Learn American history on two wheels ... like a kid on a bike!

Sue Thibodeau

AN EXCERPT FROM Bicycling Gettysburg National Military Park (ISBN 978-1-7326038-0-6)
Victor, New York: Civil War Cycling, 2019

Why I Wrote This Book

Gettysburg is my home, but I've never lived there. As a child in the 1970s, my family often traveled north from Maryland to tour the battlefield and camp nearby. In 1986, my husband and I honeymooned in Gettysburg. We returned almost yearly to stand hand-in-hand to read from bronze tablets at the Lincoln Address Memorial. For more than thirty years, we visited Soldiers' National Cemetery and toured the battlefield by bus, car, and foot.

In 2012, I toured the Gettysburg battlefield on a bicycle for the first time. In Chamberlain's words, I had "come to this deathless field to ponder and dream," but little did I know – until I rode the battlefield – what an amazing, liberating experience it is to feel the Gettysburg landscape in my body. While struggling to pedal up Little Round Top or Culp's Hill, for example, I could better appreciate the physical challenges of the soldiers who fought to claim those hills. While riding along Seminary Ridge, I could see how the land's rise at the Sherfy Peach Orchard blocked the Confederate view of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. The experience informed my understanding, not only of battlefield events in 1863, but also my personal connection to the meaning of those events. In other words, for me it was all about the interplay between physical sacrifice and freedom.

After my first bicycle trip to Gettysburg, I was hooked on the value of outdoor, experiential learning. And yet it took a few years to work out the kinks in my self-directed, solo tours. Early on, I was frustrated by the one-way roads, incomplete or inaccurate maps, and not knowing how best to avoid town traffic. Through trial-and-error, I learned what equipment to pack, what clothes to wear, and where to find convenient access to water, portable toilets, and shade for picnics. It was also challenging to know how best to sequence my visitation of which monuments and within what general timeframe. There are many fine books published on the Battle of Gettysburg, but there was nothing for history lovers who want a full-body experience of bicycle touring. I wrote this book because I could not find a Gettysburg guidebook that met the needs of a bicycling historian. This is that book.

Chapter 1, page 19.