Friday, October 28, 2011


Since we had not seen our daughter and grandchildren in western Pennsylvania for a while, we decided to go out there last weekend and see what they were up to. And let me tell you, there was plenty going on!

Susanne acted as fueling technician at our local Sheetz (earning a 3-cent per gallon discount using the Sheetz card!), and then we had an uneventful trip on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, stopping once for lunch and a second time for a dip of Hershey's finest ice cream for the little woman.

The welcome committee.
Upon arrival, we were greeted curbside by Cole, Chloe, and Sarah. Chloe had even made a welcome sign for us! After a couple of hours, we had dinner and then headed out into the boonies to watch Chloe take a riding lesson on a nice little horse. She's been doing this for a couple of weeks, having shown interest since helping her cousins with their horses when Cole was in the hospital earlier this year.

She looked pretty darn good, grooming the beast and then guiding him to the practice barn. She was sitting up nice and straight, guiding the horse right and left, around the track, through some paths laid out on the ground, and even getting him to trot a bit. It was a lot of fun to watch, and mercifully there was a propane heater to stand near, since it was chilly after dark.

Cole lets one fly.
On Saturday morning, it was Cole's turn to show off. He has been bowling for a season or so and seems to have fun with his little cronies. The poor guy was having a bad day, though. After a few not-so-hot throws, he declared, "I stink." The thing is, if you watch him, you see he can do what he should to knock down all the pins but was specializing that day in gutter balls instead. I think he was in a hurry to get back to his seat and goof around with the boys. Several of the boys are pretty good, but the two girls on the team "really stink."

The coach is the dad of Cole's best friend, Eddie. The whole family has become friends with Sarah's, so after the bowling, they all decided to go out for a bite to eat. We had lunch outdoors (it was pretty pleasant, actually) at Hank's, a famous local landmark featuring the odd combination of Mexican food and frozen custard.

Wild Bill wears the ribbons.
The next morning we got up nice and early and headed back to the horse stables to watch Chloe in a "show" of sorts. These are scheduled for students to get them used to riding in front of others. There was a short practice session, and then it was "let the games begin." Chloe went first and put "Wild Bill" through his paces. Two others girls around her age also rode. The older girls rode later.

Then the judges announced the first place winner: Chloe Darnley! She rode in to applause to collect her blue ribbon. Her nemesis Zoe came in second and followed her into the ring.

Next came another round of moves, for which Chloe collected the second place ribbon!

More moves around the track and a third place ribbon. Once the girls had reassembled, Chloe was awarded a "Reserve Champion" ribbon. That was sort of puzzling, but we just assumed it was like "first runner up" at the Miss American pageant. If the champion is unable to fulfill her duties, Chloe will be summoned forth to muck out the stall, or something like that.

Anyway, it was lots of fun, and both kids had a good time petting the horses and giving them treats.

Sarah and Chloe went to do a little shopping, and Susanne and I took Cole and Sarah's friend Brian, who had just mowed the lawn and trimmed, down the hill to the Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe, another popular eatery. Brian had chili dogs, Cole and I had cheeseburgers, and Susanne had something I cannot remember! We had just beat the crowd, as the after-church set filed in to get their fill of the famous fare.

We spent a leisurely afternoon reading the papers. I spotted a nice looking house for sale in Beaver, a beautiful town across the river from New Brighton, so I decided to go take a look at it. Who knows, we might want to buy it and move out there. It was a 1930s Tutor, quite impressive from the front, but needing some cosmetics inside. There was a small yard, most of which was consumed by a gross-looking above ground pool. And all this for only $400,000.

Street scene in Beaver.
I passed on that one and stopped nearby to see another. It was nice at first glance but would need lots of improvement. We'll skip that one, too. I did drive around through several neighborhoods and saw some very nice places, including a Hostess bakery outlet! Who wouldn't want to live near a building full of Twinkies?

Back at New Brighton, I found a birthday dinner waiting for me, including pasta alfredo and a wonderful pumpkin loaf with chocolate chips that I had unwittingly helped to bake the day before! Brian came back for a while in the evening, but we couldn't even talk him into a piece of cake.

Papi wearing the cake hat.
The next morning it was back to business as usual for the Darnleys. Everyone gets up early and gets ready to leave the house. It was anti-bullying week, so Cole and Chloe both wore red and black, the official colors. Once ready, out the door they went -- after hugs, of course. Susanne went back to the warmth of her bed while I camped out on the recliner for a while.

When we were ready to leave, we headed first to Beaver again (unfortunately in the opposite direction of my favorite donut shop) and stopped at Café Kolache  for coffee and a three-pound cinnamon bun for breakfast. We drove through town and continued on past the Beaver Valley Nuclear Generating Station at Shippingport, through a patch of Ohio, and crossed the river into West Virginia via one of those old metal "humming bridges."

We were in three states within 15 minutes or so.

At Newell, West Va., we visited the famous Homer Laughlin China Company, most noted for its restaurant ware and for the ever-popular colorful Fiesta ware made since 1936. It is celebrating its 75th year in 2011. We have a number of the vintage pieces at home.

Mountain of broken dishes.
As we drove in to the plant, we passed a huge pile of broken dishes like the giant slag heaps you find near a steel mill or coal mine. We visited the factory store, with lots of beautiful new stuff and a "second quality" room where each of the thousands of pieces in bins had a flaw of some sort, some tiny and others ghastly. Susanne bought an oval serving plate, I think. Next time we visit, I want to take the factory store and see how the stuff is made.

In the store we learned that the company owned a second pottery named Hall China Company, back in Ohio, on our way back to Beaver. So we stopped there and picked up a few things, as if we needed them. I was taken by a little black teapot, and for $2.00 I could not resist it!

Nuclear power plant at Shippingport.
Back past the power plant and its mammoth cooling towers, we stopped once again in Beaver for lunch at the Town Square Restaurant, a homey little place where the food was good and the prices reasonable.

Then we got serious about getting home and headed for the turnpike. We ran into rain on and off, making for a somewhat stressful drive, but we arrived home safely as darkness fell, happy to be back in Harrisburg with fond memories of our days with Sarah and the kids.

Soon we will head in the other direction to see Matt, Marylee, and our Baltimore cutie, Ian Benjamin!

Reminder: You may click on any photo in this blog to enlarge it.

 We left this giant bubble in the sink when we
set out for New Brighton. I wonder how long
it lasted.

 Chloe is doing well at reading.

 Cole is still into Legos.

 Enjoying a nice meal thanks to Sarah.

 On the way to the horse lesson, we dropped
off Cole at the home/cemetery of his best
friend Eddie. Don't worry, he got out alive!

 Before lessons, Chloe must groom the horse.

Removing horsey toe-jam!

Last minute adjustments from the trainer.

Moving along...

Cooling down at the end of the lesson.

Leading the beast back to the stable.

On Saturday, Cole and Eddie bowled at the nearby
town of Baden, Pa.

 Cole's up.

Boys in a row.

 The scoreboard tells it all.

Artsy view of the shoe.
An outdoor lunch at Hank's on the way home.

Phoebe the boy-cat won't come near me!

The program for Chloe's first-ever horse
show on a chilly Sunday morning.

Back in the saddle again. As you can see, Chloe has 
trained Wild Bill to pick up an orange cone with his mouth.

A champion in the making poses with her biggest fans.

 Ready for "anti-bullying" day.

 Red and black shows support.

After the kids left for school and Sarah for work, 
we headed out, too, and stopped at the Café Kolache
in Beaver for coffee and a roll.

A colorful display of Fiesta ware greets us at the
Homer Laughlin factory store in Newell, West Virginia.

 These items were in the "seconds" category.

 There were thousands of pieces with flaws,
but probably a small percentage of their total output.

 Need a bowl with a little errant speck on it?

 I wouldn't mind having one of these bins at home.

At East Liverpool, Ohio, we found the Hall China Company.

 The "Hall Closet," as the factory outlet is called,
was clean and bright and full of bargains.

 I liked these "donut" pitchers. The color, not so much.

We came across this roadside monument and marker on the border between Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The text: Near this site on Sept. 30, 1785, Thomas Hutchins, first Geographer of the United States, drove a stake: This was the "Point of Beginning" of the Geographer's Line for the survey of the first "Seven Ranges" of six-mile square townships in compliance with the Federal Land Ordinance of 1785. This survey served as a prototype for most of the western United States (except Texas) and many countries of the world.

Back on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we stopped at the
South Midway travel plaza for a drink. I've always admired this
"Colonial tavern," now modified, in one of the last of
the original turnpike restaurant buildings.

 As we approached home in the rain and coming darkness,
we enjoyed a glimpse of the beautiful sunset behind us.

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