Gettysburg PA May 2015
May 25 Monday
Three years is too long to go without seeing some of our right coast friends, and Gettysburg is just right, so off we go. I prepped and packed, slowly, for a week, that last day was not harried or rushed. Amanda is house/dog/plant sitting, everything is good. We are leaving 72° with a breeze for a week of high 80's and thunderstorms, so in my mother's words, "Layer, layer, layer." Since Monday is Memorial Day, we leave for San Francisco 10:30 am, coastal fog, Pacheco winds and white caps decorate the journey. A quick stop at Casa de Fruitas where someone opens the tourist flood gates (nothing says south of the border like a purple car) and pass Gilroy where we roll down the windows ever so quickly to saturate our sense, and our truck, with their lovely garlic. Another tradition is to stop at Just Breakfast in San Jose where we are repeatedly when we lived there. A branch opened in Morgan Hill, but I believe we have just spent our last dollar there Just Breakfast. They are simply not up to par with their mother store. We check into the Double Tree just north of the airport (SSF/Brisbane), warm up from the winds and get a nice relaxing drink in the bar, and head to Outback in the Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo. What a flashback!! They had no NA beer or Drambuie, quite different from home. We had our standard onion and salads, headed off for lozenges (my throat has worsened, sad to say), and drive past our San Mateo house. What a shock that was, to see this tiny house I remember as being so large, now painted startling white. We even found the elementary school we went to, and yes, it was a mile and a half away, but not through the snow. Back to the hotel for a shower and to bed by nine. Landon's bite on his arm has thankfully exploded, it's hard to not be highly concerned for our grand/children, even on vacation.
May 26 Tuesday
Poor Marcel forgot to place our wakeup call, thank GOD I woke up, first at 2:45 and again at 3:33 (that odd hour rears it's head again) and flew out of bed. Marcel forgot to place the 3 am wakeup call, and the girls at the desk sent us in an emergency taxi free of charge. The drive to the airport only takes literally ten minutes on the nose, settling in our luggage (50 & 35 lbs) takes a whopping 45 minutes due to uncooperative computers. A long wait for the first flight (better than missing it!) and we get to Chicago 15 minutes late amidst this wet stuff pouring out of the sky. It took me a bit to realize this is what rain used to look like. My O2 was scary low (77-83) but we made it. The stewardess on this flight, Diana, loved my new crochet scarf. I almost left it for her, I had to run back and get it. We got to Berghoff's for more corned beef sandwiches to eat on the last leg to Harrisburg.
Finally on the ground, we collect our luggage to find things falling out of David's suitcase. The zipper has been destroyed weirdly, the junk I place on the one zipper pull to identify the opening zipper has been removed, and he finds a note to say his contents has been inspected! United claims no responsibility, and refuses to help outside of providing a bag to wrap the suitcase, useless. We leave quite furious.
Next stop is Enterprise where we pick up a black hearse, lol!! A Yukon SLT XL, OMG. $67,700 of car, and it doesn't make coffee? It does seat eight! By the time we drive past another Enterprise a few miles down 130 in Steeltown, I have had enough of this little midget under my seat prodding my thigh with an electric cattle prod. The salesman was enjoyable, explaining the feature that tries to wake up the driver if the steering wheel has been in what the car feels is too straight a position for too long. The little shock would be left on for items within a foot of my bumpers, including cars, buildings, people, flora and fauna. And yes, I now have a heated steering wheel, just in case.
A quick stop at Giant Foods for kleenex (aka-choo!) and fresh peas, off to Little Round Top Farm on Taneytown (pronounced Tawneytown (thank you, Randy)) where we find Marsha and Steve, Donna and Barry all spread out all over the front yard like they had lost something, well, everywhere. Hilarious. Squeals, hugs, shrieks, hugs. Salami, munchies, laughter, hugs, smiles, so good, until 10:30 (7:30 CA time) and then we fell asleep immediately in our pastel pink room, Marsha and Steve in the mauve room, Donna and Barry in the yellow room. Only the violet child's room and the spooky, haunted green room remain silent as the grave, so to speak.
I would learn the next morning that once she was in bed, with all the blinds closed, Marsha would see a light. Almost like a child's flashlight, shining on the wall above the dresser, but yellow, orange, almost flame colored. It moved away from the wall a tad then back to the wall, farther towards the ceiling, then completely disappeared on the same, outside wall, as if it were to continue its flight outside.
May 27 Wednesday
6:30 omg. Really? It's 3:30 CA time! What is happening to my body? My mind? Marsha developed this hilarious way of waking everyone last time, she puts on a song in the hallway, I believe it comes complete with cannon blasts and general mayhem noises. Hilarious. Showered with tea and gone by ten for a return trip skirting the immense street construction to Friendly's [$48 for 7 breakfasts - wow!] and to meet Randy Drais, local Civil War expert and walking encyclopedia. Marsha had run into Randy and his incredible website while researching Gettysburg. Randy kindly offered to give us a battle field tour! His efforts were nothing short of spectacular. Randy is able to magically turn the overwhelming flow of facts and data into an understandable story that brings those three tragic days to life right in front of you, step by step, fateful event after fateful event. Cause and effect like no book has ever explained so clearly. He sent me this link - the best video I have seen yet: CivilWar.Org
After a tour of the west side of Gettysburg battlefields, we headed back to the farmhouse for a BBQ lunch with Randy, then toured his friend, Suzanne Youngblood's house, the Middlekauff Manor (YouTube link) in Cashtown,, incredible place. A spring, a house completely dedicated to the era; a lovely, lovely visit. Add the flavors of a distinct, pitifully saddened spirit, two happy running little girls in pink and yellow, and a bottle fragment so angry I had to drop it? Icing on the cake.
Back to the house for a snacking dinner, during which a thunderstorm hit us so fast we had no warning. The thunder followed the lightning so quickly, it was so loud I jumped out of my skin and damn near into the arms of my girlfriends also in the kitchen. I took a video to remind myself was a torrent looked like once we were home in drought drenched California. Amazing. Then off to the battlefields in search of things that go bump in the night. Randy had directed me to drive to the Rose Farm, park at the barn foundations, and spend some time there. The ranger, Zack, who lives in the house now, would not mind whatsoever. Unfortunately, the guys were uncomfy despite Randy's assurances, so we headed off to the Peach Orchard and the Wheatfields, my least favorite spots due to the heaviness and depression. No orbs to be found that night, but thousands of lightning bugs were a delight. My breathing is not fairing well, poor David and Marsha have to do the extra climbs if I forget something on the other level of the farmhouse.
May 28 Thursday
Why are the left coasters the first ones up, lol? 7 am, 4 am CA time. Are we kidding here? Another slow morning on the porch with tea watching the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and the speeding traffic. Feels just like home. Off by 10:30 for a return trip to the Lincoln Diner. Is this where I lost my voice? Miss Squeaky, I be, at some point. Much better of a breakfast, LOVE their potatoes, and an amazing $49 for 6 breakfasts.
Shopping!! One of the fun things about Gettysburg is the downtown shopping. Little stores with every kind of battlefield, Civil War paraphernalia you could possibly dream of. We bought our Civil War Nut buttons here last time. Now I have two girls and two boys that need souvenirs. The girls are tough. Randy had also taught us a new word: turons. Undesirable tourists. Love it!!
Last visit, Steve fell in love with a hat, but did not buy it. We finally located the store, The Wilderness Lodge aka The Horse You Rode In On. Steven found a hat, hurrah~~ then off to the Crystal Wand again where I found a cape I could not ignore, as well as a Celtic element cross. One more quick stop at the Giant for fun in line with three poor women thinking we were nuts, most people do, and back to the farmhouse for a chicken BBQ. I think this is where Anne and Dave wander off to tour the lake behind the house (the dragonflies!!!!) during which it was Marsha and Donna's time for a scream. A small mousey had run into the kitchen and met his demise under Barry's foot.
I am gifted with another evening's headache, climb in bed with an Imitrex, cold pack and wet washcloth on my forehead. David is beside me, reading. I feel, distinctly, Dottie the cat, lightly jump up on the bed over the footboard, and settle herself between my feet and resting on my ankles. Despite my headache, I laugh, alerting David to some sort of anomaly, and I ask him if there is a cat on my feet. Of course, he replies, "No, dear." and returns to his book. I settle in contentedly with Dottie, but realize on our last day, that might have been Bill the Cat, the poor dead creature we discovered in 2012 and had buried.
May 29 Friday
There is little as pleasing as waking without the horrendous headache from the night before. 8 am (5 am CA time) in the kitchen with Marsha and Steve, Donna and Barry come down later, packed and headed out to a family wedding. Off to the Shriver House!
Marsha had also discovered Tillie Pierce, a young girl who had written about the horrors of those few days a hundred and fifty-two years ago. The Shriver family, living next door, took Tillie with them to help tend their children, and walked over three miles to what they thought would be an escape to Mrs Shriver's family home down Taneytown Road. That house proved to be a busier location, turned in to a hospital with a pile of amputated arms and legs that would tower over the fences. The original Shriver house has been turned into a museum and gift shop, which provided me with hats for the boys, a tiny cannon pencil sharpener and a Blue Willow creamer set for me! The tour really does look inviting, and we made arrangements to return at 4:30. Next would be the Gettysburg Emporium where a doll for Sapphire was found, along with the most beautiful necklace for Anne from her beloved. What would we do now? On our way to eat at the Dobbin House's Springhouse Tavern, I spied the Victorian Photography Studio. Oh yes. Steve said, "No way." while I thought, "Absolutely, yes way."
Lunch was good, dim, a bit noisier than I remember, and we all agree dinner must be a quiet place. The potato salad has a sweetness that isn't unpleasant, it is simply odd. It turns out to be corn syrup. In potato salad? Off to Spangler's Spring.
Spangler's Spring is, reportedly, the only natural water source in the battlefields. It is also where all the men, blue and grey alike, came to refill their canteens, and for a brief moment in time, shared not only the water, but stories, handshakes, perhaps a welcome breeze in the stifling July air, and maybe even a well wish or two, only to return to their troops and fight those same men to to their deaths the next hour. Surely a spot for spirits to linger?
When we travel and we see a dog, it is hard not to ask to visit the animal, we miss ours so. Today was a man walking an adorable round ball of fur who proves to be a Miniature Australian Shepherd named Reggie. After a bit, and after learning he (Reggie's owner) was a local, I asked him if he knew a good night spot to return to. He thought and finally volunteered a story about his wife, from some twenty odd years ago. She was walking Spangler's Spring with a friend and came across some re-enactment men, who had pitched tents and built a bonfire. Knowing this was a severe no-no, she made her way to the ranger office, and returned to the spot with a ranger, where, not one man, tent, or any slight evidence of a fire could be found. (OooohWEEEooo!) How perfect! We will return!!
Meanwhile, to the photography studio, where we realized we would have to have an appointment. The owner, Tish, thankfully, squeezed us in. Such fun!! The jokes were non stop, she took us into a closet to dress us while the men were dressing in the staging area. When I left that closet with a full ding dong bell skirt and my hair up with flowers 1863 style, and saw my David in full dress uniform, I gasped. My God, he looked yummy. Just yummy. Steven looked fantastic in his feathered hat, but oh my man was delicious. The picture is priceless, I am so glad we talked Steve into it. Absolutely priceless.
Back to Shriver's again, where I am not only realizing I know my way around, David is completely turned around. Astounding! Both Barry and Steven have offered directions that led the opposite way we wanted to go, and for once I am trusting my instincts over other people. A lovely lady named Marcia gave us the most splendid tour. Her voice is articulated and varied, opposed to a boring drone, she adds such color to the story she has me mesmerized. To absorb her words, to realize what the locals went through, their lives devastated in three short days? Take away our 'modern conveniences' to truly appreciate what little resources were left to them.
We picked up our tintype pictures (yessss!), drove by the recommended Blue Parrot (nah!) and settled on a favorite standby, Red Lobster in Hanover. Sarah was spectacular, Steve loved his linguine, I shall stick to salmon next time. Marsha had coconut shrimp and David devoured crab legs. A very nice, relaxed time.
On the way back to Spangler's Spring, David was driving (I had a Drambuie for dinner) when I found a TICK IN MY HAIR! I admit I screamed when it was finally able to yank that puppy loose (what kind of flower would get this tangled??) and see the thing in my hand had legs. Double freak out. I stopped checking my head a week later. Creepy, creepy, creepy.
At Spangler's Spring, we could not believe our eyes. There, beyond the VW bug sized boulders that decorate the roadside, are three Civil War era tents. Did we walk into a Twilight Zone or what? We take a seat at the same boulder we had visited earlier, and discussed the situation. Marsha points out the modern day bungee cord on one of the tents but none of will go close. Just in case. Two other empty cars wait alongside our hearse in the small parking lot. We talk, debate, wait. Cars come and go, it is surprisingly busy for an hour before the park closes at ten. A woman in a cars parks, waits, leaves, twice. We talk, debate, wait. Finally a normal looking guy in plaid shorts approaches with a flashlight, notices us, asks if we have seen his guys, re-enactment actors. We all laugh and say, "Nope." But wait! The best part! On our way back to our car, out from the road on the right, shuffling, slowly but loudly, uniformly, are four, non-descrip, ragged, Confederate soldiers. Silent as the dead. Not a word as they march past us despite our greetings. They approach the man in the shorts and become normal again, but for those few short moments, if we had not run into their bud? Four people might have had to change pants.
Further along the road, we stopped at what Randy had pointed out was a mass burial site. It is easy to find, it simply looks like a good place to discard a large volume of unwanted bodies. You would not see them for many a moon. We stopped and took photos, only to be rewarded with a good collection of orbs, both with my trusty Panasonic FZ50, and with Marsha's Sony Cybershot DSC-H20, nothing with Steve's Iphone, David's Iphone got one weirdo I have not figured out yet..
Back home to some hefty leg cramps again. What is with this, the weather? Weird. To bed, passing that green bedroom was still uncomfy, yet it felt like an intrusion to shut the door.
May 30 Saturday
Slow morning to pack up, saying goodbye is always so hard. We decided to leave as well instead of stay another night. We would stay in Harrisburg near the airport and save us an hours worth of commute and possible delays in the morning. All four pack, say goodbye to each other and the house, part, and drive off. Sniff.
We never managed to squeeze in Devil's Den, so we headed there, past the wheatfield, then past Spangler's Spring and Culp's Hill. By now, I am familiar with every spot, they are like old friends. If ever I should be able to return and take forever, I want to visit every single monument, explore and imagine every single unit who fought those days, so many to their deaths, only because they vowed to, and could not turn away as deserters once they realized how futile this battle had become. Enough to make you cry.
Our last stop at the Lincoln Diner with Robin, such a sweetie! $17 for two full old fashioned hamburgers and shakes. I know, I know, once in a while, meat is good! Walmart on the Gettysburg outskirts to replace David's demolished suitcase. Never have I seen such a flippin' cheerful Walmart! Employees everywhere in the store, and they are all singing! Hilarious. An hour to Harrisburg where we got to know 130 intimately, and finally settled in at La Quinta. Donna was wonderful. Room 104 on the ground floor with two full beds. Really? Wow. $120. Is that really Three Mile Island? Wow.
Dinner was across the street at Gilligan's Bar & Grill. Quite the place. In California, this place would be packed, too. Obviously a local hot pot sports bar with extensive dining. We walked, meaning I had to take a water with me. If/when I choke, I need water then, instantly. The manager, we are guessing, swooped down on us and told us that was not allowed. David stood up and said sorry, medical condition, she has to have it with her at all times. I was thinking this blonde was not going to allow it, I apologized again, stuffing the water into my purse, then finally she backed down from our insistent stares and walked away, a bit pushed out of shape. It was funnier in ten minutes when I had to flag her down to ask for water. Our waiter was Adam, and the entire time all I could think about was Jena's check list. Oh yeah. Hair, check. Height, check. Eyes, check. Shoulders, arms, check. Smile, double check. Intelligence, check, check. I did suggest he fly home with us for a quickie wedding, he laughed (check, check) and agreed arranged marriages were best. Sigh. (Adam, look up Jena Naranjo, Merced, CA on FB, see what ya missed!)
Oh, and we are going to include two things in our restaurant ratings from now on; the number of menu pages and whether the silverware was worth stealing or not. (I bring my own fork for places with super tinny flatware due to a nerve issue in my mouth.)
David dropped off the hearse while I packed up in the hotel room, I really will miss that car. 35 mpg and worth more money than my parents' first home.
May 31 Sunday
Wake up at 7, gone by 8, to the airport by 9, on a plane back home by 10. Security at Harrisburg at Sunday 9 am is slow, the airport is empty, suitcases took half the time. David bought us new Sony headsets, oh gee, they are grand! To Washington DC at 10,000 feet and the world's unfriendliest stewardess, then off to San Francisco on a 757 at 35,000 feet and no individual movie but we did get to watch Kevin Costner in McFarland USA. Great movie! We still can't tell which mountains are the Sierras and which are the Rockies. Oh well.
An Indian in a black Lincoln hearse offered his taxi services, loaded our bags, I asked him what the price was and he darn near had to revive me when I understood he really meant $38.00 for four miles of travel. I shook my head and out came the luggage. We opted to wait for the shuttle to the hotel, a drink in the bar, and two hours home, home, home. Home Sweet Home.
Notes about Pennsylvania: There are limited or no pedestrian crossings, it makes my hair insanely frizzy, the humidity is truly unbelievable, you can see a gaggle of geese in the sky any day, restaurant meals are so much cheaper there, their sunshine is far brighter than ours, and PA green is like no other green except for Emerald City.
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