It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
Friday, April 25, 2014: On the road from the Delaware Army National Guard Post in Bethany Beach, Delaware. It is currently 1100 hours and the temperature is 56 degrees under sunny skies. Kit and I head up old US-1 toward Lewes, Delaware…..the self-described “First Town in the First State”.
We decided to take truck and trailer across Delaware Bay by embarking on the Cape May – Lewes Ferry. However after purchasing our ticket and parking in the designated lane we noticed the size of the boat.
Scratching our collective heads, well I was Kit was rolling her collective eyes, I noticed there was a much larger ship pulling into port.
Once tied up (the ferry-not me) the crew expertly guided our rig onto the vehicle deck where we left it to head topside and enjoy the views and the shipboard amenities.
As the last car rumbled down the loading ramp the crew made preparations for getting underway.
Soon, the huge vessel started to belch stack gas high into the air as she lumbered away from shore.
You may have noticed by the sign affixed to the starboard stack that this ferry system has been in continuous operation for the past 50 years. It is more than a coincidence that the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel we transited a few days ago was built in 1964 and the Cape May–Lewes Ferry system commenced operations that year as well. The ferryboats that currently take vehicles and passengers across Delaware Bay used to serve the same function across the Chesapeake Bay until the bridge and tunnel made them obsolete.
This water route is an extension of US Highway 9 and the transit takes an hour and a half as the ferry cruises eleven knots while crossing the seventeen mile bay. Taking a land based route to our destination would cost us an additional three miles of travel distance and a whole lot less time and money. Yep, it doesn’t make sense for us to ride the ferry from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May, New Jersey…..but no one has ever accused us of making sense! We just did it for the experience, and besides, going to sea on a ship I don’t have to work on is a real treat!
The vessel we were embarked on was the MV New Jersey, one of five similar ships in the fleet. They are 320 feet in length and have a beam of 68 feet with a hull displacement of 2,100 tons. Each ship is powered by twin 4,000 horsepower diesel engines and they can attain a flank speed of 16 knots.
In comparison, the destroyers I served on thirty years ago were steam powered, 390 feet long with a 40 foot beam weighing in at 3460 tons displacement. Their two 60,000 horsepower turbines could push the destroyer at a speed in excess of 35 knots. We carried more crew members but far less vehicles…..we did have some very big guns on deck however.
There was little activity on Delaware Bay…..that is unless you count these escorts that trailed us astern for the first 30 minutes or so.
That is until they spotted the New Jersey’s sister ship, the MV Cape Henlopen in mid-transit heading the opposite direction.
The fickle birds then wheeled around, apparently deciding that it was time to head south back to Delaware.
Disembarking at the northern terminal in Cape May, New Jersey around 1345, Kit and I pieced together a variety of local and state roads through the Piney Woods of South Jersey. In a few hours, we were crossing the Delaware River by way of the Commodore Barry Bridge and entered the state of Pennsylvania at 1700.
The view from the bridge was one of industrial grit and might…..the very same scene that is played out in countless large industrial cities nationwide.
Unfortunately this view is slowly diminishing as manufacturing of American products continues to move offshore. Soon, images such as this will be relegated to photos in museums and Americans will no longer be an exporter of quality goods……pretty sad! And to prove that industry and agriculture can coexist, here is a photo of a farm field just a short distance away.
A quick 35 mile drive to the north took us to our next destination, the home of my cousin Mary Kate and our campsite for the weekend.
No sooner had Kit and I backed into the nice level driveway than my Uncle Don showed up and we were all whisked off to dinner at Cousin Joe’s pizza shop where yet another cousin and her daughter were waiting!
Such is the nature of this close family, gathering and celebrating at the drop of a hat! Notice no one was wearing hats.
Cousin Joe has owned and operated Pacilio’s Pizza and Beer in Bryn Mawr, PA for many years.
The food is great, the atmosphere inviting and the owner entertaining…..what’s not to like!
Most of the crowd dug into Pacilio’s signature pizzas but I held out for their absolutely incredible Cheesesteak sandwich.
It was without doubt, the best I have ever enjoyed…..and that’s saying a lot since Pacilio’s is located near Philadelphia, which is the cheesesteak capital of the world! If you’re ever anywhere near Philly, take a drive out to Bryn Mawr and treat yourself to a cheesesteak at Pacilio’s…..you will not regret it!
Saturday, April 26 and Sunday, April 27, 2014-Springfield, Pennsylvania: We always enjoy visiting the Philadelphia area and visiting with my mother’s family, and this weekend was no exception. This large, close knit Irish Catholic, family is led by the clan patriarch, Uncle Don.
Saturday is to be a special day as through some judicious sleuthing by cousins, Joanna and John in addition to internet searching by Katie and Owen, we discovered that my mother’s birth mother may be buried in a Catholic Cemetery near another cousins home. As you may remember my maternal grandmother died in 1924 when mom was only 4, followed shortly by her little brother, Billy. Oral family history has it that both Grandmother Marion and Uncle Billy are resting in a grave located at a very old cemetery in Philadelphia. Now, to confirm that revelation and to search for the actual grave.
Most of the family gathered at Cousin John and Denise’s place and caravanned to the cemetery. As we arrived it started to drizzle and we all spread out and tried to figure out the burial numbering convention used back in 1929. After a period of futile searching, Cousin Pat flagged down a maintenance truck and asked for some assistance. The gentleman was kind enough to interrupt his work day and showed us to a different section of the cemetery grounds where the gravesite was located. This was a good stroke of providence as the grave had no marker! A situation that we are planning to rectify!!
At that moment, as we gathered around the gravesite, the drizzle stopped and the skies began to clear, followed by shafts of sunlight from above. Honest!
At my request, Uncle Don delivered a personal requiem with traditional Christian prayers that we all participated in. I then scattered some of my mother’s ashes on her birth mother’s grave. Mom is now reunited with her mother and brother and has a presence in the second of three US cities that were important to her.
Returning to John and Denise’s home we enjoyed good food, good drink and great company!
On the return drive to Mary Kate’s we were in silent and contemplative thought driving through the countryside as the sun set in the west.
I believe Mom is pleased with the way the family gathered to pay honor to her and to her mom and brother!
Sunday dawned bright and sunny. Kit and I received a text from Alora, Mary Kate’s college student daughter….she wanted to drop by with breakfast and a visit before we headed out.
It was great seeing Alora and learning of her second year in school and her mom and brothers enjoyed the visit as well.
Today is perfect weather for a “Cousin Joe Field Trip”…..an adventure we have participated in before and one of the highlights of our visits to this neck of the woods. While waiting for folks to get ready, Jimmie and I got in a little Nerf target practice……never know when Zombies may attack!
On the road at 1000…..Joe, Mary Kate, Jack, Jimmie, Kit and I made our way toward the little town of Ephrata, Pennsylvania and the home of the Ephrata Cloister commune.
Upon arriving we met up with Cousin Pat and Don and headed to the visitors center for an introduction to this unique community and its way of life.
In meeting our tour guide, we learned that this religious commune was started in 1732 by a German immigrant named Johann Beissel. Dissatisfied with the established religions of the time, the charismatic Johann attracted other likeminded folks and started his own. The monastic and celibate order had strict rules about life in the compound and kept the genders separate in housing, work, and worship. They made their own goods and grew their own food for the once daily meal which was strictly vegetarian.
The self-designed and self-built multi story homes, workshops and churches were sturdily made with minimum ornamentation.
Most were of pegged timber frame construction but several log buildings were built using a unique interlocking technique at the corners.
Being on a guided tour gave us access to the interior of many buildings in the compound, such as the sister’s meetinghouse where Sister Kit sat in contemplative repose.
Seeing the interior of the building gave one a perspective of how this community lived, worked and worshiped. In addition it was possible to take in the view as the original inhabitants had nearly 300 years earlier.
Other buildings still standing on the property were the livestock stables……
…..as well as various outbuildings that history hasn’t recorded the use for, such as this unusual looking structure.
The church doctrine was founded on the belief that Christ would revisit the earth, so the membership kept constant vigil for his arrival. They did not sleep, but “rested” six hours a night on wood benches with wood blocks for pillows. This rest was interrupted at midnight for two hours of prayer. The austere life and separation from the secular world caused many members to leave the order. However, others built homes near the compound and used some of the church’s facilities…..these associate members, many which were married, were called Householders.
The rustic charm of the compound is reflected (pun intended) in the original glass windows that let natural light into the buildings and likely provide a bit of airflow during the heat of the summer.
As the membership died off they were laid to rest in the community cemetery.
In addition, several Revolutionary War soldiers are buried here after being brought to the cloister from surrounding battlefields.
A critical flaw in the doctrine of the Ephrata Cloister was the requirement of celibacy as the community ceased to exist when the last member died off in 1813. The property, along with the few remaining Householders was then incorporated into the Seventh Day Baptist Church.
Following the tour we visited the gift shop where I spotted this nifty hat.
Thought it would be cool to look and act like a brother from the Ephrata Cloister until I was reminded that the guiding principle of the church was “celibate” and not “celebrate”!
After a day of traipsing about the museum grounds we were all getting hungry. Searching the internet, we identified a highly rated Spanish restaurant in town. Armoas Del Sur is owned and run by a family from Columbia and the menu reflects their heritage.
The owner is from Medellin and has been serving fine Columbian fare in this part of Pennsylvania for the past seven years.
Being adventures eaters, we started with the recommended appetizer…..Empanadas, or Columbian Meat Pies. Then for the main course I choose Bandeja Paaisa.
This consisted of: Rice, Beans, Chorizo, Plantains, Steak, Pork Strip, Cornbread and a Fried Egg. Unusual, but really quite good!
The rather buxom salt and pepper shaker you may have noticed in the photo above is a copy of a famous piece of Columbian art by Fernando Botero. Fortunately, the owner, who also was our waiter, had a great sense of humor as he encouraged us to place the figures in various interesting poses.
They were all very funny, but Mary Kate’s rendition was the only one suitable for publication.
Passing on some intriguing sounding desserts, we made our way back to Philadelphia by way of the Milky Way Farm.
Where we were treated to freshly made ice cream which all enjoyed as the sun was setting on another great day with family!
Monday, April 28, 2014: After seeing Mary Kate off to work and the kids off to school, Kit and I hit the road at 0941 and headed west toward Souderton, Pennsylvania. Why, you ask? Well, there is another RV dealer that happens to feature an RV that Kit claims we absolutely have to look at…..so Souderton bound we go!
Around 1000 we rolled into the nice little town…..one that spring has come to as evident by the greening of trees and flowering of the dogwoods.
After an hour and a half drooling over some very nice rigs and meeting the staff at Fretz RV we were once again on the road. And yes, we did indeed leave the dealership with the very same trailer that we arrived in…..but it is getting increasingly more difficult to do so.
Found our way to I-78 which we took east until coming to PA-611 which we used to motor through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Stopping for a quick lunch break at a nice roadside pullout we quickly relearned that the roads get pretty beat up over the winter and the rough ride translates to chaos within the trailer.
No harm, just a little straightening up and we are back in business. Actually we have experienced far worse dishevelment out west while bouncing down dirt roads….it’s all part of life in an RV.
Back underway, we hopped on I-84 just south of Port Jervis and crossed into the state of New York at 1507. Forty five minutes later we drove over the Hudson River by way of the Beacon Bridge and continued east where we crossed into the state of Connecticut within an hour. We can always tell when we are in New England by the relatively small towns we pass through, each with their iconic church steeples rising above the trees.
At 1800 hours we moved onto I-91, then to I-84 which led us to the Massachusetts border which we crossed at time1906. We then jumped on the Mass Pike heading east and the destination for tonight, the Charlton Travel Plaza where we arrived shortly after 1930. Being a long day, it was off to bed early with the mesmerizing hum of interstate traffic lulling us to sleep.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014: Up early following a cool but restful night we noticed evidence of a rain shower that had apparently moved through.
Since this will likely be the last day on the road for this year’s trip and since neither one of us wanted to deal with brewing coffee or making breakfast, I trudged into the travel plaza and picked out some breakfast sandwiches and large coffees.
On the road at 0950 we continued east on the Mass Pike which fed into I-495 until it merged with I-95 which we traveled toward the north.
At 1128 as we were passing Amesbury, Massachusetts we spotted snow on the ground! Almost tempted to U-turn and head back south but we have some pretty important events coming up in a week or so. Additionally, we are getting a bit homesick for Maine.
Crossed into New Hampshire at 1130, and twenty two minutes later we enjoyed this welcome sight as we drove the Piscataqua River Bridge.
Since we can never pass the coastal town of Kittery, Maine without stopping at the Kittery Trading Post we pulled into their ample parking lot and joined other returning RV’rs for some leg stretching in the world’s finest outdoor equipment store. As we hiked from the outer reaches of the parking lot, Kit turned around and noticed that I had backed up to what she sees as a “right sized” RV!
It did look like a nice rig, but sure made our trailer look kinda weenie. Out of curiosity, I took a moment to pace off our rig and the larger fiver to our stern. Believe it or not, they were within a foot and a half of each other in overall bumper to bumper length!
After a few hours of browsing about the store at items neither one of us particularly need, we were getting a bit hungry. This worked out well, as another tradition when we return to Maine is to enjoy lunch at the Weathervane Restaurant which is conveniently located across the street form Kittery Trading Post.
Possessing zero self-control I dug into a plate of their famous fried seafood on the fisherman’s platter!
That’s actually two meal portions folks…..but I turned it into one!
Following a nice relaxing dinner Kit wanted to go next door for some outlet mall shopping and I decided to see if there were any Geocaches nearby. Turns out, there are a series of them up and down US-1 and specifically placed to entertain the non-shopping husbands of the world!
After a brief walk and an even briefer search I spotted this little guy zip tied to the middle of a rhododendron bush.
Logging the find on geocaahe.com, I set out for the next cache when I received a text that Kit was waiting in the truck. Next time in town, after I tour Kittery trading Post, I’ll have something else to do as Kit participates in her Retail Therapy!
At 1515, we were back on I-95 and soon started to see the familiar skyline of downtown Portland, which with a population of 66,000 folks is the largest city in Maine.
At 1656, we backed into our own driveway for the first time in five months and called the official end to Bill and Kit’s 2014 Excellent Adventure!
Using a nifty website I stumbled across, I decided to include a graphic representation of the states we have visited over the past six Excellent Adventure trips.
Of course many of these states we have spent considerable time in and others just a few days. However all were interesting and exotic in their own way and deserve far more time to thoroughly explore. We may never get to experience all the places we would like to but we are sure as heck gonna try! Wonder if we need a newer and bigger trailer for that?
Now for some boring Statistics:
Length of Trip: 148 Days
Total Distance: 11,894 Miles
Total Fuel Used: 1173.5 Gallons
Average Fuel Economy: 10.2 MPG
Highest Gas Cost: $4.10 in California
Lowest Gas Cost: $2.94 in New Mexico
Highest Full Hook-up Camping Cost: $53.42 at Oasis RV Resort, Las Vegas, NV
Lowest Full Hook-up Camping Cost: $18.00 at Barksdale AFB, Shreveport, LA
Average Camping Cost: $25.82 per Night
Freebie Camping: 19 Nights, “THANK’S FOLKS!”
Kit’s Final Bit’s: The last week of our trip went very well! It’s always nice to spend time with Bill’s family in Philly. This time was special as we were able, with the help of his cousins, to find Miriam’s mother and brother’s gravesite. She had mentioned the gravesite many times over the years. We were never there with her, so, were unable to do it with her assistance. As I watched the family scatter around the cemetery to find the grave, I knew Miriam was watching over us. Then, after finding the site, the family gathered to pay tribute to our long lost relatives, and I knew Miriam was feeling so much better that we’ve now established this connection. Thank you to the Philly Family for helping us accomplishes this! Love you all!