The Last Day: Gettysburg and Baltimore

June 11, 2023 - 3:04 am No Comments

Woke up to the most glorious blue skies and sunshine in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. An absolutely perfect morning. We’ve really lucked out with the weather, somehow avoiding most of the smoke and haze from the Canada wildfires and hardly seeing a drop of rain for the whole trip.

Our drive to Gettysburg took us past red barns and deer, both of which we’ve seen every day on this trip. The number of red barns we’ve passed is uncountable, and deer have made daily appearances in cemeteries, in run-down residential neighborhoods, at place crash sites, and walking through outdoor patio furniture displays and across parking lots in small towns. They really are everywhere, and they’re pretty chill around humans.

Gettysburg on a sunny Saturday morning is swarming with tourists. The visitor center was packed with old folks, families, and school groups of rowdy kids who were really just there to goof off. We picked up a map for an auto tour of the Gettysburg battlefields, Rob got his souvenir squished pennies for his girlfriend, and we were on our way.

Gun Display at Gettysburg National Military Park

Shell Display at Gettysburg National Military Park

As we followed the route around Gettysburg, we made stops at historically significant spots and viewpoints. At each stop, I shared historical background from the park map, and it was a history lesson for both of us.

Gettysburg National Military Park

McPherson Barn at Gettysburg National Military Park

The battlefields are immense. Illuminated by happy sunshine and filled with the sounds of roaring motorbikes and rowdy kids today, the scene was much more grisly 160 years ago when about 9,000 soldiers died (5,000 in the span of 1 hour) and a further 22,000 were wounded in just 3 days of fighting. To put this in perspective, about 3,000 died on 9/11.

Gettysburg National Military Park

Eternal Light Peace Memorial at Gettysburg National Military Park

There are countless memorials and statues and markers along the route. Every 50 yards, there’s something for this brigade or that regiment. It seemed like every field and thicket has some sort of historical significance, and after a while, we started to get a bit bogged down in the details.

Cannon at Gettysburg National Military Park

State of Louisiana Monument at Gettysburg National Military Park

As we drove, Rob grew impatient with slow and inconsiderate drivers. At our stops, tourists kept getting in the way of Rob’s perfectly framed shots. Rob got quite annoyed with just about everyone. “Fuckin’ Boy Scouts”, “fuckin’ boomer”, “fuckin’ rowdy-ass kids”, “fuckin’ morons”. Rob commented half-jokingly, “Wouldn’t national parks be better if there were no tourists?” I think he’s getting more crotchety in his old age.

One Way Signs at Gettysburg National Military Park

National Cemetery at Gettysburg National Military Park

Our tour of Gettysburg ended at the very spot in the cemetery where Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address.

Lincoln Address Memorial

Soldiers National Monument

Seeking some refreshment, we stopped at Rita’s for an amazingly delicious gelati, a mix of their delicious Italian ice and thick custard. I got the cherry, Rob got the raspberry. We sat in the hot car and tried to wolf it all down before it melted.

Rita's Italian Ice & Frozen Custard

We headed to Baltimore, smashing ants on the dashboard and flicking them off of us along the way. Our first stop would be New Cathedral Cemetery to visit the grave of Hall of Fame baseball player and manager John McGraw. The cemetery is large, hilly, and densely packed with tall, ornate monuments, making for impressive views from atop the hill.

New Cathedral Cemetery

John Joseph McGraw (April 7, 1873 – February 25, 1934) was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) player and manager who was for almost thirty years manager of the New York Giants. He was also the third baseman of the pennant-winning 1890s Baltimore Orioles teams, noted for their innovative, aggressive play.

Through his just-short of thirty years managing the Giants, McGraw exerted control on players and team, and saw great success, winning ten pennants (matched only by Casey Stengel, who played for and learned from him) and three World Series. His 2,763 victories as an MLB manager ranks third overall behind only Connie Mack and Tony La Russa; he holds the NL record with 31 seasons managed. McGraw is widely held to be one of the greatest managers in baseball history. He retired, ill, in 1932 and died less than two years later after making a final appearance in 1933 as NL manager in the first All-Star Game.

McGraw lays in a very impressive mausoleum, by far the most striking resting place of all the baseball graves we have visited on this trip. But there are no baseballs or memorabilia, and the vine growth along the steps tells me that there is almost no public traffic to visit McGraw. Maybe these much older players just don’t get a lot of visitors anymore.

John McGraw Grave

John McGraw Grave

Because we were short on time, and perhaps also because baseball writer Bill James says he’s “probably the worst starting pitcher in the Hall of Fame”, we skipped visiting the grave of Rube Marquard, which is also in the Baltimore area. Sorry, Rube.

We headed into Baltimore to catch the last baseball game of our trip at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. There are woefully inconsistent camera policies at major league ballparks, with some allowing all camera gear, some allowing cameras but only with small lenses, and some prohibiting camera bags altogether. For this particular game, I would not be able to bring in my big camera, which was annoying. My mood improved slightly when we learned that there was a promotional giveaway of Adley Rutschman bobbleheads at the gate.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards features an open concourse and classic warehouse backdrop in right field, but the rest of the park is very plain. And after a couple of games being spoiled by roomy bleacher seats, cramming into traditional seats was uncomfortable.

The female PA announcer had no energy, and the goofy personality trying to rile up fans with stupid contests on the scoreboard between innings had way too much energy. The hot dog race didn’t feature fun characters in costume on the field, it took place electronically on the scoreboard. Crappy music played between innings, and fans were actually asked to vote for which crappy song to play in the middle of the 8th inning by using an app. Everything just seemed so uninspired. Overall, Rob and I both place this ballpark experience on par with Progressive Field.

  • PNC Park: 10/10 (my super-critical ass can’t really think of any way to make it better)
  • Progressive Field: 7/10
  • Oriole Park at Camden Yards: 7/10

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Jeff and Rob at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

It was a decent game, with Orioles beating the Kansas City Royals 6-1. As we left the ballpark, we were approached by several fans offering cash for our Adley Rutschman bobbleheads, but we didn’t budge.

"Babe's Dream" Statue at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

We headed to Phillips Seafood on the Baltimore waterfront for dinner. It was delicious, a perfect meal for the last night of our road trip. Rob and I even shared a piece of cheesecake for dessert. Relaxing at the table, we reminisced about the trip, about all the great things we’ve done, about how everything seemed so impeccably timed, and about what kind of road trip we might want to take next year. We are good at this.

Over the years, I’ve found that Rob and I generally agree on most things, even the controversial stuff. But one thing we have always disagreed on, one thing that we have playfully debated over the years, are the circumstances of JFK’s assassination. While Rob strongly believes Oswald acted alone, I strongly believe there was a larger plot and some sort of conspiracy. I took this last stretch of driving as an opportunity to share some of my latest thoughts and research on the subject. Rob is quite resolute in his beliefs, and I was not sure how my opinions would be received, but he took it pretty well. In the end, we agreed to disagree. This topic is like religion or aliens – the real truth is essentially unknowable, so it’s best to just believe what you want to believe and get on with your life.

We finally pulled up to my house, parked the car, and our trip was over. The odometer read 30,196 miles, making a total of 1,001 miles on the road. Props to Rob for doing all of the driving in a mostly safe manner. Unpacking the car revealed an infestation of ants in the back seat. Rob tended to that and seems determined to end their reign tomorrow.

It’s always weird returning from a amazing trip to the jarringly familiar place you call home, but as a slightly changed person, with new memories and new experiences inside of you. It’s a weird feeling, but a great one, too.

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