Theme song - "On the road again" by Willie Nelson
Your text to link here...We picked up our new hire car from Kennedy airport as we thought it the public transport might have been better than that from La Guardia. It wasn't. It took hours to get there. This time our car was a Ford Focus. I apologise in advance to all the Ford fans out there but, to be frank, the Ford Focus is possibly the most crap car I've ever driven. It's a dog. In fact, looking at the cars on the road, the days when American cars set a style standard are well and truly over. The current models are all boxy, block-like and downright ugly. Pick ups and four wheel drives are very popular and invariably enormous. They must guzzle gas like it's going out of fashion. Of all the cars on the road right now only the retro Chevrolet Camarro, Ford Mustang and Chrysler Cruiser are the only ones likely to be a future classic.
We set off for Philadelphia, theoretically only 2 hours south of New York, but the traffic was at a standstill almost all the way. We drove across the massive Staten Island bridge, across New Jersey and finally entered Philadelphia in the late afternoon. After much running around we found ourselves a room in the Forest Hills Hotel in downtown.
Philadelphia was the site of the Continental Congress in 1776 where the colonies agreed to seceed from the United Kingdom. It also became the United States' first capital city between 1790 and 1800. Within the charming old downtown many historic buildings from those times are preserved, including the Congress Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Benjamin Franklin lived and was buried here, although he was born in Boston. Franklin is remembered as one of the great statesmen of the Revolutionary War. His greatest achievement was getting the French to enter the war on the American side, something which ultimately turned the tide of the war. He was something of an eccentric though, especially in his later years. He wrote a number of pamphlets on the importance of farting, the pleasures of beer, and, typical for his class, whoring. Needless to say these writings don't get publicised these days.
But it wasn't all buildings and history. Philadelphia is home to the epyonymous philly cheese stake. We'd avoiding having one in Boston and New York just so we could have the real thing in Philly. The cheese steak was invented in the 1930s by Pat's King of Steaks on the corner of 9th and Passyunk. Directly across the street, the flashy and neon-lit Genos Steaks claims to make the best cheese steaks. The rivalry between the vendors is intense. We were drawn like moths to the Genos first. The building and tables were covered in photos of Geno and his family with local and national celebrities, riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and posing with silicon pumped bikini babes. Geno must think of himself as a true American patriot as the store is also covered in xenophobic /anti foreigner slogans. Political opinions aside, Genos cheese steak was pretty damned good. It's basically a roast beef roll but instead of gravy, it's smothered in melted cheese and onions. Then we moved on to Pats. Pats was pretty damned good too. Both rolls had their good points and the result was too close to call.
There is a maritime museum near Penns Landing on the Delaware River, just a block or two from downtown. http://www.phillyseaport.org/ships_index.shtml Three historic ships are moored here. The USS Olympia, a predreadnought protected cruiser from the 1890s, the Second World War submarine Becuna and the sailing ship, Moshulu, which is a floating restaurant.
I had specifically wanted to see the Olympia as it is a very rare survivor from the late 19th century. These predreadnought warships were made obsolete at a stroke with the launch of the HMS Dreadnought in 1905 and almost all of them were scrapped. In 1898 the ship was the flagship of Admiral Dewey at the Battle of the Phillipines. The year before, the USS Maine had exploded in Havanna harbour. The cause was probably a fire in a coal store that spread to the ship's magazine, but the US accused Spain of deliberately blowing up the ship with a mine. The Spanish were in no position to start a war and tried everything they could to placate the US, but politicians, big business and the media tasted blood in the water and began clamouring for war. The US invaded Cuba, then a Spanish colony and then sent a fleet to the Phillipines, which annihalated the puny Spanish fleet and seized the archipelago. This was the beginning of America's overseas empire. The ship receives few visitors, which is a shame as it's a great ship and well presented. Several million dollars are required to undertake desperately needed repairs but neither state or federal authorities seem particularly interested in doing anything about it.
Across the Delaware in New Jersey the World War Two battleship USS New Jersey is also moored as a museum ship.
Unfortunately I didn't get to go up to the deck or bridge as the heavens opened up. It absolutely thundered down all the way to Gettysburg.