Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Aug. 14, 2013

Historic Philadelphia

Drove six miles to train station and took a quiet one hour train ride to the heart of Philadelphia.  Train depot is five blocks from Independence Visitor Center.

When center opened we hustled to get tickets for Independence Hall tour.  Tickets are free but needed to keep group sizes reasonable.  We got first tour of day.  Interesting to see and be in buildings you have heard about all your life.  The places where the concept of this country was hashed out and the reality came to pass.  And to see the seat of government for the countries’ first decade.

Independence Hall



First Senate chambers




Across the street is the building that houses the Liberty Bell.


We went there next – still early in the day.  Walked right up to security and passed right in.  Things were a bit different two hours later.

The Liberty Bell Line after lunch

That building is almost a city block long and narrow.  More like a long corridor. The line is longer than the building.  The line is to get to security check station.  Once through that and inside you will be part of a crowd probably twice that size.

We visited a number of other sites in the area.  Eye opening to see cradle of the country is just a few square blocks. 

The First Post Office

First US Post Office.  Still in operation.  Stamps hand canceled with Franklins’ signature.

First Bank of The United States

Keeping our sub-thread of visiting famous dead people we visited Ben Franklin’s grave. 

The US Mint is also in the same area.  Great tour showing history and all phases of coin minting.  Unfortunately they weren’t making money today.  Would have been fun to watch.


Washington Square Tomb of the Unknown soldier

Tomb of Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier.

Easy hour train ride back to the car and back to carbus by 5:00 pm.  Glad we did it that way.  Driving and parking in Philly Would not have been fun and much more expensive.  Old folks only pay a buck to ride the train.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Aug. 13, 2013


Today we went through Hershey, PA.  There are two attractions in the Hershey complex.  Hershey Park is a big amusement park similar to Six Flags, etc. 

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Hershey World is a chocolate related area with a free ride (similar in design to Haunted Mansion) showing the chocolate making process.  There are several other pay-for chocolate related attractions mostly aimed at kids.   Large gift store and even larger candy store filled with everything Hershey.  

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The ultimate PB Blossom.  Center is whole peanut butter cup.


On most of our travels so far we have not seen huge crowds of vacationers.   Gettysburg was pretty busy but everything else was pretty tame.  Until today.  Zoo doesn’t begin to describe the crowd inside and out.  Hershey could use some serious help from Disney in crowd and parking  management.

Tonight we are in a nice quiet RV park tucked in some Pennsylvania hills.  Our drive here followed a large creek (could be even classed a small river) and our camp spot is right on that creek.  Driving up the creek we noted it was very dirty and flowing very fast.  Last night we had rain in Gettysburg.  About three hours duration and pretty heavy at times but didn’t think much of it.  When we got set up here and turned on the news we found that it had rained in this area also.  The town we drove through on our way to the park (town is about three miles downstream) had had significant flash flooding.  We didn’t see any of it where we drove.  The RV park does have a fair amount of standing water. This area received over six inches of rain in 3-4 hours.  Nearby spots had 4-5 inches in the same time.  Even a possible tornado. 

Lancaster, Amish country

Hershey is in the middle of PA Amish country

Lancaster, Amish country

Amish farm

Monday, August 12, 2013

Aug 10 and 11, 2013


Visiting Gettysburg is a task.  There is a lot here to assimilate.  There are also lots of people trying to make a buck off of what happened here.  There must be six or eight ‘ghost’ tours.  Horseback tours, bus tours, several audio tours, guided tours,tours of houses, farms, streets, restaurants named after various people in the battle, and on and on.  Lots of information to be had but learning from a ghost seems a bit much.

We spent several hours yesterday afternoon in the visitor center.  Started with a 20 minute movie giving an overview of the battle.  Next was the cyclorama.  Pretty hard to describe except to say Amazing!.  360 degree picture, 44 feet high, depicting all the events of the battle.  The whole thing was restored several years ago inch by inch.  Visitors stand on a rotating platform and view painting which is presented with narration and special effects lighting.  Truly impossible to describe adequately. 


Portion of cyclorama depicting Pickett’s Charge

Next a trip through the museum, laid out in chronological order and filled with information on battle  locations and participants.  A trip through the gift store was next.  Pretty typical.  Same shirts and cups with different names on them. (Not quite that bad but still pretty typical.)  One difference – tons of books on the battle and the Civil War.  After the store a 45 minute presentation by a ranger describing the progression of the battle.

Today (8/11)was a long one.

First thing, back to visitor center to take bus to Eisenhower Farm.  Only home Eisenhowers ever owned.  (They lived in over 40) Lots of information from rangers and docents and thorough tour of house.  Tour passes through or looks into just about every room in the house.  Over 95% of furnishings are original.  Self guided tour of grounds and Farm 2 (Eisenhower raised prize winning show cattle).  Beautiful place.  Everywhere you look you see green fields and farm land.  No traffic.  No noise. 

Eisenhower Farm HouseEisenhower Farm, show barn

Bus back to the visitor center (bus driver gave a nice narration of battlefield sights along the way)  to catch another, smaller, bus.  Goal this time – The Spangler Farm.  This farm is located about a mile from the site of the battle and was used as a field hospital during and after the battle.  Over 1900 men occupied the house, barn, and farm land.  The farm is being restored by a nonprofit historical organization.  Three days a week they give informational tours and the story of the dead and wounded is presented by several  re-enactors who give very emotional presentations.

Spangle Barn, Field HospitalSpangler HouseButterfly

Back to visitor center to get car and prepare for next tour.

Cyclorama House

Exterior of Cyclorama building to give some idea of size of painting.

After lunch we toured the battlefield.  We purchased an audio tour which guides you along the auto tour and gives a description of what you are seeing and lots of historical information and some little known tidbits.

following the battle trail


Virgina's Memorial

This monument is located approximately where Lee watched Pickett’s Charge and the defeat and decimation of his army. 

Observation TowerNew York MemorialWitness Trees

These trees saw the Battle of Gettysburg.  They were in fact the focus point toward which Pickett’s Charge was directed.  Monument at lower left marks the ‘High Water’ point.  Farthest advance of Confederates before being routed.  It took two more years for the Civil War to officially end but the beginning of the end started right at this point.Memorial of the High Water Mark of the Rebellion

The audio tour takes over 2 1/2 hours to play.  It took us nearly six hours to do the tour.

Last stop for the day was the national cemetery. 

Licnoln Gettysburg Address Memorial

Monument to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  Not location it was delivered.  Plaque on right is address.  Plaque on left is invitation given to Lincoln on the occasion of the dedication of the cemetery and inviting him to “say a few words”.

Soldier Memorial in National Cemetery

Address was given from a wooden platform near where this memorial now stands.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Aug. 9, 2013

Flight 93 Memorial

In a field in southwest Pennsylvania, several miles from anything remotely resembling a main road, is an almost inconspicuous part of the National Park System.  The memorial to the passengers and crew of Flight 93.  The whole memorial is very low key.  The road in is a simple lane through the country.  The visitor center is a simple one room building.  The path to the memorial is unadorned with a low black granite wall on one side.

Flight 93 Memorial

The memorial is a series of marble slabs in a line along the path the plane took prior to impact. 

Flight 93 Memorial

Each slab has one name.

At the end of the wall is a symbolic pathway with a large gate across it.  Through the gate you can see the path that leads to the site of impact, marked by a large stone. 

Flight 93 Memorial