Tuesday, May 8, 2007
From Independence Hall to the Big Meadow Lodge
We started the day in the historic city of Philadelphia and ended it at the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We woke up in our elegant room at the Morris House Hotel and went downstairs for breakfast in front of the fireplace in the book-lined dining room. After we checked out and stowed our luggage in the Jeep, we walked over to Independence Park to get our free tickets for the tour of Independence Hall. It was moving to know we were standing in the same buildings and walking the same brick-paved paths as Benjamin Franklin, John and Sam Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. We checked out the Liberty Bell, now enshrined in a building with tighter security than an international airport. The highlight of our walk back in time, for me, was our horse-and-buggy tour around the Independence Park and Society Hill. Our guide pointed out the historical and architectural features of many of the public buildings and private homes in this area, embellishing her narration with stories of the people who built and occupied them. I was delighted with her story about 4’11” James Madison and the 6-foot tall lady he courted and later married, named Dolly.
After the obligatory lunch of Philly Cheese Steaks at Benny's Place on Market Street, we hopped in Bugle1 and hit the road. Five and a half hours later, we checked into the Big Meadow Lodge at Shenandoah National Park. The drive down wasn't fun. It was heavy going most of the way and we didn't quite clear the Beltway in time to avoid the beginning of rush hour, so it was pretty bogged down from there until we finally left Rt. 66 in Virginia. We did reach Shenandoah before dark, so we were able to enjoy many breathtaking vistas as we ascended Skyline Drive. Our room has a balcony overlooking the valley. We had a delicious meal in the lodge's dining room while watching the sun go down behind the Blue Ridge and we're looking forward to a couple of ranger-lead walks tomorrow.