Our 2011 Road Trip, Part 2: The Harrisburg Highlight

Pennsylvania State Capitol!

[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context.]

DAY TWO — Sunday, July 10, 2011.

After unremarkable free breakfast at unremarkable hotel, we took a jaunt down the road to Harrisburg, which we’d driven through in 2010 without stopping. We’d skipped it because our searches for “Harrisburg tourism” kept turning up the Pennsylvania State Capitol dome as its #1 attraction. The same thing happened to us in 2008 with Charleston, WV, where their gold-leaf Capitol dome was virtually the only notable feature in all the city and in all the Internet. You’d think any really exciting state capital should have its Capitol Dome ranked around #7 or #8 behind a glorious selection of roadside attractions or amusement parks. We knew Harrisburg would be larger and theoretically more interesting, but Capitol domes alone don’t much preoccupy us. 2010 wasn’t the first time we’d driven through a state capital without stopping for at least one sight. (Richmond, VA, we fail to salute you!)

This year, our New Cumberland hotel was right there in the thick of Harrisburg’s interstate construction. Anne was interested but would’ve been willing to bypass it a second time if it hadn’t been so darn convenient. We were right there. A few minutes wouldn’t hurt.

Our Harrisburg diversion gave us a chance to see the Susquehanna River, so that was kind of nice. I’m not sure if it has significance outside of “because it’s there” but Anne thought well enough of it to capture its image while I drove.

Susquehanna River!

Boats! Hotels! Trees! Probably clean water! We have no idea!

Susquehanna River!

This jogger is one of the few citizens awake this early and ready for exertion.

My directions weren’t great, so a turnaround or two was required. Fortunately downtown Harrisburg on a Sunday morning was as unpopulated as the second fifteen minutes of a zombie movie, just the right conditions for driving and half-sleeping at the same time.

Mystery Castle Place!

I bet this tiny castle was once an awesome business that deserves a second chance. Curse you, stupid 2008 recession and your disrespect toward fake antiquity.

We had time for a little wandering before our lunch appointment, so what the heck. We found their Capitol dome in all its green glory. That’s different.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Dome!

In trying to learn why it’s green, all the internet would tell me is, “Well, actually, that’s a green glaze over red terra cotta tiles.” You’re dodging my question, Internet. WHY GREEN? WHYYYY?

The lead photo was taken from the side facing the greater part of their downtown. The front of the State Capitol either faces toward the Susquehanna River or points away from it. I never found out because I wasn’t in the mood for driving any more laps around. We parallel-parked at 4th and Walnut and left my son snoozing in the back seat. Across the street were numerous businesses with authentic olde-tyme facades and designs, none of them open.


Maybe someday we’ll return for an in-depth examination of Harrisburg. This morning, it wasn’t meant to be.

I walked partway up the complex and paused while Anne ran up close like Martin Prince at a box factory. It’s not as though she had to compete with any teeming Pennsylvanian masses.

Pennsylvania State Capitol!

Tiny wife meets giant dome.

I stayed at ground level and stared at the surroundings for several long minutes until she was finally content with her dome experience and descended the deserted steps before any Harrisburg police could wake up and come boot her off the property.

Pennsylvania State Capitol!

“Historical architecture is fun! Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!”

Now we can say we’ve been to Harrisburg. Side quest completed. On to New York City, the place we really wanted to see.

To be continued!

[Historical notes:

1. We drove through Richmond, VA, on our way to Virginia Beach for our 2008 road trip. In hindsight, finding a single reason to stop in Richmond would’ve improved that complicated vacation by 500% easily.

2. Longtime MCC readers should know State Capitol domes now totally preoccupy us as long as we can see them without making a 100-mile detour for the privilege.

3. Some investigative digging into Google Earth tonight has revealed the unnamed building at the corner of Front Street and North Street is next door to the Civic Club of Harrisburg, and hasn’t been demolished or replaced. Most recent images reveal the “For Sale” sign is gone, but no other signage has replaced it. Curiously, in front of the building are several barrels painted with different colors and symbols such as stars, vines, and musical notes. On the street next to the sidewalk, persons unknown have written in chalk “KETTLE CORN”. I came away from my investigation with more questions than answers.]

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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