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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Philadelphia - Day 7, 8 and 9

Day 7

I was outvoted today.  I wanted to take a leisurely drive through Lancaster County and Valley Forge on our way to Philadelphia.  All 3 boys voted for Hershey instead.  Mark commented that it was the busiest place we have been so far.  It was remarkably quite in Gettysburg the day before.  Yes, we ate chocolate, drank chocolate and bought even more supplies for the road.  On the way out of town we enjoyed the town with its Hershey Kiss light poles. 

Having never experienced a hurricane on the west coast, I was nervous enough to call the hotel in Philadelphia and inquire if it was wise to continue to drive east.  The hotel front desk person pleasantly let me know that the mass transit was shutting down and most businesses were closed but they were still open and expecting us. I did suggest that maybe we may want to make other plans.  Again, I was outvoted and we actually drove towards Hurricane Irene into Philadelphia.  It was a crazy night on 10th floor as the storm passed through.

Day 8

In the aftermath of rain and wind, Philadelphia continued to be a ghost town.  We spent the day on foot seeing the city.  By late afternoon the sun returned and a few of the family owned businesses began to open and we were able to enjoy a Cheese Steak for dinner.

Day 9

The original plan was to Amtrak to Boston today, but Amtrak is not running.  Learning to be flexible is a good travel skill to acquire early in our adventure.  We changed things around and decided to hang out and see Philadelphia on a regular sunny Monday.    Today all the building were open.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

DC and Gettysburg - Day 4, 5 and 6

Day 4

We were able to reschedule our Capital tour for this morning.  Unfortunately we had not read the fine print letting us know that no backpacks or bottles of any kind would be allowed in the building.  We had 4 full nalgene's with us stowed in 2 backpacks.  Wonderful and considerate (somewhat bored) Benton volunteered to keep watch over our bags and bottles outside the visitors center while the rest of us took the tour.  Benton was in DC twice in 2010 and had taken the tour both times.  The security officer at the door was very kind to offer to make sure he didn't wander away while we were inside and I was able to text him a couple of times during the tour to make sure all was OK.

The boys spent the remainder of the day in the Air and Space Museum while I was able to tour the Library of Congress all by myself!  As the day was ending in DC, Benton was able to help the office at the Air and Space Museum take down and fold the American Flag.

Day 5

Its hard to admit it but time is flying by as Benton begins high school in September.  Thus, we decided that we should try to visit a few colleges as we tour around.  This morning we visited The George Washington University.  It was great for Benton to attend the orientation session and tour the campus at Foggy Bottom.  While we attended this Mark and William toured Arlington Cemetery.

On our way out of DC we decided to make a trip to Mount Vernon to see George Washington's house.  The grounds surrounding the property are beautiful but we didn't get to see the house - Mark thought the admission price was too high and declared we weren't going in.  We stopped by the gift shop and I picked up a postcard for both boys scrapbook.  We spend the rest of the drive to Gettysburg listing to the boys lament that their dad is cheap.

Day 6

Gettysburg Day!  Through our friend Don Sommer we were able to get connected with Doug Boden for a private tour of Gettysburg.  Doug has been an official tour guide for more than 15 years and we are so lucky to have spent 3.5 hours with him.  He drove us through the battle grounds and described the 3 day battle in great detail.  He really made the property come to life.

Also, Potato Chip Factory Outlet Day!  For 90 years the UTZ Potato Chip factory has been producing chips near Gettysburg, PA.  We just couldn't pass through this area without checking it out. 

And, Laundry Day!  We spent our Friday night at the local Gettysburg laundromat - that's where all the cool people go.  The boys declared that laundry required a Blizzard, so a stop by Dairy Queen was first.  Fueled with the Nutter Butter Blizzard of the month they were ready to watch me work magic with a double loader and a stack of quarters. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

William's Thoughts (aka What Sucks About This) August 25

1.  My thirsty brother decided to drink ALL my water when I was not looking.

2.  The hotel rooms smell like someone used a lot of cheap perfume in them.

3.  All the pillows are firm.

4. Tours are short.

Tired and surly, William

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

DC - Days 1, 2 and 3

Day 1
Getting here was thankfully uneventful.

Day 2
Today we hit the ground running for a tour of the Washington Monument at 9:00 a.m.  It was cool to ride the elevator to the top (can't take the stairs anymore) and look around.  I wasn't really comfortable getting right up against the window - as many know I'm not thrilled with heights, but I decided to take a deep breath and look straight down.  Great view!  We followed this up with a tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  Benton wanted to purchase a sheet of notes as a souvenir but they were currently sold out of all denominations below $20 and he wasn't willing to spend his entire souvenir budget on a page of 8, 16 or 32 $20 bills.  You can do the math on price of those sheets. 

Spent the major part of the day in the Museum of Natural History.  After only seeing about half of the museum we raised a white flag and surrendered.  We finished the day with a 3 hour bike tour of the major monuments.  Riding a bike is a great way to get around - William said he could never have walked the entire way without complaining.

Day 3
Toured the National Archives this morning.  I wish we had time for me to enter the research wing.  I wold love to spend more time working on the Walters and Peterson family trees.  But, that will have to be done from home. 

After taking in the Spy Museum - a must for anyone with boys like mine (I thought it was just OK), we headed to the Capitol for our afternoon tour.  Just as we were entering the visitors center the 5.8 earthquake rolled through.  William and I were on the stairs at the time and it felt like we were on an escalator.  It didn't take long to realize we were not going on a tour today.  After being evacuated from the area I also realized that all the other buildings were being closed and that meant that the restrooms were also unavailable.  Yes, I needed to use one.  We found a row of portable toilets in front of the outdoor Sculpture Museum and got in line (many, many others were in the same predicament).  We soon found out that only one unit was open, the rest were padlocked shut.  The line was over and hour long - one of the first times I've watched a lot of men have to wait (women are quite used to this).  We cabbed it back to the hotel and Benton grabbed for the remote and William hit the pool.  Not the day we had planned but definitely an adventure!

Sculpture Garden Fountain

Monday, August 15, 2011


This past spring we decided to make some changes.  We have been progressing along the assembly line of life, following the manual so to speak.  We have a nice home (and like everyone else we live in our car), our boys do well in school and have the necessary amount of extra curricular activities to make us crazy busy and we manage to take a nice vacation once a year at the prescribed time.  We really have nothing to complain about, but this is not the plan we made a long time ago before kids, house, dog and a huge lawn that needs to be mowed weekly.  We always said we were going to make time for more adventure and expand our horizons, live outside the box so to speak.  Instead we have worried about the huge expense of boarding a dog and the overwhelming need to keep the grass from becoming a monster that will rise up and take over the house.

But, a new plan began to hatch last spring.  After spending an amazing amount of money on private school tuition for 11 years, we decided to spend the tuition for 2011/12 on some real life studies and some family time.  Beginning this September we will be a homeschooling family with plans to travel.  The adventure begins next Sunday when we head to Washington DC, Philadelphia and Boston for two weeks of on site American History.  This past week we purchased tickets to Athens, Greece for the month of October and are beginning to investigate Peru for December.  Next April our plan is to rent an RV and spend the month on the road across the U.S. via I-90 (national parks and fossil digging) and Route 66 back to Santa Monica Pier.  It's time to stop at all those photo/lookout opportunities we have been speeding right past on the way to our destination.

This blog will be the journal of our adventure, the good, the bad and the ugly.  Stay tuned...