Philadelphia by train, on to Bloomfield to May 16

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
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Trip End Mar 15, 2007


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Monday, May 15, 2006

I bid my fond farewells to BJ and Seth, and headed into Philadelphia by train. First of all I had to make my way to Paoli, which was about 15 miles. However, I got all mixed up with Highway 30, Bypass 30 and Business route 30 not to mention the east and west varieties of these. I am afraid I wound up in west Chester as part of the direction was to get onto route 202 however, I went south instead of north. Grr.

Soo, an hour late, I arrived in Paoli and then had to find a parking space at the station. There was no parking at the station and apparently no parking without a towing warning for miles around. I finally went into a place called Station Centre, was directed to the administrator (property manager, I assume) who gave me permission to park behind building number 3 with dire warnings that they would have clamped my wheels if I had parked there without permission.

The train took about an hour to get into town and I headed down to the Philadelphia Genealogical Society. I wish I could say the docent was helpful; however, I did not find her so. She knew what she knew and every question I asked came around to only the answers she knew. There was one place which had collections of obituaries but only for one newspaper and after the date I was looking for and I'd have to go there myself. Weren't there other newspapers? Well, there was one place which had collections of obituaries but only for one newspaper and after the date I was looking for and I'd have to go there myself, etc.

So I settled down to reading the directories and obtained a little bit of information. I was not permitted to photocopy nor photograph them. I went back to her a couple of times for further direction however, she was taking a little nap and I did not want to disturb her: neither did the others using the centre. As I was leaving, I asked if there were people from the genealogical society that did research. Apparently so, and she gave me their names and phone numbers. I guess that was the question I should have asked all along. Perhaps they don't like non-Philadelphians doing research?

Next time I come to Pennsylvania (and there will be a next time), I hope BJ and I can explore the back roads of Lancaster County.

About 2 I headed back to the train, Paoli and off for Debbie's (another online friend) in Bloomfield, New Jersey (about 120 miles). She gave me absolutely super directions and boom, I was there by about 5:30. As she said in a note to me, her wonderful dogs, carrying out their assigned sentry duty, notified her that I had arrived. Her house is over 100 years old and is, I think, two generous sized rooms wide. It has wonderful winding wooden stairs to the third floor where I settled in to her lovely attic guest suite which takes up the entire third floor.

I have taken some of my notes from Debbie's. She noted that after I got my stuff up to the guest suite we had a glass of iced tea and chatted for a bit. The dogs all came in to meet me too, and I got to meet Amber, the boldest of her cats, who even sat on my lap for a bit. Debbie's son called. He is still looking for work as a lawyer and has had back to back interviews with "big time" law firms and is waiting for responses from them. Later I met another cat, Ming, and even the shyest of her cats, Snickers (of the fantastically fluffy tail), came out to make my acquaintance. We had a bit of a rest in her living room and she offered me some lovely iced tea. We talked about my trip, and other pifflers I'd met along the way, and parts of the US I'd seen. I gave her a big bag of books I was finished with and had brought them books across country as it was less expensive than mailing them.

We decided we should go get a bite to eat and be back in time for piffle chat. Debbie mentioned a popular local pub (named The Town Pub in fact) and as the idea a pint of
beer after a day's journey appealed to me, we headed out for a quick bite to eat at a pub. We both had the house special burger, a large burger topped with mozzarella cheese and Taylor ham (a local specialty). Then we returned and joined fellow chatters online. I also contacted Sandy, another online friend to firm up details about my next stop on the tour

Before we retired for the evening, Debbie showed me where her breakfast things were as well as how to work her amazing Keurig coffee maker. It sits on her kitchen counter looking something like a space ship. First you choose your coffee from a number of flavoured "K-cups" (containers about 4 times the size of a cream container with individual sized coffee servings) Second, place the K-Cup in the drawer in the front of the coffee maker and close the drawer down. Third, press the button. BOOM!!!! Your coffee is HOT and ready in less than thirty seconds. No mess to clean up, no soggy filters, no spilling mushy coffee grounds. Wow

Next day Debbie needed to go to the office in the morning. I have to admit I slept in a bit and after getting up and making myself a couple of great cups of coffee, continued updating my journal. I was also able to reach Andy (long lost relative - about 200 years or so)in New York City and we made arrangements to meet up on Thursday morning at Penn station.

It was rainy and dreary so I did not feel I needed to be outside. After a couple of hours, Debbie found it was very quiet at work and she decided to take the afternoon off and proposed a sight-seeing agenda. I thought that was a great idea and fell very agreeably into the plan.

I'd mentioned to Debbie the evening before how she had grown interested in learning more about the US Civil War and Revolutionary War, and seeing sights relating to those two conflicts. As New Jersey is rich in Revolutionary War sites, we set off in the car to the Morristown National Historic Park. Most of my notes here are taken verbatim from Debbie's.

Our first stop was the Ford Mansion where Washington and his numerous aides spent the winter of 1779-80 in one part of the house and the Ford family - widow and children - (unrelated to presidents, cars or film directors) lived in a small part of the other. The Ford Mansion is quite an impressive mansion indeed, even by today's standards. We got there in time for the 1 PM tour and as we were the only two there, we got a private tour.

We saw rooms where he probably met with his staff (with original small desk), bedrooms, an amazing front window (was it called a Palladium window?) in front of which the guide took our picture, staff and aides bedrooms (how sparse in comparison). Then we moved on to the rooms occupied by the Fords including servant bed and work rooms, pantry, kitchen, etc. The tour guide was very interesting and knowledgeable, and when he found out I was a Canadian he gave us a whole lot of interesting additional information about two Canadian regiments fighting with the American troops.

After that we drove through the city of Morristown, and then down through Jockey Hollow where the American troops had encamped for what turned out to be the coldest winter in over 100 years. Our guide told us the winter was so cold that the Hudson River had frozen 13-16 FEET deep, and the British were able to roll a 3-ton cannon across the river without cracking the ice. We saw a very sad little movie about the conditions faced by the American troops at that time, and a furnished replica of the sorts of log cabins they had built to house themselves for the winter - a far cry from the comfortable mansion that General Washington and his wife were staying in!

Then we strolled over to see the Wick House. This was the home of a prosperous tree farmer. His main cash crop - several hundred trees - fixed him more comfortably than most New Jersey farmers of his day. Suddenly, in December, 1779, 10,000 hungry soldiers became his guests. Many of them camped on his land, (much of which was wooded then as is now) - at least wooded before the soldiers came. They cut down the trees to make rude and cold log cabins for themselves. His home became the headquarters of General Arthur St. Clair, one of Washington's Generals and commander of the Pennsylvania Line. He and used it for his winter quarters - but it was certainly a far cry from the wealthy Ford Mansion. We also strolled through the beautiful herb garden and enjoyed reading the names of the various plants and herbs and what they were traditionally used for.

After leaving the Wick House we drove through some of NJ's wealthy "horse country" area where we saw some lovely authentically older homes as well as some upstart new "McMansions" and then came eventually to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. See http://www.fws.gov/northeast/greatswamp/ for information. This marvelous wetland natural habitat was once targeted by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as the proposed site for a new airport but fortunately a group of concerned citizens banded
together with the idea that we needed a wetland natural habitat far more than we needed a *fourth* large airport in the area, and the refuge was established by an act of congress in 1960.

There are various walking trails and bird blinds in the park. We took one walking trail that passed through more open wetland, and saw some turtles, and a great big bullfrog, and red-winged blackbirds, and other birds that flashed past too fast for to identify other than maybe a heron flying overhead.

We then took a second walking trail that went through a more densely wooded area, more of a wet woodland than an open marsh. Debbie used to take her son here often when he was a little boy, and she was amazed at how much more densely packed the vegetation had become in the years since she was last there last saying she actually found it a bit oppressive. Although we heard many birds calling, and woodpeckers pecking, about
the only wildlife we saw along this trail were numerous gray squirrels - common in this region.

By this time we were downright hungry and were going to try a small but very good Mexican restaurant set incongruously in the tiny little town of Meyersville which adjoins the swamp. Unfortunately they were closed so we headed back towards Chatham/Madison, and we tried The Garlic Rose, a wonderful small restaurant in Madison, NJ whose menu items feature (surprise!) garlic!

We got there and found that they also didn't serve until 5 PM, so we booked a table and said we would be back. We spent our 15 minutes profitably at Blue Ridge Sports where I bought a pair of socks that are wash-and-wear and designed to dry overnight for wearing again the next day, as well as a very pretty coral-colored blouse that is also
designed to be wash-and-wear and non-wrinkling.

Then it was time for dinner at The Garlic Rose http://www.garlicrose.com/madison.htm. I had something called the Stacked Chicken: boneless breast sautéed with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, fresh garlic, & basil, in a lemon veloute sauce, topped with melted
brie, and Debbie had the Baked Garlic Harvest Stuffed Chicken: Boneless breast stuffed with sun-dried cranberries, fresh rosemary, green onions, and roasted garlic cream cheese. Topped with a garlic and herb walnut crust and accompanied by their famous Gilroy potatoes (yummy garlicky scalloped potatoes), as well as a fresh garden salad with garlic dressing, and warm crusty bread with a garlic dipping sauce. It was extremely filling.

We came home through Madison, past the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University where Debbie's nephew will be attending classes and playing baseball next year, and
then through South Mountain reservation where a fellow piffler's NJKingdom http://www.njkingdom.com/ will be presenting the Pirates of Tortuga in June.

Our last stop was at Eagle Rock, a country park on the top of First Mountain (actually a smallish hill) with a wonderful view of the skyline of Manhattan. After the terrorist
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 the park was thronged by people wanting to witness the events, and to lay hundreds of wreaths and American flags - and so when a formal memorial was proposed for the folks from Essex County who had died it was here at Eagle Rock they chose to build it.

We went winding down the hill and home to let her dogs out and then we went to visit Debbie's dad at medical recovery centre where he is recovering from surgery. She has spoken to him frequently about my trip, and he was very interested in meeting me saying what a pleasure it was to meet someone so adventurous. I have to say that the pleasure was mine as he is a very courteous and attentive gentleman who is an excellent listener (I am afraid I was probably dominating the talking) and makes very enjoyable conversation. Although he has been unwell, he looks much younger than he is and has a lovely smile.

Again we joined friends in "piffle chat" and Debbie put her photos up online. We also
celebrated my last day by cracking open a nice Italian Pinot Grigio as well.

As Debbie said, "I can't remember when I first heard her [me] talking about
her planned world tour. Could it have been as long ago as the [Stratford] in 2002? That's what sticks in my own mind at any rate. Certainly long enough ago that the whole trip itself seemed impossibly far in the future - yet now [I have] actually come and
gone!

I have had a wonderful time in this part of the world. It is close to the big cities; however, manages to maintain a very genteel and courteous attitude towards the world. I have the sense of the depth of history and yet the hope for the future. I would very much like to return to this part of the world again.
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