I’m really blown away at the response this blog has gotten since we got back from the trip. After the first article was published earlier this week in The Cary News, I find out that WRAL anchor Bill Leslie has mentioned us in his Carolina Conversations blog. Not only is it a great little post, but it brought about 130 new people to the blog yesterday and today. Just yesterday, the blog got 1,011 views (for reference, that means how many pages were looked at on the site, not necessarily how many different people came to the site).

For all the people just finding the blog, feel free to contact me or leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you about your thoughts or great trips you’ve taken.

I think this shows that there is enough interest in turning this into some type of travel story/article.

This makes me feel like I should be posting on this thing more often, but I don’t really want to turn this into a personal blog. I think it needs to stay as a memorial to our trip, so you won’t see me update this much more. To shamelessly self-promote again, if you want to check out my personal blog that I update much more regularly, go to

I look forward to hearing from you!


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We got published!

After a few e-mails from my mom, the Cary News decided to write a short article about this trip. Vickie Jean Dehamer talked to all three of us and used this blog to craft a nice little article that was published on September 3.

I was very impressed and excited to read someone else’s take on our summer. She also mentioned this blog at the end of her article, which is probably the reason this blog got 420 hits yesterday.

Here are some snippets:

Ask most kids if they would spend a month in a car with family, and they’d probably need a minute to think about it.

Corey Inscoe of Cary didn’t even hesitate.

“This might be the only opportunity to see the country with Paw-Paw,” he recalled in his blog, an electronic diary he published on the Internet chronicling the 32-day trip he took this summer with his grandfather Walter Inscoe and sister Madison — one that covered over 10,000 miles from June 10 through July 12.


Walter, 81, a retired U.S. Air Force chief master sergeant, was the mastermind behind the impromptu expedition, coming up with the idea after losing his wife Mildred in December after more than 60 years of marriage.

“So I was sitting there feeling sorry for myself and I called my son and said, ‘what do you think if I ask my two grandchildren to go on this trip?’” Walter said. “They said yes, and I started making plans.”


In the end, Corey may have benefited more from his cross-country adventure than from any journalism internship, because it got him back into the habit of writing every day. He hopes to segue his blog into an article for a local travel magazine.

Walter knew what he was doing the whole time.

“I spent more time with them in those 32 days than I have their whole lives,” he said. “I wouldn’t take a million dollars in exchange for it.”

Click here to read the full article.

Also, on a side note, if for some crazy reason you want to keep reading my random rants about music, journalism, politics, sports or whatever, check out my regular blog at

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Hey guys.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten on here, but I promise that I haven’t forgotten about you. Once I got back from the trip it seemed like everything exploded. One week later I was on a plane to San Francisco for a week, then I came back and had to move apartments, then not too long after I was lugging my 35-pound horn around band camp for three days, which was quickly followed by the first day of classes.

Needless to say, I haven’t gotten as much time as I wanted to go through and edit all the posts into a comprehensive story/book. It will happen as soon as I can possibly get it done.

Just a selfish update about me, I got an internship at Chapel Hill Magazine for the fall semester. It’s a nice little job, but nothing too terribly exciting. I’m mostly working on the Chapel Hill visitor’s guide, so I’ve been compiling restaurant listings and calling hotels to make sure the information we have for them is correct. It’s good experience and hopefully I’ll get lucky and get to work on an article for the magazine.

The internship on top of four classes (Intro to Rock Music, Musical Modernism, Music Theory and Blogging — sounds tough, I know), marching band three times a week and still working at the bookstore, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of free time. But I’m trudging my way through it and so far still have a pretty positive outlook on things. I hope that it stays that way.

Anyway, I just wanted to check in and let y’all know what’s up. I noticed that people are still visiting this blog, which makes me happy. Now when you come back you have something new to read.

Oh, and one other thing. The pictures from the last few days of our trip were never posted because right after I got them onto my computer’s hard drive, I had to get a new hard drive for my laptop because it basically stopped working. Madison still has them somewhere, so maybe I can get her to put them up.

Alright, time to head to blogging class.

I’ll update you again soon.


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July 10: The Last Day

One month to the day after we set out on this cross-country voyage, we spent our last full day of the trip exploring our nation’s capital. I think it’s the right place to end a road trip: the place where this country is run.

Last night we talked about what we wanted to do. We saw a lot of Washington, D.C. when we were here for Maw-Maw’s funeral, so we wanted to pick some new things that we didn’t do last time. Madison mentioned the Holocaust museum, which I had heard good things about. Paw-Paw and I were interested in the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and Paw-Paw also wanted to see the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Three museums should be plenty to fill up a day, maybe two.

This morning we got up fairly early and caught the shuttle bus to the local metro station. From there we rode for about 15 minutes to the Smithsonian stop right on the Washington Mall. After consulting a map of the local museums, we decided to go to the American History museum first, then down to the Holocaust museum and then work our way over to the Air and Space Museum.

Right about the time we were walking up to the first museum, I remembered that it was closed in the winter for renovations. Of course, not a minute later, I saw a sign that said the museum wouldn’t be open until the Fall of 2008. I guess that took one of the museums off of our list.

We walked past the Department of Agriculture building and went across the street to the Holocaust Museum. Madison and I had heard a lot of good things about it and felt like it was something we needed to see. As we walked into the main exhibit, we were told to pick up an ID card. Inside there was information about someone who lived during the Holocaust. The idea was that as you moved from the different levels of the museum, you read what was happening to your person at that time. It personalized the museum and gave you some perspective on what was happening. My ID was of a young Polish Jew named Jakob Frenkiel.

An elevator takes you up to the fourth floor of the museum, and you work your way down to the first floor. The fourth floor is all about the Nazi rise to power and how Hitler essentially took over the country. It also talked about the Jews’ place in the world before the Holocaust. There was a ton of information, lots of artifacts and a few movies you could watch to get more information.

It’s fascinating and scary to see how Hitler energized so many people and essentially brainwashed them into following him. He gave the people so much hope and was able to connect to them so well with speeches. It scares me because this could still happen. One man can wield so much power and even get people to believe in him and support him while he kills millions of “inferior” people.

The second level of the museum was about the ghettos and concentration camps. It’s impossible to imagine what these people were living in and what they were forced to do. I also don’t know how people can willingly do this to other human beings. They had to see that what they were doing was wrong, so how could they keep doing it? I just can’t and will never be able to understand that.

This part of the museum was really tough to go through. They had graphic videos of killings and graves, they had a room where you could listen to survivors of Auschwitz talk about what happened to them there, they had a scaled model of a gas chamber. It’s hard to believe that it’s all real. Seeing and hearing the survivors talking about what they had to go through was exceptionally touching.

The museum ended on a positive note, with stories of people who helped the Jews avoid persecution and the liberations of the Nazi concentration camps. The exhibition ended at a beautiful hall of remembrance in the shape of a hexagon and had the names of the major concentration camps inscribed on each side and two rows of lit candles under the inscription. If there was any uplifting way to bring a close to this exhibit, that hall was it.

We spent four hours in that museum, so we decided just to grab a quick lunch at a hot dog stand and move on to the Air and Space museum before it closed. First, we decided to check out an IMAX movie. Paw-Paw and I had never been to one and wanted to see what it was all about. They were showing a movie call “The Sun: 3D.” We got the sweet 3D glasses. I was excited. I had never seen a 3D movie either. It would be a day of firsts.

The movie was pretty cool. NASA scientists have sent out two satellites to take pictures of the sun at the same time in order to get a 3D picture of it and be able to predict solar storms better. It was fascinating. What was even cooler was that I felt like I could reach out and touch the satellites that went flying by. It took all the restraint I could muster to keep from reaching up and grabbing at the little solar particles that were drifting just over my head. But in the end, I walked out with a headache, but I guess it was worth it.

The actual museum was pretty cool with all kinds of planes and info about space exploration. It seems that they have shifted the focus of this museum more towards space rather than air, which I think might have disappointed Paw-Paw. Overall it was good, but in regard to planes it just can’t match up to the National Air Force Museum.

The best part was the flight simulator. For a few bucks, you could get into a simulator and actually try to fly a jet fighter. Two people would go in, the pilot and the gunner. I was the pilot, Madison the gunner. Wherever you steered, the simulator tilted with you — even if you went upside-down. They had you strapped in like on a roller coaster and they forced you to take everything out of your pockets. It was intense and scary to be pulling barrel-rolls on this simulator. But with Madison and I working together, we shot down five planes, giving us “Ace” status. My headache got a lot worse.

At that point I’m pretty sure we were done with museums. We walked back to the Metro and eventually made it back to the hotel.

I’m exhausted. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this trip, but I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and not having to drive almost everyday.  But I will miss the new friend we made in Washington: Harold the mouse. He decided to visit me last night when I was writing the blog. He hasn’t come out tonight, but I’m just waiting for him to scurry across my feet. Or maybe he’ll stow away in Madison’s suitcase…

Tomorrow we head home. We’ll be getting into Wilson around two p.m., which means back in Cary sometime before four. I won’t post tomorrow, but I plan on posting a summary post in the next few days just to kind of give some reflections on the trip as a whole. Look for that this weekend or early next week.

Until then, thanks for reading, commenting, enjoying or randomly stumbling upon this blog. It’s been good to write and I’m glad people have enjoyed reading it, despite my longwindedness. I plan on editing this (I never read over these posts, so I’m sure there were plenty of typos and unnecessary things), adding the things that I forgot about, smoothing the transitions to make it read more like a book and incorporating a few pictures here and there to follow the narrative. If you want a copy of it, for any strange reason, you can e-mail me and I’ll send an electronic copy to you sometime in the relatively near future (before Christmastime).

Again, thanks for riding along with us and I hope you enjoyed it! I look forward to hearing from you.


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July 9: Arlington

Storms all along the east coast. High pressure system sweeping across the east. Or was it low pressure? Or cold front? All those colored lines behind the meteorologist start to confuse me after a while. It looks like some crazy cosmic battle plan. Either way, I’m pretty sure those big green blobs and little clouds with cute sparkling lightning bolts and rain meant that it was supposed to storm today.

It didn’t.

We got a little rain around Delaware as we were coming from Philly to D.C., but that was it. No big deal. Which meant we got a full afternoon to go visit Arlington National Cemetery. After being dragged around and misdirected by the OnStar navigating system, we pulled into the cemetery around one in the afternoon. We have the pass that lets us into the family parking lot, so we got to bypass the visitor lot and pull right in. I felt important.

First stop was to walk over to Maw-Maw’s grave site. We found it very easily since it is just one row back from the parking lot. Since we were last there, they have put the marker up and covered her grave with grass. Also, there are dozens of new graves all around her, many that haven’t even gotten the actual marker put up. It made the area look a little different, but much nicer than when we were there in the cold and rainy winter. They average 28 burials per day in the cemetery, so these plots start to fill up fast.

We stood there for a while and paid our respects. It was nice to take some time to be there and think of and remember her. It’s a fitting way to finish a trip that we know she would have loved to take herself. I’d like to think that she was with us along the way.

Eventually, we moved over to the visitor’s center to look into touring the cemetery. When we were there for the funeral, it was too cold and nasty out so we didn’t get to tour the grounds. We got tickets for a shuttle that would drive us around the grounds and allow us to get off on the three major stops: the Kennedy memorial and gravesite, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s old house.

Of course, as we have all trip, we met more people from North Carolina while waiting for the bus. The guy that took our ticket was actually born in Roanoke Rapids (where Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw grew up and finally settled in, and where Dad grew up) and went to school in nearby Weldon. He started talking fondly about N.C. barbeque (Eastern-style, of course) and how much he missed it. He said they try to make it in D.C., but it doesn’t even compare.

Then we found out that our bus driver was from Wilson. He came back and talked to us for a while before we took the tour. North Carolina people are everywhere. It really is a small world, or at least a small country.

Our first stop on the tour was the Kennedy grave. It’s a beautiful little monument with the eternal flame flickering in the wind. JFK and Jacquelin Kennedy Onassis are buried there along with two of their children who died early. One of the graves is only marked “Daughter.” On a wall across from the graves, there are multiple inscriptions of a JFK speech.

About sixty feet to the right down the hill from the JFK grave is the grave of Robert Kennedy. His grave is very modest, especially compared to JFK’s. This one has just a simple white cross standing and a flat marker on the ground with his name and dates on it.

The next major stop was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. To get to the tomb, we walked around a beautiful Greek-style amphitheater that is used for various programs in the cemetery. The whole thing was made out of marble, I’m pretty sure. It was impressive.

We got to the tomb just a few minutes before the changing of the guards ceremony and found a seat up front. When we were here to bury Maw-Maw, they had a TV in the waiting room showing the tomb and we got to see the changing of the guards on that, but this was much more impressive. They look like toy soldiers. Like they are robotic replicas of each other. They have to be a certain height and size to qualify for the Honor Guard, and they go through rigorous training to get to do this.

They have been guarding this tomb non-stop (24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days out of the year) for about 60 years now. They don’t stop for anything: weather, national events, 9/11. The guard paces back and forth, going 21 steps each way. He also waits 21 seconds at each side. He switches the gun at each end so that it is always away from the actual tomb. The 21s represent the 21 gun salute, which is the highest honor given to a veteran.

The tomb is actually four tombs, one of which is empty. There are unidentified bodies of soldiers from World Wars I and II, and from Korea. There used to be a unknown body in the Vietnam one, but, thanks to DNA technology, they were able to identify him and he is now buried near his hometown around St. Louis, Missouri.

The guards go through the change like clockwork. All organized and synchronized with precise timed movements. The officer comes up and announces the ceremony, then goes to check the new guard coming on. He takes about five minutes to check his gun and uniform before moving him towards the marching area. He then stops the other guard and they salute the tomb. Then the guards switch places and it continues on.

In the summer they switch every 30 minutes (because of the heat) and in the winter they switch every hour.

The next stop was the Arlington house, where General Lee lived. When he was there this was obviously not a cemetery. It was actually land bought by George Washington’s grandson. Lee married into that family and ended up living there with his wife until the Civil War broke out. When the war was over, a Union general decided to get back at Lee for leaving the Union army by putting the graves of Union soldiers all around his house so that he wouldn’t come back and live there. It worked: they never returned. And that is how Arlington Cemetery started.

The house was kind of disappointing though. They are working on restoring it and there just wasn’t much to see. We quickly left there and the bus took us back to the visitor’s center.

We have a hotel nearby in Arlington, Va., where we will be staying for our last two nights of the trip. Tomorrow we plan on hitting up some Washington museums, namely the Smithsonian of American History (if that’s what it’s called), the Holocaust Museum, and the Air and Space museum. If we don’t get it all done, we will do it on Friday morning and head out after that.

Paw-Paw said that he wants to come visit about every six months, so we will have more opportunities to come explore and there is no reason to cram it in now.

Here’s to our last full day!


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July 8: A Forgotten Day in American History?

Today we were in the old nation’s capital. Tomorrow we will be in the new one.

Thankfully, Paw-Paw let me sleep in some this morning since I stayed up until two a.m. last night on a very important phone call. I got up and got ready around 9:30 while Madison and Paw-Paw looked at some of the tours available and tried to decide what we would do. We figured the easiest way to check everything out would be to go down to the visitor’s center right by Independence Hall and see what the historic area had to offer.

We got free tickets to tour the hall and also signed up for a hop on/hop off bus tour that ran all day. We had a couple of hours before our tour of Independence Hall started, so we walked across the street and looked at the Liberty Bell.

As important as these things are, I always feel kind of let down when I see them. The Liberty Bell is a symbol of this country, but really all it is is just an old broken bell. It’s famous because a couple of guys couldn’t repair it. I understand the symbolism, but I always expect these symbols to be much more impressive than they are.

We had just enough time before our Independence Hall tour to ride the full route of the bus tour and check out the city. It was one of those double-decker buses, so of course we climbed up on top. I heard Bus Guide Joe come up behind us and say something to a man about UNC. The man was wearing a UNC hat and I swear the tour guide said that he was going there, so I turned around and asked him. It turns out that he is moving down to Chapel Hill next semester to study at Playmakers for graduate school. He is actually living in the apartment complex that I almost did before one of my roommates dropped out. We spent a few minutes talking about the town and ridiculous basketball team we have coming back next year. He said he was in town for the UNC vs. dook game last year and loved the crazy Tar Heel fans running around.

He took us on a 90-minute tour around the city, seeing all the big sights: the Betsy Ross house, Ben Franklin Court, U.S. Mint, City Hall, the Art Museum (“Rocky” steps), the zoo, and the historical district. Joe knew his stuff about the town and was constantly giving little stories about the city and all the architecture, sculptures and history. It was a great overview and gave us a fill of what we wanted to come back to.

We made it back just in time to catch our Independence Hall tour (actually, we were late, but the guy was nice enough to let us in). Our ranger was the worst guide that we’ve had all trip. He has to be new, and very, very shy. It was pretty obvious that he’d memorized the guidebook in chunks. His pattern of speech was crazy: “On July — fourth seventeen — seventy six, the Declaration of — Independence was — not signed but — adopted.” This is not an exaggeration. When someone asked him a question he wouldn’t look them in the eye, but instead looked down at the floor. Insecurity isn’t a good trait in a tour guide.

Like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall was less than impressive. It’s a fairly small two-story building and other than what happened there, there is nothing impressive about it. It was originally the Pennsylvania State House before it was used for the drafting of the declaration, Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. On the lower floor, there are two main rooms: the judicial room, where the Pennsylvania court met, and the legislative room, where the legislature met. The latter is where our important documents were born.

Most of the furniture pieces are replicas except for George Washington’s chair, with it’s half exposed sun. The guide talked a little bit about what happened there, but it wasn’t anything more than I learned in AP US History in high school. Upstairs was the governor’s area where he would entertain foreign dignitaries or other important people.

And that was it. The tour was over. Again, other than thinking about what happened there, it’s nothing exciting to see.

We walked outside and went to a little building that housed some of the original copies made of the declaration, AoC and Constitution. These are not the original and final documents, but they are copies that were made around the time that these were being drafted. We got our own complimentary copy of the Declaration. All the “s”s look like “f”s.

Next we got a short tour of the old congress building that was used when Philly was the national capital. Again, nothing too impressive and most everything around was a replica. At this point we were done with Independence Square. It was good to see, but not on my top list of great tourist spots in the country.

There is one thing that you have to do in Philly: get a Philly steak. I have been here twice before and went to Pat’s King of Steaks both times. Pat is supposed to have created the Philly Steak. Unfortunately that is in South Philly, pretty far from where we were. The bus tour guide mentioned that Rick’s in the Reading Market in downtown and recommended that instead of Pat’s. Rick is apparently the son or grandson of Pat.

We walked the few blocks over there and got in a pretty short line. We went in the mid-afternoon so I guess we missed the crazy lunch crowd. Madison and Paw-Paw had never had a steak before, so I had to give them a little talk on how to order. We got our order and had to fight for seats, which was awesome.

There is nothing healthy about a Philly steak. It’s the greasiest thing in the world.

That being said, they are so freakin’ good!! I’m glad that they both agreed with me, and I have to say it was better than Pat’s.

We had to walk off this heavy lunch, so we went a few blocks down to what’s called Love Park. It’s a nice little fountain with the famous “Love” sculpture sitting in front of it. (If you don’t know the sculpture, I’ll have a picture up soon. It’s the one where the letters are stacked in a square and the “o” is crooked.) We got a few pictures before we were bombarded by a wedding party that was singing and dancing and taking pictures around the sculpture. They were hilarious and having way too much fun!

We got back on our tour bus at this point and went to the “Rocky” steps in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum. I really wanted to go in and check out the museum, but by the time we got there it was close to closing and there was no reason to pay for 30 minutes. Instead, we took some pictures in front of the statue of Rocky and Madison and I raced up the steps. I won. And I’m no longer impressed by that scene in the movie. It’s only 72 steps, and supposedly Sylvester Stallone only ran eight and had his body double run the rest.

We rode around the last part of the tour again (with a tour guide that wasn’t anywhere near as good as the first) and ended up back at the visitor’s center at around six p.m. We were pretty exhausted at this point, so we got the hotel shuttle to pick us up and crashed back at the hotel. They Philly held us all over (except Madison, of course) so we decided not to grab dinner.

Tomorrow we will be getting up early to head to Washington, D.C. We hope to go ahead and tour Arlington tomorrow when we get there. Right now it looks like we will be staying two nights and then heading home some time on the third day.

We’ve actually reached the end, and the time seems like it has flown by!

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July 7: Gettysburg

One hundred and forty-five years ago this week, Union and Confederate forces essentially accidentally ran into each other right outside of a little town called Gettysburg. It turned out to be one of the most important battles in the War Between the States.

This morning we drove down to the historic battlefield and looked into hiring a tour guide to take us around the 6,000 acre area. At Gettysburg, you can hire a guide to drive in your car with you and give you a personal tour. The first one available was at 11 a.m. (we were there at 9 a.m.), so we decided to waste some time by going around the free museum that they have in the visitor’s center. This is a new visitor’s center and is very well done. We spent two hours in the museum and didn’t even get to finish it before our tour.

According to Paw-Paw, in the old museum they had a battlefield display that used lights to show how the battle progressed over the three days. In this new museum, they use three separate videos in separate rooms to show each day of the battle and what happened. In addition to that, they have relics and artifacts from each day and even interactive games you can play to learn about what the soldiers packed, bugle calls and signal flags.

The museum doesn’t just focus on the battle, but also has sections about the events leading up to the war and what happened after Gettysburg and the war. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to the last part before we had to meet up with our guide.

Right at 11 a.m., Battlefield Guide Joe met us in the lobby of the visitor’s center. He was a tall, goofy looking guy with a distinguished gray mustache, distinguished glasses and a distinguished Gettysburg Battlefield Guide short-sleeve dress shirt.

As we walked out to the car, he asked us where we were from and how much we really knew about the battle and the war. I’m sure he tailors the tour based on these two factors. He was a wealth of knowledge and could go very in depth if he was with people who had studied the war a lot, or could do more of an overview with the not so learned. He also could focus on a certain state if it was involved with the battle.

We were definitely in the not so learned group, and he found that out very quickly. If it wasn’t for that museum, I would have been completely in the dark about the battle and felt like an idiot. Luckily I pick up on things quickly and was able to follow what he was talking about and ask some semi-intelligent questions.

Since we were from North Carolina, he focused largely on what the N.C. brigades did during the war, which was actually quite a lot. They were a large part of the first battle on the first day, and got the farthest on Pickett’s Charge, the South’s last ditch attempt to defeat the Union. This is where the name “Tar Heels” is supposed to have come from, owing to the fact that North Carolinians would stand their ground and refuse to fall, like they had tar on their heels.

He based the tour around each day, driving us to different parts of the battlefield and showing us where the armies were and how the battle progressed. Once I got my bearings, it really started to make a lot of sense and was interesting to see. I tried to visualize the thousands of troops that were running around this tiny town.

According to our guide, very soon after the battle ended, a local man started buying the battlegrounds to preserve them and historians came up and started interviewing injured or captured soldiers that were left behind to find out exactly where all the different brigades were at different parts of the battle. Because of this, they have more than 1,000 memorials littering the battlefield, showing where the different brigades were. They even have little flank markers that show exactly where each army line was. Our guide said that there are no other battlefields that are this preserved and documented around now.

Each of the southern states involved in the battle put up a monument on the main southern front of the battlefield. He took us to the North Carolina monument, which was by far the most artistic. It was a sculpture of four soldiers that were running in Pickett’s charge. Each soldier represented a different state that the soldiers were going through: one was injured, one was grim-faced and determined, one was obviously nervous, and the other was a grizzled veteran trying to calm the nervous soldier.

We found out that the sculpture was done by Gutzon Borglum. That name should sound familiar because of an earlier post: it’s the same man that sculpted Mt. Rushmore. Pretty cool.

I won’t bore you with all the history of Gettysburg that I learned today, but I’ll suffice it to say that if the southern generals had listened to Lee and thought a little more, they probably would have won the war. Lee’s ideas and plans for attack should have worked in theory, but the execution was awful. I’m not saying I wanted the South to win because it would have ruined this country, but it’s amazing how close they were to dealing a harsh blow to the Union and possibly forcing an end to the war.

“It was like a mirage. They could see it right in front of them, but every time they reached out for it it went away,” said Battlefield Guide Joe.

The North had their share of blunders, too, but they got lucky by just barely beating the Southern forces to Little Round Top — a high hill that gave great attacking position around the town — and knew the area better so that they could position themselves accordingly.

I’ve never studied the Civil War much, but seeing this battlefield and how everything worked got me really interested. And Joe was full of great anecdotes about the war and people that were involved with it. He said that the guides basically do a lot of research into people and stories during the off season (winter), so he gets a lot of information then. He also hears many stories from guests and takes the time to look them up.

At the end I asked him how he got involved with the park and how he got the job. He said he had been studying the war and the Southern generals since the ninth grade. He’s a self-proclaimed huge Civil War buff. I guess he has a dream job.

After driving around for about two hours with Joe, we dropped him off at his car and thanked him for the tour. We were done with Gettysburg then and decided to grab a quick lunch at the Kickin’ Kitchen in downtown before heading over to Philly.

We had to fight some traffic, but got to Philadelphia around 6 p.m. and got checked into our room. We will be here for two nights and will take the time to explore the city — mainly the old downtown portion — tomorrow.

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July 5 + 6: Mmmm…

“Who can take a sunrise
Sprinkle it in dew
Cover it in chocolate
and a miracle or two?

The candyman
The candyman can
The candyman can cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good”
~”Candyman Can” — Sammy Davis Jr., or that dude in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”

[LOTS of new pictures up!!]

I felt kind of like Charlie when we pulled into downtown Hershey with it’s Hershey’s Kiss shaped street lamps and street names like “Cocoa” and “Chocolate.” Unfortunately, the Hershey factory wasn’t quite as impressive as Wonka’s and neither Gene Wilder nor Johnny Depp were standing out front. I was a little disappointed, but that didn’t hamper my spirits any.

We got into town late yesterday afternoon and decided to grab a quick dinner at a local diner before riding around the downtown area to get our bearings. I found out later that Hershey actually built the town around his chocolate factory (I had been wondering which came first, the town or the chocolate). It’s a sweet little town (haha, get it?) with a old style downtown area and a nice little park on the right side of the road. It has a community center and a full Broadway-style theater.

Hershey was really adamant about building a wholesome and fun town around his factory. He basically built and planned the town himself and most of his buildings are still there. He set up the churches, some houses and even the schools, one of which he set up for orphan boys — Hershey Industrial School — after he found out that he and his wife couldn’t have kids. It sounds like this guy was pretty cool, and I hope more filthy rich people take his example and really invest a lot into the people in the community. He basically left his life savings and a large portion of the stock from his company to a fund that supports the Hershey Industrial School and some other things in town. I guess you have more perspective and respect for the little people when your candy business fails four or five times like his did.

Anyway, this morning we got up and headed over to the main attractions area of Hershey, just a few blocks from downtown. The main attraction there is Hersheypark, which Hershey set up as a place for his workers to relax and enjoy themselves on days off. What started out as a nice relaxing park has turned into a full-fledged amusement park complete with 11 roller coasters and a $40 entrance fee. We decided to skip that part and instead focus on Hershey’s Chocolate World and the Hershey Museum.

Hershey’s Chocolate World is an awesome little building right beside Hersheypark. Inside it has a free Hershey Factory Tour ride that we went on first. We jumped on a little car that rode us around a simulated factory and told us how the chocolate is made. It wasn’t quite as cool as touring the real factory — which apparently they don’t do anymore — but it had singing cows and free candy at the end. One of the cows was named Gabby (one of Madison’s friends), so we got a good laugh out of that!

They also have an area called the chocolate factory works where you can personalize chocolate. Either you can make the kisses yourself, personalize a bag of candy with whatever you want, or personalize the wrapping of a Hershey Bar or Hershey Kiss. We got to have some fun with that.

There is a trolley ride that rides around the town and gives some of the history of the area and its founder. We figured it would be the best and quickest way to learn, so we got a ticket. We weren’t quite sure what they meant by sing-a-longs, but we figured it couldn’t be too bad.

All of the conductors on the trolley young, over-caffeinated people that took a lot of drama classes in high school. They were over the top and goofy, almost like clowns, but they were still pretty funny. When we got on the trolley we found a song sheet sitting on the bench.

Our main conductor was a cool little girl named Rachel. She was later joined by “Wilbur” the “new guy” on the staff who was just a little bit on the slow side. They played off each other pretty well and were a lot of fun to watch. It was definitely aimed at kids, but I got a lot of enjoyment out of it. Maybe that says something about my sense of humor, but I’m not ashamed. We rode past the factory a few times. Every time we did, they would say “THE WORLD’S LARGEST CHOCOLATE FACTORY!!” and we had to cheer. Good times.

When we were getting ready to ride up to Hershey’s house, “Wilbur” claimed that he forgot his camera and had to go back an get it, so he ran off the bus. Rachel led us through some stuff, showing us the mansion and the grounds around it. Of course, the guy playing Wilbur kept popping up at different points on the bus acting like different characters: Hershey’s parents, a student at the Industrial school and a soldier just getting back from World War II. He was mostly there for comic relief as Rachel expertly led us around the Hershey homestead (where he was born), the Industrial School grounds, and the Hershey Gardens. It’s a beautiful little area, and I wouldn’t mind living in a town like that. Especially because of all the candy!

Every once in a while, one of the characters that got on the bus would pass around candy, which was pretty sweet. Even more often, we would get to sing a song. We were encouraged to sing along, which most people surprisingly did. We sang “A Bicycle Built For Two,” “You are my Sunshine,” and a few others that I’ve forgotten. Wilbur and Rachel showed us all up with their amazing voices and harmonies. I was really impressed with their singing, especially because it was a cappella on a moving trolley.

When we finished the tour, we decided to head over to the Hershey Museum. It wasn’t as much fun as the Chocolate World, but it had some good information in there and interesting little exhibits. They had a lot of places where you could put on factory uniforms and Native American clothing (they had a Native American exhibit because Hershey started a Native American museum in the town), so Madison was our guinea pig. (Check out the pictures)

I think by then we were all chocolated out, so we grabbed some lunch, left Hershey, and made the one-hour drive to Gettysburg in the afternoon. After getting checked in, we got some dinner at the Lincoln Diner and are now back in the rooms to rest up for tomorrow.

We’ll be touring the battlefield and learning all the history tomorrow. Unfortunately we missed the reenactment that they were doing over the past three days. We’ve seen lots of people walking around in Civil War dress and even a few trucks carrying canons.

After we finish touring Gettysburg, we will be heading on to Philadelphia since it’s only a two hour drive. We’ll probably end up spending one or two nights there.

Only two stops left!

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July 3 + 4: Corky’s Old Time Rock ‘N’ Roll Revival…oh yeah, and fireworks

I decided not to post last night since yesterday was spent just traveling from Chicago to a little city just outside of Dayton, Ohio, called Fairborn. It’s right at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where Paw-Paw used to be stationed and where the National Museum of the Air Force is located. We toured the base last night. It was huge and had two golf courses inside it. It was like a mini city. A lot of the base was still the same, especially the area where he mostly worked with the Strategic Air Command, which is located in its own little area at the back of the base.

We got up relatively late this morning (I never thought I would actually consider 9:30 late) and ended up at the Air Force museum at around 10:30. It was pouring down rain all morning. It’s the first rain we’ve seen on the trip outside of the occasional drizzle when we were driving. Luckily the museum is inside and the weather didn’t affect our plans.

The museum is housed in three massive airplane hangars and contains planes all the way from the Wright Brothers to the new B-2 stealth bomber. Most of the first hangar showed the evolution of the plane from the first flights to its use in the two World Wars. It’s amazing how quickly aeronautical technology advance in just those 30 years. From unstable wooden contraptions to single-propeller fighters that can reach 40,000 feet. The highlight of that exhibit was the Bockscar, the bomber that dropped the second atomic bomb on Japan. Paw-Paw was in the unit that worked with this plane and the Enola Gay, but he joined it after World War II.

Between first two hangars, they had a small exhibit on the Holocaust, consisting mostly of artifacts and stories from locals who were involved. It took us about three hours to get through the first hangar, so we decided to grab a quick lunch. After that, it was on to hangar two.

This hangar was made up of planes from the Korean and Vietnam wars. Since the planes have gotten larger at this point, there was less to see and we got through it quicker. They centerpiece was a large B-52 bomber that they had set up on a pedestal in the middle of the room. There were also a lot of jets, since this is when they started to replace the propeller driven aircrafts. They had the fuselage of one bomber open so you could walk through it, and they also had the cargo area of a huge cargo plane open. In one part, they had the cockpit of a fighter open so that you could climb into the pilot and co-pilot seats and look at all the panels. It was pretty tight quarters and there was a confusing array of knobs, buttons, levers and dials. I had no idea what was going on.

The final hangar housed what Paw-Paw called his plane: the B-36. This plane is even larger than the B-52, but was only used between 1949 and 1959 because the faster B-52 replaced it as the bomber of choice. This is the plane that Paw-Paw worked on the most, and the one that he was a crew chief for, which basically meant he ran all the maintenance on the craft. It was so impressive to see towering over all those other planes.

This hangar was focused on the Cold War on up to the present. There were a lot more jet fighter planes and experimental models on display. The last plane in the exhibit was a B-2 stealth bomber, that looks more like a kite than a plane.

We left there just before the museum closed at 5 p.m. Yes, we were there for almost six hours. You could spend days in there and not see everything. We were even breezing through most of the exhibits and not reading all there was to read.

Madison was adamant that we were going to see fireworks tonight, so I did some research and found out that there was a little festival and fireworks show down at a park in Fairborn. We couldn’t convince Paw-Paw to come with us, so Madison and I went searching for this little park. It was right beside the high school, even though the GPS system sent us two blocks farther down the road and proudly announced that we have “reached the destination!”

We got there about two hours before the fireworks were supposed to go off, but we had heard that there would be a band, so it couldn’t be that bad.

Alright, imagine a band that plays mostly at weddings. Cheap weddings. In the country. Now give them all matching shirts that have the American flag on them. Except the keyboardist. Think rock stars past their prime, then imagine that they never had a prime. Have them play every old, stereotypical rock and roll song that you can imagine. Got that in your head?

Call them Corky’s Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival. You can’t make that up.

They weren’t that bad, but combine them with the most stereotypical redneck Ohioans you can imagine and the scene was priceless. It made the Ayden Collard Festival look normal. I had to sit there and suck on my straw to keep from cracking up.

But we stuck it out through the rocky renditions of Bob Seger, Elvis Presley and Ray Charles, through awkward off-beat dancing and through chain-smoking teenagers wearing Disturbed and Lamb of God T-shirts. We fought through it for the fireworks.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this being Fairborn, Ohio. It started out kind of rocky. One firework at a time would shoot up and explode followed by a few seconds of nothing. Eventually it started to build a little bit, but never really got completely going. It just kept dragging on. I thought it would never end until finally it seemed like the guy got bored and said “Forget it, just light them all.”

About 10,000 fireworks went into the air at the same time and started exploding one after the other. It was blinding and loud and confusing. It was everything a finale should be. The show concluded with dozens of those small, loud bang fireworks — that have have no point other than to be obnoxiously loud — exploding all together. I love those things. It was a great finale.

Corky and his band came back on for one last set, but we — and seemingly everyone else in Fairborn — decided that they’d had enough of the revival and it was time to go. We had to fight crazy traffic to get out, but 20 minutes later we were finally back in the hotel.

Tomorrow we will be driving all day to get to Hershey where we will stay one night and check out the chocolate the next day. I probably won’t post tomorrow unless something amazing happens on the drive.

Happy Fourth of July!

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July 2: The Windy City

It lived up to its name.

We got to Chicago a little after noon today and checked into our hotel that is right near the lake and across the street from Grant Park. We had heard about some storms coming in Milwaukee, but we hoped the weather would hold off as it has this entire trip. It looked like it would when we first got here: the sky was blue with just a few clouds floating around.

I had gotten some ideas of what to do from people who had been to the city, so we decided to just walk around and hit as much as we could in the one day that we had. We went through Grant Park, which was really nice. They had the Taste of Chicago festival in the park, but we decided not to go to it. I figured we would get lost in there and not go to the other things we were interested in.

Right above Grant Park is Millennium Park. It is — hands-down — the coolest park that I have ever been to. The first thing we saw was this fountain thing that had two massive brick pillars on each side with water cascading down them. Kids were running around in the middle just splashing in the very shallow water. Every now and then, faces would appear facing each other on the pillars. It looked like it used fiber optics. Either way, the faces were of real people and they moved, blinked and looked around. Eventually, the faces would look like they were blowing and water would come pouring out of their mouths while the kids ran up to get right under the stream.

Next we walked over to the grill and got some lunch. This area usually has an ice skating rink, but 90 degrees is a little warm for that. They had covered it up and put some tables and a bar on there.

Every person that told me about Chicago told me about the Cloud Gate sculpture. Except they didn’t call it that. They called it “The Bean.” It’s pretty understandable why. “The Bean” is a huge sculpture that looks just like a bean with that is made up completely of mirrors. You can walk under it and look up and see all the people around the inside of the sculpture. You can put your hand on “The Bean” and look like you’re holding yourself up in the air. The coolest view is to look at it from the street side and you can see all the buildings on Michigan Avenue stretched out around “The Bean.”

It may sound weird, but it’s a huge tourist stop. And lots of fun to take pictures with.

We walked farther into the park where there is this massive amphitheater with an interesting sound system. Instead of a lot of speakers at the front, there is decorative scaffolding that criss-crosses the lawn area with speakers hanging over the seating area. From there we walked into a nice little garden area that had a creek running through it. A lot of people were sitting on the edge with their feet in the water, so I had to join. The water was freezing!! But it did cool me off a little bit.

It was about 3:30 at this point, so we decided to go ahead and catch a bus up to Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the last few free zoos around. It was a pretty nice zoo, but nowhere near as big as the North Carolina one, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It meant that we were closer to the animals and they didn’t have as much room to hide. We saw gorillas, kangaroos, lions, tigers, zebras, bears and giraffes! The gorillas were amazing to watch, so human-like. My favorite was a big silver-back who was laying in front of a fan at the edge of the cage. He was just curled up and ignoring everyone. There were two chimpanzees sitting up on a rock and they were facing each other. One looked like he was picking stuff out of the other’s eye and trying to clean it off. Then it looked like the first was kissing the other one on the cheek. It was so amazing watching them all interact.

The lion started growling when we walked in. It growled continuously for a few minutes and echoed throughout the room. Scary, yes, but impressive.

After wearing ourselves out around the zoo, we hopped back on the bus to the Millennium Park area and got some dinner. Paw-Paw decided he was done walking — understandably, I think I was, too — but Madison wanted to go over to Navy Pier. We took a path along the lakeside to get over to the pier and watched all these people sitting on their yachts and enjoying the weather and water.

The pier is filled with restaurants, shops and a couple of theaters. It was fun just walking around for a little bit and looking at some gift shops. We found out that there were fireworks that night, so we had an incentive to hang around for a while. When we got down to the end of the pier, we ran into the beer garden, which had a stage set up right by the sidewalk. A band was setting up, so we decided to sit down and listen. When the Modern Day Romeos finally came on, it was an hour and a half after they were supposed to start.

They were pretty good covers band, but the lead singer had a nasally voice that reminded me a little of Tom Petty. But anything that he lacked in voice quality he made up with stage presence and showmanship. He had a wireless microphone, so he would just jump off the stage and dance around with the kids and just have a good time. They were a lot of fun to watch and you could tell they were having a lot of fun. If you go to their Myspace, you should find a picture of Madison and I that they took while we were sitting there.

They played for about an hour, then stopped for the fireworks. We were in the perfect spot to see them. We just had to turn around and could see them shooting off from a little platform on the water. They had music that went along with the show and they went together pretty well. I was impressed.

The band got back on, but we decided that it was about time to head back. First, we went to the big ferris wheel on the pier. It was a nice view of the city at night from the top, but both Madison and I have a weird, irrational fear of ferris wheels, so most of the time we were talking about all the things that could go wrong.

We didn’t want to walk back, so we tried to figure out the bus system. We got on a bus, but we weren’t really sure where it was going to go. Luckily it went the direction of our hotel, but turned off earlier than we wanted, so we were stuck walking the last 10 blocks. It wasn’t too bad, though, and it felt nice outside. Once again, my feet and legs hurt from all the walking that we’ve been doing.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading to Dayton, Ohio. We’ll probably get there in the afternoon and will just relax for the night. The next day we’ll go to the Air Force museum there and stay one more night. From there it’s on to Pennsylvania. We’ll be back in the Eastern time zone.

We’re on the home-stretch.


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