Sunday, November 17, 2013

Philadelphia and Valley Forge

After three days of Washington, D.C., and a day at Mount Vernon, we needed a day at home.  Besides the fact that it was cold and rainy, we also needed to clean the camper and get the laundry done.  (It just doesn't go away!)

But on Saturday, November 2nd, we took a 120-mile road trip north to visit Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to see the birthplace of our nation.

We had intended to go to Philadelphia while we were parked in New Jersey, but due to the government shut-down nothing would have been opened.  So we figured it was now or never!

We arose very early that morning and arrived in Philly by 8:30 in the morning.  We found our way to the visitor center to get our tickets for admission into Independence Hall, then walked up the block to the famous building.

We had a guided tour of the room where the First Continental Congress met in 1774 to draw up the Declaration of Rights and Grievances and an appeal to King George III.

We also saw the room where the Second Continental Congress met in May of 1775, a month after the shots had been fired in Lexington and Concord.

And most impressively, we saw the rooms in which the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were created.  We walked over the same floors that the forefathers trod - Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Hancock, George Washington... and many others.

At either end of the building are special rooms.  One end is Congress Hall, where the early Congress met before it moved to the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C..  The other end of the building is the old Supreme Court chamber where the court met from 1791 to 1800.

After finishing our time in Independence Hall, we moved next door to see the Liberty Bell.  The bell hung in Independence Hall (formally known as the Pennsylvania State House) in 1753, long before independence was considered. It's inscription was prophetic:

"Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof."

The crack in the bell, which appeared in 1846, reminds us that liberty is imperfect.  Today the bell is an international symbol of freedom.

Before leaving the national park area, we walked a block away to see the gravesite of Benjamin Franklin, who lived to be 84 years old.

And there was one more mission while we were in Philadelphia:  find and eat an authentic Philly cheese steak sandwich!  We walked a couple of blocks away and found Sonny's Cheese Steaks.  We ordered a sandwich (with cheese whiz and fried onions!) and enjoyed a taste of Philadelphia.

But wait!  There's more!

We left Philadelphia around lunchtime and headed about a half hour away to the national park of Valley Forge.

Valley Forge was the site of the winter quarters for Washington's Continental Army in the winter of 1777. Over 2000 temporary log cabins were constructed by the Continentals to house the troops during that cold winter. 

We bought a self-guided audio auto tour in the bookstore, then drove through the encampment.  We made several stops along the way to see the sites up close, so our two hour tour ended up taking three hours.  But we had a great time listening to the dramatized audio tour, driving through the autumn scenery of Valley Forge, and learning more about that fateful winter that changed a rag-tag army into a victorious fighting force. We saw the reconstructed log cabins, statues of the important characters of that winter, Washington's headquarters, and the Washington Memorial Chapel.

After a full day of touring Philadelphia and Valley Forge, we headed back to our campground after dark.  We had a nice day, but we were quite tired out!  What a long day!