For some reason this past summer I thought a lot about Gettyburg, Pa. I had a strong urge to visit. Nope, not as a tourist. From summer of 1965 to summer 1967, a mere two years, I lived there. I taught high school math.
Even though it was only two years, a lot happened. They were the densest two years of my life, and they had a powerful influence on the next twenty or so years. More happened in a month there than happened in whole years of the rest of my life. Maybe it was my age. Maybe it was the sudden freedom, being on my own. I don't know.
I originally wanted to stay at a particular B&B in the middle of town. [See http://www.brafferton.com/. Check out the beautiful rooms!] I selected a suite with a Jacuzzi and private entrance, and in July I made a reservation for the nights of September 9 and 10. I figured that the tourist season would be winding down, so traffic would be less, especially on weekdays, but it would still be warm.
And then, on impulse, I mentioned to Daughter that I planned to go, and asked if she and the Nugget would like to join me. I was thinking simply nice little vacation. Daughter jumped to the utterly baseless conclusion that I was facing an emotional upheaval and was begging for her support, so she had to go. Of course she didn't check that with me. That's one of the things we fight about --- that she makes assumptions and then operates on them without checking with the other person, ALL THE FREAKIN' TIME!, and then she holds those assumptions against you.
I attempted to get Daughter and Nugget a room in the same B&B and discovered that they don't allow children under 10-years-old (or so, I forget), so I cancelled that reservation and booked two adjoining rooms at a Marriott outside town. I was disappointed that the particular Marriott didn't have an in-room Jacuzzi and mentioned that to Daughter, so she did her own research and found another hotel that had something they called "family suites", that did have Jacuzzis. Now from the photos on their website, the suite looked like two completely separate rooms with a shared bathroom between them. So I called them, verified the Jacuzzi, made the reservation for a family suite WITH Jacuzzi (it was an unbelievable $160/night), and then cancelled the Marriott.
It was a 3.5 hour drive, which meant that Nugget would require a run-around break at some point. Also, Daughter and I could not spend that much time in quarters that close without one of us (her!) having a meltdown bigger than the Nugget could throw, so we took separate cars. Besides, that would allow us to do different explorations once there.
She left an hour before me, but we arrived within minutes of each other.
I was very annoyed to find that the suite looked nothing like the photos implied. It was a room with two queens with the bathroom by the entrance door, like any other cookie-cutter room, and then another room with a king bed opening off to the side of the queen room. Yes, it had a door that could be closed, but one would have to go through the queen room to get to the bathroom. Yuck. AND, there was NO Jacuzzi. I called the desk and asked if we could move to a family suite with a Jacuzzi, and was told no, there were no other rooms available. I pointed out that I had specifically asked for the Jacuzzi, had moved from the Marriott on the assurance that I'd have one, and I was very unhappy. They compensated me by reducing the room rate to $100/night. Daughter was hyperventilating. That was a warning I missed.
A few minutes later, as we passed the desk on the way out to find dinner, Daughter stopped at the desk and .... I don't know how to describe it ... she had an emotional breakdown and said she couldn't stay in that room because there was no place she could be alone, there was no retreat, could she have another room for herself. I was very embarrassed, and nodded to the clerk and told her to put it on my tab. They gave Daughter another room, FREE.
After Daughter walked away, I told the clerk that this is NOT your problem to fix, it's our problem, my Daughter is nuts, so please put her room on my credit card, but they said no, it's ok. I just wish Daughter had said something to me earlier. We could have moved entirely to two adjoining rooms. (I especially felt bad the next day, when I overheard one of their regular customers being turned away, because they were full, no rooms available.) So I ended up with the family suite all by myself.
[Embarrassed much? Look like one of those city folks who walk in and start demanding all kinds of free stuff?]
That pretty much set the tone. I should have gone alone.
The town has changed a lot. It's surrounded by battlefield where nothing can be built, so the town has expanded by getting a lot more dense. There was very little that I recognized. Fifty years ago it was a sleepy little rural town that sort of woke up a little every summer when the tourists came, but there was little in the town itself that primarily catered to tourists. Mostly, they just tolerated them. In fact, there was just one chain hotel, a few small family-owned motels, and people who took in guests in the summer for some extra cash. Now there are huge hotels all over the place. Shops that primarily catered to the needs of townfolk and farmers now seem to be geared toward tourists, all antiques or artsy-fartsy.
Actually, the middle of town is beautiful. And then I remembered that last year was the 150th anniversary of the battle, so I'll bet all the sandblasting, restored and refurbished storefronts, fancy lampposts, and the huge planters everywhere were federally funded.
I found my old apartment building, the diner where I ate dinner almost every evening with six to eight students crammed into my booth with me, the location of the trailer I moved into after the fire at the apartment (that location, which used to be on the alley behind an apartment building, is now an extension of the hospital), and some other things. But mostly I recognized very little.
The past mostly isn't there any more, it's been papered over.
Before anyone yells at me about the filth of hotel Jacuzzis, I have a way to handle that. I pack a small bottle of Clorox. Fill the tub up to the intakes, pour in half the bleach, run it for a few seconds, and then let it sit for about 15-20 minutes, run it again for a few seconds, then drain it. If there was anything floating after after the second running (which I have seen only once in 30 Jacuzzis, The Man loves a Jacuzzi), just do the process again. It is now safe. Go out for dinner and by the time you return the bleach odor is gone.
Another odd thing happened. I had a memory of a section of road heading out of New Jersey into an unknown state, where the road crosses a bridge over a steep-sided river gorge, into a wonderland of small heavily wooded mountains piled one on another. Beautiful. It's been driving me crazy for the past few years because I didn't know where it was, couldn't remember where I might have been driving from or to, or even when. I just wanted to find that piece of road again.
It got to be an obsession. Several times over the past year I went to Google maps street view and followed almost every major road out of New Jersey in every direction, especially those that crossed a river near the state line. No luck.
Going to Gettysburg, I let the GPS guide me. And there it was! It's Interstate 78 west, over the Delaware River. I still have no idea when I might have taken that route in the past. Maybe I dreamed of it.
Returning, the GPS took me a different route, via the Pa turnpike, and the NJ turnpike.
Odd. Like I was meant to find it. Odder still, my memory was of heading west over the gorge. Had I returned by that route heading east, I might not have recognized it.