Fueled by our yummy B&B breakfast, we reluctantly left Pittsburgh - we know, we know, we're just adding it to the list - and headed southeast.
Our first Plucky stop was the Big Mac Museum in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Why there? Because this particular McDonald's was owned by Michael James Delligatti who invented the Big Mac back in 1967.It's just a particularly large McDonald's where in between the tables and chairs are simple exhibits giving a brief history of the Big Mac. Obviously it's self-serving, but given The Golden Arches' omnipresence and how immeasurable the influence of marketing and advertising is on our culture it does prove to be an interesting bit of sociology.
Plus, there's that whole childhood nostalgia theme again. Mary and Rick came of age at roughly the same time as McDonald's, so it's a part of our personal history. And even Julia Child agreed: they make a really good french fry.
We didn't eat there - we have lofty standards. Where we did eat is the knockdown, drag out, adorable town of Cumberland, Maryland. We know, we've exclaimed over the beauty and charisma of a number of cities and towns on this trip, but Cumberland probably beats them all. Here, let's list some of the fabulous things about Cumberland:
It's set in a valley between soaring green mountains.; It turned one of its prettiest streets, with well-preserved old buildings lining it, into a pedestrian mall; It's home to Curtis' Famous Wieners since 1918 serving a hot dog covered in Coney Island sauce, which is really just chili but we like it anyway.
That, by the way, was the appetizer for our actual lunch at the Baltimore Street Grill where Mary and Steve had crab cake sandwiches (all crab, by the way, no filler whatsoever) and Rick had an excellent Bayou Burger with BBQ sauce, bacon, and cheese.
Seated next to us were four of the most fabulous older ladies we could ever imagine. Seriously, they were all dressed to the nines, their makeup was thick, their hair teased into impressively towering heights, and they all reapplied their lipstick at the same time like a lady should. We adored them.
While Mary and Steve were settling the bill, Rick walked outside and immediately inside the neighboring bakery where he bought a cream filled chocolate cupcake and then took it back to the restaurant to wave it Mary's face through the window. She promptly left Steve with the bill and went next door to agonize over several varieties of whoopie pies, cream filled horns, cookies, and more. Rejoined by Steve, they settled on a cupcake like Rick's and a fresh tasting cake donut with a thick, intense chocolate icing.
But wait, we're not done because did we mention that Cumberland is awesome?! And that a couple of doors down from the bakery is Robert's Confections?
This is a candy store where the eponymous Robert has been making chocolates by hand for 49 years right on the premise. "Yep," he nodded, "Butter, sugar, heavy cream." That was all it took to get our attention.
Rick bought a variety, then while Mary and Steve were choosing theirs, ate a vanilla cream and promptly returned to the counter for a second order. He know that when he ran out of the first that he'd be very unhappy. Plucky Readers, let's start a write-in campaign to get Robert a McArthur Genius Award for his 50th Anniversary next year. Honest, the candy is that good.
So perhaps we can understand why we were reluctant to leave Cumberland, but we were mollified because we were returning to Washington DC.
We're back at The Dupont Hotel, which unsurprisingly is just as swank and enjoyable as it was last week when we stayed here on the first night of the trip, and we'll will actually be here for two nights in a row. This is an unusual move for Plucky Survivors but DC demands it.
We went out to the mall to reacquaint ourselves with the Washington and Lincoln memorials, for Rick and Steve to visit the Vietnam Memorial for their first time, and for all of us to have an inaugural visit to the World War II memorial. From the instant we set foot on the National Mall proper and looked at the Capitol at one end and the Washington Monument at the other, we were filled with a combination of pride, awe, and humility. Mary admitted, with some shame, that whenever she praised cities such as London, Paris, and Rome for their combinations of art and aesthetics and bemoaned the lack of something comparable in the US, she failed to recognize that DC more than fulfills that.
There is nothing we can write that would add anything meaningful to this spot, but we do wish that the legacy of honor, beauty, compassion, passion, and sacrifice represented by these American monuments could influence its politicians and citizens to act likewise.
The President was speaking just down the road and we kind of wanted to go to see if he used any of the notes we gave him during lunch last week. Not that we had lunch with The President, mind you. Actually we're not saying either way. National security, remember?
But meanwhile, speaking of themes, unintentionally Barack Obama has featured in some way on three Plucky Survivors in a row. Is he following us?
We were joined at dinner by Plucky Friend Becca, a Georgetown senior who was celebrating her birthday that evening. The pizza place we had our eye on was too crowded so we ended up at the recently opened Le Pain Quotidien next door. This is a chain that began in Brussels and features Euro influenced sandwiches and salads and very good bread. Our favorite moment thought came when we poured the warm chocolate intended for Mary's cocoa over the large round brownie that Rick got for Becca's birthday. It should always come this way.
Tomorrow, we embark on the futile task of visiting the Smithsonian in just one day. Don't worry, we won't try to do it all.
NOTE: There are many more pictures so keep scrolling!