June 2015 Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, New Jersey

June has started out to be a fun month. Today is the 7th and I’ve just finished a 3.1 mile hike in Coopers Rock West Virginia State Forest. The hike took me from the campground on McCollum Trail where the only sound I could hear was the cracking of the nuts under my feet.

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I crossed the trail to Raven Rock and followed the Roadside Trail to the Overlook area.  At Coopers Rock Overlook where I enjoyed the view of a river separating a couple of mountains. If the Park attendants ever come back I may try to stay here for a few more days and try to get some pictures of the Mountain Laurel.

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Cheryl returned from her Yoga class in Belize with her back still burned but in great spirits! I got up early on the 5th and moved all my things out to the RV and prepared the house for Cheryl. I used my own cooking items while she was gone because I wanted to learn how to use the new induction plate I have to use while traveling. I love it! Quick and easy. I drove the RV to Alex’s house and parked in his driveway anticipating to remain there for the night. John and Norma Gruehl, Don Sheehan, me and Alex and his wife enjoyed an evening of sharing stories and getting to know one another. A wonderful time and Alex and his wife are the consummate hosts!

The morning of the 6th I took off toward Indianapolis with my GPS set on ‘no highways, no tolls’. After a couple of hours travel though I removed the ‘no highways’ restriction because I realized I was going to be traveling in and out of the Shenandoah Valley and I couldn’t see where the road was taking me. So I was then directed toward a circuitous route to I-68. This runs somewhat parallel to I-70 and the road was a new experience for me as I had always traveled I-70. I-68 intermingles with I-40 with I-40 being a more scenic road. I tried to stay at a ‘Bear Lake recreation area’ but it was full and while the lady trying to find me a spot was working at it diligently I truly don’t think she knew what a ‘Class C, 24’ Motorhome was based on the questions she was asking and the mumbling I could hear. Oh well, I wasn’t supposed to be there.

I traveled until I saw a sign for Coopers Rock State Forest and as I have never slept in my RV in West Virginia, off I go. The spot intended for me was #12 but there was a huge group of Afghan men there having a discussion and cookout. They were supposed to leave but the Park Ranger allowed me to stay in the ‘Host’ location next to the check-in and camp store. A great location! I can stay here and there is internet, cell phone and quiet! The bonus is that I can take a long hike each morning and write on the book in the afternoon!

8 June 2015

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This is my latest blog site where I am posting all of my travel adventures. When viewing the pictures that are posted be sure to click on them as they are only thumbnails, meaning they are smaller versions of the real picture. J

It is Sunday night and the two young women that work this area were beginning to have their own cookout. It seems that each Sunday after all the campers leave that they treat themselves to a cooked out dinner to celebrate the end of the week. I volunteered my Weber grill and NUWAVE induction plate to help them in the preparations. The park ranger is an Army veteran who is married to a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel that flew Cobra Helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan. We talked while they prepared dinner and enjoyed sharing military stories. Afterwards I grilled asparagus, sweet peppers, zucchini and chicken tenders for my dinner. No alcohol is allowed so don’t mention the beer I had with my dinner!

I guess I was tired because I didn’t get out of bed until 0830! After a leisurely cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal I prepared my camel/back pack to hit the trails. Today I again departed the campground on McCollum Trail to complete a 5.6 mile hike but at the intersection with the Raven Rock Trail I followed it to see the Raven Rock Overlook view of the Cheat River canyon. I kept stumbling on roots and rocks on the trail because I was busy looking at flowers on the trail and looking for wildlife. I had no idea that Mountain Laurel was a tree. The two pictures below show the tree and a close up of this beautiful flower.

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These weren’t the only flowers along the trail which wound around to end on top of a ridge with a truly commanding view.

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About the only animal I saw other than 2 hikers was the worm in one of the photos above! I kept thinking that a bear or deer would show itself as all the tourists are gone with the weekend over.

I will tell you now that heights and I don’t get along anymore and with the wind blowing in a thunderstorm I wasn’t about to go to the edge and look over. My heart is in my stomach just thinking about it! But I have photos to prove that I was at this overlook. I know why it’s called ‘Raven Rock’ and that is because only the Ravens should be there!  As you can tell in the photo below I didn’t get too close to the edge. But just think about those brave souls during the depression working on Roosevelt’s CCC program that built Camp Preston, now Coopers Rock State Forest, and the power lines that you see at the very top and edge of Ravens Rock! This area was purchased at $5 an acre to make a state park and wildlife preserve to attract hunters and help the region economically. Just like the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah Mountains.

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At the Coopers Rock overlook concession stand I bought a jar of honey only to be somewhat disappointed because it is wildflower honey from Georgia. I don’t have anything against Georgia honey but I did want some of the local honey. All is good though, honey in my coffee is just perfect no matter where it is from. I ordered a cheeseburger and water from the concession and went to one of the pavilions to eat it. At the other end of the pavilion was a European looking gentleman. Very tall and lanky, perhaps 6’6” or more in very loose fitting clothes using the fire grate to cook. As I was finishing my meal I commented that whatever he was cooking smelled good. I said this to make conversation as all I could really smell was the wood fire itself. He tells me he is making a mulligan stew and I see cabbage peeking out of his bag. He asked about my meal and I told him a burger to build my energy for the completion of my hike. As I approached him he raised the lid on a very large but shallow steel pot to stir his stew. I’m not sure there was meat in there. His accent was appealing as he began to explain about the unusual fauna in the area. I showed him the photo of the mountain laurel and he took me over to an area of the park leading to the overlook and showed me a ‘Lady Slipper Orchid’ that he states is a rare orchid that only grows where there is a proliferation of moss as is pictured below.

In this picture you can see where I’ve just missed the orchid blooming. There were maybe 10 or more plants surrounding this large tree with moss all over the ground.

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I asked about the trees that had also just completed their blooming period as there are petals from their blossoms all over the ground and he tells me that these are Rhododendron Trees. This forest is full of them and I can only imagine what it must have smelled like when they were in full bloom.

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So I’m walking back toward the campground and I’m on the ‘Roadside Trail’ that I have to follow for .8 of a mile. I hear this odd fluttering sound and stop to listen. I hear it again and it seems that there is a woodpecker inside a tree working away for a meal. After this tree I noticed others that the woodpeckers were burrowing into. At the bottom it seems the ground squirrels are feasting also. Life is good in the forest of West Virginia.

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So now I have called to change my July 9th Dental appointment to June 11th. Yah! This give me freedom of choice after the Rock, Ribs and Ridges Festival in New Jersey. Maybe I can contact some friends in NYC before heading to see Paul Saunders in Rhode Island and others in Maine.  Or I may be heading to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone with 3 of my favorite girls!  Do I hear ROAD TRIP in an RV?

Regardless, I am sipping on a Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon and enjoying the aftermath of the thunderstorm that raced through here. Thank goodness I was able to get my 5.6 mile hike in before the rain!  Do leave comments and let me know how you are doing too.

9 June 2015

On this date in 1970 I entered the U.S. Navy as a recruit! In many ways it seems like it was only yesterday or that it was only a dream as the memories fade. It rained off and on all night long so I’m chilling out at the campground today preparing for departure tomorrow morning for Indianapolis and writing on my book today.

Each day is a learning experience. I’ve been sitting in the same campsite for two nights. Tonight will be my last before I depart tomorrow morning for Indianapolis. I turned on the TV and as usual the reception was very poor. The NBC and ABC stations were just static but the PBS stations came in fine. After dinner I walked to the Campground bathroom and looked at my antennae wondering if it could rotate as well as just go up from the roof. By pulling down the dial I was able to rotate the antennae and now I have reception. It is the small things in life!

I see a big black Lincoln Navigator pull into the office and pay for a site and then pull across from the campground from me. Remember that I’m sitting in the ‘Host’ position because a group of Afghan men were in a very serious huddle for hours in the site that I had been assigned. A woman with long blonde hair and a billowy summer print skirt exits the SUV, opens the back and begins to spread out a tent. Fascinated that a woman in a skirt is putting up a tent, like a train wreck I keep watching. A toddler, about 2 years old wearing the cutest hat helps by getting the tent pegs out of the SUV and rushing back and forth between the SUV and the tent. This woman was proficient in getting her tent up and situated for the night. I was impressed!

With all the rain last night I decided to not go hiking on the Rattlesnake trail and rather stayed near the campsite writing.

I put West Virginia in my rear view mirror early in the morning of the 10th and pointed Harry in the direction of Indianapolis. I still have the vision of a cherry red Jeep Wrangler with an automatic transmission. I just think these Jeeps are so cute. I’ve tallied together all the things that I didn’t like about the Jeep Wrangler that I drove while in Alexandria. It was a lot of work having a 6 speed manual transmission, especially in heavy stop and go traffic. This particular Jeep had a really nasty smell to it but that was probably from the kinds of equipment/tools Rod hauled in it. Also the noise was overwhelming, so much so that I couldn’t hear the radio even on the highway as I went to Aberdeen Proving Ground. So – quiet, automatic transmission and ease of ride is a criteria.

I arrived home in the early evening and visited with several of the neighbors. Wonderful people that I’ve missed being around. The condo was a welcome site and except for the 3 months of mail piled up on the kitchen counter was just as I had left it. The deck is being stained and the smell is overwhelming! Maybe I should have waited a couple of days to come home.

The morning of the 11th dawned with me wanting to go car shopping before my dental appointment at 1550. I searched all over the house for the title and I think it is in a briefcase packed away in the outside storage room. Oh well, off I go anyway. My first stop was at CARMAX to have my Pathfinder valued for a cash price to me. The Black book has it valued from $24,000 to a high of $29,000. I was offered $27,000. So now I have to decide if I just pay cash for a vehicle less than $10,000 or sell/trade in my Pathfinder and buy something nicer/newer. My 2013 Pathfinder Platinum has 16,500 miles and after 2 passes through the Sparkling Image carwash and some tender loving scrubbing it looks just like new! I did see several viable cars on the CARMAX lot but I packed up my car and took off for Tom O’Brien Jeep next door to see what they had as I really liked the look of the new Jeep Renegade, or at least what I had seen in the online ads.

At Tom O’Brien I found a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 106,000 miles for $8,990. While driving it though it just felt ‘loose’, meaning that it just didn’t seem quite everything that I wanted. I looked at the Renegade but it is not listed as towable. I told the salesman that I would like to look at the Wranglers and he had a 2015 with 7,024 miles on it. A local man had traded it in on the Renegade. Apparently the Renegade has only been out a couple of months and this man wanted the more enclosed Jeep.  Lucky me because I bought this Red, 2015 trail rated Jeep Wrangler Sport with automatic transmission! This Jeep is so fun to drive! I’m a happy camper. Oh, did I mention that the girls are pleased with my choice and can’t wait to take off the top and doors, put on big tires and go Mudding! NOT! I don’t think I’m the mudding type but hey, you never know and life is short so maybe it’s a ‘GO FOR IT’!

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On the 22nd I am having the Blue Ox towing system and electric brakes installed and on the morning of the 23rd I will be on my way to New Jersey for the Rock, Ribs and Ridges Festival. I took it by some of my neighbors to show them and it seems that I everyone agrees that I’ve made a good decision. If I had purchased the 2004 Jeep not only would I have had to concern myself with repairs but also the question begs of ‘Why do I have a like new SUV sitting in the garage and not being used?’ This Jeep can be my usual car when I quit traveling and is the perfect size for a tow vehicle and for me to get around in when stationary.  Life is good!  Ann and Mark asked that I invite some of the neighbors to their home tomorrow night for a BBQ cookout just because they like to entertain and they want to celebrate summer.  How cool is that?!

12 June 2015

Preparing for the next leg of my journey

I have been on the road for 3 months and I now have some experience of what is needed and what is not needed in the RV Motorhome a I travel. Today I made several corrections from my original pack-up of the RV.

I have plenty of room for clothing that folds so I can afford the room but can I afford the weight now that I’m towing the Jeep?

I have spent a considerable amount of time reorganizing where stuff is stored. I’ve moved the pots and pans (those that I use often verses the ones that are nice to have!) as well as how I store canned goods, my fireproof safe, rice cooker, slow cook crock pot and other kitchen items.

The under the bed storage area now has plastic containers that organize my sporting items like the inflatable kayak, snorkeling, fishing and hiking gear. These plastic containers have wheels to allow me to easily remove them from this compartment. I’ve stored my initial set-up materials such as water connections and pressure regulators but separated from the sewer connectors and sewer hose lifters and leveling blocks. All is good and readily accessible.

I have now placed my mountain bike, a Montague Paratrooper folding bicycle, in this compartment and I’m leaving my ‘city bike’ at home. I’m leaving the washer and dryer at home also rather than carrying it around all the time. If I find that I need anything that I’ve left at home then I can have that item sent to me along my travel path!

Monday I’ll get my first oil change and be ready to travel on the 23rd for Fairfield, NJ to attend the ‘Rock, Ribs and Ridges Festival’ where I’ll meet up with Jennifer.

A pleasant surprise is that my friend Ann from Phoenix (who served in Afghanistan back in 2011 with the US Air Force) flew into Indy and we were able have breakfast and talk for a little while. She may even join me for a long weekend while I’m on the road to enjoy a break from the daily grind.

Another pleasant event occurred where I was provided the opportunity to apply for the Chief Financial Officer position with the United Nations in Afghanistan. I shared the photo of my Jeep and RV and declined to apply. But it was very flattering to be thought capable of performing the duties. I have very mixed feelings about this though because I know that I have the knowledge and experience to be of great benefit to the program. But I also have to begin enjoying my own life, finish my books and see the United States.

20 June 2015

Today is the 20th and it is hard to believe that more than a week has gone by in Indianapolis. I did take a few days off and go to Grand Lake, OH to visit my friend Cyndi and her puppy Pippa. I took my bicycle anticipating a ride around the lake but we were pretty much rained out each day. The flooding is really bad and I’m hopeful the farmer’s crops will not be washed out. Thursday I returned to Indy to receive the running boards I ordered for the Jeep. It only took me a half hour to put both running boards on. I think they look great and functionally they make it easier to get into the Jeep!

Friday my longtime friend Tiffany and I went to the ‘Metropolis’ mall area of Indy in Plainfield for dinner. The Harps beer and Corned Beef with Cabbage entrée was very nice at the Claddagh Restaurant.  I was asked to provide insight to a new person working in Finance in Afghanistan and put together a nice package of funding reconciliation issues that existed in 2011 and remain to this day.

When I put my bicycle on the bike rack on the Jeep I decided that this is a better option for transporting it than in the basement storage area of the RV. We’ll see how it works out. I’m not concerned with theft or damage in a RV park or State/National park but when traveling that is always a concern in the back of my mind. Temptation is sometimes just too much for some people to resist.

It’s now the morning of the 23rd of June and today I’m off for the Rock, Ribs and Ridges festival in Fairfield, NJ. Yesterday the Blue Ox base plates, towing system and brakes were installed on my new Jeep and I pulled a TOAD for the first time. Today will be interesting as I take to the highway! So now I must finish closing up the condo, contact the Jeep dealer to find out where the paperwork is to register the Jeep and hit the road. I may have to remain in Indy for one more day but I hope not.

27 June 2015

It’s June 23rd, Tuesday afternoon. After receiving my UPS package at 4:15 PM I rushed to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to submit the title to the Jeep and affect the change in registration for my license tag. The BMV owes me money and will mail it to me eventually. I’m a happy camper now that my Jeep is legally registered to me and I have a temporary title. So, I’m on the road again heading out of Indianapolis on I-70 looking to see how far I can drive before nightfall.

At 65 mph I don’t even notice that the Jeep was being pulled behind me! There appears to be no drag or sway or anything to make a change in my driving/handling of the RV. In fact I think the RV may be more stable now, but I also adjusted the weight distribution while in Indy so I’m certain that has helped also. I just have to be very aware when pulling into a gas station to ensure that there is sufficient room for me to get out! In eastern Pennsylvania I tried to pull into a Pilot station but had to turn around in the truck area because the configuration of the gas station would not allow me to fill up with gas and be able to exit. When I finally pulled over at a SUNOCO station the pump stopped when it reached $100!

Below is pictured the Blue Ox towing system and then the brake for the Jeep.

Blue OX Towing

Braking System

I made it as far as just past (east of) Columbus, OH before pulling in for gasoline and asking permission to stay in their parking lot for the night. Once I was given permission to stay I had dinner at Denny’s and learned that my AARP card was worth more of a discount than my retired US Military card. While I was enjoying dinner in the Denny’s restaurant a truck pulled up next to me. I mention this because he left his engine running all night and it was noisy. I didn’t sleep well and waited for daylight to eat breakfast and begin the final leg of the journey to Kearny, NJ.

OK, the first day was easy, peasy! No mountains, heck barely even hills in Indiana or Ohio. Pennsylvania and New Jersey was a different story. My RV is a Ford E-350 with a V-10 engine that just does not have the power to climb the mountains without going into a lower gear and straining to keep up and not go over 3500 rpm. All is good though as I made it to Kearny, NJ and the Wilson-Gugelman Post 1302 of the VFW where I spent the night after meeting up with my friend Jennifer. Another Afghanistan liaison completed, so many more to go!

On the morning of the 26th we pack up the RV and head to the Rock, Ribs and Ridges festival at the Sussex County Fairgrounds. A beautiful drive through some steep hills and lush greenery. I only knew New Jersey to be that section of I-95 passing through the lowlands into New York City. After we checked in at the fairgrounds and parked the RV we took the Jeep to Stokes State Forest. Ok, I told the girls no mudding in the Jeep and we did NOT go mudding. We did get the Jeep a little wet though as we went off-road on our way to the Buttermilk Falls.

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Then we followed a very rough road alongside the Delaware River on the way to Millbrook Village.  Pennsylvania is on the other side of the river. A gust of wind had just blown the umbrella away from the family gathering area.

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And alongside the Delaware River we come upon the Van Campen Inn. If it were only open the view from the upper windows would be totally awesome!

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The best part of the trip was yet to come! Rain, rain and more rain! During a break in the rain Jennifer and I walked to the festival area and purchased a rack of ribs with coleslaw, beans and a dinner roll for dinner and a rib and brisket plate for lunch. We took these back to the RV as the rain is just not letting up. All the music we want to hear we can hear from the RV and there is NO need to drown like little rats.

Of note though is our Wal-Mart shopper that sprang into the RV/camping area and set up a tent in the rain. Notice the latest in fashion: barefoot with pants rolled up, duct tape patches to cover the holes in his jeans, clear garbage can liner for rain poncho and the new ‘wet hair’ look!

Later on these three gentlemen placed a shelter near the car and sat in total misery as the rain continued to pour down. Actually I can’t believe they pitched their tent in the rain in the first place. Oops, they are bringing the shelter tent back! A little earlier they had taken it down and carried it across the street. I thought that maybe they had borrowed it from someone else. As they put it up this time we have a change; they only raise it part way to keep the rain from blowing in!

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With all the rain Jennifer and I had ample opportunity to play cribbage and just talk. She showed me pictures from her military career days with the New York and New Jersey National Guard as well as photos from Afghanistan and Iraq. Jennifer is now a happily retired Sergeant Major. She looked mean as a soldier! Much happier now!

29 June 2015

The Rock, Ribs and Ridges Festival is a near wash out with both days of performance receiving record amounts of rain. The die-hard fans continued to show up to enjoy the music and food! Butch’s BBQ Ribs won the most votes, we ate their ribs because they had a line to purchase them and the other contestants didn’t! The rain finally let up enough on Sunday afternoon for Jennifer and me to take our lounge chairs, umbrellas and water to the concert site. The big blue umbrella that Dana left behind and I brought home from Afghanistan completely broke down but Berkley College had umbrellas as give away gifts and we each got one for the concert. It is a good thing we did as the rain continued off and on throughout the afternoon. At 2PM as the rain lets up the Artimus Pyle Band takes the stage. The lead singer, I assume to be Artimus Pyle, keeps talking a lot and explaining that he has had the band going strong for 44 years and mentions some of the big name bands he has opened for or played with. He should have retired years ago! His voice is gone and he can’t sing. It was a sad, sad performance. Next up was the Marshall Tucker Band. Some pretty old guys again hit the stage! Their performance was better than Artimus Pyle but again, these guys should have retired a while back.  Charlie Daniels did not let us down. His last song was his most famous song ‘Devil went down to Georgia’. I’ll admit that all of his songs sounded alike for the most part. It was almost like he was trying to recreate a hit like ‘Devil went down to Georgia’ but just didn’t ever make it.

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So now I’ve had a Rib and Rock-n-Roll Festival. I don’t think I’ll eat ribs for a while as I have had my fill of BBQ and my teeth aren’t used to chewing that much meat! I’ve also had my fill of concerts in the grass and I doubt that I’ll attend another one! Especially in the rain.

I did meet some terrific Good Sam’s representatives though. A combat engineer veteran and a retired policeman. Nice folks and their wives, very helpful and I now have a schedule of events throughout the Northeastern states in the event I’m here instead taking Alexis and Emily on a RV trip of a lifetime to the Grand Canyon via Route 66 and then Yellowstone National Park!

The best part of this trip was just being with Sergeant Major Jennifer Long and enjoying our chats. The off-road experience in the Jeep was stellar and I’m looking forward to more of that kind of fun. As we neared her apartment in Kearny, NJ this is the view of the new ‘One Freedom Tower’ and the lower Manhattan Skyline.

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New Jersey has been a special treat to me today. Jennifer took me to lunch as she ran a couple of errands and I’ve met some real characters out of ‘The Godfather’ or ‘Sopranos’.  Lenny is the owner of Brunos and is bigger than life! He is a large man, well over 6 foot and broad shouldered. He reaches out for a kiss on each cheek and a hug. He sits and talks with us as we eat our lunch, the Wise Guy sandwich – chicken, roasted peppers on a hard bun because the waitress thought it was better for us than the Panini bread on the menu!  I feel like I’m on a movie set or something. But he was a genuine guy that believes in America and was curious about what we thought we were accomplishing in Afghanistan and elsewhere. He respects the military servicemen/women but he really wants to know if we know what we are protecting; who we are fighting for. He doubts we are laying our lives on the line for the President or the politicians and feels that the average American doesn’t even know who these young people are that are putting themselves in danger in faraway places.  An interesting conversation to say the least. We paid our respects on the way out and he comes from behind the serving line to give another hug and kiss on each cheek, all the while wishing me safe travels and telling me that he respects and thanks me for all that I’ve done.

I am in Kearny, New Jersey named for Major General Philip Kearny and his family.

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Another historical tidbit is the tribute to the ship Dorchester that was sunk by the Germans in 1943. One of the 4 Chaplains was from a church in Kearny, NJ. Below is the monument to the Dorchester followed by a story from the internet about the Chaplains and the sinking of the Dorchester.

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Sinking of The Dorchester – 70th Anniversary –  Honoring those who Died
70th Anniversary of the Sinking of The Dorchester – Honoring those who Died In the early hours of February 3, 1943, a German U-Boat captain gave the command to attack The Dorchester.  Within 27 minutes, the transport ship with 902 people on board sank, taking the lives of 700 officers, servicemen and civilian workers. In that final half hour, the selfless efforts of four clergy on board helped save many men.  Working calmly, they located life jackets and helped direct the men out of the darkness out to the deck.  2013 marked the 70th anniversary of this tragic event.   Every year in early February, thousands of veterans, religious leaders, community volunteers and families gather at VA hospital chapels, American Legion posts and Jewish community centers to celebrate the heroism and faith of the Four Chaplains. The Dorchester, Four Chaplains, A Story Worth Telling The Dorchester, built in 1926, began its life carrying freight and passengers between Baltimore and Florida, up to 314 passengers and 90 crew. During World War II, with increased need for troop transport, The Dorchester was converted to military use.  Under the new wartime configuration, The Dorchester could carry 900 passengers and crew. Four chaplains, who eventually boarded The Dorchester, met in Army Chaplains School at Harvard University:  Rev. George L. Fox, a Methodist Minister, Rev. Clark V. Poling, a Dutch Reformed Minister, Fr. John P. Washington, a Catholic Priest and Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, a Jewish spiritual leader.  Despite their interfaith differences, they prayed together and became close friends.  Sharing a special kind of faith unity, they also found their strength.

Photos of the Four Chaplains on board the USAT Dorchester 1943 (public domain)

Chaplains

On January 23, 1943, accompanied by a convoy of three Coast Guard cutters, the USAT Dorchester left from New York to Greenland with 902 people on board, most of them servicemen new to the military, heading to the war front. Approximately 14 months had passed since the attack on Pearl Harbor, since the start of the US involvement in World War II.  Packed into the bowels of the ship, the men’s living quarters were hot and uncomfortable. On February 2, just eleven days into their journey and 150 miles from their destination, the service men were warned:  “A cutter detected a submarine close by.  Sleep in your life jackets.”  Many failed to heed the warning and slept only in their underwear. Around 1am, with almost everyone but the four chaplains asleep, two torpedoes hit the ship.  The first torpedo left the boat in complete darkness. The second one killed 100 men instantly.  On impact, the ship tilted.  Clothing and life jackets were lost in the darkness, and panic set in.  The four chaplains, without thought or question, fell into their commitment to service.  They helped calm and reassure the men as they moved everyone upstairs to the deck, distributing the life jackets they could find. As the boat began to list more heavily and then sink, as water came over the bow, the four chaplains remained together on the ship’s deck, their arms linked.  Singing, praying, their heads bowed, they remained visible and audible to the survivors in lifeboats who watched The Dorchester slip beneath the waves.

The US Army Transport ship: The Dorchester (Wikipedia Creative Commons license)Ship

The chaplain’s story of selflessness is inspiring, taking on meaning well beyond the simple acts of enduring service and sacrifice in the last half hour of life.  Their legacy continues to this day.  Memorializing the Four Chaplains Many actions have been taken to memorialize the Four Chaplains including a dedicated postage stamp, a medal in their honor, an annual recognition day and a memorial foundation.

  • On December 19, 1944, all four chaplains were posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross.
  • On May 28, 1948 U.S. Postal Service issued a special stamp to commemorate the brotherhood, service and sacrifice of the Four Chaplains.
  • July 14, 1960, United States Congress authorized the “Four Chaplains Medal.” which was presented posthumously to the families of the Four Chaplains.
  • In 1988, February 3 is established by unanimous act of Congress is an annual “Four Chaplain’s Day.” Each state has its own way of celebrating the day including official proclamations, flags flying at half-mast.
  • Many churches throughout United States remember the four chaplains on February 3 every year. The day is also observed is the feast day of the church calendar the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
  • The Chapel of the Four Chaplains was dedicated on February 3, 1951 by Pres. Harry S Truman to honor these chaplains of different faiths. The chapel was located in the basement of Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia. When the building in which the chapel was located was sold to Temple University
  • The Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation is housed at the former U.S. Naval Chapel located at the former South Philadelphia Navy Yard. Its official mission statement is “to further the cause of ‘unity without uniformity’ by encouraging goodwill and cooperation among all people.”

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30 June 2015

I keep forgetting to tell about the critters Jennifer and I encountered Friday, 26 June during our off-road adventure. Wild Turkeys twice. Each sighting was of a family of Turkeys as they scurried across the road and into the protection of the surrounding woods. A deer crossed the road at a ravine and kept going at a quick pace and I finally have seen a Black Bear! He was walking across the road and by the time we arrived at his crosswalk he was scurrying away from us. I guess I thought the Black Bear into existence at the time we saw him as I was thinking about Black Bears and had just asked Jenn if they had Bears in New Jersey. And then, there he was!! Coincidence?

Jennifer met me at the VFW where the RV was parked. Before she arrived for coffee I hooked up the Red Tagalong so once again I am a RJBMH. (Red Jeep Behind Motor Home) Thanks Mark! She gave me great directions on getting out of New York City but when I plugged in the address to the location in Newport, Rhode Island the Good Sam GPS for RV’s tells me that the route I have selected prohibits propane tanks of my size and rerouted me. It was all good because I missed the heavy traffic and saved half on the tolls.

Some of the roads in Connecticut were in poor shape and the logic of backing up traffic to a standstill in the middle of the day to sweep the inside shoulder of the road is beyond me. From the comments being made by the truckers Massachusetts is no better. There were three large dump trucks with the flashing arrows pointing for you to move over and they were slowly moving about ¼ mile apart blocking off the left lane from traffic. Eventually we come upon the street sweeper doing nothing more than redistributing whatever items were on the road to the middle of the road for all of us to run over. Then the traffic picks up to normal as soon as you pass by. Amazing, after over a half hour delay in travel time.

I entered Rhode Island and was struck by the rustic forest that the highway 138 had me going through. So peaceful and serene, so ‘old’ looking. I met Paul Saunders at the Knights of Columbus building where I’m parking the RV and he took me on a tour of the Island. HUGE estates that constitute the summer homes along the cliff walk and then other areas around the old Fort that is so visible from the Jamestown Bridge and the New York Yacht club.

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Newport claims to be the most historically intact city in America boasting the largest number of pre–revolutionary buildings. President Eisenhower had his summer residence here and it can be rented out for weddings and other special occasions.

Paul drove me by a couple of the beaches and gave me a running account of the history of the Island as well as his personal accounts of how he grew up here and the places he used to haunt as a child indicating how much has changed over the years.

We stopped in at his brothers historic home built in the 1880’s and his sister-in-law gave me a tour of the home showing me the renovations they had accomplished as this home had been divided into apartments at one time. In fact when they purchased the home in 1999 there were two teachers living there that refused to leave because they said it was their domicile. The police were called and they did leave! A beautiful old home with a surrounding porch and huge beautiful trees enclosing a quiet shaded back yard sitting area.

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A sky view from the Newport, RI visitor’s website!

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