Pennsylvania 2010 – Day 2

We set off early today to walk down to Independence Hall from our hotel. It was about a 20-30 minute walk so we planned it so we would get there at opening. The hall gets crowded and requires tickets that you can purchase ahead of time, or free tickets you can get the day you arrive. We saw Independence Hall and took a photo, but realized we had to head to the visitor center to get our tickets. Luckily, since it was a Thursday and not busy, we scored tickets for the next tour. We headed back up to the hall and awaited our tour.

I had checked the web site and knew that the tower was going to be under construction, but luckily, you could still see the iconic structure through the scaffolding. I was worried it was just going to be a green tarp. Also, it was early enough in the restoration that they had not removed the clock faces or the wood beams around them, so it still looked normal. We headed into the East Wing to begin our tour. Seeing the ranger reminded me of my desire to be a park ranger. One of those things I have always wanted to do but never got a chance to do. The tour was nice and full of fun facts, but the crowning moment was going into the main part of the building where they actually met and worked on the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution of the United States. I wonder if the Founding Fathers thought that people would be visiting the room hundreds of years later.

Next up on the tour was viewing of actual copies of the Declaration and Constitution (these are the ones they would read to people in parks, not the ones actually signed – those are in the National Archives). I love the ambient low lighting in these types of places, the last of which I visited was the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London. We then finished with a tour of where Congress met for the first ten years. The House of Representatives was on the first floor and the Senate on the second floor. It was Daniel who pointed out that they sure didn’t need a lot of room since there were so few states at the time. I have to point out that the Ranger on this part of the tour was more interested in picking his nose and doing impressions of dead newsmen than being understood by his Guests.

It was then time to head over and see the Liberty Bell. It is currently housed in a nice building next to the hall with the Bell positioned for cool photos with the Hall in the background. I noticed that the building smelled all metal-y and bell-y and there was a nice compliment of history and exhibits to accompany it. Once our photos were complete, we headed back to the hotel and grabbed some lunch at this deli a basement of a shopping area. After lunch, we made one quick stop at Macy’s so Leslie could pay her bill and I talked to Susie on the phone to plan our meeting on Saturday. Back at the hotel, we had a brief panic as Leslie could not find her ID and she was pretty stressed out until we found it in the back of our rental car.

We then set off to New Jersey. Leslie suggested we head to Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken – home to TLC’s Cake Boss. It was a long trek, but we decided what the heck. Google Maps was a bit of a let down since it sent us to some random road off the expressway. It took us a while to find a way back to the Turnpike, costing us some time. We finally made it onto the New Jersey Turnpike. After a couple of hours, we made it to Hoboken. After a few wrong turns here and there, we managed to find the bakery. This was the point where I turned to Daniel and said, “Just once on this trip, I want to get somewhere without having to go around in circles!” We managed to find a parking spot, but it required me to do some tricky parallel parking. It may have involved hopping the curb and a slight tap on a bumper, but we fit into the spot.

Carlo’s was just like it was on TV and quite busy, so we grabbed our number and drooled over the display cases until we were called. Leslie spotted a few of the stars like Buddy hovering in the back, but I was more focused on the food. I picked up some cupcakes, a mini chocolate cake, and a mug. We planned on enjoying our food down in Liberty Island State Park, so after a quick photo opportunity of the Manhattan skyline, we headed to Liberty Park. I was a bit disappointed that the ferries to Liberty Island were closed already, but the park was still open. We headed over to a site of a September 11 memorial and took photos of where the World Trade Center used to be. Then, things got crazy. We were walking over to where you could see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty when thunder and lightning started to hit all over the city. It was a pretty fierce storm and some of the strikes were VERY close to where we were. Leslie and I started to scramble back towards the old rail station in the park – just to be closer to a building. Daniel was lagging behind until I mentioned that the titanium rod in his leg made him the perfect lightning rod.

We took refuge in the car as it started hailing and dumping rain. Daniel managed to get some good video of the storms. As we left, we could barely see the road in front of us! Finally, it started to ease up and we headed back on the Turnpike and then turned south towards Atlantic City via the Garden State Parkway. Of course, I missed the Turnpike exit and we ended up going through downtown Newark in rush hour traffic. Once the traffic cleared, we stopped at a service area off the Parkway and used the restroom and stocked up on water, and finally enjoyed our first delicious cupcake from Carlo’s. It was awesome! The rest of the trip to Atlantic City was full of lightning and downpours and occasional clearing. There was also lots of road construction and speed controls so it took almost 3 hours to get to Atlantic City.

Like an oasis rising from the shoreline, we finally pulled into Atlantic City around 8:45, and headed for the first casino we saw, Caesars. I am sure there were better ones to choose from, but we were hungry and since we didn’t have a lot of time, we wanted to be centrally located to the boardwalk. We ate at the Roma CafĂ©, which was OK, but the service left a lot to be desired. I think our server had a stroke at the beginning of service since it was all downhill from there. After eating, we walked down the boardwalk a bit, just to take some photos and see what it was like. I’m sure it is neat when its peak season and the boardwalk is bustling with activity. Since there were not a lot of people out (remember it had just dumped a ton of rain), we were easy targets for the guys wanting to push you in a cab and the people who just wanted money. After photos, we headed back into the casino where I explained Roulette to Leslie, and Daniel won some money on an I Love Lucy slot machine.

We finally hit the road back to Philadelphia around midnight. It was nice and uneventful back to the hotel, although I did learn that you can’t pump your own gas at a service station along the road in New Jersey. We also had a few brief deer sightings, but thankfully they stayed on the side of the road. It was well after 1am when we arrived back at the Ritz in Philadelphia. We promptly crashed in our beds and decided to sleep in tomorrow so as not to run ourselves into the ground. Tomorrow, we will attempt to run up the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art a la Rocky, and possibly hit Delaware before heading into Amish Country and on to Harrisburg.