The summer before my 9th grade year in high school, my parents and my best friend decided to take a road trip to visit both Antietam and Gettysburg. I had become fascinated with the Civil War in 8th grade & this was a better option for us than going to the beach. From reading a book about Gen. Stoneman's last ride that my 8th grade English teacher gave to me to spending hours playing Civil War Generals on the computer, July couldn't come fast enough. I remember riding up Highway 81 through the Shenandoah Valley & being memorized at the scenery. The valley is so vast & it stretches on & on. When I visit Gettysburg from my hometown these days, I am blessed to take the scenic route up Highway 81. When I lived in Raleigh, I would travel up Highway 95, making sure to veer off from the dense traffic of Washington DC as soon as it was feasible. Back in 1997, we stayed two nights in a hotel in Sharpsburg. We spent the whole day at the battlefield. There was a ranger who spoke at the visitors center for about an hour and a half. We then took a guided tour in our car getting out at hallowed spots like Dunker Church, the Bloody Lane, Miller's Cornfield and Burnside's Bridge. After about 5 hours of being in a state of awe and sorrow, we ended up back at the visitors center and took dozens of photos. I would upload them here but I haven't transferred any pictures to my new computer yet. (I will once I get around to do so.) Anyways, we left the next day to go to Gettysburg and ended up staying at the Quality Inn Motor Lodge right there on Cemetery Hill. The first thing that I did once we checked in was check out the book shop adjacent to the front desk. It was there that I picked up "The Killer Angels." I had yet to see the movie, "Gettysburg" so it was a blessing in disguise to read the story first.(Love Books!) That night we just relaxed and hung out in the hotel since we were worn out from travel. I remember it well because it was the first time that the MLB played inter-league baseball. The Braves were playing the Yankees since those two teams were in the World Series in 96. I forget who pitched for the Braves but I remember Andy Pettitte pitching for the Yankees. It was already magical. We spent five days there. They were having the annual reenactment, which was an amazing thing to see for the first time. The cannons, hospitals, soldiers were a sight to behold. This was when the reenactments were held on Herr's Ridge. (Again, I'll post pictures once I transfer them) We took advantage of just about everything the Park had to offer. Took the bus tour. Took the car guided tour. Viewed the Cyclorama. Listened to Rangers. We spent some time on Little Round Top and made sure to climb both towers on Culps Hill and Seminary Ridge. During the down time, I read "The Killer Angels." I couldn't put it down. I finished it in 3 or 4 days and decided that I too wanted to leave a mark on the world when it came to the Civil War. I highly recommend staying at the Motor Lodge-you can even play a little putt putt there. The attractions were all about with Civil War era tents and exhibits. The shops were compelling. I even got one of those old time photos of me in the Butternut Gray. I tried to look as serious as possible, as my friend was having a good time, smiling and laughing. I wasn't angry by any means but a bit irked. I don't know how I would have fared for a 14 year soldier though I was in the zone. That summer I was playing for a baseball team who was headed to the Junior Tarheel State Championship the following week. So I visited the batting cage near the battlefield a couple of times. It wasn't easy to focus on baseball in Gettysburg. There is so much more I could say about my first trip to both battlefields, but I believe a verbal discussion could only do it proper justice at this point. Since then, I have probably visited Gettysburg 10 times. On the anniversary in 2004, I got "The Last Full Measure" signed by Jeff Shaara. He told me some writing advice his father had passed down. It is called the BIC method. Butt in Chair. It was a bit nerve wracking to meet Jeff, "Gods and Generals" hit the movie screen the year before. That trip was quite eventful. When I was walking on Cemetery Ridge, I went out from the Pennsylvania Monument onto the field of Pickett's Charge to have a cigarette and sat down on a rock. Swear to God, I heard footsteps behind me and turning around, no one was there. It was serene & odd. I felt strength instead of fear. I was like a kid in a candy store. I even went to a Yankee camp and played Dixie on the guitar to get a few laughs, all in good fun, though a lady politely reminded me that I was in the wrong camp to be playing that tune. I had planned to go this year, but because of Covid-19, I have had to postpone my trip. When I lived in Raleigh, it was a six hour drive. Where I live now, It is about 8 hours. After traveling on 81, I always make sure to take the route that leads through Emmitsburg. (Highway 15 I believe) Beautiful scenery there as well. Another time I went with two friends in February. An itch needed to be scratched. I believe the average temperature was about 19 degrees with a fair amount of sleet. Needless to say we spent most of the time on the battlefield going about six miles an hour in my Civic. The rest of the time in the hotel room, which to be fair was nothing to complain about. Being there, breathing in the air was good enough for us. I haven't been in about 3 years now. But a word to the wise, if you plan on walking around the battlefield, be aware of the ticks. I believe there were about 8 or 9 on me when I got back to my room. Since 2005, my favorite place on the battlefield is East Cemetery Hill. I have longed studied the 153rd Pennsylvania and enjoy the serenity of that area. I have a distant relative who was a corporal in Company B of the 153rd PA. On the other side, Isaac Avery was from the county that is only 30 miles from where I live. That's an interesting story. Almost as interesting as Gen. Sickles being wounded the way he was. Talk about a one in a million shot. I have also devoted some time studying the 6th NC. Forgive me for the long post and the bits of rambling, I can hardly help myself when it comes to spreading the gospel of Gettysburg. Though I love Antietam, Gettysburg far outweighs any battlefield I have been to. To close this out I'll list the battlefields I have visited: Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Fort Fisher, Bentonville, Plymouth, New Market, Winchester, Petersburg, New Bern, Harper's Ferry, Monocacy, Hampton Roads and finally the Charleston area with the multiple forts. I was going to attend the 2020 Bentonville Reenactment this year but misfortune claimed the day-it was canceled. Trust me when I get the chance and things have cleared up, I will be at O'Rorkes having a pint of pale ale on the front porch. I have longed to get out West since I have become obsessed with General Grant. Again, forgive me for the long post. I will be sure to upload some pictures when I get them transferred to this computer. Thanks for the thoughtful platform. Everyone take care & stay safe! All the best!