East by Northeast: Big city scenic travelogue
Being frugal-minded, I try to "kill two birds with one stone" (figuratively speaking!) whenever the opportunity arises. So, as the American Political Science Association annual meeting approached last month, I decided to drive up to Philadelphia rather than take AMTRAK, as I have done in the past when those meetings are held in the East. That gave me more flexibility to go sight-seeing and see baseball games, something I had only done once so far this summer. After Philadelphia, I paid quick visits to New York City, then Providence, and finally Boston. It was an ambitious itinerary that ended up being affected by the weather: Hurricane Hermine. The following travelogue includes some of the best photos (and montages of photos) that I took on my trip; the complete set of photos can be seen on the Chronological (2016) photo gallery page.
Aug. 31: Baltimore, Philadelphia
The first part of my trip followed the familiar I-81 / I-66 route toward Washington, D.C., which I bypassed on the I-495 Beltway through Montgomery County, Maryland. Soon I was on the I-95 "main drag," and took the Harbor Tunnel bypass through Baltimore, only catching brief glimpses of that city's skyline. Then I passed Ripken Field, where the Aberdeen Ironbirds -- one of the minor league affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles -- play. Then I crossed the very wide Susquehanna River, and entered Delaware for the first time since 2008. (Eight years!?) It took less than an hour to get through Wilmington and cross into Pennsylvania, and before I knew it, I was passing the airport in the southern fringes of Philadelphia. I arrived at Citizens Bank Park at about 6:00, in plenty of time to see the Washington Nationals play the Phillies. (See my September 7 blog post about my baseball adventures.) After the game, I checked into the Days Inn motel in Springfield, located about five miles southwest of the Philadelphia city limits, and about nine miles from downtown. It was comfortable and well-furnished, what you would expect for a medium-priced motel. (A downtown hotel would have been much too expensive for my budget.)
For the next three days, my attention was focused exclusively on the American Political Science Association annual meeting, held at the Philadelphia Convention Center downtown. I had carefully chosen the motel based on its proximity to the commuter rail station. I was under the impression that suburban stations had pay parking available, but at the Morton station which I used, they told me there was a long waiting list to get parking. Fortunately, one of the passengers in the station waiting room told me what the local folks do: use a parking lot at a public park about three blocks away, for free. S-weet! The Southeast Pennsylvania Public Transit Authority (SEPTA) operates commuter trains, subway lines, trolleys, and buses, and works fairly efficiently from what I observed.
Sept. 4: Philadelphia, New York
Early on Sunday morning, I packed up and left the Days Inn and drove toward downtown Philadelphia. My original plan was to attend one of the final APSA panels that morning, but I encountered a traffic detour that diverted me onto some back streets. Well, that was interesting. [I saw a few University of Pennsylvania buildings, including some that are part of the hospital system.]Eventually I found a parking place right next to my first target: the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the famous scene in the movie Rocky was filmed. [The building was very impressive, as was the view of the Schuylkill River, which passes by the museum.]
There was a big musical festival going on called "Made in America," sponsored by Budweiser beer, so the entire east side of that museum, and several acres of land on the east side, were closed off. (That's why I couldn't cross the bridge [across the Schuylkill River] into downtown, messing up my plans.) I could have gotten in by paying the admission price, but just didn't have enough time to make it worthwhile. So, I ended up walking a total of at least two miles as I searched for a way to get back to my car without retracing my steps. In the end, the extra effort paid off, as I saw several features I might have missed otherwise, including the Rodin Museum, where the French sculptor's classic "The Thinker" is on display. (It is one of 20-some replicas around the world; see rodinmuseum.org.) Right in front of that sculpture, I saw a family of Common Yellowthroats, mentioned in my September 9 blog post about birds.
After completing my "marathon" circuit walk around the museum and festival area, I drove to the east side of downtown Philadelphia, near the Delaware River. Parking was scarce, even on a Sunday morning, but I found a place that charged $4 per half hour. I quickly walked over to Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, and then to the building where the Liberty Bell is housed. (Unfortunately, I didn't have time for the nearby Independence Visitor Center or the National Constitution Center.) I was taken aback by two things: several members of the Falun Gong (a.k.a. Falun Dafa) religious sect who were protesting persecution in China, and a display about the history of U.S. slavery outside the entrance to the Liberty Bell building. I suppose it is meant to call attention to the fact that not all Americans shared in the new-found freedoms of 1776, but to me it seemed out of place -- an unnecessary sour note. I timed my hasty visit almost perfectly, but couldn't quite get out of the parking garage before the 30 minutes had elapsed, and had to pay $8 total.
Next I drove toward the north side of Philadelphia, in search of the sites of two former baseball stadiums, and quite unexpectedly ended up attending a church service, at the invitation of one of the local people. (He wondered what I was doing taking pictures of his church, which stands on land formerly occupied by Shibe Park / Connie Mack Stadium.) Deliverance Evangelistic Church was quite an experience, and I was happy to be so warmly welcomed. There were at least a thousand people in the congregation, with about 30 people in the choir, along with an organ, electric bass guitar, and drums. Quite a joyful noise! But with no set liturgical sequence, I couldn't tell whether the service was about to end or not, so after about two hours I discreetly got up and left. I noticed that other people were doing likewise, which made me feel better. I then drove toward the east through some very blighted neighborhoods, stopped briefly at a park along the Delaware River, and then got on I-95 northbound.
After a half hour or so I crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey, not far from where General George Washington did the same thing prior to the Battle of Trenton on December 25, 1776. I decided not to take the New Jersey Turnpike, but stayed on Route 1 for the next 30 or so miles, and it worked out pretty well. Crossing the toll bridge into Staten Island was a bit of a shock, as it cost me $15, but fortunately the Verrazano Narrows Bridge from Staten Island into Brooklyn was free. This was the first time I had visited New York without going into Manhattan. (My previous visits were in 1987, 1989, 1994, 2004, and 2008.) [I had my first glimpse of the new Freedom Tower, which was built on the site of the former World Trade Center Twin Towers.] For a list of all the skyscrapers in New York, including the newest ones, see amny.com, an affiliate of Newsday. It was quite a struggle driving through the extremely congested streets of Brooklyn as I searched for the site of Ebbets Field, and likewise as I drove from there into Queens, trying to find Citi Field, where the Nationals were playing the New York Mets. I had to pay a toll one more time while in New York, crossing the Whitestone Bridge into The Bronx [from Queens after the game was over].
Sept. 5: Providence, Boston
Originally, I had planned to see the New York Yankees play a home game on Monday afternoon, but Hurricane Hermine was approaching, and I feared that I would miss a rare opportunity to get daylight photos in Fenway Park. So I changed plans and headed directly toward Boston. I stopped briefly at the historic port town of Mystic, Connecticut, made famous by the movie Mystic Pizza. Then I entered Rhode Island, and my first impression of the smallest state was not a good one, I'm sorry to say. The rest stop building was closed for repairs, and the porta-potties outside were disgusting beyond description. Budget cuts? But my first-ever visit to the city of Providence was more pleasant, and I stopped to take photos of the State House and other buildings of note.
[After Providence,] I passed through the suburb of Pawtucket, home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, a minor league affiliate of the Boston MLB franchise. Then I entered Massachusetts and took the first exit to Foxboro, where Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots, is located. By fortunate coincidence, right next door I came across a combined wetland nature area / cranberry bog which is owned by the Ocean Spray company.
I finally arrived in Boston just after 1:00, and despite my best efforts to plan an efficient route, I managed to take at least two wrong turns that wasted at least a half an hour. I found Boston University's Nickerson Field, which is what is left of the former Braves Field, but being pressed for time, I stayed only about ten minutes there. I arrived at Fenway Park just in time for the 2:00 guided tour, joining a group of about 25 visitors. I was enthralled to enter these ancient hallowed grounds, and snapped photos furiously throughout the hour-long tour. [Afterwards,] I wanted to drive past Boston Common and get some photos of downtown landmarks such as Old North Church, but the traffic was too heavy for me to bother with. [Also, the skies were becoming overcast.]
Just as I was leaving Boston, the winds picked up and rain started to fall. I timed my visit perfectly! That evening in Connecticut, the remnants of the tropical storm Hermine really blasted the area, but the rain wasn't as heavy as I had feared. I spent the night in a suburb east of New Haven, and my usually-keen sense of direction failed me, as I took a couple wrong turns on dark country roads.
Sept. 6: New Jersey
After deciding to go to Boston rather than see a Yankees game on Monday, my backup plan was to take a tour of Yankee Stadium. I was utterly exhausted from three straight days of intensive driving through heavily-congested big cities, however, so I decided not to. Instead, I took the I-287 bypass around the north side of New City, crossing the Hudson River on the Tappan Zee Bridge, where I saw a big replacement bridge being constructed. [The very hilly terrain of that part of New Jersey surprised me, but it flattened out as I drove south.] I then stopped at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Jacqueline and I were looking for it when we visited New York City in 2004, but never could find it. This time, I followed road signs to the destination, with very little trouble.
After leaving the Great Swamp, I drove through a couple quaint suburban towns in New Jersey (making me think of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils' song "Arroyo"), and then headed straight west on I-78, passing the old steel towns of Bethlehem and Allentown, Pennsylvania. (I kept thinking of Billy Joel's song "Allentown.") I had thought about stopping, but didn't see any obvious scenic spot, so I kept going west until I reached the state capital, Harrisburg. From there it was only about an hour back to Maryland, then briefly crossing the eastern "arm" of West Virginia, and finally passing Winchester, Virginia into the Shenandoah Valley. I got home as the sun was about to set, and slept very soundly that night. It was quite a trip, and I was quite tired! As mentioned in the first paragraph, those who are curious can view many more photos, including some large panoramic views of city skylines and sports stadiums, on the Chronological (2016) photo gallery page.
NOTE: I made a few corrections and additions (marked with [brackets]) subsequent to the original post.