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Day 13: The end of the adventure

June 22, 2019

When in the planning stages, we had debated flying home from Washington instead of NYC if our rental car could be returned there.  But I really wanted to visit Fort McHenry which would be on our way back up to New York.  If I’d thought more about it (and if I knew more of what was in store for us this day) we probably could have flown home from Baltimore instead after visiting the fort.  Ah, hindsight!  But I’m glad we got to stop.  This was one of my favorite places of all.

But first (after getting Nana off to the DC airport to fly home to Ohio) we drove to Annapolis.  The Naval Academy is Colin’s dream school, and we decided we could do a quick stop and saw that there was a museum. There was no parking to be found however, and with little time to waste, Bill finally dropped Colin, David, and me at the museum’s side door.  It was cool to see items from naval history, but I think by this point, we were a little museumed out.  We made a quick trip through the ground floor exhibit, then went upstairs to see their model ship collection.  There were so many! And many very cool ones, but even Colin said, “You’ve seen one, you’ve almost seen them all.”  We did a quick tour and met up with Bill outside to set off for Baltimore.


Flag from the Battle of Tassafaronga





This one was carved out of bone:



From there, it was a fairly quick drive out to Fort McHenry, but we were dismayed to find four school buses there.  Most of the students were out at the fort when we entered the visitor’s center though, and were on their way back to school by the time we were ready to explore the fort.  We got Jr. Ranger books for four kids, but Erik and Anya soon lost interest.  There was a short film just starting in the museum so we joined in that.  It was only about 8 or 10 minutes and gave a background on the fort and its relationship to Baltimore and just what strategic significance it had in the Battle of Baltimore.  

At the battle’s conclusion, Francis Scott Key could see the smoke clear around the fort and saw that the Stars and Stripes was still flying.  Then the national anthem starts playing as you gaze on the flag flying over the fort, then the screen raises up and you see the actual fort out the window with an American flag flying overhead.  It was the most amazing and emotional moment.  Completely worth the drive out here!  In fact, it was one of the most moving moments of this whole entire trip.


We walked out to the 5-pointed Star Fort and spent a good hour exploring.  It’s really quite small, but you can see the barracks, an officer’s quarters, and the ammunition storage area, where a shell actually landed on that fateful night, but failed to explode. 







One of the cannonballs fired by the British during the bombardment of the fort, September 1814:


Most of the other big cannon around the fort are from the Civil War era:





It reminded me a lot of the Citadel in Halifax, but on a much smaller scale. The little ones could have kept exploring for hours, but by 1:00 we really needed to be going.  Colin and David got their final Jr. Ranger badges and we got back on I-95.

We ordered Chick-fil-A on the way and discovered they sell their lemonade by the gallon!!!  So of course we had to get one, plus eight cups of ice to go with it!  It kept us going clear into New Jersey.

Now–long story short, we got stuck in traffic and almost missed our flight home.  If you want the much longer version, keep reading–

But first, the gorgeous sunset we were rewarded with as we took off:


We found google maps to be extremely accurate at giving an estimated time of arrival factoring in traffic for all the different places we went.  We had an 8:27 p.m. flight out of JFK and we were projected to get to the airport about 5:40 when we left Baltimore. As we got closer to NYC, our projected arrival time was inching closer to 6:00.  We had wanted to be to the airport in time to avoid rush hour traffic, but there were massive slowdowns showing across Staten Island and on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn after crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. 

At one point google maps asked if we wanted to go clear back up to the George Washington bridge, across Manhattan, and down through Queens to get to the airport.  It was a similar ETA.  We opted not to choose that route, because who knew what would happen if we got any closer to Manhattan as rush hour loomed.  Then Google would say, “We have found a faster route; to confirm, click accept.” So I’d click and we would be rerouted.  Eventually that put us onto surface streets crossing Brooklyn to get around the slowdown.  And it was MASSIVE!

So we watched our ETA go down and down and down, then it started to go up and up and up as rush hour really and truly happened and more and more cars kept entering the traffic.  We were getting honked at on all sides, for trying to merge, for not trying to merge, for not hauling our 12-passenger van out into the intersection for a left turn before the light changed.  It was ridiculous! Bill asked me how much farther.  13 miles.  But the distance is irrelevant, because it’s still projected to take us almost an hour to reach the airport.  It was almost funny.  Almost.  

Then at the worst possible moment, as we needed to figure out which of three roads would finally put us onto the Parkway heading east past all the slowdowns,* Delta sent me a text informing me that our gate had changed, obscuring the map, and Bill chose the worst possible wrong road which put us on the parkway headed back to the west and directly into all the slowdowns we had been trying to avoid for the past two hours.  And our ETA jumped up 42 minutes even though we only had to go 1.5 miles to turn around.  I was beginning to stress out massively, but Bill told me it would be ok and I managed to keep my blood pressure down and sit patiently.  There was really nothing else I could do.  

With an 8:27 departing flight, we drove into the rental car drop-off about 7:35 p.m.  I admire all those people who can simply pull up, take their suitcase out and go.  We are not those people.  We have to unload 8 people, 4 suitcases, 7 backpacks, two carseats, a baby bed, a stroller, throw away garbage and double check the entire van for anything that still needs to get packed even though I had been fanatically throwing stuff away the entire car trip.  Then it was up to the air train and on to Terminal 2.  At 7:50.  

A very helpful Delta agent promptly informed us that there was no way our flight was happening for us.  But we explained our situation and he explained that baggage has to be checked in one hour prior to departure.  (And really, they give all the millennials who can’t get anywhere on time a 15-minute leeway, but they don’t know that.) But you can’t get on a flight and have your baggage come on a later flight.  So someone has to fly with the baggage.  So there was no way all eight of us would be able to make our flight.  

He conferred with a ticket agent to see what they could do for us–“Hey, Charlie, have I got a problem for you!”

Charlie said we could split up and I envisioned four of us on one flight, and four of us on another the next day, and my mind quickly went to having to leave the airport again with all of our luggage we’d just unloaded, finding a place to stay, more food, etc.  But Charlie said seven of us could all make our flight that night if Bill would agree to stay behind with the luggage.  We could get fast tracked through security and our gate was right over there.  He kept admiring Anya and Sam, and the other guy, said, “Yes, they’re beautiful children, but would ya hurry up?  They need to make their flight!” 

We had to make a split second decision, so we went for it.  They assured me that I could do it with all of my big boys to help me out.  Luckily we remembered to get the car keys from Bill before the original agent literally—in a fabulous Brooklyn accent—yelled at us to hurry, hurry, hurry and run, run, run through security and to the gate.  He was barking orders at all seven of us so we would get through on time.  I was at the rear and just trusted that all the little people were getting through with Colin and David as Andrew was helping me get the stroller and the two car seats and the pack-n-play through the x-ray machines.  We had no time to get anything for dinner.  We had to run right onto the flight with just minutes to spare!

Mercifully Sam slept for half the flight, which got in fifty minutes early, at 11:10 p.m.  We were so grateful as we still had to wait for the parking lot shuttle, find the Suburban, and drive home at what felt like 2:00 in the morning.  

One of my favorite moments came when Sam got out of the car and into the house.  He was so incredibly happy to be home.  From his perspective, he’d been schlepped all over creation, never knowing where he’d end up next, and finally coming to one last house in the dark, the door opens, and there is our dog, and his toys, and all of his familiar things.  He was so very happy! 


Not so happy–

*The slowdowns on Belt Parkway that day (which we found out later) were due to a massive manhunt going on down by Plumb Beach after an NYPD homicide detective’s car was found abandoned. Literally a hundred officers were out searching, and he was eventually found under a tree, having shot himself in the head, just one day after another NYPD police chief had also committed suicide at the prospect of forced retirement next month and apparently had nothing to look forward to—no wife, no kids, no hobbies; police work was his life.  As bad as our “problems” were, they were nothing comparatively.

We’re happy to be home safe and sound, but our hearts are hurting for NYPD.

Last day in Washington

June 22, 2019

The Statue of Freedom

9986 steps/3.8 miles

One of the YSA girls from family home evening told us that someone at church was a staffer for Senator Romney and she offered to talk to him and see if he could set up a Capitol Building tour.  So last night while we were on our way to Arlington, he called me and we set up a tour for today at 10 a.m.  (On a side note: There is so much security in this city; I won’t miss it when we go home. Getting into the Russell Senate Office Building even involved taking off belts besides everything else.  It’s almost worse than the airport!)  

A BYU student intern named Anna took us down to ride the Senate train below ground to the Capitol where we had to wear CVC tags (Congressional Visitor Clearance?) which I joked made us all consonant-vowel-consonant words for the morning.  There were tons of people waiting in the regular tour lines.  I was glad we had our own little group.  

The tour was interesting.  We saw one of the original doorways into the Capitol building. 


I was especially interested in the Simon Willard clock in the original Supreme Court room.  It still gets wound every Monday morning. Anna seemed surprised that I even knew about the Willard clock, but there’s a chapter about it in David McCullough’s book, Brave Companions.  And as both Bill and I are descended from the immigrant Simon Willard, I have an affinity for all things Willard in America.  


I really liked all the paintings in the Rotunda, but especially Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence.



We saw Brigham Young’s statue in statuary hall,  


Statuary Hall


And the original Senate Chamber:


In going back through my pictures, I realized I’d seen the original Senate room in a painting in the National Gallery the day before.


Beautiful mosaic floor outside:


The Small Senate Rotunda


After our tour, we decided to go visit Senator Lee’s office just to say hi.  He had two very friendly staffers who were so happy to have us stop by.  They couldn’t believe Senator Romney’s office hadn’t offered us tickets to the Senate gallery, so we got nine of those plus nine House gallery tickets signed by Rep. Stewart.  Colin also noticed a flyer for Green Jello Wednesday, when Senator Lee hosts anyone to cares to stop by for Utah’s unofficial state snack.  

“Today’s Wednesday!  We can come back for jello!” 

It was indeed, so we got an invitation to come for green jello at 3:30. 



We walked back to Union Station and opted to grab lunch there in the food court before heading to the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  We really wanted to see the flag from Fort McHenry, but started on the top floor instead with a warfare through American history exhibit where we saw George Washington’s uniform and epaulets. 


Andrew and I finished the exhibit well before everyone else and went to check out the gunboat Philadelphia. 




Then we saw the Star-Spangled Banner and the First Ladies exhibit and I was ready to go.  There were simply too many people and it was very loud and echo-y. It’s probably the first time I was ready to be done with a museum before everyone else.  We did a little shopping first though; Sam still had money to spend, so he got a biplane from the gift shop before we headed back to the Russell and its metal detectors and belt removal again.  


The Batmobile

Senator Lee was a little late, but we had green jello with whipped cream and had a nice conversation with some of his staffers while we waited.  Then we were able to talk with the Senator for a bit and had our picture taken.  We told him we were homeschoolers and he said he wished he could have been homeschooled.  Bill told him we’d read his book, The Lost Constitution, and he said to be sure and get his most recent, The Lost Declaration.  (We’ve already ordered it on Amazon!)


It was a very nice meeting and I’m so glad we came back for it.  Then one of his staffers took us back to the underground train so we wouldn’t have to work our way back through the Capitol Visitor’s Center and we were able to go up in the Senate gallery.  There wasn’t much happening.  A lot of senators had been trying to get to Europe for D-Day and the room was largely empty except for Nana’s senator from Ohio who was reporting on his recent trip to Ukraine.  We only stayed for about 10 minutes as Sam was starting to get fussy and there wasn’t much else to observe.  The House gallery was closed by this point so we didn’t get a chance to go there. 

We also missed out on the opportunity to see the Library of Congress, which had been on our list, as it was already closed to new arrivals. It too went on our “Next time” list.  We took a few pictures in front of the Capitol and Supreme Court buildings.   





After dinner, we just decided to drive.  We went up by the Naval Observatory and the National Cathedral and fun driving up Embassy Row and trying to identify all the flags.  Then we came back through Georgetown and past the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials one last time on our way home.  Then it was time to clean out the van so we could begin the arduous task of packing.  One more day to go!


Day 11: Washington, D.C.

June 22, 2019

15,827 steps/6.7 miles

The downside of renting a 12-passenger van is that you don’t fit in any of the parking garages in D.C.  Through the parking panda app, you can reserve parking spaces, but the only two garages I could find that had the clearance for us were at Walmart and at Union Station.  So we parked at Union Station and rode the subway for the first time today to get to our 10 a.m. appointment at an unmarked random government building.

Which turned out to be Secret Service Headquarters!

Bill made the acquaintance of the Secret Service chaplain a few months ago when he was in Salt Lake City, and he happened to say that if we were ever in D.C., he’d be happy to show us Secret Service HQ and arrange a tour of the White House!

“As a matter of fact, we are going to be in Washington . . .”

The White House was a no-go because they close it off to do renovations whenever the President is overseas for extended periods, but we got to visit the Secret Service museum room and the lobby.  That’s as much of a “tour” as is allowed!  Oh, and we got to shop in their store.  Colin’s been saving money for that for months!  It’s not every tourist who gets to come home with Secret Service gear!

The museum tracing the history of the Secret Service was very interesting.  We knew some of the beginnings due to reading Lincoln’s Grave Robbers last year for book club (which book I would highly recommend!)






After lunch we decided to walk down to the National Archives and on our way we could stop at the Navy Memorial.  We also ran into the equestrian statue of General Winfield Scott Hancock, who we all love.  I knew there must be a monument to him at Gettysburg, but had no idea where to find it, so I was really glad to stumble across this one.  The Navy Memorial was really cool, too.  There were various panels of Navy history all sculpted by different artists.







After the archives, we walked across the street to the Nathan Hale Memorial.  It feels like there’s a monument on every corner in Washington!  But it was kind of fun to stumble across some of the more obscure ones to people we’ve studied in history.


Then we walked down to the National Gallery.  I could wander art galleries all day, but I specifically wanted to show Anya and Erik the Mary Cassatt paintings that we have been studying. We saw all of the Cassatts except one which wasn’t currently on display, as well as many other Monet, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, and Seurat paintings that, again, we’ve only ever seen in books or as prints.  There was one more Vermeer that we’ve studied, but Erik was fast losing interest in art, so we looked at it quickly and then left.

This is what you get when you ask Erik to pose:19-IMG_5174

Mary Cassatt:


Anya with her favorite Cassatt we studied: 22-IMG_5182

And with one we never studied:


George and Martha and family:


One of my most favorite paintings ever (by Monet):


And Bierstadt, who I’m liking more and more:


Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance that we also studied this year:


And the very impressive restored plaster cast of the Shaw Memorial (which is a bronze sculpture in Boston commemorating Col. Shaw and the  54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in 1863.)


Erik wasn’t interested in going to the natural history museum either (although later demanded to know why we didn’t stop there . . . I don’t know? Our feet were too tired?) so we started walking back to the subway to get back to our car.  On the way we also found a monument to the Grand Army of the Republic, found a great view of the Capitol, and Bill wanted to stop at the National Law Enforcement Memorial.






Meanwhile, Nana had gone home, so then we picked her up for the drive out to Arlington Cemetery.  I seem to remember being able to drive through Arlington when I was 12, but now you have to park and walk.  A very long way. 


Luckily for summer, it was now open until 7 p.m., but I could tell we weren’t going to make the 6:00 Changing of the Guard, so Andrew and I took our time and then got separated from the others.  We decided we could find Jimmy Doolittle’s grave which was close by, and then walk over to the Civil War Tomb of the Unknown before the 6:30 Changing of the Guard at the Tomb on the Unknown.


Tomb of the Unknown Civil War Soldier:33-IMG_5264


Then we showed the others where Jimmy Doolittle’s grave was so Colin wouldn’t be jealous then started the long walk back to the Visitor’s Center, stopping at Kennedy’s grave on the way.  We could also see Arlington House, which is closed for renovations. 64-IMG_4901 copy


After dinner (where I tried to smash my big toe on the heavy glass door) we decided to try Lafayette Square again and found a close parking place.  There was a group of protesters in front of the White House with light up letters spelling out “Throne Envy” and a brass band!  So entertaining! But with selective editing, they don’t have to be in your photo!




I wish this one wasn’t so blurry; it’s one of the few with all of us in it, and bonus, we’re all looking!




Mount Vernon

June 21, 2019

Day 10 continued or more following in the footsteps of George Washington


Stained-glass in the welcome center:



Unfortunately, at least for photographic purposes, the west facade was covered in scaffolding as they were redoing the outside finish.  George did it every 5-7 years, so they redo it every 5-7 years.  The outside is actually not stone, but bevelled wood planks which were then covered in a paint/sand mixture to give it a sandstone look.  It was actually quite fascinating, while making Mount Vernon look the wrong color!  


Here you can see the original wood planks underneath the finish.


There was no photography inside the mansion, so here’s the model in the visitor’s center. I think Anya would have liked this as a doll house!


Washington’s bedroom and study.


One of my most favorite things was one of the keys to the Bastille that Lafayette had sent to Washington after the French Revolution.  It was one of Washington’s most prized possessions.

After walking through the mansion, we walked down toward the old vault where George and Martha were originally buried.  In Washington’s will, he left directions for a new tomb to be built.  They were re-interred in 1831.

The new tomb:IMG_5028

Other memorials at the site:



Then we walked down to the slave burial ground.



Anya and Erik wanted to explore the orchard.  Mount Vernon is still a working farm.  I inquired, and was urged to come back in the fall at harvest time.  Everything they harvest is used in the Mount Vernon Inn and for special events at the estate.  We didn’t walk all the way down to the end of the farm or see the wharf, but enjoyed the beautiful day.  I would have really loved to have had dinner at Mount Vernon Inn, but it had closed early for a special event.


Anya was appalled at the thought of having to use the outdoor privy!



Hanging out at George and Martha’s place, overlooking the Potomac:



After dinner, we caught up with the YSA ward for family home evening and enjoyed seeing some of the memorials on the Mall.


WWII Memorial:





Lincoln Memorial:



WWII again, in the dark:


Days 9 and 10: Washington, D.C.

June 21, 2019

3516 steps/1.3 miles

Sunday was a bit of a slow day for us.  Since we were in a new airbnb, I had no idea where to go to church and the meetinghouse locator was down on the LDStools app Saturday night.  Finally Sunday morning we were able to find a ward to attend at 10:30, only it was a Young Single Adult ward.

I thought we’d catch our first sight of the Capitol, but our route went on the handy 395 under the Capitol instead.  Bill had to drop us off and then go find parking on the street because the van was too tall for the parking garage, but he made it in time for the sacrament.  They asked if we were visitors.  I said that we were, obviously. Erik asked me, “Why did Anya and Sam and me come here? We’re not young single adults!”  I had to tell him that you can go to any LDS church anywhere in the world and you will be welcomed. 

After sacrament meeting, the bishop took a moment to have any new or visiting members stand and introduce themselves.  Half the congregation stood up! “I’m an intern and I’ll be here for June and July.”  “I’m an intern and I’ll be here through August.”  Even the organist was fairly new and said, “If anyone has any talents other than interning, I’d love to know about them!”  We introduced ourselves as well and had a few nice welcoming conversations.  After sacrament meeting we were talking to the missionaries out on the front steps and one member came out to invite us to Family Home Evening the next night!  They were going on a tour of the Monuments.  We said we needed to do that, so we might just meet up with them, and gave him our phone numbers so he could text more information.  

After church we drove out to Virginia to meet up with my cousins and their children.  It was a peaceful and pleasant afternoon.  After a taco bar dinner, we walked down to a local park where people drop off their no longer wanted Cozy Coupe toddler cars.  There must have been 15 of them!  S said that the city comes through once or twice a year and culls the herd, but there was still quite the selection!  (I wish I had a picture of this park!) The kids loved playing, but soon we had to go back to the city, after A pushed more tacos on us so they wouldn’t have leftovers for a week. The rain started again just as we got back on the road.

After we picked up Nana and stopped for gelato, the rain stopped, so we decided to drive out to the Jefferson Memorial.  There was a lot of walking to do to get to it though and few parking spaces, so after driving around the Tidal Pool a couple more times, we finally pulled in where we could see the Memorial across the pool.   



Also, the Washington Monument:


We took some pictures and then Grandma and Poppa Facetimed us.  While we were talking, Marine One flew right overhead, taking the President to Andrews to leave for D-Day events in Europe.  We had noticed an over-sized Secret Service presence on all of the bridges and roadways. As we drove back through the city, many of the roads near Lafayette Square were blocked off, so we decided we’d have to see the White House another time.  

Sunset over the Potomac:


Day 10: Virginia and D.C.
13,958 steps/5.6 miles

We were originally going to go to Mount Vernon this morning, but I couldn’t get tickets until after noon, so we decided to drive out to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space museum first.  It was a really nice day to be there.  There were very few people around.  Erik and Anya wanted to practice maneuvering a Cessna that was open for the day while the boys checked out the jets. 


Then we started in on the early planes. I’m only interested in planes up through WWII.  I especially liked the Bleriot kit plane that two teenagers built in the ‘20s.  Next year is 1850-2001 for history, so we’ll be studying Bleriot in Five in a Row when we get to the 20th century.  


We also saw the Enola Gay, an Air France Concorde, and the space shuttle Discovery. 







There were also a number of displays around commemorating hot air balloons with items from 18th-century France among others.  





And more planes.  So many more planes (and an R2-D2 mailbox).

After Sam had a lie-down-on-the-floor fit (don’t let that smile fool you!) because he was tired, and I refused to carry him, and after a few others had a gift shop meltdown, Bill took us straight to the car and all the littles and maybe some of the bigs had a nap en route to Mount Vernon!


Also, here’s a hilarious painting we found later in the National Gallery that so reminded me of Sam.  Art imitates life?


to be continued…

Day 8: Gettysburg

June 21, 2019

Our airbnb was stocked with a variety of foods for breakfast this morning.  Sam was exceedingly happy to sit in the high chair provided and eat Froot Loops!  


After we checked out, we headed  to Gettysburg. This was one of the few days we weren’t thinking about the Revolutionary time period.  Erik hasn’t yet studied the Civil War, ever, but he enjoyed being outside and being able to climb around.  And the rest of us loved being here on hallowed ground.

When we came over a rise and first saw some cannons and a monument or two (there are over 1300 in the park), I got a little catch in my throat. We’ve loved and watched the movie Gettysburg so many times, and I’ve been wanting to come here again for so long!!  It was tempting to pay the $100 for a licensed battlefield guide to drive our car around for two hours and enlighten us, but I didn’t think a guide would appreciate 2-year-old Sam, and I was certain Sam wouldn’t appreciate the guide.  Maybe another time when everyone’s older!

I knew there was a ranger talk and walk on Little Round Top at 11:00 and wanted to pick up a map and a Jr. Ranger guide (one for the whole family here) and get tickets to the Eisenhower farmhouse before then. So we made a quick stop at the visitor’s center.  There was honeysuckle everywhere and I couldn’t get over how good it smelled!




I misunderstood the map at first and thought that once you were on the one-way road, you just had to follow it.  But there are many ways on and off the one-way as so many roads converge on Gettysburg and criss cross the battlefield.  But we drove around to the west side where Confederate troops converged for Pickett’s Charge and stopped at the Virginia monument with an equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee. 


Bill was trying to give an extended explanation to Erik about the battle in general, but I’ll admit I rushed everybody on because I didn’t want to miss Little Round Top.  We made it…barely.  The littles climbed all over the rocks while the ranger talked and walked us down to where the 20th Maine fought on Vincent’s Spur.   I have quite the fascination with Joshua Chamberlain, the 20th Maine, and Little Round Top and was looking forward to this stop.


Anya on top of Little Round Top.  Devil’s Den is in the background just above Erik’s head.


We saw the 20th Maine monument, the left and right flank markers, and the boys acted out the rising up and shooting at the Alabamians coming up the hill.  Good times!



We had a very hot picnic lunch in the van, partially in the shade, now that we were clear out in the farthest parking lot and didn’t feel like walking clear back up to the visitor’s center.  Even though there were many cars, we really didn’t notice many crowds once we were out and about on the battlefield.  Thankfully, a shuttle bus came along just as we were done with lunch, offering to drive us back to the visitor’s center so we could catch the Eisenhower bus.

It was a short drive to the Eisenhower home and farm and once there, we had a short talk with the Ranger out in the shade before touring the home.  It was very interesting and he explained why Eisenhower had chosen Gettysburg for the only home he and Mamie ever owned.  


The ranger said, “You’ve probably all learned something new today,” and Erik piped right up, “Yeah, I didn’t even know he had a farm!”  Erik wasn’t opposed to touring it though. It really is a beautiful piece of property.




A mantelpiece that was once in the White House was given to the Eisenhowers and installed in their parlor.


A few minutes after the house tour, that same Ranger gave a talk out on the back patio about Gettysburg and what was happening there on D-Day in 1944.  Sam was getting especially restless so he and I ended up walking around a bit and missed a lot.

Just hanging out at Ike and Mamie’s:



Then there were some WWII re-enactors up in the barn with lots of WWII supplies and uniforms.  Colin was very interested but we had maybe ten minutes to look and talk because the bus back was leaving and I didn’t want to be there another thirty minutes.  Sam was getting increasingly tired and needed sleep.  



Once back at the visitor’s center, we got our car and Sam went right out.  While he slept and Nana largely stayed in the van with him, we found our way back to the south end of the battlefield and Devil’s Den.  We followed the road along, filling in our Jr. Ranger guide as we went.  The High Water Mark which marked the spot General Armistead advanced to on July 3, especially made me a little emotional as I tried to explain to Erik and Anya just where we were and what had happened there.  

A view of Little Round Top from Devil’s Den:


Colin preparing to fire a cannon:



The Pennsylvania Monument:


The angle of the stone wall, where General Armistead fell, which generally marks the furthest advance of the Confederate army at Gettysburg.


At the angle:


Monument to the High Water Mark:



General Meade:


We finally decided to head back to pick up our Jr. Ranger badges and do a little shopping.  I bought Thomas Desjardin’s book about Chamberlain and the 20th Maine that I’ve been wanting.  

We never did visit the cemetery where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, but you had to walk in; there was no driving. We’d driven by it at least three times, but the heat and humidity were really starting to get to us.  We were tired.  We’ll just add that to our “Next time…” list.

Our pizza dinner refreshed us a little, so we drove out to the Lutheran Theological Seminary which served as a lookout for General John Buford on the first day of the battle. Then we drove down Confederate Avenue one more time to find Longstreet’s monument before heading out to the Taneytown Road which would take us toward Washington.   


General Longstreet memorial:




Getting their Jr. Ranger badges, and laughing when the Ranger tried to throw in “mow the other ranger’s grass” as part of their oath, because, “Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to mow part of the battlefield?  For free?!”IMG_4820


Day 7: Philadelphia

June 21, 2019


7790 steps/3.1 miles

I had neglected to get tickets to Independence Hall ahead of time, so Bill and I got up early to drive downtown by 8:30 when the remaining free tickets were distributed. 

When we got back, everyone was still largely in their pajamas, eating breakfast, and watching Netflix. While everyone else got ready and packed up everything to check out, I had to find a new airbnb we could check into in Washington D.C. in 36 hours, because our original one had had a leak in it and couldn’t be ready until Monday! And we needed to decide if we wanted to cancel our original reservation and end up paying more to just stay in the new place for our entire D.C. stay.  (We opted not to, mostly for financial reasons, but in hindsight, we should have cancelled our original. We all liked the new place much better and were sad to check out.)  

I don’t recommend trying to find a place for nine people on such short notice, but other than that, I have to say that our airbnb experiences were really great and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it this way again.  Truthfully, it was the only way we could afford to be gone for so long.  Hotel rooms (nice ones anyway) were completely out of our budget, but our airbnbs were amazingly affordable and we always had a kitchen, and room to spread out that a hotel room could have only dreamed of!

We had to hunt for parking downtown (I really felt unprepared for this day) and finally found a lot a few blocks from Independence Hall.  We had about an hour and a half before we had to line up to go inside.  We conveniently avoided the gift shop so as not to have a meltdown like yesterday, looked at Franklin’s grave, and saw the Liberty Bell through the glass because there was a giant line to go inside and see it, and we weren’t sure we’d make it out on time.  Then we had to go through quite the security to get into Independence Hall.


Our group had a park ranger who was just wonderful at explaining the significance of where we were, why we needed these documents, and what they should mean to us. There was a large contingent of New Jersey schoolchildren in our group.  We were actually quite impressed by their knowledge of the Declaration and Constitution.  Once inside “The Most Important Room in American History” David and Colin started answering questions though, and pretty soon, Utah was the group to beat.  The ranger would ask something, and say, “I know Utah knows the answer, let’s see who else does.”  It was a fabulous experience.  





After more pictures outside, and Colin reenacting Ben from National Treasure running away from Independence Hall, we meandered over to Washington Square to see the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier and eternal flame.  Reading the stone was a very tender moment for me.

“. . . who died to give you liberty.”





Then, because we still hadn’t had lunch, we had a sit-down lunch at P. J. Clarke’s.  In retrospect, this didn’t leave us much time to check out all the other buildings around Independence Hall, but we got to see an antique map exhibit and the Second Bank of the United States, which had a really nice portrait gallery of a lot of famous faces.  But the New Hall Military Museum was closed, we never got to Carpenter’s Hall, and by the time we walked down to the US Mint, it was past the time they were letting new visitors walk through. Oh, well.  (We’re already compiling a list of “Next time we go, we should…” items)

I love old maps!  This was a French 1784 engraving, which was the first map published after the Treaty of Paris was approved, ending the American Revolution.


A 1792 plan for the city of Washington:


I want to say this is from the late 1790s, but Maine didn’t become its own state until 1820.  Anyhow, it shows the Kennebec River valley, from which so much of our ancestry comes, on all sides.


Colin with Lafayette:


We’re so glad we don’t have to ride over these cobblestones every day!


While Bill went back for the van, I walked the couple blocks to the Betsy Ross house with the big boys, so we could at least see the outside and her grave in the square.


Then on to Gettysburg!




Day 6: Valley Forge

June 19, 2019


5788 steps/2.2 miles

After numerous wrong turns in the rain the night before, we finally found our airbnb in south Philly.  The neighborhood looked really sketchy, but we easily found a parking spot on the street and our condo was gorgeous!  3 stories, plus a rooftop deck, newly renovated and did I mention, gorgeous?!! I just wasn’t a fan of the 38 stairs up to our bedroom on the 3rd floor after climbing up and down subway stairs in New York City for four days!

We had planned on doing Independence Hall this day, but rain was forecast for the afternoon and I could sense that everyone was really tired and needed some time off from walking.  So we opted to drive out to Valley Forge Military Park instead and get back early and just relax. 

That didn’t work. 

We didn’t even make it out to Valley Forge until almost noon.  People were understandably tired and took their sweet time getting going this morning.  So we got caught in the rain at Valley Forge instead in Philadelphia, but we were in the car so it was fine.  It actually felt really nice.

After a picnic lunch (where the heat and humidity was really oppressive to me) we made the mistake of checking out the gift shop in the visitor’s center.  Erik was sorely vexed that he had spent all of his money at the Intrepid two days earlier and whined and moaned and groaned and complained, and at one point, actually convinced Anya to spend some of her spending money on another horse for him.  I quickly stopped that in its tracks!  I had actually foreseen this happening and wished I had kept some of his money back so he’d have some for later. 

We got Jr. Ranger booklets and started our drive through the park.  I just have to say that I loved this day!  We met very few people on our travels, which was nice after being surrounded by crowds in NYC, and being out in nature with the fresh smell of recent rain was so lovely.

Our first stop was a redoubt and cannons, plus replicas of the log cabins the soldiers built in December 1777.  We met a sweet couple from England who offered to take our picture.  Of course, several children did not want to be included.  





Next up was the Memorial Arch, then a few statues we didn’t feel like stopping to see. 





I don’t think I had realized just how big the Valley Forge encampment was, but its defensive position was unmistakeable.  We came around to George Washington’s headquarters and also saw the Valley Forge train station that was erected in later years.  A freight train actually went by while we were standing there.  











After we had walked through the house, and Bill had gone back for the car, it started raining. . . which is an understatement.  Literally two or three drops of rain as a warning, then . . . downpour.  I think it was the fastest forming rainstorm I’ve ever experienced.  We ran back to the house for cover for a while, but then had to keep walking to meet Bill.  I was grateful for my raincoat, which isn’t terribly waterproof, but better than nothing, plus the map to cover my head! 

The rain paused so we could walk out to a field of cannon, then the downpour began again.




Surveying the field

We drove past the Site of the Marquee, where Washington first set up his headquarters tent, and on to the statue of von Steuben, which we really wanted to see.  Colin, Erik, and I braved the pouring rain to get a few pictures of von Steuben and the parade grounds where he made the Continental Army into a fighting force.




Colin, Erik, and Anya were sworn in as Jr. Rangers.



Our mini George and Martha:


Then after dinner, we drove back to Philadelphia to take some quick pictures of the LDS temple there.






Then, because I have a history of searching out headstones at twilight on vacation,  we found ourselves in Woodland Cemetery (only because it was sooo close to our airbnb) searching for a grave.

Found it! (Thank goodness for photo editing.)


Matilda Goodwin, one of our Goodwin cousins from Maine, and one of her other cousins married two Canby brothers from Philadelphia.  The Canbys were grandsons of Betsy Ross, whose grave we will visit tomorrow.

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