Hershey

Hershey, PA – September, 2016 When we started making tentative plans for this northeast loop many months ago Jim asked if America’s Largest RV Show could be on the itinerary. The show is hosted by the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Association and held in Hershey each September. A quick internet search for the show dates and a glance at the map and I assured him it could be done.

We planned to attend the show the first day, Wednesday. This also happened to be Senior Day. As is our M.O., we arrived 30 minutes before the gates opened. We parked in the huge lot which was free for this event and joined a long line waiting to get in.

Jim’s been 55 almost a year and we’ve only had a few occasions when we’ve benefited from a senior discount that was defined as 55+. For some reason Jim is not nearly as tickled as I am when we save money by being lumped in this category. Even though their website says the senior only qualifies for one half price ticket, they let him buy both our tickets so we got in for $5 each.

The day was forecast to be very hot so we chose to visit the outside exhibitors first. This included acres and acres of every conceivable type of RV, open for perusal. We spent hours checking out a sampling of all types of RVs, from tricked out motorhomes going for half a million to micro tow behinds for less than ten grand.

We thought about what changes we could make to our own home to make it more accommodating. We also seriously considered what type of rig we’d want next if it became necessary to replace ours. We mostly just enjoy poking around in open houses and this was a chance to do so on a micro scale mega times.

There are exciting ideas being incorporated into new RVs. Our favorites were in storage capacity. This Momentum 5th wheel by Grand Design had a feature that definitely made it our favorite even though at 41′ it was longer than we’d ever consider towing and more money than we would pay. It had a rear bedroom that was raised so that there was a small garage in the rear under the bed. This storage area would be large enough for our scooter and kayaks, or someone’s 4 wheeler or golf cart.

About noon we finally headed inside, hot and tired. The Giant Arena had displays all around the hallway at ground level and then filling up the entire court. There were plenty of interesting products and services available and we enjoyed checking them out for a couple hours.

I was prepared to be underwhelmed by this event as I had been somewhat disappointed by Quartzite’s RV show. Instead I was blown away. If I was planning to replace an RV within the year, I would try to make it to this show before making a decision on a model. The selection just couldn’t be beat and they were all ready to deal.

While we were in Hershey we had to visit Hershey’s Chocolate World. It was free so what they heck.

Mostly it was a large store with every product Hershey sells in one place. They had some free samples including products that weren’t yet for sale anywhere else. But the highlight was an animated ride taking you through their process of manufacturing products including talking farm animals.

We then visited downtown Hershey and walked around. It made for a nice stroll as there are plenty of cool old buildings. The street was lined with kiss-shaped street lights.

Jim really wanted to visit the Gettysburg battlefield an hour away. We looked into stopping there a night or two after leaving Hershey but couldn’t find a good, reasonably priced camping option. So I lobbied for a day trip instead.

The park was free but the museum and film were not. So we skipped them. We picked up a map at the visitor center and checked out the limited number of free exhibits they did have. Then we headed out on the self-guided driving tour.

The drive was pleasant and there was plenty to see. It was a lovely area.

And the cornfields and split rail fencing took you back in time.

There were numbered stops that corresponded to the map and took you through the 3 day battle. But primarily there were monuments, some 1,400 of them, scattered all over the place.

There were several larger ones, the most impressive being the Pennsylvania Memorial.

During our time in the area we chose to stay at PA Dutch Country RV Resort. It was 15 miles from Hershey but the closer ones were too expensive or booked. Dutch Country is a Thousand Trails property but our Thousand Trails pass does not cover this zone so we booked it through Passport America for $26 per day full hookups. It was a nice park except it was very poorly laid out and many sites were incredibly uneven front to back so I can’t say I’d go back.

Philly

Philadelphia, PA – September, 2016 During a whirlwind tour of the northeast in 2004 we drove right by Philadelphia and didn’t take the time to stop. I’ve always regretted that we didn’t squeeze in a visit to the Liberty Bell at least. So when we planned this trip I hoped that we might scoot over to Philly and check it out.

We had kept the schedule for this jaunt through the north and east rather fluid up to this point but we did have an event we wanted to attend and a reservation made at our final stop of this tour. Luck would have it that we ended up with an entire week to kill before those dates so I gladly planned a full seven days in and around Philly. We stayed outside the city in Hatfield at the Village Scene Mobile Home Park. We were given a lovely sight in the back of the park with full hookups for a weekly rate of $264.

Valley Forge was nearby so we made a visit there our first day out and about. I was surprised to learn that there were no civil war battles fought at Valley Forge. It was simply where George Washington and his troops spent a very rough winter. The soldiers built their own quarters so the construction varied.

There were several large monuments but the National Memorial Arch was the most impressive.

Washington’s Headquarters were the most interesting part of the park. The home that he rented and lived in with Mrs. Washington has been restored and furnished to look much as it would have during his stay. There was a ranger and a costumed volunteer there to answer questions.

Valley Forge had a great visitor center, an informative film, and made for a lovely drive. And it was all free. By the way, if you are a cyclist it was extremely bike friendly.

Jim requested a visit to the Eastern State Penitentiary, a once famous prison built in the 1820’s that is now a ruin and a museum. The prison was designed with a hub in the middle which the hallways radiate from so that all the cells could be monitored from the center.

The hallways are filled with tiny doors to small cells. A second story of cells were added to some of the hallways later to relieve overcrowding.

One of the most famous occupants of the prison, Al Capone, lived a bit differently than the average prisoner.

This museum was informative and entertaining. It was a pretty good value, $14 admission each and $10 for parking. We arrived an hour before the museum opened, parked, and walked a half mile to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We walked around the building until we found what we were looking for, the Rocky statue.

Of course, I had to run up the steps that were featured in the movie.

We had left home at 7:30 to hopefully beat the rush hour traffic. We didn’t! We avoided the interstates on the way in as Google traffic showed they were at a standstill. Jim drove through heavy 6 lane traffic down Broad Street. When we left the prison I easily jumped on the interstate and made it home in no time. If we had it to do over we would have left even earlier, like 6 am, or waited until after 9.

For our second foray downtown we chose public transportation. There is a train stop a few miles from the campground where it costs less than $1 to park on weekdays or it’s free on weekends. We planned to catch the 7:30 train and were a little concerned when the ticket office wasn’t open until 8 a.m. and there were no automated ticketing options. But a fellow passenger assured us that we could buy our tickets on the train.

We hopped aboard and a conductor came through the car about 10 minutes later. We bought a day pass for $12 each that allowed us to ride all the trains and city busses we wanted. Then we relaxed and watched the city go by while we road in stress free comfort.

We love to use public transportation when it is reasonably priced. My research said that parking in downtown garages would have cost around $20, assuming our 7 foot tall truck would even fit. The train was definitely a better value.

We arrived at the Jefferson station within an hour. We walked outside and it took a few minutes to get our bearings but we soon figured out which way to head. We walked a half mile to the Independence National Historical Park enjoying the old buildings along the way.

We started at the visitor center. I knew we had to pick up a ticket but that it was free. I hoped our ticket time wouldn’t require us to wait too long. Instead they said if we hurried we could make the next tour time. We wanted to enjoy the visitor center for a bit so I requested a ticket time a half hour later. We checked out the exhibits there and decided to pass on the free films.

We then ambled across the street to see the Liberty Bell which is what I thought the ticket was for. But we walked right in, went through security, and no one asked for a ticket. The light wasn’t in my favor and we had to wait a bit for a 5 second window when no one was standing in the shot but I finally got a pic.

philly-bell

We then moseyed across the street to Independence Hall and learned that our ticket was for a tour of it.

philly-indhall

Despite my confusion and lack of planning we happened to arrive just in time for our tour. It was definitely the highlight of our visit. Our tour guide had this booming voice that made you wonder if he would have a voice left at all by the end of the day. The tour was entertaining and very educational. It ended in the room where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and where our Constitution was drafted a decade later.

We walked a different street back toward the train station. We wanted to roam the Reading Terminal Market. It was filled with booths hawking food and assorted wares. We had philly cheese steaks for lunch and bought some sweet treats from a bakery for later.

The market was practically on top of the Jefferson station so after lunch we made our way down into it. This train station is huge so it was a little more complicated to find which train would take us home and where to catch it. But more helpful passengers pointed us in the right direction and we only waited 30 minutes for the train that ran approximately every hour.

We thoroughly enjoyed the area and I’m glad the oversight of our last trip through was righted.