Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 34: Independence Mall: Resurgence

Rocky and Us!

Once again we didn’t make it to the official Rocky Balboa statue in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His smaller, more colorful twin would have to do.

Our second time in Philadelphia wasn’t meant to be a total retread of our 2010 visit. Just the same, we couldn’t resist walking past a few of the major highlights. We also couldn’t help walking past them — the parking garage underneath Independence Mall was the most convenient place to leave the car for our first few hours in town, adjacent to several new sights we wanted to see. This year we had slightly more time, somewhat better cameras, and far better maps at our fingertips, given that neither of us owned a mobile phone till 2012.

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…

…though not all those miles were relaxing. Our path forward from Washington Crossing Historic Park thew us a curve ball when we discovered Pennsylvania was in the midst of renumbering and possibly even renaming all the interstate exits along that leg of our planned route. Maybe passengers had time to stare intently at the passing signs and could comfortably read the old exit numbers listed in veritable fine print under the new numberings on most of their roadsigns. I’m not convinced all of them were courteously subtitled like that, but I don’t have photos to prove it was their fault that I missed our exit. I had to turn around at the next exit several miles south, return north to our intended point of egress, learn there was no exit ramp on our side, continue onward to the exit before our exit to the north, turn around there, and then retrace our steps south to the correct exit. Not that I’m bitter.

Philly accident!

An accident we passed along the way was actually less of an obstacle than their cursed renumbering project.

Beyond that point, our directions were solid. In fact, Google Maps correctly laid out every turnoff and strongly recommended lane we’d need to get to the Independence Mall parking garage — no accidental detours, no second-guessing, no hesitation, no iffy adjustments on the fly required. I appreciate it when computers do their job and do it well.

This was the same garage we used in 2010, but we found ourselves near a different set of elevators and found new scenes at street level, a pair of murals completed in 2011 after eight months of toil by artist David Gordon.

1787 Constitutional Convention!

In this corner, men at the 1787 Constitutional Convention congratulate themselves for a job well done.

Women v. Constitution!

In this corner, the womenfolk review the handiwork of the patriarchy and roll their eyes at the exclusionary results.

We stopped briefly at the Independence Visitors Center to refresh, get our bearings, and pose with that Rocky statue in our lead photo. We were one of three families who approached the Italian Stallion at the same time, and had fun taking turns snapping each other’s photos with each party’s cameras. We agreed as an impromptu committee the results were better than selfies. Cooperation between tourists like this isn’t unusual and is pretty awesome whenever it comes up.

Also awesome: a brief reunion with an unexpected face. Anne’s memory beats mine in countless ways, so I was stunned when we walked past a security staffer on duty and she recognized him as Eric, the congenial guide who led us through our entertaining 2010 tour of Independence Hall. (We have one blurry shot of him in our 2010 trip outtakes.) He was on different assignment this day, but he confirmed his name was still Eric and Independence Hall touring was in his wheelhouse. Anne was delighted to see him again, hugged him, and probably frightened him a bit.

Tour Guide Eric!

There’s no way in the universe he would’ve remembered us among so many thousands, but to us he was just that memorable.

We had considered heading down the hallway to the Liberty Bell Center for another glimpse of that famous American artifact, possibly to take better pictures. When we saw how long the line was, we reconsidered and opted out of an encore.

Liberty Bell Center!

From the outside we could see a few exhibits and several conglomerated tourists.

As we walked around downtown Philadelphia, we later ran across another attraction from last time — Christ Church Burial Ground, final resting place of Benjamin Franklin and other Founding Fathers, none of them Presidents.

Christ Church Burial Ground!

I suppose we could’ve paid admission again and added Benjamin Rush’s tombstone to our galleries, but…nah.

However, ranking high on Anne’s to-do list this time were photo retakes of Independence Hall. Our 2010 exterior shots weren’t great and failed to capture its size to her liking. On the walk back from the Museum of the American Revolution, we stopped and tried again for a few minutes.

Independence Mall!

The view of Independence Mall from the second floor of the National Constitution Center. Independence Hall is the vanishing point.

Independence Hall!

Independence Hall on Independence Mall, for independence for all. (Uh, eventually all.)

George Washington statue!

In front of the hall, I imagined balloons and confetti falling from the sky as we took pictures of our one millionth George Washington statue.

On the Mall and next door to the Hall is Signer Gardens, which we missed last time. On the grounds is the onetime house of artist George Clymer, the man responsible for the ubiquitous George Washington painting that graces our $1 bills. In front of the house stands “The Signer”, a 1982 general tribute to any Founding Fathers who signed documents that helped turn the United States of America into a reality.

The Signer!

He’s as proud as Rocky, but for fighting with his autographs rather than his fists.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[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!]

4 responses

  1. Very Good! Long lines are a constant problem at the Park. Lot’s of people want to see where our Country was born. This is why I don’t get to see what I want. I’ll get there!


    • Last time we were in town, tour groups were all around us, making everything take even longer. This time we arrived later in the day, so it wasn’t quite so bad. Just the same, that Liberty Bell line was the longest one we saw anywhere all day. Gotta love those national treasures.


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