Last summer’s major road trip was a doozy! We took the Amtrak Auto Train from Sanford, Florida, to Lorton, Virginia, drove north to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and then made our way home through the course of the following week. Always the compulsive over-planner, I designed a route that would allow us to visit as many scenic and historical sites as possible from beginning to end.
The week-long itinerary included:
- Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park
- Manassas National Battlefield Park
- George Washington’s Mt. Vernon
- Gettysburg National Military Park for the 150th Anniversary
- Eisenhower National Historic Site
- Antietam National Battlefield
- Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park
- Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
- Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia and North Carolina
- Smoky Mountains National Park
- Pinebox, my North Georgia mountain cabin
- Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School class in Plains, Georgia
By the end of the week, we had completed it all, other than the second half of the Blue Ridge Parkway that was aborted due to the band of summer storms that pounded the Appalachians in early July. There were a couple of days the schedule was tight, but overall it was an incredible trip. We immersed ourselves in scenic beauty and regional cuisine, and inhaled every cultural and historical site to the max. But at journey’s end, it was powerful quotes about change from two 19th century Americans that resonated with me the most and challenge me to this day.
The first quote was part of a special Gilder Lehrman exhibit, Treasures of the Civil War, at the Gettysburg NMP Museum:
Clara Barton 1821-1912
It irritates me to be told how things always have been done . . . . I defy the tyranny of precedent. I cannot afford the luxury of a closed mind. I go for anything new that might improve the past.
—Clara Barton, The Story of My Childhood, 1907
I discovered the second quote near the end of the John Brown exhibit at Harpers Ferry NHP:
Henry D. Thoreau 1817-1862
Is it not possible that an individual may be right and a government wrong? Are laws to be enforced simply because they were made or declared by any number of men to be good, if they are not good?
—Henry David Thoreau, A Plea for Captain John Brown, 1859
How was it that words spoken over a century ago could still be so relevant and speak so powerfully to a modern man? And then it occurred to me . . . I love recreation and scenic beauty and history, and clearly those are tangible elements that draw me to the open road. But the heart of travel will always be the things we learn along the way. Simply put, for me, travel is more education than vacation. On the heels of this journey, I was left inspired and challenged in spite of religious or political currents to always keep an open mind and seek to right the wrongs of the past . . . .
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