hershey & philadelphia – the sights
This is the third summer now that Rose has visited me from Chicago. The first time, she visited me in California and we spent a day in San Diego, including the zoo. Last year, we took a road trip to Gettysburg and then Washington DC, both places I had never been to. This year, we did some things around Pittsburgh and then headed through Hershey, PA to Philadelphia for a good dose of history.
I’ve been to both cities before, though Hershey has added quite a bit in terms of things to see besides HersheyPark and the free Chocolate World ride. There is a 3D show, Create Your Own Candy Bar, Trolley Tour, the Hershey Story Museum, and more. Rose and I stuck with the basics — the free ride (that gets you a free mini-Hershey’s bar at the end), the museum, and the giant Hershey store. There is something about simply being in Hershey that invites the purchase of several pounds of chocolate. It’s not like I left with anything I can’t buy at my local Giant Eagle. It just seemed like the thing to do at that time. I don’t need chocolate and, in fact, none of it has even been opened yet, but the fact that it’s there? In the fridge? Nice and cool and waiting for me? Yum.
The drive from Pittsburgh to Hershey is long and boring. And there were many speed traps. I don’t remember the last time I saw that many state troopers along the same road. But from Hershey to Philadelphia was quick and painless. Some traffic around the city, but not a big deal. Our hotel is decent — I hate city hotels because they are always vastly overpriced. It’s in an old, narrow building, which is cool. But the elevator is closed for “preventive maintenance” and the stairs are not conducive to carrying up suitcases and multiple bags. I guess the hotel has character but it could definitely be better.
There’s just something about the history of American Independence that I just absolutely love. For one thing, my two favorite presidents — John Adams and Thomas Jefferson — played huge roles in the whole thing. For another, I adore the musical 1776 so walking through Independence Hall invariably makes me hum “Sit Down, John” and “But Mr. Adams.” I think it’s an incredible period of our history, and walking the streets near Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center awakens my imagination. The first time I visited (last summer, actually, with my BFF Becky), I pondered what it would have been like to be there. Then I decided to add some time travel in (when all else fails, use time travel) and, as we were leaving Independence Hall, for just a moment, I hoped we’d exit out into 1776 and the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. You know, that we’d hit a tear in time and suddenly stumble forward into a crowd of colonials — new Americans! — and get to see the reactions as the Declaration is read.
Ah, I can dream. It’s just so hard not to get teary-eyed when it comes to American Independence. It had never been done before. Our forefathers were visionaries. They imagined a free America and gave it to us. I like to think I’d have been all for independence, just as during the Civil War I want to believe I’d have helped on the Underground Railroad. But the truth is, I follow the rules and the law. I don’t know if I’d have had the courage to stand apart. I think of strong, independent women like Abigail Adams who spoke so often in her letters to her husband about independence, about revolution, about women’s rights. If I had to choose a woman to be like, she wouldn’t be too far off.
Rose and I did the usual Philadelphia things. We went to Declaration House, which I didn’t do last time, to see the recreated rooms where Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration. As a writer, that, too, amazes me. To have written a document so important, so widely quoted, referred to, and revered as the Declaration of Independence? Wow. It was cool to think about him sitting there, struggling with words, with drafts, scratching things out — doing all those things that I do when I’m writing. And yet it feels so unusual, like it shouldn’t have happened that way. I mean, he’s Thomas Jefferson, right?
I like Philadelphia. It’s a bustling city. There are lots of places to eat, things to see, people to talk to. Since I’ve now done all the Independence / historical things twice, if I come back next time, I’m going to be looking for other things to do.