Washington DC, Harpers Ferry and Hershey: so much history!

We picked up our gigantic RV last Thursday. It’s been a fun (almost) week with it, but this is the first time we’ve stayed at a campground with wifi. However, it’s never too late to reflect on what we’ve done.
After getting over the shock of the size of the RV (literally 30 feet) and paying $34 to cross the Statten Island Bridge accidentally, we started heading west using the instructions of a gas station attendant. We wanted to avoid the Turn Pike – we got stung on it in Florida last year and knew it would be worse in an RV! The drive through northern Pennsylvania was pretty – lots of greenery. When we hit the i81 we started heading South and after 6 hours of driving, we found a rest area to pull up for the night. The rest areas in the US are super safe, have clean toilets (not gross, smelly drop toilets like in Australia), and vending machines!! We decided that we would try to ‘dry camp’ as much as possible to lower our costs – petrol already being VERY expensive in the RV.
The next day we continued our trip south, stopping at lunch time to visit Harpers Ferry, a quaint little colonial town with an interesting civil war history. It only cost $10 to enter the National park and park our RV. They have a free shuttle bus that takes you to the main battle site at Harpers Ferry where the Union soldiers fought bravely but lost against the much stronger Confederate forces. This is where General Robert E Lee was making a name for himself. Our boys loved learning about the cannons from a young guy dressed in the original Union soldier outfit. The bus then took us right down to the town of Harpers Ferry where there were heaps more people getting into the civil war cosplay! Our boys learnt how to carry and march with a replica civil war gun and then they got to dress up too. Of course they chose Union outfits, they know who the good guys were! Walking through the town we spoke to more people about the civil war and learnt so much about the role the surrounding states played – Virginia succeeded from the Union and Maryland got to keep their slaves even though they joined the Union. Crazy!

We walked over the old bridge and saw people floating down the Shenandoah River on tubes, Lee was keen to have a go but we didn’t have time. We left this lovely historical town much better for the experience. It being 4th of July meant it was set up really near for tourists. After driving for a few more hours, East this time, we found a rest area 30 miles from DC. Lee chatted to the guard and we got permission to stay the night AND to set off our fireworks. The boys were beside themselves! They had chosen some great fireworks the day before from a small home stall in Pennsylvania. It was hilarious to watch them jumping around and laughing at the showers of sparks and popping noises. Wish Australia still had Bon fire night!

The day after 4th of July we decided to head to Washington DC to meet Betsy Whalen, our dear friend who I met through edmodo years ago and who we’ve met up with on all our US trips, I think. Well DC was pretty busy! I mean, I’m sure it always is, but WOW there was a lot of people! We met Betsy in the adorable Teaism, which serves hot chai, yay, and then began our walking tour of DC. Let’s just say, it was hot and it was busy and there’s a lot of memorials! We saw the impressive Washington Memorial, walked past the Reflective Pool and the Vietnam War memorial and then up the grand white stairs to the very cool Lincoln Memorial. Abe is massive! The boys were excited to see him because he’s a star in Night at the Museum 2, lol. We then walked down to the newest memorial, that for MLK. I’ve recently discovered that we’re born on the same day – capricorns FTW! His memorial is awesome – he towered over you, emerging from a giant slab of sandstone. I was impressed!

Our next stop was Union Station to pick up a DUCK tour. Hilarious! You’ve probably seen a duck boat driving through the streets of a major city – the tour car/boats that sing and quack. Well, our driver was hilarious in the weird way. He spent more time talking about toilet facilities in DC than the history of the place, lol. Then we went out into the water and got freaked out by the fact that our car just turned into a boat! We cruised past the Pentagon, which I thought was pretty cool and then we cruised past a dead fish which the boys thought was pretty cool, lol. I’m pretty confident that I learnt more about DC from Betsy than our tour guide but it was still really fun and so great to spend time with Betsy. Before saying our goodbyes, we had delicious Chicago-style pizza and then stopped at the White House for some photos. It wasn’t long enough with Betsy or DC, but it was certainly a wonderful introduction to such an interesting city.

After heading back to the RV, we decided to drive back to Harpers Ferry because we wanted to go tubing down the Shenandoah – why not?! Lee is such a champion and drove well into the night, finding us a free camp close to the river. The next morning we were up and ready for tubing super early. We opted to go with River Riders, a bit pricey but worth it. After a quick training video we were on the shuttle bus to the river. The river was warm and not too fast. There were a couple of tiny ‘rapids’ but mostly we just cruised on down the gorgeous river, looking at the wildlife and the blue, blue sky. I’m so glad Lee insisted we do the tubing – it will be a memory that lasts forever. West Virginia, you’re beautiful!

Back in the RV we were driving North again – this time on our way to see our friend Dayna and her family in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania. I’ve known Dayna for years now, having met her through BIE connections. She has a stunning home with a massive backyard that made my boys envious! Her daughters are adorable and her husband is kind and a great portobello mushroom burger chef! After dinner they took us to Hershey and the World of Chocolate. We did the trolley tour which was fantastic! Lee and I were so inspired by the story of Milton Hershey and our boys LOVED the tour guides who were funny and knowledgable. Then we got to have Hershey milkshakes and buy lots of yummy sweets! So lucky! Returning to Dayna’s, we set off the remainder of our fireworks with the kids which was so fun! Thanks so much to Dayna and her family – best hospitality in Pennsylvania!
And so ended our time south of New Jersey and so began the epic trip up to New England!

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