Friday, July 6, 2012

An Ode to Flying

I enjoy flying and watching the wonderment of the change in environments and terrain below me.  This is a poem I wrote while flying above the desert sky.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Revisiting My Travels of America on Her Birthday

I have been very lucky to travel America.  I have visited many historical sites, many entertainment sites and many small town charming sites.  This post is dedicated to those places I traveled that remind me of the fight that had to occur for the freedoms we have today. 

Home of Betsy Ross
Betsy Ross is credited with the creation of a symbol of American freedom, the United States flag.  It is said that Betsy Ross presented this flag to George Washington in the late spring of 1776 a full year ahead of the Flag Act.

Independence Hall
Independence Hall is home of the signing of the Declaration of Independence as well as the United States Constitution.  The United States Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776 and read aloud in Independence Square located adjacent to Independence Hall.  The document was issued for those colonies who were declaring their independence from Great Britain. 

The Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell was commissioned from a London firm and originally cast in 1752.  The bell was inscribed with a partial quote from Leviticus 25:10, "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."  Upon arriving in Philadelphia it was placed in the steeple of what is now known as Independence Hall.  The bell was rung to summon lawmakers and advise citizens of proclamations being issued.  

Many bells were rung to mark the reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776.  The Liberty Bell is considered a symbol of freedom today and has traveled the world bringing the idea of freedom with it.

Grave site of Benjamin Franklin
 A Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin was a huge proponent and campaigner for uniting the colonies.  The 6th President of Pennsylvania was a believer in Enlightenment and religious tolerance.  He was the 1st Postmaster General of the United States.  An inventor, author and social volunteer, Benjamin Franklin made a stamp on America and is a legend to be revered for his hard work and dedication to life for the people.

Mount Vernon
Mount Vernon is the home of our 1st president, George Washington.  From 1759 until the Revolutionary War, George Washington, an aspiring agriculturist, was operating five farms on the land.  Mount Vernon is the resting place of a beloved President and his wife, Martha.

White House
 The White House located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was completed in 1800 and remains the home of every American president since John Adams.  During the War of 1812, the White House was set to fire.  Enough re-construction of the home allowed President James Monroe to move into the house in 1817.

The completion of the White House also completed the move of the nation's capitol city to Washington, DC.  Although named many things in its early years, it is said that the White House name began when the fire damage was being covered with White Paint.  This iconic house represents the finality of accomplishing a sovereign nation that necessitated its own capitol city and home for future presidents.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is a site of the Civil War.  In 1863, a battle took place in Gettysburg like none other seen on American soil.  The American Civil War fought between the North and South or the Union and the Confederates marked the end of slavery in America.  It also marked the end of the Southern states attempt to secede from the Union.
Site of the Gettysburg Address

The Gettysburg Address delivered by President Abraham Lincoln is considered one of the most famous speeches in American History.  The Address was given in Gettysburg four months after the defeat of the Confederates in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863.  Lincoln not only addressed the need to remain one union, but also the need of a nation to instill human equalities for all. 

In referencing the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln started his address: "Four Score and Seven Years Ago..." bringing the listening public back to the belief system of democracy "...government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." 

Washington Monument
The Washington Monument located in Washington, DC was completed in 1884.  The world's tallest obelisk was built to commemorate the 1st President of the United States, George Washington.  Washington passed in 1799, 2 years after his presidential term ended.  Beginning as early as 1783 talk had begun to create a monument to the nation's hero.  Statues were erected in the capitol, however many thought a more apt monument be created.

Political squabbling and funding issues delayed the Washington Monument we know today until 1884.  A democratic nation as viewed by Washington is represented by the Washington Monument, which reflects in the Reflecting Pool located nearby.

The 2011 earthquake in Virginia caused damage to the Washington Monument, which remains closed while under construction.

Statue of Liberty
Another icon of freedom for the United States is the Statue of Liberty.  She resides on Liberty Island and was a gift from France to the American people in 1886.  She represents Libertas, Roman Goddess of Freedom.  She holds a book representing law, which is inscribed with July 4, 1776 indicating the book is the Declaration of Independence. 

With a broken chain at her feet, she is a symbol of America's protection of freedom.  She is also a representation of the American global importance as it was an effort from France to befriend the United States of America in a time of French political strife. 

Her location on Liberty Island is appropriate as many immigrants arriving in America see her first and have written tales of elation just at the sight and representation of a new life in America.

National WWI Museum
In 1914 a global war, World War I, began and lasted for almost 4 years.  The Allies and the Central Powers were at war and once again a war was fought with human equality at the heart.  In 1917, America joined the war after many attempts by the Central Powers to cut off American ships to Europe, which included the sinking of 7 American Merchant ships.  It was at this time that America began the Selective Service Act and draft times began changing a nation both culturally and historically.

The Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch was completed in 1965 and is a monument representing the expansion of America into the West.  The monument was commissioned in an effort to revitalize the St Louis riverfront.  America's constant need to improve levels of living were brought up in the speech given by Vice President Hubert Humphries during the dedication.  "Whatever is shoddy, whatever is ugly, whatever is waste, whatever is false, will be measured and condemned."

A firework illuminating the sky in St. Louis, MO
Fireworks are used in celebration of the American Independence Day.  This is thought as a representation of the American Civil War and the bombs and cannons that illuminated the sky.  It was also decreed by one of the Founding Fathers, John Adams, in a letter to his wife that Independence Day:

"will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America...It will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews [performances], Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations [fireworks] from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."

Although this post only touches on a few of the memorable moments in American History as I have seen during my travels, the prevailing theme is one of gaining and maintaining freedom.  This has continuously been brought to life through monuments and dedications, as well as national holidays.

Happy Independence Day!  I thank all of those who have contributed to the freedom I savor today and hope that on this day as well as others, we remain grateful to the fight and struggle to remain free and allow human equalities.

Note:  The historical notes and information in this post is based on learning through travels, tours and pamphlets.  Additional assistance with dates was received via Wikipedia.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Piece of Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania certainly has a lot to offer tourists from cultural attractions to historical sites.  One or two times is not enough time to grasp all that Philadelphia has to offer, but you can try!  I certainly did by joining up with a Duck Tour in Philadelphia. 

To be honest, when my friend recommended a Duck Tour I thought she had lost her mind.  I know she lives in Oregan and a Ducks fan, but hours following ducks?  Then she gave me the lowdown on the real Duck Tour she was speaking of taking.

$27 gets you admitted on the Ride The Ducks Tour in Philadelphia.  You meet in the Liberty Bell Center and head out.  The Duck Tour is named after the vehicle being used not an actual duck chasing adventure.  The vessel for this tour can drive on roads and take you into water.  I understand this tour is available in other select cities, as well.

The tour takes you through the Historic District of Philadelphia pointing out sites along the way.  Our Captain was very knowledgable of Philadelphia and had a lot to offer as insight from living in Philadelphia his whole life.  This is a great way to figure out the sites you would like to return to for a more in depth tour.

On the Deleware River in the Duck.  The Benjamin Franklin Bridge is in the background.
A must see in Philadelphia also includes the Liberty Bell.  The Liberty Bell is located in the Liberty Bell Center, which you are conviently dropped off at the end of the Duck Tour.  This is free and just takes some patience while everyone is taking pictures with the Liberty Bell.

The Liberty Bell is the iconic symbol of American Independence.
The Liberty Bell Center boasts many displays featuring the history of the Liberty Bell including its travels around the world.  Previous to this visit, I was oblivious to the fact that the Liberty Bell would have a passport with more stamps than I have in my passport.  It turns out the Liberty Bell has traveled as a symbol of Freedom in many other countries and some consider the Liberty Bell a symbol of freedom available to the world.

Continuing with American history and symbols of freedom, we toured the home of Betsy Ross.  Betsy Ross is credited with the creation of the American Flag.  Her home and the area surrounding her home also contain stories of secret meetings and societies aimed at defeating the Bristish.

The home of Betsy Ross.  British taxation on homes was based on width of the house.  So, many homes were skinny and moved upwards to avoid taxation.  Taxation also included the number of steps leading to a home.
Other historical homes in the area includes Carstairs Row.  This street is also known as Elfreth's Alley.  Philadelphia’s Elfreth’s Alley is hailed as the longest continually occupied street in the country.

Elfreth's Alley is a National Historic Landmark.
Again, the trend within historical Philadelphia has everything to do with building skinny houses that move skyward.  The stairs shown here either indicate a richer area historically or they were added over time.  The first homes on this row were built in 1702.

A trip to Philadelphia would not be historically complete with hearing about Benjamin Franklin and his contributions to the American freedom we live today.

Independence Hall - this room is where the debates and adoption of both the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution took place.
If you visit Philadelphia and are interested in touring Independence Hall make sure to get your tickets in advance.  These tickets are reserved ahead of time by hour in order to keep the traffic and wait to a minimum.  Again, the tours offered here are directed by hosts very proficient in interesting and pertinent information.

The gravesite of Benjamin Franklin.
It is thought that while visiting the grave of Benjamin Franklin that tossing a penny on his grave is good luck.  Many will make a wish will donating their penny to the gravesite.

Philadelphia City Hall
Philadelphia City Hall was the tallest building in the US. A statue of William Penn is on the top and it was used as the marker that Philadelphia buildings were not supposed to surpass when building.  In 1984, this building was surpassed by One Liberty Place.  The breaking of the gentleman's agreement not to build above William Penn of the Philadelphia City Hall created great controversy with fear that too many skyscrapers would end the charm of the area.  There is tale that this is also when the Philadelphia Sports teams started a downward spiral.

The "Curse of Billy Penn" was lifted when Comcast Center was built ousting Liberty Place as the tallest building.  Included in the construction is a statue of William Penn at the very top making sure Penn is once again the tallest iconic fugure in Philadelphia.  It is said by locals that the Philadelphia sports teams became more successful at this point.

Love Park at Christmas
JFK Plaza also known as Love Park in Philadelphia houses the famous Love artistic display.  This display represents the City of Brotherly Love as Philadelphia has been nicknamed.  During Christmas the lighting of the Philadelphia Christmas tree resides with the Love structure.

Another cultural phenom in Philadelphia includes the famous scene from Rocky where Sylvester Stallone runs a training marathon that takes him to the top of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The walk there from the historic district is an endurance test itself, but the views and fountains heading up Benjamin Franklin Parkway make it worthwhile.

We went the distance and took the steps to the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The Rocky statue is now located at the bottom of the museum entrance (along with Rocky water for sale), but you should still travel to the top for an amazing view of Philadelphia and to say you "went the distance".  Granted I did not run, but I did not travel slowly either.  Watch out!

View from the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
I plan on visiting Philadelphia many more times.  I am happily charmed and enamored with the Historic District and Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  There are also amazing restaurants including Amada by Jose Garces that has an amazing Sunday brunch.