Sunday, April 27, 2014

Racing Along Through Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut

Janna supporting the local economy in Intercourse, PA
After escaping from the grit of Philadelphia, we were delighted to descend into Lancaster County, PA., home to many Amish and Mennonite farmers and land of nitrate-free sausage, non-GMO corn and wheat products, and free tasting rooms for all sorts of preserved foods.  We loved the Amish horses, tried not to gawk at the beautiful buggies, and had a couple of great cultural immersion activities: one at a huge grocery store called Shady Maple Farm Market in East Earle, PA, and then at Zook’s Fabric Shop in Intercourse, PA. We felt warmly at home in rural Lancaster County and were momentarily tempted to settle in and buy the Quilt Museum and Country Store (which we never saw because the owner had passed away and the place was closed and on the market.)

Bikers and hikers share the Appalachian Trail at mid-point
Instead we went on to Gettysburg where we toured the battle site, museum and historic town. Here Captain George Pickett suffered his ignominious defeat, forever captured on a huge painting called a Cyclorama which covers the space of two football fields on a 360 degree wall space inside the Museum and Visitors Center. The painting was completed in 1883 by the French artist Paul Philippoteaux, then lost, nearly destroyed, found, restored and brought here in 2008. The story of the restoration of the painting is as interesting as the painting itself. Leaving Gettysburg, we found a lovely state park called Pine Grove Furnace which, we soon learned, is the half-way point for the Appalachian Trail. It was fun learning about the trail and talking to pilgrims who were making the 2,184 mile trip. Then we ventured north to Carlisle, where we wanted to learn more about the notorious Indian boarding school there, but found no museums or historical markers commemorating this important and tragic history.  On to Hershey where, in addition to tasting chocolate, we learned of the philanthropy of Milton S. Hershey and the still-thriving school and company town he created. We also went to Nazareth, PA and toured the Martin Guitar factory, a refreshingly different corporate model. 

Vassar quidditch team scrimmage
So much in such a short time.  Crossing from Pennsylvania into New York, we visited an art museum at Vassar College, then stopped to watch the quidditch team practice for a game (yes, muggles quidditch, as in Harry Potter.) Next was two days in Hyde Park touring the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt sites. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Museum and Library has just undergone a $53M renovation and has emerged as a five star attraction. We were reminded of what was accomplished during the New Deal including Social Security, the National Labor Relations Board, the Works Project Administration, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the National Recovery Administration and the Civil Conservation Corps. This extraordinary flurry of legislation pulled the United States out of the Great Depression and put millions of people back to work. Janna’s father was one of them, saved from hunger by joining the CCC’s , he was a great admirer of FDR, and we were happy to note that our visit to this museum coincided with what would have been his 99th birthday.

Liz visits with the Roosevelts at their home in Hyde Park
It took us two visits to get through the Hyde Park offerings, but that included a break for lunch at the Culinary Institute of America down the road, where we dined at the Catarina d’Medici Restaurant , and ate excellent Italian food served by students in an ongoing class. Then there was the information about Eleanor and the visit to Val-kill Cottage, her refuge and last home. Eleanor, of course, is much to be admired in her own right, especially for her progressive stands on integration and civil rights. Then after FDR’s death, she lived into old age writing a newspaper column and many books, and serving as a delegate to the United Nations where she chaired the committee that wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At her Val-Kill home she entertained many famous people including John F. Kennedy who came there to gain her support for his presidential campaign.

Janna got to celebrate her birthday this week in our favorite kind of campground: a free one. We were delighted when we crossed the border to discover Connecticut is one of the few states that allow overnight RV parking at rest stops. We happily queued up with the north-bound snow birds (returning from Florida) and climbed into bed. After breakfast and birthday presents in the rest stop, we headed to the coast for a lobster roll lunch, then spent a rainy afternoon and night at the Indian-owned Mohegan Sun Casino, the largest gaming facility in North America and a very interesting and impressive place. We are not big on gambling and shopping, and the local museum was closed, but we were delighted to learn a bit of history from the shuttle bus driver who,with only a little prodding, turned out to be a wealth of information about the Mohegans and the area in general. 

We find ourselves wanting to slow down a bit: tour less, read more, but we do have a date for another birthday-related treat in Boston in a few days. Stay tuned.


  1. Now I *must* go to Zook's Fabric Shop.

    Three cheers for the New Deal! And speaking of Eleanor....A few years ago I did Fulbright-supported research on the writing of the Universal Declaration, and wound up reading a lot about her. There were 4 key drafters, and she was not only one of them, but was a continually effective diplomatic conciliator and forward-mover with regard to the other three main drafters, and to the relations between the four of them and the larger committee in charge of creating the UDHR. An amazing person in lots and lots of ways.

    Happy Birthday Janna!

    1. Hey Chip,
      A belated thanks for the birthday wish! I forget to look at these comments but today we have good internet here in Blacks Harbour New Brunswick, so I'm getting caught up. I've been reading a fabulous biography of Eleanor by Blanche Wiesen Cook. I have loved all 480 pages that I have read so far - only 20 to go to finish the book. This is volume 1 and it ends in 1933 so haven't read about the UN work yet. It was a bd present from Liz and a few weeks later I happened on to volume 2 in a used book store so I can't wait to read more about her..However I never have enough time for reading and both Sonja Sotomayor and Elizabeth Warren - also bd presents...are waiting for me and i might have to put them first. So many choices. Such a good life. thanks for responding to the blog. It's so nice to get feedback. Warmest regards, Janna