I am turning off Interstate 76 onto two-lane highways that cut across the countryside of Adams County, Pennsylvania. It’s remote out here. Think wheat fields and ramshackle barns. I’m visiting Gettysburg National Cemetery today, but it feels like I’m traveling toward the earth’s edge.
I am accompanied by loud thundering noises.
A convoy of deafening Harleys, classics, scramblers, and Softails rush past my vehicle. The pack leader looks like Dennis Hopper gone to seed. He gives me a two-fingered salute then tests the limits of the known sound barrier.
It was bike week here in Gettysburg. Swarms of motorcycles gathered in this nationally important borough to honor our history by having daily poker runs, tattoo contests, bike shows, chrome parades, burn outs, and of course, bikini contests.
One local merchant says, “The bikers are real polite and all, but I wish them ladies would put on more clothes. Some gals are way too old to be ‘advertising the goods,’ if you know what I mean.”
I enter the park, drive
around for several minutes, and finally find a parking spot between two custom choppers that cost more than my house.
At first glance, Gettysburg National Military Park feels like any other national park. Lots of kids in oversized sunglasses. Middle-aged people in white sneakers. Young parents pushing strollers, food stains on their crumpled clothes, wearing looks of metaphysical exhaustion. And of course, bikers.
But in many ways this park is unlike any other. Not only is this the resting place of 6,000 veterans from the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, both World Wars, the Korean War, and Vietnam, this is a battleground where more than 150,000 soldiers clashed during the War Between the States. Where 10,000 were killed and mortally wounded.
When they transformed this place into a cemetery, Abraham Lincoln attended its dedication and gave a little speech you probably heard about.
The Lincoln Address Memorial stands front and…