2 Weeks in the Northeast – Day 2

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Day 2 – June 23rd, 2019 – Brooklyn, New York to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: ~135 miles


Missed Day 1? – June 22nd, 2019 – Los Angeles, California to Brooklyn, New York: ~40 road miles.

And we’re off! Our morning began with a twist on a traditional New York breakfast – the bagel.

An imaginatively-named shop called The Bagel Store got plenty of news coverage back in 2016 when they created the “rainbow bagel.” Baby Jack is very much black and white, so it seemed appropriate for him to get a little color in his life.

The rainbow effect is created with food coloring, and the end result is mildly sweet (I think it should either be much sweeter or not sweet at all) and a little too chewy for my taste. I’m glad I tried one, but I don’t feel a need to go back – I’d prefer a proper plain bagel over this one in the future. But I can’t deny that it looks incredible!

With breakfast out of the way, we made out way out of New York City.

I’m a sucker for the type of quirky roadside attractions that were much more commonplace before the highway system took over everything – things like a sign that marks where the first official baseball game (with what we would consider modern rules) was ever played. It was a match between the Knickerbocker Baseball Club of New York and the New York Baseball Club in what is now Hoboken. The latter won by a score of 23-1 – it wasn’t a close game, but it was the first one.

The corners of the intersection have little signs in the ground to represent the bases. I was standing at “Home” when I took this photo of first base with our RT peeking out in the background.

This is the Thomas Alva Edison Memorial Tower in Edison, New Jersey, and it marks the site where Edison created one of his most famous inventions with the world’s largest light bulb. The tower is 134 feet tall, 13 of which come from the light bulb on top. Unfortunately, after a renovation in 2015, the bulb is now powered by LEDs and not incandescents. Sort of feels like cheating. But this building is required as a placeholder because the original workshop was moved to Michigan by the Henry Ford Museum!

At least there’s a bulb on the inside. We weren’t able to get a closer look, as the museum wasn’t open at the time.

A pleasant surprise was a series of sculptures in Hamilton Township, New Jersey. The first ones we saw were some dancing figures next to the train station.

Turns out that there’s several sculptures along a road that will guide you out of the train station. My favorite was this play on the famous American Gothic painting. It’s called “God Bless America,” and it was built in 2011 by Seward Johnson.

I also liked “Four Amigos”, though I guess the RT makes five.

If you keep following these statues, you’ll eventually be led to Grounds for Sculpture, an outdoor sculpture garden built on the former site of the New Jersey State Fairgrounds. We didn’t have time to go in, but these figures were encouraging others to check out the offerings. I was impressed to see that the line to enter was 8 cars deep – either there was an event going on or people are way more into sculpture than I would have guessed.

We arrived in Philadelphia via the Ben Franklin bridge, but we skipped the touristy sights to see my buddy Spurgeon of RevZilla – you may remember him from our LAB2V story on a Ural? When we’re on these sorts of trips, Vy likes to get photos of all the state signs. Our entrance into Jersey was via the Holland Tunnel so we didn’t get to see a proper sign. We cheated and got the photo as we were leaving the state. She also has a new design for her Shoei RF1200, but we’ll get into that in a future story…

I was already appreciative that Spurgeon was going to host us for the night, but Vy and I adored that he decided to join us for a jaunt around town. There’s all kinds of American history throughout the northeast, but Philadelphia has one thing that Boston, New York, or Washington DC can’t compete with – RevZilla’s headquarters!

There’s a near-100% chance that you’ve ordered something from RevZilla in the past, or at least been on their Common Tread site to read one of Spurgeon’s or Lemmy’s reviews. But did you know that RevZilla has a physical showroom in South Philly? It seems to be the only place in the area you can go to try on high-end gear before you buy. In addition, the FTR1200 that they’re giving away next month (have you entered the contest yet?) is on display, waiting for its new owner.

RevZilla’s offices are in the Navy Yard, which has experienced quite a renaissance after attracting Urban Outfitters back in 2006. It has transformed from a disused former military facility to hip work space – how many people get to see this out of their office window?

Hopefully, this isn’t the view outside your office!

Spurgeon also took Vy and I behind the scenes at RevZilla, and my favorite room was the studio that I’ve taken for granted when I watch RevZilla’s videos. Today, we’re reviewing VyVy: she gets 5 stars.

Here’s a panorama of the studio – click to enlarge, but it may take a moment. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes to create all the videos that we get to enjoy for free, and there are nearly 20 people in their video department!

After I left a rude-but-loving note for Lemmy to find when he gets back from vacation, we went into the city for some stereotypical tourist stops. I always do a double-take when I see someone riding without a helmet.

One of the things Vy wanted to see in Philadelphia was the organ in the Wanamaker Building (now a Macy’s), as it is the largest operating musical instrument in the world. This is the pretty part, but the pipes seen here (recently redone in 22-karat gold) are purely decorative.

The real pipes are in the back and go all the way up. There are 28,482 pipes, and the whole instrument weighs 287 tons. The organ gets a 45 minute daily recital (not a masturbation euphemism) Monday through Saturday. Unfortunately, we were there on Sunday.

We learned all these facts from Jennie, a wonderful employee at the Visitor Center. Vy asked for something like a business card (Vy collects small items for travel scrapbooks when we go on trips like this), and Jennie blew us all away with her passion for the building. She had worked for Macy’s in management for ~20 years, retired early, and came back years later looking for some part-time work to keep herself busy. The Visitor Center needed someone to cover a shift, so Jennie figured she’d work there for 2 or three years. It’s been 11!

The Wanamaker building also houses a bronze statue simply called “Eagle.” It was built for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (which was actually held in St. Louis) to represent Germany. Baby Jack approves.

The statue weighs 2,500 pounds, and each feather was created and attached individually.

Harley-Davidsons represent a higher percentage of motorcycles out here than they do back home in CA.

Spurgeon’s tour of Philly continued with some delicious sushi, and then he suggested we walk across the Ben Franklin bridge.

As we enjoyed a view of the sun setting behind the city, a heavily-customized Polaris Slingshot crossed the bridge while we were above it – I could hear it long before I could see it. It was one of several I had noticed in the last few hours, and it struck me that I had seen more Slingshots in less than a half a day of meandering around Philadelphia than I’ve seen in the last 3-4 years in Southern California.

After sundown, we hit peak tourist with a visit to the Liberty Bell and Independence National Historical Park, which prompted a discussion about the movie National Treasure.

A Yamaha V-Max with the motorcycle equivalent of underbody lighting. It was as loud as you’d expect.

Our tour of Philadelphia concluded with a visit to Elfreth’s Alley, America’s “oldest continuously inhabited residential street.” You’re better off visiting during the day when there are self-guided tours and a museum. Every year, the alley hosts “Fete Day.” It’s the only time that the public is allowed to walk into the homes and see how they’ve been preserved.

Spurgeon loves guitars and music as much as he loves motorcycles, if not more. If you read this story about his Uncle Bob and “the allure of cheap motorcycles,” you may remember seeing some amps in the background. This is what lurks underneath.

I’ve been friends with Spurgeon for a few years, but we only see each other at motorcycle events (which means we’re usually hanging out on the West Coast). It was wonderful to see him in his neck of the woods, but tomorrow Vy and I would have to continue south towards the nation’s capital…

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