Journal of Events, as I best remember it.
We went to the SLC airport in time to check in and wait to see if we would be able to get in on the flight to New York City. We were flying “stand by” on Jet Blue. (Editor’s note: Do not fly “stand by” – it is very unpredictable.) We did not make it, but were told that we could probably make the early morning flight to Long Beach, California, and there transfer to another flight to New York City. There was not really enough time to go home, so we stayed the few hours in the airport.
We flew from SLC to Long Beach to New York City without any real problem.
We picked up a Ford Van at the Avis car rental company, and drove to Carolyn and Cade’s. A side note: I had always perceived that driving in New York would be a scary experience. Not so.
We left the next morning, Myself, Ronwen (Mom), and Hillary with Carolyn, Cade, and Matthew, traveling from Middletown, Connecticut to Philadelphia, PA. Because the traffic was so terrible, we were too late to be able to do anything in Philadelphia that day. Note: The drivers in New York City are horrible and rude and discourteous.
We did stop and see Valley Forge along the way to Philadelphia. I learned that it was a gathering place for the troops of the Continental Army, and a training ground for those soldiers.
We saw many deer along the drive as we went through Valley Forge.
We also saw and crossed a “covered bridge” along the road as we went. Mom was excited about that!
We stayed at the Hiatt Regency Hotel in Washington D.C. They had an awesome consierge who was very helpful.
We ate one night at the Trattoria Sorrento italian restaurant, 4930 Cordell Avenue, Bethseda, Maryland 20814. Awesome italian cuisine!!
We also ate ate the Original Pancake House, near the hotel. Fantastic breakfast!
We visited the following places as we toured the Washington D.C. area:
Washington LDS Temple. We saw it in the day light and after dark. We saw bats flying around it in the darkness.
White House. It was smaller than I had pictured it. The tour was short and not really worth the time, other than to say that we had “been” there.
Air and Space Museum (Smithsonian). Interesting place, but not as exciting as I had always thought it would be. Jets, planes, and space craft were on display. I thought the most interesting item was the Wright Brother’s aircraft.
National Archives. We went to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I rode a wheel chair. I was surprised to see how faded both documents had become. They were virtually unreadable.
We passed in front of the Capitol building. Impressive! We took a number of pictures of it. Note: Hillary was the chief photographer of this trip, and she did very well in expressing her talent and skill with the camera.
Library of Congress. This was the most ornately decorated non-religious building I have ever seen! It was absolutely awesome on the inside. Arches, marble, statuary, and colorful paintings and murals decorated the entire interior of this building.
Subway/Metro. It was surprisingly clean and efficient for a public transportation mode.
Mount Vernon. We arrived there early in the morning, just before they were officially open. We waited, walking casually over the grounds. We walked out onto the east lawn, the typical spot where the familiar picture is taken of the main house. Looking out over the panoramic view of the beautiful Potomac River, I could see why Washington loved his home so much. We took the specially arranged tour of the grounds, viewing the slave quarters, the gardens, the greenhouse, the bowling green (east lawn), the west lawn with the awesome view of the Potomac, the “Necessary” (outhouse), and Washington’s Tomb. The guide asked for volunteers to carry a wreath into Washington’s tomb to honor him. I quickly rose my hand. Cade volunteered, too. It was a special experience to walk into his tomb and place the wreath, and to brush my fingers across the limestone sarcophagus and feel his presence, there. Hillary volunteered to read Washington’s Prayer for the Nation aloud for the tour group. I think she was touched by the experience.
Gettysburg. I have always been aware of this field of battle during the Civil War. It has been a place of passing interest. I had originally considered skipping it in favor of other things. I am profoundly glad I did not miss it. We drove to the site and parked the car near the Visitor’s Center. We wandered at length through the center, seeing the faces and reading the stories of those who were there. Then we stepped out the front door and ascended Cemetery Hill, the site where Lincoln had delivered the Gettysburg Address. “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19, 1863) I stood there, on the very spot where Lincoln delivered this address. I felt my body washed over by a sense of that address, the sense of the struggles that were endured there. A sense of the battle that was engaged, there, and I cried openly as I was engulfed in this spirit. I had not expected this. As we drove around the route that detailed the events of this battle, I felt their presence. I watched as the battle began, the South lined up on the north side and the North lined up on the south side of the valley. I imagined the single gunshot from the Southerners, signaling the opening of hostilities, and I saw the firing of the 166 Southern cannons and the responding 180+ cannons of the North. I felt the rush of soldiers, from both sides, as they met to defend their opinions. It struck me like a bolt of thunder that this was not a war of Good and Evil, but rather a war of opinions, there being Good on both sides. It is an experience that I shall never forget. I stood in a small grove of trees, the target objective of the attacking forces of the South, and wondered at the three day loss of life of 5,000 men.
Antietam. The battle just before Gettysburg. It has been considered, historically, to be a battle that ended as a “draw”, neither side really the victor. But it was the worst battle in american history. 4,000 men died in one single day. We drove by what has been named “Blood Alley”, a site only maybe ten yards wide and perhaps 30 yards long, where the worst of the fighting occurred.
Harper’s Ferry. This was the site of John Brown’s death. It is a beautiful, quiet area on the last stretch of the Shennendoah River where it empties into the Susquehannah River. We barely got there at dusk.
Earth Science Museum (Smithsonian). I was impressed by the volume of ancient fossils that were available and on display at this museum. We also got to see the Hope Diamond.
American History Museum (Smithsonian). There was a lot to see there, but most of it was put into storage for the current renovation of the building. We saw “Old Glory” as it was being re-preserved. But aside from that, it was really the only thing of personal interest in the building.
We walked past the Washington Monument, the tall stone Obelisk on the Mall as we made our way to the Lincoln Memorial. A note on the Mall, itself: We were all disappointed at how unkempt the Mall was. It was not a long field of well groomed grass, but an extremely large eyesore of weeds and bare patches of dirt. We were embarrassed to have such a national landmark being shown to public view in such a dilapidated condition.
Lincoln Monument. We broke down and took a taxi for the last few blocks to this monument. As we walked up to it, I noticed how there were scores of people that were just hanging out on the steps of the monument. But I soon found out why. As we walked inside, between the pillars, to the huge statue of the seated Abraham Lincoln, I was struck with a profound sense of peace. People were coming to see his face, and were reluctant to leave his essence of presence. I didn’t want to leave that spirit, either. We got some awesome pictures here, too.
The Viet Nam memorial was a long, tapered wall of black marble, with names engraved in no apparent particular order. I wanted to be impressed, but honestly, I was not.
We proceeded to return to the Philadelphia area, where we saw the following:
Independence Square. We first saw the Supreme Court building as we waited for the formal tour. We then toured the Independence Hall, seeing the room where the debates took place as they formed the Declaration of Independence, and stood in the signing room where all the delegates signed the document.
The Mint. We visited the Philadelphia Mint, where many coins are struck for daily use as money. It was an interesting one-time opportunity.
We saw the Liberty Bell. It was much smaller than I had previously imagined, yet still fascinating as I realized the impact it has had and now has as a symbol of freedom around the world.
We visited the Independence Visitor’s Center, and viewed a movie on the importance of the cause of freedom that was won. As we roamed the Visitor’s Center store, I realized that they were playing the movie, “National Treasure” on t.v. monitors throughout the store. Interesting, eh?!
As we proceeded back to Connecticut, we stopped in Wilmington, Delaware, to see a unique water tower (for my benefit) that was made of stone, and had been designed to double as a visitor’s tower to see the surrounding countryside, as well.
Back in Connecticut, we spent two days doing different things. One day we spent some time catching up on our laundry, going to WalMart (a great place to shop and find things) and some time at the apartment complex’s swimming pool! We also visited the Gillette Castle and a local waterfall. The other day we spent at the New Haven Beach, saw two lighthouses there, and then went a bit farther east up the coast and saw two more lighthouses.
We then went to Boston, where we first visited the LDS Temple site.
We then parked the car near the harbor, and went in to see the U.S.S. Constitution, or “Old Ironsides”. It was awesome to see and actually go aboard her. She is being touted as the only continuously winning team in Boston! She never lost a battle.
We then boarded the trolley bus and took the motor tour around Boston to see all the sights. Our tour guide was awesome, teaching us, as well as the historical significance of the site we saw, but teaching the proper pronunciation of the words, like we would not be able to paak (park) our caa (car) at the Haavad (Harvard) yaad (yard, or parking area). And she even had small signs that spelled them as they were pronounced! She was an awesome guide! Among the typical sites like the Boston Common, Bunker Hill, and the Old North Church, she pointed out the hotel where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jackie, the apartment where they lived, and the voting polls areas where they cast their vote when he became president. We also saw the Catholic church where Rose Kennedy (JFK’s mom) was christened. We visited the home of Paul Revere and went inside the Old North Church. We passed the area of the harbor where the Boston Tea Party took place.
Next, we headed to Salem, Massachusetts. We saw the old City Hall, the old Salem Cemetery and noted the honorary markers remembering those who were put to death as witches. We saw Nathan Hale’s wife’s home. Last, we drove up to Gallows Hill, but discovered there was no marker to indicate that this was where the witches were hanged.
On our last Sunday, we took a drive up to Sharon, Vermont, to visit the birthplace of Joseph Smith, the first Mormon prophet. It was a beautiful drive, and we enjoyed the views of the countryside. Along the way, we passed the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Last, but not least, we visited New York City, just before we flew home. We only had a day, so we had to make it a real whirlwind trip through the town! So fasten your seatbelts, and listen up: We took the double decker bus tour (which I highly recommend!) and wound our way all about the town. I noted the iron fire escapes, a signature of this town. We ascended the Empire State Building, taking pictures of the surrounding city. My wife nearly had a coronary as I would lean up against the stonework to take the pictures, 86 stories up! We used the subway, which we could swear was just one floor level above the entrance to Hell. The place was so dirty and HOT!! We saw the United Nations, but passed by it too late to take our paid tour. We saw the Chrysler Building, with it’s ornate top. We went into Macey’s, descended the wooden escalator to the food court to have our delicious supper from one of the most awesome cooks I have ever been served from. We walked a bit in Central Park, a most beautiful and peaceful place to stroll casually in the summertime. We saw Time Square. We briefly visited the site of the LDS New York Temple, located at Columbus and 65th streets, just a block west of Central Park. We saw the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. We passed China Town. We drove beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. We passed the Trinity Church, the same one in the movie, “National Treasure”. We went by the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. We saw Radio City Music Hall. We walked past the Rockefeller Center, which was smaller than I had imagined it to be. We drove through the Bronx and Queens. I did miss seeing the studio of Sean Hannity; I wish I knew where to find it. Maybe next time, Sean!!
We flew out of New York from JFK International, headed to Long Beach, California. We ended up spending the night in Long Beach, due to a misunderstanding with the booking agent that arranged our flight home, but that was O.K. I was able to get some photos of some palm trees to add to our trip portfolio!
All in all, it was an awesome trip. And although I was significantly tired when I arrived home, I would pack my bags and turn around and do it again in a heartbeat!! I am glad I went, and I will always remember the knowledge I gained, the site I saw, and the depth of the feelings I felt, for the rest of my life. I look forward to our next adventure!!