Five roads – P365 for January 17, 2010

A wide state road crosses rolling countryside in the pre-dawn darkness. I roll along at the speed limit, following a dim set of tail lights on the horizon ahead.

I have a date with a sunrise.

Houses emerge from the darkness and flash past; red brick farms with large white porches, small modulars and trailer parks, an abandoned motel. With the radio off and the sunroof open, I am one with the cold morning.

Billboards blink in and out of existence. Been in an accident? Call us. Don’t drink and drive. Call Joe for oil, or propane, or plumbing repairs. Hank’s used cars. Franks Farm Equipment and Furniture (really). McDonald’s ahead.

I haven’t eaten breakfast, but the dawn will not wait.

John Cleese warns of a roundabout ahead. A large brick inn stands at the dark crossroads, with a modern 24-hour gas station glowing in glaring red neon from across the street. I roll onward.

The houses encroach on each other, forming rows of brick duplexes as I approach the famous junction of five roads. Another roundabout.

The village quickly falls away again, replaced by split rail fences. I am alone in the darkness, passing through rolling fields of history. Even the ghosts are quiet this morning.

I arrive at my destination with time to spare. I climb the tower in the pre-dawn twilight to wait.

And my date stands me up. The appointed time arrives with merely a change in the level of light. Gray clouds mask the horizon, and the rain begins. It matters not. I have stood with the ghosts in the silence of the night and looked across the fields, ridges, and hills. Spectacular photos are not to be; the memorial is enough.

Four shots ring out across the battlefield in slow succession, echoing off the hills to my back. A hunter perhaps, or a re-enactor. Perhaps an acknowledgement of my visit by those who have never left.

Longstreet's artillery await a charge which will never come