…Pennsylvania. Yes, there really is a Paradise… and Blue Ball… and Intercourse, Pennsylvania. For that matter, there is also a Bird-in-Hand, PA

As we sat on the Strasburg Railroad vintage train, Bruce asked to see my ticket. He held it up with his and started singing, “Two Tickets to Paradise” by Eddie Money. Classic Bruce humor; ya gotta love it.






Today was dedicated to exploring the Amish farm country, and we got a good taste of it as we made the short trip to Strasburg to board the train. During our three-mile drive to the station, we saw nine horse and buggies on the road with their Amish drivers.

Vintage train rides are always a kick, and we enjoyed the 45-minute ride that passed by several Amish Farms including Henry and Emma’s, the couple we had met on Thursday evening during our Amish Experience Tour.


Henry & Emma Fisher’s Farm




Following our ride, we gave Trudy (our GPS) the day off and put Bruce in charge of navigation, instead. With a Lancaster map in hand, he led me and Scarlet (our car) along back country roads off the beaten path. Much of the time it was just us and a few Amish in their buggies trotting along the roadside.


One of the stops we made was at the Lil’ Country Store & Miniature Horse Farm where we could walk through the stable to see the cutest horses I had ever seen. One of the babies was just six weeks old, and it was adorable and VERY soft!




They also had cute baby goats. Awww!


This was also a great opportunity to see Amish furniture and the workshop where the family made it. Everything was open to observe, so it was fun to poke around for awhile. Being off the beaten path, it wasn’t a tourist trap at all, and it was nice to spend some relaxing time just enjoying and taking it all in.

The family also made their own cheese, lemonade, and root beer to sell out of their little shed. The root beer was sold in gallon jugs or smaller bottles labeled with their family name. We shared a small bottle while sitting in Adirondack chairs under a tree, and it was the best root beer I had ever tasted!

Off we went to do some more exploring along the farm roads, pulling off when something caught my eye to photograph.


These little pigs stopped us in our tracks. What a hoot! We pulled off the road, and stepped up to the fence to watch these little guys. Boy, they were skittish. Every time I would lift my camera to take a picture– no matter how slowly– they would scamper away. I finally had to just keep my camera up, so I could get a photograph. If I didn’t move, they would come right up to the fence to check us out.



Their moms and dads, meanwhile, we’re total slugs. They laid in the mud looking like lumps of mud or large boulders, and even the one right by the fence didn’t bat an eye. Chaos ensued all around, but she didn’t want any part those little piggies running back and forth making a racket.


We also came across a small farmer’s market in one community, so we picked up a whoopie pie to share for dessert. It’s another one of those Amish traditions we had never tasted, so we thought we would see what this six-inch round chocolate cake sandwich with a whipped cream center tastes like.

What a fun day exploring the back country roads of Lancaster County with no cars or other tourists around; a joyful feeling that came abruptly to an end when we returned to Lincoln Highway East (30) to make our way back to our motel. It was bumper-to-bumper with tourist traffic beating down the touristy beaten path. I am so glad we had given the highway a miss on this Saturday afternoon.





When Bruce and I travel we enjoy seeing how the locals live, where they shop, and what they do during their leisure time. It’s that “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” thing that can give you a feel for the place and its people.

On Fridays, the locals head to the Green Dragon Market in Ephrata to shop for just about anything and everything you would need (or don’t need, for that matter). It’s a swap meet and farmer’s market all mixed together in a huge outdoor area and a couple of (non-airconditioned) buildings.

Amish and “English” alike sell their wares and shop there, and it’s a great place to people watch and eat the local foods.

There is even a special parking place just for the Amish:


Prices at this market were fantastic. Gorgeous hanging baskets of flowers were only $10, a bargain!


How about an entire shoo-fly pie for $3? This molasses pie is an Amish tradition. It gets its name because the sweet molasses odor attracts flies that must be “shooed” away.


Not wanting to indulge in an entire pie, we later bought ourselves a piece to share. It was good, but I’ll stick with my chocolate, thank you very much.

These pretzels were being handmade at a table directly behind this glass case:


Need some dog bones? How about some medium knuckles? YUM!


Next up on our market run was Central Market in downtown Lancaster. A Lancaster tradition since the late 1700’s, the building was beautiful brick, and its interior housed stalls with all sorts of foods. Prices were much higher, though, not the bargains that we saw at Green Dragon Market. That huge shoo-fly pie for $3 shrunk down to just six inches.



The Landcaster Visitor Center was located near Central Market.  This building also dates back to the late 1700’s.


This dapper fellow was reading the newspaper in front of the Press Building on King Street.  We were amazed at the incredible artistry in the detail, all the way down to his wing-tip shoes.


Here’s some interesting trivia about Lancaster: Did you know it was the capitol of the United States for one day? Yep! On September 27, 1777, Lancaster was our capitol. On each September 27 now, the city officials commemorate the day with a 15-minute ceremony.

Our final stop on the market run was… COSTCO! Well, shoot, why the heck not? I was due for a nice fresh salad after making a breakfast (and lunch) of Amish bakery, and we like to check out the Costco in other places if it’s convenient.

This Costco was very different, though. Does your Costco have one of these in the parking lot?


Yes, the Amish do shop at Costco, too!


(Written last night)

It has been such a full day, it’s hard to believe it was actually this morning when I started the day with a swim (my third day in a row!) at the motel pool in Hershey. We experienced so much today, I had to stop and think for a moment where the day began.

Our day continued in Lititz, a town designated by Budget Travel Magazine as one of 2013’s Top Ten Coolest Small Towns in America. Honestly, our initial reason for stopping in Lititz on the way to Lancaster was to tour the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, and visit the Wilbur Chocolates Factory and Museum. When we arrived, though, it was love at first sight. What a charming historic town it turned out to be! The stone buildings I photographed dated back to the 1700’s, and we soon realized why Budget Travel Magazine selected Lititz for their list.










Original pretzel oven

Bruce and I had never toured a pretzel bakery before, so we enjoyed seeing the old brick ovens where Julius Sturgis first made his pretzels back in 1861. Those were soft pretzels at first, but an “Oops!” turned into a great discovery, and the hard pretzel was born. We enjoyed both versions; the soft pretzel at the factory and these “Horse and Buggy” pretzels later this afternoon. (Note the cover model of this magazine. The Amish don’t like to have their faces photographed; however, this one is smiling directly at the camera. Is this gal really Amish?)


At Wilbur Chocolates, a chocolate company dating back to the late 1800’s before Hershey Chocolates were around, we discovered they were the first to make what Hershey Chocolates calls “Kisses”. Wilbur’s “Buds” were produced in 1894, thirteen years before “Kisses” were created. Hmmm…

Although the museum at the Wilbur Chocolate Factory is small, they had quite a collection of antique chocolate molds, chocolate-making equipment, cocoa tins and other items that I found quite interesting.



Our day continued by making our way south to Lancaster and getting checked into our motel before heading out for our three-hour evening “Amish Experience VIP Tour” that began at 5 PM.

As with almost everything else we have done on this road trip, this was a highly rated Trip Advisor find that turned out to be a fantastic experience.

For starters, we liked the fact that groups were limited to 14 people, and the shuttle bus was very comfortable. It was a very hot day, so the airconditioning was a welcome reprieve in between stops.

Joe was also an excellent tour guide who was quite knowledgeable about the Amish and did a great job answering our questions. Although, what we discovered while listening to his answers was that the Amish traditions and way of life are as clear as… MUD. Black and white they are not, rather, shades of gray would be the best way to describe their beliefs.

Take the use of electricity, for example. Like many people, Bruce and I had the misconception that the Amish do not use electricity at all. That is what we had heard and learned in the past; however, they just don’t use electricity off the grid. Instead, they will create electricity using a diesel-powered generator which must be housed in its own building according to Amish beliefs. The electricity is then used for air compression and machines to milk the cows.

In the home, batteries are used to provide electricity, and they even now use solar energy.

Another dispelled misconception was the use of telephones. The Amish do have phones; however, they are kept outside of the home in little huts or “shanties”. Although most don’t use cell phones, some do; however, they are simple stripped-down basic models.

The Amish are not allowed to own or operate cars; however, they are permitted to ride in cars, buses, and trains. They also forbid the use of inflated tires for their wheels, so bicycles are a no-no, but self-powered scooters are ok.

Are you confused yet? I was, and the best way I could describe their rules is “squishy”. “Gray” or “squishy”, it had me stumped.

Their philosophy and way of life boils down to this: Convenience and mobility is for the “English” (non-Amish) and not for the “Plain” (Amish). The idea is they value keeping the family unit close to home. Cars are too easy to hop in and go wherever you like, such as the road trip we are on that is taking us throughout many states. Riding on a bus or train takes much more effort, though, so the Amish think twice about making that effort. Bicycles, too, are much easier and convenient than scooters that are much more difficult to ride over long distances.

Telephones are kept outside the home so as not to create an intrusion or disturbance. (Oh, how I wish the “English” felt that way about cell phones!)
The basic philosophy we understood; however, the way it is interpreted by each Amish group (and their elder who enforces the rules) is a puzzle that nobody outside of their community has solved. It really depends on who the enforcing elder is and their interpretation of what’s convenient and what is not.

Traveling in a horse and buggy is definitely NOT convenient. It takes about 1-1/2 hours to travel 18 miles. (And, speaking of buggies, they aren’t inexpensive either. They cost $9-10,000 depending on the included features.)

Back to our tour, Joe took us to meet three Amish families on their separate farms. Levi and Fannie Fisher had a dairy farm with 40 cows they milk by machine yielding them 8 gallons each day from each cow. Hold on, make that 41 cows. This little cutie was just born yesterday!




Now, those 40 cows eat A LOT of food each day, so they also raise alfalfa and corn to feed them. Since modern machinery isn’t permitted, the horse power used in the fields are– horses (and mules).




Levi and Fannie work hard tending to their farm, as do their eight children. Like other Amish families, they raise their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs. All of their clothing is handmade and washed by hand as well.

Since convenience has been (mostly) taken out of the equation, it’s a very long day for them to get all of the tasks accomplished. Their day begins at 4:30 or 5:00 AM milking the cows (they have to be milked twice each day), and it doesn’t end until sundown. Even then, there are times they have to work the fields into the night.

Strong work ethic? Yes, definitely, and the reason why Amish families are so large. Children are needed to get the work done, which is also the reason why their education typically ends after the 8th grade is completed.

The Amish don’t attend “English” schools either. They are taught in one-room schools by their Amish teachers, and children of all ages learn in the same classroom.

Since two different German dialects are spoken exclusively in the home, young children don’t speak any English until they go to school at the age of 5, and learn English in the classroom. By the time they have completed their education, though, they are trilingual, speaking the two dialects of German as well as English.

Have you ever wondered like I have about their clothing and beards? The Amish are still wearing the style of clothing that was worn when they first formed as a group back in the 1600’s in Switzerland when they split from the Menonites. Men don’t grow beards until they are married, and the women start wearing white “prayer caps” when they are 15 or 16 years of age.

Zippers are not permitted to be used in their clothing; however buttons (and sometimes snaps) are. Clothing must be plain and subdued, and women must wear dresses. The men have buttoned flaps in the front of their pants.

You might think with all of these strict rules and the hard life they lead in our modern society that the Amish will soon be a thing of the past. At this point, there are only about 300,000 Amish in 32 states and Canada; however, their numbers are actually remaining strong due to the 85-90% rate at which adult Amish men are choosing to join the church rather than leave the Amish way of life. (By the way, the Amish are NOT shunned if they leave their community and decide at a later date to return. According to Henry and Emma Fisher, the third family we visited, they are warmly welcomed back.)

Much was learned about the Amish when we visited with Levi and his family, and then later in our tour when we visited with his parents.

Before we met Henry and Emma, we visited another family who had a nursery. It was a beautiful setting, and we enjoyed getting to know the family and their business as well as watching their children play and visiting their animals.






The evening concluded at Henry and Emma’s farm, where we were taken for a tour of their home and gardens before sitting outside in a conversation circle to ask questions and hear about their way of life.







While we were there, it was a whirlwind of animal activity. Their son was tending to the horse and buggy when another family came to visit in their horse and buggy. Between the dogs they brought with them and the dogs the Fishers had as pets, it was a humorous three-ring circus when something would excite one of the dogs, and they would all chase along with him barking the entire way.

Meanwhile, Tina, their beautiful husky wanted no part of it preferring instead to hang out with us and get petted. Their cat seemed to feel the same way.

Henry and Emma were just as curious about us as we were about them. Henry wanted to know what we each did for work, and they asked us plenty of questions, too. They host a tour once each week for extra income, and they seemed to enjoy it as much as we did! It was a wonderful way to end an interesting and fascinating day!


Yesterday, the temperature was 86 degrees, we were wearing shorts, and sipping on cold water to stay cool. Today, it was rainy and a cold 46 degrees when we started out towards Vermont.

Although it was a dreary day, the drive east was beautiful. We passed through small villages and towns on back country roads, enjoying the lush scenery. At various times along the way, we also passed three Amish families in their buggies being pulled along the shoulder of the road the old-fashioned way: by horse.


Scarlett (our Toyota Prius) had her first ferry ride as we crossed the state border at Lake Champlain into Vermont. Due to the rainy weather, we passed on outdoor activities upon our arrival in Burlington and opted for a brewery tour at Magic Hat Brewery. What a trip. This brewery definitely had a vibe like no other.

On the tour, the question was asked by our guide, “Who knows how our brew ‘#9’ got its name?” I shouted out, “From the song, ‘Love Potion #9!’ ” Although I won a large “Magic Hat Brewery” glass for answering the question, the guide confessed he didn’t know if that was the correct answer. Nobody seems to know how that beer got its name!






We enjoyed our free beer samples (especially “Circus Boy”) and were on our merry way.

As there isn’t much else to report on this transit day, I will add a few comments about two observations we made in New York State that warmed our hearts.
First, along one of the highways, we saw this sign:


Do I hear a round of applause? There were many other “TEXT STOP” signs along the highways, and I applaud New York for reminding drivers to put their damn phones down when they are behind the wheel!

Our second obervation was the extremely high price for a pack of cigarettes ($10!!!) which we assume included a huge amount of taxes piled on to the pack price. AMEN! Perhaps a price like that will prevent kids from taking up the nasty and unhealthful habit of smoking. We wish Georgia would do the same thing.

OK, I’ll get off my soap box now. Cheers!