Mid-June Already?

I can't believe it's June 15. Really? Where time goes, I have no idea.

It's been about a month since my last post, but a lot has gone on. Went to the outskirts of D.C. for a convention for a few days and found myself in the middle of John Wilkes Booth escape route. Obviously I had to follow his same tracks - anyone who knows me knows I couldn't just sit in a hotel and not trying to take in my historical settings. Most people don't know a lot about his escape, so I'll have to do a blog on that sometime with photos so I don't forget the experience.

On my way back home from D.C. I stopped at Antietam. My second battlefield this year. Gettysburg was where we stopped in early March, but we only had a few hours there & the weather was rainy. Most of the folks with me didn't want to be outdoors so I found myself roaming the key sites, taking photos in the rain & trying to picture the various battles and what the grounds must have looked like during those crucial three days. Speaking of Gettysburg, I recently purchased "Killer Angels," the unabridged audio book version. I have little time to read, and since I knew I'd be spending a lot of time in the car going to/from D.C. I chose that as my option of entertainment. This is the book "Gettysburg" - the movie released in 1993 - was based on. The book brought things into clearer perspective and makes me eager to revisit the site as soon as possible. It also made me do a desperate search to find the movie, as my husband had never seen it. Wal-Mart came through on that one. I actually was working at the Willow Knolls 14 theater in 1993 when the movie was released, and saw it countless times as it played for several months. Even briefly dated a guy during that time who was a Chamberlain historian, and if you do your research on the man you can see why he's so fascinating. Though the movie theater gave better sound effects of the canon exploding around you, watching it in the dark in our living room was a pretty good experience too. I will say this - while I like Martin Sheen, I never felt he did General Lee justice with his interpretation of him. Or maybe it was a brilliant interpretation but Lee just appears better when reading about him in print or looking at him in a photo. Chamberlain & Armistead stole the show, at least for me. I think both actors did them justice. If I could go back in time I would like to meet both of them.

But I digress. Antietam. I arrive, take a few photos & go to the visitor's center. I find that they have a CD set you can buy that takes you to various points on the battle field where you can drive, listen to what happened, then stop the CD, get out of the car & explore. I spend $22, thinking that I can spend an hour or so doing a quick tour, as it will give me a little break from the drive from D.C. back home to Ohio. At this point in the day it had already been stressful; we had an admin person quit, so I had been scrambling most of the day trying to find a temp replacement & also people for us to interview to fill the position full time. I needed a mental escape. Yes, I'm odd that I'd chose a battlefield for an escape, but I'm fascinated by the Civil War so it makes perfect sense to me.

I go to the second floor of the visitor's center & take some photos, while also listening to a tour guide's description of the Sunken Road. (side note: with my maiden name being "Suntken", I feel like this is kind of my road considering most of the people I grew up with always spelled it "Sunken" anyway.) Then my camera battery dies. After all the pictures I took on my John Wilkes Booth escape route I never thought to recharge the battery at the hotel. I'm an idiot. But they have a gift shop, so I go back inside the visitor's center only to find they have no disposable cameras. In a battlefield gift shop there were no disposable cameras??? Well, I still had my camera phone. Not the best resolution, but it would do. I decided to get in the car and drive along with the guided CD tour for awhile. I turn on the car...and the "low tire pressure" light comes on. That was a new development. My car is less than a year old & I had just had it serviced before I left. I had the light come on once before & there was a nail in the tire. My stomach sunk...this wasn't an error, I was getting a flat. Got out of the car & couldn't tell which tire it was. Here I was at a battlefield, no where near an actual town and it was around 4pm. Repair shops wouldn't be open much longer, and I had 4-1/2 hours at least to still drive back home that night. I took a quick look around me in disappointment, looked up the nearest tire repair shops on my GPS and headed into West Virginia for assistance. I drove away with complete & total disappointment, knowing that my second battlefield experience this year was another "miss."

The GPS takes me 9 miles to a tire repair shop, but given the narrow, curving back roads it takes 20 minutes to reach the destination...where I find myself in a housing development. No tire shop here! I go to the GPS again, since I have no choice at this point but to rely on it, and choose another location. Again, another 9 miles, but a 20 minute drive. I find myself in a little WV town, and on my way to the GPS destination I see a tire shop along the road. It's 4:40pm so I decide to stop there. At this point my concern is that 5pm will hit and no one will be open to do the repair. After all, this is West Virginia, not some metropolitan area.

I go into the shop and am immediately hit with the cigarette smoke. I also find myself the lone female, being stared at with question & amazement by about 10 guys, all sitting around the waiting room. Most of the guys were in mechanics uniforms, some were in normal clothes. It was basically the town meeting place for the men. The guy at the counter, in his thick WV accent, was talking with a local gentleman about town gossip. While the other guys stared at me (I got the feeling they were thinking "Uh, you're a girl..." in a thick WV drawl), I waited for the man at the counter to finish his conversation. What had I gotten myself into? Finally, when the guy at the counter was done with his discussion he addressed me. Not in a polite way, but not rude either. He knew I was a city girl, definitely not from around there, and probably thought I was some idiot girl who didn't know how to drive or maintain a car or something. I told him that my low tire pressure light was on & that I was driving to Ohio...and that I needed it checked & likely needed the tire fixed. He thought about this for a second, looking skeptical. He told me "first bay." Ok, he wanted me to drive it in for them to look at it. That works!

So I pull in the garage in the first bay and four mechanics who had been sitting in the waiting room come out. Three grab tire pressure gauges while the other one just kind of looks at the tires. At this point I see where the issue is - my back, passenger side tire. It's drastically low, and it wasn't that way 45 minutes prior when I first saw the light. The guys are checking the tires & I point to the back tire, the last one they checked. The guy takes the pressure & looks at the top of the tire. "Uh, yeah, there's the screw right there." I ask him if they can patch it, and get the reply of "uh-hu." He goes to the back of the shop and gets a very old, rusted car jack to lift up the back/passenger side of the car. Yes, it's a bit primitive in West Virginia, but whatever works! He jacks up the car so he can repair the tire; luckily new tires are not needed, thank goodness. In a town with only a few small American auto dealerships, I don't think they would be too pleased to fit my Toyota Corolla with new tires, and I certainly didn't want to spend the money or time.

So the guy is fixing my tire, and while one of the three guys heads to the back to stare at the operation, the other one goes to his tool box and pulls out another tire pressure gauge. With the back/passenger side of my car jacked up while one of the mechanics repairs the leak, this third guy starts checking the tire pressure of the other three tires. Once the guy - we'll call him idiot mechanic - got to the third tire that was not being worked on, the somewhat capable mechanic asks him "Whatcha doing?" The response was "I'm tryin' to see what tire is low." The capable mechanic says "Whuh?" The response again was "I'm tryin' to find what tire is low. None of 'um look like they are low."

Capable mechanic stops what he's doing and says "Eh found the leak." Idiot mechanic says "Whuh?" Followed by a "Eh found the leak." Idiot mechanic stares at him. "Ya did?" "Yup, I'm fixin' it now" says the capable mechanic, getting back to work on the tire. I do everything in my power to keep from laughing. At this point I feel like I'm in a very stereotypical TV show about West Virginia life and I'm the guest star for the day. Capable mechanic fixed the tire quickly and told me I was set to go. I asked if I needed to go in & pay; he shrugged his shoulders. "I guess. Can ya pull your car out so we can shut the door?" Sure, of course. I get in the car, and while I probably could have just driven away I park in a spot & go inside to talk with the head counter guy again. I tell him that the leak was fixed & asked how much I owe him. He yells through the thin walls to the capable mechanic who is still in the garage "Was it a leak?" Capable mechanic yells back "Yeah, I fix it." Counter guy writes up the service on a yellowed pad of invoicing paper, with the charge of $10.66. Fair enough; after all, I needed that fix to get back home & save myself from having to sleep who knows where in West Virginia. Luckily it's a very rare time that I have cash so I give him $11, he gives me back my change with his sticky, dirt covered hand. I pocket it and walk out the door, ready to leave that town behind me.

Luckily the drive from West Virginia to Ohio was uneventful, but I did find myself sulking a bit about Antietam. Well, I have the guided tour CD now so next time I'm back in that area - which I WILL be - I hope to put it to good use. I will also bring strong battery power for the camera!

I wasn't anticipating on writing this much, but here it is. I have to get to my John Wilkes Booth escape route story because that was awesome - at least for me. As for any readers, I think unless you are actually there you don't fully get the scope of things but I will try my best to describe it to you. Another day.

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