RV trip: Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Indy

I’m playing catchup again. Here’s a recap of the last two weeks:

After leaving Washington DC, we made a brief stop in Baltimore. While it was a full workday for me, Amy and the girls made a visit to Fort McHenry National Monument:

This is the site of the War of 1812 battle with the British that inspired Francis Scott Key to write what would later become our National Anthem.

It was no fun driving an RV through the narrow streets of downtown Baltimore:

We camped in Delaware for two days before moving on to Pennsylvania. Along the way, we stopped in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, the site where George Washington and his army trained during the last winter of the Revolutionary War.

Our campground for that week was at a mobile home park in Hatfield, Pennsylania. Not much to look at, but it was a reasonably quite and happy place:

It was also conveniently located near a train station. I took Friday afternoon off of work to join the girls for a field trip of downtown Philadelphia:

We toured the US Mint and learned all about how coins are made (no paper money is printed there). I thought it would be super high tech, but it’s really just a glorified machine shop. It was pretty interesting.

More public transportation, this time the Philly city bus:

I love Philly cheese steaks, so I of course had to try the original. Pat’s King of Steaks claims to have created the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich in 1930. It did not disapoint.

However, just across the street is Geno’s Steaks, a competitor of Pat’s since 1966. We had half an order at Pat’s and then a half an order at Geno’s to compare. The verdict? Both were excellent, but Geno’s was the agreed favorite (better buns).

Amy mastered yet another major city mass transit system:

Heading home on the train after our afternoon in Philly:

There was a little bit of schoolwork waiting to be done that evening. Schoolwork on Friday night; that’s rough.

We got an early start Saturday so we could spend the entire day in Philadelphia. Lots to see.

The Liberty Bell:

We caught a demo of how stuff was printed during the late 1700’s:

Independence Hall:

The Assembly Room in Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and the Constitution was signed in 1787. This is the room, in other words, where our country started:

The inkwells used for the signing of the Declaration of Independence:

The original House of Representatives:

The original Senate:

We strolled by Betsy Ross’s place, but it didn’t look interesting enough to pay an entrance fee (we’ve grown too accustomed to things being free).

Philadelphia has the oldest continually inhabited neighborhood in the country. People have been living in these homes since 1702!

On Sunday we drove back to Valley Forge. (Amy got up early and drove out for a morning run; the girls and I met up with her later that morning.) It’s a very beautiful place.

There was a guy renting bikes in the parking lot, so we did a family bike ride:

It was a great way to see more of Valley Forge:

Just passing through the town of Intercourse, PA. (Too…many…jokes…)

We spent last week at a campground in Dover, PA that was also a working farm:

Natalie got up early most mornings to spend time with the animals:

On Wednesday afternoon, we drove to Hershey, PA for the day. I got some work done at the local Hershey public library while Amy and the girls toured a Hershey amusement park (which was mostly closed and pretty lame). And the streets were not flowing with chocolate as expected.

We packed up on Friday and drove to Gettysburg for the afternoon:

Have you ever heard of a cyclorama? (I had not.) It’s a 360 degree painting that wraps around the inside of a circular room and makes you feel like you’re “in” a scene. It’s really cool, and there is an impressive one at Gettysburg depicting the famous battle. I thought this amazing painting was new, but it was created in 1883! So it’s the 19th century equivalent of IMAX.

Every national park has an educational movie of some sort, and they are consistently some degree of bad. Gettysburg’s movie, however — narrated by Morgan Freeman — is excellent. Excellent.

Looking out over the battlefield from the Union’s point of view on Cemetery Ridge. That tree line in the distance is where the Confederates emerged and tried to deliver a final blow to the Union army after 3 days of fighting. A lot of people died here.

We caught a ranger-led talk on the battlefield. As always, it was excellent. National Park Rangers are consistently awesome.

I was struck by two things: 1) how large of an area the Gettysburg battlefield is, and 2) its scattering of monuments and memorials. This photo shows just a few, but they were everywhere.

No one knows exactly where Lincoln stood to give his Gettysburg address at Soldiers’ National Cemetery, but this monument suggests it was somewhere near this spot. If you’ve not read the Gettysburg address in a while, read it; it’s sheer poetry.

Across the Gettysburg field on the Confederate side, where General Lee watched the battle unfold and his army fall:

We camped Friday night at state park in Chambersburg, PA. It was nice to have some woods to walk through the next morning; it had been a while.

On Sunday we stopped at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, PA. This is where the 4th plane from the 9/11 attacks crashed after the terrorists’ plans were thwarted by the passengers and crew.

Camping at a Walmart is never a delight, but the Walmart in Triadelphia WV comes mightly close. With wide, long, level spots exclusively for RVers, it’s like the Ritz-Carlton of parking lots:

On our way through Columbus OH, we got to visit with my Aunt Grayce for a bit. It’s always good to spend time with such a remarkable lady.

And then by late afternoon we were back in Indiana:

We had to come back to Indy to resolve a license and registration issue with the RV. It has to do with the fact that we bought the RV in California but it needs to be plated in Indiana which requires a vehicle inspection. We planned on just being in town for a few days, but this RV issue might take a week or two to resolve.

Whatever, though. We’ll just get to spend more time with family and friends before embarking on the final leg of our RV odyssey: seeing the New England states.

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