Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Antietam National Battlefield

Maryland Monument

Sunday - July 26, 2009

Today I spent several hours driving around the hallowed ground of the Antietam National Battlefield. Here on September 17, 1862, over 22,700 men died in the worst day of fighting in America's history. The vast majority where cut down by the artillery scattered around the farms and natural high ground. The battle was Lee's first attempt at bringing the war to the people of the North. He hoped that if enough men died, and the local farm lands stripped of food and livestock maybe the citizens of the north would cry for an early end of the Civil War.

Beginning in the morning around 6:00am the battle commenced near the north woods. They began to move south towards Stonewall Jackson's line through rows of corn fields. For three hours the battle continued and thousands of men died in these fields.

After a lull for reinforcements the battle picked up again as the union troops moved toward the west woods where Jackson's artillery was waiting for the union troops as they advanced. Future Justice Oliver Wendel Holmes served with distinction during this portion of the battle.

These battles ended in stalemates or retreats for the Confederate troops.

The next big battle of the day took place along the Sunken Road. This road was a natural trench that was lined with 4 regiments of North Carolina troops to hold the road against the Union troops. This natural trench provided cover the the North Carolina regulars and not until the union troops could attack the trench from the side did the Union make headway against this death trap. After several hours of battle over 5600 men on both sides perished.

The final attack of the day was along Antietam Creek by General Burnsides. The battle that took place along this bridge was long and deadly. After this battle Lee retreated back into Virginia. The Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac, General George McClellan failed to pursue Lee into Virginia and the Army of the Confederacy was able to regroup and continue the fight. After this battle President Lincoln removed Gen. McClellan from command and he also wrote the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the Slaves held in the states who where at war with the United States.

New York Monument

Hills of the final battle of Antietam.

Sheperdstown, WV

Last week, I was on a walking tour of this small town along the Potomac River just north of Harper's Ferry. There has been a lot of history in this little town. This city was chartered in 1762 by the Virginia Assembly. It is the home of Shepherds University. This town played a part in the fight at Antietam after the battle there was a fight in the town on September 20, 1862 during Lee's retreat back into Virginia. There are over 100 confederate soldiers buried in the local cemetery who died in the fighting or from wounds received at Antietam.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hawaiian Road Trip - 6th post


The pace of the trip has really slowed down. No more running, just sticking close to the hotel and relaxing. Several members of our group did drive up to view the sunrise from Haleakala Crater, From what I was told the drive up the mountain reached 10,000 feet and the air was thinner than what they where used too but worth the effort. They said the sunrise was spectacular. I choose to stay at the hotel and get a message and then go snorkeling. WOW, it hurt so good. My back was so tight and tense that for the next 20 minutes I was in so much pain while the muscles where being worked out. The masseuse said I should have a message once every 2 weeks, that's really going to NOT happen. It was a lot cheaper in Hawaii than here at home. SIGH!! The facial was the best part of the whole experience. It smelled so good, I really could have one of those every 2 weeks.

Off to the beach for some fun in the sun.

This is the first time in a LOONGGG time I've gone snorkeling and it took a while and a couple of attempts to get used to swimming with the mask and hose. I have to say at first I didn't get it, but after several attempts, ditching the fins and finally relaxing I did get the hang of swimming with the fishes. It was so much fun, the currents where a little strong, but I didn't go out very far. I just hugged the coast and swam for about an hour. Several of us got together for dinner that evening and I realized I forgot a vital part of swimming or being in the sun... SUNBLOCK. I put some sunblock on before we got into the water, but I forgot my back and never reapplied after getting out. STUPID. I really paid the price because my back was fried. I didin't sleep well that night. Where's the aloe. Wait, I had Kakui nut lotion and tried that on my back and it really helped with the pain. I did go get some oil and that was even better.


Up again, this time to travel into Lahaina to catch a boat to see one of the most magestic animals on this planet, the Humpback whale. Because I was at the back of the line to board the boat I wasn't able to get a good seat up top to photograph the whales so I went back below to the front, actually this happened to be the best place for taking pictures and I got some really good ones. There was a mother with her baby and an escort whale swimming in the area. The baby was so active, he was learning how to do tail flips, breching, and fin slaps. He was so cute. Where every he went mommie was always making sure he didn't get into too much trouble. At one point the escort, another male humpback, breched right next to a katermeran it was really awesome. I put the camera on continuas mode and took several shots a second, I'm glad I did because I got some good ones. After the whale watching tour we went to Bubba Gump's for lunch, it was a really good meal and I wish we had one here in the D.C. area.

In the Lahaina harbor there is a great bayan tree that is one of the oldest and largest in the islands. It was so cool the way the vines drop down to the ground and create new trunks is great.

Later this evening we went to a lua in Lahaina. It was o.k. The one I went to at Paradise Cove on Oahu last year was much better. All in all it was a fun evening and the dancers were good. Tomorrow is our departure day. It has been such a great trip. I've seen so much this past week. Some of it I've seen before, but it was enjoyable seeing it again. The best part was the new places I traveled to while in Hawaii. It's such a beautiful state and I love begin there. The worst part is the long flight from DC to Honolulu, but it's a lot easier going west than east.


We're up early to check out of the hotel and carpool back to the airport. On the trip there we made a stop at a local scrapbook store and I picked up "island" themed paper and cutouts for my memories of this awesume trip. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time. The flight was overbooked as usual so I was not able to make an upgrade to 1st class. This stunck because it was a long flight from Kona to O'hara. Especially with screaming children. It was a very long flight. I really hate red-eyes. Once in Chicago we waited about an hour for our flight to BWI. Once I boarded the plane I pretty much went to sleep and don't remember much of anything except landing at BWI. I really needed that nap. Back to the hotel to pick up the car and I was finally home. Would I go again, absolutely. I would love to have a week in Maui to see the sights I didn't this time. It was the best of the 3 islands I visited. It's now on my to-do list to go again.

We arrived home to cold weather and a week later D.C. is having the biggest snowstorm of the season. YIPPY.

hawiian Road Trip - 5th Post


WOW!!!!, the first day I could actually sleep in. I was up by 8:00 am, this was our last day in Oahu. We where catching a short flight to Maui. We all meet at noon for the bus ride back to Honolulu International Airport so this gave us several hours to finish our gift shopping. All packed up and ready to board the plan, due to security concerns at airports you know have to arrive about 2 hours before domestic flights so we had a couple of hours to kill in the airport before our flight. The flight was again uneventful, we all had a wedding to go to when we arrived at the hotel. Unfortunately some of us arrived late due to the hour our flight was scheduled to arrive in Maui and the 45 minute ride from the airport. I would have like to have been able to stop along the way to Lahaina, but we needed to keep moving so we could get to the hotel. We all rushed to get dressed once the clothes finally arrived to the room. The meal at the reception was good, but I did look forward to the next day because I was going to get a message and go snorkeling.

It's hard to believe our trip is winding down.

Hawaiian Road Trip - 4th Post


OMG - I can't believe I actually got up at 3:30 am to board a bus for the airport for a flight to the big island. I really hate getting up early. Oh well the trip was worth it. We boarded our plane and left Oahu at 6:15 am. It was a smooth and uneventful flight. We meet our bus at Kona airport on the big island I was at once impressed by the different land scape on this island. It looks barren and desalate. Jagged rocks, blue skys and blue waters of the ocean. Breathtaking.

We had to go to several resorts on the big island to pick up other passengers and then we where off. We began driving toward Wiamia and onto the Parker Ranch. This ranch is one of the biggest in the United States and has been owned by the same family since the early 1800s. As we where driving toward the northeast I noticed the snow on the mountains, here we where in the middle of paridise and warm temperatures and there on the top of the mountain was snow. It was so pretty.

We made one stop for a quick breakfast at a local rest area for some of the best donunts I've had, hot malasadas yummy. It reminded me more of a beignet than a donut. What ever you call it, it was really good. Continuing across the ranch we made our way to the northeast part of the island toward Hilo. We stopped at one of the many falls here on the island of Hawaii, the easiest to reach was called Rainbow falls because of the rainbow at the base of the island. Here we stopped at Big Island Candies and I had some of the best chocolate covered coffee beans. I wish I had picked up a bag while I was there. It was really good. We then went to an orchid shop and I got some great picutres of the various beautiful flowers growing in the store.

Back on the bus so we can continue on to Volanoes National Park. This was so cool, walking on an active volcano was really amazing. The smell of sulfar was noticable and I can hear in my head Shreek talking about brimestone and gases...

We had lunch at the Valcono House, with all the buses on sight we didn't have enough time to have a sit down lunch and still walk around the house, so I opted for a quick meal so I could get out and take more pictures.

After lunch we drove past some active steam vents and then made our way to a volcano tube. Here you had to walk down a steep winding path to the bottom of the cliff and then we walked through the tube. Luckily it wasn't raining that day so we didn't have to wade through a river of water, just a couple of puddles. The climb up to the bus was realitively easy and it was all at a gradual slop so I had no problems with the walking. It was really something to behold. I'm so glad I made this journey. This was probably my only chance of getting to the big island.

After the volcano park we continued around the eastern side of the island and worked our way back to Kona Airport. Another cool spot for a quick stop was on one of the many black sand beaches on the big island. It was amazing to be able to walk along the beach with my walking boots on and not having a problem. These beaches are known for having sea turtles sunning themselves. We where fortuneate to see one of these turtles on the beach Back on the bus and by this time I was ready to depart. We spent the entire day on the island and arrived back at the hotel in Oahu around 8:30 that evening. I stopped for a drink with some of our other travellers then it was up to bed because I was so tired. Tomorrow it's off to Maui.

Hawaiian Road Trip - 3rd Post


Up way too early, again. We had to get an early start because the tickets for groups are handed out early and fast. We boarded 2 mini buses from Roberts Tours and our bus driver was a social studies teacher and really put passion into his telling of the events of December 7, 1941. He showed us where the airplanes come from that calm December morning. Without going into a history lesson which is not my purpose with this blog, I'm just going to say Pearl Harbor is a place EVERYONE should visit when coming to Hawaii. It's a place of remembrance, a memorial to the sacrifice of young men who died while just doing their job. The Park Service and US Navy is doing a wonderful job is maintaining the memorial and preserving the feel of the past so visitors get a full understanding of the life and times of the people living and working in Honolulu during the 1930s and 1940s. Before visitors can go out the Arizona Memorial everyone views a 20 minute movie explaining the events that happened on the 7th. This moving was extremely movie and the first time I saw this moving I cried like a baby, it's still hard to view, but I'm not as weepy when leaving the movie. On to boarding the Navy launch to the memorial, the best places to sit for the short ride out it either on the dock side of the launch or the the back next to the water. These seat give you excellent vantage points for photographs. On the memorial itself people are thoughtful and respectful of the memory of the men of the Arizona and other sailors who lost their life during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Each group is given about 20 - 45 minutes on the memorial to pay their respect, several of us brought the lai's we received when we arrived in Honolulu and dropped the petals into the waters of the harbor. To me this was the best way to show my respect to these sailors. My grandfather was serving in the US Navy during the raid on Pearl and I'm just so thankful his ship was not one of the ships in the harbor that morning. We served in every major battle in the Pacific and servived the war to be a major influence in my love of American History. We spent about 3 hours at Pearl Harbor then boarded the mini buses again for a tour of downtown Honolulu.

This tour took us to the oldest Chinatown in the United States and to the palace of the former Kings and Queens of Hawaii. The architecture was stunning, we also saw the capital building and the governors mansion. The Punch Bowl, a National Veterans Cemetary, at the top of the city is a beautiful oasis on Oahu. The views at the top of this mountain out over the city are spectacular. The other fascinating part of this tour is we saw the place where our 44th president Barrack Obama lived during his youth. The school he attended, the basketball courts where he played pickup ball, and the Baskin Robins where he had his first job. He's diffenately come a long way and is a symbol our what one can do in this country when they put their mind to it.

We where back at the hotel by 12 noon and went across the street to have lunch on the beach, calm winds, We did a little shopping at the International Market Place and other local stores the group got ready for a sunset cruise around Wiakiki. This was really beautiful. Going to to sea and watching the sun set from the ocean was a rare treat. I've got several pictures of the sun setting over the ocean from the beach, but I have to say that the best was on our cruise. We had a pretty good meal and the entertainment was so much fun. I called it early this night because I had to be up at 3:30 to get ready to leave the hotel at 4:30 am. I had an early morning flight to the Big Island for a Grand Circle tour.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hawiian Road Trip - 2nd post


Saturday Morning came way too early after flying all day Friday. We had an early orientation breakfast at Planet Hollywood. Well, let me tell you it was an hour and 1/2 of my trip wasted. The "gentleman" giving the tourist hype was extremely condescending and rude to our group. He treated a group of mainly senior citizens like grade school kids. He was constantly repeating himself and made some very stupid jokes. I really felt sorry for our tour guides because they could not control who was going to be briefing our group that morning. After an hour and a half several of us had enough and we got up and left. Off to do some shopping. Maui Divers was the next stop. It was really interesting to see how the coral is harvested and then shaped into some very beautiful jewelry. After the tour of the factory they take you to the "showroom" of one of a kind pieces. I wish I could have afforded the opal and black coral jewelry, the combination of the two stones was truly spectacular.

We spent about an two hours here then it was off to Hilo Hatties. Another tourist shop to drop your hard earned money. I tried on a lovely dress, but it just didn't fit right so I got out of there without spending a penny. We had one more shopping stop before we made our way back to the hotel to get ready for an Eastern Star meeting that evening.

What a great evening we had tonight. Out of the 40 people who traveled from Maryland and Pennsylvania we had 30 travel to downtown Honolulu to attend Lai-Aloha Chapter's meeting. They greeted us with that famous Hawaiian and Eastern Star hospitality. It was really facinating the differences between between our two states, we all have the same ritual but each has a different interpretation. I really enjoyed the evening and wish I can return one day. Aloha my sisters and brothers and mahalo for a great meeting. If you ever find yourself in the Maryland please join us for a meeting. Our first full day is complete and tomorrow we are up early to begin a tour of the island of Oahu.


Day 2 - Up for breakfast at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel at 6:00 am. The buffet was really good and we all had a hardy breakfast because we didn't know when lunch would be served. We went on a tour of the island with Robert's Tours. Our bus driver was so funny and very informative.

Our first stop was Hanauma Bay Park to view some of the spectacular coast line. Because of our time limits we need to keep moving. 20 minute stop only then back on "Cousin Ted's Bus". We learned what was meant by Hawaiian Time - It means that you'll get there when you get there, so everything is 15 minute Hawaiian time, except when the bus needs to leave a stop. The scenery here was so beautiful.

I wish I could have spent several hours just photography the waves crashing on the rocks. I just love the majesty of the ocean, it's so soothing and spiritually uplifting. Time to get back on the bus to travel off to the next spot. Rounding around the east side of the island we approached some more breath taking beauty. Another 15 Hawaiian minutes and we arrived at Halona Blowhole for an interesting show of nature. The way the rock formed it created a natural hole in the sea wall. When the waves crash at the right angle a mini geyser. It was so cool. Unfortunately the angle of the sun did not allow for any good pictures to show. Back on the bus and off to Pali Pass.

Here was the best spot on the tour. Nuuanu Pali State Park. Here the winds blow. What a blast. (Every pun intended). We took the short walk out to the pass and the wind got stronger the closer we got to the edge of the cliffs. Some of the ladies coming back toward the bus needed help just staying upright. Talk about bad hair day, my goodness. I went to both sides of the lookout to get some great shots of the valley below and I was amazed at the difference from one side of the lookout to the other. This pass was the spot where King Kamehameha I gained control over the Hawaiian Islands by beating and forcing the warriors from Oahu up the pass and over the edge of the cliffs. More that 400 soldiers where driven over the cliffs. It was truly amazing the way nature can instill in people the ideas of spirits or ghosts along these cliffs. When the Japanese Airplanes come to raid and bomb the American Naval Fleet at Pearl Harbor many of them came to Pearl through the Pali Pass.

After our stop at the pass, it was time to move on toward lunch and the Dole Pineapple Plantation. In 1991 Dole shut down it's pineapple operations on Oahu, but the fields and plants have been turned into a museum and they are growing pineapples on the island. The root of the pineapple is actually the green top, it's removed from the pineapple, then planted into the ground. It takes about 2 years for a pineapple to mature and what a wonderful, yummy fruit. We stopped here for lunch and I went to get pineapple ice cream for dessert. I couldn't get enough pineapple while I was on the island.

After lunch we started off toward the North Shore and the huge waves found on this part of the island. This part of the island is like being in another world. It's remote, the main road is a two lane road with small towns and loads of beaches located along the road. We made a stop to view the waves, and happened to see a turtle swimming close to the shore. It was really neat, I'm such a sea turtle fan. There such beautiful animals and will be my fun emblem when I become the Worthy Matron of my home chapter in several years. As the day progressed the clouds began to roll in and we had several small showers that day.

Our last stop before we returned to Waikiki was a small Macadamia nut farm where we where able to sample various flavors of that wonderful nut. Carmel coated, plain, roasted, Garlic and Maui Onion flavor. It was all wonderful. We also got to same Kona Coffee while we where at this stop. Soon it was time to board the bus once more for the hour long ride back to the hotel. We arrived around 4:30 that afternoon and had the evening free for dinner. Several of us went to Duke's for dinner. It was the best meal I had in Oahu. I had a Rib-eye and the best cocunut shrimp ever. It was worth the wait. After dinner we make the short walk back to our hotel and off to bed for another early wake up call for our trip to Pearl Harbor.