This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gettysburg National Military Park Museum & Visitors' Center

This morning Carol Ann and I went to the Gettysburg National Military Museum & Visitors’ Center.  Two words of advice.  GO EARLY!  We went about 9:30AM, which wasn’t bad.  We bought tickets to the 20-minute slide presentation, the Cyclorama, and the Museum.  Our tickets were for the 10:45AM slide show followed by viewing the Cyclorama, a 42-foot tall, 360-degree panoramic painting of the 3rd day of battle (Pickett's Charge).

We were about half way through the museum when Carol Ann told me that she had lost my reading glasses and the clip-on sunglasses for my prescription glasses while we were in the presentation theater (she is like my “gun-bearer” if I were on safari).  We went to the Information desk and asked if they had been turned in to lost and found.  They did have the Wal-Mart reading glasses, but not the $65 clip-on sunglasses.  We went back to the theater, explained the problem to the theater’s “Praetorian Guard”, who was actually very accommodating.  I had to wait a little over 10 minutes until the presentation came to an end and then I was allowed to go in ahead of the next crowd to look for the clip-ons.  I found them on the floor beneath the seats that we had occupied earlier.  I thanked everyone within earshot who had on an employee shirt and then joined Carol Ann outside where she wanted me to take a photo of some landscaping that she particularly liked.  That’s when I realized that my lens hood has missing from my new lens!  Back inside to the theater where I asked if they had found the lens hood.  They said something like “Weren’t you just here?”  We laughed about how I needed a keeper, but at least they had the lens hood.

It was now about 1:30PM and very hot.  We drove into town to eat a late lunch at Hunt’s Battlefield Fries & CafĂ© (Carol Ann said that TripAdvisor called it the best place to eat in Gettysburg!).  We got real lucky and found a parking spot right in front, put money in the meter, and then saw the sign on the door that read “Closed on Wednesdays”.  Today is Wednesday.  Plan B was called for so we went next door to the ice cream shop.

We have a battlefield tour scheduled for Saturday morning.  There are various ways to tour the battlefield.  There is a walking tour, of course.  But it is long and the temperature is in the mid-eighties.  There is a self-drive auto tour, a bus tour, and a Segway tour.  But the best of all is to hire a private guide who drives your car and takes you everywhere and tells you everything.  It would be $30 each ($60 total) for a bus tour but the guide in our car is only $65.  The tour lasts 2 to 2.5 hours and comes highly recommended.  There are over 130 members of the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides in Gettysburg.  Unfortunately, they are vastly outnumbered by the souvenir hawkers.

Gettysburg was a small town in 1863 and it’s a small town in 2013.  The population is not quite 8,000 people and it is still being invaded, not by a Confederate Army, but by more than 1.2 million visitors per year.  That’s an average of over 23,000 a week!  However, this is the year of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – 3, 1863), which will be commemorated over a 10-day period beginning on June 29.  Over 200,000 visitors are expected during that 10-day period!  I am so glad that our trip was not a month later. 

Where will they put all of those people?  I’m not sure, however Gettysburg has over 70 hotels and motels plus 6 RV parks.  I don’t know the total number of hotel rooms, but the RV parks boast a total of almost 2,000 campsites.  They are working hard to prepare for this year’s anniversary.  In addition to importing dozens of portable toilets for the festivities, expanded cellphone coverage is being added to handle the volume of cellphone calls that will be made and received during the 10-day period.

Once, when my son was a young child, we went on vacation to Gatlinburg, TN in the Great Smokey Mountains.  On a previous vacation we had taken him to a beach somewhere in Florida.  This time we opted for the cool mountains instead of the hot, sticky sand.  Gatlinburg had a long main drag that was lined on both sides with souvenir and apparel shops, restaurants, snack bars, and attractions cashing in on the “mountain/hillbilly” theme.  As we drove along the “strip” our son’s eyes were as large as saucers.  “It’s the beach in the mountains!” he exclaimed.

Now, time shift to the present and Gettysburg, PA.  Our son is not with us on this trip, but I’ll say it for him.  “It’s the beach at the battlefield!”  There isn’t just one long main drag here.  There are a lot of short ones but they are dotted with the same sort of businesses as were in Gatlinburg and the Florida beach towns.  There’s General Pickett’s Buffet, the Lincoln Diner, and Hunt’s Battlefield Fries & Cafe if you’re hungry.  If you want to go shopping you can try the Blue & Gray Gift Shop, the Irish Brigade Gift Shop, Abraham’s Lady, Fields of Glory, the Regimental Quartermaster, Battlefield Leathers, or many other businesses that are cashing in on the Gettysburg National Battlefield Park.  You can also have your photo taken in a Civil War soldier’s uniform.  No thanks, I had mine taken once already in my basic training soldier’s uniform.  It seems as though everyone is trying to profit from the battlefield theme.  In a way, that’s a shame.  This isn’t called “Hallowed Ground” for nothing.  Over 7,000 soldiers were killed here.  There should be a little more respect.

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