more clouds, Flight 93, and a lot of driving

Woke up and took a glance outside. Lots of rain, as expected. So I went to breakfast to plan the trip to Shanksville. At breakfast, I read the wikipedia entry for Flight 93 and it was interesting. Today will be the perfect day to take the long trip. I can’t really do any recording or photography in a downpour. I packed up all of my belongings in the suitcases in preparation for the third hotel room move. I went to the desk to check out before I left town, and asked the hotel manager if she had any rooms available for the next two nights. Turns out that someone had cancelled, so she could hook me up for nights 4 and 5. I got assigned to room 116, which was my third room at this hotel. First night in 120, second and third nights in 115. So I guess I got lucky and just had to change rooms twice. No big deal.
I headed out for the Flight 93 Memorial, glad to have taken care of the room situation for the rest of my trip. The memorial is only 108 miles away, but the trip time is 2:45. There are no expressways–mostly two-lane roads through small towns. The driving was treacherous. I had to cut through three mountain passes through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It reminded me of my travels to Hawaii, California, and Northern Arkansas–anywhere that has mountains where the roads are switchbacks, low-speed, and very curvy. And I got caught behind 18-wheelers and farm implements several times. 2:45 was about right. I made it to the memorial and drove in. The memorial plaza was 3.5 miles off of the nearest highway, through a newly paved, curving road. The crash site was actually a strip mine in the middle of several hills in Pennsylvania mining country. The leaves are starting to change colors and that added to the serenity of the site. I parked and walked to the interpretive site. From there, it is a quarter-mile walk down a black stone path to the crash site. Tall white marble columns have the name of each of the 40 victims inscribed. You look through a rough-hewn wooden gate to the crash site from the memorial plaza. The site is marked with a large boulder with several bouquets of flowers laid around it. There is a lot of construction going on. I hear a Ranger tell another visitor that the visitor’s center will be complete at this time next year. So basically the site is the permanent memorial plaza with some temporary facilities for restrooms and a temporary interpretive center. Interesting how the site is not completed over 13 years after 9/11–when the crash site in NYC has a 1,776 foot tall skyscraper and memorial at ground zero. Probably something to do with funding? Or was the NYC site a higher priority? It was another cloudy day, 50-60 degrees with a slight wind. The weather added to the somber pall at the site. I spent a lot of time reflecting on the horror that the passengers must have experienced. The plane hit the ground at 563 MPH, at a 40 degree angle, and either upside down or on its side. I remembered back to the movie, Flight 93. What sheer terror. I was standing on the spot where the movie ended. I have some type of weird fascination with plane crashes, as those around me know. This site was special, hallowed ground. I am glad I made the trip.
I only stayed for 45 minutes or so, and it was time to drive back to Gettysburg. On the way back, the rain stopped. It was still overcast, so I figured I might be able to do some more battlefield exploring. I got back to the hotel about 6-7 hours after I left.
I spent the rest of the afternoon driving around some more areas of the battlefield. Specifically, the sites that are not connected to the main battlefield, sites to the east and south. I did more of what I did yesterday, scouting for areas to go back to at night. I also took the recorder and made a daytime recording on the site of Pickett’s Charge. This was Robert E Lee’s final gamble on day three of the battle. Lee had 12,500 Confederate soldiers walk 9/10 of a mile across a field toward a waiting Union Army. The Confederates were mowed down as they walked through the field that I was standing on. Some broke through the Union line and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. The point where the Confederates broke the Union line was considered to be the high-water mark of the Confederacy. It was downhill from there for the southerners, as they lost the engagement and retreated. The rest is history. What an important site in the big picture of the Civil War. What an amazing feeling to be able to retrace the footsteps of the soldiers from 151 years ago.
It was dinner time, so I went back to the restaurant I went to on Tuesday night. I came back to the clown car after dinner, and it had a parking ticket on it. Seems I inadvertently parked the clownmobile in a handicapped parking space. Turns out that clownmobiles are not exempt from parking tickets. What is the chance of a Texan paying a $50 parking ticket in Pennsylvania? ZERO. They can extradite me if they want to. If I made the mistake in Texas, I would gladly pay the fine. But not here. Sorry.
I went back to the field after dark. I recorded at Spangler’s Spring, which was a water source for the armies during the battle. There is said to be a misty figure, a “lady in white” that haunts the area. I recorded for a few minutes and had the place to myself. Another car drove up and the two very loud occupants got out. So I decided to move up the hill to the next spot. I got out to record at the angle on Culp’s Hill. This was a spot of particularly high casualties. Some observers said that bodies were stacked “two to three deep” in this area. As I got out of the car to record, I noticed another car driving very slowly up the hill, as if observing something. The car inched its way towards me, and the window rolled down. A lady asks, “was that a deer?” She said that she saw something run off towards the woods. I had not seen anything. And I definitely did not hear anything moving anywhere near me. That was strange. What was it? Anyway, I recorded for 15-20 minutes after the car left. I had the place to myself, and the tranquility was only broken by the chirping of crickets. Again, I did not feel or see anything unusual. I can only hope that I picked up something interesting on the recorder.
Tomorrow I am having lunch with an architectural representative for the product that I sell who happens to live in the area. We are going to have lunch at a local restaurant housed in a building that dates to the 1700’s. I have only worked with him over the phone and through emailed CAD drawings, so it will be good to put a face to the name. And tomorrow is the last day. I hope to make it count. I’m starting to get a little homesick for Ashley, Owie, Menace, Static, Kornbread, J-Train, and Jackalope. Can’t wait to see them all.

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One Response to “more clouds, Flight 93, and a lot of driving”

  1. I hope you took pics of Spangler’s Spring and the other places you recorded. After reading about them I want to see what they look like.

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