Sunday, May 08, 2005

May 8, 2005
Road Trip Entry April 30 – May 2

I truly hate putting on make up at 5 AM. However, I hate puttering around and getting a late start even more. So up at 5 and on the road by 6:15.

The next week or so will be interesting. I’m entertaining my mother – who is 81 – and her best friend, who’s flying in from Germany. They’ve been best friends for over 60 years. They still get together and giggle like teenagers, which is great.

I travel well with my mother. She’s one of my favorite people with whom to travel. We’re efficient, organized travelers who get on the road early, so that we can take whatever tangents strike our fancy.

Unfortunately, driving in Saturday’s deluge was not fun. Thank goodness the car was fixed before the journey to Washington, DC.

Signs observed which I don’t understand:

“Toll Free” (Not as in toll-free zone, but just like that – a toll is a payment. Free payment? Someone’s paying for us? Don’t get it).

“25 mph – Keep moving”. Um, if we’re supposed to keep moving, why are we only going 25 mph instead of the usual 55?

Roughed out the next hockey article in the car, which I will write for FemmeFan somewhere betwixt and between the Triple Crown articles; also got another idea to pitch to Llewellyn.

We couldn’t see much of Baltimore as we drove past it. But is sure smelled bad.

We stopped at a Visitor Information Center so I could gather up information for future travel articles. One of the men manning the desk scoped me out as someone interested in history and gave me all sorts of wonderful information. Not only do I have good ideas for travel articles, but ideas for research that could lead to the project proposal for the residency application I want to do.

We found the airport hotel complex and lunched with my mom’s friend and her son. He works in the airline industry and is on a trip with some of their VIP customers. His mother always wanted to visit Amish country, so this seemed like a good opportunity.

After lunch, we drove him to his meeting back at the airport, and we headed back north, through the rain, to Pennsylvania. We were tired when we arrived, not to mention hungry.

Quality Inn had a big promotion going on for suites at their site near Lancaster. So we stopped there first to see if anything was available. I don’t think I have ever encountered such rudeness from hotel desk staff in my life. Not only was there nothing available for us – hey, it happens, no big deal – they were completely uninterested and didn’t even have the courtesy to tell us in a professional fashion. To top it off, the staff stood there and sniggered while the guests ahead of us who’d scooped up the last hotel suite made rude, inappropriate and vicious comments. I’ve never stayed at a Quality Inn before, and sure won’t do so now. Not only that, this particular site has made my list for “Worst of 2005” travel article at the end of the year. And I’m going to suggest to their executive office that they spend some time and money hiring quality staff. Also, if the type of guest they attract is the type that I met – it’s not a place I’d choose to stay. In addition to letting the QI Executive Office know about it, I will also send a copy to the Tourist Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, etc. If they’re pushing this site, they need to know how badly the employees are treating people.

It’s a shame, because the groundwork is being set for a multi-state trip next spring or so, and I wanted to find a good value chain to use (and write about) for the trip. Quality Inn won’t be it.

We continued past Lancaster through the lovely Bird-in-Hand to Intercourse, where we ended up with a large, nice room at the somewhat touristy Intercourse Best Western. But the staff was nice, they made sure we had the extra cot we needed for the room, since all the suites were booked, and, in general, were simply friendly and welcoming, which is all I ask in hotel management.

One of the things I enjoy about Intercourse is the melding of the Amish and Mennonite communities with the tourist community. Hitching posts everywhere, even at the Mini-Mart. Shops, Museums and most restaurants closed fairly early on Saturday and were closed on Sunday. Good for them for not caving in to the pressures of tourism.

The Gideon Bible in our room was opened to Psalms. When I was a kid, I thought the Gideon bibles in hotel rooms were really cool.

We had a light supper at a lovely café called Auntie Anne’s, right on the main street. It was in walking distance from the hotel. My mother’s friend is somewhat obsessed with toast and couldn’t really understand why she couldn’t order toast at 7 PM.

I scrolled through the phone book and came up with 7 pages’ worth of companies to add to my Prospect List.

At the Mini-Mart, a buggy was hitched outside, and the family was inside, getting something or other. There was also a tourist mother, father, and little girl. The little girl had curly blonde hair and wore a pink sweat suit. On the shirt, embroidered in sequins, was “Jezuz luvs u”. The tourist family stared at the Amish (or perhaps they were Mennonite, I’m not sure) family, who nodded and smiled, but didn’t pay too much attention. Then the little girl turns to me (I was still dressed up from the DC lunch) and said, “Are you from Paris, France? Our teacher says everyone from Paris, France is wicked, but they’re pretty.” Even the Amish family looked a bit surprised.

“No,” I said. “But I might go to Paris, France later this year and I work on a Broadway musical called Wicked.”

Let them figure it out.

I woke up at 4 AM on Sunday – enjoying the true quiet. Until, of course, someone on a motorcycle started revving it.

Things going on in Lancaster County:

--Ephrata Cloister hosts a talk on the work of Tolkien;
--Author Earlene Fowler will do a book signing at a quilt museum;
--Lancaster was the capitol of the US for one day in 1777;
--The Fulton Opera House is the oldest theatre in continuing operation.

Since it was Sunday and most things were closed, we had to go to the tourists sites specially kept open. It was a beautiful day, and nice to drive through the farmland.

We visited the Amish Village, with its recreated exhibits. The needlework is so beautiful. We had lunch at the famous Plain & Fancy. It’s an all-you-can eat. What I didn’t realize is that they bring you the entire menu on a cart and unload it on the table. The entire menu. The food was delicious – warm bacon dressing for the salad; stuffed chicken breast and sausage and pot roast and . . .I can’t remember what the other entrée was. Various vegetables. Multiple desserts, including shoofly pie and apple dumplings. And it was all delicious.

I had a taste of almost everything, but I was still stuffed.

We visited Strasburg, which has a restored steam train line and a train museum. We didn’t go into the museum, but we wandered around the train yards and watched the train return from its previous journey and prepare for the upcoming one. One of the men watching is passionate about trains and he explained how they’re going to build a turntable, but right now, the engine gets to drive forward on one trip, but has to do the entire second trip backwards, trying to peer over the coal piled in the open part of the car that’s shoveled in to keep the engine running.

I sure wouldn’t want to maneuver a multi-car train backwards!!!

We spent a good part of the day walking around. Although shops, etc. were closed, many buggies were out for an afternoon ride – along with townies drag racing and leaving smelly rubber skid marks along the asphalt.

A tourist in an SUV ran a buggy into a ditch and kept going. So I went over to help get it back on the road (much to the surprise of the occupants). I may not live on a farm, but I have been to harness racing barns, so I’m not completely ignorant of buggy-like contraptions.

It must be tough to be a teenager in this area – I can imagine that, even loving the land, most teens would go stir crazy.

I have a scrawled entry in my notebook about “The Inkpot Scandal” of the mid-1800s – some sort of literary feud – but I can’t decipher the note. If and when I do, I’ll write more about it.

We had a good breakfast Monday morning in the hotel restaurant. Then we had a chance to visit some of the shops (like the plant shop) and the People’s Place Quilt Museum.

The Quilt Museum was the highlight of the trip for me. The delicate, intricate stitching on these quilts is astonishing. And, even within the traditional Amish and Mennonite palettes, modern quilters are creating new designs. The artistry – and mathematics – of some of these patterns is just extraordinary:

The watercolour designs are especially fascinating. I want to learn how to do it. I have a book on watercolor quilts – in storage.

There’s a development group that wants to build a slot machine casino three miles from Gettysburg, and the historians are, rightly, having a fit. Yes, it’s three miles away. But it’s still close enough to be disrespectful.

Trip back was fine. And then, the week started.

My goal is to give my mother and her friend a week of fun and ease. You never know what tomorrow will bring. It’s been five years since they had a chance to visit, and I want it to be one of their best times ever.



At 6:26 PM, Blogger Eileen said...

It sounds as though you were successful in your goal :)

At 8:55 AM, Blogger B. K. Birch said...

Your trip sounded wonderful. I love the Lancaster Pa area although I didn't fully appreciate it when I did a drive through in college.

At 4:39 AM, Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) said...

I can feel your enthusiasm about this trip. I have one Amish quilt from a show several years back. Generally, I like watercolour effects, but this one was of different colours and drew me in. Their quilts are amazing!

I would like to reciprocate links, but am being in doing so with bloggers because (1) Blogger is often not working and (2) I've been on a carousel preparing for artshows. I'll respond to your email when I can. If more than a couple of wks, goes by, please email again.

It's a whirlwind time of year for us personally and professionally. Printer doc switch time! :)


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