Sunday, March 31, 2024

Spring Break Road Trip - Week of Mar. 25th

"It's not the destination, it's the journey." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson  

"People don't take trips, trips take people." ~John Steinbeck

We told Cam that any spring break trip would be his choice.  Over the summer, his cousins requested a visit to Philadelphia and New Jersey.  Cameron chose to head east for his sophomore spring vacation. Wednesday was the last day of school for Cam's week and the last day of work for his parents' week too. After Cameron finished tutoring with Ms. Ann, we all made our way over to JT's restaurant for the limited time cod dinner.  

Thursday morning, we removed the few remaining items from the cupboards in the kitchen.  Cam supervised checking and re-checking the packing list for our trip.  By 11am, we were finally on our way!  Our first day destination was Youngstown, Ohio.  It would take us 5.5 hours to drive there.  Chris rigged up Cam's iPad for easy viewing and maneuvering during the van ride.  We arrived at our hotel close to 5p.  Room service was ordered and we were all pretty tired.  The food was tasty so we decided to order one breakfast and have it delivered.  It was enough for 3 people!  

We were back on the highway by 10am.  Friday's final destination was Philadelphia.  Our trip was long but the scenery from Ohio to Pennsylvania was so interesting.  The sunny drive took us through 4 tunnels.  The service plazas were the coolest, according to Cam, since you could easily complete everything you needed in one stop.  The traffic became heavier as we made our way into downtown Philly.  We pulled into the Doubletree hotel right before 5pm.  The check-in process took some time.  Our spacious room was on the 26th floor, which was also the very top of the building.  Our view was spectacular.  Cousin Avery was very sad we couldn't visit that evening since she had dressed up for Cam, but was happy when we sent a short video.

Saturday morning, after a hotel breakfast, we ventured out to meet cousin Libby in downtown Philadelphia to see some sights.  We were pleasantly surprised that the sidewalks weren't crowded and Cam was able to navigate easily.  Our first stop was the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell, previously called the State House Bell or Old State House Bell, is an iconic symbol of American independence located in Philadelphia. Originally placed in the steeple of Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell today is located across the street from Independence Hall.  The line to see the bell inside was quite long, so we opted for an up-close look through the window.  
Our next stop with Libby was the "Rocky" statue located in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  An elaborate monument of George Washington from the Revolutionary War along with allegorical figures was located in front.  Cam liked hearing about the monument's history and we were all thankful for the mild, sunny weather.  The 72 steps leading up to the Museum of Art are known as the iconic "Rocky" steps.  Libby and Chris ran up the steps first and then Jane and Chris quickly ascended and descended.  We were on a bit of a time schedule.  

Next, we were slated to meet up with our extended family: cousins JJ & Jeffrey, Katie and Tyler and their daughters Avery and Olivia.  Our lunchtime destination was the Philadelphia Zoo where we would start off with a picnic feast right through the entrance.  The Philadelphia Zoo is the first true zoo in the United States. It was chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on March 21, 1859, but its opening was delayed by the Civil War until July 1, 1874. The zoo opened with 1,000 animals and an admission price of 25 cents.  For a brief time, the zoo also housed animals brought to U.S. from safaris by the Smithsonian Institution, which had not yet built its National Zoo.  
The Philadelphia Zoo is one of the premier zoos in the world for breeding animals that are difficult to breed in captivity.  The zoo also works with many groups around the world to protect the natural habitats of the animals in their care. The zoo is 42 acres and the home of nearly 1,300 animals, many of which are rare and endangered.  Four-year-old cousin Avery pointed out all of the animals to Cam.  Jane's favorite were the monkeys running through suspended mesh tunnels.  Cameron's choice was the enormous tortoise that was over 100 years old.  Chris's top pick was the lion.  We spent over two hours seeing all of the different creatures and just beat the raindrops as we exited the zoo.  We ended our Saturday at Katie and Tyler's home in Fishtown where we devoured delicious appetizers and local pizza.

Sunday morning after our buffet hotel breakfast, we decided to take a family stroll just 20 minutes from our hotel to check out City Hall and the famous "Love" sign.
Philadelphia City Hall is the world's largest free-standing masonry building and was the world's tallest habitable building upon its completion in 1894. It was built using brick, white marble and limestone.  We didn't even realize until we were upon the entrance that you can actually walk directly through the middle of the building.  Cam was amazed by how tall it was and all of the history.
Upon exiting City Hall, we could see our next stop.
The famous Robert Indiana sculpture is in John F. Kennedy Plaza — better known as LOVE Park — just northwest of City Hall. It was installed in 1976.
We were back to our hotel by 10am and then promptly headed out in our van to Lebanon, New Jersey.  The ride was close to 90 minutes for the short journey to spend Easter with our cousins at their home, known as The Tory House.  
JJ and Jeffrey's house was built in 1760.  This is truly the oldest home we had ever been in.  Cam was transferred to his manual wheelchair so we could navigate in their home.  First up, though, was an Easter egg hunt with the little cousins.  Cameron was also included to partake in the search for plastic eggs filled with chocolate.  The property overlooks a stream and woods with a carriage house, bridge over the water and a sugar shack where maple syrup is made.  A scavenger hunt began and the kids collected their goodies.  We heard the history of the house and Jeffrey took us on a tour.  A toasty fire outside kept us all warm while we munched on appetizers.  Easter dinner was an unbelievable feast of lamb, mashed potatoes and vegetables.  It was the first time Cam had tasted lamb and he loved it!  Dessert options included our homemade Michigan apple pie and homemade cheesecake with a delectable chocolate crust.  Afterwards, JJ presented an Easter basket to all of us.  Their tradition is to give underwear to the adults, toys to the kids and chocolate eggs and jellybeans for everyone.  Cam was the proud recipient of a U of M champions shirt with "We Beat Everyone" emblazoned on the front.  With full bellies, we thanked our cousins for a most memorable Easter. Chris, Jane and their son talked about the awesome day on their drive back to their Philadelphia hotel.  More adventures were just around the corner...

Camology Quotes:

Cam is typically open to try new things. He was a bit hesitant when he heard we'd be having lamb for Easter. Upon his first bite, though, he was pleasantly surprised.
"Mom, it tastes like really good steak!"

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