A road through the past

I’m in favor of modern, paved roads, when it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg to drive on them (more on that later). Nine times out of 10 times, modern roads are helpful. But if you’re the fool who carries historical maps inside your head, modern roads can befuddle you occasionally.

On our summer vacation, we took a day to visit Gettysburg. This was a risky move, as the battlefield was an enticing attraction to only two members of our five-person family. I have always been a reader of American History. Big Brother has an interest in history as well. He took an 8th grade Civil War class last spring and was eager to see the field.

For the others, interest in Gettysburg was less acute. My wife likes to visit famous places, but once somebody tells her who won, she feels like she’s got all the info about the battle she needs. Buster believes when you go someplace with a cannon on every hill, you should be allowed to blow up something. Big Man just wants a hotel with a pool.

Sorry, Buster. All those guns are just for looking at.

It was a hot, humid day, but everyone bore it well. My wife was a trooper, driving us around and stopping wherever I asked so we could examine the monuments and walk the ground. I used the map in my head to answer Big Brother’s questions.

By the time we got to Little Round Top, it was the heat of the afternoon. We all climbed to the apex and took in the view. I wandered to the left, trying to locate the end of the Union battle line. Big Brother followed, and suddenly we were on a sacred quest to find the monument to the 20th Maine.

The beaten path ended, and we found ourselves exploring through underbrush. Now that the hunt had begun, the younger boys took up the chase, rushing downhill through the weeds to keep up. My wife followed out of concern for her wayward boys, issuing a constant bugle call of poison ivy warnings.

In the overgrowth, we discover the monument to the regiment in line next to the 20th. We must be close. Big Brother forged ahead, convinced he would soon be standing upon that hallowed spot.

He stopped short, clearly befuddled. When I came up to him, I understood why. He stood at a clearing with a paved road running through. We followed the road to an intersection, wondering how we could have missed the marker.

At the intersection we noticed a park ranger addressing a small group across the intersecting road. Then we knew our mistake. The modern roads had messed up the maps in our heads. The monument was just where it should have been, and just where we might have looked, had the Union line been bisected by asphalt in 1863.

No matter. We found our Holy Grail. A 13-year-old solidified his connection to the past. Even his tired and sweaty little brothers seemed satisfied. Their dad was happy about many things at that moment.

We didn’t see everything, but we couldn’t leave without finding this.

Mom had gone to get the car. When we felt the air conditioning inside, she became Gettysburg’s greatest hero.


A month later I got the Pay-by-Plate toll in the mail from the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  The toll for driving from the Ohio border to the Gettysburg exit, one way, was $67. Paved roads are getting to be trouble.


10 comments on “A road through the past

  1. churchmousie says:

    YOUCH on the toll costs! Glad you had a collaborator on the historic appreciation.

  2. It’s great that you no longer have to stop, fish out change, and pay for tolls, but it’s less great when you receive a bill for an amount you weren’t expecting.

  3. Lynn says:

    It can be challenging to source a family vacation that covers everyone’s interest. Sounds like all involved found some sense of enjoyment out of the experience. We don’t have a ton of toll highways up here in Canada but the one that was built to alleviate traffic just north of Toronto is an absolutely ridiculous price to travel on. For us to use it to go to the airport (about a 1 hour drive), it run $40-$50 one way. I try to avoid it it I can but it’s not always possible.

  4. Jeff Cann says:

    The turnpike tolls are ridiculous. After I drove my daughter to the Philly train station and got tolled in the high thirties, I finally got an easy pass. There are some really fun hiking paths around the roundtops if you ever get this way again. I try to avoid the park roads whenever I can.

    • If I used the eastern states’ toll roads more often I would definitely get an easy pass. Not sure how often I would use it. I saw one of the trailheads that looked like it was heading up Big Round Top, but my family was in no mood to hike, and in that humidity, I don’t think I was either.

  5. AmyRose🌹 says:

    I’m chuckling as I write these words, Scott, for once again the way you write a story is amusing. I’m thrilled your hunt had a happy ending and as for your wife, all I can say is what a trooper she is! Thank you for sharing your humor and your life with us. Both are so appreciated!

    • It’s always gratifying to know my posts inspire a chuckle or two, Amy. Life should be filled with laughter as much as possible. I am fortunate the my family provide me with lots. It only seems right to pass a little of it on.

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