I first visited the northeast of the United States when I was assigned to the US Military Academy at West Point, New York as a cadre with an Infantry unit. I had never heard of this area except when I was in high school and was assigned to read about the state capitol of Wisconsin which was Madison.
I left Ft. Ord, California after advanced Infantry training and took a 10 day leave for the Christmas holidays to visit my family. I had to leave San Antonio on January 30, 1958, on a train. I spent two days and nights on the train and celebrated New Year’s Eve by myself and arrived the next day by late night fall to west Point.
So here I was, a 20 year in a foreign country which I had no idea of where I was. All I knew was from the movies and all the gangsters who live in New York City. I was far removed from that environment and because of my youth I did not see the beauty of it. All I knew was that the weather was hot or cold.
It was a trip to New York city put on by the Service Center that I was to experience the culture of different ethnic groups. I was already accustomed to the soldiers from Puerto Rico in our unit but not the Italians. We had one from Brooklyn and he spoke differently. He sounded like he wanted to fight somebody all the time. I managed to visit the city quite often to see the Broadway plays and the latest movies.
The town near to us was Highland Falls, I don’t think it rated the title of a town. Maybe a village. When the inhabitants wanted to see a movie, they had to go to another village. If they wanted to attend a bowling event, they had to go further into another town or village. There was nothing in the village for us except bars and a Catholic church. So, that’s why I ended up in the city whenever I had the weekend off.
My second venture into the Northeast was when I was ordered to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin in 1972. It was an Easter Sunday that I left Ft. Bliss, Texas. It was a hot day and I traveled through the Texas desert and on through the Iowa’s cornfields which felt like an never ending highway with corn fields on both sides and the road going from one hill to another. Finally, when I was nearer to Wisconsin, I felt the weather change. I did not bring any cold weather clothing and when I got further north, there was snow on the ground, and I was the only car on the road. Everybody else was on snowmobiles or wagons with sleds instead of wheels.
I spent the summer there but fortunately there were two towns that I could visit. They were at least fifteen miles either way from my barracks. Yes, that’s right. I lived in a 50 person barracks by myself. Fortunately, it got warmer, so I didn’t suffer too much from the cold. Every weekend I was in either town depending on my mood except when I got a chance to visit my brother-in-law in Oklahoma where my wife decided to meet me there.
The towns that I visited for the local hangout were Sparta and Tomah. Tomah is known to be the inspiration the comic strip “Gasoline Alley” and is proud of it. Sparta, however, had much better environment with a small park and several recreation venues that anybody could attend. My choice was Sparta because there was a bar with guy playing the piano who let us sing along or do a solo if we wanted to. I also had a chance to visit Madison, Wisconsin and Chicago, a very windy city. I didn’t like either city.
In 2001 terrorist blew up the World Trade Tower in New York city with thousands lost including hundreds of firemen. I was at the clinic at Brookes Army Medical Center (BAMC), I was being informed that I had diabetes. When I left the doctor’s office, I saw a gathering outside lobby watching the TV and a tower was being a attack by a commercial plane. I still remember that day. I felt useless. However, I later decided to visit the site in New York city if I had a chance.
The following year, Anita, Terry, her sister, and I, decided to take a road trip toward New York City as one of my final destinations.. We had a cousin who lived in Brooklyn, and he would meet us there to give us a tour. We met down by the Battery and walked to where the towers used to stand. We saw a lot of people in front looking at photos of the missing people waiting to enter a safe zone. However, my cousin had been there before and took us to another area where we could easily see the workers still looking for bodies among the rubble. The US flag was still flying from a metal beam. The buildings next to the rubble were all sheared off on the side and had been emptied due to the possibility that it too might collapse.
We stayed around and took the subway to Times Square where we were invited inside a building where we were able to observe through a very large window, a throng of people waiting for tickets to various plays going on. Life went on.
Quite some time after retiting from the San Antonio School, district, we decided to visit my daughter, Marie, who had been living in Maryland for quite some time. We started visiting at her in-laws in Pennsylvania. We enjoyed the visits there and became friends with the neighbors in the little town of Avondale and loved the environment. We were able to visit Lancaster County where the Amish people lived. We even went to a store run by the Amish for their people. However, the public was invited to see what products they use for their livelihood.
Sometime later we got a chance to visit LA Havre, Maryland where my daughter and her husband, Pat, had moved to and where both were employed as park rangers. We visited the local museums and got a chance to do a side trip to Washington DC. This last time we were a little older and the walk did us in. However, we prevailed and saw the Korean memorial, the World War II memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. After visiting the Jefferson memorial, we decided to call an Uber to take us back to the train station for our trip back to Maryland. We were too tired to make the walk back.
In most trips to the Northeast, we planned to arrive there in the Fall when the leaves from the trees were changing their color which is a magnificent thing to see while driving or see from the front porch or while driving through the countryside as we go from town to town. We got to see the buggy driven by the Amish and went on a cruise on the Chesapeake Bay to see the beautiful sunsets from a boat. During one of our excursions to Virginia, we stayed in a cabin for a week deep in the Washington National Forest in the Shenandoah Valley. We waited for bears to appear, but they always came at night raiding the trash cans.
Among all this, we saw the beauty of the Northeast and its culture and history. Its foliage, the incredible two-lane roads which if you’re not used to it will stress you out and where people travel from town to town. The highways and overhead roads which make it easy to change directions without having to merge unto traffic. The many hiking trails, unpaved and left to nature to take its course. Meanwhile We see ourselves taking more trips to the Northeast for further adventures into other states like Connecticut. A road trip, maybe?