Saturday, May 28, 2011


Deb, John, Kathie, Louise
Today the Box carried me all the way to Gaithersburg, Maryland, to attend a meeting of the coordinators of the Washington, D.C. region of LEC, the French student homestay program. We are all in the midst of rustling up host families for French teens (how many may I put you down for?) coming to D.C., south central Pennsylvania, and northern Virginia, all places our coordinators live. LEC operates in a number of eastern and mid-western parts of the country, as well as in European countries.

Over lunch, we compared notes on our efforts to recruit families and swapped stories on past years' activities. General coordinator and new grandma Louise L. gave us a pep talk, and we exchanged ideas for publicizing our program.

It was a long, high-speed drive to the restaurant where we met, so afterwards I decided to make the trip home a little more leisurely.

When I approached Thurmont, Md., I veered off the highway onto Catoctin Furnace Road, which passes the famous colonial-era iron furnace. The state has rebuilt the stack where the iron melted and the cast house where the iron flowed into molds, or "pigs." I didn't take the time this trip, but you can climb the hill to see the impressive ruins of the Ironmaster's Mansion. I recall the last time I went to see it, a snake stuck his head out of the rocks and gave me the evil eye.

In a mile or two I was back on U.S. 15 and headed north toward Emmitsburg. Before I got there, I decided to stop at the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, a re-creation of the grotto in Lourdes, France, where the Virgin Mary was said to appear to a young girl named Bernadette, after which miraculous cures were reported. Pilgrims still go to Lourdes in hopes of being healed.

The road to the grotto site is wooded and there are many flowering shrubs, which may or may not be Mountain Laurel. There were many pilgrims today, most of them Asian, interestingly. I took some pictures of the statue of Mary atop a very high stone tower, which is always visible from the highway. There is a path up the hill to the grotto, but I did not have the time to walk up there today. Susanne and I had gone up there once many, many years ago.

Seminary building at Mt. St. Mary's
Winding my way back down the hill, I took a small road parallel to U.S. 15 for a short distance and ended up on the main campus of Mt. St. Mary's University. There are some beautiful historic buildings and some cool new dormitories. For a while I was convinced that the rapture predicted last weekend had taken place and that I had been left behind. There was not a  living soul on the campus. Now, surely not every student goes home for the weekend! It was sorta weird. Perhaps they sensed the presence of a Protestant and took shelter. That might also explain the presence of a cannon on the grounds, aimed at approaching Presbyterians.

I got back on the highway and headed north again. Soon I was approaching Emmitsburg. I turned left, passing the National Fire Academy campus and the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint. My target was the Emmitsburg Antiques Mall, where I spent an hour browsing through many booths filled with all sorts of interesting things. A few caught my eye and are shown in the photos below. One item was rather bizarre -- a back-lighted picture of horses with movement and sound. You can see it here. C'mon, you know you want one of these!
Fill 'er up!

I ended up with a 19th century (1850-1880) ceramic ginger beer bottle, which I like (we have another similar one) but which I bought because it was such a bargain!

Back on the road, the trip went quickly with just a short stop in Dillsburg to gas up. I wanted to do that in Pennsylvania so that PennDOT, not Maryland DOT, would get its share of all the taxes on the sale of gasoline.

The rest of the trip was as uneventful as possible, considering the magic of riding in a Box!

Some things I saw along the way ~

 The statue  at the Lourdes grotto can be seen for miles.

 Cooling shade on the way up the hill.

I didn't get close enough to see if this was Mountain Laurel.

 A pretty stone chapel in the cemetery.
Here's the big gun that wards off intruders.

The main administration building.
Another historic building.
A modern dormitory.

 The charming main street of Emmitsburg.

A 19th century coverlet at
the antiques market.

A "redware" trade sign -- now where could
I put that? Hmmm...
A red barn in the Gettysburg area.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Susanne and I have decided to plan one activity each week to widen our horizons, as they say. Today we took a first step toward that by driving north in our own county to places we have never seen before.

Dauphin County was created in 1785 out of Lancaster County. Today 256,000 people live here, most of them, I would imagine, in the region around Harrisburg. What we saw today was a beautiful area of mountains and rolling hills, dotted with farms, and some small towns. Everything seemed to be going at a leisurely pace. We very much enjoyed the vistas from the roads across the fields with the mountains in the distance.

The Box, all gassed up and ready to get underway, sat idly as we waited for Susanne to emerge from the house, toting all sorts of stuff, mysterious things that women need, like shopping bags, hand cream, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, bottled water, and cell phone. Finally, we got started and headed out to I-81, then north on US 322 (well, west, actually), then onto Pa. 225 north of Dauphin Borough. Now we were in the country!

Peter Allen House.
The scenery changed, with fewer and fewer dwellings and businesses. We passed the famous Peter Allen House (1726) as we climbed Peter's Mountain. It's the oldest house in Dauphin County and now a venue for weddings and other events.

Soon we reached the summit of the mountain, with a spectacular view of the valley below tempered by the care one must exercise to negotiate a dangerous curve to the left, followed by a rapid descent toward the town of Matamoras. The name came from a Mexican town along the Rio Grande River. It was here in May of 1846 during the Mexican War that Gen. Zachary Taylor was victorious in taking the town Matamoras, Mexico. This battle gained the attention of the whole country, so this little settlement without a name decided upon it for its name.

We continued on to Halifax, where the road curved eastward toward Elizabethville (1817), Berrysburg (population 354) and Gratz (1815). Near Elizabethville, we searched in vain for a plaque memorializing the ancestral home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. At Berrysburg, we were enchanted with the Victorian mansions in varying states of repair on the town square. There we turned right onto Pa. 25.

Soon we came to the Gratz Farmers Market and Auction, which we had read about in the local paper's review of area farmer's markets. It operates only on Fridays, so the place was packed. We found a parking spot and mosied inside, where we were greeted by stands selling meat, vegetables, fruits, baked goods, and lots of other "stuff." You'll see some of it below.

We walked the whole way around the market and Susanne finally chose the vegetable stand that would get her business. She made her purchases, filling her recycled bags with goodies. We also bought some baked goods, including something called "Dutch cake" from a plain woman. She also had a case full of donuts, bear claws, éclairs, "stickie buns" ("shtiggy bunce" as they said in Kutztown when I was in school), and shoofly pies.

We carried our purchases to the Box, leaving us free to stuff our faces with a hot sausage sandwich, some French fries (from the vendor we see at the Farm Show farmers' market) and a diet soda. We stood at the counter,eating and watching a woman heating the sausage, hot dogs, and hamburgers, and then dropping them into buns presented by the waiters.

Two boxes, one with a horse
Before leaving the market, Susanne bought some herbs and spices from an Amish girl, who just happened to be selling whoopie pies, too! I know -- what are the chances of an Amish girl selling whoopie pies? After eying the choices,  I asked her to add one -- just one -- to our bill, which she gladly did. I slipped it into the slot on the driver's side door for later consumption.

Now we headed further east on Rt. 25 to the town of Gratz. What a pleasant surprise! I guess I was imagining it to be like some of the gritty and depressed coal towns further to the east. Instead, it was a pleasant country town, lined with mostly frame houses, close to the street. There was a median of grass separating the two lanes of traffic, and trees lined the streets.

We pulled over in front of the Gratz Historical Society, and I climbed out to look in the display windows of the headquarters, which includes an 1889 house and store. They have items from 1850-1960 and some outbuildings housing other exhibits. I hope to go back up there some Wednesday, the only day they are open for visitors.

Who says a fancy showroom is required?
Just off the main street, we stopped to photograph an old church and a gravestone dealership that proves that 'presentation' is not always necessary, then headed homeward, stopping to take some pictures in Berrysburg and at another church and cemetery nearby.

As we exited the cemetery, a man jumped from his car and hailed us, asking if we knew who was in charge of placing flags on the graves. I told him we were just driving by, but he regaled us with the story of his frustration getting a flag placed for his brother or uncle, I forget which.

The church, by the way, had a sort of "fantasy" setting on a small rise at the head of a long tree-lined lane. On the right was a beautifully cared-for picnic pavilion, and on the left the parsonage. The cemetery surrounded the church on three sides, and from the church one could see quite a distance across the fields. It was like something right out of the past. As we surveyed the horizon, a horse-drawn Amish buggy passed before our eyes, providing a nice picture.

Entrance to the 1922 Sycamore Allée.
Finally reaching Halifax again, we turned right on Pa. 147, an alternate route to crossing over Peter's Mountain again. In a moment or two we entered the famous Sycamore Allée, planted in the early 1920s as a living memorial to the World War I veterans. These trees are now on the National Register of Historic Places. We continued our drive through this tree-shaded stretch of road, descending gradually to the Susquehanna Rover, where we merged on US 322 east toward Harrisburg.

We stopped in a perilous place along the river, and as cars and trucks roared by, we took some pictures of the region's own Statue of Liberty, a 25 foot tall replica sitting on the ruins of the late Marysville bridge platform (or pier) in the Dauphin Narrows of the river. The replica was built by a local activist Gene Stilp on July 2, 1986; it was made of venetian blinds and stood 18 feet tall. Six years later, after it was destroyed in a windstorm, it was rebuilt of wood, metal, glass and fiberglass by Stilp and other local citizens.

And so ended our first planned foray into regions unknown to us. There is so much to see close to home, nice people to meet, good food to eat! I can't wait to see where we'll end up next week! If you know of somewhere special, let us know!

You can click on any photo to enlarge it! 

 The first thing we noticed at the Gratz farmers market
was the fashion sense of the market goers.

 The tomatoes were red and ripe!

Top: Powdered donuts
l to r: Bear claw, shoofly, sticky buns, Dutch cake

Exquisite crafts were offered.

A basket o'kittens.

The honey and broom shop. We forgot to buy a broom!

Outside a plain lady was selling petunias...

....and coleus.

The obligatory whoopie pie photo.

For the beanie baby collectors among us.

Can you smell this from where you are?

 The Box, an Amish box, and
a whoopie pie. An incredible

Across the street from the market, an Amish
farm wife dries the laundry on a washline.

A few miles past the market, we found the town of
Gratz and its historical society.  Enlarge for details.

A house and storefront in Gratz.

A brick house in Gratz. Most were wooden.

A Victorian beauty -- just add paint.

The Lutheran Church in Gratz.

More Victorian houses, clustered in Berrysburg.
Enlarge for detail.

This must be how they fly
their flags in Berrysburg.

St. John Lutheran Church outside Berrysburg.
Enlarge for detail.

 A farm seen from the church cemetery.

Our Amish neighbors.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Yesterday was Susanne's birthday, so we did some extra special things, depending on the Box to get us where we wanted to go.

Susanne was chilling in the living room when I lied and said I was going to the church but headed instead to a jewelry store on the West Shore. There I looked through little bins of glass beads ready to be strung onto a silver bracelet she already has. In fact, I lifted the bracelet from her jewelry box and took it along so I didn't buy a bead she already had. I picked a bead from among the large selection, thinking that I should have invented this little bauble  and marketed it to women at what Mr. Cheap (myself) considers to be an outrageous price! Still, it means I don't have to come up each year with something new! By the time Susanne is 85, the bracelet will have to turn into a necklace.

A ride through Linglestown.
Now it was time to get home and get the celebration on the road. We checked out the progress on the construction of the round-about in the square at Linglestown as we drove west on Rt. 39 toward Colonial Road. Throughout the ride, Susanne was guessing where we were headed. As we passed our old house on the left (the sad looking green house at the start of the video), she exclaimed, "Lio's!" ahead on the right. Wrong! We passed a restaurant in the old Church of God, then a Dunkin Donuts, where Susanne loves the blueberry coffee, and finally turned up the hill to Mt. Hill Tavern.

Mt. Hill Tavern.
The most excellent celebration of Susanne's natal day began with lunch at the Mt. Hill Tavern. The tavern is housed in a modern building appended to a 1798 stone house just off Linglestown Road on Colonial Road. It's been a restaurant for a couple of years now and seemed like a nice place to celebrate. I invited two of Susanne's teacher friends. Only one -- Debbie -- could join us, but we had a wonderful time enjoying lunch and dessert and talking about all sorts of things.

Bring on the tractors!
After we left Mt. Hill, we headed for home so Susanne could change from her birthday suit, er outfit, into something more casual. Soon we took off for the next stop, a place Susanne has wanted to visit for years, Tractor Supply Company on Jonestown Road. It's full of stuff needed by gardeners and farmers, including special clothing for them. We checked out all the bug repellants, watering cans, $50 garden hoses, plastic hawks to scare off smaller birds, rat traps, toys, and clothing.

Not content with what they had to offer, we continued down Jonestown Road to Rt. 39 and headed south to the Agway store. There, Susanne's attention was captured by the paraphernalia needed to can dill pickles! We met a very nice and very fat kitty lying on a bag of dog food. Mr. Cat enjoyed some scratches behind the ears and then went back to sleep.

Pickle, anyone?
We took the scenic route home and cruised through a neighborhood called Sagewicke, which is a very beautiful development ("plan" for our Pittsburgh-area readers) perhaps ten years old. Classic traditional houses and beautiful landscaping make it a desirable place to live. Some one-story "villas" were especially attractive to our creaky old bones. There was only one house for sale, and after checking it out on the Internet, we'll have to leave lovely Sagewicke to the nouveaux riches. After all, we already live in lovely Englewood Heights, la dee dah.

Click on any photo to enlarge it.
 The birthday girl.

 Debbie and Susanne.

 Susanne and I and the ceiling.

 The dining room at Mt. Hill Tavern.

 The Kobe burger for me!

 Soup and sandwich for Debbie.

 Panini for Susanne, after a bowl of soup.

 Chocolate lava cake for John. (Don't tell my doctor.)

 Chocolate ice cream for Debbie.

 Susanne's favorite, crème brulée.
 Leaving the Tavern. The original house is to the right.

 At Tractor Supply, something we all need.
(Enlarge to read the label.)

 Jewelry for our cows!

 Toys for French kids?

 Colorful boots and jackets.

 "Where's my horse, cowboy?"

 I have been searching for this for years!

 Get your pork femurs here!

 Here, kitty, kitty.

 The cool one story villas at Sagewicke.


 My favorite single house at Sagewicke.
Of course, Susanne does not care for it.