After the Candlelight Vigil at the National Law Enforcement in Washington DC, I said goodbye to my fellow riders. It was a sad day saying goodbye to my room mate for the last three years, Mike T Rae, not knowing if I would see him again. Mike retires at the end of May and may not do the Police Unity Tour. I hope he does as do all those whom he has touched over the last 10 years of riding. Mike is an inspiration with his fund raising, his great sense of humour and above all his compassion for the survivors. Mike, if you read this, don’t let this be your last ride.
Jeremy, Maggie and Barb were driving back to Cleveland Ohio on the morning of 14th May, so I helped them load their hire car before I headed off to pick up my hire vehicle, a rather large (by UK standards) SUV to enable me to get my bike box and my luggage and that of my mother, brother and sister. They were going to spend a couple of days with me in Philadelphia before flying back to the UK.
After getting said hire vehicle and picking up my family, we headed off on the way to Philadelphia via the beautiful port of Annapolis. I had sung the virtues of this port to them and on a beautiful day we spent a lovely few hours walking round the port which is home to the US Naval Academy. We had lunch there and a rather good ice cream from a little shop that has around 30+ flavours of home made ice cream (and a similar number of flavours of home made fudge!) Bizarrely, it was the longest time I have spent talking to my family in a long time. We seem to lead separate lives these days. We had to make the inevitable stop at Starbucks so my mother and sister can get their latte fix. Addicted? You bet they are.
They posed for the inevitable picture at the statute of Kunta Kinte. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, this is of some interest as my mother’s family have been traced back to a freed slave.
If you ever get the chance to visit Annapolis, then it is worth the 30 or so mile drive from DC. It is a place that I think is one of the most picturesque ports I have ever seen.
One item that amused me was in a Christmas store. It seems the Americans do understand us lawyers after all.
We then headed off from Annapolis towards Philadelphia. I chose to take the easy option and drive the direct route via the Interstate rather than the route we cycle from the end of the Commodore Barry Bridge at Chester near Philadelphia. This is the bridge I have written about at length in previous blog posts. I have told my family about it on many occasions, so when I saw the bridge signposted as we neared Philadelphia, I chose to detour their to show how big the bridge was.
We parked in the car park of the PPL Park Stadium, home of the Philadelphia Union and spent a few minutes enjoying the sunshine and the view of the bridge over the Delaware River.
As we drove away from the car park, I noticed that the electronic advertising hoarding indicated that Philadelphia Union were playing at home on the following night against reigning champions LA Galaxy. Of course, I couldn’t resist the chance to go to the game. I cleared it with my mother as it would mean spending time away from them- again. However, I was going to take my brother to the game. He had never been to a game in the USA so it would be a new experience for him.
We checked into our hotel and after a few complimentary drinks in the executive lounge, we had a quite dinner in the hotel and more chance to talk to each other. Yes, readers, we talked and did not argue. This could be the start of something new….!
Wednesday morning, we went sightseeing in Philadelphia. Our hotel was not far from the main attractions, The Liberty Bell, The Independence Hall and Washington’s House. I had seen the Liberty Bell and Washington’s House the previous time I was here in 2011, but it was good to see them again. I managed to get tickets this time to visit the Independence Hall for all of us. In 2011 there were no tickets available, so this was a new experience.
I am not going to repeat lots of paragraphs about visiting the sights. Sadly this time the Benjamin Franklin Museum was closed for redevelopment. We did additionally visit the National Liberty Museum which was worth a visit. It celebrates people and their actions / achievements rather than being based on a specific event. It is American biased, as one would expect, but is worth a visit. It is only 2 blocks from the Independence Hall.
The picture below is the room where the traitorous Declaration of Independence was signed
Wednesday night, Martin & I went to the football game allowing my mother and sister the chance to have a girl’s night. I will have a separate blog about the game.
Thursday was our last day in the USA. I was to fly back from Newark (New York) and the others from Philadelphia. We decided to make the most of our last morning by taking the trolley bus tour of the city. This showed us a lot more of Philadelphia. It looks a very beautiful city with lots of green spaces and lots of history. The thing that struck me most about the tour was that most things seem to have been built or refurbished in time for the 1976 Bi Centennial Celebrations.
We parted company at lunchtime with me setting off to drive to Newark. I arrived at Newark with a couple of hours to spare so I went to the huge Jersey Gardens Outlet Mall for a bit of retail therapy. The wonders of modern technology came to my assistance. I was able to take pictures of clothing and using Whatsapp, send them to Michelle in England to get her opinion on the items. As she often tells me, I wear the trousers in our relationship, but she tells me which pair. I ended up buying a few items of clothing, including a new 3 piece suit.
Finally, I had enough time for an all to brief Skype chat with Michelle before checking in for my flight. I was given a free upgrade to an exit row seat at check in, possibly because I had been chatting to the lady about the cycling in the Police Unity Tour . The flight itself was packed. There were no empty seats on the plane. This was no bother to me as I was asleep before the plane had even taxied away from the stand. It was important that I got sleep because on arriving back in England on Friday morning I was expecting a visitor that evening as Michelle was down for the weekend.
I had the fastest experience from the plane landing to being in my home on the other side of London. It took me less than a minute to clear customs, my bags were waiting for me, and the North Circular Road was completely clear all the way home. There was just time after arriving home to begin cleaning up the house to make it acceptable to host a very special visitor.
A very enjoyable trip is over for another year. Thanks to everyone who made it so special for me. Michelle for her support and encouragement, everyone connected with the Police Unity Tour and my family for being in DC when we arrived on the Police Unity Tour and the great time we had together in Philadelphia. Its only a shame the time was not longer, but that would have meant spending more time away from Michelle and that is not a price I want to pay.