A Decision to Save My Leave

We were asked to provide general timeframes as to when we would like to take our first two weeks R & R leave. I decided to take a couple of passes instead -- a few days off from work that don't get charged as leave. My intent is accumulate my leave and use it at the end of this tour so I can take a long trip across the U.S. to visit with family and friends.

Legally, according to the Soldier's and Sailor's Act, I must apply to return to work at washingtonpost.com within 90 days after my last day of active duty. My plan is to take about 100 days (including my accumulated leave) and visit all 50 states of the U.S. and one Canadian province while attending at least one game at every Major League Baseball stadium. (Answer to Trivia Quiz: The Canadian province is Ontario, home of Toronto's Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays.)

I've invited my family and friends to join me for all or part of the trip, as we traverse the country watching baseball and visiting several U.S. National Parks. This gives me a goal to look forward to during the next several months ahead of us, a light at the end of the tunnel if you will. It is a project that I can progressively plan, occupy my mind with the thoughts of returning home and having fun with friends and family. If I take leave in the middle then we have to go through the whole goodbye thing and the prospect of returning to Iraq will be the last thing I want to have to think about after a vacation.

I'd be interested in hearing what places you'd consider "must see" in the U.S. So, if you have a moment, please suggest them as Comments to this post.

-- Written 4/1/2006

By Bert Stover |  April 7, 2006; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Al Asad, Iraq , Family , Friends
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I must have missed the trivia quiz.

Posted by: colonels | April 7, 2006 09:35 AM

Chinatown, New York(San Fran has nothing on NYC)
Cape Canaveral, Florida
Blue Ridge Mountains
Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota
Darwin, Minnesota - home of the original Largest Ball of Twine (the one in Cawker City, Kansas is a fraud - it was not built by a single person, but by the whole community)
Moab, Utah
Crater Lake, Oregon - more beautiful that Lake Tahoe.
Galena, Illinois - not sure why. It just sticks in my mind from my youth during a Family Vacation. When I think of Galena, I think zinc and President Grant - I guess they have some kind of statue there.

Posted by: Jay Cline | April 7, 2006 09:46 AM

Bert, you need to get on your board and ride w/ people who live in snow country. Friends at Crested Butte are looking forward to hosting you.

Also go to the "Black Canyon" while you are there and then on to Telluride. Telluride has a great feel to it and to be there when the down-mountain breeze carries the mist from the falls is wonderfull.

Montana is full of truly American experiences. If you like to fish, the whole area arounf Ennis is a paradise. Independence Day is celebrated there to the hilt. Glacier Park is a must as is the Russell museum in Great Falls.

I recommend you see people. If a person loves an area, he/she can make that place come alive. Experience America and Canada person-to-person. I believe that is where your real memories wil be built.

AJ

Posted by: AJ Snowboarder | April 7, 2006 10:18 AM

San Diego. Padres have a nice new ball park downtown plus you can't beat the beautiful beaches. Let's not forget the Zoo, Sea World, Coronado Island...did I mention the beaches? LOL

Yosemite. Incredibly beautiful waterfalls, hiking trails, and take-your-breath-away views.

Posted by: San Diego | April 7, 2006 11:02 AM

It won't be during your leave but everyone should attend the Iowa State Fair sometime in their life. It's one of the U.S.'s best state fair and in my mind it is the best state fair. They have every kind of food on a stick you can imagine and the best Turkey legs ask Reisetter about them. They are awesome! You can also see the biggest boar, the biggest bull and the biggest ram and they are huge!
Galena is also beautiful although not in Iowa. Stopping in several small Iowa towns at local diners and coffee shops you can experience small friendliness and people who are glad you stopped by.
If you come to Iowa early May late April the Tulip Festival in Pella is wonderful and longtime tradition. Iowa is a great place to visit with a friend. The idea AJ Snowboarder has is so true seeing the people will make the place!

Posted by: IA Girl | April 7, 2006 11:13 AM

You really should stop off in South Dakota and tour Mt. Rushmore - even if they don't have a baseball team. There is a Passion Play running all summer in nearby Sturgis,(if you like that sort of thing) and "The Needles" is a wonderful place to stay if you like rustic hotels or cabins. There's a very nice restaurant at the Pactola Dam recreation area, also nearby. This area in the Black Hills is a diamond in the middle of the rubble of the badlands and the boring unless you own it cattle ranches and wheat fields.

Posted by: Lee | April 7, 2006 11:16 AM

Bert, try South Beach/ Miami in Florida! Truely a melting pot of culture, fun, and everything else under the sun. Its like visiting 4 or 5 different places all at the same time. Great night life, great fishing, you can enjoy a quite walk or have a blast! Lots of things to see and do. The biggest problem you'll have is not wanting to leave.

Posted by: sanchez | April 7, 2006 11:41 AM

Hi Bert... I've lived in a few places (Army Brat) and would suggest sidetrips for two cities on your tour. If you have an entourage with you, it's also pretty thrifty...

SEATTLE: Take your car(s) onto a Washington State Ferry and spend a day cruising and driving around the islands in Puget Sound. Very relaxing, very beautiful. I'm still convinced God lives somewhere around there.

SAN FRANCISCO:
A) Take everyone for a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Yep, they even have parking. It is exhilarating, breathtaking, beautiful and healthy. We walked across and back, and it felt like about a mile each way.

B) If you do the bridge in the AM, you'll have time afterwards to drive into the Park (Golden Gate National Recreation Area) at the other end... just up the hill from Ft. Baker. Passing thru a long one-way tunnel, within a mile or two you can see the Golden Gate from the old Army coastal artillery emplacements that guarded the entrance to the Bay. It's an amazing view, looking down on the bridge and across to San Francisco. It's something none of your folks will ever forget, And... it's free.

C. Take the Alcatraz Tour... make sure you get tickets the day before. Not free, but very affordable.

If you get close to Sacramento, I'd love to buy you a tall cool one. Thanks for doing what you're doing.

Posted by: ElkGrover | April 7, 2006 12:42 PM

Hi Bert

Great to hear you're planning a tour... I imagine it must be one of the few bright spots in an otherwise boring/difficult job you're doing in Iraq.

C'mon up to Toronto...

I'd be thrilled to take you to a Jays game, for lunch up the CN Tower (you can see Buffalo and Rochester from the top) and we can talk about the war (or not).

Someone in a post up above mentioned meeting/talking to people to get the real feel of any place and I'd think you'd find us a friendly, open and tolerant lot who, while largely are against the war, are very supportive of those who actually are sent to fight in it.

I've posted many times here, in suport of the troops but in total disagreement with your govt. policies (and been pillored many times by other readers of this blog). I dont mind that one bit as I understand more and more that some people just arent open to opposing views.

Your dollar goes pretty damn far here, too (though, not quite as far as it did over the last 10-15 years).

Please consider it as it would be my honour to show you around hogtown.

Stay safe

-Dave

Posted by: dave | April 7, 2006 02:58 PM

Bert, being from West Virginia, I am kind of partial to the mountains there. Go see the New River Gorge Bridge, it is an amazing view, especially if you go in the fall. It is also a great place to see or participate in base jumping on Bridge Day. It is only allowed one day a year, I believe it is in the fall. If it is Winter, definitely go to Canaan Valley,or Snowshoe Resort for some awesome skiing and lots of snow. There is also great white water rafting all over the state! I also recommend a place about 15 miles from where I grew up in WV, it is across the state line into Maryland. Deep Creek Lake is a beautiful place to rent a house and get a boat to water ski or fish etc. Snow skiing is also great there at the Wisp Ski Resort. My husband and I actually spent the first day of our honeymoon there.

Posted by: military wife | April 7, 2006 04:28 PM

I love your blog! My son is serving his third tour in Iraq with USMC and is stationed at Alsad. I have so enjoyed the tid bits you have imparted to us!
Your leave and tour sound like a great idea to me and a worthy reward to you for your service which I appreciate.
Some years ago I got a nifty little paper back book published by National Geographic titled Guide to the National Parks-if you could still get it, it is good!
I loved Sequoia, Yosemite- a gem 40 years ago,Grand Tetons,Grand Canyon, Brice and Zion Cnyons, Moab-unforgettable-Yellowstone, and Mt. Rainer, I missed Carlsbad and Mt. Rushmore so you should see them if you can. Also don't miss Niagara Falls if you haven't been there-tremendous! As for cities San Francisco is romantic and mystical, Vancouver, lovely and so clean. Lake Louise was nice too. And even Las Vegas was an eye opener to me and we hear how it has become even more unusual.
Being a resident of MD I should also urge a visit to Baltimore to see the Orioles and Annapolis and if you haven't been to the Eastern Shore where I live it is worth a visit tho getting more populated day by day. Black Water Preserve in Dorchester County is great for seeing water birds. And you should not miss visiting Williamsburg if you have never been there.
I envy you your planning such a trip-anticipation is half the fun of traveling. I wish you good luck on the rest of your tour and hope you will blog later about this wonderful US trip.

Posted by: Bloomsberry | April 7, 2006 05:19 PM

Some suggest we just have a California-style referendum in Iraq and ask the Iraqis if they want the US troops to leave within 6 months. We know that they would vote "yes," and it would give us an honorable way out. The problem is that the administration does not want an honorable way out, they want petroleum contracts for their Houston cronies. That's why our soldiers are dying.

Posted by: USA | April 7, 2006 07:49 PM

Potable water: 50 percent of Iraqis had access before war; about 32 percent now.

Electric power: Baghdad had power for 16 to 24 hours a day before war; just under 4 hours now.

Crude oil production: Prewar peak was 2.5 million barrels a day; now 1.84 million.

Posted by: Occupation kills | April 7, 2006 07:53 PM

This war is so infuriating. Words can not express the disgust of humanity with this lying, murderous, arrogant, and incompetant Cheney-Bush government. They have turned Iraq into a living hell.

WHY ARE OUR MEN AND WOMEN DYING FOR THEM?

Posted by: ANDY | April 7, 2006 10:17 PM

QUAGMIRE


DEFEAT

FAILURE

IT'S OVER.

BRING THEM HOME ALIVE.

Posted by: TRAGEDY OR FARSE | April 7, 2006 10:22 PM

BUSH DEFEATED IN IRAQ... BUT WHAT WILL HE DO NEXT?

Rational observers can only conclude that the U.S. occupation army in Iraq has no place in the midst of a civil war. But for the Bush administration, withdrawal is not an option. But in the midst of such an escalating mess, how could Bush withdraw? The Bush administration is like the proverbial kid with a hand stuck in the cookie jar, grabbing a fistful of goodies. In order to get out of Iraq, Bush would have to let go of Iraq's goodies. In this case, that means letting go of Iraq's oil, and letting go of the dream that Iraq can become the anchor for a long-term U.S. military and economic presence in the Persian Gulf. To do so would mean a humiliating public admission of defeat -- defeat for the idea of Americanizing Iraq, defeat for America's hope of establishing hegemony in the Gulf, and defeat for the neoconservatives' determination to use military "shock and awe" tactics to intimidate potential regional rivals and opponents around the world. All of that would be gone -- and in the most public way possible.

Posted by: bring them home alive | April 7, 2006 10:34 PM

NEWS FLASH

US DEFEATED IN IRAQ

TIME TO BRING OUR TROOPS HOME SAFELY

Posted by: News Flash | April 8, 2006 08:36 AM

You gotta go to a Boston Red Sox and/or a Chicago White Sox game. So much history at both fields and two really fun towns.

Lobster and steamers in Boston and Italian food in the North End is a MUST!!

In California, Hearst Castle up by San Luis Obispo (big college town) is amazing.

San Fran, Berkeley, Monterey, I'd avoid Los Angeles and just head to San Diego or start in San Diego and go all the way up. Sounds like a great trip!!

Have fun.

Posted by: Cali-Girl | April 8, 2006 12:53 PM

Once over the shock of meeting opposition, in Iraq, as in Korea and Vietnam, soldiers on the ground as well as senior commanders, describe the enemy as fanatical and unfair: their soldiers hide amongst the civilian population, forcing the U.S. to kill civilians; they wear ordinary clothes, they are brutal to prisoners of war. In all three conflicts, the tactics of the enemy were said to reveal their utter indifference to the value of human life, which then became the grounds for US indifference to their lives. In all three as well, according to memoirs written by veterans, a growing dislike for the entire population of the country in which (and presumably for whom) they fought sometimes overwhelmed them. "The Iraqis are sick people and we are chemotherapy," a Marine corporal told a British reporter, amidst the wreckage of some 15 civilians cars and the bodies of 12 civilians, including a small child. "I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin' Iraqi. No, I won't get hold of one. I'll just kill them."

Posted by: How much more can a person stand? This was written in 2003. | April 8, 2006 01:36 PM

Bert,

I am a friend of one your fellow chopper pilots over there in Iraq. Might I suggest hitting up some US territories aswell as all 50 states. USVI and St. John in particular are beautiful. Warm weather, crystal clear water, and not a care in the world. You won't be able to catch a MLB game, but you will be able to catch some rays in a very relaxed part of the world. Have fun planning

Posted by: Friend of a friend | April 8, 2006 01:44 PM

Suggested Itinerary

Brothers and sisters, come on over to the antiwar majority. The water is fine and we don't have the dead weight of Cheney,Bush,or Rumsfeld tied to our ankles.

Posted by: Welcome Home! | April 8, 2006 05:00 PM

Bert,
If you take the advice of Bloomsberry (and I suggest you do), Annapolis is a great place to visit. Especially if you are looking to drop in on a wedding and a good afterparty. . . we'll be holding a place for you.

Posted by: Nogrod | April 8, 2006 06:47 PM

The heck with the White Sox, their new ballpark (The Cell) is like a big, concrete mall. If you want baseball in Chicago, then you HAVE TO go to Wrigley! The 2nd oldest ballpark behind Fenway and the whole neighborhood is just one big party! Go Cubs! My husband is also at Al Asad and we are hoping he'll be home in time for one of the last home games this season....

Posted by: msblondie | April 8, 2006 11:18 PM

South Beach is OK fr a 21 year old, but it didn't do much for me except for the comedy relief of people watching. I too, would have to recommend the US territories. You can't catch a MLB game in every state, but you could in San Juan, PR before the Expos became the Nationals. Besides, FL and CA beaches have nothing on the Caribbean. I ahve traveled a lot, both the US and Europe. I always try to avoid most of the "touristy" spots. The real fun and adventure is getting to know some of the locals, getting away from the crowds, and experiencing the real culture of the area; kind of what you shold think about over there too as much as you can.

Posted by: Craig | April 9, 2006 12:04 AM

It's too bad that this blog is being censored. Posts are being removed every day, despite the fact that they do NOT violate any of the posted rules.

Posted by: Too bad | April 9, 2006 10:28 AM

Stay off the interstates. Travel through the small towns where down home America lives. Enjoy the culture of that part of the country. Learn the way of life there. So much better than fast paced America. You'll be much more rewarded at the end of your leave. Stay safe and tell my VH I love him.

Posted by: Barbi | April 9, 2006 11:53 AM

Barbi is right. Stay away from the cities and only listen to the down home minority that rejects the actual news of chaos and bloodshed in Iraq resulting from the unprovoked invasion and occupation. Only associate with those who respect George Bush because he is a "good man" going after the "bad guys." Don't pay any attention to the real world effects of this failed enterprise whose disasterous effects will be felt for decades. Most of all, don't read the newspaper reports from Iraq because their reporters are all liberals who hate America.

Posted by: Agree with Barbi | April 9, 2006 01:41 PM

I haven't been reading as long as some of the others, but have caught up and really find your comments help me understand what it is like to be there. If you make it to Seattle, I would love to take y'all to dinner, Mariner's game or something!

Chris

Posted by: Chris Plambeck | April 10, 2006 12:08 AM

When visiting Dave in Toronto, have him take you to their Chinatown.

Second best in North America.

Posted by: Jay Cline | April 10, 2006 09:47 AM

The NEW Busch Stadium were I am as we speak! Wonderfuk views of the Gateway Arch and downtown St. Louis. As as AF Reserve flight nurse with some desert time I have followed you articles with great interest. Please stay safe
Respectfully
Jerry Brewer

Posted by: Jerry Brewer | April 10, 2006 12:54 PM

If you have a chance to come through Colorado Springs, CO, (Fort Carson, Peterson AFB, Air Force Academy, are all right here if you want to buy some tax-free stuffs) you will want to see Garden of the Gods State Park. It has amazing rock formations that are breathtaking! There is also Pikes Peak (14,110 ft at the top), the cliff dwellings and Cave of the Winds...not Carlsbad, but nice. There are some beautiful mountains here too, if you just want to enjoy nature.

Enjoy your tripin' cross country!

Posted by: Dena S. | April 10, 2006 01:51 PM

No major league baseball but the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is relaxing. If you can't stand life without baseball Knoxville, TN has a minor league team, 30 minutes from the national park.

Posted by: Retired LTC | April 10, 2006 02:32 PM

Reported civilian deaths resulting from the US-led military intervention in Iraq
as of Sunday, April 9, 2006.


Reported Minimum
34,030


Reported Maximum
38,164

Posted by: Andy | April 10, 2006 02:44 PM

Bert,

When you go to MLB games on leave, it looks like the number of fans in the seats will be similar to the number of Iraqi civilians killed as a result of the invasion. Take a look around at the men, women, and children enjoying the game. Next year of course, the number of dead Iraqi civilians will probably exceed the capacity of the stadiums.

Posted by: Andy | April 10, 2006 02:47 PM

Love your plan to travel the US--
My must see suggestions:
1. The Jersey Shore/Cape May
2. The Finger Lakes Region of NY - hike the gorges and see Taughannock Falls & Bettermilk Falls
3. The Naval Academy & Anapolis MD
4. Yellowstone National Park & the Bear Tooth Highway
5. The Blue Ridge Parkway and the Shenandoah Valley--from Virginia to North Carolina
6. Edisto Island South Carolina

Hope you keep your blog going during your US travels. Best wishes from New Jersey

Nora Krick

Posted by: Nora Krick | April 10, 2006 05:27 PM

Bert,
Thank you for the great job you are doing for your country in Iraq! I fully understand you decision not to take the mid-term leave and your goal of visiting all 50 states and Canada is a great idea. While in Washington state though don't limit your baseball to only Safeco field and the Mariners....it's a beautiful ballpark built on the architecture of the old style ballparks with great views of Seattle and the Puget Sound. However, you should also schedule to see their AAA farm club, the Rainers, in Tacoma at Cheney Stadium. It's a superb ballpark where you can hear the smart smack of the ball in the catcher's mitt and the crisp crack of the bat off of a flung fast ball....not a bad seat in the house. Anyway, God's blessings and thaks again for your service.
Regards,
Ben E. Wedding

Posted by: Ben E. Wedding | April 10, 2006 06:04 PM

Bert:


As you know, America is so vast that to list everything to see is next to impossible. However, is his my cut:

Maine- Coastline including Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor; Vermont - Burlington is a great city; New Hampshire- the mountains; Rhode Island - Newport and the Beaches are great; Massachusetts - The Berkshires are fabulous, the Cape (before Memorial Day is beautiful and not crowded, same for Natucket and Martha's Vineyard, and Boston is the best city in the country (sorry, San Francisco); Connecticut - the Litchfield Hills are wonderful; New Yor State - the Finger Lakes and the Adirondacks are goregeous; Cooperstown is a beautiful little town plus it has the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I agree with everyone else talking about the west. I love Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. I loves the national parks in Utah (Canyonlands, Arches, Zion, and Bryce. In Montana, there is Glacier National Park and parts of Yellowstone (Bear Tooth Highway). In Colorado, there is Mesa Verde which is stunning.

Arizona has Flagstaff, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon. California has Carmel, Big Sur, and Yosemite and a million other sites.

South Dakato has Mt. Rushmore, Deadwoood, and the Badlands. Mt. Rushmore is something every American should see. The Badlands will take your breath away.

This is only a small list. Enjoy your trip across America and than you for your efforts in Iraq. I am jealous of your road trip.

Posted by: Joe | April 11, 2006 07:38 AM

No American institution can escape blame for the disaster of Iraq -- not Congress, not the CIA and certainly not the media. But the military has both a constitutional duty and a solemn obligation to its troops to be candid with the American people. Yet in testimony before Congress and in statements from the field and elsewhere, all we get are ridiculously optimistic assessments, no calls for more troops and no suggestion that Rumsfeld and Bush were mismanaging the war. The occasional peep of dissent is quickly reversed. From the very sound of it, you would be entitled to think that everything has gone swimmingly in Iraq. Instead, the military has participated in a debacle.

Posted by: Bring them home safely | April 11, 2006 08:34 AM

Bert,

It won't matter where you visit in the US, you will be so happy to get home and spend time with family, you will be blessed WHEREVER you go!! My prayers will go with you/your Unit as you leave Al Asad and go to your new assignment....thank you for continuing to write...hope you will keep it up from wherever you are going! We keep you/all of our troops in our prayers daily....my son called from Al Asad this morning, although it was a brief conversation, it is always wonderful to hear from him!! He has only been there 6 wks... Keeping all of you in prayer!

Posted by: Mechanic's Mom | April 11, 2006 01:39 PM

Bert - If your trip is about baseball and experiencing America, you can't miss the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa. Once there, you may ask yourself, "Is this heaven?" Close. It's Iowa. Another stop is Sec Taylor Stadium, home of the Iowa Cubs, in Des Moines. Situated along the Des Moines river, it's a great venue for a minor league game. Enjoy!

Posted by: Hawkeye Fan | April 11, 2006 02:01 PM

As long as you've planned this so well, it should include some time spent in the City that's "Near Nature; Near Perfect" - Spokane, Washington. Stay at the newly restored Davenport Hotel, stand on the pedestrian bridge over the roaring Spokane River that's the center of the City, see the breathtaking views of the City from within City Hall or the resturant atop the Ridpath Hotel, visit our new Sports Arena, home of the Spokane Shock and Gonzaga University, home of the GU Bulldogs and a picturesque campus of it's own, right on the river. And, we have plenty of political interest, too. In the words of my son, who did his tour of duty at the beginning of the Iraq offensive, the City still has the look of a piece of Americana, despite it's size, especially the Logan neighborhood where Gonzaga is located and where he grew up amidst 100 year old homes. Do it! You won't regret it except for having to leave.

Donna

Posted by: Donna McKereghan | April 11, 2006 02:22 PM

Minnesota

BWCA and Itasca State Park (You can hop across the headwaters of the mississippi)
Left field seats at the Metrodome

Wisconsin

Nothing worth seeing. J/K miller park is great and the Apostle Islands are gorgeous, plus you got to go through it anyways on the way to the Uper, where you have to visit Mackinaw Island for the wildlife and scenery (preferably in the fall).

Posted by: Rheanna | April 11, 2006 02:29 PM

When in New York, visit Ground Zero. That's where Bush promised to bring back Osama Bin Laden "dead or alive." (Pause for nervous laughter.)

Posted by: E. Etage | April 11, 2006 03:47 PM

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House, told students and faculty at the University of South Dakota Monday that the United States should pull out of Iraq and leave a small force there, just as it did post-war in Korea and Germany.

"It was an enormous mistake for us to try to occupy that country after June of 2003," Gingrich said during a question-and-answer session at the school. "We have to pull back, and we have to recognize it."

Posted by: Second thoughts | April 11, 2006 04:14 PM

Don't forget SAN DIEGO. That's where our president said "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September 11, 2001, and still goes on."

The speech and the Mission Accomplished backdrop were widely publicized and served as the symbolic "end" to the war in Iraq. So why are we still dying? Could it be that our president has made the greatest military blunder in US history? Bring our troops home safely.

Posted by: Andy | April 11, 2006 04:56 PM

Are we ready for a REPORTING FOR DUTY blog from Iran? How many countries does Bush plan to attack? Perhaps we should set up franchises. Venezuela, anyone? Why should we sacrifice our families for these oil-drunk, war-crazed xxxxxxs?

Posted by: Where to next? | April 11, 2006 05:12 PM

What a coincidence! Iraq: lots of oil. Iran: lots of oil. Venezuela: lots of oil. What are we dying for? Lots of oil profits in someone else's pockets.

(Bush: oil man, Cheney: oil man)

Posted by: Holy mackeral! | April 11, 2006 05:16 PM

Bert - What a great idea! I'll envy you the trip around the States+.

I've been trying to make a meaningful list but it keeps getting out of hand. There are already a lot of great suggestions mirroring many of my first tries, so I'm going to keep it short. This ISN'T everything I'd tell a visitor to see; it's just a couple of places that haven't been mentioned before.

1. Start your trip by not starting for a few days. Decompress slowly. Things will seem weird at first no matter what you do; don't make some great game or park into a really peculiar memory.
2. New Orleans - no MLB, but always worth visiting. Maybe more so now. Come to think of it, if you were to start the trip in the Big Easy you might be able to skip that whole decompression thing because all memories of that place are a bit askew anyway.
3. Memphis - the Redbirds are the Cardinals' AAA team; they play in the new Autozone Park downtown, next to the FedEx Forum, home of the NBA Grizzlies. Pretty good baseball, pretty good basketball, GREAT barbecue and, whatever your personal preference may be, great music. I don't know if you could see baseball and basketball on the same visit but maybe, depending on date.

Somebody asked that you continue your blog during through the trip; I second the request. We'd like to see you make it all the way back, I guess. If you put Memphis on the itinerary, it would be a privilege to buy you (and family and friends) a beer at Boscoe's (local brewpub -- the beer is as great as the barbecue.) So please post your ultimate itinerary and if Memphis is on it I'll let you know how to collect on the offer.

Stay safe and be well.

Posted by: Hugh | April 11, 2006 06:29 PM

Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold (retired) was outspoken in his criticism, saying the "the zealots' rationale for war made no sense." From 2000 until October 2002, Newbold served as director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

At least two other retired generals have raised similar concerns in recent weeks about the administration's war policies, including Gen. Anthony Zinni, former U.S. Mideast commander.

Posted by: Even the generals understand that this is insane. | April 11, 2006 07:58 PM

Now that the US is building permanent bases in Iraq, will we have a REPORTING FOR DUTY blog in 2056? ...from Iraq and Iran? from ???

Posted by: A question. | April 11, 2006 08:02 PM

It's a great idea to visit NEW ORLEANS.

You can see the ruins of a devastated city and imagine how we could have rebuilt it if we were not spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq for no good reason.

In fact, it may remind you of certain bombed-out areas of Baghdad.

Posted by: JAMBALAYA | April 11, 2006 08:15 PM

The U.S. military reported the deaths of five more soldiers, including three killed Tuesday in a roadside bombing north of the capital.

The latest casualties raised the U.S. death toll so far this month to at least 31 - the same for all of March, according to an Associated Press count.

Posted by: Thank you, Mr. Bush. | April 11, 2006 09:16 PM

What a great idea, your trip across the US of A. I've traveled on all seven continents and New Zealand -- and in my opinion, few places have more diversity and spectacular natural scenery than North Ameriica. I reccommend:

Niagara Falls, both Canadian and US sides,
Yosemite National Park
Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan
Highway one along the West coast
21 mile drive in Monterrey, CA
Sedona, Arizona
The National Mall and the 14 Smithsonian Institution Museums if you haven't been there.

Posted by: Ruth Laughlin | April 11, 2006 11:02 PM

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.


Regards,

EXXON-MOBIL.

Posted by: | April 11, 2006 11:07 PM

Bert,
If you are going to visit a Canadian Province, make in British Columbia, it is breath taking.

As for the US:
Puget Sound north of Seattle, especially the San Juan Islands.
The Grand Canyon
San Francisco
Crater Lake
The Northern California Coast
The Olympic Pennisula (actually you could do all of the above except for the Grand Canyon in one trip)
Homer Alaska
Boston
Lake George, NY
Death Valley
and
Sacramento (OK there really is not much there, but it is where I live and I am willing to spring for a pizza and beer for you and those members of your family above the legal drinking age if you make it here.

Posted by: Ken De Crescenzo | April 11, 2006 11:47 PM

On May 29, 2003, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." Bush declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

"There was no connection to anything biological," said one expert who studied the trailers. Another recalled an epithet that came to be associated with the trailers: "the biggest sand toilets in the world."

Posted by: Why are we dying for these liars? | April 12, 2006 12:10 AM

In the name of human dignity and rights, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) proudly stands in solidarity with the masses of undocumented immigrants as immigration policy persists on rearing its hypocritical head. As veterans who signed enlistment contracts and accepted commissions to defend the Constitution of the United States, we see clearly the racism inherent in the existing immigration policy. We have served with, and many of us are, the children of undocumented immigrants who are being feverishly recruited to protect the country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. IVAW knows that an escalating proportion of the military lives sacrificed and taxes paid are coming from undocumented immigrant families, even while those fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers are being denied the privileges of citizenship and the dignity of justice.

We, the members of IVAW, still hold these truths to be self-evident, that all are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. IVAW seeks an end to our nation’s turn toward more racist immigration, military recruiting, and taxation policies. IVAW applauds the strength of courage and character of undocumented immigrants in the ongoing struggle for justice.

--Iraq Veterans Against the War

“There were nineteen people that attacked our country! None of them had the name of Rodriguez, Martinez, Flores , Gonzalez! [cheers] But most certainly many of the dead that are coming back from do have the names of Gonzales, Martinez Flores!... [cheers]”

-- Hector M. Flores, National President: LULAC

Posted by: Andy | April 12, 2006 12:20 AM

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

GI Rights Hotline

1 800 394 9544

Posted by: Cal | April 12, 2006 12:28 AM

Today’s “all-volunteer” army rejects the Bush Administration’s policies. A first-ever survey of U.S. troops on the ground fighting a war overseas has found that an overwhelming majority – 72 percent – of American troops in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year. Further, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows that more than one in four (29%) thought the U.S. should pull its troops immediately (http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=1075). This opposition should hardly be surprising. Nearly one-third of the American ground forces in Iraq are members of the Army National Guard, a group that did not expect to be bogged down in an interminable occupation.

Conditions have changed since the Vietnam era. Some of the changes are encouraging. Soldiers are older and have families, and some families have been actively involved in opposing the war in Iraq. Civilian opposition to the war, while not as deep as during Vietnam, is more widespread. A sizeable majority of Americans think that sending troops to Iraq was a mistake and that Bush lacks a clear plan for handling the situation there.

Posted by: Good news | April 12, 2006 12:40 AM

The capital remains a virulently hostile place. The two US soldiers who died today were killed in a roadside bomb explosion south of Baghdad, the military said. Three soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb explosion north of Baghdad on Tuesday. A soldier died Monday from wounds sustained the previous day in combat in Anbar, and a soldier was killed Sunday by a roadside bomb near Balad.

What would we do if we were invaded and occupied?

Posted by: Hal | April 12, 2006 10:34 AM

I'd suggest a different route: Take advange of the MWR sights and hotel in Europe and travel Europe for a year. We're stationed at Landstuhl Germany and the travel is fabulous! You could combine trains with rentals and do everything from seeing the major cities to skiing in the Alps (Germany, switzerland, Italy, and Austria) - and rent your ski equipment at a base Outdoor rec. I think you'd be eligible to buy gas on base also.

In any event - enjoy your trip.

Posted by: Tom Wahl | April 12, 2006 12:19 PM

See the NE states from NY to Me. Enjoy. You've earned it!

Posted by: CORKY | April 12, 2006 04:51 PM

You were near Philadelphia when you were at Ft. Dix, so if you didn't take in the Liberty Bell and the new Constitution Center I would highly recommend them both. Boston has a lot of Revolutionary War history, but the real story was a Philadelphia Story.... Plus we have a new (2 year old) professional ballpark even if we have an apparent minor league team playing there (The Phillies)

Dave

Posted by: Dave Martin | April 12, 2006 09:26 PM

I thought you wanted tips on a vacation, not someone's philosophy.

Posted by: CORKY | April 13, 2006 02:28 PM

One vacation suggestion: Redman Campground in Big Cottonwood Canyon 10 east of Salt Lake City between 6/20 and Labor Day. We'll grill you a great steak and listen to war stories all night. We will be the camp ground hosts at Redman so you can't miss us.

Posted by: Mad Jayhawk | April 13, 2006 09:56 PM

Wow! Bert,did you ever get the feedback. You probably won't get around to mine, but just in case.

You come to Wyoming and take a gander at the Tetons. They will leave you breathless. No ball games here. But you can play with the deer, antelope, elk, bear and wolves to your hearts content.

You have fought for freedom, come to Wyoming and see the freest place on earth.

Thank you for your service, now get your butt home. Most respectfully, Nuby Kite, Hanna, Wyoming

Posted by: Nuby | April 17, 2006 04:32 PM

RE: PLACES TO VISIT. DEVILS TOWER NAT PARK, THEN DRIVE DUE NORTH INTO MONTANA, WEST INTO THE RESERVATIONS,STOP AT LOCAL STORES, TO MEET THE NATIVE PEOPLES,INDIAN BURIAL GROUNDS,ON YOUR WAY TO THE LITTLE BIG HORN,THEY CALL IT SOMETHING ELSE NOW.I DIDN'T EXPECT THE TRIP TO BE SO EMOTIONAL,THEN DOWN TO YELLOWSTONE FOR A COUPLE DAYS AT THE OLD FAITHFUL LODGE.IT WILL HELP YOU TO REMEMBER HOW BEAUTIFUL THIS COUNTRY IS AND HOW WONDERFUL AND VARIED OUR PEOPLE. THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR SERVICE. GOD SPEED YOU HOME SAFETLY

Posted by: BOV | April 18, 2006 09:44 AM

Georgetown, Maine of course.

Posted by: Maine Office | April 19, 2006 03:33 PM

Mt Rushmore South Dakota is a must. The badlands. No ball games which sucks but you'll love it. Also Island park Idaho, beautiful country, rent a 4 wheeler and ride around the trails and it's just awesome.
Good luck to you and stay safe!
Casey HOOAH!

Posted by: Casey | April 20, 2006 11:19 AM

Two suggestions for Toronto: go up Spadina through Chinatown (best in North America), and one block west of Spadina & Dundas is Kensington Market (world's most multicultural neighborhood). If you want to see Jews and Iraqis, Africans and Europeans and Latin Americans living side by side in peace, this is the place to come.

Going to Canada, I like to walk across the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls.

In Seattle, I try to get to Pike Place. The Science Fiction Museum is worth more than one visit, too.

Posted by: lart from above | May 1, 2006 02:22 PM

Having been to almost all fifty, I must say you have the best trip ever planned!

The best thing to do is to first plot out where you want to see people, because you'll get the best sense of the U.S. from locals.

While you're traveling:
1. Have a lobster roll in Maine.
2. Stay at an inn in Vermont and taste fresh maple candy.
3. Go to the parks of New Hampshire.
4. Check out Newport, RI and tour the mansions.
5. Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston, have an Italian dinner in the North End, followed by a pastry from Mike's.
6. Go to the shores of the Atlantic in CT and take the ferry across Long Island sound.
7. Go to the Montauk on Long Island- then drive into NYC and soak it all in.
8. Have a cheesesteak in Philly and then wander down to Amish country.
9. Go to the Jersey Shore.
10. Hit Columbus, OH and have yourself a buckeye (peanut butter and chocolate)
11. Go to a state fair in any midwestern state
12. Drive up into the Upper Peninsula and then down into Wisconsin
13. Drive through corn rows in Iowa.

And that's only about 15 states...I can't even stop. Have a great time.

Posted by: Kate R. | May 22, 2006 08:19 PM

How does the leave time actually work? My male friend works for KBR in Al Taqaddum as a generator technician specialist. He is suppose to get two weeks leave in August, but does not know specifically when? In addition, I have done some research on the company, and have read negative and positive information, does this company "take care of their own"? I have so many questions that he will not answer (contract privacy) is there any additional information you can forward?

Posted by: D. Hampton | May 29, 2006 07:38 PM

I'd think your travels in U.S.A. should include river trips...we have so many throughout this country that are accessible.
Canoe trips on them are great.
Such excursions would be quite a contrast
to the climate and topography of Iraq.
Thank you for serving your country. Ignore the repeat name calling blaming Bush et al
for the dire straits in the Mid-East. Much of the South East and the Southern Continents share the endless poverty diseases and violent rulers that has all too long been the fate of those areas. We are not free from the
results of those conditions. We have to engage with them and try to change such
awful circumstances for so many of our fellow human beings. Their troubles do not stay in their own areas of the world. The
mass of those people suffer far worse from their own than from us. That's why terrorists are attacking us so visciously.
Unfortunately, it's as usual that only a few do the world's battles for change. A new book called "AWOL" points out how few citizens serve this country. Cat calling isn't service, it's just inflated self-important self-projection of discontented
about almost everything beings. Miserables
spread misery.
MAW

Posted by: Madeline A White | June 14, 2006 04:43 PM

Good site!

Posted by: Jean | September 27, 2006 01:54 PM

Good site!

Posted by: Jean | September 27, 2006 01:55 PM

Good site!

Posted by: Jean | September 27, 2006 01:55 PM

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