A Night At The Carnival (USA Day 12)
Back on the road, and having set a target of distant Gettysburg, today was to be our longest yet with this pack weight: a not-too-shabby 69 miles of rolling Pennsylvania hills. We rose early and rustled up some hot, eggy, sausage-based substances from deep within the bowels of the kitchen, ate them joylessly and set off before eight.
Lancaster’s cute German markets and leafy streets behind us, we pushed west to York, like in The War of The Roses, except they didn’t stop for donuts. The route didn’t shy away from the major roads though nothing close to the highway that had so plagued us a few days ago, and we made quick progress, crossing the broad, shallow Susquehanna river at Columbia and knocking out some serious miles before it got too hot.
The sun bared its ugly, burning teeth (great metaphor, Ivan) and we dipped south off the main road at East Berlin, for a backroad that would lead us to Gettysburg. Here, we found ourselves among tourists from all across America, re-enactors in Civil-War-era waistcoats or dresses, and loads of available points for our ‘State Plates’ spotting game. Kentucky, Tennessee, Minnesota, check! Our route took us down Confederate Avenue, paved along the actual frontline of the Confederate forces as they lined up before the Battle of Gettysburg. Statues, cannons and plaques were all that remained to mark the positions of each doomed company. It was odd, trying to associate with the ‘baddies’, wondering about their fear and oncoming demise under the orders of leaders much more evil than themselves.
The physical part of the ride was pretty uneventful, which is what we were hoping for, to be honest. A zero-tears day was an indicator that we’ve hit normal, and the legs/knees/back all behaved appropriately. Of course, as soon as you stop paying attention to yourself you forget something, and we both arrived at our hosts’ farm chap-lipped and gasping for water. Idiots.
In the evening, we dipped into the idyllic rural life of our hosts: a farmhouse and barn filled with cats, dogs, hens, ducks, bullfrogs, rats (the caged variety) and a great strutting cockerel. Once we’d re-humanised, we set off for the local carnival, a perfect cross-section of small-town Americana with its corndogs and deep fried oreos, unfair sideshows, rock’n’roll band and neon-lit, vomit-inducing thrill rides, all with a background of misty wooded hills and hundreds of miles of nothing. A black-and-white-striped bird, a type of plover called a Kildeer, we discovered, had a nest on the grass near the chairoplane and watched through tiny black uncomprehending eyes, the display that had erected itself around her. A family strode right towards her, and she chirped, panicked, protecting her fragile egg with her life if necessary, until the humans noticed and skirted around her. Hopefully she’ll still be there once the trucks and trailers have packed up and driven off.
Once home, through sleep-drenched drooping eyelids, we sat out in the warm night watching the teenage son and his friends set off a slew of fireworks, then staggered to our campervan and slept like stones.
Today: 69 Miles
Total: 269 Miles