Shamefully, I must admit that I am not 100% of the connection between Philadelphia and the US Constitution. I do know that the Liberty Bell is here and I’ve always wanted to see the thing. Even if my recollection of its significance is a bit fuzzy too.
I’m always a bit apprehensive about big cities and have never even been to Philidelphia. I elect to take a guided history tour of the city. Along with 8 other people, we board a van from the campground 45 minutes from Philly. Immediately our guide starts rattling off names, dates, and places of significant revolutionaries, battles and other interesting facts. My head is spinning trying to retain it all.
Our first stop is the Liberty Bell. I am beyond excited and check to ensure I have a fresh camera battery and room on its memory card. Flipping the camera on produces a “No Card Found” error on the screen. “Oh, hell no!”. How in Sam Adams did I forget to put my SDRAM card back in?
We are alotted about 40 minutes to get through security and tour the pavilion that houses the Liberty Bell before we are to meet back up with our guide. I Google and see a CVS is only 2 blocks away. Much like Rocky, I begin dashing through the streets of Philly in search of an SDRAM card. CVS has sold out and after another 2 block jaunt, I learn the electronics store is no longer in business. I begin a hurried dash back to the pavilion empty-handed, well I do have a now useless camera in hand.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
By the time I get back to the Liberty Bell Pavilion, I have about 15 minutes before I am to meet up with my group. A 5-minute line has formed at the security gate and my anxiety is ratcheting up. I hate being pressed for time and hold my breath passing through the metal detector. It doesn’t beep so I gather my stuff and dart through the hall bypassing all the informational kiosks and head for the big bell.
A sizable crowd is gawking about the bell. The lighting is nearly impossible to get a good shot with my iPhone. I’m just kind of exasperated and underwhelmed at this point. To top it off, the darn thing is broken, it has a huge crack in it. Much debate focuses on how and when it got cracked, I think the Russians did it. The bell cracked up during George Washington’s birthday celebration in February 1846 and hasn’t rung since.
The bell used to hang in the steeple of the nearby Independence Hall. Deemed a chime that changed the world on July 8, 1776, with the ringing out and summoning the citizens of Philadelphia to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
Washington DC is in its planning and early development phases during the 1770s. Pennslyvania was the midpoint of the original 13 colonies with 6 states above and 6 below. So our early founders adopt the Pennsylvania Statehouse as a meeting place for matters of the nation.
I marvel at the construction of the building from the outside but when entering the state house it feels like hallowed ground. It’s a sensational feeling to know within these walls stood Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams to name a few. Where they construct the framework of our nation and draft the Articles of Confederation.
Where debates of the Constitution were heated at times, over issues like the power balance between large states and small states as well as the slave trade. Where on July 4, 1776, they vote to approve their document, the Declaration of Independence. And finally, the Declaration of Independence is signed in this room on August 2, 1776. The history is tremendously fascinating to me and I am enthralled with the shade of gray on the walls. I want that in my statehouse.
Dum, ta da Dum to da Dum to da Dum..
I’m not much of a Hollywood type nor really care about celebrity. But I am a fan of the original Rocky movie. The iconic scene of Rocky running the steps at the art museum and raising his arms in celebration before the big fight with Apollo Creed has always stuck with me. When planning to go to Philly, along with eating a cheesesteak sandwich, I want to run those steps.
This is not a planned stop and when asking the guide about it I get a dismissive “if we have time”. The tour is nearing the end when we near the infamous steps. A 10k road race had taken place earlier and there are still roadblocks, traffic, and just general chaos. Our guide is none too excited to stop. Just short of pleading, I suggest I jump out as he circles the block. Sternly, he announces, “you have 5 minutes”. Only now do 4 others admit they wanna go too as we clamor out of the van.
The steps aren’t as intimidating as I feared, its only 72 steps. Dodging the crowds proves to be the greatest obstacle of the challenge.
Gonna fly Now, flyin high now
I was expecting Rocky to meet me at the top of the steps. Sylvester Stylone donates his famous statue to the city after Rocky III but the high brows of the museum didn’t deem his 2,000 lb statue as “art”. So, they had him moved to The Spectrum Stadium. At the 30 year anniversary of the original Rocky movie, Sylvester asks that the statue return to the museum; which it is, but in a grassy spot to the side of the steps. Running the steps and a quick trip to the statue is done within the allotted 5 minutes.
As we pile back in the van in victory, a young couple from Holland who hasn’t said a word the entire trip pulls me aside. In a heavy Dutch accent he says “Dank’s for making him stop, ’tis only reason we came to Philly was to run those steps.”
Which reminds me, as a US citizen, that viewing broken bells, eating Philly cheesesteaks, and running museum steps are just a few of our unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.