Day 6 -- Wednesday, May 6

Today, finally, I got to see a bit of Philadelphia. I felt like I'd been driving in and out of town for days but only today did I get to see the downtown area (Center City, I think it's called). I was given a lift by a couple of women from Lawrence, Kansas who were in Philly to check out the University of Pennsylvania. One of them had been accepted to grad school at Penn, Columbia, and Boston College, so they were on the road to check out the schools and their respective towns. Once downtown, I headed not for the Liberty Bell, not for Independence Hall but rather for a somewhat less well-known attraction, the Mutter Museum.You'll find it at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. It's a museum that focuses on the history of medicine over the last two hundred years or so.

Sounds a little dry? It's not, though it is a little gross. But where else are you going to see a plaster cast of the upper torsos of Chang and Eng, the first documented Siamese Twins (in fact, the very term was derived from them, although they were three-quarter Chinese)? We also are treated to a look at their liver, the only organ they shared. And I don't mean a model of their liver; this is the real thing!

Not a liver person? No problem; how about human skulls? At the Mutter, they've got them by the dozen. They've also got an actual human colon that is as big around as a basketball and about four feet long, and in case you don't believe it's real, they've got a picture of the poor sap who was stuck with it. He doesn't look happy. The Mutter also has skeletons a-plenty, ranging from a 19th century man who stood 7' 6" tall to a 3'6" female dwarf who worked as a prostitute. There's also an exhibit that is used in anatomical studies that consists of - stay with me here - sliced head. That's right, they took two heads and sliced them into five or six slices so one can view the cross-sections. One head is cut going from ear to ear; the other from back to front. I can't decide which was my favorite.

As you have no doubt surmised by now, the Mutter is not for the squeamish. And if you plan to enjoy that quintessential Philly treat, a cheese steak, during your visit to this fine town, make it the day before or the day after you hit the Mutter. This is one exhibit, believe me, that calls for a light lunch.

After the Mutter, I walked over to the historical district, where I looked in on the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall while strolling about. Then, it was down to South Street for the aforementioned cheese steak. I went to a spot called Jim's Steaks at 5th and South St. that had been recommended to me and it was quite good. It was a small place with some character, and the sandwich was quite tasty.

Then, a bus ride back to the hostel where I loaded up my belongings and hit the road. I was hoping to reach a hostel near Bluemont in northwestern Virginia, just off the Appalachian Trail, but I would have to utilize the interstate to get there before their check-in period had ended. As it turned out, I was a bit late anyway, but having called ahead, they said I could come on in. One thing I've learned is that, as one nears (or leaves) a major city like New York or Philadelphia, what look on the map like quaint little country byways are instead just roads. Roads with lots of traffic signals. Roads with low speed limits. Roads that make me curse. So, I'm now starting to view the interstate highway, once a hated enemy, as my friend - at least in certain situations. I'm utilizing them to get in and out of these cities quickly, because the romance of the road just isn't found on these suburban streets passing for highways. They just take my time and offer nothing in return.

Continue on the American Odyssey.
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