Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gettysburg

My wife and I took our annual spring break pilgrimage to Gettysburg and the Pennsylvania Dutch Country last week. Our first stop, after a night at the wonderful Hampton Inn and Suites in Woodstock, VA was Gettysburg. I have been visiting Gettysburg since about 1980. As a Southern boy whose ancestors fought for the Confederacy, Gettysburg has always been an intriguing, emotive, what-if kinda place for me.

Anyway, on the way to Gettysburg we stopped at Mim's Mighty Meaty Hoagies. I have always wanted to stop there simply for the kitschy name. It was also well spoken of by the cast of Route 30 the Movie. I was not impressed. I had a foot long Italian combo hoagie that was priced just right at $4.99, but it had too much mayo (and that's saying something, because I love mayo). I also have the smell of fried onion rings forever etched into my memory and in my coat. Our next stop was Mister Ed's Elephant Museum and Gift Shop, a tremendously kitschy place with some of the best deals on candy you can find. Mister Ed is a local legend, a sometimes stage actor, and he was featured prominently in Route 30 the Movie. He roasts some awesome Virginia peanuts in his store, and the best thing you can find are his butter toasted pecans, almonds, peanuts, and cashews. The store features lots of kitschy elephant memorabilia and other tacky, but fun souvenirs. It's definitely worth a stop when traveling on the Lincoln Highway.

After checking in to the Hilton Garden Inn we took a few tours of the battlefield. There was still a considerable amount of snow on the ground in Gettysburg, which made battle walks a no-no. We visited the Museum where we watched the excellent film A New Birth of Freedom. The scene explaining Pickett's Charge is so powerful and the sound of cannon so realistic, it really gives you an idea of the aural assault that the men were under. After seeing the film, we saw the Cyclorama. This 360 degree painting has been enhanced with sound, light, and narration. It is one of the most moving pieces of "living" history I have ever experienced. Both times I have seen it I have cried, this time a bit more than the other. It is quite powerful, to say the least.

We had dinner at the Appalachian Brewing Company. The ABC is located at General Lee's Headquarters/The Thompson House. When I was a kid it was known as General Lee's Restaurant. It's been a few other things over the years, but it has been the ABC for about a decade now. The ABC is a brewery out of Harrisburg. They feature a great selection of artisan brewed beers. My favorite was the Jolly Scot Scottish Ale. I also had the Susquehanna Stout, Water Gap Wheat, Mountain Lager, Purist Pale Ale, Celtic Knot Irish Red, and their root beer. The food was great and reasonably priced. I had an all you can eat fish and chips (Haddock), a bowl of Brewer's Cheddar Ale Soup, and a Switchback Burger (made with root beer barbecue sauce) on my 3 visits.

The next day we took a podcast tour of the Peach Orchard. This was interesting and I learned a great deal about the fighting in this part of the field. I'm much more of a student of the fighting on Day 1 & 3, so this was welcome information for me. The weather was good, a bit windy, but quite sunny. We had lunch at Gettysburg Eddie's, complete with a big hunk of gingerbread. We attended a lecture by Gettysburg ranger John Heiser on Gettysburg veterans' roles in memorializing the battlefield. I had done some reading on this a few years back and a friend's dissertation focuses a great deal on this topic. It was a fantastic program and quite informative. We then spent some time with a friend who works at the Park before going through the Museum and doing a bit more battlefield touring before eating, having a malt at the Cannonball Old Tyme Malt Shop and calling it a night.

The next morning we headed to Delaware to do a little sight seeing, Neuchatel Chocolates in Oxford, PA to get some authentic Swiss chocolate, and then back up to Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse, PA for our base for the next 6 days.

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