Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New England Road Trip Vacation

 From September 20-28, Nathan and I drove all the way up the East coast from Pennsylvania to Maine.  Neither of us had really seen New England before, so this trip was full of new experiences for both of us!  Before we went, we made lists of all the campgrounds we planned to go to, interesting activities and their hours and prices, and places to eat.  We planned to be flexible and not stick to a strict schedule; we happily followed through with this [non-]plan!  I'm just going to walk you through each of our days and the places we visited along the way.

Day 1: Our first day was mostly spent driving.  We stopped at Cheddar's for lunch (which we know from going there in Nashville has awesome chicken tenders and broccoli cheese casserole) and had an adventure trying to find internet access to buy Five Iron Frenzy concert tickets.  Also payed a LOT of money on PA toll roads.  We made it to our first campsite (West of Philadelphia) and were able to set up before it got dark, though the power at the sites was out so it was a COLD night without our heater!

Philadelphia, PA

We packed up our campsite first thing in the morning and headed into Philly! Our first stop was Fort Mifflin.

 As you can read on this historical marker, this fort was used in the Revolutionary War all the way up through the 1950s.  When Nathan and I first got to the fort we just wandered around an read the signs, but we had been told a tour was going through a little bit later and that we were welcome to join them.  We're so glad we did!  We learned so much more about the fort and the stories that go with it.  It made it much more personal and interesting.

This hidden chamber was excavated just a few years ago
It contained a cell which once held the only prisoner ever to be executed at the fort.  His name was Hal.  I'll have to ask Nathan to write the story here because I'm sure he remembers it better than I do!


Look at how many canon used to be here!
Musket demonstration


Next, we drove into downtown Philadelphia for lunch for- what else- Philly cheese steaks!  There are two really famous cheese steak places, and they're right across the street from each other... so we got one from each place so we could do a taste test!  Ordering is funny- you say "wiz wit" for cheese wiz with onions (which is the classic combo).


 Geno's vs. Pat's King of Steaks... Pat's was the clear winner!  It was sooooo good.  That sandwich was one of my favorite parts of vacation.  Haha!


 We also stopped for gelato on the walk back to the car.  Yum :)

Next stop?  Oh, just Edgar Allan Poe's house!!

 If you don't know, I'm a Poe fan.  :)  It was so cool to look around a place he lived and see some references from his work. This was another favorite stop of mine.
 Poe's bedroom

Poe's cellar ("The Black Cat" was written while he lived in this house)

Next, we parked near the historical district and checked out some of the famous landmarks.  This is a printing press from Benjamin Franklin's print shop.  We got to watch a demonstration of a document being printed- it only takes a few seconds.  We also saw a rental property of his and some artifacts from the time when we lived.


We saw Independence Hall but we didn't go in. Crazy lines.


The tomb of the unknown soldier in Washington Square, which, as it turns out, is a mass grave.  It just looks like a beautiful park- I never would have guessed.


We just thought this was funny.  This tree was grown from a seed that went to the moon...
 ...which apparently stunted its growth or something.  This tree is older than we are.  Ha!
On the way out of Philadelphia we stopped by Ringing Rocks State Park! It's a big open field piled full of boulders... which is an odd sight in itself.  But the interesting thing about these rocks is that they ring like a bell, or like iron on iron, if you strike them with a hammer or another rock.  It was really cool!

Our second camp sight was one of the prettiest.  Aaaand free.  We got in late and I'd called ahead to make sure we could pay in the morning before we left, but we rolled out around 9am and there was still nobody in the office so we couldn't pay!  Hey- makes up for the crazy expensive PA toll roads.


Day 2:
Plymouth, PA

The next day and night was supposed to be Old Saybrook, CT, but the town wasn't anything special and our campground turned out to be more of a seedy trailer park, so we decided to move on to Plymouth, PA instead.  We're so glad we did!  Here's our gorgeous campsite up on a hill.


Our very first lobster rolls (at the Lobster Hut)!  Neither of us is a crazy lobster lover, but these were really good.  Definitely the best lobster I've ever had.  The clam chowder was also very good. 


The pier behind the Lobster Hut.  Really beautiful view.


The oldest church in North America!  It was really beautiful.  Weird thing it... it's now a Unitarian Universalist church. Hm. But there's a church right next door that has a fabulous plaque explaining how they broke off from the old congregation during the Unitarian conflict and actually stuck to what the pilgrims believed ;)


Plymouth Rock!  Yep, it's a rock. In the sand.


Our first night in Plymouth we went on a ghosts and legends lantern tour.  I was a little nervous because I don't typically like scary things, but it was really worth it.  Despite all the ghost stories, we learned a whole lot of history and really felt more connected to the town afterward. 


The lanterns were beautiful... the tour, creepy.


Day 3:

This is where we went to church on Sunday morning.  We really liked the service.  And the pastor rapped... kind of.  He was an old white guy, so it was pretty entertaining. ;)


Death's heads on tombstones in the oldest cemetery in North America. 


A very piratey one



There's a creepy true story (not a ghost story, just freaky) that goes along with this mass grave (skip this paragraph if you have a weak stomach). A ship full of men got stuck in Plymouth harbor because the water froze over.  It was so cold and they were stuck for so long that the men started to lose hope and break into the stores of rum.  The captain told them to stop drinking it and start putting it in their boots (apparently it acts as a sort of antifreeze?).  Story goes that the men who drank the rum died, and the ones who put it in their boots lived.  When rescue eventually came, the men who died were brought to shore frozen in contorted positions, as they died clinging to the ropes or hunched for warmth.  They couldn't be put in coffins because of the strange positions they were stuck in.  So someone came up with the wise idea to stick them in the river to thaw their bodies out... needless to say, that didn't work, and the men ended up being buried as they were together in this grave.  Freaky, right?!

For a happy ending, note that the captain, who survived years past this incident, requested that he be buried with his crew when he died. Aww.


The site of the oldest homes in N America.




The river mentioned above... it's actually really pretty...


The Mayflower II.  This is a scale replica of the original Mayflower that the colonists sailed to America on.  This one was actually built in England using period techniques and sailed here, too!







We really loved Plymouth.  It was just a pretty town with a ton of interesting history.  We'd definitely go back.

Day 4:
Salem, MA

We had another pretty campsite on Winter Island in Salem, Massachusetts.  You can see the ocean through the trees in this picture.

The Witch Dungeon Museum was interesting... it consisted of a skit and a walk through a creepy reproduction dungeon full of fake people.  Between that and reading the history of the witch trials on the walls we did learn a fair deal.  Not the best museum ever, but at least we got something out of it.

We wanted to go to a pioneer village in Salem but it was only open on weekends and we were there on a Monday.  Bummer!

The Friendship.  We couldn't get on (we think it was closed for repairs), but it was such a pretty ship.

Winter Island (at our campground).  There was also a very pretty beach just a stone's throw away from our site.  We ate fancy chocolate (from the oldest candy company in America, of course) on the beach :)


Day 5:

We made a special stop in between Salem and Bay Harbor just to stop at Red's Eats, which supposedly has the best lobster roll in Maine.  We found that in reality, it was the most expensive lobster roll in Maine with the longest lines.  They DID give us an absolute ton of lobster, but it was just too much meat for the tiny bun!  It was a big disappointment... so don't bother.

...but the view was pretty.

Day 6:
Acadia National Park, Bay Harbor, ME

We wanted to go sailing on a big sailboat this day, but the weather was bad so none of the boats were going out.  Nathan was really disappointed and the dreary day seemed lost... but then we went to Acadia!


One of our favorite parts of our trip was our visit to Acadia National Park.  It was just really, really beautiful.  We just drove around, got out, took pictures, went hiking... it was very relaxing and pretty.










We kind of stumbled upon the stables that offer carriage rides of the park.  We only got to go because someone else backed out.  We took a tour of the bridges in the park built by Rockefeller.  Again, it was very relaxing and pretty.




Our campsite in Maine


Day 7:
DRIVING!

It poured that night, so we woke up with puddles in the tent.  We were so glad the rain held off til our last night!!

Day 8:
Hershey, PA

Our final stop was Hershey's Chocolate World... because it was midway...and... I really love chocolate.  We took a cute little tour and bought some chocolate, of course! 

And then we drove home.  It was such a fun vacation full of adventures.  I'm so thankful to Robin for watching our boys so that Nathan and I could spend so much time together.  We had a blast and would love to visit some of these places again some day.  I love vacations :)

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