- Where We Started: Great Falls, Va.
- Where We Ended: Newburgh, N.Y.
- Miles Driven: 577 (19,155 total).
- New States: New York.
- States Still to Go: 8 (New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
Our original plan was to hit the road Saturday afternoon, as soon as Joan and I were done with our respective commitments. That turned out to be a pipe dream, as we quickly agreed that we needed to rest up Saturday and instead hit the road again Sunday morning. We both knew that meant we'd need to close out nine states in just three days, but we were both exhausted. In fact, when I arrived home from my meeting Saturday afternoon, Joan was napping. Once we agreed on our revised plan, she rolled over and slept for another four hours. I then managed a three-hour couch nap myself.
When Sunday arrived, however, we were ready. So we reloaded the car with only what we needed for three days -- oh, and the dogs -- and FHMA's three-day, tour-closing drive was officially underway. Although still a bit beat, the humans were excited to complete the 48-state quest. The dogs -- who seemed bored being at home -- responded to the question of whether they wanted to go back in the car by running to it and jumping in. So everyone was fired up and in a good mood, a strange mindset considering where we were headed Sunday: Antietam National Battlefield and Gettysburg National Military Park.
Antietam, located right outside Sharpsburg, Md., honors the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. Approximately 23,000 died on Sept. 17, 1862, when the troops of Robert E. Lee and George B. McClellan fought the Civil War's first battle on Northern soil. The battle is considered a draw by most historians, though I've never quite understood that, since the end result was Lee withdrawing back to Virginia. President Lincoln also saw Antietam as enough of a victory to issue the Emancipation Proclamation soon afterward. Lincoln had been advised by his Cabinet not to release the proclamation until a Union victory, so as not to make its release appear to be a move borne of desperation.
The Battle of Antietam had three major phases, each occurring in a theater slightly south of the previous one. This makes Antietam -- unlike most Civil War battlefields -- extremely easy to tour in chronological order of the battle. After being told this by the park ranger, I commented, "Wasn't that nice of them?" He did not seem amused.
The areas of the most interest to me were the Dunker Church, Bloody Lane and Burnside's Bridge. The Dunker Church -- a German Baptist church which got its name because of its method of baptism -- was right at the heart of early portions of the battle, ironic since the church espoused pacifism and its members refused to serve in the military. The white church stuck out in the landscape, and thus became a landmark for both sides.
The Dunker Church at Antietam. For context, here's a photo taken right after the battle. (Photo by Jim)
Bloody Lane, located near the center of the battlefield, got its name for all the wrong reasons. This clay road -- also called "Sunken Road" because it had been worn down by years of use by horses and wagons -- featured some of the bloodiest fighting of the entire Civil War. The Union and Confederacy battled along this road for almost four hours, leaving 5,600 casualties strewn around the 800-yard road.
The last key battleground at Antietam was Burnside's Bridge -- which also got its name from the events of this day. Late in the battle, this bridge on the southern end of the battlefield was taken -- after numerous attempts -- by the troops of Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside, though their advance was halted soon after crossing the bridge by the arrival of Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill. That conflict was the final one of the battle, and the arrival of Hill's troops is credited with preventing what could have been a more one-sided Union victory at Antietam.
It took us an hour to get from Antietam to Gettysburg. It took Lee almost 10 months. After retreating back to Virginia following Antietam, Lee won a major victory at Chancellorsville -- though he lost Stonewall Jackson there -- and decided again to invade the north. His goal was to reach Harrisburg, Pa. or Philadelphia, which he thought might convince the Union to start talking about peace. On June 30, 1863, Confederate soldiers looking for supplies in Gettysburg spotted Union cavalry. The rebels believed the Union had a much smaller force near Gettysburg than it actually did, and when they sent two brigades into Gettysburg on the morning of July 1 to do more reconnaissance, dismounted Union cavalry were waiting, thus beginning the epic three-day battle that took the lives of 50,000 and helped turn the tide of the war.
We've been to Gettysburg a handful of times, but I wanted to go to check out the new visitors center, which opened last fall. Featuring a fully restored Gettysburg Cyclorama, the new center is a major improvement over the cramped and dated center that preceded it, and also features an excellent museum and theater.
From the visitors center, we headed out to the battlefield. One thing that always strikes me about Gettysburg is how serene a town it is -- and was at the time of the battle -- which makes for an odd juxtaposition, considering the horror that occurred there.
Like Antietam, Gettysburg features thousands of statues honoring the states, the units and individuals that fought there. Markers also note the locations of both armies at specific times of the battle. You could easily spend two days at Gettysburg trying to make sense of the chaos.
The three days of carnage at Gettysburg made a number of places on the battlefield famous, including The Peach Orchard, The Wheatfield, Devil's Den, Seminary Ridge, Cemetery Ridge, Culp's Hill and many others. The most famous of all may well be Little Round Top, where Joshua Chamberlain and his 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment -- after being told to hold its line at all costs -- held off the rebels for 90 minutes and then drove them off with a downhill bayonet charge that remains one of the most famous actions of the war. Chamberlain and the 20th Maine get a lion's share of the credit for defending the strategically crucial Little Round Top, but two other men deserve equal credit. It was Col. Strong Vincent, who -- without waiting for permission -- sent four regiments to defend Little Round Top after being told it was exposed. The man who noticed this exposure was Gouverneur K. Warren, the chief engineer of the Union Army. Only minutes before encountering Vincent, Warren had climbed up onto Little Round Top, and saw two things: only a few Union signal corps in the area, and the glint of bayonets in the distance. Realizing a Confederate attack on the sparsely defended Little Round Top was imminent, Warren -- also without waiting for orders -- sought troops to hold the line. This led to the conversation with Vincent, and Vincent's subsequent ordering of the 20th Maine to hold the line.
The Battle of Gettysburg ended with Lee's ill-fated order to send the bulk of his troops across an open field to attack the center of the Union line. While this was indeed the weakest part of the Union line, it was easier to defend and reinforce than either flank, and the resulting Pickett's Charge -- where the 12,500 rebels marching across that field suffered 50 percent casualties -- was the last major action at Gettysburg. Eventually, the failure of this attack forced Lee to retreat back across the Potomac, which he never again crossed. Although Union Gen. George G. Meade led the victorious Union troops at Gettysburg, Lincoln was furious that Meade did not pursue Lee back into Virginia with more alacrity. This led to Lincoln's appointment of Ulysses S. Grant as the general-in-chief of all armies of the United States. One day after the Battle of Gettysburg ended, Grant had forced the Confederates to surrender the strategic Mississippi River port of Vicksburg (where we also visited on the FHMA tour). The victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg turned the tide of the war in the Union's favor, and while the fighting went on almost another two years, the chances of a Confederate victory had largely evaporated.
I am a Gettysburg nut, and could go on forever, but I won't. Suffice it to say if you're interested in more on this topic, I'd recommend "The Killer Angels," by Michael Shaara or "Gettysburg," by Stephen W. Sears. The four-hour film "Gettysburg" is also excellent, and generally historically accurate, though it adds some fictional characters into the mix.
After leaving Gettysburg, we made the long drive through Harrisburg, Hazelton and Dunder Mifflin's hometown of Scranton, Pa., before crossing into New York and setting down in Newburgh, N.Y., located about an hour north of New York City.
- This isn't really related to the trip, but since we alluded to the fact we arrived home Thursday to find we had no water, a broken invisible fence and other problems with our home, I figured we should close the book on that. The well people -- we're on well water -- arrived around 8:45am on Friday, and identified the problem as a broken piece attached to our well pump. Of course, that piece could not be replaced without replacing the entire pump. Wonderful. The Verizon FIOS folks who had been running wires through our backyard while we were gone fessed up to cutting the wires to our invisible fence. They promised to fix it before they left, and then disappeared without doing so. Joan called the invisible fence people and they came and fixed it, as Verizon's expense. This took a while, which meant that most of the time we were home, Fred and Hank were locked in the house and could only be brought out on a leash. This may explain why they seemed to eager to get back in the car. Of course, it doesn't mean they didn't have any fun while at home.
- While I was at my board meeting for the Online News Association, Joan got my car inspected. I'm not sure I mentioned this earlier, but we realized early in the trip that my Virginia car inspection expired in March. While I was planning to be back in Virginia before the trip was over, my car was not, so we rolled the dice and hoped we could make it home without getting nabbed. We did. But deciding not to gamble on repeating that same luck on the final three days of the trip, we decided to get it inspected. The result: FAIL. Turned out that -- as one of the Acura dealers in Arizona had suggested -- the inside treads of the two back tires were worn down to the fabric. We'd ignored the original warning because we found that dealership incompetent in every other respect, and the next dealership we went to said the tires had plenty of miles left in them. But, as they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Guess we should have listened.
- After getting the bad news on the car inspection, Joan decided to take the car to the dealer for a 7pm Friday appointment so that they could fix the tires, check the alignment and give the car a 60,000-mile checkup. All that was wonderful, but the truth is, the most important part of the service was the free car wash. After Fred and Hank's poop-eating and poop-rolling on Thursday, the car required more cleaning than we had the stomach for. Joan returned to the dealer at 10:30pm -- I was still at a board dinner -- and waited for it until 11:15pm. Beyond what we already knew, turned out the car also had a slightly bent wheel that we'll need to deal with when we're home for good.
- On Saturday, while I went back to D.C. for the second day of my ONA meeting, Joan attended a Fairfax Families4Kids 5K Walk to celebrate National Foster Care Awareness month. The money raised benefited children in foster care in Fairfax County, Va. Joan has been doing work for Fairfax Families4Kids for years, and we lucked out that I needed to be back in town for my meeting, since it allowed Joan to attend this event. The walk was held at Lake Accotink Park in Springfield, Va. If you live in the area and haven't been there, Joan reports that it's a beautiful -- and free -- county park with a lake, walking trails, mini-golf, a carousel and snack bar.
Alex, one of the kids in the Fairfax Families4Kids program, hangs out with a beagle that is not actually Fred. This beagle is named Joy. Fred and Hank did not attend the 5K walk so that Joan had some hands free to take photos.
- Reader "everytenth" corrected me on my William H. Taft reference in my last post. I said Taft was the only person ever to serve at President of the United States, and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The proper title is Chief Justice of the United States. Thanks for the catch.
- I also noted in my last post that only 43 men have served as President of the United States. Being that President Obama is our 44th president, that led to a few e-mails asking me if I was deranged. But, alas, I am correct. Because Grover Cleveland was elected to two non-consecutive terms -- in 1884 and 1892, with Benjamin Harrison sandwiched in between -- he is technically both the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. And while he was not a small man, he was indeed only one man.
- Right of the edge of the battlefield at Antietam stands the Battleview Deli. This establishment affords views of the fields where thousands died brutally, which you can enjoy while eating your roast beef sandwich. Maybe it's just me, but seemed like an odd name for a dining establishment.
- Once again on Sunday, we came back to the car after a short walk to find our hazard lights blinking. The first time this happened, we originally thought our alarm had gone off while we were gone, but we soon realized what had actually happened: During their manic barking at something walking past the car, Fred or Hank had jumped up on the dashboard and turned them on. Joan surmised that maybe they were protesting being left in the car, and turned the hazards on to attract attention to their plight. Who knows? As far as we know, neither has operated the horn yet, so we have that going for us, which is nice.
- Sign of the Day: You can't read it in the photo, but the sign posted on the front of the rock in the photo said, "Please Do Not Climb This Rock." It was big, it was clear, and it could not be missed. Except by this numb-nutz.
A stupid person poses with Gouverneur K. Warren at Little Round Top at Gettysburg National Military Park. This woman literally had to climb over the sign to get where she is. If only Warren and his sword were real.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "Captain Jack," by Billy Joel. As I mentioned earlier in the trip, I grew up right near Billy Joel, and us Long Islanders were listening to him long before the rest of the country. This song, off Joel's 1973 classic "Piano Man," is one of my favorite songs of his, and hearkens back to Joel's early days, when he recorded longer, more storytelling-focused tunes. But while I loved the song even as a kid, I did not then realize the song is about a drug addict who sometimes masturbates. Listening to the song today, I'm not quite sure how I missed this fact. But, hey, I didn't realize the Village People were gay for a long time either.
- Here's the Day 13 report on our A-to-Z iPod Exploration:
- First Song of the Day: "Cracklin' Rosie," by Neil Diamond.
Last Song of the Day: "Daysleeper," by R.E.M.
- Best Songs: "Crazy Train," by Ozzy Osbourne; "Cross Road Blues," by Robert Johnson; "Crosstown Traffic'," by Jimi Hendrix; "Cruel to Be Kind," by Nick Lowe; "Dance the Night Away," by Van Halen; "Dangerous Type," by The Cars; "Danny Says," by The Ramones; "Daughter," by Pearl Jam; "Dawn," by Mahavishnu Orchestra; "A Day in the Life," by The Beatles.
- Pleasant Surprises: "Crazy Arms," by Duane Eddy; "Cruise Control," by the Dixie Dregs; "Cry, Cry, Cry," by Johnny Cash; "Day of Celebration," by Santana.
- Guilty Pleasures: "Cracklin' Rosie," by Neil Diamond; "Dance With Me," by Orleans; "Dancing Queen," by ABBA; "Daydream," by the Lovin' Spoonful; "Daydream Believer," by The Monkees.
- Bad Songs by Good Artists: "Crosseyed and Painless," by Talking Heads; "The Crunge," by Led Zeppelin; "Cygnus X-1," by Rush; "Darlington County," by Bruce Springsteen.
- Great Rediscoveries: "Crimson and Clover," by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts; "Crossfire," by the Scorpions; "Cryin'," by Aerosmith; "D.O.A.," by Van Halen; "Day After Day," by The Pretenders.
- First Song of the Day: "Cracklin' Rosie," by Neil Diamond.
- Lunch: Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Herndon, Va.: OK, so we didn't quite get out of Virginia as early as we wanted, so we used that as a convenient excuse to hit Five Guys. Despite its recent vermin problem in D.C., we went to show solidarity. Sort of. We didn't go to one of the locations where vermin were found, but to our local, rat-free Five Guys. As always, the burger and fries were terrific. We're still in the tank. Jim Nutrition Rating: 0 stars (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5).
- Dinner: Ruby Tuesday, Gettysburg, Pa.: With a long drive to New York ahead of us, we decided to settle for quick, dependable meal. I had shrimp scampi with a small steak, and Joan had the salad bar, ribs and mashed potatoes. We walked away quite satisfied and bloated. Jim Nutrition Rating: 2 stars (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 3 stars (out of 5).
- Quality Inn Newburgh, Newburgh, N.Y.: Once we got a feel for Newburgh as a town, we certainly didn't have a good feeling about the hotel. As expected, the hotel was crappy. On the bright side, we didn't pay for it, as we cashed in some Choice Hotels points. We even got a suite, which meant two rooms instead of one. But, as Dennis Miller once said about two-for-the-price-of-one deals, "Two of shit is shit." Our "suite" was merely two adjoining rooms, each with separate doors to the outside and a door connecting them. One room was a full bedroom; the other a sitting area with a kitchen, lots of chairs (but no table) and a bed that pulled down from the wall. Needless to say, we didn't use the living room. On top of all that, the wireless we were promised did not work. Joan called the front desk, and got this helpful response: "Yeah, the whole hotel has trouble at times. The wireless only works when it wants to." I told Joan that, when we checked out the next morning, maybe we should tell them our credit card also only works when it wants to. She reminded me the room was a freebie. This helped. A little. Hotel rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5).
COMMENT OF THE DAY
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