Wednesday, March 29, 2017

#323 Go On A Camping Trip

Camping is an awesome time.
With warmer weather around the corner, camping season will be in full swing again. And while camping isn't for everyone, it is an experience everyone should try at least once in their lives. Camping teaches us about the many things we take for granted in day to day life.

Indoor plumbing is one instance. Another instance would be appliances like ovens, refrigerators, washing machines and dryers. However, camping is not at all a negative experience. I think camping can be very fun, relaxing and inspirational.

I have done most types of camping, from rustic tents to pop up campers to camping on a boat. I've stayed in many local campgrounds throughout the Poconos. I've also camped in New Jersey and on a boat in Watkins Glen. Some of the campgrounds are more modern such as the Beachcomber in Cape May, NJ or Splash Magic in Northumberland, PA. Some of them are definitely more rustic such as Locust Lake, Hickory Run and definitely Promised Land State Park. The last three mentioned are all Pennsylvania state parks.

There are many types of campgrounds. Some are restricted only to tents. Some are geared towards RVs and pop ups. Some offer cabins. Some welcome everything. The biggest thing when figuring out where to stay, is to keep in mind what you are willing to go without. If you are looking for a campground with a pool, playgrounds, a grocery store, family activities and flushing toilets, campgrounds like the Beach Comber and Splash Magic are perfect choices. If you are looking for peace and quiet, nature walks, and escaping the modern world, campgrounds like Locust Lake and Promised Land are great choices.

Roughing it.
To be perfectly honest, I do prefer a more rustic campground than a more modern one. Why? I just seem to get more mentally from a rustic camping trip. There is more work involved in one sense. You have to set up the tent and make sure there are no rocks underneath it. Sometimes you don't realize until you are ready to sleep that you missed a rock. That's always fun.

You have to gather wood to start the fire. You have to prepare meals that can be cooked over an open fire. You have to walk pretty far to the nearest bathroom. You have to accept dirt in your life. You have to make sure to store your food in coolers or else attract critters, sometimes smelly or rabid ones, to your site.

Same goes for the garbage. Make sure the garbage bags are kept in a secure spot. We would put them in the trunk of our car. We once had a family of raccoons visit our site one evening while we were asleep. They were so loud from fighting with each other that their screeching woke us. I am not gonna lie, I was a little scared that night because at the time, I did not know they were raccoons.

The next morning half our food was gone. They took the whole bag of marshmallows, plastic and all. Same with the cheese danish. They took the entire package including the metal tin. The hot dogs, buns and butter were all gone. The even took a plastic bottle of ketchup. We actually had to run out to buy more food because they obliterated us. Lesson learned. We stashed the food in coolers and in the cars.

The next night the raccoons came back for more. The food was stashed so there was no way they were getting any snacks. Didn't stop them from trying though. All you could hear was this non stop scratching for almost an hour. When we woke the next day, the cooler had these deep scratches on the lid from the raccoon family trying to get into it.

My mother looked over to a storm drain and saw these glowing eyes staring at her. Needless to say, that day, there were a few sick raccoons making noises from the woods. Eating plastic doesn't feel so great to the digestive system huh? Little buggers. Campgrounds are a gangsta's paradise for Trash Pandas.

The Trash Panda family of food thieves. 

I've stayed at campsites where there was no electricity or water spigot. If you wanted water, you either brought your own jugs or walked to the community spigot to fill your water vessels. If you wanted light, you used lanterns and flashlights. If you wanted warmth, you put on extra layers and cozied up to the campfire. If you wanted entertainment, you listened to a battery operated radio, read books and played card and board games.

Yes, you have your cell phone, we had our phones, but even the top carriers with the broadest ranges often times have sporadic to no coverage in the more rustic campsites. We mostly used our cell phones to take pictures and send the occasional text but that was it. Besides, sometimes we all just need to put down our phones and forget about it for a few days. It's tough but also rewarding.

Ricky chilling on the tire swing in Locust Lake
If it is a scorching hot day at a rustic campground, you could walk through some natural air conditioning via shaded nature trails or soak in a lake for some relief. If it is raining, you can lie in your tent and listen to nature's tears or hang under a canopy and watch mother nature give the earth a bath.

If you are camping near a lake, make an effort to wake at sunrise. I highly recommend it. The mist coming off the lake at daybreak is nothing short of amazing. It's like sitting in a cloud. It's also the ideal time to gather firewood and get the blaze going for some percolated coffee.

Nightime is the perfect time to enjoy fire shows. To experience this, all you have to do is look around the lake or down the horizon. Depending on the set up of the campground, sometimes you can see the beautiful glow of all the many campfires from other sites. It's a simple and pretty view against the pitch black sky. And let's not forget nature's glitter. Depending on the time of summer you are camping, be sure to check out the trees and fields after dark. Thousands upon thousands of fireflies can often be seen fluttering about the trees, showcasing an enchanting display of sparkles in the dark of night. Who said there is no such thing as fairies?

A cool tree growing out of rocks on one of our hikes.
Sure, Camping can be very uncomfortable depending on the elements but, if you change your perspective slightly, it's really not so bad. Food cooked over an open fire is some of the best tasting food ever. Watching the little forest critters scurrying about can literally amuse you for hours.

My kids and I would hike around trails trying to identify trees, birds, plants, and flowers. Nature books are great to take along when camping. You learn so much about your surroundings that it actually takes on this whole new appearance. It's like a world within a world.

My kids and I would stroll around the lake searching for turtles, minnows and pollywogs. There were so many of them. We would stop to admire the clusters of lily pads, our eyes scanning the water for frogs we could hear but could not see.
"Yes! There's a frog. Look mom, there is another one!"
"Look at the turtle bobbing his head out of the water mom. He is so cute!"

My girl scout making trail mix.
The kids and I would search for the perfect walking stick. In those quests, we would also find sticks ideal for roasting marshmallows and hot dogs. We would gather wildflowers and daises and place them in jars or water bottles as centerpieces for our picnic table.

We would fill sandwich bags with our own custom trail mixes made from items I bought from the grocery store. Here is another camping tip for everyone: Do not forget to secure your sandwich bag of trail mix. If you leave it alone for even a minute, a chippy or squirrel will have that bag ripped open in no time and eat all your candy corn. Those furry, fluffy jerks.....from the jerk store!

Custom Made Trail Mix
Add these goodies to your camping grocery list then have some fun with your family and friends making your own custom trail mixes. A lot of these items you can pick up at the dollar store.   

  • Sandwich Bags
  • M&Ms
  • Animal Crackers
  • Granola
  • Chex or Life Cereal
  • Yogurt Covered Raisins
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Mini Pretzel Twists
  • Roasted Peanuts
  • Dried Apricots
  • Frosted Mini Wheats
  • Candy Corn
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Dried Apple or Banana Chips

As for the more modern campgrounds, they are great too. You can take a warm shower. You can use flushing toilets. Some have pools and little beaches. Maintenance will pick up your garbage everyday and they have plenty firewood for sale. Modern campgrounds also have more activities such as family movie nights, craft workshops and bingo nights. One of the downfalls to modern campgrounds is they tend to pack people in tight. They are always crowded. But, if you are looking for a cheaper alternative to a hotel in a more expensive vacation area, these campgrounds are perfect for families with children.

The Redheaded days. Doing puzzles & chillin in the screen tent.
In closing, I highly recommend doing a rustic camping trip for at least 2-3 days. Leave the electronics at home. Keep cell phone usage restricted to emergencies and taking pictures. Avoid social media, television and the news.

Enjoy some relaxation in nature. Allow her to embrace you. Set up some chairs around the fire. Take a nap in a hammock. Use the cast iron for some delicious campfire cooking. Stroll through the forest and discover her mysterious world.

Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald's, Facebook, Instagram, television, your bills, your responsibilities, your stresses, they will all be there waiting for you when you come back to the modern world. Trust me. They aren't going anywhere. However, your mind will thank you for the small break from reality.

Some of My Other Outdoor Adventures
#27 Ride On A Boat
#129 Watch The Sun Set and Sun Rise In One Day
#138 Visit Boulder Field, Hickory Run State Park
#208 Try Kayaking
#296 Climb To The Top Of A Lighthouse
#304 Go Apple Picking
#311 Watch The Sun Set On A Beach

Some Of My Favorite Camping Recipes

Campfire Banana Splits

Campfire banana splits.
Grilled Naan Pizza

Grilled Naan Pizza. As long as you have a grate, you can cook over fire.

Useful Camping Links
Fun Activities To Try When Camping 


Ricky and Bill searching for treasure.

Prettiest girl at the campground. 

The Chippy did this! 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

#239 Learn To Use Chopsticks

I love using chopsticks. They are so much fun. I wish I could use chopsticks for all of my meals but that would look really silly. Plus, I'm not quite sure how I would eat a slice of pizza or a cheeseburger with chopsticks. Maybe I could stab the cheeseburger with a chopstick, pick it up and try to eat some of it before it slid off the chopstick. The pizza?? Let's just forget this idea. I'll use the chopsticks for Asian cuisine and Asian cuisine only. And maybe salads. And French Fries. But that is it!

Learning to use chopsticks isn't that difficult really. It takes a little practice to get your coordination down but it's definitely not as intimidating as it appears. Don't get me wrong, I am by no means perfect when I use them. I still drop food back onto the plate or down my shirt. Actually, I do that with all my food. It really makes no difference what my utensil of choice is. But, I can also pick up a single grain of rice with chopsticks too. It's not that hard.

General Tso's Chicken
One grain of rice. Yes. I am that good. LOLOL!

Using chopsticks is actually beneficial to your digestion too. They force you to eat slower. You are also eating smaller bites of food. You can't shovel food into your mouth like with a fork, spoon or your hands. I mean, you can still shove a huge piece of sushi or General Tso's chicken in your mouth with chopsticks but overall, you do eat slower. When you eat slower, it gives your stomach the opportunity to send a signal to your brain saying that it is full, before you overeat.

My daughter is a south paw and she works those chopsticks like magic. She is teaching her brother how to use them too since he is also a south paw. He likes to eat french fries with chopsticks. It's good practice though. Unfortunately I do not have any funny chopstick stories so this will be a shorter blog. It's a shocker I do not have any funny stories because I usually have at least one for every event.

In closing, if you are too shy to try using chopsticks in a restaurant, give it a whirl at home with your Chinese Chow Mei Fun, Japanese Sushi, Korean Barbecue, Thai Spring Rolls or American potato chips.

Some Useful Links:   

A Brief History Of Chopsticks
How To Use Chopsticks by The Japan Guy 
Types of Chopsticks 


Sunday, March 19, 2017

#139 Try Sushi

Ni Hao Buffet At State College, PA
So.... is sushi a trend? I believe at one time, in the US, it was. At one time, this ages old Japanese cuisine was something that could really only be found in metro areas such as Los Angeles and New York City. I'm sure there were some sushi restaurants and Japanese steakhouses dotting the landscape outside of big cities in the US, but it did not truly explode into the mainstream until the 90's and 2000's.

Why the explosion? Sushi was relished by the rich and famous. Celebrities often listed it as their favorite food. The Iron Chefs of Food Network often incorporated it into their meals. Health gurus often promoted it along with tofu diets.

The general population, intrigued with this unique cuisine began venturing out to try it. Eventually, it became the "thing" to do. After awhile though, Sushi lost it's "trendy" status, which was a beautiful thing.

Why did that happen? Because, most "trends" have a lifespan of about a year, maybe a little longer. Ask the fashion industry. Ask the diet doctors. Ask the "As Seen On TV" inventors. However, there are also lifestyles and products that have been around forever, and will remain around forever, but were thrust into the spotlight for a short period of time because a public figure was doing it/wearing it/promoting it/talking about it. This lifestyle or product had a "trendy" moment but will also survive the moment.

Baked Maryland Crab Sushi
Baked Maryland Crab Sushi. Aloha Sushi Club, Baltimore
Sushi, like pizza, has been around for ages. It became trendy, but then became a part of day to day life because of it's continued popularity. Supply and demand has made it possible for the common folk to enjoy sushi in their own back yards now. You no longer have to travel to a metropolis to try it. In fact, a lot of Chinese restaurants have started adding the Japanese delectable to their menus as well.  Sushi successfully crossed over from "trendy" to mainstream in the US.

This is where my part comes in. I am not really a "trendy" person. There are most certainly things flowing through the popular culture waves that pique my interest, but those things number a few. I wanted no part of the sushi trend at all. Raw fish? Eel sauce? Fish eggs? No freakin way was I eating that. Ewwwwww!!! Disgusting. The whole thing just grossed me out completely. And I have a pretty broad palette.

Yet, 7 years ago, for whatever reason, I had a change of heart. I was shopping in Wegman's with my friend Jere. She wanted to pick up some spicy crab sushi from their sushi bar. I winced but followed her over to the stand. She was so excited that they had her favorite kind. She started explaining to me all the different flavors and varieties of sushi there were. I found her passion and knowledge awesome. I thought the little packages were interesting and colorful. They were certainly art in my opinion. I still wasn't eating it though. No way.

Sushi & Crab Rangoon @ Jumbo China Buffet
Later that day, while we were hanging at her house, she asked me to just try some of her crabmeat sushi. She knew I would love it. I must admit for the first time ever, I was a little curious. I was also starving. She held the tray in front of me. I reluctantly took a piece of sushi from the tray. It took me a moment or two to get up the nerve to actually put it in my mouth. I had to talk myself into it.

Miss Adventurous my ass, I scolded myself. 
Oh yea, I'm always up for trying new things and having new experiences.
It's not like I was going to jump out of a moving train. It's a piece of food for Christ's sake. Just try it. ( My head is a very interesting place to be sometimes. Sighs.)

Finally, I closed my eyes, shoved the piece of sushi in my mouth and began to chew. I was prepared to be completely appalled and ready to puke. I even had a tissue on stand by to spit into because it was going to be so disgusting. But, that never happened. It was delicious and tasty and wonderful. I was not expecting that. I totally stood corrected. I was gonna eat my own words but then Jere offered me another piece of sushi so I ate that instead.

Godzilla Roll
Eventually I found myself driving up to Wegman's weekly to buy that savory, spicy crab sushi sprinkled with Old Bay seasoning. One week, Wegman's didn't have the spicy crab sushi so, I decided to be adventurous and try the not spicy crab sushi.

It was ok. I preferred the spicy one much better. Then it happened. The Jumbo China Buffet started serving sushi as part of the buffet. Or, maybe they always did and I never noticed. Who knows? All I knew was this gave me the perfect opportunity to try some different sushis.

I tried the Philly Roll. It was okay. The cream cheese in it was a little weird for me. I tried the California roll. It was alright. I liked the Shrimp sashimi. The tuna roll wasn't gross but I was not really a fan. Once in awhile I get a hankering for a tuna fish sandwich. Otherwise, I am not a big tuna fan. I also only really enjoy salmon if it is smoked. This is why I suck at diets. Two of the top recommended diet foods are Salmon and Tuna. One I won't eat unless it is smoked and the other one I won't eat unless it is mixed with gobs of mayo. Epic failure!!

Then something else happened. Yes, Mirakuya happened. My world was about to be blessed with shrimp tempura, eel sauce and panko bread crumbs. Mirakuya is a Japanese Hibatchi and sushi restaurant and it opened in my city. Hazleton finally had a restaurant dedicated to Japanese food. Hello Godzilla Roll!

No worries though. The Godzilla Roll is not scary like the name implies. Not at all. The Godzilla Roll is actually a shrimp tempura roll coated in eel sauce then topped with tuna that is mixed with lots of spicy mayo and panko crumbs which actually makes it taste like crab, not tuna. I know that is really weird but that's what I taste. Then, they drizzle more eel sauce over the roll. I destroy that baby every time I order it.

Shogun Roll and Godzilla Roll

And who knew eel sauce was so tasty? I know I didn't. Eel sauce is the Japanese equivalent of the Italian Balsamic reduction we drizzle on everything. I also enjoy the Mikado roll. The Mikado is shredded surimi (fake crab meat) mixed with mayo and panko then rolled up in rice. I usually get a basic shrimp tempura roll to go along with the Mikado roll because...I just do. They are my favorite combo. Sometimes I venture out and try a different roll but for the most part, these two rolls are my go to favorites. Whenever I am at a new Japanese sushi place, I know those two rolls will be on the menu in some form or another.

In closing, I will say that I am not a purist when it comes to sushi. I could never order the sushi and sashimi platter. I guarantee I would not like most of the selections the chef has made. I just don't care for the texture and flavor of most raw fishes in the sushi and sashimi. But, there are sushi rolls that I absolutely adore. I must say, I am so glad I finally tried sushi. Even my son, who was one of the pickiest eaters on the planet, loves sushi. He tried it last year for the first time and now he is a regular connoisseur. He is even more experimental than I am. I think that is so great! never know. Sometimes things we think we will not enjoy, turn out to be a real passion for us. Never Say Never!

Lobster sushi
Lobster Lover's Roll and Chicken Tempura Roll, 5 Star Chinese Restaurant, Hazleton

Here are some links about sushi! 😁


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

#457 Tour A Brewery

Yuengling Brewery
The puppy truck!!!!

Once upon a time I worked for a company that was doing some downsizing. Unfortunately, a few of my close friends were let go in the first round of layoffs and firings. Not only was this event very shocking to me, it was also very upsetting to say the least. Without a doubt, I was definitely distraught over all of this. There were reals tears shed and many, many curse words spewed, all by me. In fact, I think I took things harder than most of the people laid off. LOL! Needless to say, it was never the same for me after that.

I missed them so much. Yes, we were close friends so I got to see them all the time, but I missed seeing their faces every morning in the halls. My heart was broken. But through all of this, I also got to witness many of my friends and former co-workers make the most of their time on unemployment. Instead of wallowing in sadness and depression, they turned their downtime into great opportunities. Carpe Diem was on the menu every day. Some traveled the country. Some went back to school. Some found higher paying jobs. Some learned how to relax a little.

And with each new round of layoffs, it appeared that an unusual tradition was rising from the ashes as well. This tradition became a rite of passage almost, for those who had been let go. What was this unusual tradition you ask? Well, it was a tour of the Yuengling Brewery of course. I mean, what else could it be?  It was free. It was fun. It had beer samples. What a great way to forget about your worries for awhile right? It was quite genius to be honest.

Eventually, it became my turn to go on the tour. Yep. I had just become the newest member of the Unexpected Vacationer's Club which was founded by two of my closest friends, Becky and Gerry. It was my turn to bond over brewskies with fellow friends and co-workers whom had also lost their jobs. As news of my layoff hit the waves, my downsized kin were there to warmly embrace me with open arms from the other side. They were aware of the emotional funnel cloud that was spinning through my brain. How? Why? What am I going to do? What do I need to do? Did this really happen? What's with all these creepy flying monkeys? It that a witch on a broom? WTF is going on here? Toto! Where is Kansas?

Becky, myself and Krista
There were real tears and curse words again. There was a heavy dose of anxiety and terror too. Thankfully, my outer circle peeps were able to empathize with me. They were able to point me in all the right directions. Once I was able to do all I needed to do, my feet landed in Kansas once more. I clicked my ruby red slippers three times and shouted Carpe Diem. All of a sudden, I found myself in Pottsville standing outside the Yuengling Brewery, ready to complete my initiation into the unemployed world.

Gerry & Becky, founding members of the Unexpected Vacationer's Club, and myself.

Well, not really. We actually drove to the Brewery. I was also wearing sneakers and I live in Pennsylvania not Kansas. But it kind of felt like a tornado swept me away. Anyways, it was my turn to visit the brewery and I was very excited to partake in this awesome, free distraction from my reality. I had never been to a brewery before. This was probably because I didn't even like beer. On this day though, we were living in Carpe Diem mode and trying new things. Here are some really cool things I learned on my tours of Yuengling Brewery.

Yuengling Brewery
Pottsville, PA.

  1. Yuengling Brewery has been around since 1829, making it the oldest brewery in America.
  2. The original founder, David Jungling, hailed from Germany and changed his surname to Yuengling.
  3. Before refrigeration, the beer was stored in caves underneath the brew house.
  4. During prohibition, the Yuengling family opened a dairy and made ice cream. It is very good ice cream. They started making it again but it is a separate company from the brewery. I really enjoy it. 
  5. After prohibition ended, President FDR received a truckload of beer from Yuengling.
  6. The brewery is operating under it's fifth generation of family ownership with Dick Yuengling Jr.
  7. The brewery must be purchased by each new generation of Yuengling's. It is not passed down or inherited.
  8. Yuengling has a sister plant in Tampa, Florida and one in Port Carbon, PA. However, the company is also very serious about not compromising the quality of their beer. It is not mass produced and sold nationwide.
  9. There is a tavern located in the brewery where samples are enjoyed after the tour. 
  10. Yuengling Lager is their most popular beer.
  11. Different beers are brewed and bottled on specific days of the week. Each batch must be sampled and approved by Mr. Yuengling before being sold to retailers.
  12. They are very, very strict about sterilization.
  13. Producing beer is no joke. There are many, many steps involved in making a good tasting beer. 
  14. They have a beer bottle roller coaster inside the brewery. Well, that is what I named it anyways. They probably don't call it that but if they want to call it that, I would be okay with it. 
  15. I actually enjoy Premium Light very much.
  16. The brewery, and the family that runs it, are downright amazing. Good people for sure!

Yuengling Ice Cream
Yummy Yuengling Ice Cream!

Yuengling Brewery
The Beer Roller Coaster
Felt like putting a glove on one of the bottles ala Laverne and Shirley. 
I did not.

Yuengling Brewery
Kegs in the cave.
Sometimes you have to take a walk on the wild side.
Yuengling Brewery
Awesome bench!
Getting our samples on in The Rathskellar

I got to meet Mr. Yuengling. He was so nice.

In closing, if you are looking for something cheap or free to do, check out your own back yard. There are many local breweries, distilleries and wineries in regions across the country that offer tours and specials. You may discover a product you enjoy, like I enjoy Premium Light and Yuengling Lager. You may also come to find that there are companies, products, events, etc. in your region that have some really amazing histories and contribute coolness and pride to you local region.


Friday, March 10, 2017

#430 See The Liberty Bell

The Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell

As part of the family Jersey/Philly weekend of June 2016, we spent a good part of Sunday, June 5th, strolling around Independence National Park. This park is often referred to as Historic Philadelphia, The Old City or Independence Mall but it really is a national park for real. And it is a very beautiful part of the city no doubt. I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised with how nice and clean the Old City was. However, it was the deep roots of history forever entwined with the birth of our nation that made Historic Philadelphia so incredibly fascinating to me.

I parked my Jeep in the most expensive parking garage in downtown Philadelphia because I am not at all familiar with this city and did not really know any better. No matter, I was pretty stoked to check out the very first capital of the United States of America. The most important thing on my Historic Philadelphia to do list was to see the Liberty Bell. Actually, it was the only thing on my to do list. Everything else was just an added bonus.

Once Upon A Nation
Storytelling Tours in The Old City
I have always wanted to see the bell since I learned about it back in my 4th grade history class. It was an icon of American independence and freedom from tyranny. However, some of that history definitely got lost on me because for some reason, and I know it was never hanging in the Vet ( Veterans Stadium), yet I always pictured it hanging in the Vet. I had been to the Vet several times to see Phillies games so I knew it was not in there yet my brain always associated the Liberty Bell with Veterans Stadium. Yes, my brain is a funhouse of weirdness.

It was fated for me to see the bell too because the parking garage was pretty much located next to where the Liberty Bell was housed. However, I did not realize this until after I spent two hours of endless searching. I saw many wonderful things during my search but the bell had eluded me thus far. I guess Captain Obvious was too good to notice any of the 50 signs pointing to the bell. Finally, I broke down and asked for directions not only for my own sanity but for the sanity of my kids as well.

The security guy smirked at me when I asked. He was probably thinking who is this winner? I deserved it though. I was a bad Pennsylvanian. I have lived in PA my entire life and was just getting around to seeing this majestic bell. That wasn't very Pennsylvanian of me was it? Nope. The security guard pointed to the building across the lawn from where we were standing. I just shook my head. It was the building by the parking garage where my Jeep was located. I just sighed.

We walked across the lawn to where the Liberty Bell was enshrined. I may have accidentally cut in line unwittingly and received a scolding from my kids. Seriously though, I couldn't read the signs pointing to where the bell was located so how could they expect me to read the signs on where to enter the line? Come on now. Was this really a shocker? The line wasn't long anyway. No harm no foul. I got behind the couple I cut in front of. They didn't even notice.

The Liberty Bell
Ricky and The Bell
We certainly picked a good time for some bell viewing too. It did not seem very crowded at all inside the building. Sweet! I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that visiting the bell was free of charge. You did have to go through a security check to enter the museum but I did not mind. I never do mind security checks. They are annoying yes, but they are a good thing. I was glad to see that the bell was being protected and guarded very seriously. The Liberty Bell is a national treasure. It is a precious symbol of the freedom we enjoy daily. It's a historic reminder of the men and women who fought for that very freedom from oppression we are blessed to experience.

Once we were considered secure, we entered the building. A long hallway stretched down towards the area where the Liberty Bell was located. As we began our jaunt towards the bell, I noticed the museum itself was very beautiful and quite modern. One wall of the corridor was lined with floor to ceiling windows while the other was lined with grey stone. The floor was designed with brick and the ceiling wore wooden planks and steel beams. Every few feet along the hallway stood an exhibit stand displaying pictures and plaques filled with information pertaining to the bell.

There were also a few small rooms containing memorabilia from colonial times associated with the Liberty Bell. I stopped and looked at a few museum pieces but honestly, I was too excited to see the bell. I also happened to notice a crowd gathering at the entrance of the museum. I wanted to reach the bell and take a few pictures before it became too crowded. I hurried my kids along the corridor, eager to beat the crowds.

The end of the hall opened to a room surrounded by white stone walls and a floor to ceiling window facing North. In the middle of the room, surrounded by roping, hung the Liberty Bell. She was larger than I expected. The deep dark color of her coating was beautiful and shiny. Not too shabby for a centuries old gal. The infamous fissure up the front of the her face was even deeper and more prominent than what I observed in photos.

According to historical notes, the crack in the Liberty Bell was once a small fissure that was made wider in an attempt to fix her scar. It failed. Sighs. The things men put us belles through. LOL. All kidding aside though, I thought the crack made her even more glorious. It gave her such undeniable character. Besides, having only one wrinkle at the age of 265 years old is pretty awesome in my book. Though delicate now, this aging beauty wears her strength proudly and with class.

The Liberty Bell
Philadelphia Freedom!

The kids and I circled around the bell a few times, taking in her presence. I would have loved to hear what she sounded like in her heyday, but the risk of further damaging this national treasure prevents the bell from ever being rung again. Understandably so. I actually found a sound byte on the Liberty Bell website, created by students from Penn State whom used mathematics and modern technology to compute what the bell would have sounded like back in the 1700's. It was very cool. Sounded just like church bells but a little deeper and with more vibration.

As for the heavy metal make up of the Liberty Bell, it was a mosh posh of Metallica and Iron Maiden. Just kidding. It's all Megadeath. Nah. Truth is, many different alloys were used during the initial casting as well as the two additional recasts. One recast was ordered so as to repair the crack in the bell. The second recast was ordered because the bell sounded horrible when rung. That was due to a poor formulation of alloys used in the first recast. Anyways, she cracked again after the second recast. Experts believe the many different components of alloys used, some of very poor quality, and the two additional castings, made the bell too weak and brittle. It would be too risky to ring her any more.

Independence Hall

Truth be told, there are many rumors and stories surrounding the Liberty Bell and it's troubled first century of life. I have read many different stories myself. I believe these stories just add to the mystique and legend that is the Liberty Bell. But, enough history lessons for today kids. Let's wrap this story up. My daughter declined taking selfies with me and the Liberty Bell but my son allowed me to photograph him next to the Liberty Bell. The crowd surrounding her was definitely growing larger so it was time to say goodbye. We soaked in all of her glory one last time then made our way out of the museum.

Chirst Church Burial Grounds
Benjamin Franklin's Grave
Historic Philadelphia had presented another opportunity for me. I had a new quest. I was looking to hunt down the original rock star of the USA. I was seeking out "The First American." Benjamin Franklin's grave was not very far from the Liberty Bell Museum. I had heard his grave was visible from the sidewalk running alongside of the Christ Church Burial Ground. And while Ben Franklin, like all public figures, had some shady dealings in his personal life and also had some views in which I completely disagreed, I still thought he was one of the most incredible and amazing figures in the history of history.

After visiting Ben's grave and offering up a penny like many other tourists had done, the kids and I headed back over to the area near the parking garage. We were tired and needed a rest before heading over to Franklin Square for the Chinese Lantern Festival. We relaxed on the benches in the Dream Garden, admiring the lush greenery and fragrant flowers. Our bellies were still pretty full from enjoying both Geno's and Pat's cheese steaks earlier in the day but we were getting thirsty and I needed to charge my phone.

Independence Beer Garden
Independence Beer Garden

Independence Beer Garden was a classy little bar located above the parking garage. We had to pass through it to get into the park. Maybe they had sodas there. I was not really in the mood for beer or alcohol. We still had a long second half of the day ahead of us and a torrential downpour to survive. As we neared the beer garden, we decided we were definitely going to get some drafts, just not the type of draft you would expect.

You see, there was a coffee shop in the same building as the Independence Beer Garden. They had outlets we could use to charge our phones. It was also a lot cheaper than the beer garden. (I would still like to visit the Independence Beer Garden one day.) We walked inside the coffee shop and took a seat in some of the plush faux leather comfy chairs they had surrounding little coffee tables. There were outlets near every table. This was outstanding.

Draft coffee
Draft Coffee.....absolute deliciousness!
It was not very crowded in LaColombe Torrefaction which was a bit of a relief. My phone would take forever just to get to 50% charge. I was probably going to have to sit here an hour although it seemed like the type of place where you could most certainly sit as long as you pleased. We noticed a barista pouring something out of a tap. Curious, my daughter and I headed over to see what this was all about.

The barista was more than happy to introduce us to draft coffee. She seemed very amused by what had to be extremely puzzled looks on our faces. How? That is all I kept thinking to myself. How do you make a draft coffee? And could it possibly taste any good? The barista happily gave my daughter and I a sampling of draft coffee. Both my mouth and my brain were very confused but very pleased by this draft coffee. It tasted rich, cold and creamy.

My daughter decided to treat me to one of these frothy and unique coffee concoctions. How sweet. Such a good kiddo she is. As we sat back into the comfy chairs and sipped at our new coffee experiences, I plugged in my phone and took some time to reflect on this day thus far. Experiencing The Liberty Bell and a historical icon's final resting place as well as other Old City treasures in one afternoon was pretty spectacular. I had no idea what to expect but was quite happy with the results of the afternoon. This little visit to the Old City was a grand adventure indeed.

The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier Philadelphia
The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier Philadelphia

Links To Historic Philadelphia Sites 


Saturday, March 4, 2017

#55 See The Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty
The Green Goddess
Back in the spring of 2008, with the assistance of the lovely Rebecca Brominski, my former place of employment, Network Solutions, ran a bus trip to NYC. Springtime in NYC is my most favorite time to visit.  The city is alive and vibrant. The air is fresh and clean. The flowers are in bloom. The streets are abuzz with craft and produce stands. The landscaping is the most gorgeous green. The sun shining off the skyscrapers is nothing less than brilliant. Spring in NYC is both glorious and welcoming.

I was so down for a little bus trip to my favorite city on the planet. I decided to take my daughter along on the bus trip since she loved the city as much as I did. My friend and co-worker Stacy really wanted to go as well but was feeling anxious about going into the city. She had never been. I reassured her I would be there for her. I was pretty comfortable navigating around the city and I could help her get to the places she wanted to visit.

On Saturday, May 17, 2008 some of my fellow co-workers, their families, my daughter and myself boarded the Network Solutions bus and headed to NYC for the day. None other than Mr. David Kriner was sitting in the back of the bus with two other Netsol badasses cracking us all up. In between naps and laughter, Becky, Stacy and another friend and co-worker of ours, Gerry, were discussing what all our plans were once we arrived in the Big Apple.

Stacy had mentioned really wanting to see the Statue of Liberty. I had really wanted to see it too. However, I had heard from people that have visited Liberty Island that going to see the statue was an all day event. The lines were incredibly long just to get into the statue and the crowds could sometimes be overwhelming. It was a Saturday so I could only imagine the wait to get in would be atrocious. Neither Stacy nor myself had the patience for that.

To be completely honest, neither one of us really wanted to go to Liberty Island. We just wanted to see her. We wanted to glimpse the Green Goddess, Miss Lady Liberty. She was the Lady of the Harbor whom proudly guided countless sailing vessels filled with dreamers through the New York harbor. She was a beacon of hope to those yearning for a better life in this great country of ours. In 1906 she was there to welcome my great grandfather and his family to America as they completed their voyage from Foggia, Italy to the United States. She embraced many of our ancestors. She was family. She was a mother to all. She was the end and she was the beginning for so very many.

Here Are 10 Fun Statue of Liberty Facts 

  1. She was given to us by the French in 1886. That makes her 131 years old this year. 
  2. She was modeled after the Roman Goddess of freedom, Libertas.
  3. A broken chain and shackles lay at the feet of the statue.
  4. The statue functioned as a lighthouse from 1886 until 1902. 
  5. The Statue's formal and official name is Liberty Enlightening The World.
  6. The 7 spikes on her crown represent the 7 oceans and 7 continents of the world.
  7. The statue is 305 feet from ground to torch.
  8. There are 354 steps to climb to get to her crown.
  9. The statue is made of copper but oxidation turned the exterior green.
  10. The man who designed the Eiffel Tower also designed the spine of the Statue of Liberty

Staten Island Ferry
The big orange boat. Staten Island Ferry.

Now back to my story. I had been to the United Nations when I was in college. I know it was along the East River. Was the Statue of Liberty near there? I am embarrassed to say, I had no idea what part of water surrounding Manhattan the Statue was located on. Turns out the UN was no where near the statue. Our friend Gerry was born and raised in NYC. His family lived in the borough of Staten Island. Gerry had mentioned that if we just wanted to see the statue and not visit Liberty Island, then the Staten Island Ferry was the way to go. He explained that the ferry sailed right past the statue. We would be able to see the statue twice. Once on the way to Staten Island and once on the way back.

Bonus, the ferry ride was completely free. Free and NYC don't usually go hand in hand so I may have asked him to repeat what he said several times just to be sure. Gerry also informed us that one of the most famous views of Manhattan, a view that has been used in countless movies, is the view of lower Manhattan. We would see all of lower Manhattan and Jersey City from the Staten Island Ferry. He said the view was beautiful, although not quite as beautiful as it had once been. It was missing two key parts of it's majestic scenery. It was missing Tower 1 and Tower 2. We will never forget.

We will never forget.

As soon as we arrived in Midtown, we exited the bus and headed to the subway. We rode the #1 train to the Whitehall Terminal in lower Manhattan. We wanted to do the ferry ride early, just in case there was any delays. We did not want to miss the bus back home. There was a very large crowd waiting to board the ferry. I was worried we would have to wait a long time to board a boat. As we watched the big orange ferry pull into the dock, we prayed we would be able to board it this trip.

Let's just say those boats can fit a lot of people on them because we had no problem boarding that ferry. There was also plenty of room to walk around and take in the view. The ride was 25 minutes from Manhattan to Staten Island's St. George's Terminal. Once we arrived in Staten Island, we would have to exit the boat and get in line to board the next boat. You cannot stay on the boat round trip. The boats ran on the hour and half hour. Seemed fair. I mean it was free and the view was going to be priceless.

As the boat departed Manhattan, we found some nice spots to stand on the deck near the back of the boat. The cool breeze from the boat was actually a pleasant feeling after sitting on a bus all morning. I looked to the sky. It was all clouds. A mixture of grey and blue swirled above our heads. Occasionally the sun would peek out from behind the fluff, letting us know she was still there. Her head was totally in the clouds on this early afternoon. I understood completely. My head was usually in the clouds too, just not this moment.

Ferry view of Manhattan
Leaving Manhattan
We stood on the back of the boat, witnessing Manhattan grow smaller and smaller with each turn of the propellers. Gerry was right. The view was incredible as well as very familiar. I was mentally trying to remember all the movies I had watched that showed this view of Manhattan. Not one single movie came to mind in that moment. I couldn't think. All I could do was gaze upon the statuesque and daunting skyscrapers. I felt a wave of sorrow wash over me. The absence of the twin towers in the New York skyline was so painful and devastating.

I bowed my head, allowing the water churn the ferry was stirring about to calm my mind. My head snapped up when I heard excited exclamations of " There she is!!" "It's the Statue of Liberty." Stacy, my daughter and myself walked to the right side of the boat. I just gasped. She was a little in the distance but my god she was stunning. She looked exactly like all the pictures I had seen of her. In fact, to this day, she is still one of the most beautiful works of art I have ever seen.

I turned and watched my daughter gazing at the statue. It was one of those precious stolen moments. I was so glad she was here to see it with me. This monument was one of the most iconic and most historic symbols of the United States. Millions upon millions of people have gazed upon this statue over the last 131 years just as we were now. They may not have worn the same clothing as us. They may not have spoken the same language as us. They may not have been raised the same way as us. We may have had absolutely nothing in common with them except the experience of this one very moment.

Statue of Liberty
Lady Liberty

We shared a precious moment with Lady Liberty. A moment that transcended time and linked millions of strangers together. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what the harbor must have looked like in the late 1800's and early 1900's. It must have been a very busy place. I opened my eyes and looked to the statue again. I kept my eye on her for the duration of the ride to Staten Island. Once we departed the ferry, I could not wait to get back onto the next ferry to see her again. I so much had a girl crush on the Lady of the Harbor. Withing 30 minutes we were back on the ferry heading towards Manhattan. Much to my absolute delight and viewing pleasure, this ferry sailed even closer to the statue.

All of us tourists were whipping out our cameras to take more pics of the Green Goddess. I could make out a line of people wrapped around Liberty Island waiting for the turn to enter the pedestal below the statue. God I was so glad we did not go to the island. We definitely would have spent the brunt of the day waiting in line. As far as I was concerned, this was the perfect way for me to see her. I loved boat rides and I loved beautiful scenery. I got both. It was the most perfect start to our day in NYC.

The view coming back to Manhattan.
Again, I kept my eyes on her as we headed back to the Whitehall Terminal. I couldn't help but smile at this little adventure. It was unexpected. It was not at all a planned part of my day in NYC but I am glad things went as they did. As couple of years later, I took my son to the city for his birthday. He too wanted to see the statue but was not up for a ferry ride. It would take too much time away from our jam packed day.

My son and I took the subway to Bowling Green. We walked to Battery Park. Once we hit the water, I searched the horizon for that beautiful green oxidized robe. There she was. I pointed her out to my son. We sat there for awhile, on a bench, enjoying the view of New York Harbor. I smiled again like I did with my daughter. I got to share this moment with both my kiddos. It was another precious stolen moment to add to my memory files.

In closing, if you are planning to take a trip to NYC and want to see the statue but do not want to visit Liberty Island, the Staten Island ferry is definitely the way to go. You can also see her from various parts of lower Manhattan, but she is definitely in the distance. And while visiting Liberty Island is not on my Bucket List, maybe one day I will venture there to check it out. I have heard wonderful things about the tours they give. It is definitely worth the wait. One day perhaps.......

Links To Statue of Liberty Information


Club 54

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