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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Washington was a Tent Camper

At the Visitor Center in the Yorktown Battlefield National Park, there are some interesting artifacts on display.  One is the Lafayette Cannon.  


It was a British Army cannon that was damaged irreparably by a lucky shot by an American gun, leaving a deep dent in the barrel.


The Marquis de Lafayette was a French officer who was on Washington's staff and became his good friend. Lafayette visited the Yorktown Battlefield many years after the war and saw the cannon.  He remembered the cannon, having seen it right after the battle ended.  He threw his arms around it and called it his "Old Friend".  It was named after him.

Also on display are Washington's personnel tents that he used during the battle.  This one was his sleeping tent.


The second tent was his working office.


I think the folding chairs made watching entire baseball games on the large screen TV somewhat uncomfortable.  So far, National Park Service archaeologists have been unable to locate the TV.  The tents, however, became family heirlooms and were passed down through the years from relative to relative.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the battle, the Victory Monument was erected on the battlefield grounds.


The column has many beautiful carvings decorating it.


Unfortunately, the grounds of the battlefield did not remain at peace and 82 years later, another bloody battle was fought here, during the Civil War.  Trenches were dug near the original trenches by Union soldiers, while Confederate soldiers utilized fortifications built by the British Army.



Sadly, some of the soldiers never went home.  A cemetery containing the remains of hundreds of Union soldiers, many unidentified, is now part of the battlefield.



The Yorktown Battlefield National Park Visitor Center has a large parking lot that RVs can easily fit in.  However, to see the large area the battlefield covers, it is recommended to use a toad, tow vehicle or if you choose, a bicycle.  Some of the roads are narrow and twisty.   As you explore the battlefield, keep your eyes pealed, who knows, you might discover the missing large screen TV. ;c)

Thanks for visiting and please feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Where Liberty Became Reality

I'm sure many of us have fuzzy images of the Revolutionary War, George Washington crossing the Delaware River, bundled soldiers dressed in ragged uniforms shivering at Valley Forge, or even the statue of the Minute Man up in that far away land called Massachusetts where the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" was fired.

So, how many can remember where it all ended?  The Revolutionary War ended with the victory at Yorktown, Virginia and the battlefield is preserved as a National Park.  I drive through the battlefield every day on my commute to work.  In my mind's eye, I can see the soldiers, British, French and American who struggled over the now quiet fields.

I thought I'd share some of the views and later tell how history repeated itself.

Yorktown, VA is located on a peninsula of land between the York and James rivers.   In October 1781, the British were pushed back to the tiny town by a combined American and French army commanded by George Washington.  The only way of escape for the British Army was by ship down the York river  and out to sea, but the French Navy blockaded the British fleet and trapped the British Army.  Washington laid on a siege and eventually forced the British to surrender after tightening the noose and bombarding them day and night.

Today, the guns are silent, here is a view from the British fortifications.  After 229 years, the fortifications still survive.


A British cannon looks towards the American lines.


This British fortification, called a Redoubt was stormed in the dead of night by a young American Colonel named Alexander Hamilton. 


By capturing this outpost, Washington was able to bring heavy motors in closer to the British and hit them with greater accuracy.


The British General, Lord Cornwallis, finally realized further resistance was futile.  A drummer boy was sent to the top of the British fortifications, and sounded his drum.  Then a British officer carrying a white flag appeared alongside the boy and was led to the American lines to discuss surrender.

This little white house, owned by the Moore family was were the terms of surrender were finalized.


When the surrender terms were agreed upon, the British Army marched to this field, called Surrender Field and dropped all their weapons.  Liberty became reality on October 19th, 1781 here in this field.



More tomorrow from Yorktown National Park.

Thanks for visiting and please feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Friday was shaping up to be a good day.  The Journey is in the body shop at my dealer getting the key scratches repaired, should be done by next Wednesday.  I received the checks to pay for the repairs on both my Civic and the Journey from my insurance company.  We were going to to pick up the Civic from the body shop.  (They did a great job, it looks like new.  You can't tell where it was damaged).


So there I was, humming a tune along with the XM radio in the Element as I was driving home.  Everything was falling into place with the recovery from the vandalism.

Then...CRACK!  A tiny stone hit the windshield on the Element, just a half inch from the window frame.


The glass instantly cracked over a foot long.  If I had been driving the Civic, the stone would have passed over the roof.  The Element is a much taller vehicle.

My insurance company is going to love me.  I think I'll wait until October to contact them about the windshield and give their checkbook a chance to cool off from the claims I filed this month.
This is going to be windshield number six in the Element since I bought it new in 2003.  I think the design of the glass construction on this model is too thin.

Too funny.  Maybe my humming was too loud??? ;c) 

Anyway, we've touched base with our realtor friends and will be meeting with them in a week or so to discuss our plans for putting the house on the market.  We're not going to worry about the minor things in life.


We'd rather look for that "SOLD" sign.  ;c)

Thanks for visiting and please feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Marti's Musings: Altered Thinking - 2

So, if you read my first entry "Altered Thinking" you will probably guess the train of thoughts I am having - (if you didn't read it yet, you can find it here). 

As I hear from my kids, with their growing families, and moves from house to house (usually to bigger and bigger) - it really hits home.  They are excited about new furniture purchased - my mind goes to "furniture?  What am I going to DO with all of our furniture when THAT time comes?".  They get excited about bigger (and better) homes they move to - my mind goes to "bigger? we can't wait to downsize - yikes!  I need to get rid of .... nearly everything!" 

Sometimes these moments cause mild panic type thoughts - good grief!  How are we going to get through this?  and work full time?  And maintain (what little) sanity we have left? 

Other times, it is so exciting to look forward to being near those precious grandkids, and not rely on phone calls, pictures and computer conversations. 

Inevitably these days, our conversations end up with discussions about "let's plan on going here/there" or "we need to do this/that before we put the house on the market" (which causes another mild panic attack!) and the inevitable "we need to rent a dumpster to get all the junk to the dump!".



So, although there is TONS to do (as I sit here in front of the laptop -doh!) - and although there are times when there are mild panic attacks, we are still SO excited to be planning our retirement and the trips and adding to the 'bucket list' that keeps on growing.

We both have taken to reading blogs everyday, of folks already on the road as well as those still on the journey to full timing.  There are definite indications in our lives that God is moving, and the time frame is coming up .... We still are not at liberty to discuss the actual time frame, as we both have jobs to protect - for now at least.  But we are seeing and feeling the direction that we were praying and asking for.  Yup, that causes another mild panic attack, replaced shortly thereafter by the feelings of joy that we will be free of the junk, er stuff, that surrounds us and with excitement of not having to worry about work time frames.  Woo Hoo!

Today we went and looked at Lowe's for items that we can purchase to make our house more marketable...  yup - things are getting serious around here....  stay tuned!.  

Thanks for visiting - and feel free to leave a comment.  :-)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bummer Weekend

We'll have to find something to do this weekend because the Journey is in the shop getting the key scratches fixed.  Won't be done until next Wednesday.  What a bummer!!!

So stay tuned and see what comes along tomorrow.  Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rescuing the Rescuers

I was reviewing pictures we've collected over the years.  You know, those boxes of photos you've taken over the years and "someday" are going to organize into albums.  Then as the years pass, you slowly forget about them until one day you have a reason to look for something.

I came across a series of pictures today I had forgotten about.  They were taken back around July 4th, 1988 when I was stationed on the Coast Guard Cutter Point Francis, home ported at Sandy Hook, NJ.

(Click on the pictures to make them larger.  I apologize for the poor quality.)

We had just finished enforcing a safety zone off of Coney Island Beach, Brooklyn, NY.  An air show of the Canadian Air Force's flight demonstration team, called the "Snow Birds" (like the Blue Angels) had taken place and we kept an area of water under where they performed free of spectator boats.

It was a beautiful warm sunny day and as we were heading home, we received a "Mayday" call over the radio that a boat was sinking in Graves End Bay, just south of the Verrazano Bridge.  We headed in that direction and a Coast Guard 41 foot Utility Boat from nearby Coast Guard Station Rockaway NY also headed to the scene.  Here you can see the 41 coming up on our stern.


We arrived on scene to find an old 25 foot cabin cruiser taking on water.  The 41 maneuvered along first and started taking off the people.


After the people were rescued,  my fellow crewmember Dan (in the light blue shirt) and I (in the dark blue shirt) hopped on board with a portable rescue pump.  We were going to pump the water out and when the level dropped low enough, we'd look for the source of the flooding and plug it.


We got the rescue pump going and started removing the water from the sinking boat.


However, the boat was beyond saving and we lost the battle.  The boat sank out from under us.


Fortunately, the other crewmembers on the Point Francis were on the ball, tossed us life rings and made preparations to haul us out of the water.  It was difficult for the Skipper to maneuver the 82 foot long Point Francis  to pull us out of the water without running us over.


Dan got pulled up first and here I am hauling myself out of the water up the Jacob's ladder.


The boat was lost, the pump was lost but Dan and I were rescued.  It was just a fluke that we had a passenger on board that day for the air show with a camera and shot these pictures.

As I debate turning in my retirement letter and calling it a career in the Coast Guard, memories like this help me realize that this is a young man's job and I'm not one any more.  I'm thinking my place should be behind the wheel of the Journey with Marti by my side exploring America.

Thanks for visiting and please feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

No More Fighting Over the Air Card

We love Al Gore's Internet.  At home or on the road we like to keep connected to the latest news, weather, RV blogs and Facebook (Marti).  Email has become a necessity, too.  In the stix-n-brix, we have our own WiFi set up so we can both be on line at the same time enjoying Cyberspace.  On the road in the Journey, it's another story.  We purchased an air card with Sprint service, but it can only be used one at a time. 

So we investigated the options out there and we purchased this.


It enables us to plug in our air card and create our own  portable WiFi hot spot.  The unit requires a 110V electrical outlet for power.  It is small and has a mirror finish.  It reflected some lights in my dining room chandelier in case you were wondering what the ball looking thingy is in the right top corner.  On the bottom right corner is a light indicator that shows how many bars of signal strength you have in the area you're in. 


Size wise, this gives you perspective.  It cost 50 of these guys.


On the side is an On/Off switch, a phone line plug port if you're using a dial up connection, a USB port where you can plug in an air card and the port for the power plug.


With our air card in we're surfin' in no time.  (Now you can see the rest of our chandelier).


We have three laptops, one with Windows XP, one with Windows Vista and one with Windows 7 and the Cradlepoint connects to all three with ease.  It can be hooked up to a Wilson Trucker's Cellphone Range Extender antenna if we find ourselves in an area with weak cell service.  Of course, that will require drilling a hole in the roof and you know how I hate the thought of drilling holes in the Journey.  We're going to try it out for a while before I get out the drill.  :cO

  We're quite pleased with this new addition to our traveling home.

Thanks for visiting and please feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Twist in Life

Before I get to the twist, the final estimate for the Journey came in today, $3600.  My dealer will start it next Wednesday and it will be finished Friday, just in time for our Labor Day camping trip. :c)

We have purchased three motorhomes from this dealer since 2001 and my father has purchased two, so we're pretty good customers.  He is not the cheapest dealer but I've received nothing but first class service from him when I need it and I get in pretty quickly.  So it's nice to see loyalty back to me because I'm a loyal customer.

Now for the twist.  I have an opportunity to put in for two real good assignments, they both are members of a team that does the same job.  A couple of years ago, I had one of these assignments, spent over four years in the job and traveled not only all over the country but all over the world.  I went to such places as Russia a couple of times, and walked through Red Square twice, London, saw the Panama Canal locks from underneath (where all the machinery is) and other places I'd never dreamed I'd see.

A chance to do this again is very tempting.  It would be a two year tour, starting in July 2011.  I'd get a promotion during the tour, too.  So it has some benefits, an increase in pay and my pension, a chance to (hopefully) see our house property value increase and pay off the remaining balance on our mortgage.

On the other hand, we're not getting any younger and no one knows what tomorrow will bring.  Marti's job is not getting any less stressful and since she's already the top dog, there is no where else for her to go.  We both can retire and sell the house (although the values keeps dropping) and hit the road comfortably  right now.

It's a hard choice, we see both sides and they both are attractive, but only one will be the right one.  And that's what we're wrestling with now.  I don't have to make any decisions now but I won't be able to sit on the fence indefinitely.  Another twist of life.

Thanks for visiting and please feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Estimates on the Key Damage

Hold on to your hat.  The key scratches to the car and the Journey were reported to my insurance company.  The car came to just under $1000.  The preliminary estimate to the Journey will be somewhere between $3000 to $4000. 

The reason the Journey will cost so much is the scratches went through all three color bands (or swirls) on the side of it, and the scratches are deep enough into the aluminum of the basement compartment doors that some filler will be required.  Then it has to have the clear coat applied after the three colors of paint are put on.

The good news is the car will be done Friday and the Journey will be done in time for our Labor Day weekend getaway.  The "gooder" news is it is covered under the comprehensive clause on my insurance policy, so my rates won't go up.  The lesser good news, okay the annoyingly bad news is I have to pay a $100 deductible on each vehicle. :c(

So I've put the word out to some of the neighborhood kids to let me know if they hear anything.  You never know.

And so, the joy of RV ownership goes on.  I still wouldn't trade the owning a beautiful motorhome and things that happen to it for anything.  Just a little speed bump in the highway of life.  :c)

Thanks for visiting and please feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Portable Satellite Dish Set Up

We love to keep in touch with the goings on in the world.  Even when camping, we thirst for the latest  news, weather and favorite TV shows.  We have an in-motion satellite TV dome, which is great for when we travel with the grandkids.  It works great when we're stopped, too.  Except when there are trees that block the signal.  We bought a portable satellite dish to get around the trees.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with setting up a dish, but for others that are not, or are considering a purchase, I'd like to show the steps we do to get our TV set up.  We use Direct TV.

I unhook the Direct TV box from the installed in-motion dish and hook an external cable to it and run it outside to a clear position.


I get the coordinates for pointing the dish from the menu setup, where I enter the zip code of my location.  Sorry for the bad picture, but you can see the angle and compass heading in the right top corner.


Outside I set up the tripod.  It is critical that it is set level.


In the center pipe of my tripod is a level bubble so I can easily get everything level.


Then I install the dish and the LNB arm.



I set the dish to the correct angle by a little scale on the side, in this case it's 38 degrees.


I use an Align-a-Site to get the right compass setting (Azimuth) and I can see through it to see exactly what the dish sees.  I adjust the dish to ensure I have the dish pointed in the right direction and then check to see that I have a clear sight through any trees.



After a quick hook up of the cable to the dish, I have Marti go to check the signal strength on the TV.


It gives both a visual and audible reading to tune the dish for the strongest signal.  I tweak the dish with tiny movements until we lock on to the strongest signal.


Then I lock all the adjustment settings into the portable dish with my trusty wrench.


Lastly, I hang a weight, here I use a gallon of windshield washer fluid, so the dish won't blow over in the wind.


Then, it's kick back and enjoy our favorite shows.


All in all, setup takes about 15 minutes.  It can be done without an Align-a-Site, but it sure helps.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.