DAY 17 – GETTYSBURG/PITTSBURGH, PA
We began our journey late as usual. My cousin Nick came by with his son and ate some breakfast that my mom had graciously prepared. I made him pose for 299atsavers.com, it was hilarious. My family is very small so it’s always good to see him and I wish I could see him more. After I said goodbye to my mother and Nick and we double checked that everything was all packed we were on the road, destination: Gettysburg.
Gettysburg was kind of an afterthought about mid-way through the trip. I had been there many times as a kid but Josh hadn’t so I figured what the hell, it’s only a little out of the way. There was a light rain pretty much the entire day, so when we arrived it was more eerie that usual. After figuring out the layout we took the auto tour and stopped off at a few places. I wasn’t even aware that the battle of Gettysburg happened at the beginning of July, so it was exactly this time of year over 150 years ago that it took place. It was July 4th but the park didn’t seemed extra busy or anything. We snapped a few pictures of battlefields and climbed around Devil’s Den. The whole thing has a very solemn atmosphere, no ghosts though.
The 4th of July always makes me think about watching fireworks back in Lancaster. It was always a very peaceful time that I would get to spend with friends/family. There was one particular display I will always remember. I was downtown, in the heart of the city, near the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. The fireworks were going off directly above my head. I could feel the heat, the occasional ember hit my face, and the explosions, for a moment, during the finale, made it hard to breathe. The mayor at the time was a pyromaniac named Smithgall, who actually owned fucking cannons. Not a good mayor, but goddammit he put on a great fireworks show. I don’t remember a fireworks display as intense in the city ever again. What they did was, I’m guessing, extremely dangerous, and they probably realized they could only get away with it once.
We left Gettysburg and headed out to Pittsburgh, the Paris of the Appalachians, a place I had never been even though I had grown up in Pennsylvania. I had plenty of friends that went to school out there and recently have heard some good things about the city going through renaissance. We did not have a good experience.
Now I’ll give the city the benefit of the doubt, it was July 4th, it was a bit rainy earlier, we got there at night etc, but goddammit what a nightmare. The city is a maze of tunnels, bridges and narrow roads. It’s impossible to orient yourself once your in it’s coal-stained heart. The few decent moments we had were watching the fireworks celebration, which was ruined by annoying drunk locals, eating at Primanti’s, which was disappointingly bland, and taking pictures in an alley of urban decay, during which time it dawned on us how trapped we really were. We tried to explore the city but the roads made it frustratingly awful. We slept in the car that night in some alley next to a restaurant because I refused to shell out $200 to sleep in this town, plus we needed to be up early, and goddammit we were up early to get the hell out of there. The city really brought out the worst in us, we were snapping at each other, pissed off, and I had to use an entire nicotine patch instead of my usual half or I was going to lose it. I probably failed to mention I quit smoking a little over a month ago, no time like the present.
We finally figured out how to get out of there and we were off to Akron then Detroit, Motor City.