Days 07 & 08 – and pics from Day 6

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Day 07

I found the hotel I was looking for, I’ve now been in this town more times than some of the towns surrounding my area in Massachusetts, and as such I’m starting to get a feel for the place. Like knowing I had to take a left on Baltimore Street to follow 116 despite there not being any signs there to tell you that – which is one of those unfortunate happenings that makes this kind of a trip both more fun as well as why planning is generally just a guideline – cause you get lost (or further lost) frequently when you continue down a road not knowing the state highway you think you’re following cut off to the left five miles back and they just forgot to warn you that that would happen.

Picked up three motorcyclists in the center of Gettysburg – two from New Jersey and I think the other guy was the same who’s bike I took a photo of yesterday as mine which looks like an old BMW was behind his modern BMW and I liked the look of them together. We all rode together for a few minutes, shared brief explanations of our own trips at red lights, before exchanging handshakes and waves and then parting ways – first the guy on the BMW and then me. One of them though, on a cruiser, kept forgetting to shut off his turn signal and I wonder at either his luck or how long he’s been riding (if this is a mid-life “lets go cross on bikes” thing – which is fine btw, I plan on having one of those too) because that’s one of the surefire ways to get dead on a bike. I’m in the habit of randomly hitting the kill button for the signals usually a few minutes after I’ve already killed the signal just in case I didn’t – that’s one of those things dad drilled into Al & I when we were just starting out – and for years before we started, cause in all reality dad started teaching Al & I how to ride motorcycles as soon as we were old enough to carry on a conversation, because we talk to those closest to us about what we love and dad loved riding motorcycles.

Killed an hour in the parking lot after I got here because it’s well before check-in time and while I was out there a fellow began asking questions about the bike and the toolbox and at the end of the exchange he asked again about the name of the bike – and then said “oh like the Ural Mountains?” and I said “Yes, exactly, that’s where they’re made” and he grinned and told me that his wife wanted to know because she’s from Russia and she smiled and waived and then he said goodbye again but this time in Russian and off they went. It was a perfect sort of exchange, my favorite sort, and I was pretty happy with things and so I went in to check-in with that high spirit.

Coming back out I saw a woman behind the car that was parked in front of my bike looking very concerned and bending over to look at her rear bumper and thought “shit” and then went over to see what happened. She just didn’t see it. The big red bike with a sidecar directly behind her (parked about 4 feet back) that’s the same width as her tiny silver car. I said “well which part did you hit” looking at both the front end and the box for signs of damage because depending on what she did she could have hit either “and how hard did you hit it?” – “just a tap” “barely” – I said I had to take it around the lot and check the front end to which she responded “I barely hit it”

What she doesn’t have is one of my favorite of dad’s crash stories when he laid down the Honda Dream in Texas in the summer at over 70mph without a helmet on wearing blue jeans and a sweatshirt because he was trying to look like Steve McQueen from The Great Escape. That someone had had a front end woops with the Honda a few days earlier and hadn’t told anyone about it and so when dad’s passing 70mph the front end began to go into a tank-slapper for which there’s nothing you can do at that speed and down he went. Made a deal with God while he was sliding that if his head didn’t touch he’d never not wear a helmet again. The meds at the Air Force base made an example out of him – cause you weren’t allowed to ride without a helmet so everyone just left their helmets at the front gate because off the base the AF couldn’t do shit – and so they cleaned the gravel out of his leg in a wirlpool with brushes and disinfectant and apparently you could hear his screams throughout the building. That’s exactly as he told it so many times and I think of it often mostly because it keeps me safe on the bike.

Happily there are a ton of huge parking lots scattered out like islands in this plaza thing so I took the bike out into those and put her through the paces a bit – 2nd, 3rd, 4th gaining speed and cornering in both directions at each stage 10mph, 20mph, 30mph, 40mph, 50mph – getting dirty looks from people in the parking lot who didn’t understand why some guy was doing such things at such speeds in a lot marked for 20mph – but they didn’t understand what happened and the need to be sure that everything was alright, because things can be fine at 30mph and deadly at 50 or 70. But if anything were wrong with those forks I’d have felts something in the cornering and she’s fine. So I went back to the woman and told her it was all alright and went to put the bike under the side covering where there’s no traffic.

Mind you there was a bit of an honor system thing going on with that lady because if the forks had been damaged there were two likely scenarios as I saw it – either I’d feel a wobble right away and have to go back and tell her that we had to exchange information and figure things out because I’d have been stranded with a damaged bike or else I was going to crash at speed in the parking lot which would have hurt like hell but if you’re going to crash this would be the best place (outside of a hospital parking lot) to do it because there wouldn’t be the chance of then being run-over or going into the trees or a guardrail or anything. It would just be a tumble on some nice flat concrete with nothing to tumble into. But if that were to happen I was trusting the lady not to look at what she did and drive away. All of that said, I was quite relieved to find the bike was fine. When I park I put the bike in reverse which acts like a parking break (which when released puts you right into Neutral) but the point is that reverse is essentially first gear – there’s not a ton of resistance – so I’m guessing that the fork springs absorbed most of it because the axle height on that wheel was above the bumper on her little car – and whatever the shocks didn’t absorb just cause the bike to roll back a couple inches. If I used the bike’s actual parking break (cause it has one), which locks the rear drum and the sidecar drum, I think she would have bent the fork stanchions (tubes).

Day 08

I really do love being here. I can’t explain why it is that it matters as much to me that we had family at the Battle of Gettysburg. Though he fought for the Union I don’t know what his views were on slavery, if that’s why he signed up or if he signed up because it seemed the right thing to do to preserve the Union and his being on the side that he was maybe just because he lived in the north. So it’s not that exactly. It’s more because I know that I had family that was here in June of 1863. I was trying to explain this to mom last night and I’m not sure how well I did it, but it’s a bit rare to be able to visit specific places that people from the family tree have been too – more than two generations back. I like the fact that my bloodline was HERE 154 years ago and I am here now. I like that this is one of maybe a few dozen places in the world where some number of people visit for the same basic reason.

I’ve sort of mixed and hypocritical views on preservation. The town of Gettysburg is very much like it was then and the battlefields remain fields and the wooded hills where the South tried to flank the North on the first day remain wooded hills. I appreciate that what happened here was so horrific that the country and the town felt the need to preserve it and perhaps also because no one really wants to build on a spot where nearly 50,000 people died in a matter of days. I’ve no service in the military and have never seen war but from the accounts I have read from people who fought in the Civil War, the First & Second World Wars, and in the jungles of Vietnam – to some solid extent, not dying is luck, that accepting that you could die at any moment is one of the challenges to adjusting to being in one big battle after another or to be in a semi-constant battle that goes on the whole time you’re there. I can’t imagine – nor do I really try to. But I had a variation of the thought of how lucky I am to be alive a bit earlier because of how many wars our families have fought in on both sides going back a very long ways (mom’s family invaded England with William the Conqueror in 1066 for example). How many people in our families went off to war and didn’t die so that this generation could be born?

Anyway, I’m going to go boil some lunch and then I’m going to go off and wander around the town for a bit and maybe find some ice cream.

Pics from Day 06:
These first four are from the same spot – just turning on my own axis from left to right – then I lay down on the Ural and just soaked up the sun for about 30 minutes before hitting the road once more. The last is a terrible quality pic of the Ural with a new BMW which I liked the look of and did a poor job documenting it.

I was just about to close out when I realized I didn’t finish the thought about my hypocritical views on preservation. I love old buildings and whatnot so that part of me deeply wants things to be preserved and I take some joy & pride in the fact that my brother joined the preservation society and fights to save some of the more beautiful buildings in my city that for various reasons have fallen into disrepair or been outright abandoned. But another part of me loves it when I see nature taking back buildings, I’ve seen five so far on this trip – houses over 150 years old for sure with vines and trees wrapping round them and growing inside them. Then there’s the fact that we know things now that we didn’t know when we first began to colonize these continents – we’ve built cities & towns on wonderful farmland and farms on lesser land. Then there are cities like Youngstown, Detroit, Flint, that thrived during our industrial age and then didn’t which expanded and then shrank back in devastating ways of which there are still struggles going on. I’ve passed towns that are barely alive and places where there were probably really neat old houses & factories that have completely been retaken by the earth. I’m for all of it. I’m for preserving old structures so long as they can serve a viable purpose in the current or future needs of the area but if the land under them can be better used for something else then I’m for raising them and replacing them. I love history and feel like it needs to be known and I think if a neat old building needs to go then someone should take pictures of as much of it as possible and then go through and save bits of it – some examples of lovely trim & moldings, door hardware, stained glass windows, the hardwood doors & frames, even some of the casement windows – and then ideally those parts would be incorporated into the structure that replaces it.

There, that’s the completion of the thought. Alright, let’s try the beef, biscuits, and potatoes today.

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