Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

America the Beautiful

I never cease to enjoy the beauty of the United States. Whether I’m flying at thirty-seven thousand feet looking down on the Rocky Mountains, or the wheat fields of the mid-West, I am awed by the expanse of our nation.

Last Sunday I caught a plane to Washington, DC where I was met by my brother, John. Monday morning the two of us drove to a country club in Maryland to play in a golf tournament which was a fund-raiser for a particular congressman my brother knows. It was a beautiful day – perfect for golf. Then again, every day is perfect for golf. This particular day happened to be more perfect than most. However, my ability to play this game of golf was in a serious state of malfunction (See: “I Need Help!” May 28, 2008). This is hard to take, not only because I know I can play better, but my brother’s game is so much better than mine at this point that I can’t even begin to compete with him. This is a deep and grievous wound to my soul which can only be eradicated by my soundly thrashing him on the golf course.

The next day John spent the day in his office in downtown DC. I, on the other hand, being on vacation, drove to the country club where he belongs near his home and spent more than two hours hitting golf balls on the practice range. I was then invited to play with a couple of John’s friends. I accepted their invitation. Unfortunately, my play was not pretty. (See: “I Need Help!”) They kept saying, “You’re playing with your brother later this afternoon, so you’d better not hit the ball like that!” Tell me . . . Where’s the justice? Sure enough, John arrived about 3:30 followed by his son Josh. Then John’s longtime friend, Pat Murphy, arrived. The foursome was now formed. This round of golf would be different, I kept telling myself. Fool! At the end of the day I was humbled yet again! (See: “I Need Help!”)

So Wednesday morning I had a brief respite from golf. The family had gathered at John and Lynne’s home, preparing for the trip to Maine where we vacation every year. I was driving John’s 79 Toyota Camry, a car he’s had since it was new, and drives like a dream. My route would take me through Newport, Rhode Island where the Navy Chaplain School is located. John and Lynne are driving up stopping along the way to visit friends. My mother and sister, Joy, are flying up to Portland, Maine on Saturday where I will be picking them up on the way to the cabin.

Golf aside, I thought I would share with you some of the things I observed as I drove from Virginia to Rhode Island. The first thing I noticed traveling the highways, staying off the Interstate, were the fields of corn and wheat. The hay was rolled up in huge cylindrical shapes. Farm land was everywhere. Silos stood high above the farm houses acting as veritable beacons of plenty. The Appalachian Mountains ran south to north on my left basking in the soft warmth of the sun as the day moved on. I passed into Pennsylvania with much the same scenery. I proceeded north through the capital, Harrisburg, and then on to Scranton before bearing east into New York State, Connecticut and then Rhode Island.

I saw American flags hanging from many more homes than those out west. Businesses also had the flag flying, or bunting strung across the front of their establishment or homes. Granted, it was Flag Day on June 14th, but this sign of patriotism is commonplace in this part of the country.

Now, for all my Methodist friends, there was a Wesley Drive as you entered Harrisburg. As I crossed the Susquehanna River in the capital, I looked to my left and noticed a beautiful train bridge made of brick with something close to fifty arches as its design and support. A sign just outside of Hershey, Pennsylvania announced Funck’s Café. Then there was Fort Indiantown Gap. I pulled off the turnpike to have lunch in Newton, but wound up in Tremont. This is coal mining country. I topped off the tank there paying $3.99/gal. Diesel was going for $4.94/gal.

I found a small restaurant on the main street called, Mancino’s. Their advertised specialty is Stromboli dinner. On the lunch menu was something called a California Burger. Curious, I asked what was in this burger. The answer? “Mayo, lettuce, and tomato.” Okay, now that’s inspiring! I opted for the meatball sandwich. Delicious! I couldn’t even begin to remember the last time I had one of those. I loved them as a kid, but I moved from New England when I was seventeen.

Next to Mancino’s was Alex’s Place, established in 1898. On the front windows facing the street were painted “God Bless America,” and “United We Stand.” Made me proud!

If I had had the time I would have stopped at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to visit once again the famous battle site of the Civil War. It was here that President Lincoln eulogized the sacrifice of the many fallen soldiers from both sides of the conflict.

Some of the billboard signs I saw read: “Farmers can be heroes,” and “Muslims for Peace Conference.” Another sign advertized two establishments: “O’Reilly’s Irish Pub/Lone Star Saloon.” This struck me as funny. The Irishman says, “Aye! Would’ja be havin’ a pint with me, lad?” To which the Long Tall Texan replies, “Why, sure padner!”

Some of the businesses advertized were comical. “Rockzilla Jewelers” (Are they serious?), “Turkeyfoot Nursery” (Exactly what are they raising?), and “Claws and Paws Animal Park” in Lake Wallenpaupack, located in the Pocono Mountains in eastern Pennsylvania. But I liked this one, especially for my Dutch friends in Ripon, California: “America’s Best Road Food – Dutch Kitchen,” (Ummm, too close to “road kill” for my taste!). There was “Marvelous Muggs” restaurant outside of Scranton, PA, and “Peter Pots Pottery” in South Kingston, Rhode Island.

Amusing town names include: Point of Rocks, Maryland; Shamokin and Shickshinny, Pennsylvania; Fishkill, New York; Squantz Pond, Connecticut; and Wyoming, Rhode Island.

I had a sobering moment while driving through New London, Connecticut. The bridge you cross to get to Groton (Navy submarine base) is called the Gold Star Memorial Bridge. As I rolled over this symbolic bridge with the Atlantic Ocean to my right, I offered a prayer for all of our Gold Star families, and the pain they experience every day in the loss of their loved one in time of war.

There’s so much more! It’ll have to wait. I just want to say in closing: This is a great country!

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