From York to Lancaster via Hanover
29.05.2016 - 31.05.2016
Room 416, Hampton Inn, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
19.23 PDT, Tuesday, 31st May
This mega trip is almost coming to its natural conclusion in Philadelphia, where we drive to tomorrow.
On Sunday, we get out of Washington DC, fairly early, thankfully, but the roads are already beginning to get clogged with bikers, gathering on our way out, in the Pentagon car park (where we had done a very quick 3 point turn the day before) for the annual "Rolling Thunder" rally which was to be addressed but Mr Trump. By all accounts they were a very receptive audience. Well, there we go.
The route we are following is made up of two separate routes from an old AA book of USA off-the-beaten-track routes. One taking in the historic towns and battlefields of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, and the other, the "Dutch" (or Deutch) countryside of Pennsylvania with its Amish and Mennonite areas of Lancaster County.
Leaving the bikers well behind, we first popped into Great Falls National Park, where we could view the magnificent falls on the Potomac River. Only a few miles (through countryside taken up by hundreds and hundreds of multi-million dollar houses, with more being built in scores of exclusive "closes") from the heat and bustle of Washington though it felt like a thousand miles. We were in line to get into the park for about 5 minutes (using our National Parks card yet again for free access. It has now paid for itself!). We were oh so lucky to be early as when we came out, the line waiting to go in went on for miles.
We then became aware of how incredibly busy the main roads of this part of the US are. Everywhere there's traffic though at no point did we get held up except at the ubiquitous and very unintelligent traffic lights.
The Nissan Pathfinder we were given is difficult to drive when making turns at traffic lights. It is always tricky turning as there can be up to 6 lanes for various turns going in the other direction. In their wisdom, Nissan put big wing mirrors just where you need to look when turning. Bob, on many occasions, has had to verbally pilot me round and, when it's getting dark, it's a nightmare. What's more, someone scratched/dented the silly thing, probably in the Valet Parking at the Washington hotel.
We carried on through many towns in Virginia and West Virginia. In one of those two, people were across the border - from Maryland, or the other Virginia - buying cigarettes, Another twist on the Belgian tobacco run.
We went to the Civil War battle ground at Antietam (the name of a local creek) near Sharpsburg in Maryland where the battle cost 22,717 dead, wounded, or missing; the bloodiest one day battle in the Civil War.
We had to drive through a town called Boonsboro but were stopped by this policeman, telling us the road would be closed for up to an hour for a Memorial Weekend parade. We decided to stay for a while, bought an ice cream and watched part of the parade.
Next day, we started with the battleground of Gettysburg. This is a huge area and part of a National Park. This being Memorial Day, it was particularly busy and we decided to visit the brilliant museum where we learned about the wanton death and destruction that took place when between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both armies were casualties in the three-day battle, the most costly in US history. The Confederates had moved into Pennsylvania and the Union armies were effectively defending Harrisburg, the state capital and Philadelphia itself. There were very moving and effective AV presentations of each day of the battle along with a summary of the after-effects of the Civil Way on both North and South. We have learned so much on this trip from the Mormon Trail to the horrors of the Civil War. Brilliant in all respects and thought provoking. War is futile and not glorious. War can be avoided and so it should be. Let's hope we all remember that.
Through the town of Gettysburg..
After rather down-at-heel York,
...we got caught up into a horrendous swirl of traffic on the Interstate to the state capital of Harrisburg. We thought at first, that the place was rather heavy industrial and run down but, having made it to Downtown district and the Saskahanna River, we realised how nice it was. The city has had financial problem due to the corruption of its former long-serving mayor, now in jail.
We then did go through very heavily industrialised areas till we suddenly go to the green and pleasant city of Hershey, home of chocolate (in the USA, at least).
This had been on Arthur's bucket list (sick bucket list if he'd eaten all that chocolate). We learned all about Mr Hershey, his fortunes, his benefaction and his amazing methods for making Milk Chocolate (one of the processes involving rolling it for three days with a granite roller). We also learned he made KitKat, Aero and Rolo under licence from Rowntree Mackintosh! The man is still very much present in that city!
We always find a new and understated chandelier for our friend Paul!
We finally made it to our stop for the night, Lancaster. whose population for one reason we have not been able to discover is made up of 40% Puerton Rican. Hispanic driving methods are evident round here!
The county of Lancaster is also home to 45,000 Amish as well Mennonite. Around here, the Amish fuel a small industry of motels, restaurants, buggy and coach tours etc etc. We feared the roads would be full of buggy-chasers but, away from the never-ceasing traffic of the two main highways, the quiet lanes were idyllic and relaxing. We got excited at our first Amish (or was it Mennonite?) buggy. And then a horse-drawn plough. But after a while, they became almost the "norm" which was nice.
We had booked a tour with a lady who, though not Amish, has Amish friends. She drives her own car and we, and another couple from Florida, followed her in our own cars, around the lanes, communicating (mostly her telling us all about the Amish life style) by two-way radio. It was a great idea, did not cost much and was so very enjoyable and informative. We were welcomed into two Amish farmhouses (very unusual) and saw their cows, chickens, and fruit and veg as well as their children who had already broken up for school (much to do in the fields). We bought some delicious strawberries and our companions from Florida 2 dozen fresh eggs.
Not enough room to explain it all here but, we were impressed with their devotion and their hard work and can understand how they want to keep their lifestyle frozen in time.
In the afternoon we had booked a ride on the steam train from Strasburg, still in Amish country so we were able to observe Amish farms and farmers from the comfort of our swivel chairs in the club car. Alongside the railroad was the awe inspiring collection of locomotives in the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum.
Apart from horse and buggy, the only other form of transport that seems to be allowed is by one of these rather odd scooters. We saw men and women of all ages scooting on busy main roads as well as country lanes. The horses used for the buggies are horse racing stock and as such, seem to be rather nervous of the traffic on the main roads. We think we'd have used mules!
We have so far failed to answer the puzzle of the connecting tubes on top of these silos. Anyone?? Not seen on Amish farms, by the way, if that helps!
After a quick foray into Walmart (sorry!!!) for stuff we wanted to take home, we went back to have an Amish dinner in a restaurant which had been recommended earlier. Whether it was Amish owned and whether the servers were Amish or Mennonite we are not sure but we do know that the food seemed genuine and was delicious. The special tonight was an Amish wedding meal, which Bob enjoyed, consisting of chicken with "filling", mashed potatoes, creamed celery and very delicious peppered or "pickled" cabbage. John had ham loaf again with the potatoes and celery. Really good food. And fairly cheap too. There's Amish peanut butter to go with the bread roll.
We are preparing for our final run into Philadelphia via Delaware, mainly to collect another state. Now, we do have a major problem. The fridge magnets bearing the map of each state that we have visited in the past are proudly displayed on the side of the fridge at Bag End. But, and triple but, we have been unable to buy any such magnets for the new states we have visited. This is a disaaster, darlings!