The voluminous main floor of the National Constitution Center was interesting and educational in and of itself, but an unusual display awaited us on the second floor in the George H. W. Bush Gallery, a room in which the momentous signing of the U.S. Constitution takes on real-life proportions and surrounds visitors in history and metal.
Among our nineteen official annual road trips, we’ve had a few experiences in which we found ourselves falling short of our goals, not quite exploring our targeted locations to the fullest, and promising ourselves to keep them in mind in case we had time in the future to call do-over. Some of the cities and states we’ve visited are extremely unlikely to see us return, for better or worse. But we like the idea of arranging second chances where possible and merited.
Once upon a time, Philadelphia was supposed to be the center of our 2010 road trip. As I wrote in the present-day commentary for that particular travelogue:
Some of our road trips simply needed more days that what we allotted. We thought we’d learned that lesson on our 2005 drive to San Antonio, when we spent more time in the car than we did on foot in Texas, because their state is like a separate continent compared to home. Our trip to Philadelphia encountered similar issues but for a different reason. We’d found so many interesting sights to see near Philly that we barely left any time for the city itself…
This year we had a few different ideas what to do after leaving New Jersey and entering Pennsylvania. Two contenders rose above the rest: either head southeast for our introductory foray into the first state of Delaware, or go back to Philadelphia. We wouldn’t have time to venture too far into Delaware, but any attractive excuse to step foot inside its border would’ve been nice, if only to cross another state off our bucket lists. After a considerable amount of research on its nearest regions, our hypothetical Delaware to-do list looked like this:
1. Check out their capitol dome
2. Visit the gravesites of the exactly zero Presidents buried there
3. Reenact the “Hi! We’re in…Delaware” scene from Wayne’s World
…and that’s the story of why our next several chapters feature our grand return to Philadelphia. And what better way to dive into the original capital of the United States of America than to visit a giant museum dedicated to the Founding Fathers and some of their most important words that made America work?
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Twice each year my wife Anne and I drive down to southern Indiana. Usually it’s for the sake of visiting relatives, helping family keep in touch, doing something nice for others, that sort of thing. Usually it consists of one three-hour drive down slow highways behind lackadaisical drivers, four to six hours of sitting and chatting and letting the older folks enjoy each other’s company while we might or might not nod off, then another three-hour drive home. We’re adult enough to accept not every weekend can be a convention or even a trip to the movie theater.
Dateline: October 24, 2015. My aunt suggested we break routine and get together for a bit of Indiana tourism. We headed out to the twin towns of French Lick and West Baden. When I was a kid we drove through them frequently but rarely stopped in either of them except for gas. Fast-forward four decades later, and now each town has a special attraction to boast as their own. For West Baden, it’s the enormous West Baden Springs Hotel, a structure with a history dating back to 1855 filled with frequently changing ownerships, periods of disuse, extensive restoration funded by multiple donors, and a new life today as a premier getaway in the southern Indiana area…
Next door to the West Baden Springs Hotel is their sister establishment, the French Lick Springs Hotel. Though they occupy adjacent lots, together they’re a joint resort as inseparable as the two towns themselves, united around a single establishment: the French Lick Springs Casino.
The image of General George Washington leading troops in boats across the Delaware River is one of those iconic moments in the Revolutionary War that’s ingrained in the consciousness of every American student at a young age, even if teachers don’t necessarily explain the full context. Like many other scenes from Washington’s life, travelers can visit the area where history happened, tread the same treasured ground our forefathers did, and of course learn more about their feats from whatever museum, park, visitors center, statue, or plaque sprang forth to mark the spot.
In the case of this particular moment in time, visitors also need to make sure which “Washington Crossing” park they want to see.
I knew something had gone wrong with the day when two coworkers approached and interrupted met at lunch. They usually know better, but they felt it was their duty to break the news to me that the legendary Stan Lee himself had at long last passed away at age 95. In many ways I’m glad they were the messengers, as opposed to finding out by stumbling into random, cryptic retweets from strangers.
Though we’d already toured one esteemed educational establishment on this vacation, we weren’t in Princeton to walk the halls or grounds of Princeton University. While in town, though, we complemented our historical stop at Princeton Cemetery with a few quick examples of the art in the vicinity, which gave life to memorable moments in New Jersey history from the American Revolution through 20th-century rock music.