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31 August 2006 @ 08:53 pm
2006: The Biker Babes At Liberty, Part Three  
 Sunday, 27 August 2006:  Amherst to Painted Post, NY

 

Well, our original plans went by the wayside, because all it did today was rain. We suited up in raingear right from the start and set out on our trek to Erie, Pennsylvania, where we intended to pick up scenic Route 6 for our run east. At first, we ran through patches where it occasionally seemed to be clearing, but as we went further along, it just got wetter. Ultimately, we opted to quit the scenic route through the Alleghenies and just take the highway for two reasons: we were getting so wet that even our boots were soaked through and the whole area was under the same weather, and the fog on the mountains was so thick that we wouldn’t have seen any of the scenes anyway. So instead we hit the highway and made a beeline for Painted Post, where we spread everything out to dry and introduced the insides of our boots to the hair dryer. Still, given that we’d tried for the scenic route, it took us six hours to cover what would have been a two-hour straight line run.

 

We had very few observations about the day, except that it was wet and that the Allegheny River appears to wind around as much as the North Platte, given how many times we crossed it. Our only wildlife sighting was one turkey.

 

Monday, 28 August 2006:  Painted Post, NY to Ephrata, PA

 

This was a travel day with a delightful surprise in the middle which was enabled by the GPS, since local signage was lacking. The day was mostly heavily overcast, but we had no rain, and the sun did peek out occasionally. The temp got up to 82.

 

We saw lovely scenery again, more low mountains and lots of cornfields. The vistas from the mountains were gorgeous, even in the early morning’s misty fog and the later day’s low overcast. Courtesy of the GPS, we ran some neat back roads we likely wouldn’t have gone otherwise, since knowing where they went would have taken a far more detailed local map than we had.

 

We took our morning break at McDonald’s for cappuccino and apple pie. While we were there, Terry looked at the map to spot the high points along our way, and found a gem: the Millersburg Ferry across the Susquehanna River. It wasn’t precisely on our way, but who cared? It was in the general vicinity, which made it fair game for a ride. Besides, the new bike hadn’t been on a ferry yet, so this would be a first. It took a little bit for Terry to figure out how to program the GPS in order to have it take us on the ferry route, but eventually we heard the welcome words, “Caution: ferry on route!” And a good thing it did too, because without the GPS instructions, we’d never have found the ferry access. Even with the GPS, we drove past it twice. Who would have thought that the “Campground” sign was really a clever disguise for a ferry landing?

 

We followed the campground road, and eventually came to a steep asphalt ramp leading down to the river. It was the ferry landing, but there was no ferry in sight, and no other vehicles were waiting. Looking around, Terry saw a white-painted door – an ordinary house door – attached to the trunk of a tree. Painted on the door were the words “Swing door out to call ferry.” So, Terry unlooped the rope around the doorknob holding the door closed against the tree trunk, and opened the door wide – which meant that the door became visible to the far bank of the wide river. After a bit, the ferry, moored at the far bank, began to make its slow way across the river toward us. The ferry itself was a very low structure, a long, low rectangular red box with a narrow barge attached alongside. It moved with stately slowness, and only when it got close did we realize what we were seeing:  a true wooden sternwheeler!

 

The ferry platform could only hold a couple of cars, or a car and an Amish buggy. According to the locals, the ferry isn’t busy during the week, but does a brisk business on weekends. There was one car on board as it came across to us, and Terry repositioned the bike to leave the ramp completely clear. As the ferrymen warped the ferry in to dock at the ramp and unrolled the folded wooden slats that extended the ferry’s carrier deck to the ramp, Terry swung the white signal door closed again, and then went to talk to the boatmen about passage and how to board the bike. The ferry trip for all of us totaled $7:  $3 for the bike and driver, and $2 each for the passengers. The three boatmen were as taken with the bike as we were with the ferry!

 

The car and its family came off, and Terry drove us carefully on, stopping where the older boatman signaled. We got off the bike to ride in the little open cabin and chat with the crew. We learned from them that the Millersburg Ferry is the very last surviving wooden sternwheeler still carrying passengers! It has two small stern paddle wheels, and the bulk of the length of the boat itself is taken up with the engine and drive mechanism. The wheels provide all the motive power for both forward and reverse. The pilot handles the wheel amidships, and the other two boatmen fend the craft off from shore with poles. Coming in to a landing, they use a three-pronged hook on a pole to gaff up the mooring rope attached to a beam extending out into the river, and they use the snubbed rope as a fulcrum to swing the boat around so that a vehicle is facing nose toward the landing shore. The oldest of the three boatmen was giving direction to the youngest, but nothing they were doing had likely changed in a hundred years – the craft had simply been passed on to successive generations of ferrymen. As of last year, the ferry is listed on the National Historic Register.

 

The course across the river was a slow, beautifully flowing trip. We tacked along several angles marked by buoys, shifting shallows, and small islands. It was a great experience, and one that most people, except for the locals, miss entirely. It was the highlight of our day!

At the far bank, Mom and I walked off the ferry, and Terry eased the bike off. Then we waved to the ferrymen, suited up, and went in search of a late lunch in Millersburg. The town has a central square, and we drove all around it to scope out the available restaurants. A place called the Wooden Nickel – “Fine Casual Dining” – had the best look and several cars, so we stopped. Boy, was that serendipity! This was the best meal of the trip so far. Terry had the crab cakes with mashed potatoes and broccoli; Mom had the broiled salmon with the same sides; and I had liver and onions with mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Everything was delicious. The veggies were fresh, perfectly cooked, and abundant, and the mashed potatoes were magnificently from scratch. It was great! And there was one decoration in the restaurant that I really loved:  an etched glass pane depicting the ferry.

 

From Millersburg, we ran back roads and small highways – including Peters Mountain Road, which was as much fun as an amusement ride, what with its ups, downs, curves, and hairpin corners! – back to the main drags, heading toward Hershey and Lancaster to our stopping point in Ephrata. The sun came out in earnest during the run, and it was a wonderful ride, even if I probably was the only one able to appreciate the views from Peters Mountain!

 

The Hampton in Ephrata (which is pronounced EFF-rah-tah, by the way) will be a year old in September 2006, and it is very nice. It stands on a hill above the historic Main Street, with a lovely view of distant mountains and a quaint town. We walked down the hill to the local Laundromat and did our laundry while looking through the AAA tourbook to plan our next two days of activities in Amish country. With rain in the forecast again, we decided to plan on mostly indoor things, including the Hershey tour, riding the Strasburg Railroad, and touring the Strasburg Railroad Museum. A fellow traveler earlier in the trip strongly recommended both the Railroad Museum and the ice cream at the Strasburg General Store, so those are on our list.

 

Tuesday, 29 August 2006:  Hershey and Strasburg, PA

 

We really lucked out today. The forecast predicted rain all day, but we only got sprinkled on twice, and it wasn’t enough even to force us into rain gear. The second time, we weren’t even on the bike, but were just walking back to the hotel after dinner.

 

We started the day with an hour’s drive to Hershey. That turned out to be a neat place! We went to Hershey’s Chocolate World and took the free tour on their little ride that tells you all about the chocolate-making process. That put us, of course, into their gift shop, where we saw varieties of Hershey candy products that we’ve never seen in stores, including dark chocolate, caramel, and even coconut creme Hershey Kisses: and something called Extra Dark, in varieties that included mint, raspberry, and one with macadamia nuts and cranberries! Terry shipped chocolate gifts back to work and to our sister Ruth, and we learned that it’s a lot cheaper to ship chocolate during the winter, because in summer they tack on special high speed, refrigerated shipping that makes the shipping cost more than the chocolate!

 

We took the 45-minute trolley tour of Hershey, and it was worth every penny. Our conductor Fred and our motorman John were both hilarious. Fred had a stand-up comic’s impeccable timing on his delivery of really bad puns as the punch line for jokes. For example, Chocolate Avenue in downtown Hershey really has street lights in the form of Hershey Kisses, alternating between wrapped and unwrapped forms. Fred’s joke was that, when one of the lightbulbs burns out, it’s dark chocolate, and when one of the lights gets stolen, then it’s hot chocolate!

 

We learned a lot on the tour. Did you know, for example, that there actually is no Hershey, PA, except in the local US Post Office? The town isn’t incorporated. Instead, it is simply the township of Derry, ruled by a town council. So, Derry Township is where people live, and their children go to the Derry Township public schools. But their mail comes to Hershey!

 

Hershey is indeed Chocolate Town. It owes its existence to Milton Hershey. We learned on the tour all about the life of Milton Hershey. I never knew that he was  Mennonite, or that his first six candy business ventures failed, done in by the price of sugar. His last venture, the one he began in Lancaster, proved the charm, but it didn’t involve chocolate:  he became famous for caramels, which he had learned to make with milk in Denver. The strange thing was, he couldn’t sell them in the US because there just wasn’t a market, but as he was ready to go under yet again, a candy company in England bought everything he could produce and ordered more. He went to England to find out why, and learned that the Brits were coating his caramels in something brand new:  milk chocolate. He figured that if they could do it, so could he, and he figured out the process of making milk chocolate by trial and error. The recipe he created between 1900 and 1903 is still the same one used today. He sold the caramel business, plowed everything he had into chocolate, and the rest is history.

 

I had known that Hershey was famed as a philanthropist, but I’d never understood just how far his philanthropy went. He built beautiful housing for his workers. Throughout the Depression, he was determined that his town should not suffer, so each year he planned and funded another major public building project to keep people employed. Community center, theatre, arena – you name it, he built it. The story goes that when he was building the Hershey Hotel, his foreman proudly pointed to the new steam shovel and said that it could do the work of 40 men, to which Hershey’s response was, “Good! Tomorrow, get rid of it and hire 40 men.”

 

Hershey and his wife Kitty learned after a few years of marriage that they couldn’t have children of their own. It was Kitty’s idea to open a school for orphan boys and have children by proxy. The Milton Hershey School still exists as a private residential academy, now with 1,500 students. In fact, the School, through the Hershey Trust, owns and benefits from the entire Hershey empire, because before he died, Milton Hershey turned his entire $60 million fortune to the Trust to endow the School. The Trust has executed its mission well, and its assets are now valued at around $80 billion. The school accepts both boys and girls who meet stringent financial hardship requirements and maintain good grades and good morals. Students are accepted as young as 4 years old, any must be under 16 to be admitted. Once a student is accepted, all of his or her needs are met:  clothing, food, full health care. Students live in group housing segregated by sex, with surrogate parents in the form of a married couple running each house as an extended family. Our conductor, Fred, had just retired after 17 years of being a house father.

 

Graduating students are given traditional gifts:  a $100 bill (which commemorates the money given to Milton by his mother in order to buy him out of having gotten snookered into silver mining in Denver with his perennially rainbow-chasing father, and from which he learned that if you’ve got $100, you can get out of just about any problem); a full wardrobe of clothing; and a new set of luggage. Graduates intending to go on to college are also presented with a laptop computer, and if they maintained at least a C average throughout high school, they are given $67,000 toward expenses at any college or university in the world. Wow! Nice to think that the money spent on chocolate is going toward such a good cause …

 

Oh – and the Hersheypark amusement park was originally built as a recreation spot just for Hershey’s workers. Cool.

We went from Hershey to Strasburg, in the heart of Amish country, to tour the Railroad Museum and take a ride on the steam-powered Strasburg Railroad. Once again, both proved fun and educational! I learned something I had never known. Steam train tenders would run out of water long before they would run out of coal, and stopping to take on water from a tower was inefficient and time-wasting. So, in the heyday of steam engines, they developed water pans and scoops. The pans were basically large shallow water troughs set in the center between the rails on long, straight, flat stretches of track. The tenders were equipped with a metal scoop that could be lowered into the pan trough, and the forward speed of the train would force water up into the scoop and through a pipe into the tender’s reservoir, refilling the tender with water on the fly. We saw such a pan within the tracks of the Strasburg Railroad.

 

The museum is loaded with engines, cars, and artifacts. It’s a railroader’s dream, too packed to really take in. The main building is large, and there’s also a five acre outdoor area that you can arrange to tour, although we didn’t. The museum currently has additional construction underway.

 

One particularly neat thing about the museum is that it exists principally because the Pennsylvania Railroad itself, at the turn of the previous century, started deliberately setting out to keep and preserve some of the historical cars and engines as they were retired. It’s unusual for a live industry to recognize the historical value of its old, everyday things, and still more rare to the industry to spend money to keep things that no longer earn their keep. In the 1960s and 70s, when the industry started to tank, the Penn Railroad donated its historical collection to the Commonwealth to found a museum, and the state legislature approved money to build the museum building and open it to the public. Good foresight!

 

The Strasburg Railroad is a separate entity from the museum, kept running by healthy ticket sales. The rail run is a 9 mile round trip from the East Strasburg station to the little community of Paradise, PA. The run goes through scenic farmland. At this time of year, it passes the Amazing Maize Maze, an expansive maze cut into a large cornfield, in company with a harvest festival. It also passes the Red Caboose Motel, a unique place which consists of a collection of many railroad caboose cars, each of which has been turned into an accommodation. If you stay at the motel, your room is a caboose!

 

Many of the farms along the way are owned and operated by Amish or Mennonites. On our trip, we saw an Amish farmer out with this horse team. We also passed tobacco barns, with their unique construction including side panels with broad slats that could be pushed out from the walls to increase air circulation through the barns where tobacco leaves were hung in bunches to dry.

 

We’d ridden steam engines before – the 1800 Train in Keystone, SD comes immediately to mind – but this time, we rode in the first class car, an elegant thing designed as a parlor with upholstered chairs and settees, small tables, ceiling lights and fans, and decorative colored clerestory windows high in the car. Talk about class – this was comfort! Beat the pants off the wooden bench seats we’d ridden before.

 

After the train ride, we went back to finish off the museum. When we left, the sky was sprinkling, but the skies all around us were clearing, and by the time we had geared up in our leathers, the rain had stopped, and we had a clear ride home to our hotel.

 

Back in Ephrata, we decided to have dinner at a local gem of a restaurant called Lily’s on Main. Wow! This turned out to be a five-star gourmet wonder. I had the turkey breast, which arrived on a bed of soybeans, wheatberry, and cranberry, garnished with roasted mango and drizzled with a chipotle sauce. Yum! Terry had calves’ liver, similarly in fancy dress. Our dinners included small salads of baby greens, and were accompanied by grilled asparagus spears and delicious homemade breads. Mom had the Cobb salad, which had appeared in the “Lite Fare” portion of the menu but turned out to be easily twice as large as either Terry’s meal or mine!

 

It was sprinkling as we left the restaurant, but it was only a third of a mile to the hotel, so we simply strolled while being asperged. No sooner had we gotten into the hotel, however, than the sky positively opened up. Heavy thunderstorms were forecast for the night, but good weather for our planned tour through Amish country tomorrow.

 

Wednesday, 30 August 2006:  Amish Country

 

The day started solidly overcast, but we had no rain, so it was a good riding day and we put it to good use.

 

We’d thought about booking a van tour in Amish country, but before we left our hotel, we weren’t able to reach the tour operator by phone. We opted instead to run on our own, and started at the Landis Valley Museum, a living history village of Pennsylvania German and Dutch life in rural America from 1750 through about 1920. This was a gem! The museum has nearly 30 buildings. Some of them are original Landis Valley constructions, some were moved from elsewhere in the Lancaster area, and some are recreations of structures that no longer exist.

 

The museum was started by two brothers, George and Henry Landis, in the 1920s. Their German ancestors had settled in Lancaster County during the early 1700s. realizing that the Industrial revolution was changing the way of life that was part of their culture and traditions, the brothers started collecting artifacts in the late 1800s, everything from knick-knacks to millstones to farm equipment to buildings. We were told that when the state acquired the museum, including the Victorian house that the brothers had grown up in and returned to share as adults, the house was so chock-full of their boxes of collected items that there were only skinny pathways through the boxes piled in all the rooms!

 

The buildings include a complex of log farm buildings representative of a German farmstead from the 1750’s – a pretty prosperous one – and there we learned about the differences between German and English building at the time, which gave the comfort advantage decidedly to the Germans. Where the English tended to single room log houses with a hearth against one wall, the Germans went for two room styles with a central fireplace that directly heated the kitchen, and would put a stove in the other room backing up to the same flue. With a door between the rooms and the house entry door leading into the kitchen, cold winter air wouldn’t invade the whole house, and the kitchen would rapidly warm up again. German cabins were decidedly warmer in the winter than English ones!

 

Other buildings include a print shop; a leatherworking shop; a blacksmith shop, a woodworking shop; the original 1856 Landis Valley House Hotel; the Maple Grove school; a tin shop; the Landis brothers’ house and stable; a pottery and craft shop; a tavern; and a gun shop. Various different craftsmen do living history displays in the different locales, similar to the arrangement in Williamsburg, VA. Which buildings are staffed will vary from day to day, and will determine which buildings are open. The blacksmith demonstrated how to make a nail, and gave Terry the nail he made in front of us as a souvenir. The wood carver gave Terry a tip about a really good magazine for carvers, with lots of carving patterns and advice. The man at the country or general store showed off its wares – all part of the 100,000 separate artifacts collected by the brothers. The tour guide in the Landis brothers’ house took pains to let us get to know the whole Landis family. The Landis parents were unusual for the time in that they sent all three of their children, including their daughter, to college. Our guide guessed that Landis senior really wished that he could have been something more exciting and momentous than a farmer. His guess was based in part on conjecture, and in part on the 50 years of the man’s diaries that remain part of the museum collection.

 

We had such a good time that we spent three full hours roaming the grounds and talking to the staff. We followed the recommendations of two different people to the Oregon Dairy for lunch, just a couple of miles away. The restaurant is connected to a grocery store, and both are clearly linked to a neighboring farm. It’s a very popular and busy local eating spot, with an extensive menu featuring Pennsylvania Dutch items as well as good solid country fare. Most folk were grazing off the lunch buffet. Plain and basic, but good.

 

From the Oregon Dairy, we decided to visit the Mennonite Information Center. That proved interesting. They have a reconstruction of the original Tabernacle constructed according to Biblical description. A guide provides an introduction, and explains all the features of the construction and the activities that were constructed there. They also run a film called, “Who Are The Amish?” that was really interesting, because it explained the origins of the Mennonites and the Amish. They were the Radical reformists who thought that Martin Luther hadn’t gone far enough in his Reformation, and particularly wanted a return to even earlier Christian practices. One of their key precepts was adult baptism on a confession of faith:  that children would not be baptized into the church as infants, but that people would only enter fully into the church as adults by free and conscious choice. Both the Mennonites and Amish are thus Anabaptists – the “re-baptizers.”

 

The Amish were the followers of a man named Amon who felt, in turn, that his Mennonite brothers hadn’t gone far enough in separating the religious community from the state and from other groups. The Amish are still more strict in their discipline. Both the Mennonites and Amish were heavily persecuted, and most went to the New World, particularly to William Penn’s holding with its promise of religious freedom.

 

Old order Amish are the most strict in keeping to ways that resist change. The Mennonites span a wider range, from old order folk not much different from the Amish, to contemporary folk little different from modern Baptists or Methodists. Their key precepts are still following the teachings of Christ; service to others; community within the faith; avoiding violence and seeking peace and mediation; practicing humility; practicing perfection in the faith; and being content with life. Modern Mennonites endorse higher education, which the Amish do not.

 

Following our comparative religion education, we headed off to Strasburg for ice cream at the Strasburg General Store and Creamery. It was every bit as good as our earlier acquaintance had said! Yummy stuff, and it served as dinner.

 

Since we had missed out on the motorcoach tour through Amish farmland, we proceeded to take our own tour, relying on the ability of the GPS to figure out where we were on the back country roads and eventually get us on course back to our hotel. It worked a treat, although one of the GPS’s choices made us laugh, because it put us onto a tiny lane that rapidly ran out of pavement and turned into a rutted, gravel track that did indeed eventually connect to a road. We figured that this thing had to be in the GPS database as a road, despite its lack of paving!

 

The farm country was truly beautiful, and the Amish and Mennonite farms were all neatly groomed. We definitely knew we were in Amish country:  when you see horse droppings along the shoulder of the roads, you know you’re in buggy territory!

 

Thursday, 31 August 2006

 

We didn’t have far to go to return to my house, so we decided to continue our tour of the previous day by taking the byways rather than the highways. Terry programmed the GPS to exclude highways and toll roads, and we wound up taking a delightful tour through the Pennsylvania and Maryland countryside. By judiciously programming in a town near the marking for a dam on our map, we wound up getting a great view of the dam from a bridge along the way. By the end of this trip, Terry had become a GPS wizard, able to figure out how to get it to take us where we wanted to go by whatever means we preferred to use to get there. And for all that Maryland and Virginia are familiar territory, we saw pretty backwaters that we never even knew existed. GPS is definitely the way to travel!

 

Once we made it to my house, the trip was over for me. We visited with relatives on Friday, 1 September 2006.  On Saturday, I waved goodbye as Mom and Terry headed back to Wisconsin.


This concludes my stories of our big trips. On each of the last three trips we made, Mom's Alzheimer's gradually got worse, and it became clear that we couldn't count on her being able to do a long trip. She rode through 2007 on her good days, taking short day trips here and there in good weather, but the long trips are history now. Mom still enjoys talking about them; when I talk about our travels, she often remembers bits and pieces of them. They are memories I'm very glad we made!

I hope you enjoyed reading the tales as much as we enjoyed living them. G'journey!


 
 
 
morgansladymorganslady on July 17th, 2008 02:45 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed traveling with you and your family.
I hope you'll post some pictures.
bardicvoice: Rushmore Babesbardicvoice on July 23rd, 2008 12:07 am (UTC)
You are most welcome. Thank you for reading, and for commenting!

I'm working on the photos. I've got a few years up on Kodakgallery; I need to either figure out how to link to them there, or transfer some to Photobucket. Hmmm ...