July 29, 1999 - Day 49 - Bedford to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
84.8 miles - 13.6 mph average - 3367 total miles - 51 mph max speed (whoo-hoo!)
Aunt Rosalie and Uncle Hal Hurst
Rosalie is my mom's sister (you'll see the resemblance tomorrow). She and Hal are quite a couple. They drove up from North Carolina, partly to see me, partly to see Hal's brother in Pittsburgh, partly to see my sister in Pittsburgh. We met at a Denny's in Breezewood, where Interstate 70 intersects with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and chatted for a good hour or so. It was sure great to see them.
Hal is unique. He's done a little bit of everything in his lifetime, from Army Air Corps to chicken farming to real estate. And all of it with unmatched flair and a strong will. He's an old-fashioned romantic and a man's man. And he loves a good laugh.
Best of all, he's been the best thing for my aunt.
My aunt is equally unique, and has an equally strong personality. My grandfather, Benjamin Virgil Hall, sold his Brooklyn wholesale hardwood flooring business to her in the early 1940's, making her the only woman in that business in the state of New York and New York City. She was told flat out by people in the business that a woman couldn't make it. That only gave her incentive. Hall Flooring was the biggest flooring dealer in New York. Nuff said.
She not only ran that business, but raised a daughter as a single parent at the same time.
And, like her two sisters, she was college educated at a time when few women were. I think of my Aunt Rosalie as a woman of the 90's in the 40's - way out in front of the curve; a groundbreaker. And groundbreakers don't have it easy.
Best of all, she's been the best thing for my uncle.
I got a complete update on the condition of my cousin, Kathie, Rosalie's daughter, who is just home from the hospital after very serious back surgery. Kathie, I'd like to wish you well as you work daily in your recuperation from this surgery. I know it can't be easy. Keep up the good work. Your mom says you've been very positive and patient.
I am so glad to hear you're enjoying these journals. You've always enjoyed history and you've always enjoyed family, so they're perfect for you!!
Kathie's recuperation is very tough. She can walk, but must not sit, for weeks yet, and is not allowed to twist or turn (no dancing yet, Kathie!!). Kathie lives in a group home in Hendersonville, NC, and just got home again this past Monday.
Welcome Home, Kathie.
I have a correction to make on Hal's age. He's not nearly 89, only 88 1/2. He was born January 1, 1911 (1/1/11) at 1:00 a.m. and weighed 11 pounds. (But every time he bets on #1 he loses.)
Well.....GOT it!!!! Whatever it was that was making me weak, mental or physical, I got past it today. I felt strong all day today, from the core. I had a great talk with Lois last night. I know that helped.
The day had a lot of climbing, but I saw one of the most relieving sights in a while: flat terrain. I haven't seen this since central Ohio. This was the view toward the bottom of the last major summit (Tuscarora). It came as a wonderful surprise because I'm going off a road map, not a topo map. I knew the hills had to end, I just didn't know when. And my memory driving through this area was that they didn't end so abruptly. Man, this was SUCH a good sight. I'm over the last hurdle. Home stretch, baby!!
Looking north after climbing out of Breezewood
The Appalachians are NOT the Rockies, but I did eight of these climbs today. I'm not going to show you pictures of EVERY one, but I do feel SO good being past this, that I can appreciate their beauty now, and I want to have a record of it.
Looking back west on Breezewood
Eastward view from summit
On the Pennsylvania Turnpike you go through this mountain in a tunnel. A pathetic 2195 feet! That's half the altitude of Denver (which is down on the Plains, for goodness sake!) I read somewhere that the highest point in the Appalachians is lower than the lowest point in Colorado. Did I mention that already? Sorry if I did. It just amazes me.
Sideling Hill trucker info
This is the main difference between the Appalachians and the Rockies - the grades. This is the hill where I got up to 51 mph today, my second-highest speed on the trip (Tioga Pass being the first). I think it might have been higher if my tires were inflated to max.
Another piddling 2123 feet, but it feels like you must go 5000 feet below sea level between these hills. By the way, this part of the Appalachian chain is aligned kind of like that 'battleship' arrangement in Nevada, long continuous ridges lined up in a north-south alignment. They're called 'penaplains' (sp?) and are a very unusual geologic development, I believe from glaciation. Can someone help out here?
Lincoln Highway TollHouse
I didn't stop in for cookies, but I wanted to let you know that I rode all day today on the Lincoln Highway, America's first coast-to-coast paved roadway. (Did you know the first patch of experimental pavement for it was in Malta, Illinois, just west of Dekalb?)
If you like this sort of thing, we have good information available on the history of this highway on our 'Trails' link on the 'Info Maps' page in the index on the left.
Home of Nellie Fox
St. Thomas, Pennsylvania. This did the heart of a Chicago White Sox fan good. I thought about Nellie going from this little town in the heart of Pa. to Chicago, the big city, to play ball. I think one reason he is so loved still is because he kept his small-town goodness all through his career. He belongs in the Hall.
See that ridge?
Ok, it's history lesson time. This is looking directly east across Chambersburg, which is about 25 miles east of Gettysburg. Robert E. Lee knew his geography. In late June, 1863, he was marching his Army of Virginia northward on THIS side of that ridge, with full knowledge that the ridge would serve as a barrier between his army and the Army of the Potomac, which was guarding Washington, D.C. to the east. Lincoln knew that Lee was moving north and had given orders that his army move north, paralleling Lee, staying between him and the Capital.
Lee's destination? Harrisburg, the rail center of the North. Destroy the North's rail capability, then turn back south and walk into the Washington, D.C. War over.
I don't know if it shows in this picture, but that ridge (and the valley on this side of it) turn in a northeasterly direction just north of Chambersburg, pointing directly at Harrisburg.
If Lee had marched his men out of the South anywhere farther west in Pa., he would have been marching them up into places like Sideling Hill or Tuscarora Summit, terrain much too steep for his barefoot troops. He was coming up just the right valley.
Lee, of course, never made it to Harrisburg. He got sidetracked directly to the east because of a chance encounter between a few of his troops and some Northern troops in the town of Gettysburg, and decided the big battle was as well fought there as at Harrisburg.
The high ground, The HIGH GROUND!!!!
Well, Sam Shepard plays a better Buford than the Buford that this statue looks like, but that's the movies ("Gettysburg"). Lois and I both love the scene where Buford realizes Lee's army is going to get to Gettysburg first and occupy the critical high ground of Culp's Hill and Cemetey Ridge.
He's vastly outnumbered, but is credited with saving the Union cause on Day 1 (July 1) by fanning his troops out just west of Gettysburg and delaying the Confederate troops that were marching right down what is now the Lincoln Highway out of Chambersburg. That delay allowed Union troops to arrive in numbers and hold the dominant physical position of Cemetery Ridge for the next two days. As we know, that position was critical to the outcome of the three-day battle.
I know this is really hokey, but the whole 25 miles between Chambersburg and Gettysburg I was singing the theme music from the movie.
And thinking about those tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers who walked down that very road on a day not really so long ago. For so many it was their last walk.
This is the building that sits on Seminary Ridge (of course) on the west side of town. From that cupola, you can see well to the east and to the west. Buford understood the lay of the land when he was up there, and positioned his men accordingly.
It's still the Lutheran Seminary.
Clump of Trees
This is view from the Home Sweet Home Motel, where I'm staying tonight. That little clump of trees in the middle of the picture may be perhaps the most important grove in our history - it was the point of focus of Pickett's Charge on July 3, 1863. Some of Pickett's Division actually got there and held for a few minutes -- before being driven back.
Tomorrow morning I'll take a brief tour of the park before leaving to ride to my mom in Quarryville, about 65 miles east.
It's supposed to get really hot again starting tomorrow. But... 10 mph winds from the west! I can do anything with tailwind.
Previous Day (7/28) Next Day (7/30)