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
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
Monday, 28 August 2006: Painted Post, NY to
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
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
Tuesday, 29 August 2006: Hershey and
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,
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
Hershey is indeed
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
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
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
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
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
The museum was started by two brothers, George and Henry Landis, in the 1920s. Their German ancestors had settled in
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
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
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
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
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
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!