Friday, April 6, 2012

Gettysburg, Again...........and Again.........

Despite being totally exhausted from work, last night we set 4 AM as our departure time this morning. We actually pulled out of the driveway at 4:35, which is pretty good, don't you think?  Reservations had been made for tonight and tomorrow night as we work our way to the Outer Banks for five nights of beach sitting, even though the weather will be cold.

We honestly only stopped three times between Akron and Gettysburg, which is also amazing for us. We set "Thelma, " (our trusty....we seem to have forgotten she tried to kill us once....GPS unit,) and off we went, 76 East to 30 South at Breezewood, PA.  We didnt even have to think.  When Randy fell asleep, I sneaked my audio book (The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown....a charmingly delightful book)....into the CD player and just drove along, oblivious to traffic or anything else.

Randy had driven the first leg, through our first gas tank fillup near Lake Milton, then on until our "breakfast stop" at the PA rest area stop, then it was up to me for awhile, as the sun had finally come up.  When I leave for school each morning at 6:20, it is what I call "pitch black, " but I gotta tell you that 4:30 is pitchier and blacker yet. Our third stop was in Breezewood to gas up for $3.99 a gallon. Yikes.

We realized that some of these small towns south of Breezewood have grown into larger cities. so the winding and mountainous road from Breezewood to Gettysburg (all 63 miles of it) was wrought with low-gear mountain declines, visions of a jerky ride onto a runaway truck ramp, blocked traffic at lights, and generally slow motion.

We arrived in Gettysburg just as Thelma had promised, 11:47 AM.

 Randy and I have been here together before (and I must remember to look back and find out when that was, because we cannot remember...) and I have been here two other times, once with my children. There were lots of memories along the way as we drove past Pittsburgh and signs for StoryBook Forest near Ligonier.  I stifled a tear at Bedford, remembering a wonderful day there with three little people discovering early history, and I've seen shadows of those same kids posing at monuments this afternoon, for funny photo shots.

Ten miles out of Gettyburg, we stopped to photograph a very old house, built well in its day, but left to fend for itself long ago.  A local Barney Fife pulled up to be sure we weren't going to ransack the place, I guess. All we stole were some photos.

We first drove to the main square of Gettysburg, got out of the car, and promptly forgot which street where we had parked it.  We revisited the square, shared a fairly good turkey reuben (but not as good as Primo's in Akron), at a little pub called The Pub. (I have spent the last fifteen minutes trying to find the photo of this place.....couldn't remember it was called The Pub.....?  I must be very tired....)

On two early trips to Gettysburg, I have been to the Cyclo-thing.  Forgive me, but it's late.....I cannot remember the name of it. I want to call it the Cyclodrama, but I don't think that's it.

 It is a roundly displayed painting of the Battle of Gettysburg.  It was painted a few years after the battle by a French man.  When I have seen it before, it has hung in a round building, and has been lit up while a person explains the battle events.  When Randy and I were here before, we didn't go to see it for some reason, so this was his first time to experience it.

If you read my other blog, you know that I like to give "experiences" for gifts, if I can.  I owed Randy a 129th Month Anniversary kidding.  So today, I bought him a trip to the CycloWhatever.

Since my last experience there, this painting, over 130 some years old, done by this French man and his team of artists, has undergone a multimillion dollar renovation. It took several years to do it, and the painting, which is longer than a football field, hangs like a shower curtain around the outskirts of the new Visitor Center. There has also been an addition of a 14 foot top area added to the painting, which gives it a skyline, and while the painting may hang down, it sort of comes to rest on the bottom. A diorama or base of actual "things" have been added to draw the eye of the observer into the painting to make it 3D. The colors have been enhanced, and the painting has been meticulously repaired.

While we stood on the round plateau overlooking this humongous painting, Randy and I were THERE AT THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG.  It was literally breathtaking. With lights and a sound track, this was wonderful.  We later learned that this has been the largest and most expensive restoration of a painting ever done in the world.  Randy said it was a pretty good "experience gift," too.

We then went to see the Gettysburg National Cemetery to see where Lincoln delivered his short but memorable speech.  I have just finished teaching the Gettysburg Address to my 8th graders in language arts..............what it means, and vocabulary words in it..........but before I get to that part, I always teach a mini-history lesson so they "get it," (if they're going to get it) to understand the historical significance of the speech.

 I wear, on my left hand's middle finger, the wedding band that belonged to my great grandmother, Missouri Ann Powell Propst.  Her husband, my great grandfather, Sydney Rudolph Propst, fought in the Civil War, for the South. I am their youngest greatgrandchild. I have deep feelings about this war, and I always hope that my students will see this battle's importance, to understand not only the beauty and meaning of the ten sentences that Lincoln wrote and said, but also feel something about our country's history.

Anyway, Randy and I traipsed all over the cemetery trying to find, again, the location where the speech was delivered.  I wanted to "take home to my students" the photos of the place that I had just taught about, since most of them may never ever get to visit Gettysburg.  It was important to me to show them a photo of the location. I took it and many more to take back to my classes, and some brochures for the one kid who I recognize as a history buff in the making.

By now our feet were killing us, so we checked into our motel for the night, which happens to be at the Headquarters of General Lee, right next to the battlefield. ( I believe there are four graves outside our window.)  We can see the entrance to the battlefield from that window. There is a museum attached to our motel, and we will visit it in the morning.  ( I will let you know what General Lee's Headquarters look like today....) We are at the Quality Inn on Buford Drive.

 There is also a restaurant and a microbrewery on the grounds of this motel.  That's where we ate fried fish and chips at the Appalachian Brewing Company.  The beer was not cold enough, but the fish was good. We walked off a little of it seeing the grounds of the Lutheran Seminary across the street.

We are now safely tucked into our comfy motel, sore feet and all.  In the morning we have a battlefield to revisit, a museum to check out, and many more miles to drive before we sleep.

Thanks for traveling with us!

"In great deeds something abides,
  On great fields something stays,
  Forms change and pass; bodies disappear;
  but spirits linger....And reverent men
  and women from afar, and generations
  that.....we know not of....(are)....drawn
  to see where...great things were suffered
  and done for them...."

Major General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Gettysburg,  Oct. 3, 1889