I am Arthur, king of the Britons. Whose castle is that?
King of The Who?
Who're the "Britons"?
Well, we all are. We're all Britons, and I am your king.
Didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
You're fooling yourself. We're living in a dictatorship! A self-perpetuating autocracy ...
- Monty Python and The Holy Grail
Happy kids after getting stuffed at Geno's. Photo RGH
Leaving NYC turned out to be easier than we had imagined. We were staying in Midtown, 1.5 blocks from Times Square, and I was a little concerned about the next part of our journey. So far, our trip had involved several long-haul flights, and a bunch of train rides. We used Uber to get to and from the train station, but had not spent any significant time in a car. After New York City, the rest of our trip to South Carolina would be all by car. Kari had gone online and found a car rental only two blocks from our NYC apartment. My first thought on hearing this was fear and trepidation. Here we were in midtown Manhattan, picking up a car after not driving at all in a month and not driving on the Right side of the road in a year. Getting out of the middle of the city was likely to be a bit of an adventure. Surprisingly, it actually went fairly well.
We had a 10 o'clock appointment to pick up the car, and true to from, we were a few minutes late. At the car rental agency, there was a line. Several people had been waiting 30-40 minutes when we arrived. As the line got longer, so too did the wait. Imagine being in a small rental agency office with poor air conditioning on a hot New York morning. Now pack that office with a bunch of New Yorkers who have been waiting over an hour to pick up a car. The tension in the air and the comments flying around continued to ramp up. When I finally got to the counter, the poor clerks were more than a little harried. They were running low on cars and offered me a Mustang, Camaro, or Challenger. Not exactly large family cars suitable for long distance travel, but I wasn't going to turn down the chance to drive a muscle car through the streets of Manhattan. Alas, when they brought the car out, it was a Ford Fusion. Probably a better option for our trip, but I can't say I wasn't disappointed.
Getting out of Manhattan proved all too easy. We drove down half a block, made one turn, then had a short drive to the Lincoln Tunnel and New Jersey. Once we were under the river and into New Jersey, we set the cruise control and made our way to Collegeville, PA. Our destination was the home of two of our oldest and dearest friends. Jim and Amanda have been a part of my life for over 20 years, and good friends to Kari from the moment she met them. We have travelled together and made multiple pilgrimages to each other's homes. We couldn't wait to spend a few days enveloped in comfortable friendship, and Little H couldn't wait to spend a few days playing with their kids instead of hanging out with us. Of course, as long as we were near Philly, we needed to play tourist. Kari had never eaten an original Philly Cheesesteak, so we included that in our plans.
Only one kid was keen for a photo shoot. Photo RGH
Carpenter's Hall. Meeting site of the First Continental Congress 5 Sept - 26 Oct 1774. Photo RGH
Independence Hall. Site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4 1776. Photo RGH
Pat's claims to be the originator of the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich, while Geno's claims to be the best. Photos RGH
Legend has it that Pat and Harry Olivieri created the Philly cheesesteak sandwich at their hotdog stand in the 1930s. Today, the restaurant is located at the site of their original hotdog stand. Geno's was established in 1966, directly across the street from Pat's. They didn't invent the Philly cheesesteak sandwich, but they claim to have perfected it. I had tried the Pat's sandwich many years ago, so this time we ate at Geno's.
From Philly, we were off to Washington, DC to meet up with other friends. Scott and Anita split their time between DC and Denver. We were fortunate that they were in town. They both work in theatre and are putting in some long days, so we were only able to catch up with them in the evenings. During the day, we played tourist. We lived just outside of the beltway when Little H was first born but haven't been back since. After having been to Philly, we had a chance to connect the origins of the US government to its current iteration. We also spent time in the National Gallery of Art and the Natural History Museum. The great weather continued to follow us from New York and PA.
Little H was excited to hear that we were going to the mall, until ...
We finished our friendship tour by heading to the beach and the home of another good friend. Once again, the thought of leaving DC and tackling the beltway caused me great anxiety. Fortunately, we left late enough in the day and were only on the beltway for a short piece, so the drive was much easier than I anticipated. As we headed further south, the skies continued to warm, and by the time we made it to Bethany, it was shorts and t-shirt weather. We spent just a little time at Kelley's, then headed for the beach. Thanks for the wine, lobster, and hospitality, Kelley!
Girls' day at the beach. Photos RGH
Kari and Little H stayed behind to spend another couple of days with Kelley while I made a beeline south. I have to work in a few days and needed to get back to get our US life back in order. There was one more surprise waiting for me, though. On my arrival back home, I walked into a house with a stocked refrigerator. Our friends think of everything. It is the friends who we have visited along the way, and those awaiting our arrival, that truly made this a homecoming. Thanks to each and every one of you.