Yesterday I rolled into Philadelphia...and exhaled.
It's something I can't explain, but I started feeling it the day I was rained out in West Point and had to take an extra day there. Since that time I have had a sort of subconscious nagging in the back of my head to stay on schedule. Even with the beautiful scenery and great riding that came with New England, I've felt as though I was in some sort of hurry. Nothing felt more like that than Boston and New York. If one can ride a motorcycle through Boston or Manhattan during rush hour traffic, one can ride a motorcycle anywhere (well, except maybe Riyadh or Santo Domingo). Even when I was on foot touring Bean Town and The Big Apple I felt rushed, to see everything, to get pictures, to get the blog post done. It all just felt rushed. And, to a degree, exhausting. I'm guessing that a lot of it has to do with having ridden about 2,200 miles over the last couple of weeks, and a little probably has to do with being almost 60 (good grief!), But there have been a couple of nights here as of late when I was in bed with the chickens. Last night I was in the sack by 8:30.
Philadelphia, what little I saw of it yesterday, has a different vibe than Boston or Manhattan. It's as though it's just sort of one big neighborhood, with a bunch of little neighborhoods inside it. Boston and Manhattan are the same in this regard, but here one can see the sky. It sort of calmed my nerves.
I'm going to slow down and take my time in Philadelphia. I can see home from here. No more big cities. Just riding after here. I have the time. I'm going to take it.
The importance of this city to our Nation's history makes it bigger than it would otherwise be.
The Continental Congress met here, to vote on a Declaration of Independence, and to draft a constitution.
The Declaration of Independence itself is worth a review if it's been since grammar school since you've read it. It is very much a reasoned indictment if the King of England for acts that became intolerable over time to us here. When one reads the words, one can feel the weight that was upon its authors as they knew it would surely bring war for all and trials for treason for many. Think of signing your name to a document that might get you hanged. It's heavy. When they sent that document to England, they knew that there could be no turning back.
If you want to get a feel for what that must have been like, I'd encourage you to get a copy of the HBO series, "John Adams" and watch it.
The building where all this took place was Independence Hall.
The room in which the Declaration and our constitution were born.
The Liberty Bell is nearby.
As is the home of Besty Ross, who sewed the first American flag. Washington wanted six pointed stars. Betsy said that five pointed stars would be less expensive. Thus, the first negotiation over defense spending.
Elferth's Alley is a neighborhood that legend says is the oldest continuously occupied street in America. I'm thinking folks in Saint Augustine would argue over that point...by about 100 years or so.
The Reading Terminal Market has been open since 1892. It's located in the old train station and it is GIGANTIC! They have anything anyone could ever want to eat there. I saw stuff there today that I haven't seen since I was living overseas.
They have a pretty hooah Chinatown here. This is the Friendship Gate.
The food is fresh there. Here is an open air market that even had live crabs!
The Philadelphia City Hall is vast, ornate, and has a thirty three foot tall statue atop it's dome of William Penn, the city's founder.
The City Hall sits and the end of Broad Street. Philly is home to the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League. They used to be called the Broad Street Bullies. They played the formidable Russian national team once back in the 1970's. Bobby Clarke slashed one of the Russkies so badly that it broke his ankle.
Christ Church, founded in 1695, was the place of worship and is the final resting place for Benjamin Franklin and other prominent figures from the revolution.
Rocky Balboa, a neighborhood kid who made good by becoming World Heavyweight Boxing Champion...just kidding. It was a series of goofy movies starring Sylvester Stallone. Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T) should have been the champ. I believe the fight was fixed because it was Rocky's movie. Clubber was robbed, I tell ya.
Incidentally, Mr T, a former bar bouncer from Chicago and very imposing figure, with his Mohawk haircut and gold chains is a devout Christian. When he was showered with awards for his roles in movies and TV, he always praised God first, and on one occasion said something to the effect of "Y'all might be tired if hearing me thank God. That's your problem."
I loved that.
There is a statue of Washington here that has to be the most accurate because the sculptor got George to do a life mask, which was used to cast the face of the statue.
They have a museum of the American Revolution here that is pretty good.
A diorama of the Battle of Trenton.
Scenes like this one from the revolution. These guys are tearing down a statue of the King of England. It was a gift to the colonies. We gave it back, after we melted it down and made it into musket balls.
A realistic example of the Redcoat uniform and equipment.
Indians who fought alongside the British and the Americans, neither of whom kept any of the promises made in exchange for the allegiance of the Indians.
An example of a Hessian Mercenary. Many of the Hessians, unlike this example wore their hair long and in braids and sported long handlebar mustaches. The brass helmet seen here was a coveted war trophy for the Americans who were able to take many at Trenton.
A sword owned by Washington.
The ubiquitous Philly Cheese Steak. Sooner or later you gotta eat. It's an Italian roll filled with thinly sliced beefsteak.
Sold by Pat's (The Cheese Steak King) on one corner...
and Geno's Steaks on the other corner, right across the street.
They line up for these and the line moves fast. And they are good! I got mine "wit" onions, 'shrooms, and "provy" (that's how we say it up here for you rookies). The locals will fight you over which is best. Entire families are loyal to one brand or the other. If you're a Pat's person and you marry into a Geno's family, you just ate your last steak at Pat's.
Lastly, the memorial to many unknown soldiers who died here during the Revolution to free us from tyranny.
The inscription reads: "Beneath this stone rests a soldier of Washington's army who died to give you liberty."
It seems that is what this city is all about. Every school kid should be able to come here...and maybe a few parents.
Tomorrow it's off to Virginia Beach. As I pass through Delaware, I will have ridden my motorcycle in at least part of every one of the lower forty eight states of the US. When I was a very young man I planned to walk the Appalachian Trail when I retired (I was even going to take my dog, Shorty with me). I still have that map. I've had it forty years and never did get to go. Then I was going to go sailing. I had the boat with which to do it, a beautiful thirty-seven foot Alberg cutter-rigged yawl. But I didn't do that, either and pretty much gave the boat (and the dream that went with it) away. But it looks like this dream, of riding all of America will be realized in a day or so. I think restless souls like me need a dream to chase. There's no hurry. From here I can take my time, enjoy the ride, get home in plenty of time, and exhale.