Friday 19 January 2018 – Carlisle
I picked up a rental car near Ronald Reagan airport and headed north through Maryland and up to Carlisle in Pennsylvania to visit Rian, Jo and son Liam. Friends from NZ, Rian is at the war collage in Carlisle. It has been a little cold up here with snow still on the ground. We spent the evening catching up with each other’s news over dinner and a wine or two.
Saturday 20 January 2018
Rian had recently studied the battle of Gettysburg ,which is only a few miles down the road. Arriving there around 9am we started at the place where the first contact was made. The national park office is closed as at midnight the US ran out of money as the opposing parties couldn’t come to an agreement to sign off the budget. But it’s nothing to worry about as it has happened many times before, once lasting 21 days.
Back in the day, General Lee had been riding north skirting around Washington with an army of around fifty thousand men, made up of regiments from the confederate states.
The first question I had for Rian was “how in the 1800’s did an army manage to feed that many men while on the move?” Apparently provisions were accumulated along the way through the use of foraging parties, who in this case were sent out to buy the necessary items from the locals. They must have had a wagon-load of cash with them.
Lee and his army were heading south with the intention of attacking Baltimore and a couple of other places. General George G Meade with his Union army of around 100,000 men, made up of regiments from the north had amassed and were riding up to stop him. To find him they were sending out reconnaissance brigades. It was one of these that made contact on the morning of 1 July 1863.
I have never seen so many monuments. Each regiment of around 300 men have markers showing their left and right flank, often less than a hundred meters apart, which gives one a real appreciation of the intensity of the engagement. There is even a monument of a tree from which a birds nest fell during the battle; a soldier picked it up climbed the tree and put it back.
The Union general in charge placed himself on a church tower to oversee the battle.
By the end of the day the Union troops, in spite of bringing in reinforcements, were driven back to the south of the town. In their path was an infirmary run by a church, where most of the casualties, of which there were many, were taken. Part of it is now a museum, which does a really good job of explaining what took place, but also a list rating the brutality of the wounds.
After the museum we stopped for some lunch at a local diner where the staff were amused by our strange accents. We then looked at day two and three of the battle. Lee, after the first days victory and in spite of the advice of his right-hand man, decided that this was the place to fight it out with the Union troops. With the Union troops on Cemetery ridge and spreading to the west several kilometres and the Confederate troops on Seminary Ridge engagements took place on the second day. It was on the third day that the confederate troops put in their major and final attack, charging across up to a mile of mostly open country into hundreds of canons and thousands of Union troops.
After losing this battle Lee and his army withdrew the next day and although there were a few other small battles this one pretty much ended the ambitions of the confederates.
Many of the three inch rifled canons, which held a variety of shot, are still on site along with the smooth-bore four inch canons, which bounced canon balls across the ground at advancing troops.
The largest memorial here is to the Philadelphia troops who made up around half of the Union army.
The casualties over the three days were horrendous and like the troop numbers the numbers vary depending on what one reads. There is one area of only a few thousand square meters where 4,000 were killed on day 3. From what I could establish over 6,000 lost their lives and total casualties were in excess of fifty thousand.
That evening I was invited to attend a function with Rian and Jo and mingle with a bunch of people attending the college from many different countries.
Sunday 21 January 2017
Before heading back to DC to catch my flight to Las Vegas, Rian and Jo took me on a tour of the war collage. The first officers were educated here in 1904 and it has been running ever since. Around 800 senior officers attend the collage each year. Each year of graduates have their names on a large plaque. Rows of these line the outside of the main building. In places a name has been ground off where it has been found later that someone cheated in the exams.
Monday 22 January 2018
It’s range day in Vegas, something I always enjoy as we get to look at and try out some of the latest guns and accessories. Fighter jets roared overhead almost continuously as we looked around the stands in the desert on an airforce range.
Tuesday 23 to Friday 26 2018
The shot show I have written about before. The days were spent catching up with old friends and looking at the latest gun related stuff. Not to mention going out for the odd drink in the evenings.
Saturday 27 January 2018
I had flown into Orlando last night and driven down to Vero Beach to visit Constantin at Windsor park. We met Constantin and Petra in Botswana a few years ago. Petra is in Germany on business just now.
Having spent last night catching up over a wine or two we had a relaxing morning. Jumping on a golf buggy, Constantin took me for a drive around Windsor Club. This gated community has a golf course, stables, polo ground and beach club among other things.
There is a range of houses here; some are huge, many face onto the golf course and others to the sea. We had a late lunch at the beach club relaxing by the pool.
In the evening we headed down to Vera Beach town to see Renke and Pamala, who were traveling with Constantin and Petra in Botswana.
They live in a large renovated house originally built in 1925. The beams in the ceiling still have the shaping axe marks in them.
We went to Pamela’s club, where we enjoyed a great catch up over good food and tasty wine, after which we adjourned back to their house enjoying a brandy or two before heading back to Windsor, where Constantin and I chatted into the early hours.
Sunday 28 January 2018
Eight odd miles up the road is Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. Arriving about noon I took a wander around.
There is lots of interesting stuff here and various areas take one through different parts of the space programme including the Shuttle programme. There are lots of 3D venues and an i-Max movie theatre where a film takes one into the future manned trip to Mars with the Space Launch System. SLS. The plan is to land all the infrastructure to sustain man in advance, then put a large expanding capsule together to transport people to Mars and back, which is around a three year trip.
Next I jumped on the bus out to the launch pads. This was really interesting as the driver pointed out alligators in the roadside creeks. As we arrived at the rocket building shed some 160m high he showed us the giant crawler used to cart the rockets to the launch pads. Unfortunately I was on the wrong side of the bus to get any decent photos.
We then headed down alongside the growler road they use to take the rockets to the launch pad. The driver explained that under the special non-sparking gravel there is 18 feet of substrate under the surface to bear the millions of pounds of weight carried on the crawler.
Often watching rocket launches on TV I could never quite work out why there was so much smoke. In fact it’s not smoke – as the launch takes place they release thousands of gallons of water onto the tarmac to dampen the noise and prevent damaging the craft.
Space X launch site was closed as they are sending up a rocket on Tuesday.
Next we arrived at the Apollo Center. Disembarking from the bus we went into a theatre where they took us through the history. Below the screen is part of the original Control Center. In the main hall an Apollo rocket is laid out in stages.
Another theatre took us through the moon landing with the moon lander descending from the ceiling towards the end of the movie.
This is a great place to visit and I could have spent longer here had it not been closing time.
Back at Windsor Constantin and I chatted over dinner and champagne before getting an early night in preparation for an early start tomorrow.