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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Philadelphia and Gettysburg...lots more History!

First, I want to apologize for all the complaining in the last post. I was just frustrated with the temperature and traffic. Everything up until that point had been awesome, so when things were not "perfect" like they had been, I found myself a little grouchy. That being said, we did enjoy our stay in NYC. There is a lot to do in the city. I'm sure we could have spent a lot more time there without getting bored.

On to Philly... our first day in Philly was great. We had a tour of Independence Hall. The tour guide was great and passionate. He made us really feel the history that went on in the buildings we visited. I couldn't believe we were standing in the same rooms where the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederacy, and finally the Constitution of the United States had been!!! You could almost hear the debates and the huzzahs. After the tour we did a quick geocache on our way to get a Cheese Steak... the sandwich was good, though, not much different than a really good Subway sandwich... I keep wondering if I had gotten it with Cheese Whiz if it would have been better... oh, well, next time.

Where the Declaration of Independence was signed!!!

The family outside of Independence Hall with our first President!

Independence Hall

After filling our bellies with cheese steaks, we came back to see the Liberty Bell. Overall, it was another great day, though a little hot.

The Liberty Bell -
now inside and unable to be touched because some people didn't treat it with respect!
The following day, we decided to take a tour of Philly. We got double-decker tour bus tickets. It was a great way to see a lot of the important spots. Our guide was funny and informative. We had another great lunch at the City Tavern and then called it a day due to the heat.
City Tavern - frequented by George Washington & Thomas Jefferson

Three buildings that are all different heights?
Nope, an optical illusion specifically designed to do so by the architect!

Our third day in the Philly area we spent at Valley Forge. Again, it was a very nice park and we learned quite a bit about the Continental Army... in fact, we all thought that the winter they stayed in was a harsh winter and that the men were sleeping in tents without food and such. Though the conditions were difficult, the winter was actually fairly mild. The men built small log cabins with a fireplace in each... though many did not have shoes and some didn't have socks, they weren't "naked," as we know the term to be today... rather, when Washington wrote Congress and said that his men were naked, he meant that they didn't have shoes and such and that their uniforms were sub par... I know, it would have been extremely miserable in the dead of even a normal winter to not have shoes, but it wasn't what I had envisioned after reading text books during school. I still can't comprehend how difficult it would have been without air conditioning... climbing the three stories of the house Washington used for his command center, which was likened to the Pentagon of today... though it was extremely tiny, you could just feel the oppressive heat and squalor. The servants slept on the floor of the unattached kitchen building... all 10 of them!!! The kitchen was no bigger than a typical bathroom in today's modern homes!

Cabins at Valley Forge

Washington's desk

We also got to tour the Washington Memorial Chapel that was in the area; it was beautiful!!! We did a virtual cache at the park and drove back to Philly in the rain... This was the first time it rained for any extended time during our trip. The rain seemed to cleanse the air and wash away the dirt and grime as it cleansed the spirit...

Upon returning to Philly, we decided to stop at the Becuna, a World War II submarine and the USS Cruiser Olympia.... one of the last iron clad ships in service right before World War I. The submarine was expectantly claustrophobic, but really cool. I got a chuckle when I read the sign next to the shower, "Conserve Water, Shower With a Buddy." uh... the shower was no bigger than a restroom on a jet plane. I would barely fit into it, let alone having a buddy in with me! Check it out at the Independence Seaport Museum!


The Cruiser Olympia was also cool. It was all wood on the inside. As cramped as the submarine was, the ship seemed spacious. I know it wouldn't have been if there were actually men on board with more hammocks strung, but the captain's quarters were palatial seeming. After visiting the ships, we ran over to the Naval Museum, which was nice, but not too exciting. We then went over to Christ Church, the location that a lot of the signers of the Declaration of Independence attended services. In fact, several pews were claimed by the various signers. There was a really cool puzzle cache that you had to figure out the pew numbers of various signers and derive the coordinates to the cache... we got all of the numbers and then decided to check on the iPhone when the cache had last been found... unfortunately, it had several DNFs (Did Not Find posts) so, even though we had the coordinates, we didn't put too much time into the search. We were very disappointed, but as a consolation, we got to see the church... By the way, did you know that the church still has an active congregation?

Christ Church

We got up early the next day and drove to Gettysburg. We saw a great movie that was narrated by Morgan Freeman. This was an excellent way to introduce us to the events that occurred during this 3 day battle. After the movie we continued into the Cyclorama, a huge painting that was painted in the 1890's (not too long after the War) and was restored in 1996 at a cost of several million dollars. When the restored it, they placed it as it was intended... on a curved surface in a circular room. The painting encircled the viewers as if we were standing on Little Round Top. It had a diorama that blended perfectly into the painting. It was beautiful and majestic. My only wish is that we had more time to spend looking at the details. We then had time to view the museum... which was excellently done. I especially loved the videos and touch screen computers that let you zoom in and out of an aerial view of the various times throughout the three days.

Gettysburg...the start of a long, but great day!

The whole family

Although you can't get the full affect, this is one of the areas of the cyclorama.

We then got to meet our tour guide, Joanne. We had hired her to give us a personal tour of the battlefield in our own car. She was incredible!!! Her little stories of the civilians of the town was a nice touch. It was very interesting to hear about the battle from the perspective of the townsfolk... as well as the men that fought, of course. She pointed out little details that having do it on our own, would have never known about... for example, there were several homes with cannon balls stuck in the walls, Joanne pointed these out. You could tell that she really loved the history knew her stuff. She made the whole thing come to life. On top of that, even though we only paid for 2 hours, she toured us for 5 hours!!! The time just flew by, she enraptured the kids and kept our attention the entire time. Should any of you ever visit Gettysburg, you have to hire a guide! I can't imagine the day going any better. In fact, the skies rewarded us with a beautiful sunset as we finished our tour at the location of where Picket's Charge failed...

Thank you, Joanne, for a GREAT day!!

Today (Wednesday the 27th), then, we got up a little later than we intended... Ruth was awesome in that she stayed up very late doing much needed laundry. (Thank you, Sweetie!!!) We then drove south towards Washington D.C. stopping at Antietam National Battlefield. This park was the site of the single most bloody day of the entire Civil War, where there were over 5,000 casualties. We were all very tired and didn't spend too much time here, but we did stop at a few of the locations along the tour to take pictures and read some plaques. We even had time to do a virtual cache towards the end of the tour. Oh, and did I mention we got a geocache along the highway on our way to Antietam?

Memorial tower at Antietam - great view of much of the battle area

We then checked into our hotel in D.C. and called it a night. We were all beat.

PS - this post is even later than normal because I (Ruth) did not have the energy/time to proof and add pictures to it until now...sorry! Keep watching for the next update very soon!!! :-)

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Last Days of New York City...WHEW!

You know how they say, "It's a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there..."? Well, that epitomizes how we felt about NYC. On our last full day there, we had tickets to go on a Ferry to Ellis and Liberty Islands. Our plan was to drive!...... DON'T DRIVE IN NYC!!! if you can keep from it. It sounded good to all of us, it was hot, we were tired of the subways, and we wanted to go across the Hudson River to get to Liberty Park. There were several geocaches in the park we wanted to hit before our scheduled ferry trip. Well, we started off all right. Our little Garmin car GPS was very helpful and said we would be at the park in less than 20 minutes. We knew that once we got into the tall skyscrapers our satellite reception would be a little hit or miss, so we did map directions on my iPhone to back up the Garmin... things were moving along splendidly... until I got pulled over by a policewoman... Even though I was turning right in about one block, I was in the wrong lane. Supposedly there was a sign that said that the lane I was in was for buses only during certain times of the day. Though the traffic was bumper-to-bumper, and there were tons of vehicles that were not buses in the lane I was in, she still took my license. I apologized and explained that we were just trying to figure out when and where to turn and try not to get our new mini-van from getting smashed... she said, "Don't they have signs in Indiana?" uh... well, yes... but not 3,000 per city block, and not ones that have fine print! Anyway, 15 minutes later she gave me my license back with just a verbal warning. Whew!

We continued on through the maze... Come to find out, there was a toll to get across the river... $6! and on the other side there was another $0.60 toll. If we had known it was going to cost us that much upon entering the last street before the tunnel, we would have told the GPS to avoid tolls, because we found out the following day that there was another route we could have taken that was free... though it would have taken a little longer... We finally arrived at the Liberty Park. We had plenty of time to go do a cache, but not as much as we had hoped, which was all right by us because the temperature was getting out of control at 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Everyone was starting to get grumpy, so we got a few hot dogs and sat in the AC area where we picked up our ferry tickets. We then decided to get in line. After going through security, we were told that the Ferry was about to leave! It was 10 minutes before our tickets said it was going to leave!!! So we ran to the end of the pier to get on... did I mention that the temperature was over 100?! We did make it, but we were all miserable when we sat down on the top level, in the direct sunlight... I guess I shouldn't complain too much, everything up until this day had been going so well during our trip. So, the trip to Ellis was very nice. Once the boat started moving, there was a slight breeze that helped with the heat. Ellis was pretty cool, though a bit boring. I did get to take a few pictures of some names, on the "Wall of Honor"... which was a list of every immigrant that came through Ellis Island, that share my last name. I'll have to do some research to see if I'm related. Our trip to Liberty Island was again very nice. The entire family loved the Statue of Liberty. We got some great pictures and despite the heat, we had a great time.

We did have many people ask about the t-shirts!

Just before the ferry ride to Ellis and Liberty Islands
(NYC skyline in the background)

The station for the ferry and used to have trains come into also

We've arrived!

Signing into Ellis Island

Ellis Island

Ethan was pulled from the audience to help!

The Great Hall of Ellis Island

With the last name Everett!

Onto Liberty Island with the Statue of Liberty

In all her glory!
That's one big foot (a replica of Lady Liberty's)
The torch that was replaced in the 1980's
Looking up inside of the Statue of Liberty
Goodbye Lady Liberty...back to Jersey
(and hopefully some AC!)

After the wonderful trip to the two islands we ran right back into some bad luck... traffic!!! New York City traffic!!! It took us 60 minutes just to get back to paying the toll again. I laughed, a little too snarkily I'll admit, that I was paying to wait in traffic, to which she replied, "That's rush hour for you..." ... it was 8:00 PM!!! Rush 'hour' in NYC begins at 3:00 and lasts until 10:00, the last I checked, that's 7 hours, not 1!!! Anyway after another hour the traffic was starting to lighten up, but then Ruth realized that we had to be close to Times Square, and we hadn't seen it yet... so I made a detour to drive through it... an hour and a 1/2 later we finally made it back to the hotel. We were exhausted, but looking back, it was worth it!

Times Square
That night was our last night in NYC, but since we had money still on our Metro subway card, we decided that as soon as we checked out of the hotel, we would use them to go to Chinatown and Little Italy... which we did. We enjoyed it, but our enthusiasm was dampened by the excrutiating heat. After having a nice lunch we picked up our minivan and wished New York adieu... or so we thought... We decided to try and get out of NYC by using the "free" route. Two hours later we found out that there was an emergency two blocks before we entered the bridge and had to take a detour. It was as if the city was trying to suck us into it's quagmire-like streets. But we managed to pull free into New Jersey... again...

Goodbye New York...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Our Last Day in Boston and Time in the Big Apple

We were so glad to be able to visit with two of my high school buddies, and their families of course. They haven't changed a bit! Reminiscing is always fun. It's also good to know that no matter the time that goes by, you will always have a special connection with them. When I was asked what was my favorite part of Boston... I have to say it was Tom and Tom with their families. Thanks, guys, for all the memories!

Me, Tom Cole, and Tom Clouser

Ellen & Ethan Everett, Ethan & Avery Cole, and Tobin Clouser

After having a wonderful lunch at Tom's, we decided to hit the Minute Man National Historical Park. This is site includes where Paul Revere, William Dawes, and "Doc" Prescott made their famous ride to warn the Patriots that "The Regulars Are Coming!!!" and then later the next day "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" occured. This was the shot where the "rebels" were finally ordered to shoot, thus starting the War. Very cool history!!! It is also where Louisa May Alcott, the author of "Little Women," Nathaniel Hawethorne, the author of "The Scarlet Letter," lived and wrote their books.

North Bridge - "The Shot Heard 'Round the World"

The Wayside

Site where Paul Revere was captured

Sunday evening, Tom suggested we go to Redbones, a local barbecue restaurant in Somerville, MA (a suburb of Boston and where he lived). This was a fun experience! The ambiance alone was worth it. Ruth couldn't get over the fact that kids were allowed to eat in the same room as a bar... something you are not allowed to do in Indiana.

Some of the artwork on the walls of the restaurant

Monday was a slow day. It was our last day in Boston, so we had to pack. We were also a little tired and needed a little bit of down time. We ended up finishing the Freedom Trail by going to the USS Constitution and museum. We weren't able to actually tour the ship because it's closed on Mondays, but we were able to tour a World War II destroyer next to it, as well as visit the museum, which was nice. After catching another cache, we went back to the hotel. I did, however, have a very nice drink with my friend Tom, after he got off of work. He took me to a great tavern that was near the Minute Man Historical Park. It was a great way to end our stay in Boston.

USS Cassin Young - World War II Destroyer

The USS Constitution or "Old Ironsides"

The following day we decided to make a quick drive down to Rhode Island to get a cache... just so we could get the geocache souvenir. By doing this, we had to drive through Connecticut, therefore, we had to grab a cache in that state as well. :-)

After getting settled into our hotel in Queens, we took the subway to the United Nations. The subway system in New York turned out to be a little more confusing than in Boston, which I'll explain in just a bit. The UN was pretty cool. Ellen, my daughter, loves foreign countries... she's taking AP World History next year, so she, in particular, loved this trip. When we finished with the UN, we were all starving (I must say, the TripAdvisor application for the iPhone is incredible!) I did a quick search for Chinese food (Ethan was in the mood for Chinese after seeing a lot of Asian people at the UN) and found a great authentic New York Chinese restaurant that was only a block away. The workers in this place were great! Definitely not your stereotypical New York fact, almost everyone we've met here, has been exceptionally nice. I understand that almost everywhere we go, they are used to tourists, but even getting on the subway when we ask native people how to work the metro-card machine or which train to get on, they have been exceptionally kind. This brings me to the subway mistake.

Outside the United Nations

On our way to back to the hotel, we got onto the train and I started to talk to my family about which stop we needed to get off, which was 59th Street. A man overheard this discussion and explained that we had gotten on the wrong train... we were headed downtown instead of uptown! He explained how to fix the situation... and he even tried to make us feel better by saying it "happens all the time." Anway, we got off at 14th Street, transferred to the uptown train, and rode it back to the stop closest to our hotel.

Finally we come to today (Wednesday, July 20th). We decided to get up very early and head over to Rockefeller Plaza and see if we could get on the Today Show. We had reservations for an 11:00 tour of the NBC Studios, and thought it would be fun to go early. I think we were actually seen 3 times!!! We were getting texts and facebook posts from friends telling us that they saw us! How cool was that!!! We also saw that there was a Nintendo World Store right next to where the Today Show is filmed. The kids had to go in! When we left the store, we were asked if we would be willing to be interviewed live on a segment on "America Live". The interviewer would ask us about our feelings regarding Washington, DC. We got kind of excited about it when she mentioned going in for make-up and needing all sorts of viewpoints. After a little more discussion it turned out that we would be unable to do this because the NBC tour would be at the same time. Bummer!

Outside the Today Show

Anyway, at 11:00 we did the tour of NBC. Ok, this was awesome...we learned a little television trickery, like how when Brian Williams does the Nightly News he's actually in a small studio, not a "Master Control" with tons of people working, it's a "bluescreen"... and a lot of times when they say they are going to someone in the such-and-such studio, they are actually within "high-five distance..." The coolest set we got to see was the Saturday Night Live set. There's a ton of really cool pictures along the backstage of the various skits throughout the years! The coolest part of the whole thing was when Ellen was chosen to do an actual news recording!!! Even though it wasn't actually shown on TV, it was shown in Rockefeller Center and we got a DVD of it!!!!!! How cool is that!?!?

NBC Studios - LOVED the SNL set

By the time the tour was over, we were starving. The breakfast at the hotel was only continental, so we hadn't had much to eat. We wanted something quick and easy, so we ate at Subway... that was below a subway... heehee... After our bellies were full, we went to the top of the Rockefeller Building, which was called "Top of the Rock!" The view was amazing as you can see by our pictures.

Can you see Central Park below?

Next, we took the subway over to Central Park. The park is beautiful...and huge! We took a bike tour and got to see about a third of it. We even found a geocache! How cool is that?! We found a cache in Central Park!!! Ethan went on a carousel ride and then it was time to get moving again.

Central Park - Maine Monument
John Lennon tribute

Bike Tour (without all the work)

Bethesda Fountain

Ethan whirling around on the carousel

Once again, we were hungry, so we found a pizza joint that was close to the park called "Mariella's"... supposedly this is Oprah and Gayle's favorite pizza. It was rather tasty! Walking back to catch the subway back to our hotel, we walked by a few more famous places (see below).


Whew!!! We are tired! I apologize if I haven't blogged as much as I intended, but the trip has been a whirlwind of fun! There simply has not been enough time. I'll try and do better :-). I hope you enjoy the pictures.