New Jersey

 We headed to Princeton, New Jersey to see the most beautiful college any of us have ever seen, Princeton.  
We could have been transported to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series.  Some of the beautiful colleges we visited we have one or two gorgeous buildings while every single building at Princeton is an sight for the eyes.
 This is the quad of one of the dorms!
They just don't make buildings like this.  They are works of art.
We loved walking around Princeton.  Truly a treat for the eyes and the energy on a college campus fills you with hope for the future.
After exploring Princeton we headed to Jersey City for the night where we had a beautiful view of the New York harbor.  
We spent the evening taking in the sights and resting up for our big day tomorrow in the Big Apple!

Pennsylvania

We continued on our journey through American history as we visited the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. 
The Independence Hall is where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were ratified.  We couldn't get into tour until late afternoon so much to the kids' dismay we had to just walk around the outside.  :)
We did however get a chance to walk through Liberty Bell Center and learn about the Liberty Bell.  "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof" Leviticus 25:10 is inscribed along the top of the bell.  Initially the bell hung at the top of Independence Hall, which was originally the Pennsylvania State House.  The bell was made in London and cracked on it's very first test ring!  The metalworkers Pass and Stow melted down the bell and recast a new one in Philadelphia.  It is believed it cracked again sometime in the 1840's.  They attempted to repair it, but it was unsuccessful as another fissure spread up through the word Liberty.  It has never been rung since.
The inscription referred to the instruction to the Israelites to free slaves every 50 years.  This took on a special meaning during the abolitionist movement.  The Bell traveled the nation after the Civil War. It was a symbol of freedom from our beginnings in the Revolutionary War to the freedom of slaves in the Civil War.  Women's voting rights also took to the bell for symbolism of liberty and equality.  The Bell still stands as a symbol of liberty for all.
While not quite as important as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, visiting the famous steps of Rocky was quite important from a Pop culture perspective!  I ran out of time to show the kids all the movies of the states but we did manage to find the clip of Rocky running to the top of the Art Museum steps.
   I can't wait to show them Rocky now that have they have each raced up those same steps.
After a busy morning we were starving.  There could be no other choice but a Philly cheesesteak for lunch.

Oh boy was it delicious!
We did order one that is the traditional preparation with  Cheez Whiz as the cheese.  We maybe West Coasters because we definitely liked the provolone one better.
Having lunch was so fun.  Max found a local beer and they had Hank's Rootbeer for the rest of us. 

 It was a wonderful morning walking through our nation's history of bringing liberty to all it's people and we made some really fun memories pretending to be Rocky and I think we would all go back to Philly just so we could visit Cleavers for another sandwich!

Delaware

We like to try and take the kids' picture in front of the state welcome sign whenever we feel it is safe.  Often you cross over the state line on a busy freeway so its not possible but when we happen to be on a slow country road we have the kids pile out to take their picture.  There is usually much groaning and bashing of teeth about getting shoes on, someone stepped on my stuff, and so on.
Then I am always scheming for the best and safest way to get the picture.  Max captured such a moment as it usually goes down.  He waits in the comfort of the car and amusingly watches the circus of me arranging them, walking in grass with bugs or muddy puddles, and listening to the kids bicker.
Sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words.
Our main stop in Delaware was Dover where we visited historic Delaware and the capital.
 We walked around the Old State House and took a tour of it.  We learned of the history of the building, the architectural changes, and its place in Delaware history over the last 224 years.  The museum guide was very excited to share his information with us, however the kids' eyes began to gloss over about 5 minutes into the 30 minute tour.  :)  Needless to say they did not want to take anymore tours.
It surprised me how quiet the historic section was.  We were one of only two other groups we saw.  I could imagine it bustling with activity two centuries ago.  We also walked to the Golden Fleece Tavern building.  It is the birthplace of the Delaware.  Initially people met for crimes against the crown and spreading revolutionary ideas.   It later became the meeting place for the legislative body until the State House was completed.  "Translation: major decisions were made by politicians who were drinking heavily," Golden Fleece Tavern.  It was in the Golden Fleece that Delaware became the first state to ratify the Federal Constitution on December 7, 1787.  The Council also chose to meet here to celebrate approving the Bill of Rights in 1790.  The current bar has been moved to a new location but they "hope to continue the tradition of healthy revolution and become a place where those of a slightly rebellious nature with love for good times and sincere smiles will find a home. 
After two states and walking deep through our country's history, I was out like a light on our way to Pennsylvania!  Practically sleeping beauty.  :)

Maryland

Early Wednesday morning we departed DC and headed to Annapolis, Maryland.  Originally we had planned to take a sailing trip of the Chesapeake Bay since Annapolis is known as the "America's sailing capital."  However, the weather forecast had rain so we canceled those plans.  Once again our sailing pursuits were foiled.  I guess we are just land lovers.  Instead we walked along the beautiful cobblestone streets to the Maryland State House.  It is he oldest state capitol still in use and it is the only state house to once serve as the capitol for America.
The Continental Congress met there from 1783-1784 and it is where George Washington came to deliver his resignation of commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.  The Treaty of Paris was ratified here too, which officially marked the end of the Revolutionary War.
 His hand written letter sits in the State House hallway across form the room he delivered his speech. It was really cool to be able to imagine him standing there delivering his speech.
"Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action, and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life." ~ George Washington
The incredible act of giving up his political power spread far and wide.  The idea that the leader of this new nation would hand over his power was so novel that it only made people adore and admire Washington even more.  Supposedly, King George said if Washington did that he would be the greatest man in the world!  It seems to me he really just did want to go home to Martha and live a comfortable life in Mt. Vernon.  Immediately after delivering his speech he rode off to be home for Christmas not knowing he would soon be the first and arguably one of the greatest leaders our nation has ever had.
 We fell in love with Annapolis.  For a capitol city we expected a large bustling city, where it had the feel of quite, small town.  The old homes, historic buildings, and cobblestone streets where idyllic.
When we first arrived in Maryland we joked about how ugly their flag is.  We laughed that it is the only flag that clashes with itself.  By the end of our morning we were all converts and decided ti must be one of the best flags in the Union!    Trust me, it grows on you. :)
 We also walked by the Naval Academy.  I was thinking I wouldn't mind if Hank ended up there.  It was such a beautiful town.

We had worked up quite an appetite.  In my little State Facts sheet the State Crustacean is the Maryland Blue Crab.  I had to find a place to try the blue crab.  Cantler's seemed the perfect fit.  When we arrived our waitress told us that it was the number one restaurant in all of Maryland.
It was getting better by the minute. We found a picnic bench outside by the water and order a pile of crabs.  The waitress then brought out a butcher paper table cloth and said it was about to get messy!
She brought the tools and gave us demo on how to shell them.
 Max found a state beer to pair with the meal.
 I was having flashback to our Maine lobster lunch.  Hank loved shelling them.
 Kaitlin did not!
Karlie was all about it.
Hailey was on the fence.  She enjoyed the taste but found the process a bit barbaric.  I will admit King Crab legs are so much easier.  But it was a wonderfully fun lunch.
Boy those M states and their seafood are winning us over for sure.


DC Day 2

If we were tired after the first day of visiting DC, we were going to be beat by the end of Day 2.  It was a typical Katie style day where I pack more in than is near humanly possible.  But States trips are never about relaxing, they are about seeing and doing as much as we can within a week!
Max had to present at noon but none of the museums open until 10 am.  That is like 1 pm our time.  We were ready to roll early but the East Coast starts everything later.  However, the National Monuments are always open.  I booked bikes for us to ride around the monuments before Max had to take off to work.  We had two hours to see them all.  Ready, Set, Roll!
It might have been our favorite part of DC.  Riding along the beautiful pathways and seeing the immense monuments was very special.
My Dad has ingrained deep in my soul the saying, "The early bird gets the worm."  Sure enough we were so early we had the entire Jefferson Memorial to ourselves.   It was wonderful!
Reading some of Jefferson's quotes I was awed by the wisdom and enlightenment of one of our founding fathers.  "I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions.  But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.  As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.  We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."
Next we rode through the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial and then onto Martin Luther King Jr.'s memorial.
Inspiring quotes wrapped along a formidable statue of Martin Luther King struck me how strong this memorial felt in comparison to the others that seemed more honorary.  Pictures can not convey the spectrum of feelings you have as you move from memorial to memorial.  Feelings of pride, inspiration, strength, sacrifice, sorrow, hope, and longing drift through you as you stop at each one.
Lincoln just has a presence about him.  Even seated he takes the crown of all the monuments.  It is as though he still presides with dignity, reverence and honor.  Somehow the artist managed to convey a humbleness but greatness in the statue.  I really loved Lincoln and Jefferson.  They give me hope that greatness will once again lead our country.
Hank delighted in seeing the "big stick" otherwise known as the George Washington Monument.  He would point it out at every stop. :)
Our next stop was the Vietnam Memorial.  This stop was heartbreaking.  My Uncle Edward Strain died in the war.  It was horrific to see the seemingly endless walls of names.  So many lives lost.  Each one of those soldiers represent a family shattered by grief.
We then rode onto the Word War II memorial.  It was gorgeous and triumphant but did not convey the same sense of loss and the cost of human life that wars have the way the Vietnam Memorial did.
We found Arizona's granite pillar.
From there we took a detour up to see the White House.
Hank was thinking he was going to see Trump out in the yard!
We rounded out our National Monument tour at the George Washington Monument.  It seemed fitting to end our tour with our nations first leader.  We had fun talking about the Masons, secret societies, and obelisk.  We have a bunch of conspiracy theorist on our hands.  :)
Unfortunately the monument is under construction and we were not able to go to the top.  But we did enjoy a snack while we took in the beauty of it all.
Just in the nick of time Max took off to go get dressed and ready to present his poster.
After lunch the kids and I went to explore the Air and Space Museum.  It was our favorite museum.  It was full of hands on activities and interactive stations.  They loved climbing in the planes and we were all shocked to read the requirements of being a flight attendant initially.  You had to be a single woman who had never been married.  In the 1930's to be a flight attendant you had to be pretty (right below Hollywood standards), between 100-118 pounds and 5' to 5'4''.  Originally you also had to be a registered nurse but that was later removed during World War I when women were needed in the work force, especially nurses.
We explored every section of the museum and Karlie and Hailey even went in the flight simulator.  The rest of us did not want to lose our lunch!  We learned about the Wright brothers, Amelia Earhart, space shuttle launches, astronauts, space, and watched an IMAX show in the Einstein Planetarium about the Dark Universe.  It was the highlight of the day for Hailey.  The rest of us enjoyed being forced to sit for 30 minutes.  A certain person may have dozed off a few times from pure exhaustion. :)
After the IMAX show we were feeling recharged and ready to tackle the Museum of Natural History!
Max was able to meet us before it closed!  We zipped through the museum seeing all the animals on display, the Hope Diamond, dazzling gems and jewels, dinosaur bones and the favorite, Henry the elephant.  I am probably biased from all my days spent taking the kids to Denver's Museum of Nature and Science, but I have been to a handful of the best museums in the nation, and I would have to say Denver's is the best of them all.  Their animal displays in their habitat are the best, they have a wonderful interactive space section, mummies, IMAX and gems and jewels all in one place.  It may not have the Hope Diamond but it is pretty spectacular museum.  However, the Smithsonian Museums are free!  That is pretty amazing when you are use to paying entry fees for 6 people.
All in all it was a jaw dropping day for everything we were able to see and appreciate.  So many national treasures!  And to think there is even more to see.
We wanted to wait until near the end of Family 50 to do DC so the kids would have the most memories possible of it.  After visiting parts of Europe I have been so eager to see our National Mall with all of its treasures and monuments.  I thoroughly enjoyed and it and the kids have said how much they liked it.  It was a great visit but I know we will have to come back once the kids are gone and take it all in a more leisurely pace to absorb the history and importance.