J&D's Travelog



October 26-28, 2007


A good friend of ours from college was getting married near Villanova and invited us to participate in the festivities. In our younger and wilder days, we had spent many nights at the bar throwing darts and throwing down beers with the groom-to-be, so we jumped at the opportunity to attend. We were just back from Aruba and had just enough time to unpack the shorts and pack the sweaters before hopping into the car to drive to Philadelphia.

Commemoration of Washington's crossing of the Delaware River
Site of the Delaware River crossing.

Durham boats
Replicas of the Durham boats.

Thompson-Neely house
Thompson-Neely House.

Pat's and Geno's in South Philly
The center of the cheesesteak universe.

How to order a steak
Rules of ordering

Geno's steaks
J has a go at Geno's.

Philly and Its Environs

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 Revolution.

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.

The Pennsylvania State House became known as Independence Hall
Independence Hall.


Philadelphia mint
A wet mint.


Bovine Declaration of Independence
Few people know Jefferson wrote his first draft on cowhide.


The Liberty Bell
America's most famous crack.


Deer graze at Valley Forge.
Early morning deer at Valley Forge.


Soldiers barracks at Valley Forge.
Soldiers slept 12 to a barrack.

Amish on the horizon.
Heading back from church.

Valley Forge monument to the Continental Army
Monument to the Continental Army.

Washington's headquarters at Valley Forge
Washington's HQ at Valley Forge.

Intercourse bound.
Intercourse bound.

Beware of buggies.
Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Lancaster County is farm country.
Amish gentlemen on the go.

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