Ontario - Philadelphia - NW New York
An extended trip to see Arena Football
by David "Sumoflam" Kravetz
April 5, 2008: Today I left early for a trip to Philadelphia with the main purpose being to see Aaron Boone and the Utah Blaze take on the Philadelphia Soul in an Arena Football game. Naturally, being who I am, I wanted to make a full fledged road trip of it and so off I went. Initially I had planned on stopping in Easton, PA (to see the Crayola Factory - but I have been there before) on the way, but due to time constraints, I drove straight to Philadelphia via I-90 and then I-76. It was a beautiful day for a drive.
As I arrived in Philadelphia around noon, I immediately was stuck in major traffic, but had a nice view of the city from a distance. I finally got downtown to my hotel around 2:00 PM. I had to drive around downtown three times before I finally broke down and called the downtown Travelodge were I was staying for free thanks to TripRewards. However, it turned out that I had to park two blocks away and pay $20 for the parking. A very unexpected cost. But, I was actually fortunate to have the parking since it is really at a premium in the downtown area.
The Philadelphia skyline from I-476; downtown Philly contrasts of new and old; City Hall with Ben Franklin on top
My chief reason for hurrying down was to get the opportunity to see some of the historical sites in the Philadelphia area. My time was very limited and I had to walk about 7 blocks to get to Independence National Historic Park. But, it was a pleasant walk, ironically, right through Chinatown (which should be called Asiatown because there was also Vietnamese, Thai, Korean and Japanese restaurants, etc., along the way)
Chinatown in Philly. Hard to see, but the street signs are also in Chinese (red sign under 8th St)
After passing through Chinatown, I finally made my way to the Liberty Bell Center. There was a long line for entry and I had heard from someone at the hotel that I could get a nice photo without going into the monument, so I walked around it and got the photo. I then walked a block further to Independence Hall, in many ways, one of the birthplaces of the United States. I enjoyed the ambience of the horse drawn carriages shuttling people by these old buildings.
Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and Carriages
By the time I had done all of the walking in the area, my knee was killing me so I took a taxi back to the hotel. What a relief. My driver was from Africa and spoke French more than English. But he was nice enough. He dropped me off at the parking lot where I got into the car and then drove down to the arena to see the game. Fortunately, my parking ticket was good for the night so I could return later and park again.
The drive to the Wachovia Spectrum was fairly straightforward...hop on the freeway and go south. Philadelphia has planned well in that all of the facilities for baseball, football, basketball and hockey are all in the same area. This evening the Philadelphia 76ers were playing in one arena and the Soul/Blaze game was in the neighboring one, so there was a lot of activity in the area. I got there in plenty of time and waited to get my ticket into the game, which Aaron Boone kindly had arranged for.
Wachovia Spectrum, Philly Soul fans
When Aaron Boone first signed on to play in the Arena Football League, his first team was actually the Philadelphia Soul. While with the Soul, he got very little playing time and was later traded to the Kansas City Brigade, where he was the team's Rookie of the Year. After his first season, he had the opportunity to play for the Utah Blaze, which he took so he could play in his home state and have plenty of opportunities to play in front of family and friends. This would be his first trip back to Philadelphia since departing the Soul in 2006.
Aaron Boone during warm ups & chatting with teammates; a typical game scene
The Utah Blaze came into the game winless while Philadelphia was unbeaten. Despite some strong play by the Blaze, both teams remained in their respective status as the Blaze came away losers, but gave Philadelphia one of the closest games of the season. Aaron (AirBoone) did well in the game and also scored a touchdown. His sister Becky came to the game from Virginia with her husband Sam and their daughter Sammie. It was nice to meet them. I also had the opportunity to meet and talk with AFL Commissioner David Baker....a big man with a big heart. He is about 6'9" and weighs 400+ pounds.
Aaron Boone with his sister; two big Davids: David K and David Baker, commissioner of the AFL
After the game, I met with AirBoone and we went downtown to visit a couple of the famous Philly Steak joints - Geno's and Pat's. Both of these places have been frequented by numerous celebrities and both places have distinct personalities. We had heard that patience is not a virtue at either place. They run the people through quickly and if you don't know what you want, you are sent to the back of the line to make up your mind. In both places you get your steak sandwich on a hoagie and then you have to tell them if you want onions or not and then what kind of cheese: American, Provolone or Whiz...yes, Cheese Whiz on your steak sandwich. This Cheese Whiz comes out of a large can.
We were really lucky in that we got a parking spot right in front of Geno's (you can even see a video of the place at this link). We hit this place first.... They have a sign out front that says that you must order in English (also see this link). They also claim to be the cleanest place in town.
David at Geno's...The Menu..."Order in English" T-shirt
After enjoying a good steak with Provolone and onions, we walked across the street to Pat's King of Steaks. One of the interesting tidbits of trivia about this place...in 1976 there was a brief scene filmed here for Rocky. There is a plaque on the sidewalk commemorating the occasion. I think that Aaron and I liked this place better.
Pat's: Cookin' up the steak. The REAL Philly Cheese Steak with mushrooms and peppers and onions
Raurie shows off a Cheese Steak "wit whiz"; Aaron and me with some of the Pat's crew
Now, there are a number of interesting videos on YouTube ( 1 , 2 - There are over 200 videos about these two places). Raurie (he is from N. Ireland and so spells his name this way) said he is in one of them. I couldn't find it ( I found it!! ), but it must be out there somewhere.
We had a fun evening, despite the Blaze loss. Aaron came over and chatted for a while and then we said our goodbyes...he haded back to Utah and I back to Canada.
April 6, 2008: The long way home.... As is typical of me, I was up at 8 AM and ready to take off to head back to Canada, this time via the back roads of Pennsylvania. I immediately headed towards Lancaster County, perhaps the most famous of all Amish locations in the United States. Since it was Sunday, I didn't expect much to be going on, but I wanted to make the trip through there nonetheless.
I arrived in Paradise (Pennsylvania) around 11 Am. It was a beautiful day and very few clouds in the sky. As with most of the towns in Lancaster County, Paradise is a small town. I could not find a sign for the town, so no pictures of Paradise. But, from there I moved onward to the Soudersburg/Ronks..basically, the heart of Tourist Trap Amish Country.
Ronks is the home of such wonderful places as Dutch Haven and the Outhouse. The Dutch Haven is supposedly the home of the Shoo Fly Pie and also claims to be the largest Amish Souvenir store in Lancaster county. Behind the two places is the City Dump...not a dump but a kind of Amish Factory Outlet Store. Dutch Haven and the City Dump were open for business on a Sunday, but te Outhouse wasn't. That was where I really wanted to visit. I am kicking myself for not going over to get a piece of Shoo-Fly Pie too!
Some scenes from the Outhouse
I looked in to see the 2 headed pig...HA HA One of many novelties outside the Outhouse
The City Dump and Dutch Haven
From Ronks I headed north off of US 30 on Ronks Rd. to the Old Philadelphia Pike (PA 340). This took me into the town of Bird in Hand, PA. I then went due east which brought me to the town of Intercourse, PA. Obviously, the name of this town in the 21st Century has a different connotation than it did back in the days when the name was instituted. The town was originally founded in 1754 and was called Cross Keys. In 1814 the town was renamed Intercourse, most likely due to the term being used in commerce and trade back then. The name of the town has led it to be a common destination for tourists in Amish country (including me) and there have been many of the towns' signs stolen (not by me though). Nowadays the town's sign is all one piece and heavily cemented to the ground. It would be hard to remove. For the quilt enthusiast, Intercourse is the place to be as there are many Amish quilt shops located here.
One of the most stolen signs in the US
After my visit to Intercourse I headed north on PA 772 and then took a turn at Centerville Rd. These are all narrow roads cutting through the heart of the Amish country. Along the way I could see numerous homesteads, fun mailboxes, beautiful pastoral settings and even an Amish buggy dealer!
An Amish buggy speeds by in Intercourse; a family on their way to town; Amish girls on bikes in town
A typical small Amish school house; an Amish home...notice the Solar Panels - I was surprised
Some mailboxes in Amish country. I saw quite a few different ones on the back roads
Clear on the back roads I cam across a farm that was filled with buggies.
A short look and I realized this was a sales lot for these.
A closer look inside one yielded this view of the interior
I meandered my way through New Holland and then on up to Hinkeltown, which intersected with US 322. I followed 322 until it intersected with US 222, which was a 4 lane highway. I then headed NE on 222 and continued under I-76 and on into Reading, where 222 merged with 422. I continued North on 222 out of Reading, PA onto Kutztown Road until I hit Moselem Springs. From there I took PA 143 north (also know as Hard Hill Rd. and it was a big hill). I eventually made my way into Virginville, PA. Personally, I couldn't resist the irony of a trip through Paradise, Intercourse and then Virginville, though it may have been more interesting had gone the opposite direction. I apologize herein to any who may take offense. But, let's face it, these are all names of towns in Pennsylvania (and I plan to go to Mars in the next couple of weeks!!)
I came across a number of these barn styles and pastoral scenes along Hard Hill Rd.
There were also large stone houses along the creek
What you don't see is the front door that is set deep behind the screen door
And of course, there is the Village of Virginville and its Hotel
After Virginville, I meandered my way up 143 until it met I-78. I hopped on I-78 and headed east to Allentown and then took I-476 North towards New York to head back to Ontario. I eventually made my way to I-81 in New York, which took me into the outskirts of Syracuse. From Syracuse I took I-690 West and followed it to I-90. From there I headed due west until I got to the Palmyra exit. This was one place I had always wanted to visit as it is where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints got its start.
I was lucky to get there in the late afternoon as the Hill Cumorah Visitor's Center was still open as were the Book of Mormon publication site and the Joseph Smith farm, where the Sacred Grove is located. Joseph Smith's vision of God and Jesus Christ took place in the Sacred Grove behind his cabin. Ironically, I was here on April 6, which is the date of the establishment of the church. There were a number of other sites in the area, but unfortunately, on this trip I didn't have much time to get to them all.
The Moroni monument at the top of Hill Cumorah; the view from the top; a monument depicting
Joseph Smith receiving the Golden Plates from Moroni
The Book of Mormon publication site; a replica of the Smith Cabin and a view of the sacred grove from the cabin
After my quick visit to all of these sites, time was winding down and I needed to hurry on back to Ontario before it got too late. It was a wonderful two day trip and it was packed with places to go and see. I was certainly glad to have made the trip.
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