April 6, 2013

Philadelphia with Flat Stanley; Day 2: Coins, Stars, and Ships

During the two nights of this trip, I stayed at a Travelodge in New Jersey. As far as last minute hotel bookings go, the price for this one was just right, though the location did mean that I would have to cross the Benjamin Franklin Bridge each morning to get into Philadelphia. Of course, even with this little bit of added commute time, I still would have a few hours to myself in the room. I'm what you might call an early riser. For this very reason, I make sure to add a new album into my iPod before departing on any trip. For this adventure, I purchased Dream Theater's triple live album "Score: 20th Anniversary World Tour." It's a well-produced effort. I really love the fact that some of the songs are performed with an orchestra. The orchestra/rock band combination can sometimes be a dicey undertaking, but I think that Dream Theater did a really good job of it here. The sound is balanced and rich. With this being a 3-CD set, I had plenty of music to keep me busy while I was waiting for Philadelphia to rise and shine.

While my family and I have already visited Philadelphia a few times in the past, there are always more sights to see. We would begin Day 2 with a walk around the historic area that makes up and borders the Independence Mall. At 9:00AM, we arrived at the U.S. Mint for a plant tour. Here, we learned all about the various stages that go into the making of a coin: Art, Die Making, Blanking, Annealing & Upsetting, Striking, Inspecting, and Bagging. From an upper observation hallway, we were able to watch the operations happening on the ground floor. It was really cool to see conveyor belts full of freshly-pressed coins rolling by. It amazed me to learn that the U.S. Mint can turn out 1 million coins in half an hour.  Unfortunately, photography is prohibited inside the facility so I couldn't capture the scene.

From the Mint, it was only two blocks to the home of America's most famous flag maker, Betsy Ross. We ambled through the tiny corridors, passing rooms filled with old furnishings, until we chanced upon Betsy herself. In her sewing room, she taught the tour group how to cut a perfect five-pointed star by folding the paper a certain way and making one snip with the scissors. A neat little trick.

Our day continued with lunch in the Independence Visitor Center where we listened to a man playing patriotic songs on a Hammered Dulcimer, and then it was time for Flat Stanley to have his picture taken in front of the Liberty Bell. The queue line to enter the pavilion was quite long, but it was such a beautiful, sunny afternoon that I didn't mind the wait at all. (*Note - Flat Stanley appears 5 times in this post.)

From there, it was only a short stroll down Walnut Street to Penn's Landing and the Independence Seaport Museum, home to all things nautical. As I have always been a big fan of maritime adventures, I found this place to be fascinating. Along with the two-story museum building, the tour also includes the exploring of two vessels: the USS Becuna (a WWII submarine) and Commodore George Dewey's 1892 Cruiser USS Olympia.

"My son, despise not
the chastening of the Lord;
neither be weary of his correction: 
For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth;
even as a father the son in whom he delighteth."

~Proverbs 3:11-12