This year both my mom and dad turned 70. I think 70 officially makes you old. I decided to do something special for both of them. For my mom, a trip back to Mass in fall for the turning of the leaves. She is originally from Mass and has family back there, but this is about Fathers Day.
For my dad, his present was a trip to Gettysburg. I was back in Norfolk, VA for a Best Western conference. My company AutoClerk, is endorsed and certified by Best Western to provide Property Management systems for Best Western properties.
I flew out to the Baltimore Airport (BWI) from Norfolk and my dad flew out to Baltimore from Oakland. On the flight to BWI, another passenger noticed my shirt and asked if I was in the hospitality business. I explained what I did and he asked me to contact him. We got to talking about the trip my dad and I were taking and he suggested that we not miss Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor.
I arrive at Baltimore couple of hours before him, so I got the rental car and checked out the route to Fort McHenry. It wasn't very far at all. My dad arrived, I got back to the airport just in time to meet him just about the time he got to the curb. We drove directly to Gettysburg. It was still light when we arrived. We stayed at the Best Western (Big surprise eh?) that was right at the circle in the center of town. The hotel was built in the late 1700's, but was in beautiful condition. After checkin in, we went across the street and ate at the Lincoln diner. My wife Carmen, my daugther Ceci and I had visted Gettysburg a couple of years back. We had dined at the Lincoln diner with Yuri, his wife CG and daughter Liliana. The food is home cooked, honey dipped fried chicken, blue berry pie and more.
The next morning, we ate at the Lincoln Diner again. Breakfast was fantastic. We walked by the railstation that Lincoln arrived, stopped by the souvenir shop, got some T-shirts. I got a mug for my dad for Fathers day, which is usually the same day as his birthday or very close. Must have separate presents for each. We headed up to the Gettysburg Battlefield, hired a private tour guide. He drove our car, answered all our questions. The tour was tailored just for us. It was so interesting. Seeing all those monuments, seeing the terrain and realizing how those Americans on both sides died right there.
After we finished our tour, we watched a film at the visitor center on Gettysburg, had lunch again at the Lincoln diner and hit the road to Paradise, which is just outside of Lancaster. Home of the Amish. We checked into the hotel, another Best Western (see a pattern forming?). The hotel was really nice. We checked with the front desk and headed for a restaurant with Amish cooking, where they make things from scratch. I don't think we say even one chain restaurant in that small town. About a mile way was just what we were looking for. It was in a town called "Bird in Hand". You got to love these names. We ate a wonderful dinner and tried Shoofly-pie. It wasn't great, maybe it they didn't do a great job on that, but at least we can say we have tried it.
The next morning we got in the car, after an incredible breakfast at the same restaurant from the nigth before and made our way for Philadelphia. After parking, we got our tickets for Independence Hall. There is no cost, but you need to have tickets. We got more T-shirts. Dad got one that I picked out, a tie-dye for Becky. We headed on over to the Liberty Bell. We were able to get right next to it. See all its imperfections, miss-spellings and all. It is still inspiring.
We still had plenty of time before our tour of Independence Hall, so we headed over to the City Tavern. This is where the founding fathers retired after a long day of debating at Independence Hall. Turns out that the place is pretty much the same as it was back them. Dad had a Cider and I had an Ale made from Thomas Jefferson's recipe. It was very cool. You could imagine them hanging out there, chatting, joking, drinking and debating. We wondered how much of the real work got done here.
One the way back, we stopped at the City Hall. What is so special is that it was the original court for the US Supreme Court. The history was fascinating and the tour guide provided the tour for free.
Finally, we get to Independence Hall. The tour guide was fantastic. Besides the Declaration of Independence, he asked what other famous document was signed there. My dad and I both knew it was the Articles of Confederation. A little boy asked dad how he knew that? Dad answered, "Cause I was there". The boy asked "Really?". It was so funny.
Now it was time for the most important part of our Philadelphia trip. We went to the birthplace of the Philly Cheese steak, Pats King of Steaks. It has been open for over 70 years and right across the street is Gino's. There is a big competition over who is better, so we split a sandwich from each. We could not decide. They were both great. I did make a mistake. At Gino's, I ordered the sandwich with Provolone, instead of cheese whiz. I know, you are thinking cheese whiz? Yep, and it is better for a Philly cheese steak than provolone. So I guess we will have to go back and try it again until we get it right.
We made our way back to Paradise. Had dinner at the same great restaurant. The next morning, we got up and ate at a different Amish restaurant. We had scrapple, fried mush and other great things that we had never had before. The food was amazing. We hired an Amish gentleman to take us for a tour of the Amish country in one of their buggies. We was 81 years old and had to retire from being a farmer. He still wished he was a farmer. He was in amazing shape. We rode by more than one farm owned by a Bear (spelled in all sorts of ways). Once we were done, we were treated to a home made cookie. Oh my.
We checked out of the hotel, and headed towards the airport, but not via the freeway. We drove all the way across Pennsylvania and Maryland on small roads. It was a great way to explore and see these states. Once in Baltimore, we went to Fort McHenry. We explored the gun emplacements, the bomb shelters, everything. We went into the visitors center. They had a film that told the story of the War of 1812 from the point of view of the prisoner that Francis Scott Key was negotiating the release of. It really wasn't a matter of us surviving the night. Keep in mind that we did not do all that well in the War of 1812. We lost part of Maine to Canada. The British sacked Washington and burned the White House to the ground, but in Baltimore it was different.
At that time, the British navy was the most powerful navy in the world. The citizens of Baltimore had pooled there money together to hire a military engineer to design and build Fort McHenry. The British navy tried to get past the Fort, but we blew them out of the water and yes we did have a few losses. Very few compared to the losses we imposed on the British. They were forced to pull back. Since their guns were more powerful than ours, they were able to pull back far enough that our cannons could not reach them, but they could shell the fort, but our fort was bomb proof. That is right, it was bomb proof. Sure, today you can't make anything bomb proof, but in those days you could. So in the morning, when Francis Scott Key saw that the flag was still waving over Fort McHenry, it wasn't by the skin of our teeth. The British gave up, cause they had no chance.
When the presentation was over, the drapes on our right side opened up. The view was the hill in the center of Fort McHenry and the Star Spangled Banner waving in the breeze. It was a stirring moment.
We got back in the car, and in fifteen minutes we were at the airport. We had returned the rental car and were past security in the airport. We hadn't eaten in a while and they had a famous name restaurant that just happed to serve crab cakes. Maryland crab cakes. It is really a must to each crab cakes when in Maryland. They were huge and they were delicious.
At 5:00pm, we got on the plane for a direct flight back to Oakland. We did all of that in two and a half days and we both lost weight that week.