Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Kitchen Kettle Village, Lancaster PA

I get many questions asking about where to go and what to do in Lancaster, PA. One of our regular stops whenever we are in Lancaster is Kitchen Kettle Village in the town of Intercourse. Yes, that is really the name of the town and the origin of the name has various stories none of which involve what comes to most people's minds. Needless to say, had the original name of the town, Cross Keys, remained the town post office would not have done quite the business that it regularly does in letters and post cards sent from there just for the post mark. Kitchen Kettle Village has been around for many, many years and on my first trip to Lancaster, PA more than fifty years ago, we went to Kitchen Kettle.

Going in the Roadtrek, there is RV parking in the Kitchen Kettle parking lot - accessed from Route 340. If it is a crowded Saturday, and most Saturday's here are crowded along with any holiday that they are open, you really don't want to get in the mess of cars being directed by parking lot directors pointing you to the nearest space or chance that the few RV spaces that they have are available. It is easier to go turn into the parking lot on the opposite side of Route 340 behind those business and the entrance to that lot is right where Route 772 meets Route 340.  This is a big parking lot with often very few vehicles parked there even on busy days. You will often see other RVs parked there, all much bigger than a Roadtrek.

 Kitchen Kettle Village has grown over the years. It is a village of small specialty shops primarily geared to the tourist centered around a family business that creates homemade jams and jellies. All of the jams and jellies are made right there in the open kitchen at the Kitchen Kettle jelly shop and you can watch as Amish women make and can the jellies, jams, fruit butters, and preserves - and now much more. The jellies are wonderful and there are samples of everyone of them that they make out free for the tasting.  Many of the Pennsylvania Dutch specialties served in local restaurants are also made here and for sale such as chow chow, pepper relish, pepper cabbage, apple butter and more.

Now I can hear everyone thinking that they don't want to go anyplace just for shopping but there is also entertainment here along with carriage rides of the Pa Dutch farmlands. This is a very popular spot with visitors to Lancaster County. What are offered here are horse and carriage rides and not horse and buggy rides. You will get a very good view of Amish farms as the horse clip-clops along the roads and you will see why, first hand traveling by horse power, it is very important to yield when driving to the carriages and buggies all throughout Lancaster County.

On Saturdays you will be entertained by Banjo Jimmy and his band. Banjo Jimmy LaRue has been playing at Kitchen Kettle for as long as I can remember and he never fails to draw a crowd and get everyone's toes tapping - even those too young to know the classic songs that he plays. You will often find Banjo Jimmy here playing solo but on Saturday's and holidays he is here with the band. If you like what you hear, drop a little something into their milk can. You can also take home a CD.

There are places to eat at Kitchen Kettle in addition to the shops. There is a fancy restaurant called the Kling House Restaurant that is located on the street along the west side of Kitchen Kettle Village  which is Route 772. This is open for breakfast and lunch and offers a variety of American foods, though not necessarily Pennsylvania Dutch. There is the Kettle Cafe that serves lunch with burgers and sandwiches along with homemade soups. There is the Smokehouse Shop which has smoked meats and cheeses. Go in and have them slice you some local specialties and then go into the Bake Shop located in the building with the Jelly and Jam and buy a fresh loaf of bread and take that to the Roadtrek and fix your own lunch. While you are looking around the bake shop try a small, free sample of shoo fly pie. For some sweet treats there is a fudge shop and also Lapp Valley Farms Ice Cream. OK, now I have to tell you about Lapp Valley Farms ice cream. They are located in several locations around Lancaster at Farmers Markets. You can also go to the farm to their dairy and buy the ice cream right where the cows are. This ice cream is homemade. It is the best ice cream that I have ever had. You can taste the freshness of the cream in this ice cream and it comes in several flavors. If you get Chocolate Almond you are getting whole almonds throughout the ice cream. I have to say that you will pay more for Lapp Valley Farms ice cream at Kitchen Kettle thn you will at one of the Farmers Markets such as Green Dragon or Roots, but if this is your only chance to try it, don't miss that.  They are located near where the garden shop is.

And that brings me to the garden shop. There is really no room in the Roadtrek to buy and take home large plants but they have great prices here and some very unusual plants. It is always interesting to walk through and see what the season has brought and look at all of the pretty flowering plants.

The shops you will encounter are varied. There is a PA Dutch gift shop, a candle shop, a shop that sells things made from iron, a jewelery shop, a pottery shop - the lady who is selling makes it all herself, a toy shop, a doll shop, two shops with ladies accessories and handbags, a craft shop with locally made handcrafts, a wood sign shop where they will carve a sign for you while you wait and watch, a leather shop, and a shop just for pets. There is an entire building that was recently moved from a corner of the parking lot to a location more adjacent to the rest of the shops at Kitchen Kettle and this building was picked up and planted down as if it had always been there. Inside is country furniture and early American home furnishings. I have to comment that over the years the shops here have become more commercial than they once were, which is OK but I do miss some of some of the shops were things were made right there.

The most recent addition to Kitchen Kettle Village is lodging and while you would not be interested in staying there since you have your Roadtrek or RV, there are now hotel rooms that are quaintly decorated located above several of the shops.

While you are at Kitchen Kettle keep in mind that there are a number of shops on the street adjacent to Kitchen Kettle Village and while they are not part of Kitchen Kettle there are some interesting things to see. Walk out from Kitchen Kettle Village onto Route 340 and turn left and start walking. You will come to a small fabric shop. This shop is there primarily for the Amish to shop in. While they have many quilting fabrics to purchase, there is a large selection of fabrics that the Amish and Mennonites use to make their clothing. Go into the rear of that fabric shop and through a door and you will be in a store that caterers exclusively to the Amish - though you are welcome to come in and buy if you see something that you like. I don't know why I have to say this but be respectful when you are in a shop like this as these people are going about their lives and are not a tourist attraction to gawk at - and never take a photograph of the Amish. You will be violating a basic of their religious beliefs.

Come out of that shop and keep walking in the same direction and you will see two Hollywood movie locations where the film, "Witness" was shot - Harrison Ford featured in both of those scenes. As you walk back to Kitchen Kettle come to Route 772, cross the road and make a right and walk down to the Amish Buggy shop - one part of the shop there will be a sign that you can't go in - this part of the shop is for the Amish only. Next to that is where the tourists are allowed in.

I told you about the various places to eat in Kitchen Kettle Village but I must add where you should go to eat lunch. Across the Route 340 from the main entrance of Kitchen Kettle is a small road that goes into a small shopping center. On the right and up a short hill there is the Intercourse Post Office. Right next door to the post office is Stoltzfus Meats. This is a Pennsylvania Dutch family owned business and they have exceptional country sausage made at their farm. There is a small cafe on the side of the meat store and you order at the counter and when your food is ready, you are called to get it and bring it to one of the few tables that they have - or you can get it to go. Try the country sausage sandwich. On my most recent visit there I tried something new that they have added to the cafe menu that is available in their refrigerated cases. A new Amish farm family has started making and selling Zook's chicken pot pies - also beef and sausage. There are few places that you can get these other than going to the shop at their farm but Stoltzfus has them and they are serving a whole small size pie at the cafe. It is just right for one and it was as good as I have heard. This is not the usual Pennsylvania Dutch chicken pot pie which is actually "chicken bot bie" and is a chicken stew with thick dough noodle squares (which if you see in one of the many PA Dutch restaurants in Lancaster, you should try), but it is a traditional style chicken pot pie in a full pie crust. But try the country sausage for something different. One of the good things about the Roadtrek or any RV is that you have the refrigerator to bring home some of these treats. We fill the fridge with two dozen or more of these country sausages before we go home.

Kitchen Kettle Village is open from Monday to Saturday (closed Sunday) from 9:00 am to either 5:00 or 6:00 pm depending on the season. The only holiday it is closed on is Christmas. The address is 3529 Old Philadelphia Pike, Intercourse, PA 17534 and the phone number if you have questions for them is (800) 732-3538.  Kitchen Kettle Village is very close to Beacon Hill Campground. It is a long walk but one could walk to it from there. 

I will leave you now with some music from Banjo Jimmy and the band...


*The photographs in this article were taken with a cell phone camera and are not up to my usual standard for photographs I take to accompany my articles. The idea for this article came to me while walking around Kitchen Kettle and my camera was in the Roadtrek across the road.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

For the First Time...

This will probably be one of the shortest articles I have ever written for this site. For the first time since we got the Roadtrek, my black tank sensor reads empty. This may not sound like a big deal to most but to RV owners this is a rare occurrence. At the time that I am writing this article it has read empty for three weeks now.

I have written before that we have tried the GEO method of treating the black tank. This is the mixture of Calgon water softener mixed with washing machine liquid detergent. We did this for a year it had no better result in keeping the waste flowing out of the tank and keeping odors down than just using the tank chemical - digester/deodorizer/lube - that we buy in Walmart's RV section and have used since we first got the Roadtrek. Toward the end of that year of trying this I started adding the tank chemical to the GEO mixture to see if that would improve the result. The result I was looking for was to see the black tank sensor go to Empty - the bottom LED. That never happened. I tried cleaning the tank by flushing it with water through a tank wand. I tried pouring ten gallons of clean water down the toilet into the black tank after dumping and dumping again. No change. The sensor would read 1/3 or 2/3 and as soon as we started using the toilet the sensor would read Full. Sometimes each press of the test button with the empty tank would change from 2/3 to 1/3 and back again to 2/3. We knew the tank was empty but the sensor didn't. I pretty much gave up and at the end of the 2013 season, took the bottle of Calgon and the bottle of laundry detergent out of the Roadtrek and stored them away in the basement. Meryl does not use this type of laundry detergent in the washer at home and we don't need to use Calgon so they have been sitting there since last year.

Here is how I achieved the black tank sensor reading empty - and I hesitate to put this out in case it is a fluke and one time thing. And should it turn out to be that, I will come back to this article and let you know that it was a failed hope.  So, before our last trip I saw the bottle of Calgon in the basement and decided that since it was just sitting there, I would try an experiment. Since the trip before the tank sensor was now alternating reading Full or 2/3. It had never read full after dumping before.  I took the Calgon out to the Roadtrek and filled the entire bottle cap with liquid Calgon water softener. This is about three times what is recommended in the GEO method to do. I flushed it down the toilet into the black tank and followed it with a little water to get it out of the drain pipe and into the tank. There already was our usual one gallon of clean water added to the tank after dumping and the usual two ounces of the tank chemical treatment. That was it.

We went on our next trip a week later. When we dumped the black tank and the grey tank, I took the garden hose that we carry for the tank wand, connected it to the campsite water spigot, and added a shut off valve to the end of the hose. I shut the Roadtrek water pump off as I did not want that water going into the tank at the same time.  The hose was snaked into the Roadtrek through the driver's door to the toilet. Meryl turned on the spigot and I pointed the end of the hose into the toilet with my foot on the pedal to hold the flap open and I turned on the water - full force pointing down the drain pipe into the black tank. It took a little while for the tank to fill and for me to see the water coming up the pipe toward the bowl (using my flashlight and "no drop" lanyard). I turned the valve on the hose to off and called for Meryl to shut off the water. The hose and I then went back outside. We dumped the black tank again. The water that flowed was fairly clear.  I went inside and could not believe what I saw when I pushed the test button on the monitor. It read empty. It then went to 1/3 and I thought it was worth a try.

During that day we were traveling around the area before heading home that night and I checked the tank sensor again at the first stop. The black tank read EMPTY. And it has stayed that way to now (now being when this article was written which is not the day it is published). Was it the Calgon or the hose? Since I have done both before but never as much Calgon as this, I think it was a combination of too much Calgon - a full cap - and the heavy rinse with the hose to a full tank.

We have another trip coming up - again, before this article will appear - and I will repeat this. This next trip will be the last trip of the season before winterizing and I want that black tank empty for winterizing after this trip. If it works again, I will be back and share what happens in an addendum on this article. Stay tuned for the end of this cliffhanger.


A week before our next trip I went in and put another full cap of Calgon into the black tank. Before I did I noticed that the black tank monitor was no longer reading empty but now was at the 1/3 LED. When we started using the tank the first night of trip the monitor went quickly up to 2/3 and was at Full by the start of the next day. The tank was far, far from full. At the end of the the trip I flushed and emptied the tank and the monitor went no lower than 2/3. Back to the same old reading and it did not go down to 1/3 as it had been. When we winterized - and the tank was definitely empty - the tank was still at 2/3 and will likely stay there until the Spring. SO - it was nice while it lasted but perhaps this was a one time thing, not to be seen again. I did purchase another bottle of Calgon and it will be used through the new RVing season when it comes> We shall see if we ever get to see the monitor say the black tank is empty again. Until then don't jump to try this.   At least I can say now that I once saw the black tank monitor read empty.