Updated: Aug 30, 2019
Hello my friends! It's been sometime since my last post, I know. The past month and a half has really taken a toll on our minds here at home and we were looking forward to a visit with our daughter in Virginia this past weekend. Sadly her schedule was changed to the point that if we went for a visit we really wouldn't have gotten the opportunity to see her. We waited until we couldn't wait any longer in hopes that she would call and say things have changed, but the call didn't come so we cancelled our trip to Virginia. Bill and I really needed a getaway and of course everyone knows this is my favorite season for getaways so we did a complete impromptu/put a getaway weekend together in a flash planning session. So, before I go any further, I recommend that you have your phone well charged lol, or better yet, sit with a laptop or desk computer with a big screen so you can enjoy the hundreds (yes I took that many!) of pictures-no I won't bore you with all of them (I hope) of what I would call one of the "bestest" and "unforgettable" trips I have ever had. Yes, it was that good! So, go ahead, grab a large mug of hot chocolate (because the weather has finally permitted it!) or a large glass of your pleasure, cuddle up with a blanket, prop your pillows, and enjoy what is undoubtedly my longest post to date and probably ever will be!
And so we begin...
On Thursday, (5 days ago) we got the pleasure of packing up a rental car that we had reserved. We wanted NO troubles and we were fortunate enough to get a wonderful Toyota hybrid that has altogether opened our eyes!! We headed out a little after 4 in the morning and our adventure took us north through Ohio then west to the beautiful state of Pennsylvania. Bill and I have only been to Pittsburgh in the past, but no further. This trip was taking us clear to the other side of Pennsylvania just shy of the Delaware border.
Quietly to myself, like always, I said my prayers for a safe journey, also praying that everything would be okay at home even if we weren't going to be gone that long. My stomach always churns and gets all knotty every time we head out on trips, but the instant we hit the highway, the excitement stirs and I get all camera happy. (as you will see!)
The trip started off smooth and hours seem to have gone by as we hastily made our way through major cities before rush hour set in. It's funny how you travel and you forget the rest of the world still has to work during the week so you tend to forget traffic can build up at certain times of the day. As always, Bill and I have smiles on our faces because we're not heading to work; so I'm sure those that were probably didn't want to see our happy faces as we sat relaxed in our almost new rental car reclined in the smell of new leather.
I'm not exactly sure where we were when this all happened, but as we were making our way near the Ohio/Pennsylvania border Bill noticed a car in the median making an illegal U-turn heading in our direction. As he was saying it, he then said, "did you see that?" Of course I hadn't so I asked him what it was he saw. Evidently, there was a lady on the side of the road waving to us and oncoming traffic with her arms in the air like she was doing jumping jacks. And it looked like she was only wearing one shoe! He said he noticed that there was a guard rail missing. Quick conversation lead us to the next exit where we both decided we should just turn around and at least make sure she is okay. By the time we got to her (doing a U-turn in the median as well) we noticed the vehicle he saw earlier doing the U-turn was parked where she was standing. I told him I would go check and when I got to her, there were two men there, both not saying anything to her, just looking around. I told her we saw her waving and just wanted to make sure she was okay...then I looked to the right and was in complete shock...down a small yet deep brush filled hill was an enormous truck-like a tow truck-completely flipped and sitting on it's top, all wheels in the air! I just looked at her and blurted out, "did YOU do that???" and she said "Yes!". I know my mouth was on the ground. I again blurted, "...and you walked away from this?" and all she did was hold her arms in the air toward the sky... I asked if she needed a phone, but the other man had let her use his. Then I just looked at her. She was standing there with no shoe on her right foot. She said she climbed out right away because she didn't know if it was going to catch fire. Evidently the entire vehicle shut down as she was driving on the highway which I'm assuming shut down all her mechanics and ability to steer. How she managed to climb the hill and with just one shoe is a mystery to me. Without thinking, I walked up to this complete stranger and just hugged her...and she just started to cry. It took her a good long time before she let go. The reality of walking away had hit. A police officer had arrived, she said she didn't need us to take her anywhere so, knowing she was safe we went on our way. And here she is, shoeless foot propped on a beam. All we could think about afterwards was the fact that we were only the second car to pull over...You couldn't see the truck from the highway...what if she was unable to get out and flag us all down? No one would have known...
After this excitement, Bill and I agreed it was time for breakfast!! So, not breaking family tradition, Cracker Barrel was the stop! Our family has the motto that, "no trip is a trip without a meal at Cracker Barrel" lol.
I even tried to eat healthy knowing that this weekend was going to be all but healthy!
And then we arrived!
I'm not sure if you have ever been to Pennsylvania, but all I can say is, "IT'S BEAUTIFUL". All the trees and mountains and colors. The highways are clean, the roadsides are clean. The tolls are expensive (not a good thing lol), but the scenery was amazing. It was raining here and there as we drove, but nothing that made the trip unenjoyable. It actually added to the season and autumn flare. And I apologize now for the blurry photos and window glare on some lol.
But it also brought about some of the thickest fog we have ever seen. It didn't help that we had to drive up a mountain that was twisted and wet or that we were behind a semi hauling enormous logs and filled to capacity... But Bill handled it in stride!
Pennsylvania, historically, is a colonial state. And I, historically, am a colonial lover. So add this charm to the beautiful scenery and I am one happy camper. The route we followed took us through several towns and several counties, all having their own unique charm. This little town in York County had some of the cutest colonial homes and businesses!
Can you see the little candles in the windows through the blur? I LOVE candles in the windows and for over 17 years I've always had little lights in our front windows! It's such a welcoming look!
I know you don't see it, but there was a school bus stopped ahead of us picking up elementary students in the town to take to school. The mom below just waved good-bye...
And there were so many farms alongside the historic stone farmhouses...
Just think what that building in the middle would look like with little candle lights in the windows!!! :)
Our first night's stay was in Lancaster. Most people know that Lancaster was the most populated area of Amish in the US. Being that our family frequently visits the Amish in Ohio, Lancaster was a bucket list visit for me. After we checked in to our hotel, we decided to have an early dinner. Lancaster wasn't too close, it wasn't too far either, but we decided to eat first then head to Lancaster to see what shops they had and find good places to stop and pick up some baked goods the following day. When we got to Lancaster we were a bit disappointed. It is no where near commercialized as the Ohio amish area and we only found a few shops. We decided to look around in the ones that were open and basically just leave the amish shopping to our visit to Ohio Amish. I'm sure there are still a lot of amish in the area, but like I said, they just aren't as commercialized.
To add to our disappointment, the hotel we chose ended up being right up against the highway! So guess what we heard all night??? This is a view from our window!
Friday morning was a toss up. We couldn't decide if we wanted to go to Hershey, Pennsylvania and tour the Hershey museum or if we should just go straight into Gettysburg. Since I truly just like eating chocolate and really have no desire to see how it's made, we went straight to Gettysburg. And my life will never be the same...
The town of Gettysburg (downtown) was just an incredibly clean, friendly, and 'CHARMING like charming should be defined' town. The GPS told us of the roundabout, but I just wanted to keep rounding and rounding it to see it all. We drove through the town to get to the Battlefield Visitor's Center and from there Bill and I experienced the most awe inspiring weekend ever.
I really don't feel it's fair for me to take you through the whole tour of the battlefield, so I won't. To see it, we decided that it would suit us best to do the "drive yourself" tour versus hiring a tour guide to ride with us or paying to ride on a bus with a bunch of strangers who would undoubtedly ask way too many questions. And God knows biking, hiking, or horseback riding was not going to happen. We already had a cooler of drinks and some snacks so we bought a book at the Visitor Center Book Store that was made for the car tour and it came with three cds to listen to as you drove the battlefield. All the streets of Gettysburg were marked with "Auto Tour" signs so it was super easy to follow and you got to choose which tour (short, medium, or longest) you wanted to follow. We opted for the longest tour which says should take 2 hours maybe a little bit longer. By the time Bill and I finished the tour, it had taken us almost 7 hours...
And it was the most interesting, gorgeous, beautiful, and emotional 7 hours ever. To add to the entire "feel", the weather was absolutely perfect. It was overcast, light jacket weather, with fog and on occasion a slight mist. It was like someone wanted us to experience this event with the most ghostly historical atmosphere imagineable. The battle, however, took place over 3 days-July 1, 2, and 3 which meant at the time of the battle, it was hotter than blazes.
It was almost like sitting next to your grandfather... :)
Never in a million years did I ever think I'd see so many monuments in one place. The stories that surround the Generals of both sides, the strategies of both sides, the "soldiers/volunteers" of both sides, the locals and their homes in Gettysburg, and then the aftermath. I can't even type this without getting emotional. Some of the names ring a bell from my youth when I learned about these events when I was in school, but now, as an adult and with SO MUCH MORE APPRECIATION, I have names forever engrained in me. There are so many "what ifs" that I learned and can't stop thinking about. What if General Lee would have listened to General Longstreet, what if General Chamberlain never charged, what if Ewell would have taken the hill...? This country was divided with family and friends fighting on both sides. It was so heart wrenching to hear the stories of commanders who once fought together and were the best of friends now having to fight against each other but didn't want to, of the two brothers from Germany that fought on opposing sides who finally got to see each other after three years, only to have one die 2 hours later. There's the story of the Rebel dog, Sallie...(of course there was a dog story!! enter tears here!). I hate that I didn't desire the knowledge as a young middle school and high school student as I do now. And to think that this was only one battle fought...53,000 lives were lost on American soil by American hands... That's 53,000 stories...
Confederate General Robert E. Lee
Union General George Meade
Below are some of the Union soldiers during the 30 minute reenactment we got to see. Men from all over (these were from Ohio) volunteer every weekend. We got to see them shoot their black powder rifles as well as a canon.
While driving, we noticed there were historical homes on the battlefield that actually have people living in them. At first I found this odd, being it's a National Park, but then, they were lived in prior to the battles so why not now? This Inn below is actually on the battlefield as well and I would LOVE to stay here so I could go out at night and take pictures!!! It is named after Civil War General Abner Doubleday who is said to have created the game of baseball...
And here is the monument to the dog named Sallie Ann. She was said to have hated three things, Rebels, Democrats, and women. You can read about her here.
This barn still has the hole a canon left!
There are so many pictures of the grounds and monuments that I know I would bore you! So I will move on! After we left the park, we were starving. We decided to find the restaurant a server from the night before recommended for us to try while in Gettysburg. It was called The Dobbin House. This historic building had two parts to the restaurant-the fancy part on the main floor and the not so fancy part in the basement. We opted for the basement lol. The menus were the same, but the atmosphere was way more enjoyable in the basement. Our servers were dressed in "period costume" and lighting was very dim. You will see below, the courting candle on our table. My dad bought me one of these years ago on one of his trips. There's a little stick that pushes the candle up. It is said that when a gentleman wants to court a young lady, after he is introduced to the family, a candle is lit. If they like the gentleman, they will push the candle up--the wooden lever goes around and around up the holder, leaving more candle to burn. If they don't like him, they will lower the candle so there is less to burn. When the burning candle hits the top of the winding candle stand, it is time for him to leave! (this picture shows the candle burning way past the top)
Our appetizer was fresh fruit and sweet cheese, cheese cubes, and date bread with cream cheese. Dinner was a roast beef sandwich for Bill and I got the crab cake sandwich. And I couldn't wait for dessert...gingerbread cake with lemon curd sauce....
and it was horrible! lol, I was so excited to have it and Bill wanted to try it as well, but we both just looked at each other after biting into it and he blurts out, "this is horrible!" hahahaha I love lemon, but this was not good... The atmosphere was authentic and I think they tried to keep the recipes authentic as well because it wasn't sweet at all! Oh well, lesson learned!
On Saturday, Bill and I decided to finish the tour with a visit to the National Cemetery. It is here that Abe Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address. The monument below is about where he stood and around it in a half circle, you get to see the stones all joined (rows and rows of them) of the Union soldiers buried there. The headstones only have names, if available and regiment or other info if they knew it.
During the day Saturday, we decided to head into town and browse the shops and eat lunch. I needed some uplifting! The restaurant we dined in for lunch was called Gray and Blue appropriately and we decided to order cheeseburgers with fancy toppings. Each type of fancy topped burger was named after different Generals. Of course they are topped with little flags representing the General of your choice. Guess we were for the South!
As we walked the town, I couldn't help but take pictures. I mean, look at this town! It's wonderful! The storefronts had autumn decor and folks were sitting outside some of the pubs. I mean, look at the lamp posts! Can you just imagine what Christmas looks like here!?!
Saturday night, our last night there, we decided to go ghost hunting lol. One of the locals at a gift shop told me a name of a covered bridge that she has gone to several times growing up. It's in one section of the park, and the park closes after dark, but it isn't patrolled and she said we would be fine. So, we did! And it was a bit freaky-mainly because of the weather if you ask me-all misty and foggy. There were several people there, doing the same thing as us so I really didn't feel scared lol. I took video and pictures but nothing out of the ordinary came up, but we did have something weird happen. When we decided to leave, we got back in the car, careful not to drag any mud in. Bill went to start the car and it wouldn't start! Now, this car doesn't work with keys, it's just a push of the button, but you have to have this key fob near the ignition because it sends a code to start the car (ugh electronics!) The light on the dash lit up, basically the "big important" light which means big important trouble! Bill instantly got mad and started blaming the key fob not having a good battery and now we are stuck and so on... he tried again and by now I am in the glove box looking for information on what to do. By the 5th time, it started up---he did nothing different! As soon as it started he yells, "we're out of here!". We don't know why it did that or what was wrong as it hadn't done it prior and it never did it again...maybe a ghost...maybe not...
Heading back to the room we got to go through town one more time. It was just as pretty at night if not more! And busy!
It was sad packing up to head home. I wanted to go back and picnic in the park. The trip was so incredible and I just didn't want it to end, but I didn't want to overdo it either. To say that I was pleasantly surprised about Gettysburg would be an understatement. For those who have never been, I hope with everything that someday you get to see and experience it. I like history and don't consider myself a history buff, but after this, one can't help but wonder all the what ifs. America is going through yet a not so violent civil war...and if you look at history, Robert E. Lee even states, "this war will go on for a very long time..." As much as people think they "know" why there was a civil war, one should really read a little more to realize this wasn't a war about slavery. Maybe then our country wouldn't be so politically correct and quick to tear down statues or take down flags, but rather teach a history lesson or lend a history book.
Last night after our journey ended, Bill and I unpacked and sat down to watch the movie Gettysburg. Being one of the longest movies made, I almost didn't want it to end. Yes I cried (actually bawled is more like it). Climbing the mountain that these men fought on, seeing the battlefields and envisioning Pickett's march of 15,000 men in one field... and knowing the end. On our final day at the park, we saw this group of scouts doing the tour on foot. It was the realization that boys as young as these had once fought on the same field they were now walking...one can almost hear the drums and bugles....