Custer State Park in South Dakota

Custer State Park in South Dakota
We saw a LOT of these guys at Custer State Park in South Dakota!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Gettysburg Miniature Soldiers- Pennsylvania

Gettysburg Miniature Soldiers was another place we visited last time that I was excited to get back to this time around.

I took a lot of photos of their old Marx playset boxes, but I realized I didn't get any photos of their stocked store!

On this visit, I looked through bags and bags of mostly Civil War soldiers, unpainted.  I personally love painting 2 inch tall Civil War soldiers, and I have been painting them for years.  Finding a shop that has the small figures in poses I haven't seen before is rare.... but this place is a rare shop for hobbyists.

I found about 4 bags of soldiers to paint, and went to pay for them.  As I talked to the friendly fellow running the shop, he mentioned that there were many more bags in a back room that was set up for war gaming.  I went in the back and found more packs of soldiers that were older, but new to me.  I greedily scooped them up and bought them, looking forward to painting these new discoveries back home.

I probably have enough toy soldiers now that I won't need to buy another for several years...

If you enjoy toy soldiers at all, make sure you take a moment to swing by Gettysburg Miniature Soldiers.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

"Confederates In The Attic" by Tony Horwitz

A friend mentioned the Tony Horwitz book, "Confederates in the Attic" to me not too long ago, so I picked it up.

Its funny, because this book came out in the late 90s (nearly 20 years ago now).  A LOT has gone on with attitudes relating to the Civil War, the South in particular, and race relations.....

BUT, author Tony Horwitz deals with a lot of topics in his book that we are dealing with now, in 2017.

Horwitz seems to be diving head first into the Confederacy as he talks to people who still feel a link to it, nearly a century and a half after the Civil War.  Many express that they are proud of their heritage, and have linked themselves to Confederate relatives through research.

Racial issues come up several times, from different sides.  The author, who is Jewish, absorbs some cheep shots himself as he does his research.  A heartbreaking incident goes down in a small Kentucky town that leaves one young man dead.

Colorful characters are all over the book, as Tony meets the last living Confederate widow.  He goes to several reenactment events with an acquaintance named Robert Lee Hodge who takes his mimicking of the Civil War lifestyle to the extreme.  Hodge shows up a few times in the book, and becomes a main character.

"Confederates in the Attic" is simply an interesting read.  I am not sure how to categorize this one, but I really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Blue and Gray Bar & Grill- Gettysburg Pennsylvania

So, one of the places we REALLY wanted to go back to on this trip to Gettysburg was the Blue and Gray Bar and GrillWe were there back in 2015 and LOVED IT!

We loved it this time too.  I ordered a Sickles burger, not because I am a fan of Dan Sickles, but because it looked good.

The place was hoppin' and we had to take a seat at the bar.  That was fine though, because the bar tender was on top of everything, and the place was lively.

Last time I was here, I had a burger named after Custer that I really enjoyed.  Our bartender let us know they took that one off the menu.  I told her that I loved it, and asked why it was removed.  She told me that I must be the only person ever who loved it.

Anyway, this is a locals favorite.  We love it too.  I think this is becoming a standard place that you must eat at while you are in town.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Gettysburg Cyclorama- The Turning Point of the Civil War on Canvas

After our first trip to Gettysburg last year I found myself on a huge Civil War kick.  The battle is so fascinating.  Well, we were just as blown away by the painting known as the Gettysburg Cyclorama.

The painting is about 40 feet high and about 375 feet long (YES, you read that right).  It is displayed in a large round room in a 360 degree panoramic setting.  The painting overwhelms the viewer with scenes from the Battle of Gettysburg.  If you have not visited this amazing piece of artwork in Gettysburg, think about it for a moment.

Shortly after our visit, I found out about the book, "The Gettysburg Cyclorama:  The Turning Point of the Civil War on Canvas" by Chris Brenneman, Sue Boardman and Bill Dowling.  I really wanted to get this volume, but I wanted to get this book (a piece of artwork in its own right) signed by the authors.

Luckily, the publisher was able to help me find a nice signed copy!  In fact, the very sweet folks at Savas Beatie Publishing make signed copies of many of their books available!  Check out their website, I know I will be keeping a closer eye on what they are putting out.

AND, this book has been such an enjoyable read.  The authors cover the entire history of this painting.  Luckily, artist Paul Philippoteaux created the Cyclorama in the 1880s so he was able to interview many participants in the actual battle.  Philippoteaux and his team of artists used these accounts, along with photos from the battlefield to make the painting. 

I was unaware of the extreme effort put in to getting the Cyclorama right.  The artists covered just about everything- but there are imperfections.  Some done intentionally (to draw the viewers attention to an important general).  Some were accidental (buildings not in Gettysburg at the time of the battle, but built before the work on the Cyclorama sneak into the artwork).

There are other details about the Cyclorama that make the painting so fascinating.  For example, OTHER Cycloramas were made!  AND, if Philippoteaux realized that a mistake was made in the painting, he was known to change it!

I really could go on and on about how great this book is.  If you appreciate the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, or if you love pieces of art that take on a life of their own, check this volume out!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Meade's Headquarters- Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Balancing out our visit to Lee's Headquarters at Gettysburg, we stopped by Union General George Meade's Headquarters.  This was particularly cool, as there was an "open house" on the day we visited!

The house isn't always opened to step into, so this was a treat.  Frankly, it is a small building, with not a lot going on, but it was thrilling to walk on these historic floors.

A Park ranger was outside of the home, talking about all of the big names who walked on the same floors of the home.  The event had a very casual feel.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

General Lee's Headquarters- Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The first place we visited when we arrived in Gettysburg was General Lee's Headquarters.  I really wanted to check the place out, because the home, and the area around it has been totally restored to the way it would have looked at the time of the battle.  A museum had been inside of the structure for a very long time, AND retail establishments had been built up right around it.

Thanks to the Civil War Trust, an organization that I donate to and am a proud member, the house has been fully restored.  For more info, go here.

They have done a great job.  The area felt... well, just more open.

The HQ itself just feels so much more representative of Gettysburg, 1863.  Before, with a hotel and restaurant nearby you couldn't FEEL the landscape.  Standing at the building now, on the property....  you can really GET the vibe going on.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Inn At Herr Ridge- Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

So, when we planned our trip through Gettysburg, we knew exactly where we wanted to stay this time.  The Inn at Herr Ridge.

This spot is VERY historic.  The main building went up in 1815.  In 1863, it would be used by the Confederates as a hospital.

Rooms 1-4 are said to be the rooms where amputations took place.  I have read that room #1 specifically saw a lot of sawing.  I have also read that it is haunted!

So, after some debate with my wife.....  We reserved room #1!

AND, we were the only couple in the Inn for the 3 nights (A Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday) we were there.  PLUS, the staff told us they left at 6....  So, I think we were pretty much alone in the place!

I guess I should go ahead and get our "ghost story" out of the way.

You know I am generally skeptical about these things, but I do love a good ghost story.  AND I do love strange history.

So, our first night at the Inn....  I am pretty sure it was right around midnight....  we both awoke to a strange noise!  It sounded like rocks being shaken in a box!

I got up to check things out, wondering if I was finally having a REAL ghost experience!

BUT, as I looked around, I realized exactly what we had heard.  When we checked in, the nice people at the Inn gave us a bottle of Champaign... in an ice bucket.  As you probably know, ice often melts in the buckets, and then shifts....  We had simply been startled by the sound of the ice melting, and breaking, and the glass bottle of Champaign shifting around in the bucket.

Oh well......  Still, we stayed in a very cool place, even without a ghostly experience.  Let me tell you about it!

Upon check-in, we were given a glass of Champaign!  We were then able to enjoy a rocking chair on the porch, for a few moments.  I personally don't drink at all, but I figured I should enjoy this glass as part of the experience.  I wasn't exactly able to finish less than half the glass... but I felt fancy.

We were shown around a bit, and made our way to our room, which I thought looked even nicer than it appeared on the web site.  It was open yet cozy.  The bathroom was small, but very usable.  There was a shower set up in a claw foot bathtub.  Again, it was small, but it felt appropriate for an inn over 200 years old.

The hardwood floors were nice... and authentically squeaky.  We did not mind at all.  In fact, it really added to the feel of the place.

AND, I do want to say that our room was very clean and new.  Yes, the inn had an extremely historic feel, but they were keeping the place up.  There was a nice big TV in our room, a Keurig coffee maker, and our bed was clean and comfortable.  We have seen some "historic" hotels who think that run down and outdated are part of their historic charm.  That was not the case here.  The place is classy.

Each morning we ate at 8 am.  Again, we were the only couple here, but they still took care of us.  We put in an entre order each evening.  The next morning we would come down for breakfast.  We had the same waitress two of our mornings (and I did not catch her name) but, like all of the staff we encountered here she was great.  I had an omelet two mornings, and French toast one.  My wife was happy with her egg whites.

AND, again, not compromising, we had a great layout of fruits, juices, and breads to go with our meal.  The Inn at Herr Ridge did not take any shortcuts just because of the fact that there were only two people there.

Like I said, the Inn at Herr Ridge is historic, and I wanted to soak that in while we were in Gettysburg.  Sure, there was lots to see out in town, but I wanted some time to read, and to just enjoy being at the Inn.

There is a very nice reading area right outside of the rooms 2-4, in the new add on area, but just outside of the original structure.  Slanted windows outside behind the chairs really made this a comfortable area.  It was a hot few days while we were in Gettysburg, but that was OK, the A/C worked great in our room, so reading in bed before going to sleep was very pleasant.

The Inn at Herr Ridge was an absolute winner on this trip.  Check out my photos!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Cashtown Inn- Cashtown, Pennsylvania

The Cashtown Inn was a very important place
during the Battle of Gettysburg.  It was used as a Confederate Headquarters and hospital.

We swung by briefly as we came into the area.  Here are a few photos.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mister Ed's Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium- Orrtanna, Pennsylvania

I have heard about Mister Ed's for some time, and we decided to make a quick stop on our way to Gettysburg.

I figured the place would be funky, and over the top....  It was!

Inside and outside, Mister Ed's has some crazy d├ęcor, mostly relating to elephants.

I did a quick walk through the "Elephant Museum" part.  If you aren't a big elephant fan, you can take it all in in a few minutes.  If you love elephants though, you might be here for a while.  It is kind of a long hallway with glassed in shelves holding various elephants.  It is a one of a kind attraction.

In the main store area, the place has candy..  and other odd knickknacks everywhere.  We found several orange candies for a friend obsessed with orange.  There is an entire room of Pez dispensers.  AND, you know that they have peanuts!

Mister Ed's knows that they get a lot of Civil War fans in the area, so I saw some Civil War related toy soldiers and such.  There were some cool local history books for sale too.

Yeah, we wanted to utilize our Gettysburg time wisely, but we were sure glad that we stopped by Mister Ed's!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Flight 93 National Memorial- Pennsylvania

Seeing the Flight 93 National Memorial has been BIG on my list for some time.  Especially after our visit last year to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City.

I am sure I have mentioned here before that I was in downtown Cleveland doing social work stuff on that day.  Well, Flight 93 was in Cleveland airspace at one point that day (I believe it was taken over by the hijackers while in the area).

Anyway, the memorial to the flight (and the amazing passengers who made sure the plain did not get to it's intended location) is now at the crash site, in Somerset County Pennsylvania.

We stopped by as we traveled from Pittsburgh to Gettysburg.  There is a very nice visitor center here, with a small but moving museum.  The museum reminded me of a much smaller version of the one we saw in New York.  We talked to a friendly ranger while we were here.  It is great that this site is managed by the National Park Service.

There is a glassed in room inside of the visitor center where you can see the crash site, the debris field, and other landmarks associated with the crash.  I think this is great for someone who would like to briefly visit the Memorial, but that may not be able to fully explore it.

BUT, there is a nice walking trail to the crash site area (the exact spot is fenced off).

This is a very pleasant Memorial.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Incline, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania Postcard

The back of this postcard describes-

Operating since 1870.  Length 640 feet.  Altitude, 370 feet.  38 degree rise.

Its still there!  This blogger has been on it!

The card itself was sent in 1942, from Pittsburg.  The sender says that they did shopping in town, and saw (bandleader) Ted Lewis at the theatre.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Lily Pond and Phipps Conservatory, Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA.

This postcard showing Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh, was sent to Atlantic City in 1921!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Recent Gettysburg Trip

So, we recently got back from a visit to Gettysburg.  We made this a fun loop trip, going through Pittsburgh, Gettysburg, Harper's Ferry WV, and Staunton VA.

Most of our time was spent in Gettysburg though.  This was our third trip to the exceptionally historic town.

Its funny, I was talking to an acquaintance the other day.  They recently took their family to Gettysburg.  They said that they got to town, went to the battlefield, and then they weren't sure of what to do next.  They spent a few hours driving around, then they were back on the road.

I told them that I would be there for a full 3 days, and that would not be enough time on this visit.  I literally had a check list of things I wanted to do, almost all of them different from previous trips.  Even now, after getting back home from this third visit, I could put another jam packed 3 day itinerary together of things I would still like to do in town.

There are museums we haven't visited.  There are numerous inns and B&Bs in the area, all worthy of a stay.  There are parts of the battlefield I would love to spend more quality time visiting.

BUT, we really did hit some of the main attractions we simply didn't have time to get to last time around.

Plus, we were able to see several other great places as we looped around several states, keeping the focus of our trip mostly on the Civil War.