Monday, August 04, 2008

Antietam and Great Falls Tavern

The day I was supposed to be biking, yet wasn't, involved a relaxing 80 mile drive into Rockville, Maryland. So we had plenty of opportunity to just hang out, drink coffee, do some shopping, and catch a few sights. Antietam, or Sharpsburg, depending on which side of the war you were on, was in the way, and Pootewheet and I both liked Vicksburg (in Mississippi), so we thought it was worth a visit. For the most part, it's a sleepy little off road battle site, and it was a bit humid to be appreciating anything, but it was very scenic.

You could readily picture troops pushing across cornfields and get an idea of where strategic locations were likely to lie. They were big on wood fences in Antietam. They line most of the roads. The sign is on the back of the wagon so no one shells it.

There are, of course, obligatory statues. You can see from the picture we had the place pretty much to ourselves for a while. At least until a school bus full of kids were finally let loose from the visitor center so they could chase each other around in Union and Confederate outfits. Maryland's a border state, so it's difficult to say whether the cool kids were the North or the South.

The tower was a nice place to hang out.

See. Eryn thinks so.

I was all about the humidity cutting breeze. I'm not thinking sagely about anything. I'm not imagining what it was like during the thick of battle with acrid smoke, the whiz of shot from Springfield and Enfield's and the boom of 12 pound Napoleon cannon ringing across the field. I am enjoying the wind.

Eryn checks battle locations in this direction.

But they're not as interesting as battle locations in this direction.

This view is safe now. If there's anything in there, it's likely to be a pop can.

Most re-enactors would find me too hefty to be a Confederate re-enactor. I find that comforting. It means those extra pounds have a purpose.

To the best of my knowledge, not part of the battle. But a rather picturesque run down barn nonetheless.

A close up of the Irish Brigade memorial.

We also crossed the river, into Shepherdstown, West Virginia, braving the home of my coworker Christy. As noted previously, I had ventured into West Virginia once already, near Cumberland, only to be confronted with drive through liquor stores and four fingered auto repair stores, but Shepherdstown was another story. It was quaint and quiet, had multiple coffee shops in the shopping district, and seemed liberal friendly (unlike our later experience with Gettysburg, where they had a variety of anti-liberal propaganda in the gift store). If the library didn't give me the suspicion that it was run directly by the Illuminati, I'd declare it a great place to live.

In fact, I was comfortable enough in Shepherdstown to get my hair cut at the local barber, Lloyd's Barbershop and Cigars. I was informed by my barber - and they give an excellent haircut - that most of the items in their store were purchased on eBay for their historical significance, both the humidors and barber chairs. Apparently one of the chairs actually did time at the Waldorf (or some other hotel) and is the oldest continuous use barber chair in the U.S. And the smell of tobacco and old wood was incredibly relaxing.

And now, down river to Great Falls Tavern (or Great Falls Park). I believe this is where I probably should have stopped, had I been riding my bike on the C&O Canal the second day. It would have put me within striking distance of where we eventually stayed. I saw quite a few bikers on the trail here, so it's obviously a more populated and friendly part of the trail. Which makes me all the more pleased that I did the adventurous first half.

A lock on the C&O Canal, which runs through the visitor center area. Had I been on my bike, I would have biked right through here. A beautiful area where you can actually take a boat ride (on their tour boat, when it's running).

More scenic lockosity.

Turtles. You would not believe the number of turtles I saw while riding. 1000s. Literally. I was worried when I was on my bike that I meant take a tumble, get a branch in my calf, and they'd gang up on me in some sort of pack hunting, pulling me down as I tried to crawl away. Horrible beasties.

Yes. I am on vacation, between a scenic canal and a scenic river, surrounded by scenic rocks, in a different part of the country, reading a book. I think you would have to admit, it looks like a perfectly wonderful place to read, lacking only a hammock or a recliner, and a mini fridge.

Eryn poses. She does love the climbing.

The Potomac River. Sluicing.

Pretty enough to swim in, until you read the signs telling you how many people die near there every year.

Almost to the close.

Aha! We could see driftwood almost at the observation level. The river must be downright frightening when it's that high.

And a picture for Kyle, who now owns a kayak. I'm pretty sure this is what you're supposed to do with it. If you were truly motivated, you could drive to Cumberland, bike with a kayak trailer behind your bicycle (stuffed full of camping gear) on the C&O, kayak in the evenings on the Potomac, and repeat the next day, ad nauseam. That seems like a beautiful way to spend a week or two.


She says said...

Gorgeous pix!

LissyJo said...

Cool trip. You should post a googlemap with your route.

Scooter said...

Have you noticed it's taking me two weeks just to get all the pictures posted with some commentary? I cannot imagine finding time to GoogleMap the things.

BTW, we think Eryn's bug bites are perhaps hives/rash. They're right where she'd get them if she were sweating. Doesn't look like poison ivy, but it does look like she got something she's allergic to in her sweat.