Pennsylvania Here We Come
August 27-September 3, 2010
We left New Rochelle in our new Toyota truck, packed the bed and hoped for the best. I wanted our trip to be rain-free, something we haven’t managed to avoid in years. My prayers were answered, however, and blue skies prevailed as we drove south to the George Washington bridge. The extended cab held my husband, who drove, two large teenagers, myself, and my Labrador with less room than I would have liked, but we didn’t complain. I wished the dog had more room, though.
Our first stop was two days at the Roadway Inn, 25 miles from the Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair on the grounds of the Mount Hope Winery. It differed from the festival in Tuxedo, N.Y. for two reasons: the first being that it was spread out on much larger grounds and it was much cooler due to the many shade trees. We hung out with the Queen’s Militia, who were very nice to us and gave us a personal tour of the musketry and defense pikes used during the time. One made eight pence a day, no raises. One also had to have at least two opposing teeth to join the Guard, as it was often that the lead balls could be too large and one had to ground them down by biting on them. Lead poisoning, anyone? Huzzah!
I also learned that wool was the best outerwear because it didn’t catch fire easily when the powder threw hot embers back upon the shooter when firing. Same went for the wide brimmed, wool felt hats that protected the shooter’s hair and face from powder burns.
We listened to minstrels and attended a sword swallowing show. We couldn’t get a good seat for the mud pit show, so we lounged on the grass until the smut show began. What a hoot that one was, the actors were very naughty, indeed. We visited the glass blowers booth and purchased some jewelry and spent a hour in the weaponry store. My son drooled over the war ax and my husband saw a replica claymore he wanted but felt was too heavy to lug around unless it was strapped to his back. I looked for but didn’t find a Lady’s dirk and said no to the spiked brass knuckles my daughter wanted.
My husband and I tasted the home brewed ales and purchased an assorted case and a few bottles of wine for souvenirs on the way out.
After two nights at the Roadway Inn, we packed up and headed west to the Kampgrounds of America’s Pine Grove site where we reserved a one bedroom deluxe cabin. What a lovely campground. The amenities included a walk in swimming pool with water slide, restaurant, store, laundry, dog park, and clean, new cabins with propane grill, front and back porches, air conditioning and a full bathroom. The kitchen area had a small fridge and sink with hot/cold water and plenty of counter/cabinet space for our five night stay. My daughter slept in the loft, my son took the floor on an air mattress, and we had the queen sized bed. My only complaint was that the bed was too hard. We did need to bring our own linens/pillows but since we had the truck and extra packing space, it wasn’t an inconvenience. In fact, it was kind of nice to have my own pillows from home.
Another hidden perk was that we didn’t bring a television and instead played board games, cards, read books, and listened to the ball games on a radio. We talked and joked with the kids and just enjoyed one another. My guide dog, Verona, loved sunning herself on the porch and watching the chipmunks frolic. I never even needed to put her on a tie out, she never left the porch without permission. What a good girl! Daily obedience pays off.
Monday we shopped and settled in and Tuesday we set out early for Hershey Park. It was too hot to stay more than a few hours, but we did manage to get in four rides and an excellent sour cherry slushy. Yum. The best ride was the slingshot like roller coaster, STORM RUNNER, which hit speeds of over 70 m.p.h. and left you weightless on the two drops and slammed you into your seat with serious g force on take off. I’ve been on a lot of coasters and this one is in my top five. For the most part, any of the swinging coasters where your feet dangle are the best thrill for the money. But this one was truly scary for the less indoctrinated. We witnessed one rider go off crying and another chicken out.
It was so hot that Verona had to put on her booties to protect her feet. A woman stopped me to ask where I got her slippers. Another woman thought the lavender color looked great with her black coat. My kids kept far ahead of me, teenaged mortification propelling them forward even in the blistering heat. They think that it’s “weird” to be with me when everyone is commenting on the guide dog’s cute shoes. . Verona’s obvious discomfort, my overheated head and The smell of hot tar made me wonder why we came during the day and not at night. Next time, we’ll try going at sunset.
Wednesday we drove into Intercourse and dropped some dollars at the canning store, purchasing, among other things, stuffed sweet peppers, strawberry rhubarb jam, Peanut cream, and marinated mushrooms. We also stocked up on my favorite brand of sweet bologna and strolled around Kettle Village until it got too hot.
Before leaving the cabin, we entered our reflections in the cabin’s journal and read over the other entries, some of which were written by the dogs who stayed there with his/her families. No wonder Verona liked it so much.
I finally tasted and very much liked homemade whoopee pies, purchased from a local Amish farmer selling them in front of a winery. Devil dogs just don’t compare to hand whipped whoopee pie filling.
As we drove back over the GW bridge towards home, I thought of the things we didn’t do and knew we’d be back to do them next year. I’ve been to Western Pennsylvania many times since I was 6 and will return there many more times. It’s rolling hills, fresh air, farming industries, Amish folk, and historic small town charm is like a magnet and that’s why we vacation there more than any other place in the States. Our next trip will be to Gettysburg. Stay tuned.