Archive for the ‘National Historic Site’ Category

I was having a conversation with someone the other day and they asked a very legitimate question, “where are you?”

liberty bell

liberty bell

Michael and I have been residing in Harrisburg, PA since we ended our trip in December 2005, just a few months ahead of schedule. Bags were unpacked, the ‘Tima got a car wash, items were pulled out of storage and a new home was found (a few blocks away from the old one).

Since then, one of us went back to work, one of us found a new job, we both wrote for a few other places, and in between we’ve gone back to some of our favorite park sites to give them a second look, like Independence Hall National Historical Park, the Liberty Bell and our beloved Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial.

New sites were given National Park site designations since we created our original list, like the Carter G. Woodson House National Historic Site in Washington D.C. This was one of our final stops, but our visit was still a little premature. The African Burial Grounds National Memorial in New York is another newbie we have to add to our “still to see” list.

Did we reach our goal of Every. Single. NPS site in the Continental United States?


Did we reach our goal of rediscovering America and answering the question, “what, exactly, does it mean to be American?”

We’re not sure if America ever becomes a static answer, or if the discovery ever ends. We found a lot of different answers, and had the time of our lives trying.

And it ain’t over yet.

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Can You Find the Secret Service?Why rise at 5 a.m. to drive across Georgia from Macon to Plains, population 700? Among Plains’ residents are Rossalyn and Jimmy Carter, and the former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner was teaching Sunday school that morning.

We were thrilled and excited, but we had doubts. Would we be welcome in this small town? The Maranatha Baptist Church is tiny, with room for only 300. Would there be room? It is not our denomination. Is it ok if we attend?

We arrived at the Church at 8 am. The Greeter smiled, laughed and erased our worries, The Secret Servicemen took our picture to ensure that our camera really was a camera and then urged us in, “you never know when the buses will show up.” We were fine.

Once seated inside, the pews filled around us, save the few cordoned off for active members. Before we knew it, a quiet man had slipped through a side door. Jimmy Carter was standing just six pews away.

He asked where we were all from. California, Uganda, Poland, Germany, Florida. People from dozens of countries and states had made the same pilgrimage. Gab eagerly yelled out Pennsylvania. Jimmy’s response, his warm wide smile of acknowledgment, made us all feel loved.

President CarterHis lesson’s topic was Joseph’s part in the Christmas story, but his lesson invoked elections in Mozambique, vacationing with his grandchildren and a profound biblical knowledge. We felt blessed and thankful for the teachings of such a pious, humble and great man.

Jimmy left saying, almost apologetically, that in two weeks he would be unable to teach in Plains. He was going to Palestine to oversee an election. He reminded us of what Anwar Sadat told him at Camp David that “regardless of religion, we are all sons of Abraham.” We must learn to live together.

Click Here to Read More about Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.

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Hand in HandHappy Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Day. Wait a sec, I don’t have off work until Monday. What gives? Well, today is his official born on date, January 15, 1929. He would have been 79. What should you do to celebrate, either today or Monday?

Today has already happened so there’s little wiggle room there. But on Monday you could go to his National Historic Site in Atlanta! It’s encompasses terrific museum, Dr. King’s birth home, and the the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

We really enjoyed our time there amidst the healthy crowds and exciting energy. It was wonderful to see so many people of all colors, age and nationality remembering and learning about the incredible life and message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. together. So even if you can’t travel to Atlanta, remember Dr. King’s message of togetherness, hope, and promise for a more peaceful future.

Click Here to Read More about Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.

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Pick Me a Winner

Last Week we delved into the National Parks of Harry Potter, imagining the little magician as written by Park-honored American writers. This week we’re looking at another cultural phenomenon and another hit summer film: The Simpsons Movie. But which National Park Sites will we choose? Parks that honor Simpsons? Er, couldn’t come up with any? Does Ulysses S. Grant count? Parks in Homer, Alaska? Haven’t been there yet. No, this week we’re traveling to Park Sites located in our heroes’ home: Springfield. First up: Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

Springfield, Illinois is America’s only Springfield capitol. It’s also home to America’s most famous historical figure, Abraham Lincoln. We have a fleeting memory of the Railsplitter appearing in a few Simpsons episodes. Confirmations, anyone?

We enjoyed our time in Honest Abe’s hometown. The Park Site consists of a few blocks and houses sequestered from automobile traffic and successfully suspended in time circa mid-19th Century. We sauntered down the shaded lanes, entered a few Lincoln museum buildings and imagined the life of a young frontier lawyer. He couldn’t possibly have known what the future had in store.

Downtown Springfield, Illinois offers even more Lincoln attractions. You can visit the Old State Capitol where Abe worked as a state representative, plead cases as an up-and-coming attorney, and gave campaign speeches, including the “House Divided” speech, which vaulted him into the national spotlight. The newly opened Lincoln Presidential Library is located just a few blocks from the Old State Capitol. Visitors have flocked by the millions to see this ornate look into Great Emancipator. We’re planning a trip back.

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Goats!In recognition of the 8.3 million Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows books sold last weekend, this week we are looking at National Park Sites that honor authors. Earlier this week we imagined the new Harry Potter book as written by Eugene O’Neill and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Today we turn our attention to America’s greatest poet Carl Sandburg.

We don’t have to imagine how Carl Sandburg would have stylized The Deathly Hollows. Why? Because Sandburg would have had no interest in lionizing an upper middle class precocious British hothead. Sandburg wrote only about the common American. He might have imagined a half-blood elitist wizard to be an inappropriate hero, especially to impressionable adolescents.

We also don’t have to imagine Sandburg’s take on Harry Potter because he authored an equivalent book, The Rootabaga Stories, which, similar to the Deathly Hollows, can be downloaded page for page on the Internet. These tales attempt to create wholly American fairy tales and originated from bedtime stories Sandburg told to his daughters.

Unfortunately, The Rootabaga Stories don’t compel the reader like the Harry Potter opuses and won’t be beelining to the cinema screen.

Click Here to Read More about Carl Sandburg NHS.

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Godric Hollow?In recognition of the 8.3 million Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows books sold last weekend, this week we are looking at National Park Sites that honor authors. On Monday we imagined the new Harry Potter book as written by America’s only Nobel Prize for Literature winning playwright: Eugene O’Neill. Today we see Harry through the quintessential American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

How would Longfellow’s Deathly Hollows be like? It would have: a) taken epic poem form; b) been unbearably long; c) reeked of sentimentality; d) fostered a new mythology; e) been loved by children and adults en masse; f) followed easy themes; g) been queasily patriotic and uneasily offensive in parts; h) sold outrageously well; i) been roundly dismissed and panned by critics; and j) been endlessly parodied. Hey, wait a sec. I think we might have found a copy.

The Dark Lord?From the magic of Godric’s Hollow
Through the hallowed halls of Hogwarts,
Stands Harry, the troubled adolescent,
Pointing with his finger westward,
O’er the Azkaban pointing westward,
To the purple clouds of sunset.

Fiercely the red sun descending,
Burned his way along the heavens,
‘Tis beloved Dumbledore aloft,
setting the sky on fire behind him,
Death Eaters, when retreating,
Burn the moors on their war-trail;
With Ron and Hermione at his side,
Stalwart and ready for the fight,
They shall follow fast those bloody footprints,
Follow in that fiery war-trail,
With its glare upon his features.

And Harry, the troubled adolescent,
Pointing with his finger westward,
Spake these words to Ron and Herme:Harry was Here
“Yonder dwells the great Dark Lord,
Voldemorte, the Magician,
armed with the mysterious Horcrux,
Guarded by his fiery Muggles,
Guarded by the black pitch-water.
We must find the remained Horcrux,
We must slay Dark Voldemorte,
We must restore the peace,
O’er the Azkaban standing westward,
To the purple clouds of sunset!

“He it was who slew my father,
By his wicked wiles and cunning,
When he from the moon descended,
When he came on earth to seek me.
He, the mightiest of Magicians,
Sends the fever from the marshes,
Sends the pestilential vapors,
Sends the poisonous exhalations,
Sends the white fog from the fen-lands,
Sends disease and death among us!

Perhaps we got a little carried away with the excerpt. Hopefully, Bloomsbury won’t sue. Nevertheless, one of those four paragraphs is an EXACT duplicate of Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. Should the Longfellow family be searching for some Rowling’s royalties or should the next epic J.K. series revolve around daring Ojibwas? Hard to say.

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Aaaaaaah!In recognition of the 8.3 million Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows books sold last weekend, this week at we are looking at National Park Sites that honor authors. First up is the only American playwright to win the Nobel Prize for Literature: Eugene O’Neill.

Harry Potter rumors and spoilers are everywhere and have elicited scores of questions. Is it really the last book? Which characters die? What will happen to Harry? Well we’ve wondered what would The Deathly Hollows be like if it were written by O’Neill…

It’s been years since we last saw Harry struggling through his troubled adolescence. He’s just attended Dumbledore’s funeral and has decided to leave Hogwarts. Flash forward 15 years. The Hog’s Head, Hogsmeade. Harry’s at the bar. Head down. Full of despair. He’s here every day. An alcoholic, mired in depression. His youthful dreams now seem so distant so out of reach so naive.

He enjoys it here. The dirt floor, the smell of goat. He especially enjoys the darkness…and the company. Soon Uncle Damocles Hickman, the traveling potion salesman will be coming. His visits bring joy, free drinks, and escape. The other patrons discuss their service in the Second Wizarding War. One, a Death Eater, insults his Order of the Phoenix friend. Their discussion never ends. Their side was right, their motivations were pure. They always will be.

In the meantime Harry thinks of his past, how it all went wrong. His scar, the constant pain, the reminder, the torture. He waits. He wonders.

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