Tuesday, February 28, 2006

06-22 Pennsylvania to Gettysbury PA



Leaving Upstate New York, I’ve taken hwy 81 which crosses into Pennsylvania at a 45 degree angle. It follows the long mountain ranges of the Appalachian mountains. Each row of mountains is divided by a gorgeous long narrow valley. I’ve been able to see many of the coal and iron ore mines, many high on the mountain ranges, with their coal or iron deposits piled high, waiting for trucks or trains to haul it away.

Usually I have no problem with finding space at any campground, but with Labor Day approaching, I’ve had to settle for a primitive campsite at Caledonia State Park. Odd, because the brochure has “Modern camping” in bold print. Yet 90% of the campsites have no water, electric or sewer. Hmmm.

It, like so much about travel, is accepting and experiencing the unusual or different. After all, if I’d wanted “same” I could have stayed home. Besides, I get a chance to see how long the batteries will last in the camper, and how often I need to run the generator to charge them.

Pennsylvania looks much more prosperous than New York. The farms are well kept and I haven’t seen dilapidated barns and outbuilding like I did in NY. The towns and surrounding small suburbs, which are gradually encroaching on the farm land, look to be new and well tended. All mixed in with old historical brick homes, some of stone, weathering the changes of time.

Caledonia State Park has an historical iron furnace and a blacksmith shop from the late 1800’s. I’m only about 15 miles from Gettysburg as well, so lots of historical sites to tour.

A memory brick at the local library had, “Grandma’s wisdom. Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe”. That’s for my friend Ruthie.

Ah ha! I just got moved to a site with electric. Yippee! It’s going to be cold and wet this weekend, so it just makes life that much more pleasant. Amazing how something that simple can make you feel like you’ve won the lottery.

Someday I’ll have to talk about all the electronic gadgets I have for travel. You’d be amazed what help some of them can be.

Gettysburg PA. A battle to free slaves. A battle to make the Constitution valid for everyone. How important was it to our country? Not one statue, but 1,400 monuments are on the Gettysburg Battlefield. Representing 152,455 men and their regiments who fought, the 51,000 casualties including 5,000 horses, Neither side able to claim complete victory, yet leading to an eventual win for this country. The war continued for two more years. Four months after the battle, President Lincoln arrived to dedicate the Gettysburg National Cemetery and give a two minute speech, The Gettysburg Address… dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Will other countries we are currently fighting in, understand this principle? Will they be able to grasp this principle and make their neighbors, other religious groups, husbands, wives equal? Hard to say isn’t it.

Visiting historical sites makes them real. It reminds us of who we are and how we got here. It was appropriate that I first visited this site on a gray rainy day. It is not a place to think lightly of. It is a place to reflect and try to learn from the past. Big lessons, life lessons. To stand on the same spot that Lincoln gave his famous address.

While at the campground, I learned about Thaddeus Stevens. Businessman, lawyer, congressman and father of the 14th Amendment. During the Civil War, it was Stevens who kept pressure on Lincoln to use African-Americans as soldiers and to free the slaves.
Standing on the site of his Caledonia Furnace for the making of iron and the Blacksmith shop, I feel as if I’m getting to know the people who helped make our country.

Oh, and the Lincoln Highway built in 1913. Now Route 30 through Pennsylvania. It’s the first coast to coast highway stretching from New York City to San Francisco! Even though Route 66 is more famous, it’s awesome to be able to drive one of the first highways of our country. And in PA, it still looks much as it did when first opened to traffic. So if you ever want to travel a truly historical route, get on the Lincoln Hwy. Now that’s a road trip!

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