November 2009 - East Coast Tour
Back Home Up Next


In November 2009 we took an extended trip back east for my sister's wedding. We took extra time and went to a number of places while we were "in the area". A lot of this was homeschooling related stuff.

  •  Philadelphia, PA
  •  Arlington National Cemetery, Washington DC
  •  Williamsburg, VA
  •  Atlantic City, NJ
  •  Wildwood, NJ
  •  Valley Forge, PA
  •  Cape May, NJ
  •  New York, NY
  •  York, PA
  •  Gettysburg, PA


Caitlin at Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia, posing with an actor portraying Major Samuel Nicholas, the original US marine and first Commandant of the Marine Corps. He had a lot of great details to tell, and did a great job.

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Inside Independence Hall.

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Outside Independence Hall, from various distances and perspectives.

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The Liberty Bell.

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Inside the National Constitution Center, in one of the final rooms (known as "Signer's Hall") where they had life-size bronze statues of all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, with all of the details on them (face, size, clothes, etc.) as correct as possible. This was a very interesting chance to study the delegates in a way not normally possible, especially with the clothes styles. Some were very wealthy and it showed in their clothing and others were very average people who had very basic clothes.

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Some more views back to Independence Hall from the National Constitution Center.

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The National Constitution Center has all state flags shown, in order of their entrance to the union with relevant dates and info stamped into the floor under each flag. This was very cool.

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The main event: The Wedding! Caitlin made a very good Junior Bridesmaid.

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You can't have a wedding without a reception! Note the arrival of "flat Gwen", since the real Gwen was out of country with the Peace Corp during this time. She was in the group photos and even had a dance out on the dance floor.

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This is Caitlin wearing my paternal grandmother's mink stole. She passed long before I was born, so I never knew her. The initials match, which we thought was kind of neat. Deb got to wear this to to my sister's wedding.

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The trip down to Williamsburg, VA included a tour through Washington DC. Caitlin grabbed the camera and took a bunch of "interesting" pictures along the way.

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We wanted to drive through DC and see the sights since none of us had ever done that before, and by a fluke of construction and misdirected traffic we ended up in the paid parking area for Arlington National Cemetery. We had some extra time, so instead of leaving right away, we paid to park and took the tour. I'm very glad we did. It's very sobering to see the headstones, stand there and realize the cost of freedom. It was also very interesting to learn about the history of the site, what the different sections are, and other details. Watching the guard at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a very powerful and moving experience - the silence other than the clicking of the soldiers heels (and a lot of quiet camera whirring noises as folks took pictures) with Arlington and Washington DC laid out in the background was a very unique experience.

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The blacksmith at Colonial Williamsburg, VA. Caitlin was somewhat bored, but I found it very interesting. All of the hardware and nails used to restore the various buildings in Williamsburg come from here, where they make them on period correct equipment with period correct techniques. Amazing!

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Various scenes being re-enacted around Williamsburg. Very neat stuff, especially with the actors in the crowd and going about their business, and pulling some of the crowd into the re-enactment. We stopped to talk with a few of them (the row of actors in front of the short white fence with Deb and Caitlin talking to them) and they stayed completely in character the whole time. When Caitlin said she was from Seattle, they answered much like you would expect someone from that era to respond to someone who said they lived on the west coast - it wasn't even discovered in Colonial times. It was fun to watch Deb and Caitlin try to grasp it, and then Deb figured it out and had some fun with it. When they started talking about a recent scientific lecture that was put on in town and mentioned that there were now "7 known planets" (I think that was the number at that time) the light bulb went off for Deb. It was a very cool conversation for Caitlin - we talked that over for a while afterwards and she learned a lot from it. Many thanks to the actors for thinking on their feet here and having some fun with it too.

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Caitlin got the camera again and experimented with it again. She did get a number of pictures of our condo, some of which were actually in focus.

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Caitlin also decided to do some self-portraits. Some of these are pretty good. She also got a couple of pictures of the sunset looking out of the condo window.

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The gunsmith at Williamsburg - I found this very interesting. They make actual working firearms on this equipment, and use them around Williamsburg in the re-enactments. That's very cool.

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Caitlin decided it would be more fun to play outside, though she did get pretty good at a Colonial era kids bowling game they had set up, along with a rope toss and some other period-correct kids games.

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Put her in the stocks! This first one is a great picture, and one of our favorites. :-)

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More re-enactments. The oxen did us the favor of watering the sidewalk next to us, giving an up close lesson in how unclean life could be back then. Naturally, Caitlin was more interested in the pile of leaves to jump around in. The videos of the band in white are from this day. We decided to eat dinner in Williamsburg that night at a small tavern; good food, good entertainment, and lots of fun for everyone.

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More self portraits. She was really into the "thumbs up" routine at this time.

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We drove along the Colonial Parkway from Williamsburg out to Yorktown, and naturally stopped to read every single sign along the way. It's a very beautiful drive along a wonderfully built and landscaped parkway. I was very surprised by the large monument to the French soldiers and sailors; we often forget about that aspect of things.

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These pictures are of the Revolutionary War era tents and cannon fire demonstration at the Yorktown Victory Center. Caitlin was selected as a "helper" for the battlefield surgeon during his demonstration. Very interesting stuff!

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The Yorktown Victory Monument. It was getting dark by this point, but it was still impressive. We drove around/through the original earthworks for the Battle of Yorktown, but were not able to get any pictures.

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We tried to see Mount Vernon, VA, and got most of the way in, but Caitlin had hit her limit for the day and had a total meltdown on the walk up to the main house. We ended up paying to get in but not seeing much but the grounds. Too bad; I really wanted to see the place. Oh well.

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Atlantic City, NJ. "Look Dad, the Atlantic Ocean!"... We also walked on the boardwalk for a bit, our condo was right on the boardwalk, and saw what was left of the famed "Steel Pier". It was winter and not as much fun as in the summer, but Caitlin can still say she was here.

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No trip to Atlantic City could be complete without a quick drive to to see Lucy the Elephant. This is one of those "only in NJ" sort of things...

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Since we were in the area, we also checked out Wildwood, NJ and walked on the beach. My family used to vacation in Wildwood Crest every summer when I was growing up, so it was interesting to see if I could find the same places again now. I think this is the same area we used to play on the beach when we were there. The beach here is super-wide; the hike from the bulkhead out to the water took some time. This is one of the oddities of Wildwood - their beach grows naturally due to offshore sandbars and favorable currents depositing sand on the beach from surrounding areas. This makes the beech incredibly wide in some areas.

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This is the end of the island up in North Wildwood.

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A couple of nice shots of the sunset looking back over the bay behind Wildwood.

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We had some excitement back in Atlantic City that night - a fire broke out in a shop on the pier across the boardwalk from our condo, and it was a reasonably big affair to get under control. We missed getting pictures of the flames, though.

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We also went to Valley Forge, PA and took the tour. Our tour guide was the single most hyper person I have ever met, and she knew it. She was lots of fun and we learned a lot. Washington's Headquarters was very impressive, especially the fact that he insisted on paying for the use of the grounds instead of just commandeering them.

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We visited Cape May, NJ, but it was a rather windy rainy day with very little open, so we got to drive around, get a couple of pictures of the sunken concrete ship, and visit a local gift shop for some stuff.

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We visited New York and saw Ground Zero. My parents went with us - they had never been there before. The bronze memorial on the fire station across the street was impressive, and new since our last visit.

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This is over at Battery Park. The sculpture seen here was originally in the plaza of the World Trade Center, but was moved here and the eternal flame re-lit after it was recovered form the rubble of the collapsed towers. The actors are dressed up as the statue of liberty and when they stand still, you don't notice they are people. When they start dancing about it was...different.

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We took the ferry over to Ellis Island for the rest of the afternoon. My dad and I love these sorts of places - we'll read every single piece of information on our way through the place and see everything. The women, not so much. I loved the intricate mechanical works used to open the enormous banks of windows from just a few window cranks. The expanse of floor space was very impressive, as were the tiled ceilings and lighting. The picture of the points of entry with numbers was for further research - both my father and I were surprised that anyone was gaining entry to the US at Ketchikan, AK in 1903 since it wasn't even an official US territory until 1912. The historic candy sign was interesting, as was the view back to New York. The skyline just doesn't look right without the twin towers there. Some exterior shots, group shots, and a foam "Statue of Liberty" headband for Caitlin completed our tour of Ellis Island.

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Radio City Music Hall, while driving by. Naturally, we hit a bump just as I took the picture.

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At Aunt Jenn's and Uncle Bill's house in Philadelphia, PA for Thanksgiving.

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While we were back on the east coast we visited some old friends of mine, Roy and Kathy Wescher, in York, PA. They took us out to Gettysburg, PA for a day trip. This was a fascinating trip; I could spend days going over the site and learning about it. The new visitor center was very impressive. The one thing that really struck me was that many of the monuments for the southern states had fresh flowers placed on them on a regular basis by private citizens, almost like you would see at gravesites. That was unexpected, and indicative of the passion this site still stirs for many folks. Caitlin grabbed the camera a few times again, too. Also, the details surrounding Little Round Top and "The Devils' Den" were most fascinating. This is the area of the battlefield where for years after the war ended, soldiers remains would get found in various cracks and crevices in the rocks. The rock formations here are enormous with many cracks, crevices, and have many unexpected hiding places. The topography here is unlike anything else in the rest of the battlefields for Gettysburg. The fact that this area of the battlefield was ignored and that one man (Brig. General G. K. Warren) put Union forces here at the last minute is a testimony to how big of an impact one man making one decision can make. Had that one decision not happened and the Confederacy had outflanked the Union line, the Battle of Gettysburg may have been very different. I find those sorts of pivotal moments and decisions incredibly fascinating.

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While in York, the Weschers took us to a small county park named Nixon Park (yes, named after that Nixon). It was very pretty and had lots of neat stuff, including a live, working, indoor beehive under Plexiglas. The next to last picture is the entrance to the hive that extends through the building wall - it's the small pipe below the "streak" on the wall. We couldn't figure out what the streak was from, but it seemed bee-related. There was a small pond, and a fairly complete indoor exhibit of stuffed animals (aka, prepared by a taxidermist) set up in life-like displays with descriptive plaques on all of them. The land for the park was originally donated by Bob Hoffman who was quite famous in the weightlifting circles and who started York barbell.

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While visiting with the Wescher's, they took a few pictures on their camera. The first was when we helped them get a fresh Christmas tree (what a hike!), the second when we visited Gettysburg, and the third was at Nixon Park.

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Page last updated 12/25/2010 05:33:48 PM