The thing about traveling with my dad is no matter what time you got in, no matter what time you went to bed, he’s got a set wake-up time for the next day, which is usually unnecessarily early. And if you’re in separate hotel rooms, he’ll treat you to a wake-up call, often calling even earlier than he said under the guise of making sure you’re up on time.

The thing about traveling with my mom, though, is she’ll wake you up gently, catering the timing based on when you’re leaving and how much time you need to get ready. I guess that’s one of the major differences between the two, and a lot of people would simplify it as a gender thing, but it’s really not–he’s harsh, she’s gentle. I mean, save hotel wake-up calls, childhood was the same. Mom would come in and gentle tell you it was time to get up, Dad would yell and shake the bed and flick the lights. But I digress.

The thing about traveling with my mom, too, is she sets cellphone alarms to funk songs like “Double-Dutch Bus.” So basically, I woke up every day last weekend to “BIP, BOP, BAM, ALAKAZAM!”

I forgot to mention–or I guess I implied it–that we actually stayed in Gettysburg this time. We’re normally outside it. When I was a kid, we stayed about 30-40 minutes away with Uncle Clark. When his house got to be such a mess my dad didn’t want to stay there anymore, we switched to a nearby Holiday Inn. When my dad got fed up with Uncle Clark asking for money and struggling with depression, we stayed in Carlisle, still 30-40 minutes away but in a different area. Finally, this year, he realized staying in the town made a hell of a lot more sense, and it ended up being so, so nice, mostly due to convenience.

We had breakfast at the hotel, then we went out to the Eisenhower Farm for the annual World War II encampment.

My mom got bored. I wasn’t surprised, but I also didn’t blame her–it’s a neat encampment to see, but if you’re not a military or history buff, it all starts to blur together. If my mom goes again next year, I’ll probably go and do something else instead, unless there are guest speakers I’m interested in, but I can’t envision myself going otherwise. I’d still like to take the annual trip to Gettysburg, I just don’t have any interest in seeing the encampment anymore. At least not when you have to pay to get in.

In previous years, we’d go listen to one of the men from the actual Band of Brothers, Wild Bill, who was a bit brash and certainly not politically correct but often entertaining. I met him twice–he signed books for us all and called Paul, who’s 6’4″, “Shorty,” which my brother still calls him. Unfortunately, Wild Bill recently died, so my interest in the speakers took a hit. But my dad had two he was interested in; one has written extensively about the war in Iraq, which my dad was in and has an interest in for that reason, and the other was a paratrooper in World War II who stuck to a Q&A, like many of the guys that age do. In his case, he said he’s told his story often enough that he can tell people get bored with it, so he’d rather stick to taking questions. Which has its advantages, but it’s also tough to follow when you’re not familiar with someone, although you do have the interesting task of piecing it together.

All of us–especially me, my mom, and Paul–were intrigued by a woman in the program who was scheduled to speak about psychological-warfare unit that trained in Gettysburg during World War II. Her talk ended up being my favorite part of the day. It was a fascinating look at the propaganda used during the war and the people recruited to create it, most of whom were artists and writers. I joked to Paul that we might have a future career in propaganda. But it was really interesting. Paul bought the woman’s book, which is currently sitting on our couch, and I’ll share the writer and the name one of these days.

We ended up there for three hours. My mom at one point turned to my dad and said, “I thought you said we wouldn’t be here this long,” and we normally wouldn’t be. We’ve never stayed for three speakers. Two, maybe, but never three.

Of course, we were hungry by then–it was well past lunchtime. Normally, we eat at The Dobbin House, which I’m a huge fan of, but Paul mentioned some time ago that he’d like to try something new. So we all agreed to try the busy spot we’d seen the night before on the way in, Blue & Gray Bar & Grill. And it was awesome. It was more burgers, and I love when restaurants allow you to swap a veggie patty on a burger. I don’t miss the actual meat of burgers, but I do miss the combination of flavors and the creativity some people have when it comes to that, and being able to get a veggie patty means I get to enjoy all of that. I love it.

And I loved the burger I had. I forget what it was called–each burger was named for a prominent Civil War figure, divided into Yankees versus Confederates–but it was a Confederate burger, of course, topped with bourbon-soaked apples. And that’s what I would’ve missed out on had they not done veggie burgers.

My mom and I wanted to do some shopping. The original plan was to do a bit later, in part so Paul could just stay in his hotel room and not get dragged along, but we opted to do it then since we were in town. My mom found a Polish pottery store and already tackled most of her Christmas shopping for people like our godmothers there with some really pretty, hand-painted tea sets. Paul picked up a dish for his mom he’s saving for her birthday.

My parents did some exploring the night before–which is when my mom first saw the Polish pottery store–and showed me a neat handmade-soap store, so I bought a little stock. Paul’s so fed up with my handmade-soap purchases. I’ve got a small stockpile right now, which’ll all be used eventually, but he always tells me I don’t need more. I mean, he’s technically right, but I’m not gonna be in Gettysburg for another year! Which is how I justify most soap purchases.

In the meantime, my dad was in a cigar shop, so the rest of us went back to feed the meter and discovered that my dad had misread the pricing/times, so my mom decided to tell him that she’d gotten a parking ticket when she hadn’t. She kept the gag up the whole day, and I still don’t think he knows the truth.

Our last stop was a clothing store, where I found cute lace boot socks and my mom found a new purse, plus more gifts.

Then we took Paul to Devil’s Den, since it’s basically a field of big rocks and he loves big rocks. After he worse himself out there, we went back to the hotel to debate whether or not to go on a ghost tour. My mom and I were pretty worn out from all the walking, but after a little downtime, we had it in us to do the ghost tour of just over a mile. Paul opted out and hung out in his room, chatting with friends and his sister.

I went with my parents to get frozen yogurt at the new-ish and brilliantly titled Treat Yo Self. Last year, it was a cupcake cafe, and this year, the business has expanded to include yogurt. I’m not sure if it’s under new ownership or just got a makeover and name change, but it’s cute. Tiny for froyo, but it gets the job done.

The ghost tour was fun, and it was one of the best parts of staying directly in town–we didn’t get worn out and drive out of town only to get a second wind. We were able to just get up and go.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see any ghosts. Just college kids traveling to and from parties, and apparently, the tour guides alter the routes during the school year due to past experiences with being yelled at and seeing some nudity. But it was a fun tour.

We had Paul call and order a pizza for us as we made the walk back and picked it up on our way, then devour it with everyone in our hotel room. I went right to sleep, and I was even dozing off before Paul had left to go back to his own room.

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