Posts Tagged ‘Fall 2010 trip’

“Oh, you should have been here last week” people say – or,  “You’re going to miss a big one next weekend”.  We’ve yet to be at the right site at the right time to experience a re-enactment.  This time, we violate the sanctity of the spontaneous RV lifestyle, and plan ahead by a day or two to be here at Cedar Creek Battlefield for a huge re-enactment weekend.

And I mean, huge.  There are thousands of Confederate and Union troops, camped in endless rows of small canvas tents, facing off across the far sides of the hilly battlefield.  Their respective camps are teeming with activity, costumed re-enactors are cooking over campfires, tending to horses, readying cannons and small weapons, napping, reading, talking and laughing. We walk among them and marvel.  The rule is everything has to be consistent with the time period and circumstances, so if any spectator takes a photo or video, nothing would appear out of place.  Did I mention, the historically accurate food and coffee smells really good?

It looks like so interesting and fun that I flirt with the idea of becoming a re-enactor in Wisconsin when we get home.  But after checking out possibilities on the internet, I realize that the opportunities are pretty limited, especially for women.

The battle itself is frighteningly realistic.  Spectators crowd the hillside overlooking the battle scene.  We hear that it’s one of the few re-enactments that takes place on the actual ground of the original battle. Calvary soldiers fight and “die” in front of us.  Custer is there and General Sheridan, who heard the thundering cannon from Winchester, VA, and arrives, amid cheers, to take command and rally the Union troops.

After the smoke clears and the crowds begin to disperse we head to Creekside Campground in nearby Edinburg for a two-day furlough along a gurgling creek.  An extremely friendly group of ducks waddle out of the water at our campsite;  I feed them all our hot dog buns and they lay down at my feet and take an after-dinner nap around my chair for about half an hour, occasionally raising their heads, quacking at me gently, then settling back to sleep.  I’m touched and enthralled by the whole thing.  The other big plus to staying here is that Sal’s Italian Restaurant is within easy walking distance, so we eat there both nights, and have abundant leftovers for lunch while we watch the Packer game.

Creekside Campground

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John Brown's Fort

In my high-school mind, Harper’s Ferry has always been pretty much synonymous with abolitionist John Brown’s Raid. This is definitely the spot, and there’s a major exhibit that deals with Brown and his companions, what they believed, their bloody attempt to seize the weapons at the arsenal here, and the historical aftermath. But almost every one of the historic buildings here houses a museum or exhibit on a different aspect – including the Civil War, African American History, the Lewis and Clark expedition, industry and transportation. So, it’s not just a relaxing stroll through a pretty town, though it is that too – if you don’t get too frantic.

We’re staying in the Harper’s Ferry KOA close to the park.  It’s a Halloween Weekend – we had no idea what that entailed.

Halloween at Harper's Ferry KOA

It’s a major encampment.  There are tents and campers, RV’s in every size and shape – and almost all of them with Halloween decorations.  LOTS of decorations. People go to elaborate lengths – this guy and his wife were putting up a pirate ship.  She said it would take them about 6 hours to get everything assembled.  There are dogs and kids and bikes and activity everywhere.

In the midst of all this modern day business is a line of Civil War trenches.  They’re official trenches, with official plaques. They just happen to be in the middle of this campground.  We walk along the ridges and read them, we watch other families do the same.

Once the sun sets, people gather around their campfires.  There’s the smell of wood smoke and food in the air, the sound of laughter, kids fooling around, dogs barking.

I think of the Civil War soldiers that lay in trenches here.  What would they make of all of this?  It might be overwhelming, but  I imagine they would find comfort in knowing that a place that was so hard and bleak for them could be transformed into such a scene.  Families, instead of soldiers, sitting by the campfire.  Making memories, not waging war.

I wish that they could join this encampment – maybe they do… it’s Halloween…

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Stone House

Elizabeth Ann Seton was a wife, mother, and widow before she converted to the Catholic faith, founded the Sisters of Charity – and wound up being the first U.S. born canonized saint.  Like  many other mothers throughout history, she got a lot done.

Stone House was the first permanent home of Mother Seton, her children and companions.  She founded the Sisters of Charity here in 1809. We met some of her modern-day Sisters on the grounds.  The one who gave us the tour of the White House (the nearby home they moved to, after spending a year in the Stone House) is an educator, like Mother Seton.  She specializes in tough teenagers.  From what we saw of her sense of humor, along with her sense of purpose, those kids have more than met their match.  She’s big on teaching them to THINK about the consequences of their choices.  We loved her stories, one of which wound up with their six pack of beer winding up in her refrigerator.

Basilica, where Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is buried

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We took a “simulated factory ride” at Taste of Hershey.  Not a Disney-quality ride, and not a factory tour.  Maybe if we’d brought kids along with us it would have been more fun, but I kind of doubt it – I think Chris had higher standards, even 20 years ago.

Gettysburg, on the other hand, is the real deal.  This time, we start with a tour of President Eisenhower’s home and farm.  A shuttle from the Visitor’s Center takes you to the site.

The only home Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower ever owned

Aside from all the obvious history, I enjoyed the fact that the President and First Lady liked to eat their dinner on tv trays on their informal porch, while watching the evening news with Walter Cronkite.  Krushchev, De Gaulle, and many other foreign dignitaries were entertained here.  I liked Ike’s way of getting a read on his new visitors – by taking them on an exhaustive tour of his farm, and his prize-winning Angus cattle.  After that, they were probably softened up enough, and not forced to watch the Eisenhowers favorite shows, “Bonanza” or “As the World Turns”, respectively.

I’ll never forget the film clip with President Eisenhower being interviewed by Walter Cronkite, where the President chokes up talking about how there must be a way to end war.  In this home, the only one that Ike and Mamie ever owned, there is absolutely no war memorabilia.

We spent the next day at the Gettysburg Visitor’s Center and Museum – probably the best overall Civil War Museum we’ve seen.  Just do it.


Dobbin House Tavern

Dinner was at Dobbin House Tavern, an authentic colonial tavern with delicious food  (we ate in the downstairs pub room -amazing crab dip appetizer, very tasty chicken dinner) lots of history, and a secret crawl space for runaway slaves, featured in “National Geographic”.

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Ephrata Cloister


It’s Sunday,  and we’re here at  Ephrata Cloister, to learn about this 18th century religious community – while, religiously, coming back to the Navion to catch the score/watch the Packer game. We missed Mass today, so our worship has obviously taken a different form.

I listen to what life was like for the people who joined this community – and like everyone else on the guided tour- think, no way.  The celibacy, the sleeping on a board with a wood block for a pillow, little sleep, working for hours on end with little or no food. Vegetarian at that.  We’re not recruited.  But our tour guide did a fantastic job of putting us in a different mind-set. Where were the people in this community coming from, what was going on in the countries they left behind?  War, famine, homelessness, starvation, faith under attack. This place begins to look good.  Food, shelter, clothing, community.  PLUS, singing musical compositions or calligraphic writing, depending on your ability – as a discipline for mind and body.  That’s education.


Sister's House and Saal (Meeting-house) Ephrata Cloister


After the leader, Conrad Beissel died, it sounds like the beds were pretty much “re-made” overnight.  And the community fell into gradual decline.

Oh, and the other ending.  Packers lost.

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Amish Horse-drawn Corn picker


This is the view out my bedroom window.  After a few hours we get used to the clomp clomp clomping of horses hoofs, a few feet away.  Amish carriages pass by here continually.  Much closer than this corn picker.  I can raise my head off my pillow and see them pass by.  It’s a lovely sound and sight.

We spend three days here, at Beacon Hill Campground, in Intercourse, PA.  I’m being careful with my wording here, so stop your snickering. Like I should talk – my maturity level is such that I spent about an hour giggling hysterically in the middle of the night, coming up with different takes.

Okay, now that’s out of the way.  Even though it was Columbus Day weekend and the town and main highways were crawling with tourists, as soon as we got off the beaten path, it was another world.  It’s definitely the most dense population of Amish and Mennonite families we’ve ever experienced.  We are the strange ones here – we’re “English”.  It must get so old for the Amish though, being seen as a curiosity, gawked at and having cameras pointed at them, wherever they go.  I put my camera away while we were here, except for those two shots here,  from where I sleep.  Even though I really wanted to take pictures of the little Amish brothers who pulled a wagon through our campsite, selling amazing baked goods (we bought the pumpkin custard pie).  Or the group picnics at farms, the lines of buggies at the hardware store.

The first day we were here, we drove to Wheatland , President James Buchanan’s home.  The 15th President seems destined to be remembered most for not doing more to prevent the outbreak of the Civil War, by not taking any stand on the slavery issue.  I think I’ll always remember Buchanan for his tragic love story, the fiancee who killed herself after calling off their engagement under pressure, and his lifelong bachelorhood.


We saw Buchanan’s “body” lying in a coffin, in the entryway of his home.  Everybody’s getting ready for Halloween.

After Wheatland, we went to the  “Mennonite Information Center” and saw the film “Who are the Amish”.  There’s also a free film about the Mennonites.  It’s a good introduction for people wanting to learn more about both, and trying to figure out the differences.  I should mention right now, that Beacon Hill rents movies about the area, a buck a night – so we watched the Harrison Ford “Witness”, which was filmed here, and then the sillier Tim Allen “For Richer, For Poorer,” where they pretend to be in Intercourse.  See, what trouble you get into talking about it?

After  that, we did the the buffet at “Family  Cupboard” , because we’d heard that locals went there.  It did look that way – and it was good.

Goodnight from Beacon Hill campsite

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I’ll let the gardens speak for themselves.  Thank you Pierre du Pont for this beautiful place!



Interior Courtyard du Pont House



Water Platters and Water Lilies


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