The Gettysburg Address
Gettysburg Travel Blog› entry 2 of 16 › view all entries
Miles Traveled: 307
Roads Traveled: I-271S/I-(4)80E/I-76E/US 30E
Time on the Road: 6 hours*
States Crossed: Ohio, Pennsylvania
Tanks of Gas: .9
CD’s Listened to: DJ Green Lantern, Common, Poe & The Big Chill Soundtrack
* Time on the Road includes the 1 hour spent eating dinner with my Mom and Don at a restaurant in Podunk, PA. They were on their way back to Ohio from Maryland. Only my family does this, by the way. It is like a wacked version of a math question on the SAT. If Jewels eats lunch with her Dad, Phil Rossi, in Cleveland at Noon and Terry and Don Weber eat lunch at 1pm in Baltimore and both of them leave their current locations within one hour of eating with Jewels in the Jeep traveling Eastbound at a constant speed of 70 mph and Terry and Don in the RV traveling Westbound at a constant speed of 57 mph and stop to let Kibby (the dog) out twice for 10 minutes, at what point in time and location in Pennsylvania will their paths cross? You think that is insane? This type of calculation also happened at the post 9/11 locked down Philadelphia International Airport • my mom was having a great time being searched and interrogated by heavily armed marines. Cheers!
The Gettysburg Address
Four score and seven…never mind…we all know how it ends.
I am a very observant driver and passenger. I tend to see things while driving that others may not catch. (Hey, Michelle • 3 words: Starving Asia Canadias!) Hence, I do plan on relaying amusing moments and fun-facts that I have learned while driving from town to town. The first of which, are some relatively new road signs that I have never seen before. When signs of this nature are posted, I can only ask myself, “What sort of tragic (idiotic) event happened that this sign had to be erected?” Heading into the Allegheny tunnel in PA there are numerous signs posted that state “Do Not change lanes while in tunnel. Please remove your sunglasses and turn on your headlights. State Law.” So, not only is it a suggestion, but the sunglasses rule was actually lobbied, taken to the State House floor, presented, argued over, voted on and passed? Really? What sort of moronic moment in the driving history of Pennsylvania led to this? This is as bad as in Ohio where signs tell you that if you get in an accident to pull over to the side of the freeway and the other Ohio moment of legal genius, “Slow Down or Move Over for Stopped Vehicles.” However, my favorite bit was that after the tunnel there was another sign reminding you to put your sunglasses back on and turn off your headlights. And I thought that Kentucky was the state where education paid. I also drove through an “Aggressive Driver Zone • High Crash Area!” that asked motorists to “Be Alert and Arrive Unhurt.” Apparently, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is just teeming with want to be sloganeers and ad men. By the way, if anyone can tell me what “Brake Retarders Unlawful” means, I would love to know.
I learned some extremely fascinating things while on US 30 (that’s a blue line in the road atlas.) First, I learned that there is a llama farm just of off I-76 exit 142. If anyone wants one…I know where to find them! Secondly, while driving on US 30 I learned that real life situational irony is one of the funniest things of all times. Even though I had about ¼ tank of gas upon entering US 30 I didn’t know just how long I would be on it and/or when I would see another gas station. Therefore, I stopped at the first one I could find. (Totally old school • no pay at pump, cash only, does accept local checks!) It turns out that the gas station was out of gas. I have experienced this moment before, even in civilized parts of the world. However, the clerk told me that the reason they were out of gas was that the semi-tanker that was driving to that station to deliver the gas had run out of gas on US 30 while coming from Gettysburg. Hilarious!
While en-route from the modern day civilization of I-76 to the tourist trap of American history that is Gettysburg I was very fascinated by what was advertised and up for sale along US 30. Tucked in between swerves and curves ranging from 10 mph to 55 mph should you choose to veer your vehicle to the side of the road you can take a gander at the local wares of kitschy crap Americana. There is Gill’s Goat Ranch (“fresh goat milk and goat pelts here” • so says the sign), Pine Trees (buy enough to build your own eternal Christmas theme park!), Land of Little Horses (exactly what it sounds like) and my favorite, Mr. Ed’s World Famous Elephant Museum complete with a life size plaster elephant statue out front. Mr. Ed fancies himself quite the entrepreneur as he also peddles, World Famous Roast Peanuts and Homemade Candy & Fudge.
I also learned that there is a master plan afoot in Pennsylvania to wipe out an entire sect of the state’s population. US 30 is a frighteningly curvy and hilly blue line (almost unable to drive it in decent weather and road conditions at more than 25-30mph.) It dips and winds through and around the foothills of the mountain. If an engineer could condense it into a 90-second span at 125 mph, it would be the best rollercoaster of all times! Please bear in mind that I have driven the autobahn more than once in cars that max out at over 140 mph at top speed. So believe me when I tell you just how treacherous this stretch of road is. US 30 is nearly impossible to drive sober and I could only imagine it after ONE beer, yet alone several. However, this fear did not stop the brilliant minds in Pennsylvania from putting The Mountain Top Biker Bar perched amongst the elms and oaks at the very highest peak of the mountain on an “L-curve”; to be honest it is really a sharp 40-degree U-turn to the left. As I drove past, the place was absolutely packed! It was the only bar for about 20 miles on US 30 and the banner outside read, “Welcome All Bikers! Sunday Special: 2-20oz Coors Lights and a Dawg $7.00…CATCH ALL THE NASCAR ACTION HERE!” Obviously, the sunglasses on/off law makers were hard at work trying to figure out a way to decline the PA mullet and leather sporting, Skynard listening, white trash faction while making it look like a DUI related accident. Unwanted population control at its finest. Simply a genius plan. Well done, Pennsylvania.
Gettysburg is home to many moments in American history and exploits the bajeesus out of it (can’t say I blame them, really.) At the surface level, it truly is a tourist trap of American history. However, if you look deeper than the freak-show re-enactors milling about in full Yankee uniform riding through town in horse-drawn carriages you will notice a strange culture clash. Yuppie youths of the east coast dressed in their best “I totally just threw on last season’s $75 DKNY t-shirt, D&G stressed jeans and white baseball hat” uniform descend like a swarm of locusts upon this town from the middle of August until the middle of May, completely changing the atmosphere. The parking lots of Gettysburg College are filled with hand me down Audis, BMWs and Volvos. The students of Gettysburg are the kids that grew up Summering in the Hampton’s and spent Christmas break skiing in St. Moritz. I only had two students out of 80 that were actually from Pennsylvania. The rest were all NYC, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont transplants that found Gettysburg College on their 8th grade class trip. However, my students were an amazing collection of individuals. They only looked the part; thankfully, they chose not to act it.
As you can surely imagine, Gettysburg has its own odd locals, besides the re-enactors, whom, by the way, will speak to you in American English of the Civil War Era, there are the “townies.” I used to be somewhat bewildered by the people of Cleveland and their incessant need to buy a car, even if it is a crappy car that is barely street legal from a safety point of view. Nowhere else on the planet will you find more temporary tags on busted beater cars than in the city of Cleveland. However, in the parking lot of the Gettysburg Wal-Mart there is a totally obscure car related phenomenon taking place. At any given moment, one can easily spot not one, not two, but at the very minimum five cars that are 1980’s classics (Camaros, Firebirds etc.) all sporting at least one coat of DIY primer gray spray paint. I have known several good old country boys over my lifetime and I am completely aware that they are all about fixing and painting things themselves, especially when it is car related, but some things should be left to the professionals of MAACO. Inside the Wal-Mart, more amusement awaits. Upon entering, I thought I was at Cedar Point for the day as I came across three different couples wearing matching t-shirts. The elderly couple wore, “What part of no don’t you understand?”, the middle age couple was wearing the exact same Harley Davidson t-shirt and the youngest couple chose to outfit themselves in arrow t-shirts “Bun in the Oven” with the down arrow and “I’m with stupid” with the side arrow. While on my trek through Wal-Mart, several employees informed me that it was Hurricane Season and that I needed to stock up on batteries and water. Yup, all over that one! I was almost at the verge of a socio-cultural melt down when I spotted the best sign ever: “Las Estampillas Comidas No Son Validos Para Los Productos.” Translation: Food stamps are not valid on these products. This label was slapped on the hot dog grill and slushee machine at the Wal-Mart Café and this sign was only posted in Spanish.
The Campus Experience
Oddly enough, one of my students was actually a professor (the Athletic Director.) He decided to take my class because he was about to start his Ph.D. and wanted to brush up on his research, reading and writing skills. Only me! First day teaching at the collegiate level and I have to teach someone that has been a professor for 15 years? Sure, Jewels, no pressure! He ended up being really amusing and totally into what I taught him. Before class on Wednesday, we were discussing Division III athletics and how the whole event and preparation for a game is completely different from a Division I school. He invited me to come to the game on Saturday and I accepted.
As most of you are aware, I am a huge advocate of amateur, minor league and collegiate athletics. My number one reason being that these athletes are just that. They are actual athletes that play with heart and for the love of the game. As opposed to the majority of professional athletes who are a pack of selfish show-boaters that play for the status of being an icon and of course, the millions of dollars in advertising revenue. Hence, I was extremely excited to go to a Division III gridiron match up. Although it was a good game and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, I was totally unprepared to revert to high school. In the world of NCAA football I am used to at best OSU games in the glorious horseshoe shaped Ohio Stadium and at worst, UC’s Nippert Stadium. There were entirely too many similarities between Saturday afternoon games at SHHS and the one I attended at Gettysburg. The Gettysburg field was just that, a field (that was also painted for use by the soccer team and men’s lacrosse team) with the “home” side having a grandstand out of cement and the “away” side made out of scaffold. Grant it, it is a very nice field and is well maintained, but it is still just a field with two sets of bleachers. The Fraternity boys (as opposed to the senior class) sold hot dogs and water for a dollar. All of the students came to socialize and hear the marching band, not to watch a game and the majority of the girls chose to wear sundresses, flip-flops and Paris Hilton-esque designer sunglasses. The only difference occurred in the parking lot. Parental units, dressed in khaki shorts and plaid button down Polo shirts gingerly sipped martini’s out of plastic glassware while sitting atop the trunk of their $60,000 cars as opposed to my Dad, Mr. Hedgyes, Mr. Brown and their cronies huddled together under the eave of the school to smoke a cigar in the parking lot. As a side note: there was also a Fran Kalafatis-type Mom blowing an air horn and cheering wildly for her boy the entire game!
Side Story: The True Battle at Gettysburg
I had two major battles my first night at Gettysburg. One of them involved the comfort level, or lack thereof, of the mattress on my bed at Little House (where I was staying.) After a valiant attempt to sleep on a mattress that was apparently made of sheet rock I decided to try the sofa. After sleeping on the wrap around leather sofa, which I kept sticking to (think leather car seats in Summer) and attempting to sleep on the pullout couch, I eventually won the battle of the bed. I decided to inspect the mattress and box spring. I picked up the mattress only to discover two ½ thick pieces of press ply wood that was wedged in between the box spring and mattress. Why someone would do this • I have no idea. Plywood removed and battle won!
The other battle took a bit more craftiness to win. Before the battle of the bed, I was lounging outside in my pajamas on my patio having a coffee and doing the Sunday crossword puzzle (like I do) and all seemed fine until I decided to go inside. I entered the house and found a weird gooey, slimy, sticky, tar-like substance on the cuff of my PJ pants. Somewhere between the patio table and the door to Little House I must have brushed by something sticky. So, I opened the door to the patio and turned on the overhead light only to find that I had an army of slugs infest my patio area. There were so many of them that I couldn’t even go out onto the doorstep without stepping on one. Lying amongst all of the live slugs was one squished, dying slug (guess that would be the one that was now on my pants.) There was only solution to this gigantic problem. I went across the street to 7-11, bought a container of salt and sprinkled away. The next morning I hosed down all of the molten slug carcasses off the patio. After slaying what may have been the entire slug community in Gettysburg in one swoop, I didn’t see a single slug for the rest of my stay.