soon leaves one pretty much alone.

And one highlight of the trip was the culinary indulgence of having an excess of lobster at least once, and sometimes twice, per day.

Since we were eating the little critters, we decided to take a tour on an actual lobster boat, guided by a guy whose family has been lobstermen in Maine for five generations.

[Digression /on] There’s a theory in environmental philosophy known as the “tragedy of the commons.” The idea is that where there’s a common resource, each user has no incentive to preserve the resource for the benefit of others, which leads to each person over-consuming his “share,” which leads to depletion of the resource, and so on. When the theory was developed by Garrett Hardin back in the 1970s, many economists noted that the theory makes sense in a simplistic kind of way, but for its validity it requires that the users fail to appreciate the problem and cooperate to maintain the resource. So, the question was, which is true in real life? Cooperation or depletion?

As it turns out, the Maine lobster fishery offers at least one answer. Starting all the way back in the early 20th century, Maine lobstermen voluntarily began to cooperate to preserve and enhance the lobster fishery. Each lobsterman agreed to voluntarily limit his take, and they agreed on certain practices to manage the lobster population. For example, they instituted strict size limits on harvestable lobsters, returning lobster that were either too small or too big. If a female egg-bearing lobster is caught, the lobsterman clips a notch in the tail of the lobster, indicating that this lobster cannot be harvested and, if caught again, must be returned to replenish the population. And so on. Eventually the practices were codified and expanded, but the program remains largely self-regulated.

In fact, in 2009 the Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in economics, for her study of private cooperation of common resources, using the Maine lobster fishery as an example. Her conclusion:

[Ostrom] challenged the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatized. Based on numerous studies of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes, and groundwater basins, Ostrom concludes that the outcomes are, more often than not, better than predicted by standard theories.

And the result of such self-regulated, voluntary cooperation in Maine? Eighty-five percent of all the lobster eaten in the U.S. come from Maine. And annual lobster harvests, that were roughly 20 million pounds per year in the 1980s are now 95 million pounds per year! Wow. [digression /off]

Anyway, Maine was a great stop, we (finally) crossed off an important gap in our RV-travel bucket list, and now it’s off to upstate New York to see son #2 and his family.

August 2023: Family Time at Lake George

After leaving Antietam National Battlefield Park, we took a couple days to mosey on up to the Lake George RV Park, meeting up there with Son #1 and his family. There are certain RV parks that are made for families. Obviously, Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World in Florida is one of them. (See here, and here, and here, and here.) Some of the reviews of the Lake George RV Park said it was better than Ft. Wilderness, so on that basis we picked that park as a place to meet up. I’m not so sure about the park being better than Ft. Wilderness, but there’s no denying it’s PDG (pretty darn good).

And all the other, usual campground stuff…

So, we ended up spending six wonderful days with the family. But there is a note of sadness, too. The girls are getting to the age where school, and sports, and socializing, plus all the other things that teenagers do, leave little time for camping with the family. So, this was the farewell trip for them in the camper. <Boo> <hoo> <boo> <hoo> <weep> <cry> <sob> <snort> <choke>

But, if the ways of the world hold true, there will come a time when the kids are grown, and the parents miss traveling around in a camper, and they’ll find themselves buying another, and then the kids will come back, maybe even with grandkids in tow. Life is good.

Next, Acadia National Park.

August 2023: Antietam National Battlefield Park

Well, first, an announcement: All good things must come to an end, and it was time for ACE, our long-lived Class A motor home, to find a new home. There was actually nothing seriously wrong with it, but it was 11 years old, had 70,000 miles on it, and, while motor homes require a lot of TLC, this one was requiring more TLC with each passing year and there comes a point where the effort required is greater than the benefit received.

But there’s a coda to that story. Two, actually.

The first is that the guy who purchased ACE, in an amazing act of generosity, agreed to delay delivery for two months so we could use ACE to take a 6-week, 3000-mile trip to the northeast to visit family and see Acadia National Park. More on that below.

The second is that shortly after we transferred ACE to its new owner, we bought a small’ish travel trailer, a Grand Design Imagine XLS 23LDE. Seeing as how it’s an Imagine brand, we thought Imogene would be a suitable name, “Genie” for short. That will be the subject of a future post.

Our farewell trip

There’s lots to say about the trip, which was wonderful on all counts, but here are a few of the highlights…

Antietam National Battlefield Park

In September 1862, the Confederate Army, under Robert E. Lee, invaded Maryland in an attempt to shift the focus of the war away from the south and into Federal territory. The Confederates were met near Sharpsburg by Union forces under Major General George B. McClellan. The engagement occurred in a small area, roughly 5 miles long and no more that a couple miles wide, but what occurred there was the bloodiest day in American history: 22,000 casualties in 12 hours. The area of the fighting is preserved now as the Antietam National Battlefield Park.

And, as usual, the National Park Service has done an unbelievable job of bringing to life the history, the battle, the personalities, and the significance of that day. Most of all, NPS has set up a driving tour of the battlefield area with stops at each of the significant locations, with each stop presenting the operational ebb and flow of the engagement in a way that mimics what is known in military terms as a “staff ride.”

Just one example: Crossing the farmland was a small dirt path known to the locals as the “sunken road.” Confederate troops dug in along this road as northern troops approached. While the Confederate troops were outnumbered almost 3:1, their superior position allowed them to wreak havoc on the Union army. After 5 hours of fighting, 5500 men had been killed or wounded, and that road is now known as “Bloody Lane.” The details of what happened are accessible nowadays through an assortment of signs, maps, displays, and even an observational tower.

During one of the talks we attended, the ranger made another point that reveals something important about this battle, and about our history generally. President Lincoln actually visited the battlefield after the battle, and visited not only the Union field hospital there, but the Confederate hospital as well. I asked the ranger that such a visit was surprising to me … why would Lincoln do such a thing? She responded that, yes, Lincoln hated slavery with a passion, and wanted it eradicated from the country, but ending slavery could wait. More than that he wanted to preserve the union. He knew that someday we would all have to live together, and his job was to make sure we could. So, when asked by a reporter why he visited the Confederate hospital, he said, “there are men of valor and virtue in there.”

It reminded me of the account of Appomattox where, after Lee’s surrender, General Grant allowed the Confederate soldiers to keep their arms and horses, knowing that they’d need them to live once they got home. And before everyone headed home, the Union and Confederate soldiers mingled together, renewed old friendships, and shared stories. Perhaps, if the war meant brother against brother, people had a sense that the end of the war meant the family could try to get back together again.

Try to imagine such decency, magnanimity, and fraternity today.

Anyway, unfortunately, we had rearranged our itinerary, leaving only one day to explore Antietam. In hindsight, it requires at least two days for the same reason Gettysburg requires more time … Lincoln was right: these places really are holy ground.

Next stop … Lake George, New York.

May 30-31, 2023: RIP Little ‘Bina

Seems like it wasn’t that many years ago that little Sally went off to that great chipmunk-chasing grounds in the sky. Now little Sabrina has gone off to join her sister. It was just one of those things where Sabrina kept heading downhill, until all she did was pace around, pant, and sleep. And eat treats. Lots of ’em. It was hard to know what was going on inside her brain, such as it was, because she had no affects. But we began to worry that she was actually in pain and miserable. So, all things considered, it was time to say good-bye.

(The girls came by to say good-bye to Sabrina, which turned out to be reminiscent of a picture of them with Sally a few years ago.)

As it turns out, we had a scheduled trip back to F.D. Roosevelt State Park, so we had a couple days to adjust to a new normal without that stinkin’ little rascal. And the days were perfect. Cool, slight breeze, beautiful park, a wonderful 3.2-mile trail along Mountain Creek, and nothing to do but enjoy being outside.

(Set up at camp site #520. Typical of FD Roosevelt State Park — beautiful site, nicely secluded, and perfect for sitting outside, enjoying the peace and quiet of the park.)

(At left: Wendy walking under the Log of Damocles. At right: using her new knee to cross a fallen log.)

And to top it all off, we had a 24-hour wake for Sabrina, with a wonderful steak dinner on Tuesday night, and an indulgent bacon and egg breakfast on Wednesday.

So, little Sabrina is gone but we’re sure she and Sally are having a great time.