Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Touring Again

Saturday - Fourth of July weekend 2011

Picking up from my last article, we are still on our first real trip in the Roadtrek. We are in Lancaster, Pennsylvania - a place that we have been to many, many, many times before, but not like this in an RV.

When we woke up I expected to hear the sounds of the roller coaster in the Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park which is adjacent to the campground - in fact this campground is owned by Dutch Wonderland, as I understand it, bought by them in the last ten years. When I made the reservation for the campground, I was told that there were few spaces left available for Fourth of July weekend and the space that they had for us would be "noisy". There was said right up front with no prompting from me. The space was near the amusement park and it is "noisy". The park is not open at night so that is not an issue for sleeping but it might be if one wanted to sleep past the opening of the park in the morning. We made the reservation anyway. So, as I say, I expected to awake to the sound of the coaster which we could see from our site. Surprisingly, I heard nothing from inside the Roadtrek.

The Roadtrek is perhaps different from other RVs in that you are inside a van with vehicle walls all around you with the exception of the roof. There is not much that you hear of the outside from inside Roadtrek - though on our driveway, inside the Roadtrek, I can hear the noise of the cars and trucks that pass by on the busy avenue that runs past our house. But I wondered if the park was open yet - was the coaster running?

We got up and got dressed. I went outside while Meryl finished up inside, securing all of the cabinets and anything that would move once we started driving. Once I opened the door, I could hear the coaster. It was not very loud, but it definitely was running. Meryl joined me outside and we disconnected the electric and the cable TV wire and stowed them away in the Roadtrek's outside storage compartment. We got back in the van and looked around to make sure that all was secure and we took off for the day.

One thing I discovered as we pulled out of the campground was that when the amusement park is open there did not seem to be a way to get to the exit with the traffic light to go out onto busy Route 30. There is an exist without a light, and making a right turn is fine, though there is a wait for the many cars and trucks to pass and there be an opening to turn out, but making a left was not a good idea here. We could just as easily turn right for where we were heading and we did.

Our first stop - as is always our first stop when we come to this area is the Bird-In-Hand Farmers Market. As I have mentioned, we are travelers of habit. We tend to go to the same places and like to do things in the same order - how dull. But after so many years, it just does not seem the same any other way.

There are a lot of quaint and unusual town names in Lancaster County, PA. Bird-In-Hand is one of them and it is the old, original name of the town - not named as such for the tourists. The Bird-In-Hand Farmers Market is one of the several farmers markets in Lancaster County and they are only open on specific days of the week. Bird-In-Hand market is open during the summer months from Wednesday to Saturday. Other times of the year, those days go down to Friday and Saturday. No market is open on Sunday. This is a very religious area, and anything that has to do with the real Amish and Mennonites is closed on Sunday. This is not to say that everything is closed on Sunday - regular businesses and stores are open just like everywhere else. Bird-In-Hand Farmers Market is located at 2710 Old Philadelphia Pike, better and easier known as Route 340.

Bird-In-Hand Farmer's Market is made up inside of a series of vendor stalls selling meats, fruit, some vegetables, jellies and jams, baked goods, spices and herbs, and souvenirs. This is a more formal setup than at Green Dragon which I wrote about in my first article. This is all inside of just one building and there is much less available produce here. It is a nice place to walk through. A good place to buy meats and cold cuts. And, unlike Green Dragon, all of the people selling here are local people - many Amish and Mennonites. This is also a market more geared toward the tourist and many bus groups will stop here - sometimes making the aisles very crowded. One side of the building is a large gift shop and above that another gift shop. Outside there is a small building that sells candles. There are two lunch counters inside and cooking is done by Amish and Mennonites, though the menu offers the usual lunch counter fare of sandwiches, burgers, and hot dogs along with local fried chicken.

Across from Bird-In-Hand is another of our usual stops, though it does not offer now what it once did. There is a old building that once was a very nice gift shop that is now an antique market named Bird-In-Hand Village Antique Market. Inside you will find a very large variety of collectibles and antiques. When I am in there I find myself more remembering fondly the shop that used to occupy the space than anything else. Next door - and also connected with an entrance from the far back room of the antique market is the Old Village Store. Apart from being able to find a variety of household, hardware, and farm related things that are hard to find in most large chain stores, the interior of this store has been kept as it was in the early 20th Century. The counters are all the same, many of the displays are all the same. This is an experience just to walk into - and when we are looking for something that we have not been able to find anywhere else, this is the place that we come to look and often find what we were after.

RV parking is no problem at Bird-In-Hand Farmers Market. There is a large parking lot and there is bus parking in the rear - it should accommodate any size RV. Do not try to park across the road at the Antique Market or Old Village Store. The lot and access way is too small and narrow - don't even attempt it. Park across the road at the farmers market and walk across.

While you are at the market or in the Old Village Store pick up some of the free tourist newspapers. They are filled with ads for all of the local attractions and you will often find coupons for many of the restaurants in Lancaster. I shall take a moment here to talk about eating in Lancaster County - forget the chain restaurants here. You want to eat Pennsylvania Dutch cooking in the local restaurants and this is the All You Can Eat capitol of the world! You can eat until you are full two ways here - at a "family-style" restaurant where you will eat like the Amish do - at a long table with other guests who are dining and platters of food are brought out to your table from which you take what you would like to your plate and the pass the platter along to the rest of the table. The platters get refilled so don't worry about overfilling your plate the first time around. The other way to dine "PA Dutch" is to go to one of the many buffet/smorgasbord restaurants where the same local foods are served as at the family style restaurants but you are seated at your own table and you go up to the buffet as many times as you like. Be sure to try Chicken Bot Boi, Pork and Kraut, and Shoo Fly Pie. Fried chicken and ham are staples.

We moved on. Next stop is Kitchen Kettle. Kitchen Kettle is in the town of Intercourse on Route 340. Yes, there really is a town named Intercourse, and it causes a lot of snickers and laughs. It was not named for the reason you think - the town was located at the site of a horse race track. The entrance of a horse race track was called the "entercourse". Entercourse became Intercourse and the tourist industry has thanked them for it ever since. This is a very quaint village of shops and Kitchen Kettle Village of Shops is the most prominent attraction in the town. If you walk or drive through this town some things may look very familiar to you. The Hollywood movie, "Witness" starring Harrison Ford about the Amish and their encounter with a big city detective was filmed at locations around Intercourse. The phone booth that he is seen using in front of one of the stores is still there and you can stop on the spot on the street where he has the encounter in the middle of the street involving the ice cream cone (that does not sound so exciting but if you have seen the movie you will understand).

On Fourth of July Saturday Kitchen Kettle is very crowded and the parking lot is jammed. We drove in with the Roadtrek and drove right out again. There were spaces but the Roadtrek does take up a full parking space and then some in the rear. The continental spare tire on the back sticks out about a foot and puts the length of the Roadtrek a bit out into the aisle of the parking lot. Cars were parked too close this day. When it is not a holiday or during the week you will have no problem in their very large lot and there are several bus and RV spaces in the lot. The alternative to park is across the road and not a problem at all. We drive out and across and parked behind the shops that are across Route 340. There is another large parking lot there that many - even on a holiday weekend - do not know about. There were two other RVs back there - a class A and a class C, so we added our class B to the assortment to make a set. There is a traffic light to walk back across 340 and Kitchen Kettle is right there.

Kitchen Kettle started as a shop making and selling jellies and jam and they still make jelly, jam, apple butter, relish, and pickles in a kitchen in the jelly building. You can watch as Amish and Mennonite ladies cook and bottle all of this out in the open. There is a schedule of tours of the kitchen and an explanation of the process - all free - but you watch from the outside looking in as the public is not permitted to enter the kitchen - but it is all visible. Also in the jelly building is the bakery and they make some wonderful cookies and shoo fly pies (which we cannot indulge in any longer but it is so good to smell the baking).

Kitchen Kettle is a tourist attraction and it is all a variety of shops. They offer horse and wagon rides through the surrounding Amish farmland. There is a shop that sells leather goods. There is a shop that sells carved wood signs. There is a candle shop. There is a meat shop - and you can get some nice sandwiches made. There is a ice cream stand - Lapp Valley Ice Cream - Mennonite farm made ice cream that I consider the best ice cream anywhere. There is a kettle corn stand. There is a restaurant for a light meal. There is a fancy restaurant for a large meal. There is a kitchen shop with kitchen items. There is a metal shop with wrought iron and tinware items. There are shops for ladies clothes. There is a souvenir shop and a toy shop. There is also a petting zoo. And it is all free - of course. Again - this is a business all set up for the tourists. It is in the middle of some very nice country side and farmland. When I first came with my family to Lancaster County on vacation more than fifty years ago, this was one of the first places that we visited. I think that I have been there at least once a year every year since. And if you have not been to Kitchen Kettle, you have not been to Lancaster.

It sounds as if all there is to do in Lancaster is visit gift shops, go to tourist oriented attractions, and eat. And for some that visit the area this is exactly what they think there is to do - this and go to the outlets. I have not yet mentioned the outlets, but keep reading. The more important reason to visit this area is to learn about the people who settled this area, live here still, and farm here. This is a heavily populated Amish and Mennonite area. These people came here in the 18th century to settle in search of religious freedom. They are called the plain people and most follow the Bible very literally. They do not have their photographs taken, as the Bible says to make no graven images. When you are in this area, please respect that and do not take photographs of the Old Order Amish. They still live and dress as their people did in the 19th Century (1800's) and they have no electricity in their homes, have no telephones, and have no connection in anyway - wiring or pipes - to the outside world on their land. They use wind power to pump their water to their homes from wells and streams. They do not drive cars but travel still with horse and buggy.

It is very important to know about driving on the roads in this area. There are horse and buggies on all of the roads from the small country roads to the large routes. The only roads that you will not encounter a buggy is on the limited access highways. The buggy - no matter what - has the right away. And if you come upon a buggy - which at best is going to be traveling 25 mph - you need to safely pass. With an RV this can be a challenge on a small road. The buggy will stay to the right edge of the road - when they can - but be prepared to go fully into the lane with opposite traffic to go around the buggies. This is also a challenge on the many hills that the roads in the farmlands follow up and down. Do not pass on a hill if you cannot fully see what is way ahead of you in the lane coming at you. Wait, get to the top of the hill with a full clear view, and then make you move. All common sense - yes - but you would be surprised - maybe you wouldn't.

Anyway - you are here to see the Amish and if you are comfortable driving the farm roads - do so. There are maps at most tourist sites of the farm roads and they are easy to follow - most will eventually lead back to a large route number. I am never really concerned that I will not eventually get back to a route that I know how to return on. This is where you see the real Pennsylvania Dutch Country. You will see farmers plowing their fields with horses. You will pass one room school houses (Amish only go to school until Grade 8 and they attend their own schools). You will pass small farm stands and if you want to talk with the Amish stop and buy something. They will be happy for your business and happy to talk with you - just do not think of them as an attraction at Disney World. These are real people with real lives to live. They are not their for the tourists amusement. Be polite. Never be rude. And think what it would be like if people came past your house every day and stopped to look at you go about your life. Ah, and these people are not Dutch. They are of German heritage. German is Deutch - "Duetch" became "Dutch". Ah, what we like to do with English. And by the way - to the Penn Duetch - you are the "English".

I could keep going on about this one day. I have thought about splitting these days each into several articles but you would be reading about Fourth of July weekend still in October. We finished out the day of seeing the sites that we like to see. We did drive the farm roads. We stopped at an outlet to buy umbrellas to keep in the Roadtrek.

There are two large outlet malls here. Rockvale Outlet Center and Tanger Outlet Center are both located on Route 30. Outlet stores are not any longer what they once were - and while you will get some discounts you will not get the big discounts that outlets once gave when they actually were company stores selling off older inventory and seconds. Now, you rarely see a second and the prices need to be looked at carefully as you may find that Walmart is giving you a better deal on the same item. The outlets keep the tourists coming to this area all year - and this area is as crowded just before Christmas as it is in July.

After dinner we found a supermarket selling small cups of the same ice cream that we eat at home. After that - of course - it was off to Walmart to walk around and spend money on mostly Roadtrek related things.

Back at the campground, I decided to try to level the Roadtrek using the "lego" blocks that we had purchased a while back and were carrying with us. Meryl put one block under the front driver's side tire and one under the back and I pulled up onto them. I checked the level and we were almost exactly on level. No more rolling across the bed. We hooked up the electricity and cable TV and headed in to find a weather report for the next day. On Sundays, as I said, most of the tourist things are closed, the Amish spend the day in someone's home for church services, and this is a day to spend at the outlets or non-Amish related attractions. Our plan was to go to the Kutztown Folklife Festival. The weather report was for a chance of "serious" rain and thunderstorms for the day. Monday would be much better. So as we went to bed, the plan for Sunday were changing. In bed, I there was a rumbling outside. No, it was not the roller coaster, it was thunder. And we could see flashes of lightening through the edges of the Roadtrek's curtains. The heavy rain started right after that.

Next week - Sunday.

1 comment: