About the same time as I explored the Punchbowl in Hawaii, the US Senate voted on the next chapter of my life. On June 24th, the US Senate confirmed the promotions of 185 Reserve officers to the rank of Colonel, of which I was thankfully one of them. It was a huge step in my career and came on the heels of another selection which had large repercussions for my life: selection to the US Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
Officers selected for attendance at the Army War College represent some of the best leaders in the US military today. Future generals and admirals graduate not only from the Army War College, but all of the Senior Service Colleges. I was greatly humbled and proud to be selected to attend, especially since I was a Reservist of which very, very few are chosen to attend in residence. The downside to this, however, was that I would be separated from my family for 11 months while attending. My wife and I talked through it at great lengths. She would stay in Norfolk for her assignment in the Navy with our daughters, while the dog and I would venture to Pennsylvania for school. Fortunately, even before arriving I received confirmation of housing on the post, one of the oldest in the US Army. I was excited but also hesitant—I would be leaving my family again—but not for a deployment or combat, but for school. While my wife and I were use to time apart, it was much more difficult to leave my daughters. Sure– I would be only 5 hours away (on a good day with no traffic) and there are video calls, but it was tough to say good bye. With lots of hugs, a few tears (mostly from me), and a full tank of gas in late July, I packed up my car once again, loaded up the dog, and drove north to Pennsylvania.
There are few things more frustrating in life than trying to travel during the week from Norfolk, Virginia to Carlisle, Pennsylvania in the midst of summer. Traffic is always rampant. It’s hot. There are back ups. Then you hit DC and the beltway (I-495) during rush hour—which is really rush hours from about 2-8pm. It’s more of the same. By the time I got to the north side of 495 across the American Legion Bridge, my dog and I needed a break. Fortunately, I knew of some great trails along the Potomac River at a place called Carderock, along the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal Path adjacent to the Potomac. We got out, stretched our legs, and in the late summer sun, walked the trails down to the Potomac. The pictures tell the rest.
Once in Pennsylvania plans changed a bit. I checked into post and learned my quarters wouldn’t be ready until the following week. Instead of sitting in a hotel, my pup and I drove down to Maryland for the weekend to stay at my mom’s house (who happened to be out of town) near the scenic capital of Annapolis. We enjoyed watching the Olympics, walking Annapolis’s scenic streets, and of course sampling local beers which seem appropriate to our journey.
No adventure, however, would be complete without some paths, pedals, and pilsners. One morning I ventured out in my Luna sandals to tackle 6.5 miles of some of my favorite trails at Greenbury Point across from the Naval Academy. One Sunday morning I took my bike over to Kent Island on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and got in 30 miles of cycling. But the highlight for sure was going out on my friend’s sailboat in the Severn River. Yeah, imagine this: a retired Royal Navy officer and an Army Reserve Colonel get on a sail boat…
Seriously! No joke!
Yeah, I got on a boat– like seriously! I even took the helm (that’s what it’s called, right?)
And I didn’t hit anything either– even more impressive in my opinion. After my Sunday ride, I met up with my buddy Martin to take his boat out on the water. Needless to say I was a little nervous when he showed me how we were going to get to his boat. Once we got out on the water along the gorgeous Severn river in the late afternoon sun…it was amazing! Best part: I didn’t get seasick either! Paired with all of these adventures was a variety of great summer beers, more than I can remember. I know they were light, and crisp. Perfect for a hot summer day on a porch, or in my case, sailing the Severn.
Eventually though, I headed back to Pennsylvania and signed for my quarters on Carlisle Barracks. My household goods arrived all in one piece, and I began the long process of unpacking and getting settled. Before I knew it, classes began and the next chapter in my life had begun.
Down the road from Carlisle Barracks, the Appalachian Trail crosses a local road on it’s 2,200 mile journey from Georgia to Maine. As I ventured to and from Carlisle to neighboring Mechanicsburg’s Bed, Bath, and Beyond I saw the parking lot for the trail and like Pavlov’s dog, I started to salivate. The Appalachian Trail was calling.