Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares
The Bill and Kit 2010 Excellent Adventure Journal-Issue #27
“The End of the End”
Thursday, April 8, 2010: We reluctantly left Assateague National Seashore vowing, once again, to return and spend more time at yet another of our countries treasures. Seems like a common theme…..if we return to all the places we have been and add all the places we still have to visit, we may be doing these annual trips for years to come. Yep, not a problem there! However we are anxious to motor north and attend a long anticipated family reunion up near Philadelphia.
As we were leaving the island I took a glance at Lucy and I saw this horrifying sight.
“Lucee…..you have some splanin to do”. Lucy showing us crossing the sound without the benefit of a road is due to a two year old map database. There’s a new bridge now. Whew!
We decided to take US-1 through Ocean City, Maryland and Dewey Beach, Delaware before stopping for a rest and visit at Rehoboth Beach. Turned out to be a neat little beach town. The temperature was 85 degrees and it was sunny with a gentle breeze blowing off the ocean. We walked about the beachfront, stopping at many shops and treated ourselves to some world famous Thrasher’s Fries while watching the pale beachgoers locate the perfect tanning spot.
Back on US-1 we soon entered Dover, Delaware passing a large NASCAR race track on the left. Since it was getting late in the day we settled into a convenient campsite on Dover Air Force Base. Driving through the base we passed a sobering sight. The Armed Forces Medical Examination and Mortuary Services complex. These newly built, very large and dignified buildings serve a sad and honorable existence. We drove slowly down Purple Heart Drive as we silently paid our respects.
It was hot, close to ninety, so for only the second time in the past three months we switched on the air conditioner. Once again we ended up in the neighborhood of the air field. The huge planes were all quiet by 2000 however and we enjoyed a restful night.
Friday, April 9th, 2010: It rained all night and this morning is cool and overcast so off went the air conditioner and on came the heater. Today is Kit’s birthday so we decided to find a nice place for breakfast.
We left the base around 0900 and headed north on US-13. Lucy quickly found a Waffle House so we pulled over to enjoy the Senior Blue Plate Special. Nothing’s too good for Kit on her 62nd birthday.
Back on the road we encountered our first toll plaza, a clear sign that we are getting close to home. One dollar for a car and four dollars for our truck and trailer…..seemed a bit odd. I wonder how much a truck towing a trailer with a couple of cars on it would cost?
We arrived in Springfield, PA and took advantage of an excellent dooryard surfing opportunity at my cousin Mary Kate and her children Alora, Jack and Jimmy’s House. As it turned out we actually had three Philly relatives offer their driveway. Cousins Don and Bill graciously offered their places as well. I let the patriarch of the family, my Uncle Don (my mothers brother) decide the best place for us to stay. Mary Kate won the argument…..or maybe pulled the short straw. Either way we were pleased at all the kind offers.
As it turned out it was Mary Kate’s birthday as well so we all went out to a nice family Italian restaurant and had an excellent authentic Italian meal. It was incredible and pretty darn reasonable. These kinds of places are what make living in a large diverse neighborhood so nice.
On the way back Mary Kate’s incredibly talented offspring, Alora, Jack and Jimmy, entertained us with a cappella singing. Among other offerings they did a fantastic job at covering Queen’s song Bohemian Rhapsody. The three voices were in harmony and on key. It was enjoyable hearing these young voices perform this classic and their singing made for a very festive atmosphere.
On Saturday morning Buck, the husband of my cousin Anne, offered to give us a behind the scenes tour of the newly built Comcast building in downtown Philadelphia. Buck works for Tyssen Krupp the German firm who manufactured, installed and monitors the 37 elevators in the building. Since he manages the system he has unlimited access to all levels of this incredible structure.
He brought us into the executive parking garage and whisked us to one of the high speed freight elevators right to the top of the 975 foot glass faced building. First he showed us the mechanicals and all the sophisticated computer circuitry that runs and monitors the system.
Buck explained how the building is engineered to tolerate swaying up to 22 inches in a strong wind. However movement of this sort can make the buildings occupants a bit queasy. So any sway is minimized by a massive Tuned Liquid Damper, the largest in the world, containing 300,000 gallons of water.
Here he is explaining one of the equipment cabinets for the elevator system.
Next Buck escorted us to the actual top of the building, a location few ordinary citizens get to see, and we walked on the rubber membrane roof to enjoy the incredible views from all four sides of the tallest building in Philadelphia.
Having the honor of the cities tallest building comes with great responsibility. The Comcast building single handedly broke the curse of Billy Penn. Back in the day the tallest structure in Philadelphia was city hall which sported a statue of Philadelphia founder, William Penn atop its bell tower. As other buildings were constructed ever higher they started putting Billy Penn in their shadow and great misfortune befell the city. Along came the Comcast building which two years ago restored the honor of William Penn’s stature by installing a 25 inch figurine of him at its highest point. That year the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series. All true…..look it up!
In the lobby of the Comcast building one huge wall is covered with the world’s largest television. It is a 2000 square foot, high definition, LED screen that at one moment shows an image that looks like the other walls in the room….then it will display unusual and whimsical images as if they are actually on the wall. Then the TV screen would change again and feature specially produced content. This billboard sized TV was unbelievable…..everyone in the lobby just stood and stared, such as my Uncle Don and Kit are doing here.
On the way back from downtown Philadelphia, we were treated to a detour through the Drexel Hill area of Upper Darby. This older and very elegant area of the city contained many fine homes and gardens.
That afternoon, Mary Kate arranged a family reunion so we could enjoy the company of my mom’s family and their offspring. It was held at Mary Kate’s very accommodating home and by my count 28 people attended. She was kind enough to do the same when we passed through on our 2009 trip and it was one of the highlights of our four month trip. At the time I was thinking how lucky to have the entire immediate family in the area and how incredible that they could all be pulled together at short notice to have a party. Little did I know that this Irish Catholic family meets often and little is allowed to interfere with them gathering.
And not to be outdone….my Aunt Joan (mom’s sister) and her family live in the area as well. Aunt Joan, like mom, is now in a nursing home but two of her four offspring were able to attend….it was great visiting with them and their husbands as we missed seeing them last year.
This close family is very diverse works in fields from engineering to education to medicine to the arts. In addition they are very talented featuring many musicians and performers; some who are pursuing a career in the performing arts.
We were treated to a “jam session” featuring music from a variety of genres. Most of the rest of us joined in without prompting. I was even given a bucket to carry a tune in. Didn’t help however so I was asked to sing low.
The youngsters then wrote, rehearsed and performed an original skit for all to enjoy. They collected funds from this performance to donate to the suffering folks in Haiti. Touching and very entertaining. The young talented performers then went on to perform excerpts from the play “Seussical” which most had appeared in on stage. The singing voices, acting talent and just plain cute factor were memorable and very good. Some, if not all these children, will surely enjoy a career in theater or television. You heard it here first.
Here some photos of Uncle Don, Aunt Joan and Aunt Mary’s family…..at least the ones that would stay still long enough for me to snap a photo. I’d list their names but surly would get some wrong. Looking at the faces one can see the love they have for each other.
The food was plentiful and very, very good. They choose to treat us to traditional Philadelphia fare of Cheesesteaks, Hoagie’s, soft pretzels, Tastycakes and Water Ice (pronounced Wooterice). Most of the food was supplied by Cousin Joe who owns a restaurant in the area. And for drink we enjoyed local beer, wine and sodas. There was enough food put us all into a temporary food coma and we had leftovers for the next day. We even pirated some of the leftovers for us to eat on the road.
A great party, with great food and truly great people. It is often said “we make friends but inherit families”. However even if I was not a member of this fantastic family I would still seek each and every one of them out for friendship. Kit and I really enjoyed the time spent with them. It will likely be the grand finale of a pretty fantastic trip. We can’t wait to return.
While in town my Uncle Don and Aunt Mary were kind enough to accompany us on a trip to visit my Aunt Joan. My mom’s younger sister lives in a very nice Adult Care Home where she has her own room. We spent a few enjoyable hours visiting and reminiscing with her my Aunt and my Uncle.
I have fond childhood memories when back in the late 1950’s we would fly out to Philadelphia and spend a few weeks with my grandparents and their family. I particularly remember the kindness Uncle Don and Aunt Joan showed my brother and me by including us in all their family doings. I have many stories from those times…..too many to chronicle here unfortunately. Might have to jot them all down someday, however.
Mary Kate’s daughter is a delightful and talented young lady. In addition to appearing in many local theater performances she excels at “Fingernail Art”. Here Alora and kit show off her latest work.
Mary Kate’s youngest son Jimmy came to visit us in our RV most mornings. We enjoyed his visits and answering all his many questions about our rig. He seemed fascinated and somewhat amused that we actually live in this thing. One morning he wrote in our Travel Journal Notebook the following:
“We are here at Mary Kate’s house. We went to a restaurant and after that we dropt of Pop Pop. We went to have a tour at the Comcast building and it was interesting. Then we went to Pop Pop’s house and then yesterday we had some good party!!!”
James, Age 8
He also drew a pretty good picture of our home on wheels.
Monday, April 12, 2010: Reluctantly we left Mary Kate’s and headed for home. We took US-611 north toward Willow Grove where we stopped for late morning breakfast at Lance’s Diner. The restaurant is located across the street from the soon to be closed Willow Grove Naval Air Station.
After an enjoyable meal we stopped at a nearby aircraft museum. It happened to be closed on Mondays but I was able to snap this photo of an unusual airplane displayed along side the museum building.
Yep, it’s a jet on ski’s…..what could possibly go wrong with that idea? Only two F-2Y Sea Dart’s were made by Convair Astronautics in San Diego. The plane was designed to take off and land on water but it had limited practical application so no more were built. The Admiral’s liked to wake board behind the thing however so one each was deployed to either coast.
Knowing our penchant for roadside oddities we took the advice of our Philly Relly’s and headed toward Easton, Pennsylvania and Ringing Rocks County Park. Strolling down a short wooded trail we came to a large field of boulders. The scientist’s are confused as to how this field of rocks piled 12 feet deep and totally devoid of plant or animal life came to be. It looks like a river bed but there is no evidence of a river. It couldn’t have been a rockslide as the boulder field is near the top of a hill. Adding mystery to the site is the unusual properties exhibited by about 75% of the rocks. When these boulders are struck by another rock, or a hammer, some of them give off a ringing tone while others emit a dull thud.
On the day we visited there was a family spaced about the boulder field, each with their own hammer and striking rocks on queue from the parents. We could actually detect a melody…..It was my first authentic rock concert.
Since we were in the area we decided to drive the length of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. A 38 mile road parallels the Delaware River and meanders through some very scenic terrain. We stopped at one of the ranger stations so Kit could acquire her National Park Senior Pass. Woo-Hoo!
There wasn’t much open this early in the season so we continued on into New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Shortly after joining the Mass Pike we stopped at the Charleton Service Plaza and found a nice flat and secure place to remain for the night.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010: Up early and after enjoying a take out breakfast from the travel plaza we were on the road. It was 44 degrees and cloudy…..great traveling weather.
We passed a convoy of Army Humvee’s and noticed that each driver had I-pod ear buds in their ears. Can’t believe that is regulation. The only one that was not listening to music was the sergeant in the lead Humvee, which happened to be the only female of the group.
Crossed into Maine at 1030 and made our obligatory stop at customs inside the Kittery Trading Post. Never pass through Kittery, Maine without stopping. After an hour of walking around and drooling over the latest outdoor sports merchandise we continued north.
Two hours later we arrived in Brunswick and headed straight for the Brunswick Sewer Plant to take advantage of our free tank dumping privilege. This unglamorous but necessary task always concludes our trips.
We backed into the driveway at 1422 and called the official end of Bill and Kit’s 2010 Excellent Adventure.
In a few weeks we will collect our overall opinions, add to our lessons learned and check off lists, figure out the trip statistics and start formulating plans for our next trip. We will post this all on the website and send out a final notification.
To all who by reading these journals came along with us, sent words of encouragement, offered advice on places to go and praised our journals we offer a heartfelt thanks!
To the strangers we met along the way that offered friendship, opened their homes and took a genuine interest in our lives we say thanks to you as well.
To our Philly Family who made us feel welcome and willingly shared their lives with us we hold you warmly in our hearts.
Our offer to everyone we spent time with on this journey to visit us in Maine this summer still stands. Please come…..just not all at once.
To our family and friends who live away and so willingly put their busy lives on hold to spend a few days with us we want to thank you as well.
To our family here in Maine who kept things perking along while we ran away on our little adventure we want to thank you too.
To the very few grumpy clerks, aggressive drivers and other discourteous folks we came across we just want to say…..um, well, I guess our little Tucson buddy puts it best:
Kit’s Corner: We are truly blessed to be able to live our dream through taking these trips around the country! Each and every relative and friend has greeted us with kindness and delight at seeing us, as we have them. It has been so gratifying to be able to visit with all of them and catch up on their lives. In addition, we have enjoyed all the quirky places we have been, I guess it’s a good thing we never aspired to see the Seven Wonders of the World, we can be content with the hundreds of down home things along the back roads of America! Most importantly, many thanks to our kids and grand kids for holding down the fort and keeping tabs on us to make sure we were doing OK along the way. Without their support, our trips would not be as enjoyable as they are. Oh, one final note; while I still missed my recliner this time around, I have finally made peace with it. And, for all those folks who offered me the use of their recliners, a hearty THANK YOU!!! It’s GREAT to be home!!!
Until next year,
Love, Dad/Mom, Poppy/Guma, Bill/Kit