One thing that's sure to happen whenever members of the military clan gather is the discussion of "So where have you been?" For the uniformed services do tend to get out and travel around a bit. So today I decided to share with you, where I've been and why I went there. The map provides a few keys. Domestically anyway.
Born and raised in Vermont. Retired from the Air Force, lived with Mom and Dad for a few months in New Hampshire then found a job in Rhode Island so now I live there. That covers three of the states I've lived in. As a civilian. When I was in the Air Force, well let's get started. First some terms. First of all, by "lived there" I mean that's where I hung my hat, that's the place I called home for whatever length of time I was there. I don't count temporary duty stations because sometimes that's just a case of "just passing through" but you're there for more than just a night. I may not have even unpacked my bag the stay was so short. So, not counting Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, let's travel!
San Antonio, Texas. Lackland Air Force Base, gateway to the Air Force, Basic Training, etc., etc. While it was only for six weeks I called it home. Shared a room with forty other guys and actually enjoyed the entire experience. No accounting for taste I suppose. Then it was off to tech school in Colorado. Denver, Lowry AFB.
It was at Lowry that I was initiated into the mysteries of the F-4 Phantom II's Weapon Control Systems. It was a long school, it started in early July of 1975 and finished in early February of 1976. But it was not the only time I lived in Colorado. No. not at all.
When I returned from my Asian adventures (more on that in the "International Travels" section below) I was assigned once more to Lowry AFB, Colorado. I was there to maintain the trainer equipment upon which I had learned my trade. Great assignment, too bad the Air Force closed the place down. I guess they heard that people liked it there. Can't have that!
After Lowry, we moved to Ft Collins for college. For me to be educated. Someone thought that was a good idea. We loved it there. As a matter of face, we enjoyed Colorado a lot. The Missus Herself claims it as her home state as it was the first place she lived in this country. The Nuke and The WSO were both born when we were stationed there.
I've often said that the only thing Colorado doesn't have is an ocean. Still and all, I still have a great fondness for Colorado.
After Colorado we were off to Mississippi. Quite a change. While we were only there for three months I did consider it home. I was there, the wife and kids were there. Why would it not be home? Besides which, we had a pool (it was a small condominium complex), we had a maid and we were just across the road from the Gulf of Mexico. Seriously.
The only drawback to Mississippi was that in the summer it was hot and humid. Oh-my-word-I'm-melting hot and humid. I got used to it, The Missus Herself and the progeny, not so much. They were like deer, they would only venture out in the early morning or the late evening. When it was relatively cool. The rest of the time (unless we were at the pool) they would seldom venture out from our air conditioned domicile. The girls picked up some odd word pronunciations there, from time to time they will pronounce something as if they are from Mississippi. Our maid was a delightful older black lady who would regale the daughters with tales of the South. The girls loved her, she loved them. But they will say odd things from time to time. As if they too were elderly black women from the deep South.
After Mississippi it was off to Nebraska and Offutt AFB, home of the Strategic Air Command. I enjoyed my time in Nebraska. Great people and the tornadoes never came closer than five miles away. Seriously.
After Nebraska it was time to head overseas again. But before we go there, what about all those "just passing through" states? Well, here we go.
I've driven from Colorado to Vermont (and back again) which accounts for some of these states on the "just passing through" list, the others would be covered by the Nebraska to New Hampshire trip in December of '91:
- Kansas, in the winter. Not for the faint of heart.
- Missouri (drove through there along a line of latitude and a line of longitude, side to side and up and down. If you prefer. Did spend a night, or two, there traveling from Nebraska to Louisiana. Kids needed to sleep, wife needed to sleep, I needed to sleep. Motels.)
- Illinois (Chicago. Bang, bang. Stripes reference.) Trip highlight was a sign indicating that no state tax dollars were spent on the highway. As my son said, "No money ever, was spent on this highway." More potholes than I could believe. I think my back bumper is still there!
- Indiana (I did spend one night there, job interview in Ft Wayne. And another on the Nebraska to New Hampshire then to Germany trip. The motels near Notre Dame suck. Well, one of them did. Never pick a motel in South Bend in the middle of the night. Ever. Trust me.)
- Ohio. Went through that state in an Opel GT. In a blizzard. You haven't lived until you've driven through a truck stop west of Cleveland in a blizzard, surrounded by slowly moving tractor trailers. It was like wandering through a herd of apatosauruses. Not that I've ever done that but you get my drift. Large, lumbering beasts.
- Iowa, been through there a number of times, of course I also lived just across the river from there in my Nebraska days. The river being the Missouri, of which it has been said, "It's too thick to drink and too thin to plow." An apt description from my experience.
Now in my State-side longitudinal travels there has been a great deal of driving between Little Rhody and the fair state of Virginia. The pass through states in this vein are:
- Connecticut on I-95. It scares me just thinking about it. The eastern portion of the state is very nice (up to just a bit east of New Haven), the western portion of the coast, well let's just say if I could skip that part, I would. I don't think any of the rest areas on I-95 in Connecticut are manned by "I grew up speaking English" folks. Nope, it's like visiting Latin America. Not a big problem as they also speak English, which is a good thing as my Spanish is pretty much limited to por favor, gracias and amigo. One more thing about the rest areas in Connecticut along I-95, they seem to be loaded with beggars and scam artists. I can't recall how many times some one has come up to me and asked, "Say could you spare me a few dollars for gas? I'm going to see my mom/dying grandma/uncle/aunt/cousin and my car ran out of gas." At that point I mumble, "No hablo Inglés" and climb back into my car.
- New Jersey. This state gets a bad rap, there are portions of the Garden State that are absolutely beautiful. Just not along the Jersey Turnpike in the northern part of the state. There it looks like the set for some post-apocalyptic horror film. The other people on the turnpike always scare the Hell out of me.
- Delaware. Once you leave I-95 and plunge south (shortest way to Norfolk) you are in what I like to call, "the Boondocks." The countryside is lovely, people from Delaware are not what I would call the best drivers in the world. Every time I see Delaware plates on a motor vehicle I have the urge to run and hide. Put snow on the ground, the situation goes from "that's a little scary" to "OH MY SWEET LORD WHAT IS THAT MORON TRYING TO DO, KILL US ALL?!?!?!" Or words to that effect. I went through the state after a blizzard once, won't do it again.
- Maryland. A rather odd state. Very pretty, but the liberal/progressive element seems very strong there. I had one lady, at a McDonald's upon spying my Rhode Island plates, refer to me as a "damn Yankee." I stopped, stared and said in my best New England accent, "Hey lady, bite me. I'm a Sox fan. Yankees suck." I believe all I accomplished was to further increase her dislike of folks from the Northern reaches of this fair land.
The other "pass through" states:
- Wyoming. When you live in northern Colorado the closest Air Force commissary, BX and medical facility is at F. E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The WSO was born there. Two days after her birth, we had a blizzard. I don't blame her.
- Arizona. We went there to see the Hoover Dam. Which is a pretty damn neat thing. (Pun intended.)
- Oklahoma. Where the wind indeed comes "sweepin' down the plain." I've heard good things and bad things about Oklahoma. It seemed nice but we only went through it once. Where The Missus Herself was heard to proclaim "We're lost!" And I answered with "No we're not. I know exactly where we are." With a grimace she said, "And where might that be?" "Oklahoma," I said, "just north of Texas." Wasn't that much of a help, we were headed to Mississippi at the time...
- Arkansas. As I recall there are two major thoroughfares which go north and south in this state, one in the west, one in the east. They both run through some very rugged terrain. The Naviguessor pointed out a sign on the westernmost of those highways which read, "Welcome to Arkansas. Drive carefully, last year 312 people died on this road." Yeah right, welcome to Arkansas. (Which I always pronounced "Ar Kansas" as a lad. Until my mother corrected me.)
- North Carolina. I've flown through Charlotte many times. Always on the way to Norfolk. I know. Charlotte is not "on the way" to Norfolk. Explain that to the airlines.
- Alabama. Going back and forth between Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida requires a drive through just a tiny portion of Alabama. Down around Mobile. The USS Alabama is there amongst a treasure trove of other military and naval artifacts. I highly recommend it.
- Washington. I've flown through SeaTac a few times. Mostly on my way to Asia and back. Oddly enough, every time I was there, it wasn't raining. Nor did I try the coffee. Odd.
- Minnesota. I went through there twice. On the way to Minot and returning from Minot. (Why not?)
- New Mexico. Twice. On the way to Texas and returning from Texas. You've heard that story before.
- Alaska. I've only been there once. Flying through Anchorage from New York to Korea. Onboard KAL Flight 007. About three years before the infamous KAL Flight 007. When that event occurred it sparked a memory, I rummaged through my desk wondering if I still had the ticket stubs from when we had taken that flight back to Korea from Vermont after Christmas 1980. I did. The hairs on the back of my deck stood up when I saw "KAL 007" on those ticket stubs. I often wondered if it was the same aircraft. How close to Kamchatka did our flight go?
That covers the "pass through" states. Now how about the "Spent More than One Night There" states? Here we go...
- Massachusetts. I lived during the week (four days) in Massachusetts for work from 2010 to 2012 (31 months total) and then again in 2013 for roughly four months. That was covered way back in 2012 in a series of posts.
- Pennsylvania. As a lad (all of thirteen years of age) I traveled to Gettysburg for a Civil War reenactment. I was in it. It was a low budget affair, not on the actual battlefield but we had a blast. Well, except for the sleeping in a pup tent and going with very little food for three days. That adventure deserves a post of its own. Not today and POCIR.
- New York. The Nuke went to prototype school in Ballston Spa, near Saratoga. We visited for a nice long weekend once at New Year's. It snowed everyday. At least eight inches of snow. Every. Day. The locals called it "a dusting."
- South Carolina. Charleston to be precise. The Nuke went to nuke school there. We spent some time with her when she graduated. It is one of my favorite cities on this planet. Bar none.
- Virginia. All three of the progeny have been stationed in the Norfolk area area at one time or another since 2001. Now The Nuke lives in the northern part of that fair state. I will say this and say it proudly, "I love Virginia." I don't know why but there it is. Once upon a time I did not understand why Bobby Lee left the Army to go home to Virginia. Now I get it. I really do.
- Florida. The Missus Herself had kin in Ft Walton Beach back in the day. It was the scene of this post, one of my personal favorites. Also The WSO got her wings in Pensacola. I love Pensacola.
- Louisiana. The Missus Herself had kin in Alexandria. We spent a nice weekend in New Orleans with The WSO. A fine state, even if it is a little hot. Love the food, love the music. (Of the Cajun variety that is.)
- Nevada. A family reunion (Korean-side) was held in Las Vegas. Not at any casino or big hotel. The Missus Herself has a kid sister who lives in Vegas. I learned two things there, I don't like Las Vegas and I don't particularly care for the desert. Outside of Las Vegas it all seemed like a giant construction site. Nothing but piles of gravel and creosote bushes. I'm sure that, to some, the desert has a certain mystique. They are welcome to it, I need trees and grass. Heck, trees or grass will work too. Miles and miles of gravel and creosote bushes? No. Thank. You.
- California. The WSO and The Naviguesser both live there with their respective tribes. I've been out there a lot in the past couple of years. San Francisco, Riverbank, Hanford and Sandy Eggo. I also spent one night at Travis AFB way back in the day on my way back to Japan. Where I had a two night stop at...
- Hawaii. Hickam AFB to be precise. Three days in paradise waiting for a flight to Okinawa, with twenty U.S. dollars in my pocket. As I had to stay in the Military Airlift Command (MAC) terminal the whole time, it wasn't such a big deal. Man, the weather was gorgeous. I could see Diamond Head from where I was. Not too bad.
- Michigan. Of course that is the native state of Big Time, husband of The WSO, father of Little Bit (my senior granddaughter). I've been there twice, once for a weekend, once for a week. The first time was in September of 2010 for Little Bit's baptism, we got to go see Michigan play Massachusetts in the Big House. Had a great time. The second time was for New Year's 2014, had an awesome time hanging out with The WSO's in-laws, wonderful people.
- Maine. As I've mentioned many times, as a kid we spent vacations in Maine. We've been back a few times since. Best chowdah on the planet. Hell, probably the best chowdah in the galaxy. I can't speak for the universe. Who knows?
- North Dakota. Two nights in June. I told that story here. Had a friend at Offutt who was actually from Minot. He loved it, couldn't wait to retire and go back. His wife was Korean and even she liked it up there. Good folks, miles from the government, good fishing, good hunting... Okay, yeah, it gets a "little" cold in the winter. Which only lasts from October to May. Or something like that.
I spent a big chunk of my Air Force career in foreign lands but did have one trip out of the country as a civilian. Another as a retired sergeant. (I don't consider myself a civilian now. A minor conceit.) Here's the list (note that many of my blog posts have and will in the future cover many of these foreign locales, so I'll be brief).
Places I lived...
- Japan. Specifically Okinawa. Two and a half years. Hated it at first, then hated to leave.
- Korea. My assignment after Japan. Kunsan to be specific. Almost four years there, the only way the Air Force could get me to leave was to ship the F-4D Phantoms out. Which they did in 1982...
- Germany. My last assignment, I was in NATO and this was probably the best assignment of my career. Seven and a half years. Oh yeah, I was a homesteader, and proud of it.
Places I visited...
- The Philippines. A long-ish TDY to Clark in 1980. Fun times. I'm sure the statute of limitations has kicked in by now.
- France. A long Easter weekend in Paris. Don't bad mouth the French around me. J'aime la France, j'aime les Français. (Also some of my ancestry hails from that fair land.) Also a short pass through (five hours) on the way back from Italy in 2012. Not as much fun that time.
- Belgium. Land of great beer and great battlefields. Waterloo, Mons, the Ardennes and others. We practically lived next door to Belgium.
- The Netherlands. It's not "Holland," Holland is a region and former province of The Netherlands. We actually did live next door to The Netherlands. You could walk to it, I drove through the Dutch countryside everyday from my house in Germany to my job in Germany. (It was the quickest path.)
- Luxembourg. No tour of the Ardennes battlefields are complete without a trip through that fair, yet tiny, land.
- The United Kingdom. RAF Waddington on a day trip, via C-130 and London for a week, via train. Stayed in a youth hostel not far from St. Paul's. I was a chaperon for The WSO's sixth grade class. Had an awesome time. I love Britain.
- Italy. Vacation a few years back. The history, the food, the sights, the wine, come si dice, l'atmosfera? If you gathered from that short bit that I love Italy, you guessed right. Spent time in Roma, Firenze and Venezia. Loved all three, fell in love with Tuscany, especially San Gimignano. The view, the gelato, l'atmosfera! Loved it, loved it, loved it. (Yes, I am snooty like that, using the actual names of Italian cities. Yes, I know it's Toscana, not Tuscany. But that ain't a city, is it?)
- Canada. Montreal specifically, spent a long weekend in that fair city before the Air Force. There's a story there, which I'll tell someday. Involves beer and a zoo. I'll leave you with that thought.