15 June 2008

It's a Grand Old Flag Day!

We got up at 7:00 this morning (Saturday) and had the car packed and loaded and were ready for breakfast a little after 8:00. We had thought about eating at Hershey Family Restaurant, but since they didn’t want us last night we opted for the Red Caboose instead. They have two real dining cars that serve as their restaurant, so we ate in one of them. We, and about 20 little boys who were about to wet their pants in anticipation of a Thomas the Tank Engine sighting. They were too excited to eat, but we weren’t. We managed to exert some degree of control, though, and we each ordered a “Little Engineer” – one pancake and a couple of slices of bacon. It hit the spot! Since we could get a wireless connection in the dining car, we took that opportunity to finish posting Friday’s blog and try to clean up the previous ones. Sometimes blogspot seems to have a mind of its own – must be related to Ms. Garmin…

While we were eating, we had plenty to watch out our dining car window. There was an Amish man plowing the fields with his horses and then a real train, being pushed by THOMAS (!!!), came chugging down the tracks. We soon had the dining room to ourselves. Once we finished, we decided to go up to the top of the View Tower (read abandoned silo now fitted with stairs) and look out over the Lancaster countryside. It was gorgeous! Very hazy (we learned at breakfast that rain was expected later in the day) but the terrain is rolling hills, green pastures, and fertile farmland. And we expended a few calories (maybe two bites of pancake) in the process. Finally, we were ready to depart from the wonderful Red Caboose Motel (check them out at http://www.redcaboosemotel.com/) and see what adventures awaited us today.
In case you are considering a trip to the Red Caboose – while it was sort of cool to say we’d slept in a caboose, it had nothing on the earthen lodge or the wigwams, and since it cost well more than both of those put together (higher rates on Thomas weekends…) we would have to say you’d really have to want to be there to pay those prices. We enjoyed our private (honeymoon) deck and it was great to be able to have internet access (a new router and a signal booster made it a wonderful connection!). If you were taking kids with you, it’s a great place for them – lots of wide open spaces for bike riding, a playground, the barnyard animals, Amish buggy rides, and it’s close to many attractions – The Choo Choo Barn, the Toy Train Museum (right next door), Dutch Wonderland, Amish Village, etc. And of course, there’s Thomas… we’re thinking he comes there right often. The food in the dining car was good and the people couldn’t have been nicer. So just file it on your list of places you might want to go if you had a good reason to.

Once on the road, we had in mind to take a couple of pictures – a giant Amish boy with some pigs, the Old Village Store in Bird-in-Hand, and the famous “Welcome to Intercourse” sign. We are not sure about these Amish – besides Lititz (in Leacock County), Intercourse, Bird in Hand, and Paradise, there is also a town called Blue Ball, which we missed. Maybe it’s just me, but do you notice a theme here? So we took our pictures and then we stopped at an Amish roadside stand and bought some homemade bread, and we found ourselves just a tiny bit behind schedule (we wouldn’t want to disappoint you!) but on the road by about 9:30. Ever since we set the Garmin to “shortest route” instead of “fastest route,” we have been traveling not necessarily on secondary roads or even tertiary roads, but the for real back roads. The ones that because only the locals use them, there’s no need for street signs, because they know where they are… Poor Jill, she spends her time recalculating for us. A lot. By the way, did you notice the Amish bicycle/scooter above? We saw lots of kids riding them, and most of the girls we saw were using them barefooted! On the highway!

We were on our way to Reading, PA, and its famous Pagoda landmark, located on top of Mount Penn. Although the Pagoda didn’t open until noon (we knew that) we enjoyed the ride up the mountain and thought the Pagoda was really cool. It was so hazy (pollution?) in Reading that we could barely see the city laid out below us. Jill wanted to make sure we got a real feel for Reading, so we drove through the PJ’s on our way out of town. Kim M, I know you wish you were with me. Kim C is getting used to my propensity for finding the really nice neighborhoods to get a tiny bit lost in…

From Reading we went north to Shartlesville, PA, and the home of Roadside America, the World’s Greatest Indoor Miniature Village. Let me just say right here – THEY ARE NOT KIDDING!!!!! Kim and I LOVED this place! Picture one room about the size of the ground floor of your house. Now imagine that it has murals of the countryside painted on the walls. Now see if you can envision an entire miniature COUNTRY, through the centuries, complete with roads, cars, houses, factories, lakes, bridges, churches, downtowns, coal mines, caverns, mountains, Indian villages, parks, trains, trolleys, people, an airport, a circus, a waterfall – all in the same room and all created by ONE MAN!!! Laurence Gieringer began working on it as a child in 1905 with his brother, who stopped working with him when he became a priest. It’s been a tourist attraction in the area since the 30’s, and Mr. Gieringer died in 1963, but his family continues to allow his legacy and life’s work to entertain visitors. Pictures do not begin to do this project justice, but even then I couldn’t pick just one or two, so I’ve posted more on the sidebar of this blog. If you have not been to Roadside America, please put it on your list of places to see before you die. And make sure you have plenty of time to take it all in! It was AWESOMELY STUPENDOUS!!

Since we were now a little more than a tiny bit behind, we were forced to hop onto the interstate to get to Easton. The ‘slow’ lane was in such bad repair that everyone was driving in the fast lane, so everyone was going very fast. The posted speed limit was 65 for a short way and then 55; the observed speed was about 80. About the time the right lane got smoothed out enough to drive in, one lane was closed for repairs. Work zone speed was posted 45; observed speed, about 80. Has no one informed these people about gas prices? We were in Easton before we knew it, and since we could have been almost anywhere in the country (who could tell, on the interstate?) we almost didn’t know we were there. We had a couple of destinations in mind here – the Pez Dispenser Museum and the Crayola Factory. We rolled into town about 2:30 and found our way through the seamier part of town into the very lovely and happening downtown area. The Pez Museum (http://www.eastonmuseumofpez.com/) is right next door to the Crayola Factory, but it closed at 4:00 and Crayola was open until 5:00, so we went there first. I had no idea there were so many different PEZ dispensers!! The museum was very cool – great exhibits and displays. The Crayola Factory (http://www.crayolafactory.com/) had an extremely bodacious box of crayons spilling out over the doorway to the factory – great photo op! Once in the factory, we watched a show about how crayons and markers are made (and really got to see that happen) and then we got free crayons and markers, and then we got to go make things! Saturday afternoons are a big birthday party day at Crayola. We were just a little out of place. And we thought all the children within a 100 mile radius were at the Red Caboose…

By now we were wishing we had ordered the Big Engineer for breakfast, so we found our way to Pearly Baker’s Ale House and enjoyed a delicious lunch of a small Chicken Cobb Salad and some ‘yam fries’, which is yankee for sweet potato chips. It was yummy and just hit the spot. We were able to summon enough energy to keep going, but first we took a picture of Centre Square, which was where one of only three readings of the Declaration of Independence took place on July 8, 1776. On our way out of town we saw Easton’s Free Bridge, which was built in 1895. It is the last of its type in the US – very Gothic. Again, we took a tour through the sketchier side of town. Just getting a flavor for all kinds of lives in America!
We aimed north towards the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which took us right along the banks of the Delaware River. It was a very scenic drive! We wished that we had had time to walk around a bit and enjoy the park, but remember the rain that was forecast? We could tell it might be meeting us soon, so we continued on towards the famous Pocono Mountains. Kim was really upset that I had not booked us a honeymoon suite in the Poconos. NOT!! The drive was gorgeous, although again it was like we were in the land time forgot. I’ll bet some of the same cabins, resorts, and signs we saw have been there for fifty or sixty years! Unfortunately, it was during this drive across the mountains on one of those very rural roads that the rains came. Since we were not in traffic (unless you call meeting maybe 10 cars traffic) it was not a big deal. Just limited our visibility somewhat, and caused us to take the safer option of getting on the interstate for a few miles. Again, we had hardly been on the big road when we were greeted by lofts of firemen with flares and many emergency vehicles with lights flashing. There had been a horrible accident involving a car that had left the southbound lane, driven through the grass on the median, hit a guard rail, and then flipped down the hill to the northbound lane (that would be where we were). Thankfully it did not appear he had hit anyone head on. EMTs were extracting the accident victims as we crept past the site. So much for trying to be safe! We realized though that at least that guy got found in an expedient manner… We have been a bit shocked by how often we have not had cell phone service up here in the well populated north. How do these people live?
We made it to Scranton a little before 7 PM, and we took a lovely scenic route through town in search of the Glider Diner. Jill extracts her revenge at the most inopportune times. We found it, though, and had the house specialty of hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy. Diner food at its finest! We passed on pie but had just a tiny bit of ice cream. And then we were off in search of the Weeping Willow! Jill knew right where to go, with just a couple of extra turns just to prove who was in charge. We were again driving along a river, the Susquehanna we think, and got to witness a gorgeous sunset. It was a great day – we rolled in about 8:45 after covering xxx miles today. It was a fine Flag Day!
Patriotically yours,

PS This entry is being posted from Pollywogg Holler, NY, which is a story in and of itself. Pictures and the story to come later, when we have returned to civilization. Pray for us!


Cathy said...

I am loving the adventure especially Friday the 13th. Be safe. Look forward to see where you go next.

Kim said...

I'm am extremely jealous that you got to see a train pulled by Thomas! And no trip is complete without a journey through the projects.