Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Vacation destination - Cochranton, PA and Washington DC

We just returned from a road trip to visit our friends, Cheryl and Francis, in Cochranton, PA and to see the nation's capitol. We figured as long as we were driving as far as PA we might as well continue on and visit Washington DC.

Cochranton is located in the northwestern corner of PA, and what a beautiful part of the country it is. Cheryl and Francis live in a 100 year old home and own a dairy farm. I had a chance to learn firsthand how hard farmers work. He was up early every morning and retired for the evening long after we had gone to bed. I had no idea, and I certainly have a better appreciation for what they do.

Our friends opened their home to us and put us up in their guest bedroom. I don't know about you, but the guest bedroom in my home doesn't look like this one. Their guestroom reminded me of a B&B my husband and I stayed at in Denison, IA. Apparently everything in the room has a story and was handed down from Cheryl's side of the family. Can you see the old wedding blouse in the corner? It is from the early 1900s and belonged to a relative of Cheryl's.

We only had two days on the farm and my husband was looking forward to getting me in the barn. I spent my childhood in the suburbs of large cities - mostly the Twin Cities - and never had the opportunity to experience a farm. My husband had a good chuckle when I had to leave the barn after a few minutes to "catch my breath". However, like they told me, you do get used to the smell after awhile. And while I couldn't bring myself to try milking one of the larger cows (and I'm sure Cheryl and Francis were grateful for that) I did put on some "barn clothes" and helped clean stalls and feed a calf.

We spend one day sightseeing in the area visiting the Drake Well Museum in Titusville, PA and the old sight of an abandoned city called Pithole, PA. The Drake Well Museum was fascinating and well worth the visit even though we were there during the non-peak season. It told the story of the birthplace of oil industry. On August 27, 1859, "Edwin L. Drake struck oil in the first commercially successful well drilled specifically for oil and launched the modern petroleum industry in the United States."

The next stop was the location of a town named Pithole. (How would you like to live in a city named Pithole?) Pithole came into existence because of the oil boom. It was a boomtown community that began in 1860 and grew rapidly - over 10,000 in 1865 - then decreased almost as rapidly - 237 in 1870 - and ceased to exist by 1880. Its hard to imagine that a thriving city could be gone in only twenty years. All that is left of the city is some small indentations in the ground with markers in front indicating what once stood there. The museum is only open on weekends during the fall/winter season so we were only able to walk around the grounds and try to imagine what the city once looked like.

Our time on the farm was much too short and we left for the next portion of our trip with my husband vowing to come back and spend a week working the farm.

Neither of us had ever visited DC before so we were excited about seeing all the sights along the Mall. We stayed at the Capitol Hill Suites located only two blocks from the capitol building. The staff was courteous, friendly and very helpful. When we checked in they gave us a bit of history of the hotel - it used to be an apartment building that the capitol pages lived in. And they upgraded us from a one bedroom to a small suite after learning it was our first time in DC! I highly recommend staying here if you're in DC. It is located in a residential area, one block from a metro station and walking distance to the mall and small dining establishments.

We only had two days in DC and we jammed as much in as possible. The weather the first day was cold and rainy, but that worked to our advantage as we were able to secure tickets to tour the capitol with hardly any wait at all. Fortunately we had packed warm jackets and raingear so we were dressed for hiking in the foul weather. The first day we left our hotel at 8 a.m. and arrived back after 6 p.m. exhausted after walking from the capitol building to the Lincoln memorial and back, stopping to visit all the sites in between - the Washington monument, the World War memorials, the Wall (the Vietnam memorial) and as many of the Smithsonian museums we could visit before they closed for the evening.

Our last day was a Sunday and we rode the metro (another first for me - sure wish we had mass transit like this where I live) and began the day by visiting the White House. It really was awesome to actually stand in front of the White House. Next stop - Arlington cemetery to visit Kennedy's grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. We happened to arrive at the Tomb of the Unknowns 15 minutes before the changing of the guard and were able to get a front row seat. My husband is a Navy vet and this was something he really wanted to experience. The Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any weather by Tomb Guard sentinels. Can you imagine what an honor it is to be selected as one of the guards for the tomb of the Unknown Soldier? To see the ritual brings tears to your eyes. We rode the metro back to the city so we could stop by the National Archives Building where we stood in line to view the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. We finished the day by walking back to our hotel stopping at the National Gallery of Art - the last museum we could visit before the end of the day.

There was so much more we wanted to visit but we just couldn't squeeze anymore in...The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Textile Museum, Ford Theater, the Library of Congress, etc. The next morning we packed the car and drove home - straight home, no hotel stops or sightseeing along the way. Did you know that it only takes 21 hours to drive from Washington DC to St. Paul, MN? I would not recommend it.

Now that we're home and unpacked and I have a few days of vacation left I just might indulge in some uninterrupted sewing time.

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