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Published: July 30th 2008
We are currently sitting in my cousin's condo in Quebec City after spending a few days at the family "camp" on Lake Memphremagog in Southern Quebec. But let's go back to last week and Gettysburg where I left off before we entered internetless land.
As we approached Gettysburg last week, the houses and landscape became more and more historic. We passed open fields and wooded areas with homes and farms dating from much earlier times. The national park surrounding the town of Gettysburg was dotted with monuments and statues honoring the thousands killed during this major battle of the civil war. The main part of town has changed little over the last 150 years and the "Civil War Building" bronze plaques are visible on many of the brick structures in town along with bullet-ridden walls that are still visible. Despite the fact that almost a million people a year visit this site, it has not turned into a tacky tourist town. There are many great little shops around catering to the civil war antiquities buffs along with nice pubs, restaurants and places to stay.
We took the two hour guided bus tour and decided it was well worth it.
We got to see and stand on all the major landmarks and hear a blow by blow description of the events leading up to this three day battle along with the battle itself. The fact that it occurred at all was total coincidence. The spread out Union forces in the North were looking for a place to regroup and get supplies, the Confederate army heading north was looking for the same thing. Both generals looked at the map and saw the sleepy town of Gettysburg (pop.2500) with ten roads leading into it from all directions. It was the perfect place for what they needed to do. Neither knew the other was there until they ran into each other and so the fight began. As our tour guide said, "The town didn't know what hit it and still doesn't!". Over 51,000 solidiers were killed over the course of the three day battle, and one civilian.
From Gettysburg we headed north to Platteville, New York, where we spent one night. We could have stayed an extra day and taken a day-long bus tour into New York City but decided against it. We can't do it all on this trip! And lo
and behold, it was here that we ran into our first rain of the trip. We had no sooner unloaded the bike and got into our cozy little cabin that the heavens opened. The timing could not have been better.
The next day we woke up to cloudy skies and showers and checked out the forecast on the laptop. We looked at the radar pics, took an educated guess as to how we could best avoid the rain and headed north to Albany. It seemed like we were in traffic for hours getting through one town after another in the capitol district but we finally broke through and headed across central Vermont. As we climbed up and over the Green Mountains of Vermont the weather got worse and worse and the winds became stronger. When we emerged on the east side of the state we made the bad decision to carry on for another hour instead of finding a room for the night. The last hour of the day as we headed for St. Johnsbury was a torrential downpour. We took the first exit to the city and stopped at the first motel we came across. At that point,
it just didn't matter.
The next day we headed for the border about an hour north. Although it was cloudy, the rain held off for the trip to Sherbrooke, my old hometown and our stopping-over point for a few days. We crossed the border at Derby Line/Stanstead and took the old "Stanstead Highway" north to Sherbrooke. Little has changed on this road since I was a kid and took the trek on a regular basis to visit relatives with my parents. The same old houses and farms dot the landscape and the road has not been worked on in thirty years. It was bad when we were kids and it is worse now. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is the worst road we have traveled on in our trip across the US and our two trips across Canada. However, the scenery is beautiful and is hard to beat anywhere. The Eastern Townships of Southern Quebec still provide some of the most pleasing landscapes in the country.
After spending a week with family at the cottage, we took off to Quebec City where we are now staying for a couple of nights with
my cousin. Quebec City is celebrating its 400th anniversary and there are things going on all summer. Millions of dollars have been spent on sites around the city in preparation for the celebrations. Last night we walked the new promenade along the St.Lawrence where huge outdoor sculptural installations have been strategically placed along with artistic picnic benches, trash cans, and fountains. Artificial fog and synchronized fountains complete the scene. Before we headed out for the park, we picked up a couple of bottles of wine, four "real" cheeses of increasing strength, home-made lobster pate, pork liver pate and two fresh baguettes for a picnic on the side of the river. A great time was had by all!
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