Old Baldy and Me

As mentioned in our previous post our nephew, Drew Cunningham and his friend Taylor Grayson were our guests the early part of the week and we enjoyed their time with us.  It was great seeing people from Owensboro and nice to be able to tour the famous sites of Gettysburg and DC with people from home.

Being that they are young men in their twenties Lisa and I thought they would enjoy a Segway tour of the battlefield.  Since they were here during the week Lisa was unable to take the tour with us but the three of us arrived bright and early on Monday morning for the three hour tour (“a three hour tour” – I know many of you my age are now singing the Gilligan’s Island theme song – “The weather started getting rough the tiny….,”).  Stay focused people!

The Segway Tour office included an open space with cones, ramps, inclines and various other obstacles that we had to master as a prerequisite to taking the tour.  We watched a ten minute video and then boarded our Segways (each named after a famous Gettysburg horse – mine was “Old Baldy” – well of course it is).  The natural tendency is to try and balance yourself which is not good since it is equipped with some type of gyroscope apparatus that was explained to us but a science fact that I never really understood and so I did a little jig trying to get balanced.  I finally got the thing stablilized and actually took to it pretty well as I made my way around the cones and inclines.  Drew and Taylor also got adjusted to theirs without crashing or being “bucked off” and soon we were all out of the building and heading toward the battlefield.  With helmet on head, ear piece in my ear and water bottles in the little carry bag hanging on the handle bar – I don’t know when I looked like a bigger shmuck.

The tour included an audio headset that allowed us to hear a taped voice of a Gettysburg expert guide.  Our leader could cut in at any point to help us navigate the narrow streets of the town and also point out certain things as well but she made it clear that she was not a licensed tour guide.  Interesting fact: It is a felony to do tours of the battlefield unless you are a licensed guide.  Three hundred people take the test annually and only a handful are able to pass what is apparently an incredibly difficult exam.

About thirty minutes into the tour I realized that I could no longer feel my feet.  I had been concentrating so hard on not driving “Old Baldy” into a ditch that I suppose my intensity somehow messed with my circulation.  I tried to adjust my feet but when I lifted up my left leg – the Segway darted to the right and vice versa depending on which way I turned and tried to adjust.  Our guide was motoring along with one hand while looking backwards at us – a skill it will take me years to master.

We finally made a stop on the Confederate side along Seminary Ridge and were told to not step off until the guide took hold of our Segways.  If you step off incorrectly – the Segway will continue moving – not good.  When it was my turn to dismount – I realized that not only my feet were numb – but my entire lower torso was in a spasmed knot and I could hardly walk.  I finally brought blood back into my feet and soon we headed off toward the final two hours.

One of the funniest things I saw on the battlefield (and I say this carefully) is the story told about Union Chaplain William Corby.  There is a statue of Corby standing on a rock in a posture that looks like he is blessing the troops (which is actually what he did on day two of the battle as he gave soldiers ‘General Absolution’).  Corby later became president of Notre Dame and the same statue is on the Notre Dame campus.  Notre Dame is famous for turning famous statues and icons on campus into football symbols.  You may have heard of “Touchdown Jesus” a nickname given to the famous mural overlooking the football field.  There is also a statue of Moses on campus with his hand raised and a finger pointing forward.  They have named that statue “1st and Ten Moses”.  As for Corby – his statue has been deemed, “Fair Catch Corby”.  If you ever get to Gettysburg be looking for a little statue of a man standing on a rock with his hand in the air as if either blessing the troops or waiting to catch a football.

Anyway – our Segway tour made its way to Little Round Top and then to the site of the famous Picket’s Charge.  It was there that one of the people in our group lost their balance and fell from their Segway.  Fortunately she was not hurt but Drew and Taylor had to turn their heads from laughing at the site of the poor woman laying on the ground while her Segway road away without her.

Our guide pointed out a couple of “Witness Trees” – trees still standing that were alive during the battle 149 years ago.  There are said to be only seven on the battlefield still standing.  One near “Devils Den” is said to be recognizable in old photos of the battle.  Amazing.

Our three hours came to an end as we made it back to the Segway tour office.  Drew and Taylor loved the experience of riding the Segway as much as the tour itself.  As for me – I enjoyed that the Segway brought you close to all the markers and statues but it was a little difficult looking around as our guide pointed out things of interest.  I was too concerned about not crashing into the person in front of me or kissing one of the many granite statues along the way to really ever get comfortable enough to look at all the things there was to see.

But at least “Old Baldy” and I got back in one piece.

Thanks for reading!


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