Day 16: Exploring the Amish Countryside

A covered bridge in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Photo: Jenny Williams

I still didn’t set an alarm today, but I made sure we were mobilized at a reasonable hour. I knew we had to go back to the Visitor’s Center in Gettysburg, which was in the opposite direction that we were headed today to get to the Lancaster area. I’m glad we made the time to retrace those steps, though. Even though the kids only got five points’ worth of activities done in their Junior Ranger book, that qualified them to be Foot Soldiers, and they got certificates and Junior Ranger patches. We’ll be doing the Junior Ranger program again when we stop at the Manassas Battlefield in a few days, so then they’ll have two patches.

Our posh room at The Inn at Leola Village. Photo: Jenny Williams

We then headed toward Lancaster. Today’s route, blissfully, only had one road change. On previous days, especially when we’ve driven on back roads, there have been so many turns to make that it has gotten very confusing. I only have my 10 year old daughter to navigate me, and reading maps very quickly on the fly isn’t her strong suit. I’m usually the navigator when we’re driving in unfamiliar places, and I’m very comfortable doing it. But doing it while driving isn’t easy. If only I had gotten the 3G iPad. Sigh.

Somewhere to the west of Lancaster, we crossed what ended up being the Susquehanna River. We crossed at a particularly wide point, but it was a very impressive river. I swear it was a mile across. Or more. I couldn’t look too closely at the view, though, because the whole bridge was under construction, and I was driving on a strip of road that looked like a narrow Tron light cycle route. But the kids could see just fine.

The base of a lamp in our room at the Inn. I want this lamp. Photo: Jenny Williams

Though our Inn (more on that later) is all the way out in Leola, Pennsylvania, we stopped first in Lancaster to visit the Lancaster County Historical Society. See, the branch of my family that my Civil War ancestor was a part of lived in this area. And when I looked into more information on the Samples and the Moshers a few months ago (and today I learned that Mosher might have been pronounced mow-zher and not mosh-er), I found an old issue of the Historical Society journal that was devoted to Jeremiah Mosher, who was Jeremiah Mosher Sample’s grandfather, and who fought in the Revolutionary War. He was a Brigadier General, in fact. The journal wasn’t available online, however. It was only available at the Lancaster County Historical Society. So when I decided to visit this area of the state on our trip, I knew I had to stop in and see about getting copies made. We stopped there today, but better getting copies of the journal pages, they still had plenty of original copies available (it’s from 1910), and for the price of going into the library and photocopying one, I could just buy one of the originals. So now it is in my possession! I haven’t read it yet, but I suspect that it is full of interesting information about his military career, and I’m hoping more about his parentage and background.

The countryside in Lancaster County. Photo: Jenny Williams

The lady at the Historical Society talked us into going next door and watching a 10 minute video about James Buchanan, who apparently was the only president from Pennsylvania. Doesn’t sound like he did much as a president other than to hold the country together until Lincoln got elected, but at least that’s something!

We then headed toward Leola and our Inn, but couldn’t check in until 3pm, so we dawdled, trying to use up time. We stopped at Dunkin Donuts, which had free wifi. Finally it was time to show up at the Inn. We’re staying at The Inn at Leola Village, which is one of the Historic Hotels of America (which I didn’t know beforehand). For those in Prescott, the Hassayampa Inn is also in the Historic Hotels of America guide. Apparently this place used to be a tobacco plantation or something, but it’s just a really classy place. And it has a fridge, a microwave, and an included breakfast. Usually the more expensive places don’t have any extra amenities, but this place has it all. And for only a bit more than our usual hotel rate. I’m glad we’re staying here for two nights, so we can enjoy it for a while. There are too few horizontal surfaces, however, so the kids are having trouble playing their games and drawing their pictures. But we’re making do.

Another covered bridge. Photo: Jenny Williams

After getting settled here, it was still early enough that I wanted to do a bit of something before we locked ourselves in for the night. So I found some covered bridges in the opposite direction of where we will go tomorrow, and we headed out. Navigating while driving is quite tricky, especially when there are roads in real life that aren’t on the map, and some of the roads are so tiny that I missed them completely. But we managed to make it to two out of the three covered bridges that I wanted to visit. See, the photos are proof! Both of the bridges had a 3 ton limit. I have no idea what my rental car weighs, but I guessed that it was less than 3 tons, so we chanced it and drove across. I cringed and kept waiting to fall into the river below, but no, we made it both times.

More countryside. Photo: Jenny Williams

During our drive out and about, we saw many farms, mostly growing corn, some of which already had the little tassels on the top. Other corn plants were much shorter than I would expect, though, so I wondered if they planted them late, or grew a second crop or something. Our first Amish sighting was a girl on a scooter, wending her way up a hill. Next, I saw a small-ish piece of John Deere farming equipment that was outfitted to be pulled by horses. Later on, we saw three different Amish buggies pulled by horses. In each one, there was a person or two. Despite the age differences of the drivers, they were all hunched over, making the men look older and the buggies look much smaller inside than they really seemed to be.

Driving around, the back roads were very narrow, curvy, and not well engineered. But since they weren’t really intended for the likes of me driving around them gawking at the beautiful-ness of it all, it’s completely understandable.

Tomorrow we delve a bit deeper into the Amish country, including an “authentic” Amish meal. Can’t wait for the brown buttered noodles!

Drove: About 80 miles.

States: Pennsylvania.

Weather: Humid, hot in the sun, cooler in the shade.

Kids: A little more complain-y, more like normal at home. But they are still being pretty patient for seeing what I want to see and want them to see. The girl is appreciating it all, and the boy just remembers the food.

Best Parts of the Day: Getting my (great x 5) grandfather’s journal at the Historical Society, seeing some Amish in real life for the first time in at least 20 years.

Worst Part of the Day: Driving.

What I’ve Learned on the Trip: While the sights we see are really great, the people we’ve visited are the really special parts of this trip (I’m looking at you, all the Johns and Jonathans, along with everyone we saw at the wedding). I’m glad we have a mixture of people and sights. Also, it must take a heck of a lot longer than 16 days for the kids and I to get sick of each other, or for the kids to get sick of one another. We’re all doing just fine. This isn’t really surprising, though, since we spend this much time together at home, too.

Funny of the Day: “Sorry, I can’t speak cursive,” said by the boy after the girl corrected him when he called York Peppermint Patties, “Yolk”. This is now added to his unique approach to pronouncing candy names. (The others are Milk Dudes, Twinkles, Health Bars, and Whoopers.)

Total GeekDads Visited: 5.

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About Jenny Bristol

Jenny Bristol is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, playing board games, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.
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One Response to Day 16: Exploring the Amish Countryside

  1. The best pastries EVER are from a bakery in Leola: Achenbach’s (although I think I butchered the spelling).

    And oh yeah, as they say about the Susquehenna: “A mile wide and a foot deep!”

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