Walter and Sara On the road to who knows where
On Sunday May 7th, we drove our truck from Cherry Hill Park to the College Park Metro Station on the University of Maryland Campus. They have both indoor and outdoor parking there which is free on Sunday (instead of $5.10 on other days). We parked outside so we wouldn’t have all those lovely concrete posts to deal with. And then we hiked from the lot to the Metro Station.

We found our way downstairs into the station and then took our Senior Smart Cards to the machines and loaded them with money. Our fare each way on the Metro was going to be $2 and the Circulator Bus charges seniors $.50 (for 2 hours of on and off riding) so we decided $5 a piece should do it.

Next we walked over to the turn stiles, tapped our cards on the card logo and presto it let us into the actual station! We waited for a train that was headed into the DC (impossible to make a mistake on that since College Park was the end of the line that day since the Greenbelt Station which is normally the end of the line was closed for repairs). We got the train that said Branch Ave (the other end of the Green Line) and settled down in the mostly empty car for our ride downtown.

We got off at the Archives/Navy Memorial Station per the instructions of the folks at Cherry Hill to make our way a couple of blocks to Madison Dr. There were lots of folks walking and jogging along with a police escort and we realized that while this wasn’t a protest march it was probably some big fund raising walk. We found out later it was a fund raiser for brain cancer research that had been going on for many years and had raised over 20 million dollars over those years.

In any case, we made our way through the cop cars and past the National Gallery where I couldn’t resist taking a photo of one of the sculptures.

National Gallery Sculpture

We found the Circulator Bus stop and stood and talked to some other folks as we waited. They used their phones to check the status of the bus and couldn’t find anything—not a good sign. After about 20 minutes of not seeing any Metro-type buses along the Mall we decided that maybe they weren’t running because of The Walk. So we punted and headed across the Mall to the Air and Space Museum which is what we’d planned to do in the afternoon after we’d seen the monuments.

The place was a zoo. The parking area in front of the museum was entirely full of buses and they were disgorging high school-aged kids mostly in hordes. We sighed and got in line to go through security (just like at the airport for bags and people). Having not set off any alarms (Walter remembered to take his harmonica out of his pocket which saved him from setting off the metal detector) we wandered over to the information booth and got a map.

If you haven’t been to Air and Space, my photos do not do it justice. It is the most over-the-top collection of planes and space vehicles in the world. The entry includes the Spirit of St. Louis and the Moon Lander plus a whole bunch of satellites and other planes. It isn’t very photogenic because it is all so full but it sure does boggle the mind when you come in.

We made our way through the displays on the first floor and then went up stairs for a view of the Space Race Gallery from above. This is the Apollo Soyuz Test Lab.

Apollo Soyuz Test Lab

The Wright Brothers have their own gallery and you get a great view of the original Flyer.

1903 Wright Flyer

Coming back to the entry gallery you get a nice view of all the things hanging from the ceiling including the Spirit of St. Louis.

Spirit of St. Louis

I took more photos that didn’t come out well here than just about any place we’ve visited. There’s just too much going on and too many people walking through your pictures!

There is a great gallery all about the WWI flyers and this lovely Stropp hangs in such a way that I could capture it in all it’s multicolored beauty.   
Stropp plane Air and Space Museum

By the time we’d made our way through all the displays on both floors we were stuffed full of aviation and ready for a break. So we made our way to the cafeteria where they have the largest McDonalds I’ve ever seen along with things from Boston Market. We had lunch and thought we saw a Circulator Bus go by. So we decided we’d hike back across the Mall and see if we could catch one. On the way we passed the new American Indian Museum.

American Indian Museum

And I got a nice shot of the US Capitol.

US Capitol

We only had to wait a little while before a Cirulator Bus came. We boarded, tapped our cars on the icon and presto our fare had been paid. We rode down and across the mall to the Jefferson Memorial where we got off to explore the grounds. Getting off the bus you approach the Memorial from the back.

Jefferson Memorial

We walked around to the front and down to the basement where we were informed that the elevator was out of order so we walked back up and the up the stairs into the memorial itself.

Jefferson Memorial

I took one photo straight on in which everyone was standing taking a picture with their cameras and phones. This one at least there weren’t so many people.

Here is a close up of the man himself.

Jefferson Memorial

I have always had a great fondness for Jefferson so I spent a long while reading the quotes on the walls and soaking in the energy.

There is a lovely Tidal Basin in front of the Memorial and you can see the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial across the way from here.

Martin Luther King Jr Memorial

We hiked back to the bus stop and waited on a bench for the Circulator. There were people on bikes, in stretch limos, on big tour buses, in cabs and in cars all stopping at the monument. This is one of the less visited of the monuments but on a beautiful Sunday afternoon DC was full of people.

We were both beginning to get tired so we decided we’d not get off the bus to visit the MLK and the Korean War Memorials and instead go on to the Lincoln Memorial. The bus drops you off on the street by the Lincoln Memorial and you have to hike around to the front.

At the base of the steps I got this photo of Walter with the Washington Memorial (which is closed until 2018 for repairs) and the Capitol way off 2 1/2 miles in the distance.

Walter Cooke Washington DC Mall

Walter took one look at all the stairs up to the Lincoln Memorial and said there was no way he was climbing them all. So sadly, I left him to rest and climbed up into the memorial itself.

Lincoln Memorial

There are two side galleries in the memorial. On one wall is the Gettysburg Address and on the other is Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. The place was crawling with people and it didn’t have the hush that the Jefferson Memorial had—there were simply too many people.

From the top of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial I took a shot of the Mall and the Washington Memorial.  

Washington Memorial

You can walk back to the street and take the Circulator to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial but it’s about the same distance to walk so that’s what we did. Before you arrive at The Wall, you come to this new statue to the men who fought in Vietnam.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

I am lucky enough that the folks I knew who went to Vietnam all came home alive. My sister and brother-in-law who were just 4-5 years older than me were not so lucky. They both knew many folks who died in the war and thus they had people to find on The Wall.

You approach the monument along a sunken walkway with the wall growing next to you.  

Vietnam War Memorial

In the very center, the beginning of the war in 1959 (at the top on the right) meets the end of the war in 1975 (at the bottom on the left).

Center Vietnam War Memorial

Whether you lost anyone in the war or not it is a very moving memorial.

Vietnam War Memorial

When you cross back from The Wall, you come to the Vietnam Veterans Women’s Memorial.   

Vietnam Veterans Women’s Memorial

We walked out towards the Mall looking for a way to the new WWII Memorial. We found a bench to sit on and watched the parade of folks walking (and riding) by. And were joined by a gray squirrel who clearly had been trained that people meant handouts. He came up empty handed but I got a photo out of the deal.

WA DC squirrel

The WWII Memorial is between the Lincoln and Washington Memorials. So you get a great view up the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial.

Lincoln Memorial

The WWII Memorial has a huge fountain in the middle and two wings—one dedicated to the European Theater and one to the Pacific. This photo was taken from the European end looking across the fountains to the Pacific.

WWII Memorial

On the way around the Memorial (by this time Walter had found another bench to rest on and sent me off to take as many photos as I wanted) I took this shot of the European half.

WWII Memorial

Completing the circle on the Lincoln side of the Memorial there is a wall of stars in memory of the price of freedom.

Price of Freedom WWII Memorial

There are wonderful quotes regarding each stage of the war in the two theaters as you walk around it. It’s very well done.

I went back and found Walter and we began our walk back to Madison Dr. and the Circulator. Along the way I got a shot of the new African American History Museum (which you need ticket to get in and they’re booked until the end of the summer).     

Museum of African American History

The sidewalk was closed at the corner so we had to cross the street and walk several blocks UP and then cross and come back down to catch the bus. But in the end we found the bus stop (and a bench) and low and behold the bus came. We rode the circuit and at Union Station we had the change buses because someone sideswiped our bus! We rode on and got off near the Archives Metro station and walked the two blocks back up 7th St to the station and found the escalator down into the station. We tapped our cards on the icon and presto we were in! Yippee. It was a long wait for the Metro car and it was pretty full when we got on. But within one stop we both had seats and in another we could sit together.

We made it back to the truck and on home without a hitch. We’d been gone for nearly 7 hours which is a long day for us. But it all went well and that was a win given how complicated the trip was.

Monday May 8th (Happy Birthday, Walter), we packed up and headed off towards Gettysburg. There is only one toll road in this part of Maryland and you know that of course Carmine the Garmin had to decide to take us on it (we have since found the setting to tell her to avoid toll roads). We rerouted around it and she tried 2 more times to trap us and send us back that way but in the end we prevailed. We ended up driving a lot of blue highway and seeing a lot of suburban Maryland which was fun but it did take longer than we’d thought it would.

We got a creek-side back-in spot with electricity and water at Gettysburg Campground just west of town. It was $46.20 a night tax included with our Good Sam card. We’ve learned that prices are always higher near big attractions and that seems to be true in the east.

We had a nice view of Marsh Creek as it rushed along. Clearly there’s been high water recently because there were lots of leaves caught up in the lower branches along the creek.

Marsh Creek Gettysburg Campground

We did some errands and then settled in to enjoy our evening. The next morning we took our time and then drove to the Visitors Center at the Gettysburg National Military Park just south of town.

There were already lots of cars in the parking lot but we found a spot okay and took the walk up the hill to the main building. There is a lovely statue of Abraham Lincoln sitting on a bench outside of the Visitors Center.

Lincoln statue Gettysburg VC

Walter Cooke Lincoln statue Gettysburg

We got our map of the driving tour of the military park and since Walter decided he didn’t need either to see the museum or movie ($14 admission for seniors) or the audio CD for the driving tour ($29.99) we headed on back to the truck to begin the drive.

The driving tour takes you to sites all over the military park starting with the initial skirmishes of the battle on July 1, 1863 all the way to the end on July 3rd. The terrain in much the same as it was in 1863 since the whole area has been preserved within the park. But the entire roadway is lined with memorials to those who fought in the battle. Every brigade and regiment on both sides of the battle has at least a small stone if not a large building. I had no idea it would be like that. If you stopped to read them all it could take way more than a day if not a week. Many list the killed, injured, captured and missing stats for the particular group honored.

Gettysburg auto tour memorial

There are also lots of cannon along the road—anywhere there was an artillery unit during the battle, they’ve left a cannon or two or four.

Cannon Gettysburg

I caught someone pointing one at me but no worry, the barrels are all plugged with wood dowels.  

Walter Cooke Cannon Gettysburg

Here’s a view across the battlefield from one of the stops on the drive.

Gettysburg Nat. Military Park

There are stone walls and then wood rail fences all over the battlefield just as there were when it happened.

Near the area where Pickett’s Charge began (the Confederate’s final charge of the battle) there are some nice memorial statues. This is dedicated to the men from Mississippi.  

Gettysburg Mississippi Memorial

And this is dedicated to the many North Carolinians who died in the charge.

North Carolina Gettysburg Memorial

And here is a view of the hill that the Confederates charged up in that last desperate attempt to win the battle.

Gettysburg Pickett's Charge hill

There are an incredible number of ways you can tour the military park. You can take your own car. You can take a bus with a tour guide. You can hire your own guide (we saw folks in groups of 2 to about 10 with guides). You can take a Segway tour. And you can take an equestrian tour.

Gettysburg equestrian tour

All the years that I’ve known Walter he’s read about the Civil War. He knows a great deal about the battle of Gettysburg so neither of us felt the need for a guide. Without him there, I’d have at least wanted the audio tour to explain to me where we were and why we cared about the Peach Orchard. There are interpretive signs here and there and they help but the little booklet that they give you doesn’t say much.

The largest of the monuments are those dedicated to whole states. The one from Pennsylvania is the biggest, I think.    

Gettysburg Pennsylvania Memorial

Towards the end of the driving tour you come to the top of the hill where Pickett’s Charge was repelled. You can see out across the military park to the farm house that was there the day of the battle.

Pickett's Charge hilltop

And there are good interpretive signs both about Pickett’s Charge and about the artillery unit that helped to hold off the charge. The small carts behind the cannon are called limbers. They held a box of ammunition. Then behind them you’d find a caisson with 3 boxes of ammunition. “Over hill, over dale, and the caissons go rolling along.”

Cannons and limbers Gettysburg

Just across the road there were flowers in bloom. “Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing...”

Gettysburg phlox

“Gone to graveyards everyone... When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”

The last stop on the tour is the Soldiers National Cemetery where Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address when the cemetery was dedicated in November 1863.    

Soldiers National Cemetery Gettysburg

Battlefields aren’t one of my favorite things but I am very glad that we took the time to go and visit Gettysburg. It was an important turning point in the Civil War and the over 55,000 men who were killed, injured, or went missing or were captured mark it as the horror it was.

Energetically there is very little evidence the folks who died here (but you can take ghost tours if you want). But the huge number of memorials everywhere stand witness to the grief and anguish that the battle exacted on everyone on both sides of the war.

By early that evening, I felt as if I were having an allergy attack. But no, an hour or two later it was clear. I had a cold. And it was the fastest moving cold I’d ever had. Within hours I had an sore throat and runny nose. By the next morning I was totally stuffed up and miserable. We packed up and drove west to pick up I-81 and then turned south to I-70 where we headed west to join I-68 into West Virginia.

Just east of Morgantown West Virginia we stopped at Cooper Rock State Forest where we got an electric only site backed into a lovely forest. GREEN!

Coopers Rock State Forest campground

There were showers and laundry here and I had the thought to perhaps do laundry. But truth be told is that by the time we got set up and had lunch all I wanted to do was sleep. I curled up for a nap and was gone for 2 hours.

I got up and made dinner and we fiddled with the internet which was 1X coverage at the campground. With our booster we could sometimes get enough signal to pick up email and I did manage to get onto Facebook long enough to check in but otherwise it was pretty hopeless. I was asleep again before 11 and slept like a rock all night—a good 10 hours. We had thunder and lightening and heavy rain and I missed it all.

On Thursday May 11th, we simply hung out. It rained off and on all day and most of the time we were socked in with fog. Walter had managed to find the local PBS station so he had a little TV to watch and I updated this missive and tried to get our email. Exciting, no? Just what the doctor ordered, I think.

On Friday May 12th we packed up and headed back to I-68 and continued west through Morgantown and then turned north on I-79 up into Pennsylvania until we hit I-70 where we turned west and went through the funny little northern panhandle of West Virginia (for about 13 miles) and on into Ohio. About 40 miles east of Columbus we turned north off the freeway to Dillon State Park on Dillon Reservoir.

They had had lots of open sites when we’d checked their on-line reservation system earlier in the week but they filled up some when we got there. No problem there were still plenty of sites that were big enough for us—and pretty level too. We got a nice electrical hook up site (again no water or sewer) that backed into some trees for $27 a night since summer rates had just begun. We registered and set up camp and sighed a great sigh of relief to discover that our hot spot had a decent (though not fantastic) signal. In addition, they have a WiFi hot spot at the camp store at the entrance so when all else fails you can use that.

Walter found quite a bit of over-the-air TV including the OSU PBS station so all was good.

On Saturday May 13th it was SUNNY but cold in the morning. We puttered around home and I decided it was time to do laundry. So we loaded it up and took it to the Laundromat next to the camp store. It was empty! And the washers only cost $1! I had one load and while it chugged along we went and had nice hot showers (though the place was a little grungy and old) and then put the clothes in a big dryer for 1/2 hour for another buck. While the clothes dried I updated Norton etc on the free WiFi. Life is good.

When we got back the camp hosts were cleaning the site next to us and I stopped to talk to them and we chatted half the afternoon away. I guess it was time for me to flap my lips!

That afternoon and evening we settled in for some serious planning and managed to among other things snag a spot (clearly a cancellation since this place was booked full a month ago when I checked) for 4 days over Memorial Day Weekend at Schodack Island State Park in the middle of the Hudson River just south of Albany. We don’t usually plan things this far ahead but holiday weekends are often really a challenge. So it feels really nice to know where we’ll be for the next 2 weeks.

On Sunday we’re headed to Jackson Center, OH to visit the Airstream Factory and see if we can’t replace the rock guard that we dented a week ago. Then we’ll visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park (staying at West Branch State Park). From there we’re heading up to Allegany State Park in New York and then to Four Mile Creek State Park on Lake Ontario so we can visit Niagara Falls. We’ll then drop down into the Finger Lakes area to Watkins Glen State Park outside of Ithaca, NY and then on to Schodack Island for the Memorial Day weekend.