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:
Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Normally we’ll choose one major locale as our primary objective, drive that-a-way, and concentrate on exploring the vicinity for a few days before retreating.
We crafted this year’s itinerary with a different approach. Instead of choosing one city as a hub, we focused on one of the motifs that’s recurred through several of our trips: grave sites of Presidents of the United States of America. Our 2018 road trip would effectively have the format and feel of a video game side quest — collecting nine American Presidents across ten presidencies, four states, seven days, and 2000 miles…
The National Constitution Center opened in 2003 at the north end of Independence Mall, the polar opposite of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center. More than just a museum, the National Constitution Center also hosts speeches, discussions, and debates about Constitutional matters involving participants from all over the political spectrum, including at least three former U.S. Presidents. The Center is nonprofit and nonpartisan, except maybe to anyone touchy enough to think “Our Constitution is a good thing” is a terrible hot take. Either way it’s all about American civics in general, where they came from, and how they got where they are today, with stopovers for all the best Bill of Rights amendments.
(Minor point, in case anyone thinks to ask: if there was a concerted tribute to the Second Amendment, I didn’t see it, and neither of us photographed it. I like to think an arsenal would’ve stood out to me, like the one at Rutherford Hayes’ museum on Day One, the polearms at the Met in NYC in 2011, or the medieval weaponry at the Art Institute of Chicago on my very first, regrettably undocumented trip to the Windy City in 1993.)
As you’d expect in a nation with a democracy in it, or a republic, or a democratic republic, or a presidential system, or an anti-monarchic inclination toward freedom and lack of overt tyranny…
(Cut. Take two, and action:)
As you’d expect in a nation with voting in it, the subject of elections is a big deal at the National Constitution Center. To engage visitors and immerse them in the experience — even those who can’t legally vote for real, such as kids — they have an entire fantasy election system set up.
As a special added bonus at the time of our visit, the Center featured a temporary exhibit starring Broadway legend Alexander Hamilton, one of the Constitution’s 39 signers and a member of the Constitutional Convention’s Style and Arrangement committee.
The most fascinating part of the cavernous Center lay ahead on the second floor. Besides the panoramic view of Independence Mall, I mean…
To be continued!
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[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up 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!]