Dr. Greg & Milledue try to make sense of the Civil War...

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Dr. Greg, Sep 23, 2012.

  1. EdM

    EdM Been here awhile

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    Sorry to say I had not seen this report before today and this may be a repeat:

    For some interesting information on the Gettysburg battle may I suggest "These Honored Dead" by Thomas Desjardin.

    It is not a description of the actual battle but addresses many of the stories/legends/myths that surround it and tries to provide the facts. I found it quite well done.

    Certainly hope you enjoy the remainder of your trip.

    Ned
  2. Dr. Greg

    Dr. Greg Tryin' to get home..

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    Thursday 10/4: Gettysburg Nat'l Military Park "Visitor Center"

    With my camera battery again fully charged, I was able to upload the pics I took at the Gettysburg National Military Park "Visitor Center" yesterday. Unfortunately the time elapsed has caused the memories to fade slightly (as you get older you'll understand...) but I'll do the best I can at commenting.


    Leaving Hagerstown...

    When I awoke in Hagerstown, MD it was pretty gloomy outside...however it wasn't actually raining at the time.
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    On the way up to Chambersburg, PA I crossed the MD/PA state line, and stopped at the PA "Welcome Center." Decided to park about 200 yds beyond it and walk back. Guess I like to do things the hard way...
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    I asked about Gettysburg and was given the "Official Gettysburg Visitor's Guide" by the bored young lady working the desk. I thanked her profusely and sat down to take a look. What a disappointment! Nothin' but ads for one tourist trap after another. I waited till I got outside to throw it away...wouldn't have fit in my "map pocket" anyway.


    The "Shoe" Confrontation

    So I finally made my over to Gettysburg, went thru their quaint little "traffic circle" and found my way to the Visitor Center. The sign advised me to park a ways uphill, cuz the downhill lots were already full. Man, what must the parking be like around July 4?

    I decided to park way over by myself; that way I'd "highlight" Milledue, making it an even more attractive target for anyone who wanted to check thru my gear.
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    After removing my riding gear (I wear walking shorts underneath so I'm decent) I thought "y'know, I don't really wanna dig down in my topcase to get my moccasins out." I'll just go barefoot. I go barefoot all summer long...drives Mrs. Greg crazy. So off to the Visitor Center I march (probably an apt term here...)

    Well, upon getting inside (was gonna take a pic) I was overwhelmed...by the ticket prices, I mean! Everything was expensive! Then a guy came up and said "hey, buddy, you're gonna hafta get some shoes on." OK, he didn't quite say it like THAT, but that's what it sounded like. We had a little discussion with his supervisor, and the good Dr. walked back to Milledue...
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    Happy now?

    While walking back down to the Visitor Center I decided that an "attitude adjustment" was in order...this was my VACATION and I shouldn't let them spoil it. So I strolled into the Visitor Center, got out my credit card, and bought my ticket for the movie, Cyclorama painting, and museum.


    The Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center

    The film---narrated by Morgan Freeman---was good, but somehow it didn't really "grab" me. That's OK. That's my problem, not the film.

    But the Cyclorama (they gotta get a better name) WAS pretty cool! It's a 360-degree painting with way too many scenes to mention:
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    The "lighting" changes during their presentation (that's why this "violet" hue); I included this scene for all you ARTILLERY enthusiasts out there...
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    Here's a little info on the artis:
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    Next are a bunch of random pics of various posters, etc.
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    Somehow they don't make political cartoons like this anymore...
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    This description of a Civil War "canteen" used terminology that seemed surprisingly "high-tech" to me; anyway it tickled my funnybone...
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    Nobody can ever accuse General Lee of not having affection for his troops:
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    The redoubtable JEB Stuart kind of "blew it" at Gettysburg. *Perhaps he was too smug after all of his previous "circling the enemy" gyrations...
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    BTW, my "favorite" cavalryman is the dreaded Nathan Bedford Forrest. Although his political (and human rights) beliefs might be questionable.

    And to think that I complain because I used to get up for work at 0450...(that's true, BTW)
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    Ah, yes, the dreaded HARDTACK "cracker", or whatever it was...infamous, that's for sure.
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    Seems like camping gear has made progress from then till now...
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    Seven Slides Depicting the Campaign: I snapped this sequence of text slides...they sort of tell the story of what was happening, I guess.
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    Even I've heard of "Pickett's Charge"
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    Another shot for you ARTILLERY enthusiasts...
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    This says it all...
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    Well, folks, this is where my camera battery went DEAD. But enough is enough...

    I think the thing that affected me most deeply was an "audio" exhibit that discussed the AFTERMATH of the battle. It simply OVERWHELMED the little town of Gettysburg. The wounded and dead were stacked in heaps; the wounded moaning beneath the dead.

    One woman was quoted as saying "any wound that could be made to the human body by iron or lead was in evidence..." It rained heavily on July 4, thereby hastening the putrefaction of the dead bodies. Hastily-dug graves resulted in the bodies coming back to the surface quickly after burial.

    The town of Gettysburg dealt with the aftermath of this battle for seemingly endless months.

    My spirit could barely perceive (well, really it couldn't) this degree of death and destruction. Although I think some other battles may have been even worse.

    Sigh. Why can't we all just get along.

    I'll end this by saying that, again, I'm coming round to the idea that future Civil War re-enactions should be done with live ammunition. And this is coming from someone who grew up with guns, who could go shooting off his back porch. I just don't know...


    My Wonderful Hosts at Gettysburg

    I stayed with SoPaRider and SoPaGuider at Chambersburg (nearby to G'burg); here are Jeff and Karen at our dinner table (note Dr. Greg has a beer at the ready!). This is a lousy picture of Jeff and Karen, but they were exceptional. Thanks!!
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    The Gettysburg "Auto Tour" Route

    So today I'm gonna ride back over to the Military Park and try to ride the "Auto Tour" route on Milledue. Not sure how that's gonna work out, but I'll see. The weather is gorgeous today, but it's gonna degenerate again tomorrow and Sunday. With any luck I'll start moving SOUTH on Saturday morning and maybe stay ahead of it. Probably not, though...

    --Doc
  3. murdock84

    murdock84 Been here awhile

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  4. ob1quixote

    ob1quixote Been here awhile

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    There are artillery nuts here? Here is a little treat, my daughter gets pressed into service as a powder monkey at a re-enactment camp...! Sorry for the bad quality video, the cell phone that recorded this video has been sacked.

    <iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/29555568?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0&color=ffffff" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="375" width="500"></iframe>

    Hoping to hear from you Dr Greg, it'd be great to guide you around town, and maybe show you some Carolina Lowcountry. Did I mention I know the landowner of a CW battleground?
  5. Dr. Greg

    Dr. Greg Tryin' to get home..

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    Friday 10/5: Riding Around the Gettysburg Military Park "Auto Tour" Route...

    What a day...

    I better apologize in advance for the tone of this day's report. Riding around the Gettysburg battlefields affected me in a way that I DID NOT expect. I guess that's why we travel, right? To broaden our horizons...

    The Gettysburg "Auto Tour" route is a 24-mile self-guided road that passes thru the significant points in the area. It is FREE (yay!) and---while there are bus tours, which may have been a better idea---I rode the entire thing on Milledue. Being "alone" while experiencing this may actually have intensified the experience.

    I have the map of the route; I'll try to comment as best I can. Plus I'll plagiarize from the National Park Service documentation.


    McPherson Ridge---Where it all Started...

    The Battle of Gettysburg began about 8 a.m. to the west beyond McPherson barn as Union cavalry confronted Confederate infantry advancing east along Chambersburg Pike. Here are a few pics from McPherson Ridge:
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    (there are more monuments than you can shake a stick at...)
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    Hey, whaddya think of the "naked bike" look? Honestly, I could not tell a bit of difference in the way the bike handled/performed...
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    The "Eternal Light" Peace Memorial...

    Pardon my cynicism, but whenever I hear the word eternal, I recall an old movie ("Forest Lawn" or something like that) in which the Funeral Director is discussing the virtues of "standard eternal" vs "perpetual eternal." Well, here's the Eternal Light Peace Memorial
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    Here's a rundown on another of the ARTILLERY GROUPS
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    And here's their artillery:
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    Pickett's Charge!

    I THINK this is the field that hosted "Pickett's Charge." Imagine a group of guys a mile long, standing side-by-side...poor guys!
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    Here's the plaque for Pickett's Charge:
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    And here's another view of the associated battlefield:
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    General Lee took the blame:
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    Omigosh, I'm not sure what "monument" this is...sorry!
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    I'm getting tired...gonna quit with the headings. Here's the "Virginia Memorial" plaque:
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    And here's the memorial itself:
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    This "Alabama Memorial" kinda caught my eye:
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    "Little Round Top"---What an AWFUL Place!

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    Here's a view from Little Round Top
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    "Valley of Death"---can you imagine being there?
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    The Pennsylvania Memorial is the largest in the Park: here are two views...
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    This "Spangler's Spring"...one side caught the other side (honestly, I forget which!) filling their canteens, and ended up surprising them (I think; I may have this completely wrong)
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    I came across this big observation tower near Culp's Hill...
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    So naturally I had to climb it.
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    So let's end this day on a HIGH note (pun intended)...


    My Reaction to All This...

    My title to this RR was "making sense out of the Civil War." And my feeling today (especially during mid-day) was that "I never wanna see any more Civil War stuff as long as I live." I've calmed down a little now, but I honestly don't think I may visit any more Civil War sites during this trip.

    War is SO HORRIBLE that I'm NOT sure it should be "glorified," studied, "monumented," etc.. Now, I would not have predicted that reaction to it on my part. But I was SO PROFOUNDLY affected by what I saw today (interestingly, Vicksburg didn't have the same effect) that right now I DO NOT wanna visit Antietam, Harper's Ferry, Shiloh, etc. Maybe I'll change my mind.

    All I really wanna do now is visit my ol' buddy John, in South Carolina, then ride home to Mrs. Greg. I honestly DID NOT expect to have this reaction.

    It's been a hard day. The weather for the next couple days doesn't look too good, but it is what it is. I'll try to keep up with the report as best I can.

    Cheers,

    --Doc
  6. TheRoss

    TheRoss Been here awhile

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    Dr. Greg

    I have enjoyed your ride report a lot. If you are ever back through Lubbock I'll grill up something good and we'll talk about war. I think we will find a lot of common ground.

    You are out on the road with no schedule and no place to be. Do what you want to do. But continue to take us working stiffs along for the keyboard ride!
  7. Hoppalong

    Hoppalong Adventurer

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    Dr. Greg, about the horrors of that war. This is a question that comes to my mind always:

    If the Northerners had decided a War was not worth the horrific cost, or if the Southerners had "won our freedom", would the institution of slavery still exist? Would slavery still be culturally and religiously supported and legally protected? Would slavery be as everyday-common now as it was then?
  8. Dr. Greg

    Dr. Greg Tryin' to get home..

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    I'm glad I haven't ruined my report for you with all my negativity. I may very well be giving you a call on my return trip. Thanks again,

    --Doc
  9. Dr. Greg

    Dr. Greg Tryin' to get home..

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    Boy, that question needs to be "answered" by someone with WAAAY more wisdom than I.

    One eye-opener that I've gathered during the reading I've done was that Lincoln was NOT very popular during his term(s). I guess that's always the way it is. Ya gotta die for anybody to think anything GOOD about you.

    This trip---so far---has certainly made me more "philosophical" about a lotta things. And I guess that's good.

    One more thing: people that think they have all this stuff "figured out" just haven't thought it through completely.

    Well, I'm gettin' a good breakfast courtesy of Jeff & Karen, and will be on my way SOUTH (yay!) shortly. Dunno if I'm gonna make any more "Civil War" stops between here and Sumter, South Carolina. Looks like the weather is a little better today than I had feared, but Sunday is RAIN!! Oh, well, all this green grass has to come about somehow.

    I still DO intend to visit Shiloh, BTW.

    OK, folks, enough for this morning. See ya down the road.

    --Doc
  10. Castle

    Castle Red Cloud Slept Here

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    Dr. Greg -

    While I haven't been to all of the CW battlefields, I've been to a few. Gettysburg is the most powerful, mainly because it is so well marked, with so many monuments, and the has been the subject of so many books and movies. Last time I was there was with my son's Scout troop and we hiked everywhere. Great way to see the battlefield, although is was really, really hot and we all ran out of water.

    Don't skip Antietam. It is close and interesting. Harper's Ferry is worth a stop too.

    Enjoying the RR. :clap
  11. Merlin III

    Merlin III Mean SOB

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    Gee Dr. Greg, you never made it up to Portland to see the site of the naval battle between the Confederate Navy and Union forces in Portland Harbor? :lol3

    Once again, a great ride theme and you have planted some ideas in me for future rides and themes. :clap:clap:clap

    And heck, I know this is a MC site, but I see a pent up demand here for a Civil War discussion group! :lol3:lol3:lol3
  12. Pantah

    Pantah Red Sox Nation

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    Doc - I had those same emotions when I visited the first time. I was attending the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Assn reunion in Philly about 1992. I had just finished Foote's trilogy. During the reunion a buddy and I drove to G'burg and arrived about dusk. The place was silent and eery in the dying light. We drove to the spots we wanted to see. It was shocking because the slaughter was so easily imagined. As pilots we witnessed plenty of firefights, but nothing on such a terrible scale as Gettysburg.

    It was another 10 years before I visited any battlefields. In 2002 I was assigned to a project in DC for a year. I brought my MZ Street Moto and visited my friends on the 'wall' at dawn on Sundays for a few weeks. After getting used to that, I started reading Foote again. Eventually I set about visiting all the battlefields around there. I started with the earlier battles in Northern Virginia, but eventually went back to G'burg. I felt better about it then and was able to study it some. I did my big battlefield tour of the South in 2007. Still... I was upset by Shiloh even then.

    Looking forward to your visit with your buddy in SC.
  13. Dr. Greg

    Dr. Greg Tryin' to get home..

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    Omigosh, and I just skipped Antietam & Harper's Ferry...well, glad you've enjoyed the report, anyway. I just needed a break.

    --Doc

  14. Dr. Greg

    Dr. Greg Tryin' to get home..

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    Jeez, I ride 3/4 of the way across the country to see some Civil War stuff and I STILL get flak for not seeing enough...you guys are a tough crowd...

    J/K, j/k...I really think after I've had time to reflect, I'll do a "Civil War Ride II" with some specific things to check out. Thanks much for the suggestion.

    --Doc

  15. Dr. Greg

    Dr. Greg Tryin' to get home..

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    Pantah,

    Thanks very much for your reflections and insights. It'll take me a while to "digest" what I've seen. As I said earlier, I suspect I'll be back with a quite different perspective on the matter.

    The Civil War is maybe THE event in the history of these United States. And as a responsible citizen, I feel it's time well spent to acquaint myself with the enormity of my forebears' sacrifice.

    But it sure is hard on the spirit...

    ...and you say Shiloh is even WORSE? And I was planning on stopping there on the way home...maybe I should rethink that.

    --Doc

  16. Dr. Greg

    Dr. Greg Tryin' to get home..

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    Saturday 10/6: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania - Danville, Virginia

    Minimal "Civil War" content in today's installment (although not zero)...I need a break. As I've mentioned in my replies above, touring the Gettysburg Battlefield was very hard on my spirit.

    (as a sidelight, I find it marginally "offensive" that so many businesses are named like: "Battlefield" ACME Bathroom Fixtures, "Battlefield" Dog Grooming, etc.) C'mon, guys, give it a break. It was Jeff's (my host over the last two days) opinion that they oughta bulldoze the whole thing and use it for something productive. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but---as I've indicated probably too many times now---the enormity of the "Gettysburg Experience" is pretty aweful (in the true meaning of that adjective).

    OK, let's move on...


    Leaving Jeff and Karen in Chambersburg

    Jeff is a veritable treasure chest of PA/MD road information. His opinion is that "one should avoid the interstates," which generally agrees with my own view. So he suggested several routes, most of which were too complicated for Dr. Greg's old, concussed brain to grasp. So we settled on my riding back thru Gettysburg, then heading south on 15 as far as Culpeper, VA, where I took 29.

    The only PROBLEM with that was...well, before I get into the problems, let me put up a few pics between C'burg and G'burg (I just about wore a groove in that route):

    Here's a view goin' up thru the pass between the two 'burgs...note that despite my threatening weather forecast there's NO RAIN!
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    Another view to the trees...I'm sure you guys are really getting BORED with these kinda pictures (sorry!):
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    And it's kinda hard to tell in this pic, but there was actually some SUNSHINE for a while anyway:
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    Not quite sure where this pic is from, but IIRC it's south of G'burg, somewhere around Thurmont, MD near Catoctin Mountain Park...trees, trees, nothin' but green grass and trees. Well, if you lived in New Mexico you'd understand my reverence for trees and green grass!
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    Some CIVIL WAR Content (Battle of Ball's Bluff)

    The Battle of Ball's Bluff was the "second largest battle of the Eastern theater in 1861," so it's not to be sneezed at. I'd suggest you look it up if you're interested. I saw the marker, so I turned off to this "park"...had to drive through a dang wealthy neighborhood to get to it, BTW...actually I'm just jealous that _I_ don't have all that wealth :D
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    Here's the sign in the background of above pic:
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    I hope you understand that I was reluctant to ride fully-loaded Milledue down an unknown gravel road to an unknown destination. So I parked him on the tarmac and strolled down a little ways myself (didn't actually get to the "park" so I dunno what's there)...

    I thought this CART PATH was kinda cool. Boy, roads in the early-mid 1800s were a far cry from contemporary roads...and that beautiful Eastern deciduous forest again...
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    Got a "Doc" self-portrait along the cart path; suitable pensive expression given the nature of the subject matter, I guess...
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    Northern Virginia: too much $$$, too many people, too many traffic lights...

    Like I said, I was takin' the "surface streets" thru northern VA. And I don't have any pics, cuz I was workin' the clutch and brake levers constantly! In New Mexico, rural 2-lane roads are virtually empty...you never need to stop. Well, in northern VA there's way too much money, too many fancy neighborhoods, too many people, too many cars...you get my drift. So you end up stopping about every 800 yards for an intersection (OK, maybe it's 900 yards). You can't make any TIME!

    After I got clear of the worst of it, I took a few more pics of trees and grass...
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    BTW, you'll notice that the weather is pretty darned NICE! And it was. A very pleasant day.
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    Oh, crap! Which river was this? I don't know! However, I MISSED getting a pic of the POTOMAC River at the border between Maryland and Virginia. I just wasn't expecting it, and I couldn't get all SIX of my camera settings lined up in time. And I couldn't really stop on the bridge...anyway, here's this "unknown" river. WAAAY bigger than the Rio Grande, BTW:
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    The Dreaded KUDZU Vine...

    Finally, for my last segment, I'll discuss the dreaded "kudzu" vine. Now I'd heard of this thing, but never actually SAW it. But as I entered the "south"...Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, etc. I began to see---for example---the unused quadrant of an intersection absolutely TAKEN OVER by this creepy plant. I refrained from photographing it cuz I didn't wanna contaminate my camera with parasitic light rays emanating from the infernal weed. BTW, where did the darned thing come from?

    Then at a fuel stop today I saw a small infestation and thought it might be safe to take a pic:
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    That is one creepy weed...


    A Break for a Couple Days Visiting an Old High School Buddy...

    Thanks to the Internet, a year or so ago I regained contact with an old high school buddy of mine, John Safford. John had the privilege of serving in Viet Nam (unlike Dr. Greg who was 4-F), and considers himself the "poster child" for the G.I. Bill, eventually earning his Ph.D. John is now a professor (just like I was!) at the University of South Carolina, and it will be my privilege to visit him and his lovely wife Ginny tomorrow and Monday.

    It will be a well-needed break for me, and a lot of fun recounting Mr. West's freshman "mechanical drawing" class, etc.

    Thanks for all your support.

    --Doc

    PS. After I left Chambersburg, I realized I didn't get a "departure" pic with Jeff...DUH! Hey Jeff, I know you and Karen took a few pics...would you mind posting one here? Thanks!
  17. Dr. Greg

    Dr. Greg Tryin' to get home..

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    Pouring rain with lightning this a.m...good thing it's gonna be a short day.

    --Doc
  18. preacher dan

    preacher dan Adventurer

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    Doc,I am enjoyin ure report...I travel nearly exactly the same roads every year searchin uncivil war sites and I am headed out tomorrow on columbus day by way of abq balloon festival to do it again......thanks and see u on the road...god bless...
  19. SavannahCapt

    SavannahCapt Been here awhile

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    Doc

    you are getting a lot of advice and suggestions of places to visit and see and they are all worthy of the time one would spend on them. The history is so complex and there are so many aspects to it that it can seem overwhelming. My own advice, which you certainly don't need, would be to continue your "survey" and enjoy the ride. Then maybe concentrate on some part of the journey that moves you at a later date.
    Just my two cents worth
    Ron
  20. Dr. Greg

    Dr. Greg Tryin' to get home..

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    Hey, UN-Civil War sites...I like that a lot! :D

    Enjoy the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta; it's a lot of fun.

    --Doc