Friday, October 22, 2010
The September issue of National Geographic Traveler had Slovenia on the cover and a Subaru ad on the back.
No, I’m not trying to sell you a Subaru. I don’t even care that much about them. Good cars sure, but an ex-boyfriend wanted one and we had to drive all the way to Tennessee to get it and I’m almost positive they do in fact have Subarus in ‘bama. Anyway, so sad for the Subaru that I have a negative association but that’s totally not my point.
The marketing team for the ad is absolutely genius.
The ad has a picture of a car on the coast somewhere and all it says is “Buy map. Throw dart.”
The ad absolutely, totally and perfectly describes the kind of traveler I am and hope I will always be. That alone could potentially get me to buy one of those cars, despite that negative association, and just wander about the country.
It’s also something to aspire to, or inspire, or motivate.
That ad is likely going up on my wall somewhere I can see it every day.
It’s a big world, I want to see it, and really what’s to stop me? (That's a picture of the Triple Bridge in Ljubljana, Slovenia from my 2009 trip. I picked Slovenia because a British guy I met in Peru recommended it...seeing the dart philosophy at work?)
To me, it’s almost like a bracelet I bought in Annapolis a few years ago.
It’s got a black and white stands braided and tied to a silver plate that has “Fearless” pressed into it.
Not sure if at the time I bought because I was fearless or because I wanted to be fearless. I wore it though as a reminder to be fearless, at least most of the time, and I suppose you already have to have some fearlessness in you for it to work, but I’d like to think I’ve become more fearless.
That doesn’t mean I’m reckless, but it means going after life and making it what you want it to be.
Sometimes that includes buying a map and throwing a dart.
Since my computer would not cooperate the other day and wouldn't let me post any more photos, here are some more from my sister, Maura Rowell, of our days in Yorktown.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Somewhere along the way, it seemed a little less brilliant.
I had somehow managed a four-day weekend for Labor Day this year. Instead of sitting around Montgomery, I decided we’d go home.
I hadn’t been home or seen my family since Christmas and that’s a pretty long time for me. Plus, they’re never met the new puppy and well, I just wanted to go home.
Home to me is Yorktown, Virginia.
I wasn’t born there, didn’t live my whole life there, but to me it’s home.
Dad was military and we moved around a lot as kids. We got to Yorktown in 1997 and I started eighth grade at Grafton Middle School.
Dad retired in the spring of 2001 and we were supposed to move to New England, something I was less than pleased about, but Dad found a way for us to stay.
So, I graduated high school in Yorktown, went to college about 20 miles down the road in Newport News. I went to church in Yorktown, worked in Yorktown, interned in Newport News and Norfolk.
I bounced all over Hampton Roads and throughout Virginia for work, school and play.
I love Virginia.
After college, I interned at a paper in Fredericksburg where I was hired on full-time and worked for about another year.
So, maybe I’m not a native, but I claim Virginia as home and I choose to love the state that is for lovers.
Okay, okay, you get it, I love Virginia. Back to the road trip.
I get on the road late, of course, and have the puppy all situated in the back seat. I put his bed back there and he just curled up and slept through almost the entire trip. Lucky little man.
We pit-stopped in Fayetteville, North Carolina to see a reporter friend there and meet up with another reporter friend who had just started at the paper there.
Finally, we made it to Yorktown.
I’m sad to admit I got turned around (read: lost) when I took an exit of Interstate 64. I used to get off that way and know all the back roads, but I was aiming for the next exit and suffice it to say I confused myself.
I refused to use the GPS since I was home, how could that little computer know the way home better than me?
After a few wrong guesses to find the back way, I went back to the interstate and got to the exit I was looking for in the first place. Easy peasy from there.
Maybe it’s the time away or the need for a break, but every time I go back to Yorktown, I truly feel home. I feel it as soon as I see neighborhoods where I used to live or my friends lived. I feel it when I see the roads I learned to drive o
n. I feel it when I see my church, library, the skating rink, my school and finally my house.
For the short time at home, I wanted to go to the colonial part of Yorktown, along the York River. That’s where the colonial forces defeated the British and was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. It was also a major port for the colonies for awhile.
Now it’s a small town that much of the older buildings and business were destroyed during Hurricane Isabel in 2003. But the town has rebuilt and much effort has been put into that little piece of riverfront and it was packed when I went with my family on Saturday to the farmer’s market. (Eggplant at the farmer's market, photo by Maura Rowell, my little sister)
There was fresh produce, locally made products, handmade jewelry and other crafts and specialty puppy treats. The lady at that tent gave Grover some water and tried to give him a treat, but he was afraid of her at first. Finally, he warmed up to her and ate the treat.
That’s about the time a man came up behind me and said, “Excuse me miss.”
For whatever reason I thought he was going to tell me I couldn’t have a dog or something, who knows why, there were dogs everywhere.
But he asked if I wanted to trade my puppy for some fresh, homemade soup.
I laughed, although he had startled me and of course I didn’t want to trade my dog for soup.
Since I had such a good looking dog, I could come back if I changed my mind, he said.
Not gonna happen pal, but thanks for the offer. (Meet Grover...isn't he the cutest thing? When he's not eating your shoes, or anything else. Photo by Maura Rowell, my little sister.)
There was a tallship docked and they were offering free tours that day so my littlest sister and I went up to check it out.
The ship is crewed by a group of young people and sails out of Georgia I think it was. I had a sheet of paper about the ship and it’s the one piece of paper I can’t find now. But still looking.
That night we went back to Yorktown to hear the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. It was one of their free outdoor concerts as a teaser to their season. The weather was spectacular that weekend and I was actually chilly sitting on the grass.
The music was great, being in Yorktown was great and you could look up and see a fairly unobstructed sky scape. The light pollution in Yorktown is still minimal. Plus, I ran into some friends and their parents at the concert.
It was one of those perfect days.
That Sunday, a friend from DC came down and I dragged him to Yorktown, too. Are you sensing a trend? I really like this place.
We ate breakfast in City Center, a sort of outdoor style mall with hotels and bars that had just been getting started when I was in college.
Since we weren’t far from my campus, we swung by there and I gave him a pretty terrible tour since campus looks completely different than it did when I graduated in 2006.
The campus tour didn’t last long since I couldn’t tell him what half of the buildings were and that was just depressing me.
It was a gorgeous day and we were on the road to Yorktown again. We wandered down the riverfront, went on the tallship -- I noticed different things this time -- and then hoofed it up the hill to the colonial part.
There’s a large stone war memorial that overlooks the York River and we wandered around that, reading the names of the men killed in battle.
And of course we had to check out the Thomas Nelson house since I’d gone on and on about the cannon balls in the side of the house.
My friend asked if they were the original cannon balls and you know what, I had no clue.
Turns out, they’re not. The craters in the brick left from cannon balls are genuine, but the cannon balls in the wall are replicas. Bummer.
Those cannon balls are supposedly the result of Nelson paying American troops to attack his own home since he believe British troops were occupying it.
Nelson was a merchant, businessman and member of the Governor’s Council before the war, and once war broke out, he was appointed colonel of the 2nd Virginia Infantry Regiment, according to the National Park Service. Later, he was elected to fill George Washington’s seat at the Second Continental Congress as Washington was leading the American troops. In 1781, Nelson became Virginia’s governor, following Thomas Jefferson. He returned to Yorktown to lead about one third of the American troops during that battle, which ended the Revolutionary War.
I couldn’t tell you a lot about all of the battles of the Revolutionary War, but I could tell you a lot about the battles at Yorktown and the significance of related historical cities like Jamestown and Williamsburg. I did, after all, grow up in what we call the Historic Triangle.
Every time I go back, I learn something new, or notice something different. And during the holidays, each of these historical cities is aglow in colonial Christmas decorations and I just can’t get enough of it.
I’ve been all over the world, with plans to add some stars on my world map, but I always come home to Yorktown.
Monday, October 11, 2010
I grew up in the Air Force. My dad was a bomber navigator and had a private pilots license. He took my mom flying on one of their first dates and he had me and my sisters in the skies at a young age. I hear that mom didn’t like it quite so much, but I loved flying as a kid.
Except when dad would act like he was turning upside down over lakes. That always terrified me and I would scream at him till we were completely upright again. Of course now I know that kind of plane can’t actually fly upside down and if you were to fall out of a plane, over water would probably be a better bet.
He also dragged us to many air shows and I mean it when I say dragged. At least in my case. In my younger days I cared more about my latest dance recital than airplanes.
Funny how things change.
Now I’m a military reporter and am developing the ability to identify planes by sound as they fly overhead.
I’m by no means a master, but I’ve come a long way from my days twirling in pretty pink tutus to spending my days learning about synthetic jet fuel and the payloads of various planes.
Dad would have been proud when I dragged an
Air Force friend of
mine to Birmingham to check out the Southern Museum of Flight.
I’d seen signs for the museum during many, many trips to and from the airport on my way to more exotic places, but
when I dropped the roommate off for her flight to New York City a few months ago, I noticed a new sign.
There was a billboard near the airport exit with a parachuting mannequin and something about dropping in.
Very clever marketing and I was hooked.
After a few weeks of scheduling conflicts and other adventures, I finally made it up to the Southern Museum of Flight.
Mike is active duty so we got in for free and to our left was an exhibit about the Tuskegee Airmen.
The very first exhibit included a plane that had “Maxwell” painted on the side. Several more exhibits detailed the role of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and display of paintings and other items told the stories of the legendary aviators of those famed units. The picture to the left is one of those exhibits and that plane has "Maxwell" painted on the side, just behind the pilot's head.
For me it was even more interesting, because as I read some of those displays, I realized I had interviewed several of them, like Roscoe Brown, over the last three years as the military reporter here.
We moved over to check out some airplane engines and some static displays and then on to an exhibit about the F-86 and its battles against MiG-15s in Korea. The planes on display at the museum had also been captured in lithographs that had been signed by the pilots involved in the dogfight depicted in the print. Mike bought one for his dad and as I was telling him about retired Lt. Gen. Charles Cleveland, who flew the F-86 in Korea. About 50 years later he was recognized as a fighter ace and was awarded the Silver Star. Cleveland retired in Montgomery and I’ve interviewed him many times.
There were other connections to the Montgomery area at the museum too. There was a small replica of the USS Enterprise and Rear Adm. John Crommelin was the flight officer on the ship. The admiral was one of the four Crommelin brothers who served in the military. The family was from the Montgomery and Wetumpka area.
The museum also has artifacts like a B-25 ventral gun turret with a sign than reads, “Absolutely, positively do not touch this exhibit,” parts of a bomber that crashed into a lake and an outdoor exhibit of airplanes from several eras.
It looks a little like a boneyard and the planes could certainly use some love, or at least a fresh coat of paint, but Mike and I had fun checking out all the planes and Mike told me the history of some of them and some I recognized myself.
The yard includes a R4D-6Q “Gooney Bird,” an A-12, the first version of the SR-71 “Blackbird,” and an F-100 “Super Sabre.” The Gooney Bird is pictured below.
There’s also a Wright Brothers exhibit, complete with life size mannequins of the early aviators and a room full of experimental aircraft.
Of course, I must point out, the museum also has my favorite airplane, a Curtiss JN-4 Jenny. Like my name in the 1980s, the plan was one of the most popular planes of its time. According to the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, the plane was used to train about 95 percent of American and Canadian pilots after the U.S. entered World War I in 1917.
The plane was also sold to civilians and according to the commission, more than 6,000 JN-4 Jennys had been built by 1918.
All you aviation buffs out there, military kids and if you just admire the ability to take to the sky, head to the Southern Museum of Flight. It’s worth the trip and deserving of support.