On June 29, 2009, we dropped our only son and oldest child to West Point, the United States Military Academy. They call it R-Day, Reception Day. I'm sure it is unlike any day at any other regular college. I'm going to describe that all to you, but first let me give you a little debriefing on our trip.
We left home in California early the week before on Tuesday and flew a straight flight from San Francisco to JFK in New York City. We got a great price on the tickets and Virgin America was a unique and quality flight. They have more leg space, leather seats, with little televisions right in front of you where you can follow your trip on a google map and watch programs. I watched some Wimbledon tennis on the way out in addition to reading Duty, Honor, Country: A History of West Point by Stephen E. Ambrose. You can order your food right off this little interactive set as well. They charge you 2 dollars for a headset.
New York City
My wife, Kirk, Julia, and I arrived in New York City and took the air train to Jamaica (this is $5 per person), caught the E line subway to Lexington, and then down two stops to 33rd on the 6 line. I'm not sure, but I think that Manhattan in New York City was where the whole idea of Downtown and Uptown came from. We got a great deal on our hotel from Priceline---I'm talking 70% off the regular price. It costs $2 to ride the subway, per trip, no matter how long it is. We ate that night in little Italy at America's first pizza parlor, Lombardi's, which has the authentic thin crust pizza with the fresh sauce and mozarella. We bought some souvenirs right across from the Empire State Building when we got off the subway coming back.
The next morning Kirk and I got up and worked out in the hotel gym. Then we ate breakfast at Dunkin Donuts. Those are nice. We took the subway uptown to Battery Park. We took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty National Monument---many very impressive views. The ferry stopped on Ellis Island, but we stayed on until Battery Park and got off to walk a little. We moved down the Canyon of Heroes to Wall Street, Trinity Church (where Alexander Hamilton is buried), and then the World Trade Center Memorial. Things are going slowly there. We caught the subway back to our hotel, picked up our luggage, got back on the subway again, and caught the 6 line to 125th Harlem to take the Metro North train to New Rochelle to pick up our rental car. It's cheaper to rent a car outside of NYC.
We should have exited at Grand Central Station. On the trip back, we did. At Harlem, you must walk two blocks to the train station, and it is not a very friendly environment. I mean, we were friendly, but the locals were a little too friendly in a bad sort of way. When my family and I walked out of the subway with our luggage, a local met us with a huge greeting, "Welcome to America!" A man said to my wife, "You look nice!" We walked pretty fast to the station and caught the train to New Rochelle. We should have taken the local train that stops at every station, but we took the express that stopped in Connecticut, so we had to take a train back to arrive in New Rochelle. Our rental car was there. We drove to Fishkill. Traffic was very bad. I wouldn't have expected it so far north, but it was.
Up North from NYC
We got to church on Wednesday night, Liberty Baptist Church, Pastor Paul Morrison, where Kirk will join. We drove to the location and no one was there. They had just gotten into their new building. We had arrived at the old one. We called the pastor and they were then into the service, so we had a Bible study and prayer and then the pastor called after his service, and we drove over to the church and spent about an hour or two with him and his family.
We drove up to my sister Kim's in Massachusetts, arriving at midnight, got up for breakfast and spent time until 11am, when we left to New Hampshire to be with my in-laws and some of the nieces and nephews who were staying with them. When I was there I pulled a muscle in my rib cage working out with Kirk and through the rest of the trip it was interesting breathing and sleeping. We arose at 4:30am and left very early on Sunday morning with my in laws to drive about 3-4 hours to get to the 25th anniversary church service of the church my sister and her family had been attending in Massachusetts. We saw family again and enjoyed the service there. We ate at the church, stayed for a time of dedication of their newly remodeled church building (an old grange hall). They also had a sending ceremony for my brother-in-law, who is moving with my sister and their children down to Virginia to pastor a church there. They also gave a graduation diploma to my nephew, Caleb, who finished with his home schooling.
We left at 3pm from Pittsfield, Massachusetts and got to Fishkill, NY from there at about 5:00pm, so we checked into the motel first, freshened up briefly and went to Sunday evening service. We got to hear Pastor Mike Custer from Bible Baptist in Grand Forks, ND, the church that sent Pastor Morrison to Fishkill. Afterwards we fellowshiped and ate and then left to drive to our motel.
The next morning we arose to eat breakfast at 6:30am at Cracker Barrell in Fishkill. We left and drove down to West Point at about 7:15am. My wife's brother and his two sons and my brother's son drove down that night and met us for breakfast to be with us all day. We crossed the Hudson River over to Newburgh, NY, and then went South. In front of you is a big mountain. West Point is surrounded by mountains. We got to Stoney Lonesome Gate at about 8:00am. We were greeted by a line of cars going through MP security, who had us open our trunks, etc. We drove forward and ran into another security who directed us to a parking lot. Kirk was wearing knee length Bermuda shorts, a teeshirt, black socks, and his shiny low oxfords. He had one very small duffle bag.
We caught a bus to Eisenhower Hall (they call it Ike's Hall). There we got in line and finally made it into the auditorium where we were given a little speech and then a cadet stood and told us we had 90 seconds to say goodbye. We hugged our son and watched him follow other cadets out the room. We would not talk to him in person until Christmas and only three times by phone and only for 10 minutes each.
We walked out of that building into a very large two story area that had parent clubs and other West Point tables to get material, information, and make purchases. We got Kirk's address and we all sat down and wrote him a letter and delivered it to the West Point post office. That was about 11 letters.
The rest of the day we toured West Point. That was interesting. Maybe I'll write on it more later, but it is built like a Gothic Castle. The buildings are amazing. West Point sits on the Hudson River, a very wide portion that is shaped like an S. It is an impressive view. Famous military men are buried in the cemetery. Trophy point, the plain where the marching occurs, is surrounded by statues of West Point heroes. At 3:00pm we joined the rest of the parents in Eisenhower Hall for a parent briefing from the Superintendent of West Point. He and others made an impressive power point presentation, telling us the basics about West Point as an institution. We left there to go up to the parade grounds to wait for the new cadets to march out to take their oath of allegiance.
Each of eight companies of new cadet plebes marched out from their barracks to Battle Monument at about 5:40pm, led by the United States Military Marching Band, in basic military uniform under the leadership of upper class cadets. We got to see Kirk briefly. He seemed to be enjoying himself. They marched back around the parade grounds to the mess hall. We caught a bus back to the parking lot, said goodbye to the family, and then departed to drop our car off in White Plains, NY. We arrived back home in California on Tuesday at about 4:00pm.
Pray for Kirk while he makes his way through Beast Barracks, Cadet Basic Training.