Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Indie Travel - In Transit

The word travel comes from a French word meaning “work” and sometimes, getting there is work. Between crowded buses, long airline delays, overnight trains and crazy rickshaw rides, transportation can be stressful, but it can also be a rewarding part of the tip. Tell us about a time when the journey became more important than the destination.

I am on a journey now, a tour of the east coast in the fall. That was the primary objective, to experience a hardwood forest in all it's autumn glory and take lots of pretty pictures. 

It's been a great experience: to wander down the Blue Ridge Parkway, watch snow fall on golden and red trees in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, dig up potatoes while trees shed leaves by the millions so it sounded like a light rain falling. 

The photos have been fun to compose and a few have turned out exquisitely. 

Appomattox looming out of the fog.
The non-objective was to enjoy the trip and for the first time in my life just wander more or less aimlessly and see what I want to see, stay as long as I like. 

Most of us have experienced a father (or mother) who always had to be somewhere, and the drives to get there were long and arduous. One trip when my sisters were still in grade school was particularly memorable. (My father hated to stop. I think if we'd been boys he'd have asked us to pee out the window rather than make a pitstop.) My sister kept saying she felt sick. He told her to suck it up, hold it in, that she wasn't really sick, etc. Then in a spectacular feat of projectile vomiting, she blasted the back of his head. 

On those long trips I always wanted to explore the old dilapidated houses that appeared along the roadside, see if there was anything like a long-dead girl's dolly, or maybe some rusty old tool that no one even remembers what it was used for. Or stop at the attractions to 
see the live alligators, the pit full of rattlesnakes, or the Pony Express Station. 

Reconstructed Appomattox Courthouse

Now, I'm on my own trip, all by myself, and if I see something of interest, I pull over, take pictures, look around, explore, ask about it. Just this morning I drove by a National Park I didn't even know existed. It's where the Civil War ended. It was out in the middle of nowhere Virginia, down a weaving two lane road I happened to be on. The morning was foggy and wet. The little town of Appomattox Courthouse appeared as a ghost rising from the wet forest. It was closed. I went on to the next town, five miles down the road, had breakfast, came back, and paid my $3 to get in. A lovely place, chock full of history and artifacts, and I had it mostly to myself. 

The McLean home where the terms of surrender
were signed in the living room. 
I remember the author/historian Hampton Sides telling a personal story. His best friend in high school was the son of Shelby Foote, author of The Civil War: A Narrative. The boys were upstairs playing music too loudly and stomping around. Shelby banged on the door and in his meanest voice said "Cut it out boys!! I'm workin on Appomattox!". Hampton said he worked on Appomattox for almost four years.  After seeing the site, wandering the museums, talking to the lonely chilled rangers, I have no doubt that it took four years to write the section on the final days of the war. 

It was never my objective to see several of the plantation homes owned by Presidents, or  where the Civil War ended, it's just been a part of the journey, a few of the things I've run across while in transit.  

Fog, tree, grave.

View from inside the jail.

Union Army's portable printing machine for
printing the pardons for over 22,000 Confederate soldiers.

The Confederacy's final shots were
fired from this front yard.