Blue Ridge Parkway – Part 1

It’s Mothers Day, Sunday, May 14,2017.  A perfect day.  First some about what’s going on.  I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I was two days behind in blogging.  Not quite so.  It’s actually two days I’m missing: Fridays rainy, uneventful drive from the D.C. Beltway to Front Royal and Friday’s failed attempt to get through Shenandoah National Park.  Thursday was relatively uneventful and Friday worked out okay.  I’ll report on both days with a single post, not to worry, but I couldn’t wait to write about today, to memorialize this wonderful day.  Today I drove the first one-quarter of the Parkway which is 400+ miles long.  I intended to get halfway through it, to Mt. Airy but pulled off it at Roanoke.  As it turns out , now that I’m finishing it, it’ll be 7pm.  Enough for the satisfying day.  So here is.

I’ve been on the Blue Ridge Parkway three times before but couldn’t quite remember how lovely this drive is.  Magnificent vistas; from on high into the valleys below that sit at either of the flanks of these Blue Ridge mountains, and of ranges of mountains up close and personal, mid-distance and blue in color at a distance.

I’ll put up some of my photos to start it out.  As always, they don’t quite portray what is seen in actuality.  Not even close.  Most that I took suffer from this.  Here’s a couple of the best of mine.

And I’m thinking that I might lift some better images of the internet.  Some improvement.  Here’s several of these.

The roadway.  Almost never straight.  What is straight are very short stretches.  Constant series of curves are never-ending.  There are few switchbacks compared to how they predominate the larger mountain ranges out west.  The elevation changes are also constant, either going up or coming down.  So the twisting right to left and right again and the going up or down requires constant speed and gear change but little brakes.  The Parkway speed limit of 45MPH is mostly always possible as there a few 25 and 35MPH well-marked curves but they are not in the majority here.  There are few very short passing zones but at this time of year it’s not an issue as there are few cars here, and no commercial vehicles (the latter are prohibited).

Alertness and control is essential.  The drop offs on either roadside are very steep and there are virtually no guardrails.  Also a good thing because if there were steel guardrails or the concrete barriers seen on expressways, it would ruin the experience.  The few guardrails are either wood or stone and are tastefully blended in to the roadway edges.

Now all of this is a good thing because the fun of driving through all this is SO much fun.  Steer and shift gears, give it the gas, the car is constantly responding and performing, going where it should at the speed that it should.

The first and second photos below are what’s typical of the Parkway – driving the curves through a forest of surrounding trees.  The third and fourth portray the steep drop offs without guardrails that are very typical when emerging from the trees.  The fifth is an example of a tasteful wood guardrail.  A car at too high a speed could easily crash through these (and the even rarer stone rails are less than a foot high; same effect).  The last is of a rare straight stretch (this one is mine), the longest seen this day.  You’re looking at a short bridge across a river below.

Now then, take note, the best part.  The experience today, this 100-mile drive was exceptional.  A perfect day.  And NOW, I’m about 40 miles into it and having a great time with stopping at the overlooks, taking photos and videos of the vistas, and of course driving.  I stop for a longer break, put a CD in and it’s the MUSIC that really gets me going.  First up is the Forest Gump Suite by Alan Sylvestri,  Followed by Ashokan Farewell played by Jay Unger and Molly Mason and Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole.  And others.  Find a quiet spot and listen to these:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1bFr2SWP1I     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kZASM8OX7s       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4c9EP0zNfdc

I’ll try to describe the emotions and feelings of this 40-mile moment and how it grew even stronger as I drove on.  Again it’s this MUSIC that does it for me.  Evocative.  All of a sudden I’m totally into the drive – physically, mentally, emotionally.  All this beauty and magnificence coming at me though the windshield, the challenge of the drive, the curves and the ups and downs, being thrown from side to side in this small cabin, putting the top down to get the wind in my ears and sun in my face, music in my ears and the vibes from the door speaker in my leg go though me as I feel the responsiveness of the car; she loves it too.  I’m happy.  Euphoric really.  It’s happened many times before on these trips.  THIS is what I came for.

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Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens.  Ever hear of it?  Me either; not until a few days ago when I got a recommendation from Bev.  Thanks for that.  Wasn’t in my plan but I got it on my amended ‘bucket list’ and am sure glad that I did.

I stayed in Trevose, a northeast suburb while visiting Philly.  Longwood is about an hour’s drive west from there.  And easy drive and so here’s the day.  As I enter, park and walk to the Visitors Center for my tickets, I’m impressed with how huge this place is.  1,077 acres.  After a talk with my friendly ticket agent and a four-minute video, I’ve got my bearings as well as a map and know how to approach all this.

There’s two main features I want to see.  The Du Pont House and the Conservatory; the first for history, the second because that the biggie here, as recommended by the good agent.  So off through the gardens to the right.  Some of the following photos are mine, some lifted off their website (which by the way, I suggest you explore; just google it).

 

This last photo is of the Italian Water Garden.  Pierre Du Pont had a childhood fascination with water.  And so when he took ownership of this property he put in many fountain features: ponds, standing water, and of course fountains.  These continuously cycle through a dance that all of these do, big ones and smaller ones.  I take a video and wish I could convey it here but you can see another version it if you go to the following.  Not as good as mine but you’ll get the idea.  Go to: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujqT4UiINmw

Off to the history at the Du Pont House.  The original property, passed through to a third generation of the Peirce family when Samuel and Joshua Peirce in 1798 began planting the beginnings of an arboretum.  By 1850 the arboretum boasted one of the finest collections of trees in the nation.  The family lost interest, the arboretum deteriorated and the property passed hands.  A lumber mill operator was about to cut down the trees for timber in early 1906.  The entrepreneur  Pierre du Pont stepped in at the age of 36 to preserve the trees.  A wealthy man, he was born in 1870 and died in 1954.  He wasn’t planning to create Longwood Gardens, but within a few years, his desire to make it a place where he could entertain his friends transformed a simple country farm into one of the country’s leading horticultural display gardens.  He and his wife Alice lived in the summer house here.  Now a small museum, it’s open to the public so I walk through it.

Note the silver in the huge safe in the kitchen.  Okay, enough of this and off to the Conservatory.  More flowers on the way.

 

Are you KIDDING?  I always thought the Milwaukee and Cleveland Botanical Gardens were quite nice.  But these fabulous gardens are so much bigger and they go on and on.  Wow!

Wasn’t sunny but nice enough when I first arrived but now it’s drizzling.  And here I am with my umbrella in the car.  No matter, I’m at the Conservatory, which is all under glass.  Like all else here the building seems at first to be one huge room.  Not so.  It goes on and on . . . and on and on.  Many huge atrium-like rooms three or four-stories high, large enough to accommodate many of the very tall plantings.  Here’s the entry.

The second photo doesn’t really pick this up but it’s a four-tiered elevation of front lawn that is indeed impressive.  I’m thinking of renovating our front yard up and putting in something like this.  Louise, I’m sure is saying: ‘not!’.  Okay now here’s the inside.  I’ll let the photos do most of the narration; they speak for themselves.

The last of the above is called ‘Lipstick Palm’; you can see why.  And now in the bonsai section.  One of my favorites.  I always wanted to tend to a personal version of one of these.  Here they are in all their glory.  If you can see the signage, the dates are when management of the bonsai commenced.  I love all of these.

The Fruits.  Walking into this, a pleasant aroma pervades.

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Other rooms.  Hanging stuff (?), ground cover (?), cacti, big hanging baskets, and bamboo.

And more color.

And a stroll down a curved and a good-sized fern.

Topiary is my second favorite.  Always wanted to do this but in my neighborhood, it would be over the top.  But fits in quite nice here, no?

Okay, that’s it.  Thanks again, Bev.  As my good Dr. Mike says i’m ‘outta here’.

Now for the record and to say where at the moment I’m at, here goes.  This last Monday, drive to Wellsboro,  Tuesday drive to Trevose, staying two nights there, the first to sleep, the second to tour Philly.  Wednesday Philly.  Thursday drive to these Longwood Gardens and drive on to stay on the D.C Beltway.  Friday drive to Front Royal to stay there at the northern entrance to Shenandoah National Park.  Nothing much to say about Friday except for free hot dogs but this is where I catch up a day.  Saturday . . .  Well I’ll keep you in suspense as to what happened today.  Suffice to say that I got off the itinerary plan but something else happened.  Serendipity.  Like a lot of what unfolds during all these trips.  The unexpected.  In this case, it’s all good, excellent really.  So now I’m still a day behind with blogging.  More in the next post about Front Royal and today but all I’m saying is that now I’m at the south end of Shenandoah, in Staunton, Virginia.  How I got here . . . more on that in the next post.

Liking this?  I am.  Hope you are too.  Cheers.

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Philadelphia! – Part 2

This written on Friday, May 12.  Subject: the latter half of the day in Philly on Wednesday.  Alert: strap yourself in.  This is a loooong post.  And after you get through it, you’ll understand how I couldn’t have written these two posts in one day and that’s why I got so far behind.

So . . . flashing back to Wednesday, on with Part 2.  Now as I’m done with the Visitor Center, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and Congress Hall, I’m strolling a couple blocks east to the original Benjamin Franklin property.  The site is as deep as city block; sitting between Chestnut and Market.  Originally his home was here; now it’s a courtyard that features what’s left of it (The Ghost House), as well as a world-class museum that features personal artifacts, computer animations and hands-on displays exploring Franklin’s life.  Franklin was an inventor and scientist, a printer, a postmaster, an overseas diplomat and of course one of our founding fathers, among the most famous of them.  His stature as a  U.S. citizen and countryman is significant.

On entry to the museum there a several plaques.  This one is my favorite.

The Ghost House.  Kind impressive how they did this.  In the middle of the courtyard are two impressive, iconic, standing steel structures that trace the outlines of Franklin’s vanished house and print shop.  What’s left of the original home is the below-ground foundation, including the privy.

The second of the above photos shows in the background, the red-brick back of the commercial three-story buildings that were built and rented by Franklin (including his post office).  These front on Market Street.  Below: a closer view of these, first the back and then the front facades.

In addition to the above distinctions, Franklin was our country’s first postmaster.  His image appeared on America’s first postage stamp (I’m thinking that many of these still exist and wonder how much they’d be worth today.  There were different versions of the one cent stamp, profile and full-face and in different colors.).  The post office as pictured above is the very first U.S. post office in Pennsylvania (the first in this new country is in Boston).  This one still functions as a working post office.  Here you can mail a postcard that will be, on request, postmarked in a unique fashion, dated and denoted as being mailed from here.  Below are images of the original stamp, cancelled and never used.

Now it’s time for the guided, narrated bus tour.  A two-block walk west and back at the Visitor Center, I buy tickets to the tour.  On the way I bump up with none other than the man himself.  In the flesh.  Well . . . sort of a live replica.  We talk.  In no time we’re buddies.  Arm in arm, here we are (if you don’t realize, he’s the heftier one, on the left).

And after the pose, I put my camera in video mode and ask him to recite one of his famous quotes.  He’s glad to.  Here’s what he says.  They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  Nice.  After all this, I hand over a couple bucks; not as a gratuity or gift but what I think of as a fee.  When I first asked him to pose with me, he asked me for a donation.  Well then . .  it was Benjamin Franklin who said “A penny saved is a penny earned”  Ben Franklin, my kind of man!

I come outside the Visitor Center and look across the street to realize that the entry to the Liberty Bell exhibit is yet another ghost house.  Three guesses.  Which President lived here in Philly, right at this corner?  Remember that Philadelphia was our country’s first seat of government while the White House was being built and before our government physically moved to Washington D.C.  If you know, good for you.  If you didn’t, well as of now you do.  It was our first president, George Washington.  And if you said John Adams, you’d also be right.  So now you also know, both our first presidents lived here here on this corner, here the first of the Presidential residences, while serving their terms in office.

His home on 6th and Market is no longer there.  But the ghost house is.  I walked right through it when earlier in the morning, I was at the entry to the Liberty Bell exhibit, and didn’t have a clue.  Here’s photos, the first mine and another dramatic nighttime view.

Now to the bus, I’m up the stairs and seated in the open top-level of this double-decker, blessed with a perfect sunny day.  Not too cool, not too hot, just right.  Now then, you’ll have to wade through some the perhaps mundane comments.  Have  patience.  Part of the reason to document these ventures, besides to share them with you, is to memorialize them for not just me, but for my family.  Off we go, with 27 stops and lots of excellent narration by our tour guide nicknamed ‘Zee’.

First is the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.  Opened in 1926 it was first named the Delaware River Bridge.  It spans the river between Philly and Camden.  In 1955 it was renamed as the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.  Appropriate.  As are many of the institutions and buildings, certainly a tribute to the man, and more of and interesting name as well.  My photo (on the left) not as good as the one I lifted off the internet.

Then the Firemen’s Hall Museum and the Betsy Ross house.  Betsy Ross made the first American flag, doncha know.

This next one is significant.  It’s where Ben Franklin is interred, the Christ Church Burial Ground.  We tourists can get out and stroll around looking for his grave (the bus is a hop-off, hop on version).  I didn’t; jumping off and on would have taken all day.  So I lifted the images rather than seeing the actual.

 

Here’s the Philadelphia U.S. Mint.  I regret not taking the time so see this free tour.  How they create coinage would be fascinating to me.  I’m at the moment making a mental note to see if I can find a video of it.  What I quickly looked at just now says the following.  “It took coiners in Colonial Philadelphia three years to strike the first 1 million coins, and they worked 11 hours a day, 6 days a week.  Today the men and women at the Philadelphia Mint can churn out 1 million coins in 30 minutes, with more than 4 billion coins already produced this year.”  Wowser!!

Now the National Constitution Center (The Constitution of the United States was signed here, remember?  Do you remember where; which room?) and Chinatown.

 

Then the Reading Terminal Market.  At the time we rode past here I promise myself that I’ll see this up close and personal.  It’s just around the corner and is like the West Side Market in Cleveland.  More on this later.

City Hall.  Now this one is a biggie, literally.  This is massive.  Old school, this building is made of stone.  The architecture is spectacular.  I’m taking lots of pictures.  William Penn stands atop it; unfortunately it’s being worked on at the moment, scaffolding hides him.  I’ll have to lift that image (fact is, I lifted all the next photos as mine are nowhere near as good).  As you can see the statue is HUGE.

Who was William Penn?  He was an English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, early pacifist Quaker.  Wealthy as well.  Because of his father being an huge advocate of England, William Penn as family was gifted what is now Pennsylvania and Delaware by King Charles II.  He sailed here and landed at Philadelphia after coming up the Delaware River.  His significance in forming a union of the new colonies predates the work of our founding fathers in forming our current government by 100 years; he landed at Front Street in Philly in 1862.

Next is the Free Library.  Attributed to Franklin’s belief in lending books rather than buying them for personal libraries.  And the Barnes Foundation which sports more than 4,000 objects, including over 900 paintings, estimated to be worth about $25 billion.  These are primarily works by Impressionis and Modernist masters,  Also the Rodin Museum which houses one of the world’s great collections of works by Auguste Rodin—and the only dedicated Rodin Museum outside France.

And now the massive Eastern State Peniteniary.  Quoting from the website – “Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cell blocks and empty guard towers. Its vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including “Slick Willie” Sutton and “Scarface” Al Capone.  Tours of it would be depressing.

And now the familiar Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Rocky Statue.  Again unfortunately, the iconic back side (yes the back) is being renovated.  We saw it from a distance so I lifted these as well.  Seems the locals fell in and out and then back in love with Rocky.  He moved from the top of the steps to a local sports arena and now sits at the foot of the steps.

There’s The Franklin Institute.  It’s s a science museum and research center, founded in 1824.  Historic?  You bet.

And finally the Society Hill neighborhood.  Pennsylvania Hospital is here at 8th and Spruce Streets in this southeast district of historic inner-city Philadelphia.  This is the nation’s first hospital and is currently viable.  Many of these very old homes that currently house many of the transient hospital staff are squeezed together into these tiny, almost ancient old streets are for sale or for rent.  They go for astronomical $$.  Want to live here?  You’ll have to have a fat wallet.

The last part of the tour goes quickly through Independence Park, but this really needs to be done on foot which as appropriate, was done in Part 1.  So that’s it, the bus tour.  Would have liked to have a closer look at the Mint and in fact did see more of the Reading Market.

So one more note on that.  As I’m off the bus and back on the walk back to the SEPTA rail terminal, I’m at the Reading.  Now for those of you familiar with the Cleveland’s West Side Market, this is similar but the big difference is that this market, all under roof, is HUGE.  There’s meat markets here and shops with every sort of food in any number of ethnic versions, raw and cooked.  Produce, exotic fruits and herbs.  And at the Reading, compared to the West Side Market, there are a much much larger number of shops and kitchens where locals and tourists can sit down at a chair and table to enjoy all the offerings.  I’ve got my heart set on a Philly Cheesesteak.  Not to be.  As I arrive I sit down in a diner with stools squeezed into tiny spaces, shoulder-to-shoulder between patrons.  I wait.  And wait.  Not a greeting or smile from the servers, not even an acknowledgment that I exist.  These folks are overwhelmed with business.  It is SO crowded here.  I give up just before ten minutes elapse.  All the dining spaces are jammed so I settle on a very efficient Chinese ten-stool bar with a takeout of hot and spicy garlic shrimp over rice.  Back at the motel it was great but I’m disappointed that after making it all the way here to Philly, I’ve not had a taste of their famous Cheesesteak.  Oh well . . . maybe next time.  Or maybe never.  Nuts.

Okay that’s Philadelphia.  Parts 1 and 2.  Took me one day to do it.  One and a half days to write about it.  But I must say that I enjoy writing about this stuff as much as doing it.  What a day.

 

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Philadelphia!

At the moment it’s actually Thursday, May 11.  When this morning as I left for today’s venture and as I was having blog website/motel WIFI trouble (not sure of which) getting yesterday’s post posted, I thought that it was published.  Alas, not so.  Sorry about that.  So below is the post I wrote last night.

Well now, this works out quite well for me, as the trip is now ahead of me in getting it posted.  So to fix that, I’ll publish the below as today’s post.  So I still need to write the rest of yesterday’s happenings as well as today’s.  Get this?  Well, makes sense to me.  Okay so below is the post of about a half of what transpired yesterday.

In the meantime I today drove to Longwood Gardens west of Philly on Bev’s recommendation.  So glad I did.  Spectacular place to walk through.  So, in addition to the half of yesterday and today’s venture, I need some time to report on it all.  Doing has gotten ahead blogging.  Bear with me; I’ll catch up.  Cheers.  Below is yesterday’s post.

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May 10.  An eventful day today.  Saw a lot today in historic Philadelphia, so here goes.

I’m in Trevose, a northeast suburb of Philly.  If I had taken more care in planning my rather serendipitous plan, I couldn’t have done it better to scope it out as it actually turned out.  Same as last year’s trip to D.C.  Stay on the outskirts and take public transportation into town.  Trevose is almost at the end of the Trenton West SEPTA line into town so the plan was to stay here, get into Philly proper via rail and get back the same way.  Worked out perfectly.

I’m off this morning to catch the 8:30am train into town.  Pleased that I did it this way, stress-wise and pocketbook-wise.  Stress from driving into town avoided, $35 for parking in town avoided, $1 for the SEPTA park-and-go lot to park the car (under two miles from my motel) and $1 for the senior train fare in and another $1 for the fare back, all that  welcomed.  Not only that, I had 16K points to spend on two $90+ nights at this very nice Comfort Inn for free; points accumulated on earlier trips.  Nice!

At Jefferson Station shortly after and after a ten-minute walk east on Market Street, into the historic Independence Park historic area.  Did the Visitor Center first to get my free ticket to the tour through Independence Hall.  I’m at the entry to the Liberty Bell exhibit and then into the tour.  The first photo is of the corner of the residence of George Washington (now gone), then the Liberty Bell.  I touched it; it’s permitted. Want to get a good grade on a test, want some good luck, want a good outcome?; just touch it. And then the entry to the tour of Independence Hall (now getting a new roof).  Lots of school groups here, unlike the national parks (this site is managed by the National Parks Service) where most visitors are adults and many of these from outside the U.S..

Independence Hall.  The birthplace of America.  The Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were both debated and signed inside this building.  Construction on the building started in 1732. Built to the Pennsylvania State House, the building originally housed all three branches of Pennsylvania’s colonial government. The Pennsylvania legislature loaned their Assembly Room out for the meetings of the Second Continental Congress and later, the Constitutional Convention.

Inside the Hall, a volunteer goes through the significance of what once went on here.  First the Courtroom.  I have a video of it all.  The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania sat in this room in the 1700’s. On July 8, 1776, an act of defiance occurred here when a group of Pennsylvania militiamen stormed in and tore down British King George III’s coat of arms.

The Assembly Hall.  The Second Continental Congress met here to prepare for war with England.  They approved the nomination of George Washington as Commander in Chief of the newly created army, and they approved the resolution creating the U.S. Marine Corps.  On July 2, 1776, the men voted to approve the resolution for independence, and on July 4, they voted to approve their document, the Declaration of Independence, which was signed here on August 2, 1776.  The painting called Congress Voting Independence (at left) is the most accurate image of the Assembly Room during the Revolutionary War era.

The Constitutional Convention of 1787.  The nation’s first framework of government, the Articles of Confederation, had proven unsatisfactory.  In four months, delegates created the U.S. Constitution, a feat George Washington called “little short of a miracle”.  The debates of the convention were heated at times, over issues like the power balance between large states and small states as well as the slave trade.  During the debates, Pennsylvania delegate Benjamin Franklin looked at the chair where Washington was seated as the presiding officer.  Carved into that chair is a sun.  As the men signed the Constitution, Franklin said that he had the great happiness to know it was a rising and not a setting sun.

The Rising Sun chair was made in Philadelphia by John Folwell in 1779 to be the chair for the speaker of Pennsylvania’s legislature. Carved into the chair’s crest rail is a sun, a liberty pole and a liberty cap. The Assembly speaker used this chair in Harrisburg until the 1840’s. The state returned it to the city of Philadelphia in 1872 for the upcoming (1876) Centennial celebration.

Just to the right of Independence Hall stands Congress Hall, home of the U.S. Congress from 1790-1800.  It is simple but powerful.  The House of Representatives (the Lower House) occupied the first floor and it now remains in the same state as it was for John Adams’ inauguration in 1797 – spare and unadorned, with desks for 106 representatives from 16 states.  Both Adams and Washington were inaugurated in Congress Hall.

The second floor (Upper House), where the U.S. Senate met, is more elaborate, with deep green walls and fabric.  Carpeting encompassing the American eagle encircled by the seals (on the reverse side of our dollar bill) of the 13 original states dominates the room.  Larger-than-life portraits of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, gifts of the French government, hang in the adjacent committee rooms.  Both were beheaded during the French Revolution.

Well now, there’s more.  A lot more.  Including a stroll through Benjamin Franklin’s property and a narrated bus tour of the city.  I’ll cover all that in tomorrow’s post.  I need some down time to get this messy room of mine a little more organized.  See you tomorrow.

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Crawfish. Louisiana style, here in Philly

I’m a bit saddened that there’s not too much exciting that went on today.  Driving for five hours, about to eat dinner.  So here’s the post for today, Tuesday, May 9.

Got up this morning to do some planning on how to approach Philadelphia.  Hobbled by having no WIFI in my room (In addition to the $5 off the AAA room rate, I got a $5 comp for that after gently informing the management that it was annoying to have to shlep my PC, keyboard and mouse into the atrium to get a signal).  Anyway my plan is similar to what I did in DC last fall, find a motel on the beltway and commute in via rail with all the worker bees to see historic Philadelphia.  Had some trouble matching up SEPTA routes with my street map but finally figured it out.  I’m in Feasterville Trevose, close to the SEPTA station that will take me to town without having to bother to do it with my car.  That’s tomorrow.

Today I drove to Philly.  First couple of hours on Route 6 to Scranton.  Wanted to experience rural, twisty-roaded PA and now, been there, did that.  Same as the latter half of yesterday’s drive.  Great vistas, small towns; my way of seeing what really goes on here.  Here the best of the pix of that.  Nothing that magnificent but mighty nice.  Cool but even less cloudy than yesterday.  Nice drive.

Then, (and yes Andrea, I’m back on four lanes) onto I476, an extension of the PA Turnpike, (‘America’s First Superhighway’) headed south from Scranton to Philly.  No 35 to 45MPH curves, only 60’s, and few of them.  On cruise control.  Pleasant.

Okay, nice drive but all the rest I have to report is what’s for dinner.  So I’ll have to amuse you with that.  Oh well . . .

I come in off the Tollway to the Lincoln Highway to get to Trevose.  Noticed a huge sign advertising CRABS and CLAMS.  Went back there just now to enjoy some of the local stuff.  Crabs.  Big dogs.  Wouldn’t know how or would have some difficulty cracking these open so opted for something more familiar – crawfish.  I know how do do these.  The young lady assured me that they have a Louisiana recipe and that put me over the top.  Takeout only; I buy two pounds.  Told to take these to room temperature and enjoy.  I’ll let you know if the come close they come to the Louisiana version.  Here’s the pix.

 

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Here’s a photo of what I opted for, the crawfish is to the right..

And other offerings, including garlic crabs..

As it turns out and after eating a few at room temperature, not that good.  So I separated the heads from the tails and miked the tails.  Better.  Brought out the flavor that I recognized.  On balance . . . not worth the $18 I spent.  Not recommended.  Will stick with the Louisiana version, if ever I get back there.  Here’s the remnants; I’ll memorialize using my Ruts taxidermy method.  My version (I’m sure not Nana’s) of souvenirs for the grandkids.

Cheers all.  Venturing to the Independence Visitor Center tomorrow to see some historic American stuff.  C’mon along to see it together.  Should be more exciting than Philadelphia’s version of crawfish.

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Wynken, Blynken, And Nod. In Wellsboro.

Aahhhh . . . so good to be on the road again.  Off into the twisted roads of Pennsylvania.  Didn’t get even near an Interstate and didn’t have to go far to get into the curves.  Meadville PA was the start of it and at East Hickory got on Route 666: known locally as The Devils Highway.  Been on this stretch a couple times and just as good as I remembered.  45MPH is about it, with some 25 and many 35MPH curves.  Narrow road, empty, very empty with no lines (nonetheless Roger, I stayed on my side).  No residential habitation, no commercial establishments; just 50 or 60 miles of woods and curves through the Allegheny National Forest.  Exciting.  Really a pleasure in this two-seater.  Then at Sheffield onto Highway 6.  The road is wider, painted, good signage where I could go at speed.  Small towns in between spectacular vistas. Typical Pennsylvania.  Even on an Interstate like I80, PA is a pleasure to drive through.

And just east of Mt. Jewett I whiz by a sign that says ’Kinzua Bridge State Park’.  It’s the Kinzua Sky Walk.  I had made a mental note to check this out while doing my general itinerary and sure enough it registers.  My new buddy, Larry at Solon AAA, filled out my box of Tour Books and maps with a brochure of the Allegheny Forest Region and the Kinzua Sky Walk.  Can’t miss this; I do a quick U-turn and in eight miles of side road I’m at the huge Visitor Center and museum there.

 

The Sky Walk is part of the original Kinzua Viaduct, a steel-trestle civic engineering masterpiece.  It soared 301 feet high and 2,053 feet across, at one time the highest and longest railroad bridge in the world.  In 1882 General Thomas Kane had rich coal deposits south of the Kinzua Valley.  But since his customers were in the north, Kane needed to cross the valley; he needed a bridge.  Paris-born Ocave Chanute spent $275,000 to build it, and just a few years later in 1900 it was reconstructed with 6.7 million pounds of steel and 895,000 rivets; who knows the cost of all that.  The bridge after so many years in service was hit by a tornado in 2003 that brought down 11 of its 20 towers and laid in partial ruins until 2011 when the Kinzua Skywalk brought life back into the valley and the State Park.  The Skywalk is a pedestrian walkway built on six of the remaining viaduct towers (three still stand on the other side).  It extends out 600 feet and sports an octagon-shaped overlook at the end with a partial glass floor (I put one foot on one of the nine panes, but only one foot with the other on solid wood; given my phobia I couldn’t manage to venture out further; seems the dog didn’t seem to mind).  The views, the long-view vistas from here are spectacular.   And the museum’s exhibits are of a quality you’ll see at the Smithsonian.  If you’re anywhere near here, don’t miss this one.

It’s a match for another wonder on down the road dubbed the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.  The east access is the best; excellent overlooks.  I’ve been there three times and as it turns out, coming in on Route 6 from the west I take a premature turn to the south and wind up at the west overlook.  I can see the other overlooks on the other side in the distance.  This view better shows the Pine Creek river and the road just next to it.  The canyon is 47 miles long and is up to 1,450 feet wide.  Also a spectacular vista.

So now I’m in Wellsboro.  The Penn Well Lodge (not the historic hotel a block away).  Been here four times now.  Once with Louise on a motorcycle with Bill and Lonnie and again with Keith and his gang.  Another by myself doing a sojourn east.  It’s the mid-afternoon so I go back to the same Wellsboro Diner and after walk the quaint Main Street down to the block-square municipal park where there’s the Wynken, Blynken and Nod fountain.  Viable area; no vacant stores and historic as well.  If you like strolling and shopping, a stop here is recommended.

 

Okay, now I have to go to the atrium to get a good WIFI signal to post this.  Should be getting better here in my room given the $79 I paid for the room (asked to pay $60, settled for a lesser $5 discount off the AAA rate.  And that after the receptionist had to call her manager).  Anyway, road travel is easier with schools still in session.  Empty roads, overlooks and motels.  Just like my trip last year to Utah in late March and early April; I’m liking that.  These parks and attractions can get really crowded in the summer.

Okay that’s it for now.  Tomorrow?  On to Philadelphia to see what that big city has to offer.  Lot of historical significance there.  Join me.  Lets go!

P.S.  If you’re interested, here’s what the inscription in the town square says.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe —
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!”
Said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea —
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish —
Never afraid are we”;
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam —
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
‘Twas all so pretty a sail
it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea —
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Eugene Field

 

Posted in National Treasures, Travel by car in North America, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

We travel between the eternities

“We’re all travelers in the world.  From the sweet grass to the packing house.  Birth ’til death.  We travel between the eternities.”  That’s from Prent Ritter played by Robert Duvall in Broken Trail.  Kind of heavy stuff to start a post but the theme is travel.

Talking about travel, early last year went on a major trip into Utah, coming back thru Louisiana.  Departed March 21 and after five weeks got back home.  Then in the fall, to D.C. and the Finger Lakes.  Short trip that one, about 10 days.

Got the itch again and was thinking of getting out to the west coast – northern California and along the ocean up through Redwood NP and up the coast of Oregon and Washington.  Would take more than a couple weeks to do that trip so I’m opting to go east: across Pennsylvania and then south and west through Shenandoah, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Smokies.

I crave to drive the mountains and the twisties again.  This trip isn’t cross-country.  And it’s not the Rockies but going east, it’s not far to get back onto twisty roads again.  My car, if it could talk, would say she has the same craving.

At the moment I’m getting the packing and last-minute stuff done.  Tomorrow, First Communion for Maria and them I’m off early Monday morning.  Hopeful that all this drizzle will travel east at a pace faster than me.  Let’s ride!

 

 

 

 

Posted in National Parks, National Treasures, Travel by car in North America | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments