Although the day dawned rainy, we were determined to follow through with our plans to visit the Gettysburg Battlefield. We had brought the CD Auto Tour we’d purchased on an earlier visit. It’s actually well done and we felt it would be helpful for Mom and Dad to listen to it as we traveled through the park.
But before we toured the Battlefield, we wanted to visit the brand new Visitors’ Center that opened 4 weeks ago. It’s in a different location than the old one and much, much bigger than the prior location. Parking is far better and everything is completely handicapped accessible, which is really important for Mom, who has really bad arthritis, needs a cane and can’t do more than one or two stairs if she really has to.
The new facility is not complete, really, because they have not yet transferred the cyclorama. That is a floor to ceiling circular painting of the battle. When you stand in the middle of the room, you have a clear picture of what was happening at that given moment on the battlefield along both the Northern and Southern lines. They are having it refurbished before moving it to the new center. When that job is complete, the will move it over and have the Official Grand Opening of the Visitors Center. Right now the center houses a set of theaters that show the Orientation Film, “A New Birth of Freedom,” which runs about 20 minutes. Because there are several theaters showing the film at 15 minute intervals, it seems there is not more than a 7 minute wait to get in. Good planning.
The Center also contains a museum of the Battle of Gettysburg filled with many artifacts from the war. It does a good job of helping visitors understand not only the battle events but the underlying causes of the war itself. They do, of course, have the obligatory gift and book shop with fairly good quality merchandise.
Due to Mom’s disabilities, we had to more along more slowly than you might normally while investigating the offerings of the center. I must say that the corridors were wide so we weren’t crushed by the occasional bus tour group. And there were numerous, well placed benches to sit on – either to sit and ponder what you’re seeing or rest your weary body.
After spending about an hour and a half, we wanted to start the auto tour. So my husband went to get the car while we waited at the near the door. We waited outside the door, actually, because the rain had stopped and the sun was starting to peek around the clouds.
We returned to the old Visitor Center, since the Auto Tour begins in that parking lot. We turned on the CD’s and we were instantly transported to the days of July 2 to Jul 4, 1863. The narrator tells you who was camped along the stretches of road and who was commanding them; he describes some of the a life in the day of a soldier in Civil War times.
We took our time along the route, thinking about the contrast of beauty and tragedy that the place offers. The fields with their bright yellow wildflowers glowed in the emerging sun. The tour takes you over the varied terrain, so that it becomes easy to see why some locations were more favorable than others in a military action. We discussed whether you had to be brave or crazy to cross open fields with no protection to try to shoot at someone before they mowed you down. We all agreed we couldn’t do it.
We finished our tour and decided it was time for lunch. We chose McClellan’s Tavern in the center of town and had a very good meal. Since it was about 2:30 PM, we also had the tavern pretty much to ourselves. It was quite a pleasant meal.
Mom and I came back to the hotel for a rest, while my husband and Dad went for a walk in downtown Gettysburg.
It certainly was a much better day that yesterday’s rainy drive. Tomorrow we head for our slightly altered next destination. We’ve changed our itinerary a bit due to the weather forecast. As they say, “changed on accounta rain.”
Talk to you later – when I’m more awake!