Day Four of my "Propel Forward Tour" was the one that I was the most anxious about. I had decided that it would be a great idea to take advantage of at least a few hours of stopover in Philadelphia and see as much of the city as I could.
I had already been in 3 new states for me on my quest to visit all 50: West Virginia, Virginia, a sliver of North Carolina and next would be Delaware on my way to Pennsylvania. That’s 5 total new states! I was giddy.
So I got an early start from my Virginia Beach hotel room, took a makeshift road breakfast with me and headed out. I was really looking forward to traveling over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel that connects Virginia Beach to the northern shore. It is 20 miles long with 2 tunnels which was a spectacular experience. I felt like quite the adventurer and marveled that something like that could be built.
As I approached Philadelphia I was second guessing the pre-planning that I had done but hoped that it would all work out. I only had a window of time before I needed to get to my next campsite and wanted to arrive before dark.
I had booked a "Hop-on-Hop-off" tour online before I left which we have done quite a bit in Europe and they have been great. The website said the tour would be 1 1/2 hours long and one of the stops where I could "hop on" would be at the Philadelphia Zoo. Since I was nervous to drive the beast of my husbands' Ford pickup down the streets of Philadelphia, I thought the zoo would be the perfect place to find a parking spot that wasn't too stressful for me to maneuver.
Thanks to my GPS lady I found the zoo and easily parked in their parking garage. I thought everything was going great until I found out that the zoo closed at 5:00 and I had to pay for parking by taking my ticket to the zoo office on my way out. I didn't necessarily want to pay to go into the zoo and was happy to see that wouldn't have to.
But the new stress was that it was now 2:00 and I had to get my pickup out of parking by 5:00. Everything had to work like clockwork, but it didn't. I wandered outside of the zoo for quite a while trying to find the pick-up spot and 2 calls later to the company, they sent the bus to find me. I thought that was great until I found out the zoo wasn't exactly one of their main stops but that I had to get on one bus line to take me to the major bus line. Great. Time was ticking.
I was happy to be on some sort of bus although I felt like I was being "punked" or was in some sort of dark comedy. There were a total of 3 people on this bus: the driver, the tour guide and me. The guide sat on one side and I sat in the same row on the other side so we were very close. She was very intent on telling me the story of the two major art collectors in the city, I suppose to get me ready to see my first official stop which was the Art Museum that is mostly known now for having the steps Rocky ran up.
She was very intense and wanted my total attention so when I would try to release her eye contact in order to actually see some of the sights we were driving by, she would grab her microphone in order to redirect my attention. Remember, we were already very close to each other so speaking through the microphone made me jump every time, but it did work to redirect my attention.
I started to feel the tension of the situation as well as watching my time tick away and was relieved when we reached the "real" bus. I transferred buses as I snapped a quick photo of the famous steps.
I found it both funny and a little disgusting that along with all of the statues of our founding fathers that were around the city, there was also a statue of Rocky Balboa, who I remind you was not a real person. The large statue of George Washington in front of the museum, who was a fairly big part of our country's history, was mentioned briefly while we drove by the long line of people waiting to snap their selfie with "Rocky". I didn't see anyone in line to snap a selfie with George which I thought was a funny commentary on our modern culture.
Anyway, I was now on the real bus but I was concerned that my 1 1/2 hour tour was just starting when I only had a little over an hour to get back to the zoo to be able to retrieve my important form of transportation. I tried to push this fact to the back of my mind and concentrate on the tour guide's facts and clever antidotes, all the while praying that time would slow to a crawl just for me.
Needless to say, I was quickly running out of time and not exactly enjoying my one chance tour of Philadelphia. Not only would I have to get back to my Rocky statue but I would have to somehow get back on my intense tour guide's secondary bus to get me back to the zoo. Oh, I failed to mention that my "art lover" guide also only had about 2 teeth which made the experience seem even more surreal.
So, when I had about 45 minutes to get back to the zoo, we made a stop and the tour guide and I decided that I would indeed not make it back in time. So again, I had to go into problem solving mode, prayed a quick prayer for revelation and opened my Uber app. My Uber driver drove a black car but to me he might has well been on a white horse because he became my knight in shining armor.
He got me back to the zoo with 10 minutes to spare, I paid for parking, found my pickup in the parking garage (which is no small feat for me and my directional disability) and headed out of Philadelphia.
I was disappointed I couldn't see more but was relieved that everything worked out ok. I will surely have to go back and see more. But, as I drove away, I felt very empowered because once again I handled it all on my own, with a lot of help from knowing God was with me the whole time.
During the women's retreat that I as a part of at the beginning of this journey, we coined the phrase that as women, we are both "Fragile and Fierce and have both Grit and Grace". I love that! I see that attribute in women all throughout Scripture and love the role models that God provides for us. That became my "mantra" that day as I thought about Abigail in 1 Samuel, Queen Esther, Ruth, Jesus' mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, as well as so many others.
As I looked again at the picture on my retreat vision board, I remember the picture that represented trusting God to scale the cliff that this trip has been for me. God gives us the strength to handle trials in life when we are able to turn them over to Him and not try to power through on our own. I was a little stressed during the day, but I didn't feel out of control. I had prayed for God to lead and protect me during this journey and He has given me an overwhelming sense of peace and protection. He had helped me scale the mountain of Philadelphia!
As I drove outside the city to my next campsite I thanked Him over and over for His help throughout the day. As I approached the KOA campground, I felt like he was blessing me abundantly because the grounds were gorgeous. It felt like a 5 star resort and I looked at it as a gift. It was the perfect end to a very interesting day! And I also stopped along the way and took time to have my first hot meal of the week. It was a treat not to eat out of my cooler…again.
I have grown immensely already on this journey and appreciate all the prayers from you along the way. I have done fine with all of my alone time since I am a true introvert, but I am looking forward to seeing my son tomorrow and a familiar face!
Farewell from Pennsylvania!