Ever sleep in a Wal-Mark parking lot? We did, last night.
And as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Yesterday morning was Jeff’s last morning here. We woke up, showered, took the recycling to the recycling place and drove to my parents’ house to change oil in the bus (my pop has my oil change reservoir). By 9:45am we were on our way to Gettysburg.
I seem to have this knack for knowing exactly when I’ll arrive some place. I can usually call it to within five minutes. As we were pulling out of my parents’ house, I said to Jeff, “we’ll probably pull into Gettysburg at noon.” It was 11:59 when we reached the square. Not bad.
The reason we were headed to Gettysburg was for a tour with the always intriguing Troy Harmon. That was at 3:30pm, so we had some time to kill. We got Chinese and some stuff at the healthfood store.
Doesn’t Jeff look like Paul McCartney here?
The correct answer is “yes.”
To kill more time, we ventured up to Powers Hill. I was excited because when I was up there ten years ago, there were cannons up there. Sure, Gettysburg has literally hundreds of cannons all over the field, but how many of them are in the woods?
The correct answer is “zero.” Sometime in the last decade, the cannons have been removed. That’s a shame. I hope they’re put back eventually.
We did find a few old cars…
And of course, a few monuments commemorating the artillery units that were stationed there…
Here’s Jeff inspecting one of them. He thinks it’s hollow. But I couldn’t figure out why they’d hollow out solid granite. Or how. He said it was poured concrete, but poured concrete wouldn’t have lasted the hundred or so years this has been setting there.
We walked back to the bus, I talked to Olivia on the phone for a bit about soap and toothpaste. That was fun. And then we drove to the tour site.
The tour was really fun. I won’t “bore” you with the details, but it was a really fun one. One thing I will relate are two funny stories.
The first was about a private on picket duty around Big Round Top. Picket duty is basically look-out duty. These guys had marched nearly 30 miles and had fought against the 20th Maine on Little Round Top. All without water. They were exhausted and since it was the night of the second day of battle, there would be little sleep. So this fellow, knowing that to fall asleep on Picket duty was more than likely punishable by death (either at the hands of the enemy or the hands of his commanding officer), he kept himself awake by rubbing tobacco in his eyes.
Now, he didn’t go into detail about exactly how he did this, but I’m guessing that it was the juice of chewing tobacco. That’s right, he rubbed the juice of chewing tobacco in his eyes so that it would burn like hell and wouldn’t let him fall asleep. I think I’ll try that sometime.
The next story is also a bit of fun.
This happened to a confederate officer. Sometime during the fighting around Devil’s Den on the second day of battle, he was shot in the foot. The bullet hit his toes, shattering bone, possibly taking one off. He was not treated on the field, but for a cloth wrap. When he arrived in Winchester, Virginia after the battle, he unwrapped the bandage to find it infested with worms.
He realized that he would need to have a couple of his toes amputated. The doctor who was to perform the amputation was more than a bit drunk. The soldier saw ol’ doc take a few long healthy swigs from his flask. The doctor then mentioned that he would have to amputate the whole leg (which the soldier knew was not the case), took another swig and administered chloroform to knock the soldier out. As the soldier was just about to go under, he reached up, grabbed hold of the doctor’s hair, pulled the doctor’s head towards his own and bit down as hard as he could upon the doctor’s cheek! The doctor let out a shriek and started screaming, calling the attention of more sober attendants. The soldier then passed out, not knowing of his fate until waking to find the operation complete, both legs intact and the doctor under arrest.
Troy doesn’t often tell stories like this. Maybe this is a bit of a new style. I must say that I like it. I hope he keeps up with it.
Well, moving on. After the tour, we cruise down the Baltimore Pike towards Baltimore. Jeff had a flight to catch at 6:45am, which meant that he had to be there at 4:45am, which means that we had to stay near the airport.
There are many over-priced hotels around the airport. But there is also a Wal-Mart. Now, please don’t think for a second that I am saying anything favorable about Wal-Mart. It’s a nasty place that I’ve bought only two things in in the past 12 or 13 years.
The first was a sleeping bag on the 2006 trip because I had forgotten mine. This was not realized until we set up the tents. The only place open was Wal-Mart. Evil.
The second time was when my bus blew a tire on the interstate on a Sunday afternoon. Nothing but Wal-Mart was open and the tow truck driver wasn’t extremely keen on finding another non-Wal-Mart place.
So again, I do not shop there. I will, however, pee in their bathrooms and sleep in their parking lots. A lot of people sleep in their parking lots, you know? There’s even a documentary about it called This Is Nowhere – check it out.
By the time we get there, it’s dark. I park, move some stuff around and pop the top.
We use the facilities and Jeff brushes his teeth.
There’s a few trucks and an RV already taking advantage of the free parking. This free parking is great, but every place should do it. Not just Wal-Mart. Shame.
The night was not passed very nicely. The bright lights and aircraft kept me awake most of the night.
This is me trying to capture a jet coming in for a landing. It’s how close (and how loud) they were.
I got maybe an hour or two of sleep. It was humid too. Impossible sleeping conditions. Sometime during the night, it started to thunder pretty regularly. I hoped that it would rain and cool things off. But no. It made a lot of noise, continuously waking me up, but delivered nothing. Nothing.
Sometime in the night, I “woke up” and scribbled the first two or three lines of a poem on a $1 bill. I’ve been really into the different, yet similar meanings of words lately. Like “passage” and, I guess, “Fit.” Which was the title of this poem. So far I had the title and a note that says “three def. ‘fit’.” And then the lines: thrift store / eyes. What the hell was that?
Around 1:30am, I think I went into a deeper sleep. But just as I did, Jeff woke me up to find out what time it was. “1:30.” I think I fell back to mostly sleepish until 4am handed me my alarm. I hate waking up by alarms. And since I probably wasn’t asleep anyway, I guess I wasn’t woken up by one! Goddamn, I’m lucky!
We woke up, climbed out of the bus and saw that another RV and a truck or two had joined us sometime during the night.
I seem to remember that too. I’m not exactly sure when, but I was roused awake-ish by a larger vehicle moving in and then a voice asking someone “Hello? Is there anyone home?” This isn’t home.
But it was home for the night. A night that was now over. We bid fond farewell to Sri Wal-Mart Parking Lot Dhama…
And I drove Jeff the two and a half miles to the airport. We hugged goodbye and then I drove home.
The apartment, which is really only meant for one very small and tidy person seems a lot larger now. A lot emptier as well. It was great having Jeff here for a month or however long it was. Every few years that happens and it pretty well always makes for good memories and some really fun times.
So the moral? Well, if you have to stay in a Wal-Mart parking lot, go for it. Don’t expect to sleep all that well. But you will sleep better knowing that you didn’t drop $150+ for a bed and a TV. This is free, just as it should be. Just a shame that it has to be at Wal-Mart.