Heathrow Terminal 5 was packed and busy as I sat waiting for my 16:45hrs flight. Looking around at the myriad of faces and a thousand life stories that surrounded me I mused on the wonder of travel in the 21st Century and the intricate weaver of technologies that we take for granted. All seamlessly interacting in a dance to produce an experiece unobtainable to our distant forebears.
I arrived on Wednesday June 26 after a 7.5 hour flight from London Heathrow to Baltimore Washington International BWI. It was nearly 9pm after I cleared immigration and customs.
I hired a rental car from Enterprise and headed out onto the Baltimore Beltway and the 695 west towards Gettysburg. The heat was immediately noticeable as was the high humidity which combined with the smell of the country air intoxicated my senses. I had made it! The adventure so long in the planning was finally underway.
My biro drawn maps of each stage proved invaluable as I wove in and out the busy Baltimore traffic looking for the road signs I would need. Luckily I had committed it to memory so I was relatively confident and could concentrate on my driving. It always makes me laugh as US America is so large, the roads so wide yet all the traffic rolls along in a stately procession which is in stark contrast to the frantic, high speed experience of European driving on narrow over crowded highways and byways! Even the beautiful new upgraded stately Chrysler I was driving responded with sluggish acceleration as it drove in perfect harmony with the laid back, no rush ethos of the country.
I was confident that the familiar roads travelled 22 years ago in 1991 would guide me to my destination and that with my new google Earth drawn maps I would not make the same mistake and get lost in the rural backwaters of Pennsylvania as I had done previously. The 795 was joined and the darkness of unlit roads enshrouded me in its black inky folds. Narrower and narrower the roads got until I rolled through Westminster PA on the 140 and took the 97 North West towards Union Mills and the Littletown Pike. Now the fatigue was starting to take its toll and I wound down my window to get so air. The narrow dark country road with it 45mph limit was becoming hypnotic. Doubt crept into my mind! Was this the right way? The road signs had all but disappeared and were replaced with isolated hamlets of houses. Some lit and others in total darkness.
Finally I found myself nearing Gettysburg and a welcomed sign saying 9 miles. I smiled as I was almost "home." Then unexpectedly I rolled pas the familiar Cemetery gates and I knew that I was on sacred soil hallowed by the men of 150 years ago that had taken part in that epic 3 day life and death struggle. Many now still there buried to my right. The emotions of joy and sadness flooded over me momentarily but were quickly replaced with a smile as I approached my final stop light and the lights of the town. Immediately there was life. People eating and drinking outside in bars, a party of tourists eagerly experiencing a Ghost tour walk conducted by a period dressed guide with a candle lit lantern. Several reenactors walked the street which immediately gave me that time travel feel. This was a town at ease with its past. This is what I had come for!
I turned into Steinwehr Avenue and located the McDonalds now rebuilt recently and my mind went back to when I sat there outside on a hot July morning and mused over the life and death struggle that had occurred not yards from my breakfast venue. Would the veterans have approved of the society that surrounded me? The answer was perhaps they would.
Turning right I pulled up in Johns Avenue and stopped the car. I instinctively knew which house I should approach and so I arrived at my destination. I was about to ring the door bell when Cathe my blonde host threw open the door and bid me enter. "I knew you had arrived!" She announced with a smile and a glint in her eye.
I didn't doubt that for a minute as I had witnessed her extraordinary psychic abilities first hand in the discovery of my life as Robert Magaw not one week previous. I gave her a big hug and we immediately started talking and let the emotions of "reunion" flow. For we immediately felt the common bond of a shared past life. Possibly as mother and son long ago and beyond. Maybe even off world.
This was confirmed as I related my feeling about Robert Magaw and how it had made me feel complete as an American and not just a Confederate Rebel firing on a flag that I love so dearly. Instantly we found several points of congruency that meant we both had touched base before. Similar souls resonate with a common heritage.
After 30 or so minutes Rick appeared having been out dropping granddaughter Brittany off from her work place. I was immediately taken with his keen wit and intelligence which combined with the stoic appearance of a grizzled Confederate reenactor of lifelong standing made me immediately feel at ease.
Despite fatigue we talked to the early hours and it was finally 4am local time when I hit the sack.
I had arrived!