Our Family Summer Trips had Two Themes: the Civil War and the Eclipse

The Lynch family at Fort Sumter in Charlestown, S.C.

Summer Travels
Terry, Oonie, Ryan (13), and Joe (11) Lynch

Terry: We embarked on a Civil War tour this summer on two separate trips. On the first, we visited Gettysburg and took a late afternoon guided bike tour of the Union lines, followed by a visit to the National Cemetery at dusk. The next day we toured the Confederate lines, driving through Gettysburg College, before a stop at the recently rebuilt museum and Cyclorama, and then drove to Shepherdstown, W.V., to see Antietam on day 3.

Ryan: At Antietam, we went across a bridge (Burnside’s) that Union troops had been ordered to cross even though they were under sniper fire. We also saw a witness tree.

Joe: A witness tree is a tree that was there during the battle and is still living today.

Ryan: There was a painting in the museum of the tree during the battle and it was so much smaller in the picture. It showed how much time had passed between the Civil War and now.

Terry: We finished the first tour with a stop at Harpers Ferry, W.V., and the National Park sites overlooking the two rivers.

Joe: We stayed at the Bavarian Inn in West Virginia. It wasn’t just one hotel building, it had separate buildings named for various German places.

Ryan: I liked how it looked like pictures I’ve seen of places in Germany. The infinity pool had steam coming off the edge and looked like a waterfall going over the mountain.

Ryan: I loved how cool the architecture was at Harpers Ferry.

Joe: Looking at this pretty happy little town it was hard to think about a war coming through.

Ryan: We walked across the railroad bridge that was part of the Appalachian Trail. In three minutes, we walked in West Virginia and Maryland because they come together on that part of the trail.

Joe: The trail was right next to the train tracks and it felt like we were working on the railroad.

Terry: While we were on the railroad bridge, a double decker Amtrak came through on its way south.

Ryan: We waved, and lots of people on the train waved back.

Oonie: Early in the summer, we decided we wanted to experience the total eclipse and chose South Carolina as our destination. We selected Columbia because it had the longest time in totality, and ordered tickets to the Total Eclipse of the Park event at the minor league Columbia Fireflies game. They started the game at 1:05 with a planned break in between innings for totality. We were happy to meet up with good friends from Massachusetts who were dropping off their son at college in South Carolina to experience it together.

We met in Charleston, where we toured Fort Sumter together, then headed to Columbia for the eclipse.

Ryan: Before the ball game started, there was a STEM fair on the concourse. The University of South Carolina was there with their science departments giving out glow in the dark sunscreen and sunglasses. We went to the 3-D printer and ink pen display. The 3-D printer person explained how they used computer software to design things. They were 3-D printing South Carolina shaped pinhole eclipse viewers. We angled it towards the sun and during the eclipse you could see it (the eclipse) on the ground.

Joe: You could also see the eclipse with finger shadows.

Ryan: We heard someone shouting, “The eclipse is starting!” so I grabbed my eclipse glasses and put them on. At first, you could see a little bump across the (edge of the) sun. Later it looked like someone had taken a bite out of a cookie. After that, it looked like PacMan.

Joe: It was so hot and it cooled off so much during the eclipse! We didn’t even go to our seats during the game because it was so hot. Then as the moon slowly made it 3/4 of the way over the sun, it started to cool down at an alarmingly fast rate.

Ryan: It felt like we sped up to fall in 15 minutes.

Joe: When we were planning for the trip, we thought it would be cool. But when totality came, I was filled with strange energy that had me vibrating like a 6-year-old who just had an ice cream sundae. My goggles showed the sun slowly decreasing into a dot and then it disappeared.

Ryan: Everybody screamed!

Joe: I couldn’t see anything and took off the glasses. I saw the entire moon shadow with just a glint of the sunlight on the far far left. Then, after about seven seconds, that disappeared.

Ryan: I was able to look up at the place I was told never to: the sun! I saw the corona sparkling around the blocked sun. We could see Mercury and Venus.

Terry: During the eclipse, the game was paused for about 20 minutes. It was nice to see players on both teams come out with their eclipse sunglasses and lie out on the infield and enjoy the sights along with the rest of us. We later heard that park employees were allowed to close the registers and see it, too. It was exhilarating to see this event with so many other people at the same time. I did not expect it to be as exciting as it was. The experience was phenomenal.

Joe: As with all good things, the eclipse came to an end. It seemed like the sun got bigger faster than it got smaller. But I didn’t mind much because I knew I would remember this experience for the rest of my life.

Oonie: After the eclipse, we came home via Charlottesville to visit our niece at the University of Virginia.

Terry: Which gave us the opportunity to see Appomatox Courthouse. It was fascinating to see where the Civil War began and ended within two days of each other.

Ryan: Thanks for reading!

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