Tuesday October 11 Grimville, Pennsylvania
Once again, back into the past
Yesterday we searched out what was important. Today we were on a 'mission from God' to record what we had discovered. Maybe the Blues Brothers we are not, but,
Give me a picture for a graveyard
I ain't got time to remember then last pain
Lonely days are done
I'm going back, because my great great great grandfather left this Land
That was about as bad as I have ever done as far as lyrics are concerned, but we've got reasons for leaving that don't have anything to do with those ancestors that went before, so please forgive me. This morning, armed with tracing paper, graphite stick and brushes we set out to record grave stones. By the end of the day we had plans to move to Gettysburg and not to stay in the park we have been in the past few days any longer. Why you ask? Let me explain.
Morning found us at Blick's, buying what we thought were the right art articles to allow us to take a rubbing of the stones we had found yesterday. How wrong we were. The hardened graphite we had bought proved to be the exact wrong thing to produce the rubbings. Then, out of her magic pouch, Linda pulled her chalk sticks, and we had the photos we wanted. Someday, in the distant future some descendent will gaze upon the photo's we took today and wonder how we got them. I hope they think of a wonderful many great's, grandmother named Linda, and all this with a big smile on their face, knowing they have her wonderful blood flowing through their veins. We have photo's that show what is on those stones. To Linda is due all glory, and to Linda all glory is given.
As Linda worked on the stones, scrubbing with a dry brush, rubbing graphite on parchment paper, highlighting the stone with light colored chalk, the sun went behind the clouds and the lighting conditions were perfect to get the photographs we wanted but were unable to take. Suddenly the unreadable became readable, and the unknowable became known. Unless you have searched and searched for the name of your fourth great grandmother in vain for decades, and then it suddenly has appeared before your eyes, you have no idea of the joy I felt at that moment. That is LIFE with all capitals.
That should really be the end of our today, but I must add a postscript. We had planned to stay in this RV park for several more days, but unfortunately they have someone coming into our site tomorrow. A few phone calls and we will be in Gettysburg tomorrow afternoon, just a few thousand feet from the monument that honors the Union Regiment, the 73rd Ohio, that Linda's great grandfather was with. To think that she will be able to walk where he walked, and as I so poignantly put it, to spit where he spit, makes my last few days pale in comparison. Stay tuned as we relive the Battle of Gettysburg as Linda's great grandfather experienced it. What a Life, what a Wife. I have to be the world's most lucky man.
Wednesday October 12 Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Linda's turn to go back into the past
It was moving day today, they had rented out the site we had been staying in, and even though the RV park was 90% empty, if we wanted to stay longer we would have to move. What was really interesting was that our site wasn't that level and there was an untrimmed tree at the front corner that would scratch any RV that tried to pull out of it, meaning that even though they called it a pull through site, it actually wasn't. We took all that as telling us it was time to leave, and that was exactly what we did, leave the area along with practically every truck presently on the east coast, or so it seemed.
There I was, driving down one of those roads, hoping I was on the right one, when I hear, "I got it" coming from Linda. She'd been so quiet for a time I thought she had been taking a cat nap, but obviously not. "Got what?" I replied. "It, back there. I got it."
There was something missing in this conversation, which was that "it" was. It turned out to be these signs painted on the road, and looking at the photo I had to admit that she had shown superb reflexes to take it at just the right moment. After hearing all the time how she presses the button at the right time but the shutter is slow, I had to wonder if she actually took this one before she intended, but when it turned out okay, the story got changed a little. I wouldn't want to be accused of doubting her word, but....
When headed to our site after checking into the RV park, this was what we saw. Linda doesn't do anything Confederate, especially here where her great grandfather spent three days in early July 1863 fighting against the Confederates less than a mile up the road. We are an RV, so it wasn't the bus sign. And since we had a FHU site, it wasn't the dump station. That left only one thing, and that was where we we going to be staying, in the horse camp section.
Yep, that is where we are, down with the corrals. The other side of all this is that we have a very big site and also it is definitely off the beaten track. And for now at least, there isn't a single horse to be seen around here. That may change this weekend as they are going to be completely full, but we also know that sometime Sunday afternoon we will likely be all alone again. Besides we are here to visit the battlefield, not sit outside the coach. And we couldn't have done that today even if we had wanted to as it rained all afternoon and evening.
Lucky and unlucky. There is a row of trees behind where we are parked, and unfortunately they are to the south. Fortunately the Winegard found its satellites so we have TV which is good because there is no cable at our site. Unfortunately the MotoSat was blocked by the trees, but fortunately the park wi-fi is very good. That doesn't have anything to do with the photo, but after I got it resized and ready to post I thought about the satellite situation.
So just what was that photo of a cannon on the History Channel all about? Turns out that back in May they had a series about the Civil War, and since Linda knew we would be in Gettysburg this fall, she recorded the programs. With tomorrow being our introduction to Gettysburg day, it was apropos to watch the show about Gettysburg tonight. After a week and a half of history about my side of the family, now it is Linda's turn. It may have been a rainy day, but it still turned out to be great. And tomorrow promises to be even better.
Thursday October 13 Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Linda seeks her past
This is not the first photo of the day, but it is emblematic of how the day went. We are in Linda territory, and my nine photos versus her 130 or so tell the story. We are here to honor J C Woodyard, Linda's great grandfather who was here on July 1, 2 and 3 of the year 1863. Anything that even remotely has something to do him or the Regiment he served with, or the Brigade his Regiment was part of, or the Division his Brigade and his Regiment was part of, or the Corps, Division or Brigade his Regiment was part of is going to get photographed. And not once but multiple times. All these photos have me so confused I don't know which photo is which, but my guess is that if you check Linda's blog everything will be perfectly clear as mud.
This is the first photo of the day, and it resulted in, "What are you doing?"
"Removing the @#*&% Michigan Park's sticker."
"Did you try Goof-off?"
"It didn't work", followed by a bunch of Appilachain hill talk I couldn't and didn't want to understand. It was apparent someone was in full grizzly mode and had best be left alone.
This has meaning to Linda, not because of what it says, but because of what it represents. Her great grandfather enlisted as soon as the war broke out in one of the 90 day Regiments. But when his term of enlistment was up, instead of returning to civilian life and boasting in the 1890's how he had been in the war (even though he hadn't done any fighting), he immediately enlisted in a fighting unit that saw action throughout the remainder of the war.
That is the real purpose of this photo, to point out that while in my family my wealthy great great grandfather hired substitutes so his four sons, one of which was my great grandfather, wouldn't have to serve in the Union Army, Linda's great grandfather enlisted not once, but twice. Patriotism aside, I'll leave it to you readers to decide, given the horrors of the Civil war, which family chose the better path. The fact that we both are here today may help to answer that question.
The other side of the poster. This one is a substitutes form, and is a photo I took. All these super patriotic photos Linda was taking were giving me an inferiority complex. My family may not have been perfect. They may not have even been patriotic, but they were American's, even if in name only. As we have researched our family history's I have to laugh, because while Linda's family was less than perfect, my family was way less than perfect. It gives proof to my contention that I married well, even if Linda doesn't think so.
Why I love that woman so much. Enough said.
At the end of the day I made a major mistake. Not really, but it may have a major effect on our plans. Linda was mapping out what we would be be doing at the Park on Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, Sunday being a day to visit my second cousin Pam and her husband Larry in Elizabethtown, when I discovered a Licensed Gettysburg Guide that specialized in the very Regiment that Linda's great grandfather served in. It immediately changes her into a woman possessed, with phone messages and emails pouring out. As for me, I now reside in second class citizen land even though I was the one who gave her the key to the Kingdom.
Yet I don't mind at all that I may presently be considered far beneath a dog. We are here for her. We are here because of her great grandfather. Tomorrow brings I don't know what. Saturday will be living history reenactment day less than a mile down the road. Early November will find us south of Washington D.C, near Manassas, where her great grandfather fought in the Second Battle of Bull Run. I couldn't be happier for her. Life is good and getting better by the moment. History. It is far more than names and dates. Just ask Linda if you don't think so.
Friday October 14 Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Big Linda Day
She who is the family Civil War tour director had declared that today would be a day of attending NPS Ranger led tours. That was all well and dandy, but this was what the weather radar looked like this morning. With the blood of a Gettysburg veteran coursing through her veins, she informed me that if her great grandfather could have survived the torrential downpours of July 4, 1863, a few drops today weren't going to bother us. It looked to me like more than a few drops were coming our way, but orders are orders, so off we headed.
First stop of the day. Weather: light drizzle. Location: 73rd OVI monument along Taneytown Road. To say Linda was in seventh heaven at this moment would be a colossal understatement. In her sixth decade of Life she finally gets to stand where her great grandfather stood, as this marker is located at the center of the 73rd Ohio's line during the three days of battle. Linda's great grandfather came through the battle unscathed even though near nearly 40% of the Regiment's men were casualties during those three days. Side note: one of those men of the 73rd Ohio who died as a result of the battle was the great grandfather of President Nixon.
Same place: moments earlier. Ever wonder why Linda always looks so perfect in all my photos of her? Wonder no more. Miss model has that sixth sense that lets her know when a camera is pointed her way, and she immediately prepares herself. This time she was so much into her great grandfather she wasn't aware the camera was ready before she was. Still, I have to think her great grandfather would be just as proud of her as she is of him.
Weather: Cloudy, no rain. Location: Along Taneytown Road. Time: 15 minutes later. It took some looking but we finally located the markers that were at the right and left sides of the 73rd's line. Maybe I should say we saw the left marker in the distance, and Linda set out like a woman possessed, which exactly what she was, to stand beside it. I just hoped there was no traffic coming at her because she would have batted them out of the way as if they were a toy.
Place: beside left end of 73rd OVI position marker. Time: moments later. This is Linda's way of saying "Jerry was somewhere down that way." And he was, as where she was standing was the left end of the Regiment's position, and the tiny white sign at the very left edge of the photo was the right end of their position. (They were facing the camera) I know from all the smiles on Linda's face, smiles much bigger than her normal huge smile, that this was truly a very special place. It is great beyond words for her to have the opportunity to really live Life.
First tour of the day. Weather: moderate rain. Location: Devil's Den. The family tour guide said we were going on three tours today, come hell or high water, and between the incessant rain coupled with thunder and lightening, she had me believing she was right. This was actually a great tour, and before it was even partially over we both knew we were hooked on taking as many of these Park Ranger tours as we could fit in during our stay.
Place: Top of devil's den. Time: 40 minutes later. Weather: Totally miserable. At the top of Devil's den, the weather deteriorated beyond miserable. It was blowing so hard my umbrella was assuming the full inside out position, and water was being blow into every body part, exposed or not. Still, the tour went on, though we did retreat to the shelter of a tree downslope. Once again, this tour was simply as good as it gets, and we hardly noticed the miserable weather, so engrossing was what the ranger was telling us. All I can say is that Gettysburg is one of the country's premier National Parks, and it is obvious that it also has some of the NPS's top Rangers, as well as some of the most inept visitors. At least as far as being able to handle umbrellas is concerned. As far as answering and asking questions during the tour, I'll pat myself on the back and say I led in both categories.
Place: Park Visitor Center. Time: Early afternoon. Weather: We're inside, so who cares. Second Ranger program of the day, no tour, but a very interesting program, none the less. This was a very good audio-visual presentation about the everyday life of the common soldier during the war. It was interesting, but what made it even better was that various objects from the that period were passed around those attending the program. This is a Miniť Ball. The bullet, if you will, for the rifle musket of the common soldier. The same as Linda's great grandfather would have fired at Confederate troops.
It came to Linda, she touched it, she handled it, she fondled it. Then as she passed it to me she dropped it. "Oh s@&% comes from her mouth. I look and don't see it. She looks and doesn't see it, more muted %&$@! and &%$*@ coming from her. Just as I was about certain I was going to have to get down on my hands and knees and look for it, she blurts out, "I found it" loud enough for those in the far corner of the room to hear. Beautiful Blond. Komplete Klutz. Wonderful Wife. They all fit, and I couldn't ask for a better Life partner.
Place: Cemetery Ridge. Time: Late afternoon. Weather: Partly cloudy with high winds. There are many myths associated with Gettysburg, and one of the biggies is what is known as Pickett's Charge. It wasn't the glorious mile long line of Confederates so often portrayed, and even worse, celebrated in the movies and the history books. Here you learn the real story. The complete slaughter by massed union cannons, the waving of white hankies by Confederates and the surrender of a thousand of these so called hero's of the south. High water mark? It was more like a sink hole of blood and gore. Lee was a great general when he had all the advantages. Here he didn't and he was badly defeated. The south can perpetuate the myth of what a great general he was, but at Gettysburg the facts proved otherwise.
We are proud of what our Ohio ancestors did over those three days to preserve the Union, but as Texan's we are also proud of John Bell Hood and the beyond brave Texan's who paid a great price carrying out Lee's orders to attack positions on the second day of the battle that could never have been taken, no matter how many men were committed. At the end of the battle Lee said the fault was all his, and it was. We all rise to our level of incompetence, and at Gettysburg Lee rose to his. Some may differ with my statements, but in April of 1865 it was Robert E. Lee who surrendered, and not the other way around. History can be distorted by future generations, but the facts never change.
Saturday October 15 Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Big History Day
Weekenders. They have completely overtaken the park. Every site, all 197 of them, seems to have one of them in it. We can't say anything bad about them though, as Linda and I were among their ranks for many decades. Still, that doesn't mean that in all those years we saw everything. And maybe we still haven't, but after watching our neighbor, who had five adults and one child in this trailer, try to warm his hands in the furnace exhaust, we can certainly scratch one of those, seen it all items, off our list.
We came to one conclusion today, we couldn't even imagine how crowded the park is in July. Part of this may have been that the past two days of rainy weather had kept visitors inside, and today was their day to get out. Still, we saw so many visitors out in the Park the past two days despite the intense rains, that this was most likely a normal fall Saturday afternoon crowd. We were going to our first destination of the day, a re-enactment camp. Of course it didn't help that when Linda told me to stop and park, and I didn't, meaning we had to drive about five miles to get back to the same place. The roads are all one way, so no turning around and going back, and luckily no conversations of a certain woman talking to her almost former husband were recorded.
U.S. Sanitary Commission re-enactment camp, Seminary Ridge. Normally re-enactors tell the visitors about what they represent, but not always. It turns out that one of the things they have the young girls do is to prepare sewing kits to send to the soldiers. They tell them that was what really happened during the war. Here I relate to the re-enactors the story of Linda's great grandfather, and the sewing kit that lead to Linda's great grandmother. They'd read about such things, now they were hearing of an account of it actually happening.
The opposite side of the park, a demonstration by the 1st Ohio Battery. Lots of smoke. Great interaction with the re-enactors after the demonstration. They, 1st Ohio Battery. My family, 3rd Ohio Battery. Result, connections. Linda took this photo, perfectly timed to capture the smoke coming out of the barrel of the cannon.
Same place as prior photo, time two hours later. My turn to take the photo just as the cannon fires. Perfect position, photo perfectly framed, and then the lanyard is pulled. The gunpowder ignites, a great boom accompanied by smoke and the acrid odor of gunpowder issues from the barrel. At that moment I press the button, but not before jumping at the sound of the cannon firing. Linda is obviously far better at certain things than her husband.
Linda's great grandfather, 73rd Ohio. This re-enactment group, 75th Ohio. Sara N. Dippity was working overtime in our behalf today. Great grandfather, great granddaughter. Both holding a civil war rifle on the Gettysburg battlefield. You want history, this is history and more. This is truly living history.
Shameless plug for Gettysburg. Go on all the Ranger led tours you can, at least during the off season when the regular Park staff is leading them. These are the best Ranger tours we have ever been on in the US, and rival the ranger tours we took in Canada. Today the Ranger was the Supervising Park Historian, and for 2 hours and 20 minutes he had us, as well as the large group we were with, completely captivated with his stories of what took place on the ground we were standing on. And that ground was not where the normal tourists go, but rather out where the battle actually took place. Myths dispelled, eyewitness accounts related, exhaustive historical research referred to. All in all, we could do it every day for a month and not tire of it. This is not a backwater National Park where Rangers get to rise to their level of incompetence. This is the best there is, where those who have the greatest competence get to share it with visitors. We've seen a lot of mediocre Rangers over the years, but never so many truly great ones.
Of all the photos I have used today, I know Linda very likely going use this one in her blog. (I know she is going to use the earlier one of her holding the rilfe.) She pointed this oddity out to me, and I took the photo. This is not to make light of what took place on this ground a little over 148 years ago. This is to say that Life is what you make it. How you look at Life is often just as important as what takes place. After all, Life is not a dress rehearsal. Don't be afraid to laugh, love and retire early. There were thousands who fought here who gave there lives so we can have that opportunity.
Sunday October 16 Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
When you are staying in the equestrian section of an RV park, your view is likely to be of horses. Ours was. While it was a Sunday, and we suspected many of the sites in the park would be empty tonight, we saw quite a lot of activity in our area, with horses being groomed, saddled, or ridden. Everywhere the mighty steeds were being readied for a days outing. Closer to home, the same thing was happening.
Not all mighty steeds are hay and oat burners, and this one, a gas burner, was being groomed for a days outing. It was family time today, and as has been the case with almost all of our visits with my cousins during our travels, once again, it has been decades since we saw my second cousin Pam and her husband, Larry. I wanted a clean windshield for the hour plus drive to their home, though Linda was looking forward a few days to our private battlefield tour, and was thinking of this as more of a preliminary cleaning.
How great it is to be able to spend time remembering when you were young, and the great times you shared. Along with that came the opportunity to eat some really great food at Portabella's in Elizabethtown, and don't let the fact that it is sports bar throw you, it's a worthwhile stop if you are staying in the area. I think there may be gene in my family line that enables my cousins to find places that serve the most fabulous food.
We may be a little older in body, but we are still young at heart. What was really great was that we were able share some of what we have discovered about my family's history. What wasn't so great was what Hurricane Lee did to their home. They were out of the country on vacation when Lee hit and they returned home to a portion of the downstairs of their home filled with over a foot of sewage that backed up through the downstairs bathroom. They are slowly making repairs which consisted of tearing everything down to the bare concrete floor and walls and going from there. Makes our problems during our travels seem minor in comparison. In case you're wondering, we are upstairs in this photo.
It has been some time since one of my, me taking a photo of Linda taking a photo, photos. Pam, Larry, their son Matt, his wife Mindy and Matt and Mindy's son, Jake, had to pose for Linda, so I took advantage of the situation. We parted, promising not to be gone as long as the last time before we visited again. It was a very special day, and sometimes mere words can't express all that a person feels. This is one of the times.
Monday October 17 Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Exploring the Past
When we headed out to the battlefield today, we had several things happen to us, one of which changed our plans. Originally we were driving to a market out west of town that one of our readers had told us about to buy some farm fresh eggs, but just down the road from the park we saw a sign advertising the same thing. That led to an enjoyable stop at The Lion Potter, one of those special stumble upon places that Sara N. Dippity occasionally leads us to. There was a time in my Life, the living in a house period, when I could not have visited The Lion Potter without buying some pottery. Today we walked out with only two dozen brown eggs and some apples, but they were the best tasting apples I have ever eaten. Of course it is only in the past six years that I have been able to eat raw apple with major discomfort of a kind I would wish on no one, so my experience is somewhat limited in that area, but still, best ever is best ever, no matter what the conditions and criteria.
On the way to the Little Round Top area, the oil light came on in the Explorer, so after adding a quart of oil, we walked up the trail to look out on the field of battle, sections of which carried such names as The Valley of Death and The Slaughter Pen, which provide an apt description of just how ferocious the fighting was here on July 2. I have taken to watching Linda the past few days and I know she is feeling a connection with what took place here. Her questions are specific, her comments come from the heart, and sometimes she simply stands and stares at the field, as if remembering actual events that took place here. This is hallowed ground in more ways than one. There are places which can't help but move you. This is one of them.
Memorials, monuments and cannon mark different places and positions on the battlefield today, and while on Little Round Top we noticed something going on above Devils Den across The Valley of Death, so we walked over to see what it was. There is a great deal of refurbishing going on in preparation of the 150th commemoration in 2013, and repainting this cannon was one of those activities. They are apparently cleaned, fixed and painted by volunteer friends of the Park groups, but removed and remounted by Park Service staff. What we experience here at the Park doesn't magically happen, and this allowed us a glimpse at how some of it takes place.
While watching the placement of the cannon, we had an opportunity to talk with several re-enactors who were visiting the battlefield. It turned out they were from the 18th Ohio Independent Battery which allowed me to get my "Civil War fix" if it were, and be a little more in tune with what Linda was feeling.
We spent the day on the battlefield, ending it by attending a Ranger led tour of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, the site of the burial of the Union dead from the battle, and where President Lincoln spoke a few brief words at the cemetery's dedication service.
Afterward we walked through the cemetery, stopping when we came to the Ohio section and as we walked along the rows of markers we realized that there many markers for the 73rd Ohio. Of the 131 bodies buried in the Ohio section, 25 were from the 73rd, which had a total of 40 men killed in action or mortally wounded during the fighting.
The marker she was taking a photo of. Just one of those many soldiers who died as a result of the battle, but there is more to the story. He was wounded and fell between the Union and Confederate lines in front of the 73rd Ohio's position. During the night musician Richard Enderlin, who had discarded his musical instrument for a rifle during the horrific fighting in the area on July 1, crawled out and dragged him back to the Union lines. Unfortunately his wounds were so severe he died a few days after the battle was over. In 1897 Enderlin was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions, and to complete the story, in 1968 George Nixon's great grandson was elected the 37th President of the United States.
Linda will readily admit that when she was in High School she hated her history classes. Now she realizes that history is not just dates and places. It's what happened in the past. And the people who were involved were real people, not just names on a page of a book. Sometimes they are famous, sometimes their identity is lost, never to be known. Each made his or her contribution. Sure, you may think history is dumb, stupid and boring, but just think, what you did today is history.
Tomorrow is going to be a huge day for Linda, report to be posted tomorrow night. And as a last thought, passing the gates to the cemetery, which is located on the hill behind where the 73rd Ohio and Linda's great grandfather was throughout the battle, Linda saw a man walking towards her in the grass from the direction of the 73rd Ohio's line. A man that suddenly disappeared. Do you know who it was? We do.
Tuesday October 18 Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
While we were outside getting ready for the day, we had some visitors. I've been saying we are in the equestrian section of this RV park, and this should prove it. As for the day, as mentioned above it was Linda's day. We had a private tour scheduled with Stuart Dempsey a Licensed Battlefield Guide who has done extensive research, as well as writing several ground breaking articles on the 73rd OVI, the unit Linda's great grandfather served with here at Gettysburg.
There is no way I can express the wonder, amazement, and joy we experienced during the three hours we spent with Stuart. When he walked Linda across the ground where the 73rd Ohio fought from the early morning of July 2 to the late morning of July 4, it was beyond words. And yes I know the battle was supposed to be over after Pickett's Charge on the 3rd, but it wasn't. In fact the sustained two and a half days of fighting that the 73rd was part of may have been the longest continuous fighting anywhere during the entire war.
It was indeed a bloody killing ground in 1863, but ignored by the history books, not included in the Park, the ground today is a housing development dating from the 1950's. Prior to today we didn't know exactly what the 73rd Ohio had done at Gettysburg, but our impression was it hadn't seen much action. How wrong we were, as it suffered an astounding 43% casualty rate over the three days. Fortunately Linda's great grandfather came through the battle without being wounded, but two of Stuart's relatives lost their lives fighting for the 73rd.
Looking back towards the Union lines, but imagine the time of the battle, when this was all open ground, and on the high ground on Cemetery Hill behind that line, Union cannon firing over the heads of the 73rd as they "skirmished" here. It was on this ground that President Nixon's great grandfather was mortally wounded. It was here a musician in the 73rd's band won the Medal Of Honor. And it is here that a great granddaughter pays homage to her great grandfather. This has been week of experiences that words can't describe. Today was another one, and one Linda never imagined she would get to experience. Sometimes Love is as simple as finding a person to guide your wife on battlefield. They say love is strange, and sometimes so is Life.
Wednesday October 19 Washington, DC
Talk about time flying, I couldn't believe it was already time to leave Gettysburg, as we still had at least a week's worth of exploring in the area to do yet. But leave we did, having reservations, and also needing to get our visit to Washington DC done before really cold weather moves in. Most of the drive is easy, and all of it was on divided highways as we opted to do what we don't like to do, drive the Interstates. We were smart to do this and then there were people who drove Smart cars.
Seven, count them, seven lanes of traffic, but at least we were in one of the four in the center, which was one of the ones we needed to be in. The other thing to do is to pretty much forget about driving the speed limit. It's either drive the speed traffic is moving at or have people cutting a few feet in front of you all the time. Still, we were moving right along, the legendary DC traffic not bad at all, and I said as much to Linda, as in "Traffic hasn't been bad at all, other than moving to fast."
And as could be expected, no sooner were those words out of my mouth than I was proven wrong. For the next 15 minutes this is all we did. Move a few feet and stop. Move a few feet and stop. In the end we passed the remains of a minor accident, but once traffic gets stopped, it takes what seems forever to break the logjam. As Linda remarked, "Driving 5 mph is a whole lot easier than driving at 60 through here." She was right too, and it wasn't long after we left that mess behind that we exiting I-495 and were soon at the RV park.
Three check-in lanes at the RV park, five people working the counter, all this helped us understand we weren't in Kansas anymore, even if we haven't ever been there during our travels. We ended up with a nice wide and long site, that was also nearly level, and with that began to settle in for the next several weeks. We weren't the only ones happy with our new digs, as so was Red Rob. I'd fed him a little earlier, but he wasn't eating, then as I got a spoon to remove the leftover food I realized why he wasn't eating, but was instead doing one of his little dances at the front of his tank. He'd managed to catch another fly! I think I'll brag him up a little, "My Betta can beat up your Betta."
Over 400 sites at this RV park, almost everyone of which is filled by someone who wants to go sightseeing in DC. With that in mind they bend over backwards to make your stay a pleasant one, even holding a DC sightseeing orientation meeting at 4 PM. You can bet that we attended, Linda with notebook in hand, along with some 20 other people, some of who had to really be from Kansas. Or at least it seemed they were from Kansas as they, I kid you not, asked the question to the answer the very knowledgeable lady presenting the information had just given.
"So to get to the station you take any bus from the stop out front, and it goes to the station. Every bus from here only goes to the station."
Voice from back of room, "But how will we know what bus to get on?"
to which the above statement was repeated as the answer to the question. Then from somewhere else, "How are we going to to know which train to get on to go down to the Mall?" Note that all of this had already been explained at least three times, but people were still saying it was to confusing.
I looked at Linda and said, "We go the Paris or Berlin, can't speak or read the language, yet go everywhere on their Metro, U-Bahn, etc. with no problem. What's the matter with these people, are Americans as dumb as it sounds like?"
She just smiled at me, but it spoke volumes. Sometimes I forget that there are so many people who live life with a small "L".
Thursday October 20 Washington, DC
A toe in the water
The reason we are staying where we are, and paying as much as we are, is for the convenience. Others may think that saving money, and doing it another way is more in line with their budget. Neither is right or wrong, rather each is fitting what we can do to the circumstances. For $54 a day we get to walk for two minutes and from then on everything is via public transportation. It's the way we travel in Europe, and now it's how we travel in Washington. Personally I like the idea of the bus driver taking us to the Metro station, but if anyone wants to drive themselves, either to the bus station, or downtown, it is okay by me.
Same with the Metro. It's okay if you think you want to drive into Washington and find a place to park. For us, a trip on the Metro is worth every dollar. It's how we travel when in Europe, and it's how we travel in Washington. Walk up to the bus stop in the RV Park, board the bus, switch to the Metro at the station, and with no hassles we are where we want to be. There are 7 day bus and metro passes in our future, again like in Europe, though if others find that driving suits their style, it's okay. To each their own.
This is where we emerged from the Metro Station, and also where we spent most of our day. "What do you want to do?", I asked.
"Maybe just walk around, I don't know."
"There's the National Archives, want to go in?"
I wasn't sure what she wanted to do, but to this question she said yes and a few steps later we were following the sign that said "Entrance".
Absolutely no photos permitted in the building, though we sure did notice a lot of people holding their iPhones in their hands. For us, we gazed upon the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, Bill of Rights and other documents that make The United States, The United States. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Note that it doesn't say just for Americans, it says ALL MEN. Some can twist that however they want, but no matter what they say, those words will not go away. Not just the people in the Colonies, not just the people in North America, not just the people in Western Hemisphere. ALL MEN.
The Hope Diamond. Supposed to be something really special. Problem is we have seen the jewels in London and we have seen the jewels at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, and those are real displays of jewels. Of course most Americans will look at the Hope Diamond and think, wow. You want to think WOW, travel to other countries. And as I've said before, no I don't think our country is second rate, but I do know there is a whole lot out there in our great big world that most Americans don't have the faintest clue about. And that is not a rant, it is simply the truth.
All summer long we saw copper this, and copper that as we traveled through the Upper Peninsula, and here we were in Washington DC, and there was another example of the huge copper deposits of the Upper Peninsula. This certainly wasn't the equal to many of the specimens we saw this summer, but it was impressive enough in its own right.
Just to prove that we really were in Washington. This was what we saw as we crossed Pennsylvania Avenue on our way back to the Metro station. Think for a moment. You are in a strange city. You take the Metro to a station, emerge from the underground to see the Nation's Capital and all it's buildings all around around you. You go off sightseeing then come back to the Metro Station. What are the odds you can of remember where that entrance to the station was at? Now you know what we were thinking. Eventually that brilliant, brainy, blond bomb shell I was so lucky to marry figured out where we needed to be. Then it was back on the Metro, catch the bus, and we were home.
I must add that two couples that were on the bus and Metro for the morning's trip into town, were also on the trip home. Small world, or great bodies get tired at the same time. I don't know, but all of us were glad to see our RV's as we walked from the bus stop. We have two more weeks in Washington, and we know not everyday is going to be like today. But with rain only forecast for one day in the time we are going to be here, maybe most everyday will be as interesting as today was. No plans yet for tomorrow, but we know Sara N. Dippity has something up her sleeve for us.