A Celebrated Trip East…#265..( 2006)

United Airlines Embraer 120

United Airlines Embraer 120

It was Fran’s 40th high school class reunion in Hoboken New Jersey and the  celebrated journey was about to begin,  Gary much prompted about the venture having never been to the east coast with the exception of his flight to Orlando.  Arriving at an early morning hour at the Modesto Airport  a SkyWest United Airlines Embraer 120 airliner awaiting,  the prop driving aircraft prepared to transport the couple to the San Francisco International Airport,  the flight from SFO to Denver  the first leg of their easterly journey.   Gary still finding an adventure in flying  even though his  introduction to commercial aviation was 47 years earlier  as an 18-year-old soldier on his way to Oklahoma.   It always astonished him how matter of fact  passengers took air travel today, often finding himself the only person on board an aircraft with an interest in the scenic wonder thru the window, the earth seemingly to flow beneath him,  a painted exhibition captured on a wondrous canvas known as mother earth.

Remembering Denver’s Stapleton Airport

The new Denver Airport – from a distance resembling a desert tent city

Arriving at the new Denver International Airport,  having addressed the old Stapleton Airport in past years,  recalling how the planes would be lined up because of the de icing procedure with snow falling  on the tarmac roadway overpass constructed  to access a runway.  The brief layover enabling the couple of lunch before boarding the United flight to Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport in Baltimore Maryland.  The Boeing 757 flight from Denver to BWI was without incident,  Gary enjoying the extended air time. abiding at a window seat with the breath-taking contouring earth from 37,000 feet passing beneath him.  An overhead announcement of the arrival, the 757  aligning its approach, gently touching down at the Baltimore Airport.  The couple embarking from the secure upper level,  waiting at the foot of the escalator was Fran’s eldest brother Ray.  An introduction to the patriarch of the Harriot family,  the elder Harriot taking the day off from his employment with the NSA,  (National Security Agency for the United State Department of Defense).   Exiting the aerodrome complex,  a 30 minute drive from the airport to the Harriot’s residence an impressive home in Laurel Maryland,  the couple invited  to spend two nights with their host.   Ray and his wife Jan proffering an excursion to Washington DC in the morning, Gary enthused at the prospect of  touring the nation’s capital,

Fran and Brother Ray

Fran and Brother Ray

Washington Monument

WW II Monument

Korean War Monument

The dawning of the new day, the two couples journeying to Washington DC, the Capital and the National Mall.  Ray having spent a beneficial part of his life working in and around the Capital having no difficulty acquiring an indoor parking area within walking distance of their objective.  The group able to see the White House,  cordoned off since 9-11, the couples starting their tour just west of the presidential residence,  a 1.9 mile walk to encompass all the reaches of the Mall grounds.  The visitors discovering many other Mall visitors, diversified groups,  tourist,  joggers, employees on a lunch break and organized groups playing football.  Ray acting as tour guide as they  approached the Washington Monument,  the 555 foot obelisk built of granite, marble and blue stone gneiss,  the construction of the memorial starting in 1848 and the cap stone crowning finally being placed some forty years later in 1884.  Continuing their journey   coming upon the World War II reflections pool  with its cascading fountains,  stopping to read the inscriptions.  Onto the newest memorial addition canonizing those veterans of the Korean War, again taking a temporal length of time to view the presence of their enshrinement.   Standing in grove of trees,  another memorial,  its rotunda endowed pillars giving tribute to the 2 million Americans having spanned the ocean during the first world war.

WW I Memorial

Lincoln Memorial Building

Lincoln still presiding

Lincoln still presiding

Vietnam Wall

The far reaches of the National Mall found the prestigious Memorial whom Gary had envisioned throughout his life,  the Lincoln Memorial.   Gary singularly venturing up the steps to the monument,  the others of his coalition observing from below,  the presence of Abraham Lincoln,  his ingrained stone effigy sitting in a chair, its presence not just a monument,  but a signature representing the stature of America.   Gary resonating on the works and words that this great president had spoken,  standing alone within the privilege of Lincoln’s presence,  no one to distract his thoughts,  a rumination of history prevailing,  Abraham Lincoln’s lifelong dedication to our country and to the ascendancy that stands before his memorial today.   Joining the other, a retention from the Lincoln Memorial,  a return journey towards the Capital Building,  the south side of the National Mall encompassed a tribute to those who contributed in the Vietnam Conflict.  Gary  journeying down a black marble structured pathway with the names of those who had fallen in battle during the Vietnam conflict.   Fran excluding herself,  not wanting to partake of the wall having graduated from High School in 1966,  many  friends having been drafted for the war in Vietnam,  her acquaintances names being engraved on the wall, Fran desiring to remember them as they were.

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum complex

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum complex

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

A walk back to the parking garage,  a visit to the Smithsonian remaining on the agenda.   The Smithsonian composed of 19 complex’s, Gary realizing they could spend days exploring the depth of its realm,  a decision being made to choose a single complex.   The late afternoon to be spent at the Air and Space pavilion,  it’s premise displaying everything from Charles W Lindbergh’s “the Spirit of St. Louis “ tethered from the ceiling ,  to the Mercury,  Gemini,  Apollo and Space Shuttle missions and an array of aircraft thru the generations.  The many exhibits capturing a substantial amount of time, Gary ready to exit the touring cortège,  Ray and the others all in agreement.   With the  wondrous day coming to a conclusion,  a return to Maryland was incurred.   Once returning to the Harriot’s residence,  the evening hour finding a visit from Fran’s brother Bob whom she hadn’t seen in years,  Bob hosting a lady friend named Sarah.   Gary now having the opportunity to meet both of Fran’s older brothers,  recognizing the congeniality that resided within the family.



Union Army Memorial

Jan Harriot

Another dawning of a Maryland morning,  Fran’s sister-in-law Jan preparing a commendable breakfast,  fuel for an adventurous day, the foursome journeying to Gettysburg Pennsylvania.    The highway beckoned, Gary noticing the difference between the major highways in the east and those in California.   The area bordering the roadway traversing to Pennsylvania were manicured,  mowed, free from trash,   a far cry from the major highways in the State of California the Welfare State,  a populace haven for many of the misfits of the world,  those that protest the teachings of morality,  religion and the rule of law,  the unkempt trash laden highways of the state’s visual testimonial to some of its citizenry.    An arrival at the Gettysburg National park,  the two couples entering the Battlefield National Museum.  The nine room museum exhibiting artifacts from the Civil War,  the uniforms,  armament, and photo excerpts from the era,  but most impressive to Gary was the Battlefield Auditorium.   The auditorium, a large room with benches raised above and looking down upon a large tabled epitome of the battle of Gettysburg,  the two opposing army’s,  their positions highlighted with different colored light.   As the simulated battle progressed, the lights would give action to their battlefield positions,  a representation of what transpired in 1863.  Gettysburg being the bloodiest  battle ground of the Civil War.   The quarter where Union Major General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac engaged Confederate General Robert E Lee’s Army of Virginia.   The three-day battle commencing on July 1, 1863,  resulting in 57,225 casualties,  North and South divided, but all Americans.  The iconic Gettysburg Address by Lincoln given 4 1/2 months after the battle for a dedication of The Soldiers National Cemetery in Gettysburg.

Gettysburg Park Guide

Gettysburg Park Guide

Gettysburg Museum battlefield display

The Willson’s, Harriot’s and a tourist group all accompanying a park guide sundering up the gentle raises of the terrain enjoying his commentary acquainting the cemetery,  standing before the many monuments and overlooking the historic Gettysburg battleground.  Gary finding an acquiesce of solitude,  realizing the chronicles of significance that had transpired on this hallowed ground, the aura of what transpired still remaining.   The afternoon sun beginning to twain, the return from this accolade of American History was enhanced,  a return to Harriot residence in Maryland.   The evening spent in anticipation of the morrow,  Ray and Jan having offered to provide Gary and Fran with transportation to Vineland New Jersey, a distance of 130 miles for a paramount visit with Fran’s Cousin Rhoda.  Arriving at Rhoda’s after the long morning drive,  Ray and Jan staying at Rhoda’s just long enough to convey their greeting having 2 ½ hour of apprehensive road travel for their return.

Gary and Fran taking pleasure in their visit to Rhoda’s fashionable trailer park abode,  Gary impressed with her Willie Nelson Wall, a portrait of the acclaimed musician, and other tributes,  Rhoda a proclaimed fan having met Willie at a concert in Jackson New Jersey and of course Gary mentioning that he meant Willie when playing in Wichita Falls Texas in the sixties whom at the time had a top 10 hit, “the party’s over”.   Willie having performed at the Wichita Falls Auditorium,  he and several other well-known  western musicians  cavalcade to the club where Gary and The Untouchables were playing.  Willie, a clean-shaven suite and tie attired musician sitting in,  Jerry Willis the band’s guitar player commenting later that the young Willie had worst timing for a musician that he had ever played with, a trait that would soon become his trademark.   Rho’s was a perfect hostess,  preparing a meal,  Fran recalling remembrance from the prior years,  Rhoda’s Brother Tate making an unexpected appearance,  another cousin presenting a prevalence.   Fran discovering that Rhoda’s sister Dottie was within walking distance,  another visit to someone from her past.

Willie and Rhoda

Vineland New Jersey – not the best accommodations

The New Jersey twilight making an appearance, Gary and Fran aware that their journey for the reunion had to continue.   Rho driving them to downtown Vineland to a Days Inn within walking distance of the Bus Station to fulfill their morning journey to New York City and Hoboken.   The evening at the motel, Gary discovering after the first knock at the door something wasn’t right,  a black man asking for a person.   The second knock at eleven o’clock, another person asking for someone.   Gary walking down to the motel office, approaching the night clerk, curious of why these unknown people were knocking at his door,  suspecting that this motel and the room He and Fran were staying in may have something to do with drugs.  Gary requesting a room change but the night clerk declining,  saying he would inform the Police and request  drive-by’s for the rest of that night.  Gary’s returning to the room reassuring Fran that the desk clerk would handle the matter,  Fran laughing with an announcement  “Welcome to New Jersey”.

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