Chippewa Herald * May 7, 2015     Free track counters
Colorful Counter

Actual newspaper layout: (jpg) (pdf) On newspaper's web site (where you can leave comments)

(To receive future columns by email, just send a message to "".)

New York visit offers plenty to see

by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist

After a spur-of-the-moment decision, Beth and I dropped in on New York last weekend. The main attraction for us was watching Jasper drop in to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In his case, the dropping in was literal, as in skydiving from a helicopter.

Jasper's "Wings of Blue" team from the Air Force Academy prevailed in the Second Annual Inter-Service Academy Parachute Meet. Army's "Black Knights" were a close second, followed by Navy in a distant third place. (What, they don't parachute onto aircraft carriers?)

Skydiving is not much of a spectator sport -- I think we were the only civilians there. For us, it was more of an excuse to see our son, and to visit West Point for the first time. (And to check out the Wings of Blue before they perform at the Boy Scout Council's Chippewa Valley Air Show July's the least I could do as a Scoutmaster.)

It was interesting comparing West Point with USAFA (U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs). There are many similarities, especially among cadet parachuters, but also some striking contrasts.

The most notable difference may be in its history. USAFA, being only 60 years old, is more modern. Its building have names that most Americans won't recognize: Sijan, Vandenberg, Arnold, Fairchild.

West Point, on the other hand, boasts a stunning array of graduates after whom buildings are named and statues erected. Perhaps you've heard of some of these West Point grads: Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, George Custer, Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton.

Even the giant statue of George Washington on a horse in the center of the field has significance: Before it was a military academy, Washington once declared West Point "the most important military post in America," since it kept a lookout over the Hudson River.

Unlike USAFA's elaborate airfield, West Point lacks the space for even one runway (what were they thinking when they laid out the campus in 1802?), so the parachuters are carried up by helicopters. That's more fun for spectators, as everything happens in one small field -- launching, landing, and parachute-packing.

After a full day of watching helicoptering skydivers, we enjoyed a great dinner at a stately hotel on campus named after Sylvanus Thayer from the class of '08. (That's 1808.) The breakfast menu's traditional poached eggs with hollandaise is NOT called "Eggs Benedict." That would be giving honor to the traitor, Benedict Arnold, who had secretly planned to surrender West Point to the British in 1780. So they're listed on the menu as "Eggs Patton."

As token parents, Beth and I were invited to the post-contest banquet Sunday afternoon where we got to sit in the historic dining hall, surrounded by lots of heavy oaken walls and old stones, as opposed to the steel and glass at USAFA's massive dining hall.

Then it was on to Manhattan! You can't be fifty miles away and not spend a couple days in the Big Apple. We returned our rental car to LaGuardia, but no taxis or shuttles for us, thank you very much. We prefer wandering the streets of Queens searching for a bus that could take us to the nearest subway station.

Yes, traveling like that forces us to pack light, but it not only saves a bundle of money, it's also the best way to truly experience New York City. And our experience started right away, since there wasn't much information at the bus stop near the car rental.

Fortunately, we had two angels help us out. They barely spoke any English, but my high school Spanish was enough to learn which bus to take to get a subway to Times Square, and to realize that the bus accepted only coins. They changed our dollars into coins and even swiped a card for Beth's ride, and wouldn't take any money for it.

Any time we're in Manhattan, our main plan is to walk. And walk, and walk. We hoofed it 14 miles on Monday and another 13 on Tuesday, covering ground from the north edge of Central Park all the way to Battery Park with its view of the Statue of Liberty.

We took in a show (for half price thanks to TKTS) that was considered "Off Broadway" even though the narrow staircase leading to the theater entrance was literally ON Broadway. We watched some famous person we didn't know signing autographs at the Today Show Plaza, and saw Justin Bieber across the street near Times Square.

But those brushes with celebrity pale in comparison to seeing the bewildering mix of cultures as you walk block to block, from Chelsea Market to Chinatown, from Wall Street to Little Italy, and running into not one, not two, but THREE Apple stores (Grand Central Station, Fifth Avenue, and Broadway).

It's hard to believe there is so much crammed into one little island! Maybe we should drop in more often.

-- (You can see a few hundred pics of our trip at "".) --

You can reach Tom by email at "".

See photos of the trip:

You can reach Tom at

Links: [Tom's column archives] | [] | [] |

This page is maintained by Tom Arneberg (
(Last modified: $Date: 2015-05-07 14:55:49-05 $)