Our route from New England
took us directly across the Delaware River not too
far from the more famous crossing that George Washington
made in 1776. Having suffered a series of defeats
to the British that ultimately led to the loss of
New York City, the Continental Army put the Delaware
River between them and their foes to regroup. Washington’s
army was suffering through a cold winter with funding
from Congress drying up and the desertion rate escalating.
The commander-in-chief needed a morale boost to save
his army and ultimately the country’s independence.
In the waning hours of Christmas Day, Washington mobilized
2,400 troops (including future notables such as James
Monroe, John Marshall, Aaron Burr, and Alexander Hamilton
– oh, the irony), across the Delaware using Durham
boats which were typically meant for transporting
iron ore. The result was a surprise attack on the
Hessian encampment guarding Trenton. The more far-reaching
effect was that Washington proved his men could defeat
professional soldiers thereby gaining the confidence
of Congress and increasing enlistment. The event is
widely regarded as a major turning point in the American
We arrived at our hotel early,
dropped our gear, and made a beeline for South Philly.
Our primary goal for our visit to Philadelphia was
to have an authentic cheesesteak – or two – so we
headed directly for the heart of the cheesesteak controversy
at Passyunk and 9th St. Our first stop was at Geno’s,
self-proclaimed inventor of the cheesesteak, where
we took our place in line to order. Having done our
research, J stepped up to the window and said “Whiz
wit”, meaning a cheesesteak with cheese whiz and onions.
Now, you may think adding cheese whiz is disgusting,
but this is how the original cheesesteak evolved.
Still licking our fingers, we dashed across the street
to Pat’s for more of the same. This time D had the
honors ordering “Provolone wit”. While Pat’s was the
initial vendor of chopped steak sandwiches back in
the 1930’s Geno’s reportedly added the whiz in the
50’s to make the first cheesesteak sandwich. Pat countered
by using provolone making the classic Philly cheesesteak
coveted by mankind today. After sampling both, we
were in accordance that Pat’s was superior from the
flavor of the steak to the onions to the cheese.
The next morning, we had a
small window of opportunity before the wedding to
get into Philadelphia and take in the usual tourist
sites. Raining on our parade however was, well, the
rain. We drove into Philly in a torrential downpour
and things did not get better as we scurried around
the old city to Independence Hall. Philadelphia’s
place in early American history is well known, having
served as the temporary national capital and hosting
Congress, the Supreme Court, and the President while
waiting for the completion of Washington DC in 1800.
Independence Hall played a pivotal role during this
time as the site for the signing of the Declaration
of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and the
Constitution while its steeple housed the Liberty
Bell. Although entry to the building was free, it
was only available by scheduled guided tour, and we
didn't have time to stick around for the next one.
Instead, we took shelter from the storm next door
where the Liberty Bell was on display. Afterwards,
we had just enough time for another cheesesteak before
returning to the hotel to get dressed in our finery.
Mysterious forces were at work that afternoon as the
clouds vanished and the sun shone through to make
for a spectacular outdoor wedding and reception.
On Sunday morning, we departed
early because of long drive back to New England. We
took a more circuitous return route so that we could
visit Valley Forge, the mere mention of which evokes
feelings of cold and blustery weather. Other than
joggers and deer, there wasn't a tremendous amount
to see at this historic site where Washington’s men
endured the severe winter of 1777-1778, so we drove
around for a short while enjoying the views and wildlife.
We were soon back on the road and meandering through
the towns of Paradise, Intercourse, and Bird-in-Hand
into the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
These descendants of 18th century German immigrants
(“dutch” being a derivative of deutsch) are
renowned for their austere way of life. We spotted
many of them out and about on this fine Sunday, but
our amateur eyes were unable to distinguish whether
they were Amish, Mennonites, or members of the Brethren.
It was getting late, and we had had enough “buggy
chasing” for one morning, so we hit the nearest highway
to make our way back home.
A wet mint.
Few people know Jefferson wrote
his first draft on cowhide.
America's most famous crack.
Early morning deer at Valley
Soldiers slept 12 to a barrack.