11 years ago, Day 38

I missed my first day yesterday since I started this project. 

Well, anyway.  Eleven years ago yesterday I drove into Philadelphia.  On my way I stopped at Valley Forge.  Somehow I never realized that Valley Forge is in what is these days essentially suburban Philadelphia.  It just goes to show the differences in travel times between the eighteenth century and now.  Anyway, it was a fascinating place.  I went through their visitor center, and around the ten-mile drive, past statues and reproduction cabins and the original house where Washington spent that winter:

Replicas of where the men lived, twelve to a cabin
I think this is von Steuben, but I wouldn’t swear to it

A view towards one of the monuments

Again, I think this is the Marquis de Lafayette, but for all I know it might be Washington himself

The house that was Washington’s headquarters that winter — Martha lived there with him, too — I got to tour it, and had a nice “ooh, I’m walking where George Washington walked” moment

And a placard about how the men built redoubts to fight from — sort of the 18th century equivalent of trench warfare, or so I gathered

There was also a nice picnic area, and I ate lunch there, which struck me at the time as rather ironic.

After Valley Forge, I headed into Philadelphia, which was fine except for one mistake on my part.  “I got off the freeway looking for a grocery store, and wound up in a very scary part of town.  Bars on store windows, lots of riffraff loitering on street corners, that sort of thing.  I got back up on the freeway as quickly as I could.”

It’s funny, but the east coast cities really intimidated me.  Since I’d been to London twice and Dublin without a qualm by that point, and I go into Seattle regularly, I’m not sure why, but they did.

Once I arrived downtown, I found the underground parking garage the hostel people had told me about, and started exploring.  First thing I ran into was the Liberty Bell:

It’s in this fancy little building all by itself.

Then I went to the visitor center for Independence National Historic Park, which covers various historic buildings downtown, and watched a movie about what happened here.  It’s the first NPS visitor center film I’ve ever watched with recognizeable actors in it — Eli Wallach, Ken Howard, and William Atherton — or which was directed by a famous director, John Huston.  “The movie made the point that one of the most important things that came out of the American Revolution was the peaceful transfer of power every four (or eight, depending) years.  Apparently people were waiting for George Washington to throw a hissy fit at John Adams’ inaugural, since this seems to be something that originated with us.  I’d never have realized that, in spite of all the American history classes, without coming here, I don’t think.  It was kind of like that lightbulb machine at the Henry Ford Museum.  Something I’ve always taken for granted.  So many countries do it now.  But it’s something we started, and that actually makes me sort of proud [g].”

After the visitor center, I just sort of wandered around until the hostel opened, then signed in and hiked back to my car to get my stuff. 

I’ll write today’s post this afternoon.