This is the seventh in the series of posts chronicling our summer road trip, starring Artificially Sweetened (AS), her daughter Cupcake, and me, the Nittany Turkey.
This won’t be as lengthy as the preceding days’ posts have been, inasmuch as we got a late start, drove around Pennsylvania Dutch country, and then went out to dinner. Nevertheless, it was lots of fun for the three of us in the minivan.
AS and I were discussing our forthcoming plans well into the wee hours, so we compensated by sleeping late. We decided that we’d do Hawk Mountain Sanctuary on Friday, and subject to Toejam’s approval, as he wanted to be a part of this one, Ricketts Glen State Park on Saturday. That would leave Sunday open for a coal mine tour or whatever we decided to fit into the one remaining day with the Tams. We would be leaving early on Monday morning, possibly visiting Washington, D.C. on the way, and doing our final layover in Rocky Mount, N.C.
So, we showed up in the TV/patio area just in time to see President Obama chatting it up with the ladies on The View. I didn’t watch much of it, as I knew what to expect: Barbara Walters tossing out softball questions, Whoopi Goldberg fawning over the president, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck throttled back so she couldn’t say what she wanted to say. Toejam and JudyT weren’t very interested in it, either. They had other things to do. Besides, they hadn’t voted for Obama. However, when I mentioned to Toejam that I would pick up a pie from one of the baked goods stores in Amish country, he perked up, expressing his preference for shoo fly pie, the wet kind, with plenty of gooey molasses on the bottom.
AS, Cupcake, and I would be taking off on our own on this beautiful Thursday in Eastern Pennsylvania. The Cupcake was on a mission to photograph hex signs on Pennsylvania Dutch barns, which are all different and some quite beautiful. I had brought a book along that had a set of instructions for a back roads tour that would take us by a dozen or so barns with impressive hex signs. The only problem was that the book was 10 years old; hence, we thought there would be a chance that we would see condos where barns once stood. Fortunately, this turned out not to be the case. Rural Pennsylvania is much more stable than Florida, our transplant home.
The tour seemed to center around Hamburg, north of Reading (pronounced RED-ing, thankyouverymuch), so we shot down busy Pennsylvania Route 61 toward those communities. When we got to the congested intersection just north of the I-78 interchange, I asked the ladies if they would like to do some shopping in Cabela’s, the large outfitter chain store that occupies several acres on top of the hill. I did this with the full knowledge that I could be getting myself into a shopping trap, but what the hell. It’s all about altruism. You see, the Cupcake’s younger sister, BCH (I cannot spell out the nickname given to her by the lovely Cupcake for fear of offending my audience), and her little brother, Shark Bite, had just shopped at Cabela’s in Chicago the previous day, so I wanted to afford Cupcake the opportunity to destroy their bragging rights. However, being around noon, it must have been too early for the vacationing Cupcake, for she expressed no interest. Nor did AS, although she said that being in the parking lot was good enough. Thus, I did a loop around Cabela’s parking lot. I think we might have stopped briefly for a picture as proof of having been there.
We needed to get some gas, and I could detect some hunger growls from the humans as well as the car. So, I pulled into a gas station across from Cabela’s that had a convenience store with a SubWay. I sent the ladies into the store to get some grub, while I fed the Sienna with 87-octane petrol that was nearly as expensive as bottled water. I finished before they did, so I pulled over into a parking spot by the store. They came out empty handed. The explanation from AS was that she could recognize a 45-minute SubWay line when she saw one, and we’d just have to rough it.
One of the issues with our tour, hunger aside, was with the abundant detours, courtesy of Penndot, which neither my GPS unit nor the book tour took into account. We had to improvise a bit, but remarkably, we managed to make most of the listed stops in the book tour. Cupcake declared that she had more than enough pictures, many of them lazily snapped through the dirty windows of the minivan. I still haven’t seen them; however, this task was assigned to her by her dad, so at least he got to enjoy them. (Possibly.)
As we completed the tour, we set sail for Intercourse, PA, the overcommercialized and touristy nexus of Amish business interaction with us more modern “English”. Other towns in this area have equally colorful names, including Bird in Hand, Paradise, Blue Ball, and Ephrata. On the way, we spotted what AS characterized as the Amish equivalent of an 18-wheeler, a very large horse cart pulled by three horses and driven by an Amish lad so young that AS intoned, “He’s just a boy!” Actually, the Amish educate children only through eighth grade. Beyond that, they learn to work for the family. I think she also told Cupcake that the old order Amish don’t like to have their pictures taken, but I might have been hallucinating. In any case, it is possible that we do not have any photos of this impressive rig. (Update: I found a sneaky picture in AS’s photos.)
Once we had gotten to Intercourse, it wasn’t hard to get what we came for. (That was crudely gratuitous double entendre. Ignore it.) Moving right along, we parked in a large lot by the shopping area. AS remarked, “This is Amish World!” In the true Central Florida spirit, where everything is named something World, she rechristened Intercourse with a rather appropriate moniker. Now that we had our heads on straight with AS’s characterization, we commenced to visit every shop in the plaza.
The first shop involved fudge, so we got some for the Cupcake. That would assuage her hunger spazz. It was kind of messy, though.
Meanwhile, AS wanted to look for some tchotchkes. Let the shopping begin!
At the first opportunity to bail, I did. We came upon a large baked good store. I announced that I was going to pick up Toejam’s shoo fly pie.
“Where?” asked AS.
“Right here.” I smiled, wondering if the full focused shopping mode had been engaged to the extent that she couldn’t see a bakery if it was right under her nose.
I told the two of them that I would buy the pie, stash it in the van, and catch up with them wherever they were. We all had cell phones.
The line was pretty long in the bakery and it wove its way past shelves full of goodies. It was impossible for me to get to the check-out counter without grabbing another thing or two. I got some peanut brittle and some toasted coconut covered marshmallows. There would be absolutely no weight loss on this vacation for any of us. Well, the money would be put to good use, supporting the expansion programs of both the Amish and my waistline. I also got a canvas bag for 99 cents in order to carry out all my calories and stash them in the van.
I gave Toejam a call to ask if there was anything I could pick up for him in Intercourse, but he just wanted that shoo fly pie. He told me that Judy and he were talking about having pizza at a place he had told us about, where they used coal fired pizza ovens to cook the pies. A novel concept, and since it was anthracite, the pizzas wouldn’t be sooty. I quickly agreed to be back at their typical dinnertime.
Then, I set about finding AS and Cupcake. I looked around for a bit. Not finding them, I called Cupcake’s cell phone, as AS had a habit of leaving hers in the van. She didn’t say “hello”, but muttered something unintelligible. Of course, I can’t hear very well, especially while cupping a cell phone to my ear in a crowded parking lot.
“What? What’s that ya say, sonny?” I asked. “Speak up!”
“Mhiwqdhu sjuw akklq,” it sounded like Cupcake said.
“Behind you. Turn around!” It came through clearly this time.
I turned around and they were standing right there. I inquired about the success of their mission. They didn’t buy anything. AS inquired as to whether I was able to get the right pie. I told her it was in the van. Then, I asked whether there was anything else that might interest them about Intercourse. They said they’d had enough. So, back to the van we went.
I pointed the van toward New Philadelphia, which was over an hour away. It was an hour of popping coconut marshmallows. When we got to Broad Mountain, close to the top, I got a call from Toejam asking where we were. I told him we’d be there in 10 minutes or less. I guess he and Judy were hungry.
That was confirmed when we got there, as no sooner had we plopped down in the usual chairs than they were ready to rock and roll. We were off to the coal pizzatorium.
There were, of course, five of us, which seemed to create a dilemma for the young waitress/hostess. She finally figured out that she could create a table for five by adding a chair to a table for four. She was quite proud of herself for coming up with such an ingenious solution! Of course, she had pulled out the table from the wall for some unexplained reason, which placed my ass right in the traffic pattern. I suggested that we push the table back to where it was in the first place. I’m so proud of my solution.
The pizza was actually quite good. I imagine that a fire is a fire if it produces no smoke to flavor the food one way or another. Anthracite burns clean. I didn’t taste anything at all unusual in the pizza. I suppose it’s a good gimmick, especially in anthracite country.
After dinner, Toejam suggested that we get some coffee for take-out in the Dunkin’ Donuts next door. I forget why this was deemed superior to ordering coffee in the pizza joint, but only a couple of us wanted coffee and this way, we could drink it in the car on the way back to New Philly.
Joe and I went in for the coffee, while Judy, AS, and Cupcake loitered on the sidewalk outside. When we emerged, Judy was finishing up smoking a cigarette, as she has been unable to kick the habit. AS, too, had relapsed in recent weeks, having been under some significant stress during the past year or so. I have tried very hard to pry her away from the evil weed, and I hoped that this vacation would help lessen the stress enough to break the habit once and for all.
“I hope you didn’t bum a cigarette,” I said.
“No, I didn’t,” she responded. “I just stood really close to Judy while she smoked hers.”
Second-hand smoke will kill you, too, but at least she resisted the temptation to light one up herself. When I quit 25 years ago, I found that after dinner, while drinking coffee, and while drinking Scotch were the toughest times to resist. I know what AS is going through, and I dearly hope for her sake that she can dump the nicotine habit. Judy, too. She doesn’t smoke inside the house, and she has cut way back, but she still goes to the front porch for the occasional smoke. She’s going through a stressful period, too, so maybe when she gets beyond it, she can kick the habit.
Sorry for the anti-smoking crusade, but my father died of lung cancer and my mother has COPD and emphysema, both because of cigarette smoking. I’ve had good friends die from smoking related illnesses. I’ve just seen too much of it, and I don’t want to see any more.
We returned to the Manor after yet another good day and a very pleasant evening with good friends. You can’t beat that with a stick!
Cupcake and AS both went upstairs while Toejam, JudyTam, and I watched some TV. They stayed up there, which was unusual for AS, but the usual procedure for Cupcake, who I knew was kneeling on the floor of the den with one hand on her computer and the other hand on her cell phone, talking on the phone while doing something or other with the computer.
I went upstairs to see what AS was doing. As I reached the top, I saw Cupcake in the expected position, but without the cell phone.
“Where’s Pound Cake?” I asked, inventing a new nickname for AS on the spot.
“You’re mean!” responded Cupcake. “She’s lying in bed.”
I decided that I would hang around upstairs for a while to talk about our day today and our plan for tomorrow.
The next day would take us to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, a place I have enjoyed several times, also in the Hamburg area. Read about it in our next installment.