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 didnt 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. Were 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. Im 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. Ive 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. Were off to a good start. 7:31 AM We pull off the freeway to fix a broken screen that blocks sun from the drivers 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 were in Ohio now so he has to be very careful. They are quick to pull you over if youre 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. Were just at the beginning of Picketts charge at Gettysburg. When we stopped, it looked like Lees 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 well 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. Its 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 grandmothers 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… . Were now watching Episode 1 of The Civil War by Ken Burns… . Another rest stop. I borrowed a few French Fries from Cliff. I dont 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. Were pretty far behind schedule. I think Cliff forgot to make the shift between Central and Eastern time when he put the schedule together, plus its over 700 miles from Oak Park to Gettysburg. Thats a long haul for one day even without all the stops were making. Everyone in good spirits… . Were supposed to eat supper at the Perkins Restaurant in Gettysburg at 8 PM but were 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 Weve been on the road for 12 hours now. Cliff calls Perkins and tells them well 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. Its like being on a bus going to a church camp circa 1954. 8:52 PM Stop for refueling. Everyone is exhausted. Were 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. Im too tired to eat so I just walk around to stay awake. Our group doesnt leave the restaurant until almost midnight. These senior adults are a lot perkier than I am. 1 PM Im 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 weve had reservations for months, and even though weve 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. Its been a long, long day–-17 hours from the time we left Oak Park. Everyone has remained amazingly upbeat despite the scheduling snafus. Were 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 Harpers Ferry and Antietam. Tonight were eating supper at the Bavarian Inn overlooking the Potomac River. Cliff says well be there by 6 PM. After yesterday, Im not so sure about the schedule. But it doesnt matter. Were all having a great time. And Phyllis has more chocolate chip cookies.