Continuing with the 2nd part of our recent trip to the U.S. and the main reason for our visit, we left New York City by Greyhound bus to Annapolis, Maryland with a stop-over and bus change in Baltimore.
Greyhound buses now provide free wi-fi on board and power outlets to charge your phones & computers. We were dropped off at a Park-n-Ride lot outside of the town of Annapolis. Immediately I asked Mikkel, who had previously lived there for 4 years (although 50 years ago) and had since visited (although 30 years ago), if he knew where we were. “Beats me” he replied, “Annapolis used to be a sleepy little town, but I don’t recognize it anymore.” So I ran over to the bus driver before he left to ask specifically where we were so we could call someone to pick us up. He told us “Harry Truman Park” and that was enough information to give the hotel when we called to ask for a taxi to be sent.
After checking in to the Country Inn and Suites, off we went on a school bus arranged by the Naval Academy 50th reunion committee for a full 3 days of activities planned. First of which was registration and a meet-up for Class of 1966 at the Westin Hotel. Afterwards, we talked the bus driver into taking us to a seafood restaurant at the harbor. We were a little disappointed in the seafood meal we ordered; I guess we are spoiled from living in a fishing town. Later the driver returned us back to our hotel. As we traveled through Annapolis, this “sleepy little town” that Mikkel remembered had turned into a suburban metropolis, with shopping centers, a large mall, huge apartment and condo complexes, lots of fast-food and chain restaurants, freeways, etc. Downtown, near the Academy, still had some of its charm with turn-of-the-century homes, brick sidewalks, and narrow streets which certainly created heavy traffic during peak hours and Naval Academy events and games.
The next day we caught the bus to the Naval Academy and walked from just inside the gate through the campus, which is called “the Yard”, to Mahan Hall where we would listen to the Superintendent’s address. What a beautiful amazing “Yard” it is with many historical older buildings, statues, gardens, homes, trees, etc. We would be taking a few more walks through “the Yard” in the next couple of days. At first, I really did not have much interest in going to some talk from the Superintendent, Vice Admiral Carter. But when I arrived, I was first amazed by the architecture and design inside and outside of each building. Mahan Hall was no exception. We took our seats inside a large theater with attendees of 3 other class reunions being held that Homecoming weekend. And I was very impressed by the Superintendent’s talk which seemed to be all memorized. He spoke of each class and their accomplishments and history. And also the accomplishments and activities of the Naval Academy. I was astonished when I heard of the academic status of the excellent university-right up there with the Ivy League Colleges and MIT. In addition, military training and stricter regulations must be followed. And these are men and women who will serve our country for years to come. The “talk” inspired a sense of pride and admiration for those who have attended including my husband. We walked through the Academy Museum next and then the Chapel where the crypt of John Paul Jones is buried beneath. We had planned to view the Midshipmen Parade at Worden Field, but it started to rain. So we opted to return by bus to the hotel to rest and get ready for the Dinner Dance scheduled that evening.
Side Note: On one of our trips on the bus, I discovered “Ricketts Hall”. My family would be very interested since that is my maiden name. Possibly a very distant relative, Claude Vernon Ricketts graduated from a high school in Kansas where my father’s family lived at one time if I recall from some of his stories. He was captain of the boxing team for 2 years and graduated from USNA in 1929 and eventually became a 4-star admiral after receiving the Legion of Merit and Navy Commendation Medal for his service during World War II. So they named the Sports Hall after him as well as a battleship.
That evening we attended the Dinner Dance at Dahlgren Hall back at the Yard – a formal event, and again by bus. Although most wore suit and tie, Mikkel wore his Guayabera, the formal shirt of Panama; some other had no tie. Having no cold weather clothes or formal attire anymore, I previously bought a few sweaters, a coat and a dress at Yahois and Cheaper, stores in Las Tablas that sells last season’s clothes from stores such as JC Penneys, Macy’s, Target, etc. for discounted prices. I am glad I did because it was definitely much colder weather than even our stay in New York. My daughter Becky had given me one of her more formal dresses when I visited her in Tucson last July, which I wore for this occasion. We sat at the table with those in Mikkel’s Company. It was good to see Mikkel thoroughly enjoying seeing old friends and classmates from his and other companies, sharing stories of the past and what we are all doing now. Although I didn’t know anyone before, I certainly enjoyed getting to know some of the wives and Mikkel’s classmates. Good food, good music and dancing, good company, and all-together a good evening.
The next day was the football game, but that morning we hopped back on the shuttle bus to the Westin Hotel for a Prayer Breakfast. A former USNA graduate of 1970 and former Chairman & CEO of General Motors, Daniel Akerson shared a moving testimony about his faith. Akerson Tower at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is named after him. Returning to the hotel to get ready for the game, we walked across the street to a shopping center. Mikkel had left his cell phone at our home on his desk in Pedasí, so we took advantage of the little time we had and bought a burner phone at Best Buy along with a SIM card with plenty of data he would need later while in the U.S. Off to the stadium by bus to the tailgate party in one of the banquet rooms; again lots of food & drink-fresh oysters being shucked, pulled pork being sliced and shredded, shrimp, salads, breads, ice cream: all-you-can-eat. It was very crowded, but we seemed to get around and there was still a never-ending supply of whatever you wanted to eat or drink.
Finally hiked up to our seats to watch the game which were located at the first level on the sideline at one of the goals. Navy vs. Memphis. It was cold and windy; now I was really glad I had a sweater and coat, but could have used a cap to cover my ears. Nevertheless it was an exciting game. I haven’t been to a football game in a long time. We stayed through half-time to watch the Marine Silent Drill Platoon demonstration and Navy Drum & Bugle Corp Halftime show. Then we went back down to the tailgate party to watch the second half on big screens throughout the hall. Navy won, final score 42-28 – Go Navy!
But this wasn’t the end of the activities for the day. After the game we caught the bus to an after-game party for the 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Companies at the O’Callaghan Hotel. More finger food, drink, and dessert; more sharing stories. In our case, more answering the questions over and over “Why Panama?”. We should have printed out our answers and just handed them out for those many people who asked time and time again throughout our whole trip. Mikkel was always kind enough to answer that question as many times as we were asked. Later someone arranged for our hotel shuttle bus to pick several of its guests up later, so we suddenly took advantage of the ride back instead of calling for a cab.
The final day, we missed the bus for the chapel services; had much to pack and get ready before leaving for Washington D.C. I arranged with the front desk to store our luggage for the day, since the bus to Washington D.C. wasn’t schedule to come until 6:30pm that evening. We again caught the reunion shuttle bus to the Westin Hotel to attend the final brunch and say our goodbyes. One of Mikkel’s classmates had left before we arrived, but too our surprise, he returned because he just had to say farewell to Mikkel. What a sweet act of camaraderie. Afterwards we caught our final bus ride back to the Yard. Then we caught the Academy shuttle just inside the gate to the Midshipmen Store where we went shopping for Academy souvenirs and clothing. It is a huge store which also includes groceries and other items for the Midshipmen, Academy staff, and Alumni. We then walked throughout the Yard, visiting outside of where Mikkel rooms he stayed in while there and the inside of Bancroft Hall. From there we walked back to the Visitor Center at the Front gate and viewed some of the displays within as well as another smaller shop.
It was time for lunch, so we said goodbye to the Yard for the last time and walked to nearby downtown Annapolis, the older historical part of Annapolis that over the years has become a spot for tourists. Walking down Main Street, seeing all the little expensive shops, and passing up some of the many restaurants, we finally chose to enter “Chick & Ruth’s Delly” know as Crab Cake Central. It was a very crowded busy restaurant with narrow isles and small tables, but our tastebuds were not disappointed. I had their famous Jumbo Lump 1/2 lb. Crab Cake and Mikkel had a corn beef sandwich. We would have ordered a slice of one of their famous pies, but we were just too full.
We continued to walk down to Church Circle where the street splits and circles around an old church in the center. At that point we called for a taxi to take us back to our hotel; we had walked our last block in Annapolis. After retrieving our stored luggage, a taxi took us back to where we first started when we came to Annapolis to catch another Greyhound bus to our next destination.
Looking back at some old saved emails, Mikkel and I had been planning for attending this reunion since January, 2015. We are both very grateful we had the opportunity to attend; something Mikkel and I will never forget.