USA Blog June 16
The last few nights we have spent with Marc and Ang Breuer who have been incredibly hospitable to us. So much so, we could be tempting to move in permanently with them!
Whilst Ang went out and was busy cycling in preperation for a weeks cycling vacation in Texas, coming up soon, Marc took us in to the beautiful city of Philadelphia to have a look at the history.
We visited the Liberty Bell in it's home, Independence and Constitution Hall, and Benjamin Franklin's museum at the site of his home on Market Street.
Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly Isaac Norris first ordered a bell for the bell tower in 1751 from the Whitechapel Foundry in London. That bell cracked on the first test ring. Local metalworkers John Pass and John Stow melted down that bell and cast a new one in Philadelphia. The State House bell became a herald of liberty in the 19th century. "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof," the bell's inscription, provided a rallying cry for abolitionists wishing to end slavery. The Anti-Slavery Record, an abolitionist publication, first referred to the bell as the Liberty Bell in 1835, but that name was not widely adopted until years later. Millions of Americans became familiar with the bell in popular culture through George Lippard's 1847 fictional story "Ring, Grandfather, Ring", when the bell came to symbolize pride in a new nation. Beginning in the late 1800's, the Liberty Bell traveled across the country for display at expositions and fairs, stopping in towns small and large along the way. For a nation recovering from wounds of the Civil War, the bell served to remind Americans of a time when they fought together for independence. Movements from Women's Suffrage to Civil Rights embraced the Liberty Bell for both protest and celebration.
Construction on the building of Independence Hall started in 1732. Built to the Pennsylvania State House, the building originally housed all three branches of Pennsylvania's colonial government. The Pennsylvania legislature loaned their Assembly Room out for the meetings of the Second Continental Congress and later, the Constitutional Convention. Here, George Washington was appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in 1775, the Articles of Confederation were adopted in 1781, and Benjamin Franklin gazed upon the "Rising Sun" chair in 1787.
A lot of American history there, which was very interesting, particularly reading extracts from the American Constitution, and the pursuit of an equal and idealistic country, with ideas that still seem relevant today.
Thank you Marc, a most enjoyable day.
After bumping along the road to view the mountain overlook this morning, and finding it a little misty, we started to move on again. Today was extremely warm, and the closer we got to Maryland the more humid the temperature became. However, we managed to dodge the rain again, and pulled up to my cousin Louise’s at about 3.45 pm.
Lou had been sent home early from her job at school due to a suspect package, and Iain and Ruth had both had the day off. They welcomed us into their home, making poor Ruth leave her bedroom to let us have it, and as we were so hot and sticky we showered before heading back downstairs.
From then on, we spent hours catching up and talking about various holidays we had all taken, and where they had enjoyed on their visits around the U.S.A. A wonderful time, with our lovely family. Louise was also kind enough to make us a lovely meal, full of veg, salad and fruit- a very welcome sight after all the meat we’ve been seeing.
Next morning, we awoke after everyone had left, and had a leisurely breakfast left by Lou, before heading out. Iain had recommended that we make our journey today via Lancaster, which is Amish country, and so we did. Once again, beautiful scenery and a few glimpses of horse and carts, plus an Amish girl on a scooter (no pedal power allowed). The shops were all Amish goods for sale, furniture and wooden products.
We arrived at Gladwyne, at 3.30, to the beautiful home of Marc and Ang Breuers who had invited us to stay for a couple of nights. Marc is a buddy that Paul has met from the rally world. We have been made to feel extremely welcome, and at home, in an extraordinary way. Last night Marc took us to his family restaurant (a 3 minute walk away), for an exquisite meal. Paul and I both enjoyed Sweinepfeffer very much.
Another early rise, this time after a quick breakfast we set off for the Elk Viewing area that Gina the waitress had told us about. Gina was born in the area we stayed in, and told us she was brought up with the Elks all around, and that it is particularly special in the area in mating season, when the Elk bulls bugle loudly.
The viewing area was at Benazette, about 10 miles away from our route, but it was well worth it. The area was beautiful, and we were lucky enough to see two female Elks having a good munch on the grass.
Moving on today, we rode through a lot of farm land, toward West Virginia, our stop for the night. The scenery was still very green, with the rising Blue Ridge Mountains briefly in the distance. Quite a lot of similarities to Kent, apart from the well spaced wooden houses, which have no set boundaries, no fences, and large open fronts. We saw a great many people on their sit on mowers today, they must spend hours mowing away. The rest of the county appeared to be out on their motorcycles again today, we saw all kinds, sports bike riders, lady Harley rider teams, adventure bike riders, dirt bike riders. If they’re not motorcyclists, they enjoy other toys, Buggies, caravans, R.V.’s, pickup up trucks as high as a small house, or low slung older style cars with loud smoking exhausts.
We met a few interesting people today:
One an old guy at Top’s Diner at Huntingdon, who told us his life story extremely quickly, without pause, right back from when he was a boy. A very sweet old guy, who told us 15 years ago he had weighed 300 lb (21 ½ stone), and had to have 4 bypasses on his heart. Apparently he was told to change his diet, as he was eating McDonalds 4 times a day (we’re guessing this might be quite normal here), and now he goes to the Diner every day, and they make him a salad, full of Spinach!
The second was Alberto, who pulled in to the Gas station when we were stopped for a drink. His bike was identical to Paul’s (although not any people here seem to have heard of BMW as a make of motorcycle), same year and everything. He was so excited, he abandoned his bike and leapt off to talk to us. Turns out he is Chilean, and had lots of useful info to give us about both Central and South America, and in particular Chile. Alberto has worked in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for 25 years, but still loves his country very much.
Tonight’s stop is in Cacapon State Park, Berkeley Springs, which is beautiful, and overlooking mountains.
After staying close by to the falls last night, we got up early at 6.15, so we could beat the rush of people to view the falls.
It was a lovely 10 minute walk across the bridge to the viewing point at Cave of Winds, across on Goat Island, and the weather was warm and sunny.
The Niagara Falls are truly amazing, the fact that you can see just over the river to Canada, across either sides of the very top of Lake Erie. The Canadian side of the falls, known as Horshoe are reached over Rainbow Bridge, and it is really not hard to see why it is named that.
We did beat the crowds, and were lucky enough to get good clear views of the water constantly gushing down, and I was even allowed onto the Observation Deck, once we had established that it only cost $1.25 each, not the $18.25 we first thought ("I'm not paying that!").
We had finished viewing and returned to our motel by 10 am, and were ready to move on for the day.
As it was Saturday, there was a constant stream of Harley Davidsons everywhere. Today we also saw large amounts of cyclists, and people barbequeing, swimming in little round pools, out back of their roadside homes, plus the normal deer, and bear signs (no actual bears yet!).
Lunch was in a little town called Hamburg, that we chose by following signs for food from the highway. A father and daughter chatted to us over lunch, and bought our drinks for us, fascinated as to why we chose their little town for lunch.
This evening we reached the motel we wanted to stay at, in Emporium, but it was full, so ended at St Marys instead, where me met a lovely waitress at Pizza Hut, called Gina. Gina was full of enthusiasm, and enjoyed talking about England, where she had visited 10 years ago. She also has kindly given us details of a local Elk viewing centre, so we'll now be heading there in the morning.
Setting off this morning, the weather was a glorious 20 degrees with a slight breeze. Warm enough for no gloves I had first thought, but no, I did need them. Although most of the bikers that pass us in the other direction are wearing shorts, vests and leather waistcoats on their Harley Davidson's,some with a little half helmet (which doesn't even cover their ears) some with their heads bare. Rather them, than us! One guy at our lunch stop exclaimed at "all that gear- in this heat?", but once you're riding along it's comfortable. It's only roasting when we stop in traffic jams, which always seem to come later in the day, and it's reaching 30 degrees, like today when we cruised into Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls!! We cannot wait to visit the falls in the morning, for now though we are enjoying the air conditioning in our motel, the Rodeway Inn.
For now, just sometimes, it still feels like we're starring in a USA road trip movie, where all the characters are larger than life, and cliches of everything you ever thought about America!