Part 2 of 2
By Dan Hill
Special to the roundup
In the Friday, Aug. 13 Roundup, Payson Boy Scout leader Dan Hill detailed the first four days of an 11-day patriotic pilgrimage back east with eight Eagle Scouts and two Boy Scouts. See part 1 of 2: Payson 12 make patriotic pilgrimage over 4th of July
In the first part of his story, Hill recounted their visits to the White House, U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, International Spy Museum, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the Jefferson Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the World War I Memorial. And that was just the first four days.
The following is the rest of the scouts' adventures.
- ay 5: Sunday, July 4 - Wow! Picture the best fireworks finale you've ever seen, and that's what we saw for 20 straight minutes tonight. Without so much as a pause to catch your breath, the fireworks exploded several at a time.
This morning, we attended church services at a chapel in D.C. Afterward, we toured the Washington, D.C. Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was right next door.
Our next stop was the Iwo Jima Monument. It took us all by surprise. We thought the figures were life-size. They were much bigger. The men in the statue were over 20 feet high.
We thought we were going to have to search for the Arlington National Cemetery next, but it turned out to be right next to us. We left the vans where they were parked and walked to the cemetery. Like everything else here, it was huge. Tombstones in every direction as far as you could see. The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was very impressive.
We got in position early for fireworks. We knew in advance exactly where we wanted to sit, and managed to get to it. We watched the fireworks seated on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Our direct line of sight included the reflecting pond, the fireworks launch pads, the World War II Memorial, and the Capitol building. I'm sure there's not a better place in the world from which to watch fireworks. The crowds were packed into the National Mall by the time the fireworks started, but getting in and out wasn't as bad as we expected.
Most of the boys called home tonight after the fireworks. Several parents were understandably worried about their sons being on the National Mall on the 4th of July, amongst the roughly 1 million other people there. In reality, everything was pleasant and calm. There were police checkpoints you had to pass through to enter the park, but other than that, there were no reminders that we are at "War against Terror."
- ay 6: Monday, July 5 - We spent the entire day at Six Flags, America. The guys loved it. They rode all the scariest, most nauseating rides at least twice.
- Day 7: Tuesday, July 6 - This morning, we broke camp and drove to Valley Forge, Pa. Valley Forge was both beautiful and inspiring. The country has done a wonderful job of preserving the history of the area. A sense of the suffering of George Washington and his men is there. But, an even stronger sense of their strength, will and determination can be felt. The area is green and lush. Wild deer roam the grounds, obviously very used to sharing the area with humans. Cannons, replicas of the revolutionary soldiers' huts, memorials, statues, and tributes dot the area.
This evening, we drove to New York and set up our camp at the Liberty Harbor campground in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York City. The roads and traffic were terrible, and it took several hours to make our way to the campground. The campground is hilarious. There isn't a tree in sight, although there is one small patch of grass. It is basically a parking lot off one of the marinas.
But we can see the Statue of Liberty from our tents, and that was exciting to everyone.
- ay 8: Wednesday, July 7 -- New York City proved to be easier to get around than expected. The public transit was older and more fragmented than D.C., but doable. In D.C., we found everything via the Metro-Subway and walking. In New York, we traveled by light-rail trains, subways, buses, the PATH trains, ferry boats, and, of course, walking.
Our first stop was Ellis Island, then the Statue of Liberty. Everyone was thrilled to see up close America's favorite landmark. The statue itself is still closed to entry due to heightened security during our nation's "War on Terror," but the grounds around this temple to our nation's freedom were beautiful, relaxing and invited you to linger and soak in a bit of her majesty and the feelings of peace she invokes.
Next we visited Ground Zero, former site of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers. The reconstruction has begun, and the fences surrounding the construction site are themselves memorials to the tragedy of 9/11/01. The fences are adorned with pictures and plaques depicting the events of that day, and honoring the men and women who died there.
We stopped for lunch, pizza, of course, and learned why New York is famous for it. Our next stop was the Empire State Building. It was amazing the security you have to get through just to ride an elevator, but once we finally got to the top, it was well worth the wait. The views from every side of the building were fantastic.
We ended the day by visiting Times Square. Unbelievably, there is a McDonald's there. We sat on the second floor dining area sipping milk shakes, while waiting for nightfall to bring Times Square to its full glory. In real life it's even more bright, and has more hustle and bustle than all the movies show it.
While there, nearly 100 police cars, with lights flashing and sirens blasting, forced their way through the busy intersection. We were anxious to know that emergency would bring out such a huge force of the NYPD. We later learned that it was only a training session for the Republican National Convention being held there in November when nearly 35,000 police will converge on and protect the city.
- ay 9: Thursday, July 8 --e delayed leaving New York City this morning and headed back into town to try to get on NBC's "Today Show." The show was featuring the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball team. You might have seen us as the cameras scanned the audience now and then, but we didn't get interviewed or any other special attention, like we were hoping for.
Our late start meant that by the time we drove across the state and got to our campground at Niagara Falls it was too late to see anything. For that matter, it was too late to do anything, or even eat anything. We collapsed into a makeshift campsite and slept until the sun and heat woke us up.
- ay 10: Friday, July 9 -- Niagara Falls was everything, and more than, we expected it to be. The grounds have a large park atmosphere leading up to the falls. We enjoyed our stay there very much, then headed for Palmyra, N.Y.
Palmyra was home to Joseph Smith, founder and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We visited several historic church sites and then got in position early to view the "Hill Cumorah Pageant," the largest outdoor pageant in the world. This annual show depicts scenes from the Book of Mormon. Those of us driving the vans napped for a couple of hours while waiting for the show to start. It was a real treat to get to see it.
After the pageant, we drove through the night to Gettysburg, Pa.
- ay 11: Saturday, July 10 -- We arrived in Gettysburg at 5 a.m. We slept until 9 a.m., then rose, ate breakfast, and toured this historic town, and site of one of the largest battles, and turning point, of the Civil War. Several monuments all over Cemetery Hill, and around town, pay tribute to the many regiments that met in battle there.
After touring Gettysburg, we drove back to Baltimore, cooked lunch, turned in our rental vans and headed for home.
We arrived home in Payson about 9 p.m. R & R Pizza hosted a dinner for us and our families. We watched a slide show of the 516 pictures we took during the trip, then went home for a good night's sleep in our own comfortable beds.