Thursday, July 16, 2009
This morning we drove two hours west to Gettysburg National Park, the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and one of its major turning points. It was also the site where President Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address. After seeing Lincoln's home in Springfield on our trip out, we enjoyed learning even more about him in another of his most famous settings.
I'm almost always impressed with the way the National Parks system cares for our country's historic landmarks, and this was no exception. In fact, from what I've seen, it is one of its best efforts. We started our visit at the brand new Visitor's Center where we watched a film narrated by Morgan Freeman, called "The New Birth of Freedom," that explained all about the battle and its significance. Then we got to see the Gettysburg Cyclorama. It's a panoramic painting of the battle, where the viewers stand in the middle and experience the battle as though they were in the midst of it. The audio and light display that goes with it makes it feel like a very modern performance. But, in fact, cycloramas were invented in the 1700s and became very popular a century later, when they were transported from town to town and provided entertainment much like the movies do today. It is said that when the Gettysburg Cyclorama was created, many of the battle's veterans came to view it and many wept, it was so realistic. The story of how this enormous piece of art was found and restored is an exhibit in itself at the museum.
I could have spent hours looking at the thousands of artifacts on display, from the Union and Confederate troops to the civilians in the town of Gettysburg. But that would have been a few hours too long for my kids. So, we took a self-guided driving tour around the battlefield, stopping at various monuments and trying to remember some of the military strategy as told in the movie. The battlefield is well marked and there are several ways to explore, either on your own or through guided tours.
Tonight, we're staying in a little town in south central Pennsylvania. I never thought I'd say it, but I'm really looking forward to getting back to my kitchen and preparing some home cooked meals. A couple of days of road food is more than enough. Most of the hotels we stay at have free breakfast buffets, so we'll have a light breakfast, grab some muffins and fruit for a snack later on. But it's harder to find a variety of choices for lunches and dinners (that don't cost an arm and a leg).
One of the many fun aspects of this trip has been the ability to communicate with Dan and Joe while we're gone and share the trip with them. We've been taking pictures and texting them from some of our stops. Sitting on the deck at the shore house, I could call them on the phone and chat while looking at the view! Ah, I could get used to that! But three weeks is a long time, and we're looking forward to meeting Dan in Kansas City on Saturday. He'll join us for the last baseball game of our trip and drive home with us. The Friday after we're home, Joe will come home for a few days. So much to look forward to!
We've had such a good time on this trip. There have been a few of "those moments" when the road started getting longer, the GPS was not cooperating, and someone - in major frustration - threw a hissy fit. But the kids soon calmed me down, we stopped for ice cream and all was well.