Monday, January 16, 2012

The National Museum of American History

Post-holiday winter doldrums?  Us too.  Sheila and I needed an excellent adventure.  Luckily, January is a great time to take in a museum, especially in Washington, DC.  Yes, it's cold, cold, cold!  But it beats melting in the heat of the National Mall during the summer and you can't beat the crowds, because there aren't any.  So the road trip was on.  This weekend we drove down and took in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

I'll be the first to admit that there is so much there that it is hard to see everything in one day.  On this trip we spent a lot of time in the exhibits "America on the Move" and "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War."  There are some really interesting artifacts there (understatement, duh).  For some reason I found General Phillip Sheridan's stuffed horse "Winchester" to be fascinating.  I guess it's one of those situations where you feel a direct link to the past.  I'm looking at a horse, albeit a stuffed one, that was ridden during the Civil War.  Don't ask why I didn't get excited over George Custer's buckskin jacket or George Washington's saber.  We each find our own connection to history, right?  Turns out, the Smithsonian is a good place to go look for it.

I must add that since I've written a book about the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion and I am currently working on researching the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, I found the WWII display particularly appealing.

I'm not a travel writer, but here's a tip for you.  Rather than eat at the museum cafeteria, or pay high prices for bad food at one of the "restaurants" in the neighborhoods that surround the mall, go inside the Ronald Reagan building (14th Street between Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues).  There is a food court in the lower level much like a nice shopping mall.  A Subway sandwich and the best mocha latte since we moved from Seattle really hit the spot.

But here's a warning for you as well, sometimes going to one place will just require that you go to another.  Now that we have seen the original "Star Spangled Banner," we are compelled to go visit Fort McHenry in Baltimore.  Well, maybe when it warms up. ;-)
Photography is not allowed in this exhibit.  Photos of the Star Spangled Banner
are provided courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Doing the Appalachian Trail

In case you are not on the east coast, I will tell you that the weather here in Pennsylvania has been unseasonably mild this winter.  Therefore, needing to take a break from reading about airborne operations in the Pacific during WWII, the girls (the wife Sheila and the cattle dog Sydney) and I decided to take a walk on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail last weekend.  We had never been on the “AT” even though in passes right through Cumberland County between Carlisle and Mechanicsburg, around five miles from where I live.

Again, for those not in the know, the AT is a hiking trail that runs from Springer Mountain in north Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.  Folks who cover the entire 2,184 miles (approximately) in one summer hiking season are referred to as “thru-hikers.”  If you aim to complete the whole thing, but not in one season, you are a “section hiker.”  The rest of us, are just hikers.  The trail is one of the “Triple Crown” of long distance hiking trails in the United States.  The others are the Pacific Crest Trail at 2,663 miles and the Continental Divide Trail at 3,100 miles.
For a very entertaining read and to find out more than you ever wanted to know about the AT, check out “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson.  Or for an even quicker history of the trail, read the Wikipedia article.  The idea for the trail was advanced by forester Benton MacKaye in 1921.  The trail was completed in 1937.  In 1968 the AT was designated a National Scenic Trail and placed under the management of the National Park Service in partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  However, the trail is maintained by volunteers from more than 30 trail clubs and partner organizations who do the work and raise the money.  In fact, a new parking area was created on Hwy 641 between Mechanicsburg and Carlisle through the work of the Cumberland Valley A.T. Club.  I passed by this new feature on my way to the AHEC last week, and that is what prompted me to go for our little walk.  Also, my thanks to the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club for the map graphic of the Appalachian Trail, and for providing an online listing of hiking opportunities in south-central Pennsylvania. ;-)

So we finally "did the AT."  Admittedly, we didn’t do the whole 2,184 miles last weekend.  We really only did four.  But it was a great way to get out and get some fresh air and exercise in order to chase away the post-holiday winter blues.  And now, we can say, “Oh sure, we’ve done the AT.”  What?  Like it’s hard?

Oh, by the way, I had to throw this picture in at the last minute.  I love how you get over a fence on the AT. -->

Monday, January 2, 2012

"The Boldest Plan is the Best" now available on Kindle

Happy New Year everyone!  2012?  How did that happen?!  Well, Sheila and I are happy to start off the New Year with some good news.  We're excited to announce that The Boldest Plan is the Best: The Combat History of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion during WWII is now available in a Kindle edition.
I've been hesitant to try out any form of e-reader.  I'm old school and I like my books, to hold in my hands while I read them and to display them on the shelf when you're done.  You can tell a lot about a person by the books that they read, and when I go to someone's house the first thing I do is check out what books they have on the shelf.
All that being said, as I see it there are several advantages to owning a Kindle.  First of all, most books are cheaper in the Kindle version.  Some are only a couple of dollars cheaper, some are much more.  The Kindle version of The Boldest Plan is the Best is half the cover price of a print copy.  Amazon carries a lot of free content, mostly classic literature that is in the public domain and start-up authors who give away their work to gather a following.  Amazon also makes Kindle editions available to local libraries to loan electronically.  You can fit literally thousands of books on your Kindle device and carry it with you anywhere.  It is light and very portable to the point where I must admit that I prefer to have one with me when I'm out of the house rather than carrying a book along.
So like anything else in this world, there are positives and negatives.  But the bottom line is that if you are a book lover who has been thrust into the twenty-first century by Santa this Christmas, enjoy!

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