Saturday, September 11, 2010

Philly, Philly Here I Come

From French Creek State Park and Valley Forge Album
    I dreamt last night that I was a substitute secretary for a day for one of my old managers.  I thought I would be great at it, but I really screwed stuff up.  After drinking some coffee and catching a chipmunk snooping around my campsite on my way back from brushing my teeth, I hiked a mile or so loop around the park.  I was finally able to snap a picture of a chipmunk near the trail (they are so fast and it’s very hard to get close to them).  I passed another hunting sign indicating that I should be wearing orange to prevent being shot.  I hope warnings are also being passed along to the people with guns.  Like, “Hey this is a state park, so there’s a small chance there might be humans around.  Try not to kill any.”  Oh, and by the way, if you can’t tell if what you’re shooting at is human or not, you might not want to fire.  How hard is it to separate the hunting grounds from the camping and hiking area by say…a couple miles maybe…is that really too much to ask???  If you want to observe nature go here, if you want to kill it go here.
    I drove to Valley Forge later in the morning.  The winter camp location was chosen as sort of a compromise.  The troops were not in good shape, but Congress wanted to keep pressure on the British which had just taken Philadelphia, and this spot was close enough to keep an eye on them, but far enough to avoid a surprise attack.  There were a few clusters of hut replicas around the park.  They housed twelve men and Washington gave twelve dollars to the first person from each regiment to build a solid shelter.  I heard from a ranger that this was the first semi-permanent winter camp built during the war.  Before then, they mostly stayed in private residences and he said they did this partially as a public relations move because a lot of the locals were trying to stay neutral.
    When I was around the second stop on the driving tour, this mom and her son and daughter who were probably around ten to twelve years old jogged by me.  It was very hot out and I could tell the mother was forcing them to do this because the daughter was crying pretty much the whole time and occasionally let out a scream.  They made it almost a mile around the five or so mile tour before both neither kid could go on.  “We’ll do the whole thing tomorrow,” the mother said which resulted in moans and more crying from both kids.  My guess is the a doctor reported the daughter was on the path to obesity, so the mother decided the best plan was to do everything in her power to make both of her kids hate exercise.
    During winter, the soldier’s spent most of their time building shelters, gathering food which was getting scarcer by the day and training.  There was this guy from Prussia who Washington had train his men.  The Prussian guy said that initially, the Americans had to be told an order and the reasoning behind it before they would follow it.  He disciplined the army, and, when they had their first battle against the British that year, the training paid off.
    Valley Forge is named that because there used to be an iron forgery there.  The island of tyranny banned the colonies from making anything except raw strips of iron which would be shipped to England to make fine goods.  They also banned the colonies from exporting to other countries.  Thankfully, this forgery as well as others ignored these laws and made things like cannon balls and became one of the world’s leading iron exporters.
    I toured Washington’s old headquarters and there was a little exhibit about his leadership team.  He surrounded himself with people he trusted so much that they were essentially an extension of himself.  They finished letters for him, gave orders for him, met with Congressman for him.  Military experience was not a requirement for his immediate staff..  He chose them based on intelligence and ambition.  Most of them were fairly young and had a lot of potential in his eyes.  He encouraged participation amongst his team and often presented his own ideas as the ideas of others.  Basically, in my opinion, he had the best leadership style imaginable.
    While I was walking back to my car from GW’s headquarters, I overheard a frustrated young boy tell his mother, “I wish I was George Washington.  You’d be dead!”  There are so many questions that come to mind…perhaps the most urgent being: What the hell are they teaching kids about George Washington these days?  I’m not expert on the man, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t go around slaying mothers.
    I drove into Philly at around 2:30pm.  I decided not to use the navigate feature on my phone which was almost a mistake.  Thanks to my New Orleans driving experience and almost a month’s worth of straight traveling in new places, I arrived safely at the parking garage near my hostel.
    I checked into the hostel which is right in the middle of all the historic places in Philadelphia.  The male dorm room full of bunks for a dozen guys and was basically empty since everyone was out touring, so I threw on my backpack and headed out.  I stopped by the Visitor’s Center and watched a short film called “Choosing Sides” which showed real life examples of loyalists, a patriot and a guy who was somewhere in between.  When I was touring Valley Forge, I was surprised at how little the locals were willing the help Washington’s army (hiding their cattle in forests and such) so I chose that film to try to get a more realistic perspective of how people viewed the rebellion.
    I walked to the Liberty Bell.  It was nice and bellish just as I had expected.  One thing I didn’t realize is how much it was used as a symbol during the civil rights movement.  Heavy security around the bell.  I walked to where Benny Franklin was buried, saw some lady throw a penny on his grave (no idea why), then headed to a restaurant which was combination Chinese buffet, salad bar and sandwich shop.  I got a Philly Cheesesteak and fries.  I wasn’t going to get the fries, but the lady behind the counter convinced me with, “Get with fries and drink.  Is better.”
    I walked back to the hostel and got directions to the nearest grocery store.  On my walk there, I passed the place where the first Continental Congress met, the first national bank, a stream that used to pass through the city until they damned it up because it was getting too filthy, and a few gardens.  When I got back to the dorm room, there were about ten guys lying on their bunks with laptops.  “What a bunch of losers,” I thought before whipping out my Droid and checking my email.
    The dorm boredom wouldn’t last long though because that night was Pub Crawl night at the hostel.  Free drinks at 8:30pm and then walking around from pub to pub for $1 and $2 beers.  My kind of prices!  I took a shower, got dressed and then met some of the other guys in the dorm.  The first guy I met was from California (San Jose I think).  He had just flown in today to start his vacation.  He was very talkative and a little goofy/naïve.  He talked to the guy in the bunk above me.  “How long have you been traveling?” he asked.  “Five weeks.  I was in New York the last three weeks.”  “Cool, where are you from?” Goof asked.  “Paris.”  “Oh cool, that’s like New York.”  “No.  No, it’s not,” he replied in his accented English.
    I talked with Mr. Paris a little later.  He had told goof he couldn’t wait to get back to his job, so I had to ask what he did.  He was a lawyer.  It wasn’t just the job though.  He wanted to get back to the stability.  Plus he had been getting work emails throughout his trip and knew he had a lot of work to get done.  I said, “Yeah, I handled that problem by just quitting my job.  Eventually I’ll have a different problem though.  Money.”  A guy across from me was from Switzerland and had been in Mexico for a month surfing and learning Spanish.  Sounds like a good plan to me.  Five minutes later goof came into the room, turned to me and asked, “You’re from Iowa right?”  “No, Louisiana.”  “Oh, that’s like Civil War,” he said.  I laughed.  “What’s so funny?  Vicksburg?  Oh maybe that’s Mississippi.”  I must have given him a, ‘What the hell is wrong with you’ look because he just walked away. 
    Eventually we headed down to the community room or whatever it’s called.  It sort of felt like college.  Guys in one area, girls in another.  Social event involving alcohol where we socialize.  I poured myself a rum and coke and talked to Mr. Swiss more.  I told him I did a lot of camping on my travels, but he wasn’t so much an outdoors guy.  He had just spent a couple days in Boston.  Eventually he went over and started hitting on some girls by the drink area.  There was a table of prettied up girls sitting at a table in the corner.  One of them was really hot.  I did my usual lean against a counter and observe everything.  There were a couple of Irish guys, both of them kind of rough looking.  One was bulked up and scanned every square inch of any girl who walked by.  The other had a line of stitches down his forehead.  I looked back at the hotty table and couldn’t believe my eyes to see goof sitting next to and talking with the hotty.
       Our hostel host put on an episode of Jersey Shore before we left to “brief” us on some of the Jersey people we might see tonight.  We headed to the first bar at around 9:30.  On the way there, I talked to the smaller Irishman.  He had gotten the scar in Atlantic City where, despite being advised not to, he strayed off the tourist path and ran into a crackhead who tried to mug him.  He prevented anything from being stolen, but landed pretty hard on the pavement. 
       I talked to a girl from Ontario at the first bar.  She had worked on a farm for a couple weeks in Oregon.  I want to do something like that, so I asked her a bunch of questions about it.  I got a beer from the bar.  I made a $4 mistake of ordering a Coors instead of a Bud Light.  There was a big cheer while I was talking to the Canadian – apparently some kind of baseball game going on.  I told Ontario about my trip and how I planned to visit Canada.  Big Irish barked his game six inches from the hotty’s face the whole time we were there.  At the second bar, I successfully ordered a $2 local beer which was decent.  I finished it and headed back to the hostel so I could get a decently early start tomorrow on my only full day in Philly.


Gayle said...

awesome pictures; awesome story--I feel like I should be paying to read this "book."

Ryan Fuller said...

Glad you're enjoying it. Whatever this thing is - it takes a lot of my time, but I guess if I ever decide to write a book I'll have a rough first draft.

Ferg said...

You've got a great eye for observation. Love the journey so far!

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