The adventure got off to a rocky start, almost delaying my departure by a day. Mitchell had arrived on Sunday night and was to leave for Virginia early Tuesday morning to go to work. I would get up with him then leave for Pa. later that morning. Those plans were foiled Monday when we both got oil changes for our cars and he decided to get another engine service that the shop was offering on special. When we went back Monday afternoon to pick his car up several men were standing around his car. The hood was up and they looked perplexed. He knew right away the news was not going to be good. Something happened to his engine during that procedure that essentially blew it up. :(
Tuesday morning was spent making phone calls and trying to figure out what the shop was going to do to repair his car. It quickly became apparent that whatever they were going to do was going to take time and he would need to rent a car. Deciding who was going to pay for the rental also took awhile. Finally, Mitchell found out he would have to pay out of his own pocket for the rental but the shop's insurance company would compensate him later. They really make your life miserable when they make a mistake and blow up your car.
Apparently cars are not as easy to rent in these smaller cities as they are at major airports. We called and drove all over town looking for a decent car at a reasonable rate and finally he found a place that promised a suitable vehicle would be ready before 5 in the afternoon. It was already pushing 3 o'clock so we decided I should leave and my mother would drive him to the rental agency. I finally hit the highway for the long drive north but Mitchell's interesting, hair pulling day was not over yet. They ended up having to drive to a nearby city to get the car and made it there just minutes before the business closed.
I'd never left so late for such a long drive but I felt rested so I knew it would be okay. When my baby is here I always get a good night's sleep. I was hopeful that the late start would allow me to miss the rush hour traffic I usually hit around Washington DC or Baltimore, and luckily that was the case. Except for a minor delay around Richmond at 5 PM, traffic wasn't a problem. It was after 11 when I finally arrived at my hotel in King of Prussia, too late to see my friends Sophie Lynne and Linda Lewis. When I found out that Rachael Kruse had been up to visit from Baltimore that night , I really hated having been so late. At least I'd made it to my destination, against formidable odds, and there was always tomorrow.
|King of Prussia, Pa. |
It turns out that my hotel was across the street from the largest mall in the country. I never made it inside the mall on this trip, further proof that I am not a shopaholic.
Wednesday was the day to spend with Sophie and Linda. My electrolysis appointment was Friday but Sophie had to work the rest of the week and I needed to be home Saturday night so I wouldn't miss Mother's Day. Of course that meant that Tuesday was my last day shaving that week, but that wouldn't slow me down on this trip. My treatments so far have really helped so with a little makeup I was ready to go.
Considering that I was staying next to the huge King of Prussia Mall, Sophie asked me if I wanted to go into the city first or go to the mall. This may surprise some of you but that was really a no brainer. I've been wanting to go to Philadelphia for years, having only visited that city once as a child. So off to the big city it was, just in time for lunch at one of Philly's most famous cheesesteak shops, Jim's Steaks.
We decided to use my car for the day's tour but I let Sophie drive because she knows the area like the back of her hand and I figured she would be the better city driver. It would be enough of a handicap for her driving around Philly with North Carolina tags, but she's a savvy enough driver to pull it off. Besides, traffic really wasn't too bad in the middle of the day.
As I found out on my last trip to the Philadelphia area, Sophie is an excellent tour guide. She pointed out all kinds of sights on the ride into the city. That area is so rich with history and culture that we could spend a week touring and barely touch the highlights, but Sophie had a plan to show us a few very special places. Linda had only been living there a few months, having moved down from Michigan, and with Pennsylvania just thawing out from a long, hard winter this would also be her first time getting a real taste of Philly.
Our first stop in Philly was at Jim's on South Street and nothing tastes more like Philly than an authentic cheesesteak. We arrived around noon and luckily the line was not bad. These places can get very crowded at lunchtime and according to Sophie you have to know how to order there, so we let her order for us. I was kind of expecting a "Soup Nazi" environment but I found the people working at Jim's to be super friendly. Maybe it was because they weren't too crowded or maybe they heard my southern accent and took pity on me, but one of the older guys making the sandwiches went out of his way to remind us we were at the best steak shop around and to tell us to come back.
|Making the cheesesteaks and serving them up..|
Jim's Steaks South Street
|Happy to finally get a real Philly cheesesteak|
|Linda wit' her cheesesteak|
|Sophie displaying her cheesesteak.|
|The Star: Provolone Wit' Cheesesteak from Jim's Steaks...|
|South Street, Philadelphia|
|The Three Stooges?|
|"Weird" Larry Fine picture on the wall at Jon's Bar and Grille.|
|Linda, me and Sophie by the old Dickens Inn sign at Cavanaugh's.|
|Philadelphia is shrouded in history.|
|In front of the Sexploratorium, one of the unique shops on South Street (no we did not go in).|
|Larry Fine playing the violin on the outside of Jon's Bar and Grille|
|The Comcast Center (the tallest building in Philadelphia at 57 stories)|
We rode around a little bit on our way out of Philadelphia, driving by several more landmarks including Independence Hall and the steps made famous in the Rocky movies. With Sophie's (Philadelphia) driving, I missed my split second opportunity to snap a picture of the Rocky statue. Oh well, it had been a fun venture into the city and with Mission Accomplished, we headed back for an afternoon in the more relaxed atmosphere of the suburbs.
After a brief stop at the home where Linda and Sophie are staying, we made our way over to Valley Forge. Though I'd been to Philadelphia many years before, I believe this was my first time visiting this National Historical Park. They live just a few miles away but had not been there since winter. Again, Sophie was the perfect tour guide as we made the driving tour through the vast, mostly open spaces of the famous winter encampment of George Washington's Continental Army.
|The Grand Parade grounds at Valley Forge|
|Inside one of the cabins at Valley Forge|
That training had paid off by May 1778 and from that point on the Continental Army was able to hold its own against the formidable British Army, eventually allowing us to win the war and gain our independence. Such pieces of history lie at the very heart of why the Philadelphia area is so key to what we know as American freedom. Besides, you cannot drive a half mile in those parts without coming across at least one place where George Washington slept. Washington was a very accomplished general and later president, but he must have really slept a lot.
|The Three of us with Inspector General Baron von Steuben|
|Sophie poses with the General.|
|Linda and I looking casual, not exactly in precision drilling formation.|
I also learned that the connection between the Prussian Inspector General Baron von Steuben and Valley Forge is where the neighboring city of King of Prussia got its name. Speaking of King of Prussia, our next stop was for refreshments at Rock Bottom brewery in the huge mall there. This was my second visit to Rock Bottom and going back makes me wish I'd signed up for their preferred customer card on my first visit. In a way it was fateful that I didn't as that card became a card for Sophie, who has since gone full time, and as a regular there she really needs it. I do get the feeling that I will be back though. Next time I'm going to make sure to take time for the full tour of the vast King of Prussia Mall, although Not going into the mall on this trip is further prof that I am Not a shopaholic. :)
|Sophie and Linda at Rock Bottom|
|Early start at Rock Bottom....a large craft beer can be a formidable challenge.|
McKenzie's is known for great drinks and great food and we arrived on a mission to partake of both delicacies. Sophie had to work the next day and we'd already been out about 8 hours so I knew it wasn't going to be a long night. So, when we sat down we went ahead and ordered dinner and I decided to switch from beers to my new favorite drink, Martinis.
|The Three of us at McKenzie's|
|Ordering with my reading glasses, and the awesome Striped bass dinner ,with pink martini.|
We were definitely on our last drinks, having proclaimed that on the last round, or the one before. Sophie was driving so she was keeping it cool and I do believe Linda was getting a little buzz, but me being the out of state visitor blinded by the big city lights, I wasn't leaving anything on the table. As fate would have it, the three of us won the first round of music trivia as Team Vanity Club. The prize was a jumbo pitcher of draft beer. Oh boy!
|The pitcher of beer got three boob approval.|
|Sophie photobomb with some empty glasses.|
|Sophie says No More!!!|
The house is being put on the market and there were some people there cleaning so I missed the opportunity for my makeup lesson with Linda. Saturday, if there was time, I would go back over for my lesson on my way home to North Carolina but Thursday was going to be another big day followed by the all day fun of electrolysis on Friday.
The first half of this May adventure in Pa. had been awesome and this blog entry has gotten so big that the rest of the trip will be continued in Part 2. I want to thank Sophie for being such a great Philadelphia tour guide and thank her and Linda for an awesome day. Both of them are super people and being able to spend time with good friends like this makes these road trips I've been fortunate to take lately really special. I can't wait to go back to the Philly area later this year but you'll need to stay tuned for the rest of the story about this fabulous trip.