Tuesday, June 15, 2004

June 15, 2004

6:06 AM Civil War Tour Day 1: I am writing these words from the Holiday Inn in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Yesterday turned out to be a lot longer than anyone expected. Our group of 35 left Oak Park at 7 AM on Monday and we didn’t get to our rooms until a little after 1 AM–just five hours ago. We start our first full day of touring in less than 2 hours. Some highlights from Day 1: 7:08 AM We left a few minutes late because we were waiting for Betty Mull to arrive. Betty signed up for the trip last Friday and we thought that perhaps she had misunderstood the starting time. But she showed up and off we went. Cliff Raad is in charge of the trip. He set it up, made all the arrangements along the way, and has a big notebook with all the details. We’re riding in a 46-seat deluxe coach that says Mid-America on its side. Cliff and Phyllis have the front seats on the right side, and I have the two seats just behind the driver. Paul Lavenau and Vern Henriksen are right behind me. Across from them are Phyllis Zelek and Ruby Solin. I know most of the people on the tour, but not all. I’m the youngest by a wide margin. Almost everyone else is connected with our Golden Heirs senior adult ministry. A genial spirit prevails. Lots of laughter and lots of Yankee-Rebel talk. As we leave Oak Park, Vern and Paul discuss their respective golf games. I’ve played with both men and managed to make them look very good indeed… . Just before we get to the Eisenhower Expressway, our driver says, “Do you see that apartment building on the right?” We all look. “Well, I see it too,” he says, and then starts laughing, which cracks everyone up. We’re off to a good start. 7:31 AM We pull off the freeway to fix a broken screen that blocks sun from the driver’s face. 8:17 AM We start watching the movie “Gettysburg” on the TVs hanging from the ceiling of the bus. 9:20 AM Stop in Elkhart, IN to pick up Ruby Solin. 10:25 AM First rest stop–-somewhere in eastern IN. Irene Watt asks me three questions: 1) Who was Frederick Douglass? 2) How could Christians in the North and South interpret the Bible so differently? 3) How did the slaves come to embrace the Christian faith? … Paul Lavenau and I discuss James Longstreet, the controversial Confederate general whose advice Lee should have followed at Gettysburg. 12:10 PM The driver says we’re in Ohio now so he has to be very careful. They are quick to pull you over if you’re only a few miles above the speed limit… . Cliff has fallen asleep so we wake him up. 12:32 PM We stop to change drivers. Our first leg is so long that one driver cannot legally drive the whole thing. Our new drive is Al Greenquist who has driven for other Golden Heirs trips. 3:31 PM A pit stop. We’re just at the beginning of Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg. When we stopped, it looked like Lee’s men were doing well. But I confidently told Paul Lavenau that I predicted the charge would fail. Leads to a discussion of why Lee sent his men on what was basically a suicide mission. Famous quote by one of the Virginians afterwards: “We lost our best men and gained nothing but glory.” A little later this AM we’ll stand on Cemetery Ridge (the Union lines) and see how hopeless it was for 15,000 Confederates to cross a mile of open space and march directly into the teeth of Union guns. It’s amazing that a single soldier made it across the rock wall. 4:45 PM Somewhere in eastern Ohio Cliff asks me if my grandfather fought in the Civil War. No, but I had relatives on my grandmother’s side (the Mayfields) who fought for Mississippi in the Civil War. Some of them probably died at Gettysburg since Mississippi was well-represented at the battle–-General Barksdale who died here was from Mississippi… . We’re now watching Episode 1 of The Civil War by Ken Burns… . Another rest stop. I “borrowed” a few French Fries from Cliff. I don’t think he wants them back. Called Marlene and then called Nick who is in Minnesota with his buddies this week working at a church camp … The weather is hot, steamy, sunny and clear. 5:25 PM Cliff passes around some chocolate chip cookies that Phyllis baked. 6:58 PM Rest stop somewhere in PA. We’re pretty far behind schedule. I think Cliff forgot to make the shift between Central and Eastern time when he put the schedule together, plus it’s over 700 miles from Oak Park to Gettysburg. That’s a long haul for one day even without all the stops we’re making. Everyone in good spirits… . We’re supposed to eat supper at the Perkins Restaurant in Gettysburg at 8 PM but we’re at least 3 hours away. I suggest to Paul Lavenau that we skip Perkins and go to White Castle instead. He laughs and says he doubts the others will go along with the idea. 8:11 PM We’ve been on the road for 12 hours now. Cliff calls Perkins and tells them we’ll be there at 9 PM. Lots of chatter on the bus. A long way to go. 8:25 PM The ladies in the back of the bus are having a singalong. They are singing “In my heart there rings a melody,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “Climb Up Sunshine Mountain,” and a whole list of other old-time songs. While they sing, Cliff and Vern and Paul and I talk about our favorite restaurants. It’s like being on a bus going to a church camp circa 1954. 8:52 PM Stop for refueling. Everyone is exhausted. We’re only 30 miles from Gettysburg, but the narrow road snakes through the mountains, and we discover that most of it is under construction. People are pretty hungry. Cliff discovers the Perkins in Gettysburg closes at 10 PM. Paul and I suggest going on to Gettysburg and letting people find a restaurant there. Once we get back on the road, Cliff spots a different Perkins in Chambersburg that agrees to take our group. We stop for the meal about 10:30 PM. I’m too tired to eat so I just walk around to stay awake. Our group doesn’t leave the restaurant until almost midnight. These senior adults are a lot perkier than I am. 1 PM I’m not sure about the last few miles because I fell asleep. We arrived at the Holiday Inn Express where we met one of the grouchiest clerks in recent memory. Even though we’ve had reservations for months, and even though we’ve sent a deposit, she demanded full payment in advance. No one was awake enough to argue with her. Cliff wrote the check and we made it to our rooms by 1:15 PM. Marge Utigard and another lady are in the room next to me. I take a shower and hit the sack. It’s been a long, long day–-17 hours from the time we left Oak Park. Everyone has remained amazingly upbeat despite the scheduling snafus. We’re off to a good start. The continental breakfast starts downstairs in 15 minutes. Our bus leaves a 8 AM. First stop: The Gettysburg Battlefield Museum, then a tour guide will show us the battlefield, then on to the Eisenhower farm, then to Harper’s Ferry and Antietam. Tonight we’re eating supper at the Bavarian Inn overlooking the Potomac River. Cliff says we’ll be there by 6 PM. After yesterday, I’m not so sure about the schedule. But it doesn’t matter. We’re all having a great time. And Phyllis has more chocolate chip cookies.

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