Saturday, June 3, 2017

Lancaster County, PA


No matter how many epic places we visit along our route, there is always one place or area in particular we are really looking forward to. For Steven, it was New York City. For me, it was Pennsylvania. This area was completely new to me and we were going to places that offered more than just scenery. We would see different cultures, American history and, sadly, American tragedy.

The two lane road out of Liberty Harbor RV Park in Jersey City was choked with big construction trucks, delivery trucks and buses. I literally had to weave my way through them and a couple of times I just shut my eyes and hoped for the best as we glided through. My biggest fear was that I'd clip one of them with Toadie, but somehow I managed to get us out unscathed.

It was a little dicey on the way out of Liberty Harbor RV Park. Construction and traffic challenges aplenty.

Once we got on the highway it was a pleasant drive into Pennsylvania. Our destination for the day was Ephrata, a small town in Lancaster County where we planned to stay at the Elks Lodge. This is Kelly & Bill's home lodge so we'd seen photos and gotten a few pointers regarding the parking situation. It was tight but doable, treed and pretty uneven.

The primordial forest, otherwise known as the Elks Lodge in Ephrata. Not on Linda’s list of favorite terrains.

I may have mentioned once or twice that I don't like parking in the trees. I feel claustrophobic and it depresses me to be in a place where I need to turn on lights during the day. Late April is just far enough along in the spring season that the trees are starting to leaf out. That's when the sunlight becomes dappled and gloomy days under the canopy of leaves becomes downright depressing.

Since Bill & Kelly used to live in Lancaster County, and their son Billy still does, they drove from New Jersey on one of their days off to show us around. Steven and I are Starbucks fans so Kelly wanted us to try a coffee at Dunkin Donuts. Billy works at a store nearby so off we went. Fortified with a good coffee and a donut, we made plans to meet up later for dinner and headed out to explore Amish Country.

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Amish farmer at work.

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Lancaster County is a feast for the eyes. It’s a very relaxing place to be. Even the sheep thought so.

Amish church groups seek to maintain a degree of separation from the non-Amish world, so I found it kind of sad that they are essentially a tourist attraction. We saw a group of children walking down a county lane wearing Amish clothing. To us, they looked so cute and we wanted to take their photos. But we also realized they are not in costume for our entertainment so we abstained.

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Amish buggies was a common site while driving around the Ephrata area.

The Amish communities must have a real love/hate relationship with tourists because, while they probably want their privacy, they also run businesses that depend on visitors. Chief among them are the food markets, where tons of Amish foods are sold including pies, preserves, bread mixes, pickled produce, desserts and canned goods. There are also wonderful meat and cheese selections and delis.

We stopped at a market in Intercourse, PA and one of the first things we found there was grits. We had stocked up while in Charleston, but when we saw the price, we knew we had to buy more. In Charleston, a 2 lbs. bag of grits cost $6.99. For the same product in the Amish store, it was $2.89.  That is not a typo, it was $4.10 cheaper.

We sauntered around the store looking at the wares and, as I made my way back to the front of the store, I found Steven paying for his grits purchase. When I walked up, he said, "I got eight packages." That's right. My husband bought 16 lbs. of grits!! Add them to the ones we already purchased and we are now traveling with 22 lbs. of grits. I know. Who does that, right? If you ever run into us on the road, hit me up for some grits!

We spent the rest of the afternoon poking around the little shops in the area. It was a gorgeous day and the blue skies and flowers made everything feel like spring.

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Fun stores and beautiful flowers made for a wonderful afternoon around Intercourse, PA.

Back at Scoopy for happy hour, Billy arrived and we headed off to one of Bill and Kelly's favorite restaurants, the all-you-can-eat extravaganza that is the Shady Maple Smorgasbord. We were told there could be a long line but luckily we strolled right in, paid our ticket, got a table and went right to work. Competitive eaters would do well to have a few practice meals here as that seems to be one of the hallmarks of the experience. I mean, even the brochure exclaims, "Where Food is The Destination." And everybody is included here, there is even meal pricing for those who've had gastric bypass.

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Shady Maple Smorgasbord was a fun place to go but it’s easy to want to eat everything in sight.

A great day of shopping and eating with Kelly, Bill and Billy.

If I ate at Shady Maple very often, I would need that discount, but this time I got the Senior Discount. It's the first time and she didn't even ask me to show my ID. That was kind of depressing. Anyhoo, it was another successful evening of drinking and overeating for the Davey/Dempsey + Murray clans. Back at the rig we said our goodbyes and they took off for home. 

In the following days the rain came and never left. We did get out to meet up with a family friend for dinner. It had been years since we've seen Heidi and her family, and even though the rest of the gang were unavailable, it was great fun catching up with Heidi.

So much fun to catch up with Heidi!

The next day was pouring with rain and Steven had arranged to go to the relatively nearby Brandywine Art Museum. Works by one of his favorite artists, Andrew Wyeth, have a permanent home there and he wanted to take a look. He had also arranged to go on a tour of Wyeth’s studio. The bad news was the rain was torrential for his trip there but the good news was no one else showed up which meant he got a rare close up look at everything in the old schoolhouse/studio. In the end, it was a soggy morning well spent.

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Steven got a personalized tour of Andrew Wyeth’s studio. Rain kept everyone else away.

After four dark and dreary days in the primordial forest, I'd had enough of Ephrata, so we left a day early and headed west. We weren’t going far, but still, give me the wide open spaces of the west!

Next Up: Gettysburg


  1. Sorry you had so much rain! At least our one day of touring about was nice! Bet getting out of there was interesting!

    1. Our day with you guys was our best, not only because it was a pretty day, but the company as well. :) I backed out the entire way, not as bad as I thought!

  2. We had a lot of rain in our 4 months in Lancaster in 2007-2008 so don't take it personally.

    We loved Shady Maple!

    1. What is it about the location that makes it rain all the time? Shady Maple was awesome. :)

  3. Replies
    1. Absolutely, yes. One of the most beautiful areas we've seen yet!

  4. We avoided the all you can eat while in PA a few weeks ago. I don't know when to quit even though it was less expensive than the place we did eat at the Kettle Village. Maybe we should have stopped at Shady Maple.

    1. We had advance information, so we kind of prepared for Shady Maple. It is truly a feast. And what is it about "all you can eat" that makes us try our hardest to do just that? :)

  5. Good job on the construction dodge and tree navigation! I share your conflict about culture/tourist communities. It was really an issue for me at the Pueblo in Taos. Wonderful pics of the the peaceful countryside and farming - such a cool place!! You're starting to look like us with all your meet-ups along the road :-))) Wyeth is also my favorite - I had no idea Steven is a fan as well. I have put the studio on the list!!

    1. Pennsylvania was one of the prettiest places we've been. Loved it, except for the rain and forest.

  6. Barb and I are with you in your preference of Pennsylvania over NYC. I find the Amish lifestyle fascinating, I don't know a lot about it but what I see is very interesting. Love your shots of horse drawn silage chopper!

  7. OMG the grits are becoming a trip mascot! So hilarious. I am definitely going to hit you up for grits when we finally meet in person. Visiting Amish country is high on our list. I think I'll feel the same ambivalence as you did -- wanting to take photos, but not wanting to intrude on their private lives. I like the photos you took.