Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Bon Voyage!

This blog is going to take a different slant over the next two weeks. I am joining my brother and two friends on a two-week tour of Europe. We are visiting Paris, Normandy, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Bavaria. I am going to use this blog platform as a way of keeping our families up to speed on our “adventures.” Here is the story.

Last Memorial Day weekend, my friend, Birdie, pulled me aside at a backyard pool party at our house and said that he and his wife were planning a trip to Europe in 2012. They were looking for another couple to go along. Like me, Birdie is a bit of a military history geek. The prime purpose would be to visit the D-Day beaches at Normandy, but with additional travels from there. Details to be worked out later. We agreed in principal that we would go along.

Less than two weeks later, I got a call from my brother, who is an attorney in the Harrisburg, Pa. area. He told me about a tour he had read about in the local newspaper. He then went to an introductory meeting. Essentially, this tour is a “Band of Brothers” tour. The official title is “In the Footsteps of Maj. Dick Winters.”

For those of you who might not be aware, the book by Stephen Ambrose and the subsequent HBO mini-series followed the World War II action of one specific company of paratroopers in the 101st Airborne Division, from Normandy, on through Holland, Belgium and Germany. Dick Winters was the company commander for much of the war, and the center point of much of the narrative. Winters was a resident of SE Pennsylvania, and something of a local hero. All that explains why a historical society from Hershey, Pa. would put together this specific of a tour. (FYI – Winters died just a few weeks ago.)

So I got off the phone and talked with Mrs. Poolman. She said she had no interest in going on this military history tour, but I should call my brother back immediately and tell him to count me in.

That put me in the awkward position of having to go back to Birdie and tell him that “I have a better offer.” To make long story short (or shorter, anyway) Birdie found himself a roommate, Ron, and the two of them joined up with the Band of Brothers tour.

(l-r) Birdie, Ron and Poolman

As I write this, I am sitting in the Charlotte (NC) Airport awaiting our flight to Charles DeGaulle Airport.  Birdie, Ron and I will be spending two extra days on our own in Paris before meeting up with the rest of the tour group on Thursday.

None of us are world-travelers, so this should be interesting. I already described my less-than-successful efforts to learn a little French. The only other time I went to Europe was on an Air National Guard junket back in my TV news days. So this should be interesting.

I’ll be posting more updates and photos as time and WiFi access permit.

On the road again…

I’ve been out of the loop for the past couple of weeks. Sorry ‘bout that. Here are some thoughts that have been bouncing around my head.

Mrs. Poolman and I joined two other couples, including my sister and BIL, from Greenville, SC, on a long road-trip to visit my brother and family, and to visit the Gettysburg battlefield. The idea behind this trip started more than two years ago, when I got into a conversation with my sister’s neighbor, Mac. We discovered we are both history nerds with a focus on the Civil War and World War II. Since my brother lives in Mechanicsburg, about 45 minutes from Gettysburg, the idea of a road trip emerged. It just took us two years to get it all together.

The Gettysburg experience was fantastic. Both Mac and I agreed that while we spent the better part of two days at the battlefield, we definitely left plenty of material for future visits.

The relatively new visitor’s center in the park is fantastic. My brother was a little concerned it might not be worth the $10 admission fee. It was worth that and more. You start off with a movie about the battle. Then you follow it up with the “Cyclorama” which is much cooler than it sounds. You finish up in the museum, which is worth the price of admission all on its own.

The battlefield is very cool. On the second day, we joined a Ranger for one of their walking programs. He was great – informative, funny, entertaining.

On Sunday, brother and SIL treated us to Sunday brunch at the Hershey Hotel. Wow! I’ve been to my share of Sunday brunch buffets before, but this one knocked our socks off. It was so varied and so good, it makes you feel a little guilty for indulging. It was the only meal any of us ate that day. On a scale of one to ten, this was a 20.

The only downside of the trip was the long drive. Mrs. P and I drove to Greenville on Wednesday afternoon and then we all piled into my sister’s Expedition for the nine and a half hour trip to Mechanicsburg. It is interesting how different people experience trips like this. If you put me in a semi-comfortable seat for a long drive, I’m happy as a clam. When I’m not driving, I read; I nap; I look at the scenery. Mrs. P, on the other hand, wants to claw her eyes out. To her credit, she was very good on this trip, even though we took the ride back all in one day. (We left Mechanisburg at 6:30 am and arrived home at Casa Poolman at 8:30 pm.) However, she is not looking forward to getting back into the car for another road trip.

 

A new routine and hungry gators

I need to get some exercise, but “darn” it’s been hot lately. So I’ve decided to change my daily routine.

I used to run for exercise, but in recent years the gout in my toe and my sore knees have put an end to that. Instead, I have been walking about two miles nearly every day, usually on my lunch hour. I have time for about a two-mile walk and a quick lunch at my desk.

I don’t normally work up so much of a sweat that I need a shower after the walk, but that has changed in recent weeks. Mid-day temperatures have been in the mid-90s most of the summer. So I tried changing my walk to the early evening.  It’s still hot, but I don’t have to worry about sitting around the office dripping in sweat afterwards. Yesterday, it was still in the mid-90s at 6 pm and the humidity was like a locker room. I was totally drenched in sweat, and not from the exertion. That’s ridiculous.

This morning, I set the alarm for about 40 minutes earlier and went out for my walk before the sun came up. I am not an early-morning person, so I don’t know how long this will last. They say if you do something consistently for 30 days it becomes a habit. We’ll see. The good parts are that it is much cooler. And on many days, if I don’t walk, I can cut my lunch break to 30 minutes and leave a half hour earlier. That has a draw to it.

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I remember very well my first introduction to a wild alligator. Fresh from Pennsylvania, it was my first or second day as a student at the University of Florida. I was walking across campus with one of the guys from my dorm when passed by one of the many ponds on campus.

He said, “Let’s check and see if Albert is out.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about, so he explained that Albert is the nickname for the UF mascot, Albert the Alligator, but was used generically to refer to all alligators.
I thought he was pulling my leg.

“Yeah, right. Alligators right in the middle of a college campus. What’s next? Lions, tigers and bears, oh my!”

Much to my surprise, there he was — a six-foot gator, just catching the rays at the water’s edge. I soon discovered just about every one of the very numerous ponds around the campus had a resident alligator. Lake Alice, on the perimeter of the campus, was a nature preserve with an entire colony of the reptiles. Not-too-bright students would feed them marshmallows. One crazy dude, “Gatorman,” would wade out into waist deep water to feed them.

All of that is just a long way of saying that I don’t get freaked out by alligators. I think they are pretty cool. However, I ran across this video today from a South Georgia state park, and it did give me the chills.

Supposedly those guys were in a 14-foot aluminum john-boat. They are as crazy as my old friend, Gatorman.

Humbug to winter!

If I ever had any thoughts that maybe I am missing out on that “winter wonderland” thing by living in Savannah, I was thoroughly dissuaded this past weekend.

I took a quick driving trip to visit my father and Youngest Sister (and family) in Pennsylvania. I picked up Middle Sister in South Carolina along the way. Mrs. Poolman couldn’t rearrange her schedule, so she stayed home and took care of the critters.

I drove to SC on Wednesday afternoon and Middle Sis and I took off Thursday morning for Pittsburgh. The weather was great, bright and sunny the entire way. MS and I talked the entire way, so the eight hour drive went quickly.

We had a good time visiting. While we were busy enjoying family, a major winter storm was wreaking havoc, mostly to the south and east of us. After dinner Friday evening, I took off for a Christmas party given by an old friend (same friend that we visited in NYC in September.) Randi put on a great party and I had a chance to reconnect with a number of old friends. I stayed to help clean up, along with several neighbors and some of the hostess’ friends who were staying at her house. When I walked out to leave, there was about two inches of snow on the ground. I knew I was in trouble when I found myself sliding down the road on the ice. When I was brushing the snow and scraping the ice off my car, I had to hang on to keep from sliding down the hill. I was parked facing uphill. I got about 50 feet and no more. So I hiked back up to Randi’s house and asked if she had a spare couch for a stranded traveler.

The next morning certainly was “winter wonderland.”

My car Saturday morning.

Actually, this is pretty.

Ooo, it's cold outside!

I’ve always told Mrs. Poolman, that heavy snowfalls may be beautiful, and can be enjoyable, as long as you don’t have to go anywhere.

Eventually the road crews came along with plows and salt and I was able to make it back to family, first to my sister’s and later to my Dad’s. What a pain in the rear!

Clear roads?

The plan was to drive back on Sunday. We were trying to get weather information from The Weather Channel, but surprisingly, they weren’t much help. They were so focused on the progress of the storm through the Northeast, especially DC, NYC and Boston, they barely mentioned anything in the rest of the country.

Bad berries to you, Weather Channel! You’ll get nothing but coal and switches in your stocking later this week.

Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny.

The view off Dad's driveway.

Absolutely beautiful! After giving just enough time for the sun to work a little magic, we decided to chance fate and take off. The first half of the trip, especially through West Virginia was very picturesque, and fortunately the roads were mostly clear.

Somewhere in West Virginia.

The trip was uneventful. Again, MS and I talked the entire way and the time flew by.

All told, it was a good trip, with a short, but enjoyable family visit. For the future, I think I’ll keep myself in the south between December and March. For those of you who live through that all winter, I hope you enjoy it, because if you don’t the South doesn’t have room for all of you!