From New Jersey, we headed to Philadelphia, where we couchsurfed in this gorgeous house decked out in all kinds of crafty, thrifty fun stuff and full of foliage. We walked several miles to get a feel for Philly on our way to visit the Mutter Museum, which is full of medical oddities, taxidermy and models and weird body parts and deformed fetuses. It was a truly fascinating little shop of horrors, and we wish we were allowed to take photos. That night, we joined our hosts and a few of their friends for some nearly full moon canoeing along the Schuylkill River, the serenity of the water juxtaposed starkly with the industrial scenes springing up alongside us — tall buildings full of bustling trains and bright lights, clanging and banging and flames.
The next day, although drizzly and wet, was spent checking out the Elfreth's alley, the oldest occupied street in America, cute shops in Old City, and the historic district where we saw the Liberty Bell. We also visited the Chemical Heritage Museum which has an interesting exhibit about the development of different space suits. That night we attempted to get into some sort of Friday night shenanigans but ended up at a bar full of people far older than us that eyed us with amusement, and so meandered back towards the house in the mist, where we found a table full of free books and food, and scored a few veggies and a science fiction paperback. The next morning we took Finn for a damp walk in Bartram's Garden before heading to Delaware.
Our Delaware plans fell to pieces a bit, as we realized that a.) Dogfish Head Brewery is not where we thought it was, and is also closed on Sundays, and b.) our couchsurfing host fell ill and was unable to have us. We found a coffee shop in Newark to do a bit of work in, and then ventured a bit further South for no apparent reason, and ended up spending a day meandering through the Bombay Hook Wildlife Preserve, which was mediocre. We were not sad to leave Delaware.
Our next destination was Washington, DC. We knew it'd be madness to try and do it all in our brief time there, so we just hit the Natural History Museum, which we absolutely loved, and got lost in the animal and evolution exhibits for quite some time before heading to check out the Jefferson, Washington, MLK, FDR and Lincoln monuments, as well as the World War II memorial. It was dark when we left, heading South to tiny La Plata, Maryland, where we found a Little Caesar's dumpster full of pizza and even scored some decent dumpster salad ingredients.
We were reveling in our victorious dinner loot and getting ready to head to a Walmart to camp out, when our headlights caught the attention of two young guys that came to our window, thinking we'd flashed our lights at them. We assured them we hadn't, and they chatted with us a bit, asking if we were van dwellers, if we were "down on our luck" and offering us help — first asking if we needed a place to stay, if we needed food, even asking if we needed help cleaning out our litter box! But we told them we were quite self sufficient, and headed out. After a fabulous dinner and some outdoor rumpus time with Cap'n Finn, we were settling down to snooze when someone knocked at the front door. Tressa cautiously peered out and was surprised to recognize the face of one of the guys that had approached us at Little Caesar's. We hadn't told them where we'd planned to camp, so their reappearance was a bit strange. Again, he asked if we were hungry or needed anything and when we told him we were fine, he asked us if we wanted to hang out. "C'mon, I'm a nice guy!" he said. It was awkward, to say the least, and it was nearly midnight. As we uncomfortably insisted on not hanging out through the (locked) door, a cop rolled up, and called the guy over. We peered out of the cracks between our curtains as another cop arrived and the four of them talked at length, before all departing. Whether they took the guys with them or they left of their own accord, whether they were in trouble for something in particular or were just being stopped for being lingerers, and how exactly they spotted us at Walmart remains a mystery. However, we slept with one eye open that night.
On Tuesday, we made our way to Hollywood! Hollywood, Maryland, that is, where we met with Tressa's great aunt and uncle, Linda and Jack. Our stay with Jack and Linda was marvelously relaxing and fun. They took us to meet Linda's sister, Mary, who runs a wildlife rehab out of her home, specializing in raccoons, which we got to hang out with for a bit! We also visited some Amish farms, and took Finn to a little nearby beach, enjoyed an incredible dinner of salad and eggplant Parmesan, tried some Maryland beer, and played board games and heckled each other relentlessly. Wednesday, we visited the colonial plantation down the road, although it was dumping rain, and then holed up inside to work and do crafts with Linda. Although we'd planned on leaving in the late afternoon, we had so much fun learning how to quill and making stickers and drinking Chai that we stayed well past dinner. Not only were we spoiled, but Finn was given an enticing squeaky mouse toy that he went absolutely wild for, and even some kitty treats. As we wound our way towards Virginia, we reflected on the comfort of family, even family we may not have seen in a long while, and how fortunate we've been to encounter so many generous people that have opened their lives to us completely and made us feel so at home.