"When you see a fork in the road, take it".
May 30th, 2017 State 1: Pennsylvania
We woke up in Hanover, PA to a bright sunny morning, well rested and ready to seize this beautiful brand new day. On the agenda was a trip to Gettysburg, PA to tour the museum and civil war battle grounds. During our lengthy preparation for this trip across America, we read dozens of other people’s blogs about their own cross country trips for both information and inspiration. One of the many repetitive themes we noticed was that you should always listen to your gut. When people in the blogs listened to their guts, it spared them from many bad situations, and also resulted in the most amazing experiences of their trip. As we made a right hand turn out of the Walmart parking lot that morning, we saw an Utz potato chip delivery van in front of us. Instead of embarking for Gettysburg, we decided to follow the potato chip van to see where it was going for no particular reason whatsoever. We very rarely even eat potato chips! We made a point to keep our distance, so the driver didn’t think we were going to rob him of his potato chips! About 30 minutes later the Utz potato chip van reached it final destination at a massive 750,000 sq ft potato chip factory. As it turns out, the Utz Hanover facility is their largest, and produces the majority of potato chips for distribution throughout the entire country!
A quick google search revealed they offered free tours, so we decided to learn how a potato chip was made! Regretfully, Utz did not allow pictures during the tour. I was going to try to sneak a pic, but decided against it. I did not want to risk being accused of being a spy from Frito Lay. Surely, they would hold us in their potato cellar in a far off land, and we would be tortured by being force fed potato chips until we spilled our guts. In all seriousness, it was a very interesting morning to see the process of how a potato becomes a bag of chips.
After our tour of the potato chip plant, we finally departed for Gettysburg. We arrived at the Gettysburg visitors center around 1:00pm, and began our tour with a 20-minute film entitled “A New Birth of Freedom” which was narrated by Morgan Freeman. Upon completion of the film, we went up 2 flights of stairs for view the Cyclorama, which is a massive 360 degree painting that surrounds the viewer. Cycloramas were extremely popular in the late 19th century, but interest in them declined with the invention of motion pictures. The cyclorama we viewed is an oil on canvas, painted in 1880 by the French artist Paul Philippoteaux. The painting depicts the full fury of “Pickett's Charge” which occurred during the 3rd day of the battle of Gettysburg. The painting is 377 feet in circumference and 42 feet in height. To put this in perspective, the painting is longer than a football field, taller than a 4 story building, and it is currently the largest oil painting on display in North America! The painting recently underwent restoration, and a new building was built for its display. The astute detail of the painting, coupled with the surrounding diorama, and the added audio visual effects with the cyclorama made you feel as you were literality standing on the battlefield of Gettysburg on July 3rd, 1863
After we finished seeing the cyclorama, we toured the Museum at Gettysburg for over 3 hours. We could have spent another 8 hours there, and have not seen everything. It is one thing to read about Gettysburg in a history book, but it is an entirely different experience to see the original artifacts of the battle first hand. To see the exact sword that the General Meade once used to lead the Union soldiers into battle, or see the presidential orders that Abraham Lincoln personally signed transformed history into reality. We exited the museum since it was starting to get dark, and was beginning to rain. We realized we did not have enough daylight to tour the battle grounds as originally planned. So we decided to see one site we could not miss: The Soldiers' National Cemetery.
The cemetery is the final resting place for thousands of fallen Civil War union solders half of whom remain unidentified to this day. The Cemetery was dedicated almost 5 months after the Battle of Gettysburg, and the monument pictured marks the exact spot where Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address! Standing surrounded by fallen American hero’s in the exact location as Lincoln once did as the day faded to dark and the pouring rain soaked us to our core is an experience we will never forget.
And now on to another experience of the day we will also never forget. After departing Gettysburg, we stopped in Lancaster, PA to have dinner at a restaurant called "Roots", and had the most amazing Vegan Seitan “chicken wings”. After dinner, we returned to the van. My nose caught the whiff of a smell I was regretfully able to immediately identify. As a nurse who worked in a nursing home, there are some smells that when you experience once you never forget, and the smell of stale urine is one of them. My heart instantly sank, as I slowly opened the door to the back of the van. I saw that our commode had leaked all over the van that I had just finished building 1 week prior. My wife cried, and I myself had a few choice words directed towards the situation. We decided to get a hotel for the night in Lancaster, and we disinfected the van with Purel and Clorox until the wee hours of the morning.
May 31st, 2017 State 1: Pennysylvania
After the commode fiasco the night prior, we decided to sleep in until 11:00 am. The van was clean, and once again habitable. Luckily, the damage turned out to be minimal. I was thanking God I installed quality flooring that was easy to clean. Although we only occasionally use the commode for #1 at night, it is a very important part of our waste planning. We try to use public restrooms whenever and wherever possible. Some of the Walmarts we sleep at are not open 24 hours, and when you “gotta” to go, you “gotta” to have a place to go! We were also able to identify the cause of leak. The screw cap on the side of the storage tank was not fully tightened. For some unknown reason, it was shipped that way from the manufacturer.
After checking out of the hotel we found a quaint local park with all of the amenities two nomads could possibly want: a pavilion for shade, picnic tables to eat at and working electrical outlets to charge our devices. We decided this was the perfect setting to cook our first meal on our propane stove; a quinoa and seitan BBQ grain bowl. We got all the ingredients together, all of the prep work completed, and of all of our cooking equipment set up. We were all set to BBQ, or so we thought. When we went to hook up the stove to the propane we realized the propane hose did not fit to the propane tank. We were both very disappointed, and packed up all of our supplies. So our first meal we prepared in a park ended up being peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Not quite as exciting as the BBQ grain bowl we intended to make, but delicious none the less. We stayed at the park most of the afternoon into the early evening. I suddenly was hit with a very severe case of seasonal allergies, and was miserable. In addition, the park became quite busy, and people became too inquisitive about what we were doing at the park in a nosy way. At first it was just looks from people. You know the type of stares that go on way too long and say everything without saying anything? One man even had the gall to come up to me and say, “ Do you mind if I ask what you are doing here?” to which I responded “I am here enjoying this beautiful day”. To which the nosy man responded “Oh, it looked like you were trying to measure something” and he then walked away. I have no idea what he was talking about, as I was not measuring anything. I was insulted by his intrusion, and decided it was likely best to leave at that point. We spent the night in the Camp Hill, PA Walmart, and had a restful night sleep.