Monday, September 10, 2007

Day 8 - Ambridge, PA to Hanover, PA

Saturday August 25, 2007
total miles
total travel time
states: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Pennsylvania

This morning we rolled down the road at 9:00am, heading south for the National Road and Ft. Necessity. The National Road was really neat. We read about its history, and watched for the mile markers. It was a beautiful drive.

We reached Ft. Necessity around noon and went immediately to hear a talk on artillery in the French and Indian war. Ft Necessity really is a fascinating site, and the French and Indian War far more pivotal than we often realize from our elementary school history. 22 year old Lieutenant Colonel George Washington led the men at Ft. Necessity. Stephen was especially taken with how the lecture ended:

(roughly paraphrased by Stephen) “You may think of this as just some unimportant park commemorating some unimportant event, but this event sparked the French and Indian War, a world war in which the French were ultimately defeated. Why do you suppose the French came to help the colonists with the revolution? Because of their great love for the colonists? No, because of their great hatred for the English, due in part to their defeat in the French and Indian War. Without the help of the French, the colonists would never have won the revolution, and you wouldn’t be here today.”

The children played in a model Conestoga Wagon and we spent some time in the museum (nice and cool!), then loaded into the van for sandwiches on the road.

Oddly enough, the fastest way to Gettysburg, due east, was to take the interstate in northern Maryland. We were only 10 miles north of the state line at Ft. Necessity. So we spent much of the afternoon driving in Maryland. We finally made it to Gettysburg at 5:00pm, just as the visitors’ center closed. But we managed to hook into a tour of the cemetery that was just starting, and learned a lot of very interesting things.

I found it fascinating that Lincoln was invited, by the Governors (states' rights were still considered so important!), to give just a few remarks, FOLLOWING the main speaker, on the occasion of the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery. His famous Gettysburg address was a mere 268 words long and followed on the heels of a 2 hour address by the featured speaker.

As were finishing up the tour it started to thunder, and shortly after we got in the van the skies opened. We were in a bit of a quandry as the storm was heading east, and so were we... east to a campground!

We made our way slowly toward the campground, hoping the storm would pass over before we arrived to set up. We decided to kill extra time by eating out, and had our first real pizza in a looooong time:

When we finally got to the campground, which was quite hard to find, it was dark. Poor Stephen had to set up the tent by headlight while I corralled the baby and got things ready for bed. It was another hot night in the tent, but we managed.

Day 7 - Ambridge, PA

Friday August 24, 2007
total miles
total travel time
states: Pennsylvania

Today was another happy day of hanging out with our friends. It is very nice to stay in the same place for several days. I did a ton of laundry so that we’ll embark with freshly filled backpacks. I even managed to get out to the local Aldi, which carries my favorite jelly (can’t get it in TX). While there I also picked up lunch and breakfast food for the next day, then hit a gas station and filled the tank and vacuumed the van. We are ready to go again!

Day 6 - Ambridge, PA

Thursday August 23, 2007
total miles
total travel time
states: Pennsylvania

Today was a lovely day spent with friends. We mostly just hung around the house, the children playing and the adults chatting. I did have the opportunity to walk down to the local farmer’s market, always a favorite activity for me. I was surprised by how big and how busy the market was.

The highlight of the day was definitely attending “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” in which our friend Kate played Titania. The show was very impressive, put on by a cast of children who appeared to range in age from 8-16. They had only been practicing for 2 weeks, but they had a professional looking set, costumes, and performed the play in the original language.

Our children really enjoyed the show and said they understood it. I had read the story to Farmer Boy a few years ago, but the Princess didn’t remember it. They had a little primer before the show, which helped. Parts of it were quite funny indeed, and I was blown away by Kate’s beauty and ethereal poise as Queen of the Fairies.

Day 5 - Indiana to Ambridge, PA

Wednesday August 22, 2007
total miles
total travel time
states: Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania

It took FOREVER to break camp this morning. Things will go faster as we all get used to the new tent and each person has his/her jobs smoothed out. The biggest challenge is Little Guy, who either wants to "help", wants to fall off a cliff, or wants to play in poison ivy. Needing to have a person dedicated to keeping him alive definitely slows us down.

We learned something funny today. One of the things we have noticed is the omnipresence of Starbucks. Stephen’s penchant for strong coffee (he orders his coffee black with two shots of espresso) has led us to several Starbucks so far. Indiana is the first state we've been in that we have not seen a Starbucks.

Today was dedicated mostly to driving, though we did stop a few times in Ohio for bathroom breaks and to let the kids play. Little Guy did have a few hard moments; at one point Stephen handed him a cassette tape to play with. This was the inevitable result (yes, we were parked when this picture was taken):

When we crossed the Ohio River into West Virginia we were struck by the dramatic change in landscape. Where it had been fairly flat in Ohio, we were now in a very hilly area. We stopped in WV so the kids could get out for a little stretch. I saw a really cool looking bridge that appeared to have one design on the WV side and one design on the OH side. Turned out it was two bridges, but doesn’t this look neat at first glance?

Being of Irish descent, I was drawn to this cross by the river which reads "Dedicated to the Irish of the Ohio Valley."

The children wanted to buy gifts for their friends so we stopped in a little craft place, then loaded back up for the final leg into PA.

We arrived at our friends’ house at 5:30pm and soon sat down to a delicious home cooked dinner. We were fairly tired and fell asleep easily!

Day 4 - St. Louis to Indiana

Tuesday August 21, 2007
total miles 313
total travel time 9 hours (including visit to the Arch)
states: Illinois, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana

We hit the road at 8:30am and headed back west to St. Louis to visit the Gateway Arch. The princess was worried about the speed of the ascent to the top, probably due to her recent visit to Six Flags, so we asked at the ticket counter, and learned that the trams go 4 miles an hour. The Princess was reassured by this information so we bought the tickets.

Our tram was about to leave so we went straight to it. It turned out it was less of a tram and more of a pod.

The Princess’ anxiety about the ride had not disappeared after all, and when we sat down she buried her head in Stephen’s chest and refused to look. Turns out she thought we were simply taking a ride up, over the top, and back down, and she was afraid of how it would feel as we crested the “hill”. She was much delighted when we arrived and got out. We all experienced that weird feeling in your tummy when you look down form a height, particularly underscored in this case by the fact that the design of the windows is such that you can look not only down, but down and back, as the windows angle out.

Here's what we saw from one side:

We took a “pod” back down and as soon as we got out The Princess begged to go back up. Farmer Boy enjoyed the whole thing with his usual quiet smiling enthusiasm; Little Guy’s favorite part seemed to be nursing in the pod in both directions.

Next we spent some time in the Museum of Western Expansion, which is under the Arch. I had high hopes that this would be Farmer Boy’s primary Lewis and Clark educational stop on the trip, but it was not especially engaging, and frankly, poorly laid out even for adults. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go to a museum in St. Charles that had been recommended to us as having a great child-friendly Lewis and Clark exhibit.

By 11:45 we were loaded back into the car and heading east on I70 again. We had decided to drive as far as possible, as our next major stop was in western Pennsylvania, a distance of more than 600 miles.

As we crossed from Illinois into Indiana we also changed time zones. At around 6:30 pm we rolled into our campground. This was our first night to camp, so we had a learning curve. Everyone pitched in to help:

We barely got the tent up and dinner in our tummies before it was dark. The kids decided we would rotate telling stories to each other before we fell asleep; tonight was Farmer Boy’s turn.