ROAD TRIP DAY 37: TWO TERRIFIC TOURS

Although we are not motorcycle enthusiasts because they are less safe than cars and cause a great deal of noise pollution, Trip Advisor reviewers rated the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Factory as an excellent tour. Our friend, David also insisted it was interesting even for non-motorcycle people like us, so we decided to check it out on our way to Frederick, Maryland.

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Upon arrival, we knew we were in the right place when we were surrounded by visitors wearing various Harley Davidson t-shirts, vests, and hats. We sure looked out of place!

Harley Davidson does an excellent job of marketing. Name one other motorcycle manufacturer who markets their name anywhere near as well as they do. I sure don’t see much in the way of Yamaha or Honda t-shirts or belt buckles out there, that’s for sure. They have created an image and culture that American motorcycle enthusiasts have bought into. For that matter, so have the Aussies, Kiwis, and Japanese.

The factory we toured is 650,000 square feet and has 1,100 employees. On average, it takes 2-3 hours to assemble a Harley motorcycle; the tricycles take about five hours. It was fascinating watching the various steps required to roll one of those babies off the assembly line. (Photos were not permitted.)

The tour was indeed interesting. We are always fascinated by how things are created and produced. This tour did not disappoint.

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We were surprised, though, when we looked at the specs. of the motorcycles on display in the lobby. How many miles per gallon would you estimate a motorcyle gets? I would have guessed at least 50; however, our Toyota Prius V actually gets more miles per gallon (46) than many of the bikes they produce. At 37-48 miles per gallon, I was proud to know that Scarlett (an SUV model Prius) is more of a gas sipper and MUCH quieter than those motorcyles. Good on ya, Scarlett!

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Terrific tour number two was in Hanover at Utz, the makers of potato chips, pretzels, and other snack foods since 1921. I had never heard of Utz until coming to the east coast, because they are mostly distributed out here in thirteen northeastern states.

Although the tour at Utz was self-guided, it was terrific. After watching a film about their history and seeing all their products on dispaly, we continued on into a very long hallway on the top level of the factory. There were large glass windows lining the length of the entire hallway, and the action was happening right next to the windows. We were able to get a close-up look at the potato chip-making process, and see out over the entire factory from above. (Photos were not permitted.)

Along the hallway, there were signs posted about the process happening in front of that window, and there was a button we could push to start an audio explanation. When it ended, there was instruction to proceed to the next window.

We were able to watch the entire process beginning with the potatoes being off-loaded from trucks to conveyor belts, and ending with boxed bags of chips being forklifted out of the warehouse to the trucks.

Utz produces enough potato chips each day to fill 20 tractor trailers for daily delivery. Since it takes four pounds of potatoes to produce one pound of chips, try doing the math on the daily potato requirement to keep that factory humming!

The most interesting part of the process was watching the optical sorter. A light shines on the potato chips moving through the conveyor belt, and searches for potato chips that are too dark or spotted. When it “sees” one, it blows a puff of air on it that shoots the chip out to the side on another belt and sends it to potato chip hell never to be seen again. REJECT!

The good potato chips continue on to potato chip heaven getting bagged for eventual distribution. Before the bag is sealed, it is filled with nitrogen to ensure a longer shelf life. Nitrogen? Who knew? I’ll never think of a bag of potato chips quite the same way again.

Onward to Frederick. Today, we chose the road less traveled to get to our ultimate destination, so it was a pretty drive through farmland and small towns.

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By the time we checked into our hotel and headed downtown, it was late and we were hungry (A few potato chip samples didn’t make much of a lunch), so we just took a quick look around for a preview of tomorrow.

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Carrol Creek Linear Park is a beautiful area of downtown. They did a fabulous job with this mixed-use urban park that features an amazing mural on the Community Bridge.

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The following is information I found online about the bridge at http://bridge.skyline.net/history/ :

The Community Bridge mural project transformed a plain concrete bridge in Frederick, Maryland, near Washington D.C., into the stunning illusion of an old stone bridge. Artist William Cochran and his assistants painted the entire structure by hand, using advanced trompe (“deceive the eye”) techniques. Many people walk by it and never realize they have been fooled. Once they grasp that the bridge is actually an artwork, visitors discover that there are mysterious carvings in the stones, images too numerous to count. They represent symbols and stories contributed by thousands of people from all over the community, across the country, and around the world. These co-creators have made Community Bridge an inspiring symbol of common ground.

In early 1993, artist William Cochran proposed the bridge project because of the structure’s strategic location at the urban center of the long-planned Carroll Creek Park, Frederick’s key economic development project. This linear park site is positioned along the symbolic racial and economic dividing line in the city. The park plan was stalled by controversy and disagreement until the bridge project engaged the participation of the community to build a symbol of common ground. It became a catalyst for revitalization and a symbol of connection and the spirit of community.

These are photos I shot of the bridge mural as well as the other bridges along the linear park:

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There’s a Costco very close to our hotel and downtown, so we opted for another (very) casual dinner. I just love their large $3.99 Caesar salads!

I’m sad I have nothing unusual to report about this Costco, because unlike the one in Lancaster, this Costco did not have a horse and buggy parking shed. Bummer. That was really cool.

ROAD TRIP DAY 36: SAY, “CHEEEESE!”

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I’m not one who finds it necessary to photograph Bruce or be photographed myself standing in front of every landmark. As a matter of fact, it drives me crazy when I’m on a tour with people who do this at every stop. There will be others (like myself) who wish to photograph the statue, landmark, or scene free of tourists in the photograph; however, we’re stuck waiting for these people who run to get in front of every single one.

This happened to us at Mammoth Caves. This man photographed his wife standing in front of a rock formation at every single turn. They held up the line, and I wanted to SCREAM!

Having said all that, when I see one of these cheesy photo ops that is meant for that very purpose, (and it’s as cheesy as this one), the kid in me takes over and I just gotta get a shot.

When a very nice man at Turkey Hill Experience asked if he could take our picture for us, Bruce begrudgingly agreed and I pulled him into the ice cream bucket.

Visiting the Turkey Hill Experience was something we decided to do on the fly. It’s geared more for kids, but we thought it would be fun to learn about the ice cream-making business and enjoy a sample.

As it turned out, unlimited samples were included with the price of admission. There were 12 different flavors from which to choose, but why choose? Sample them all!

Noticing that the kind ladies scooping the ice cream were giving full small scoops per serving, I requested a half of scoop in order to have room to sample them all. We had just come from a fabulous Thai restaurant for lunch, so we weren’t exactly starving.

Although we each made it through the flavors we wanted to taste, I had to draw the line at “Party Cake”, a flavor with buttercream frosting and pieces of colored cake mixed in. Between that and “Colombian Coffee”, I was good to give them a miss and opt for “Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup” and “Moose Tracks” which were more to my liking.

Honesty, we have had better ice cream. Nothing beats New Zealand ice cream, but even here in the United States, we have tasted creamier ice cream with more inclusions.

I got ahead of myself with all this, though. The day actually began in downtown Lancaster at the PA Guild of Crafters Festival. In addition to high-quality crafts being sold by crafters, a local school for technology was onhand to demonstrate 3D printing and other skills they teach at the school. In partnership with the guild, they were teaching how the silk-screening process works by silk-screening the guild’s graphic with hands-on help from those who either brought their own t-shirt or bought a plain one from the guild. T-shirts were $10 to purchase, and the silk-screening was free. Locals in the know brought their own from home; something they do each year to build their collection of guild graphics. Cool!

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We also learned how a printing press works, and I got to make a bookmark for my friend, Betsy at no charge.

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Other demonstrations were also free, and it was fun watching how various crafters produce their beautiful handicrafts such as weaving, basketry, wire sculpture, and woodcraft.

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Sa La Thai was located next to the guild and along the block of the street festival, so we wrapped up our downtown visit with our wonderful lunch there before heading to Columbia for our ice cream indulgence.

The day concluded by taking the long and winding road back to Lancaster through the farm country to enjoy more beautiful scenery. These were our sights along the way:

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ROAD TRIP DAY 35: TWO TICKETS TO PARADISE…

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…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.

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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.

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Henry & Emma Fisher’s Farm

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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.

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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!

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They also had cute baby goats. Awww!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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ROAD TRIP DAY 33: LOVING LITITZ AND LANCASTER

(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.

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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?)

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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.

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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!

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

ROAD TRIP DAY 32: HAPPY IN HERSHEY

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How could I not be happy in a place where streets have names like “Chocolate Avenue” and “Cocoa Avenue”, and the street lights look like unwrapped Hershey Kisses? (Every other one is foil wrapped complete with its “Hershey” pull tab.)

Now, I must admit I’m a bit of a chocolate snob and no longer prefer to eat Hershey’s Chocolate or other American mass-produced candy (however; I will also admit that I have taken on the self-appointed task of keeping my boss’s candy dish stocked with M&M’s, and I am the cause of having to restock them).

Still, this is Hershey, Pennsylvania. As a chocoholic, it makes me smile, and it makes me feel like a kid again. After all, summertime S’mores I grew up savoring were made with Hershey Chocolate bars. (What else???)

After we arrived yesterday and checked into our motel, we got our first glimpse of Hershey’s charm as we made our way to the Hershey Recreation Center for a swim workout. How cuuute!

Not all of Hershey is this cute, but the center of town is lined with Hershey Kiss-topped street lamps and banners.

We began today with a stroll around Hershey Gardens admiring the astounding collection of interesting trees and beautiful flowers. Gorgeous!

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The afternoon continued with learning all about Milton Hershey, founder of Hershey Chocolates. “The Hershey Story” captured it all in a well layed-out museum that tells the story of his life, the creation of Hershey Chocolate, and the town he built around the factory for his employees.

Quite the philanthropist, we learned how Hershey gave back to the community in a most generous way. Milton Hershey was an admirable man, and an icon in the world of chocolate.

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We concluded our visit at The Hershey Story museum with a tasting flight of six single origin chocolate drinks from around the world. The 72% cacao drink from Venezuela was our favorite, but we enjoyed them all.

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Before wrapping up the day, we cruised over to Hershey’s Chocolate World to take the free “tour”; a 15 minute Disneyland-type ride that takes you through the process of how chocolate is made. It was cheesey and geared for small kids, but isn’t that what Hershey’s is all about? It brings out the kid in all of us.

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Hershey’s sure knows a thing or two about marketing, though, as was made evident by the most massive “gift shop” I have ever seen. It was HUGE! The Hershey Kisses section alone was larger and offered more products than most product gift shops at other factories. It was amazing to see the variety of products– and, the amount of merchandise being snatched up by those shopping for gifts to bring back home!

Me? I just left with two Dagoba chocolate bars (yes, they own that brand along with Scharffen Berger and many others) they were selling out at $1.50 due to a July 2015 expiration date. That, and a bunch of photos like this one:

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ROAD TRIP DAY 31: MAGNIFICENT MARTIN GUITARS

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On our way from Parsippany to Hershey, we stopped in Nazareth, Pennsylvania to tour the Martin Guitar Factory.

What a wonderful surprise this tour was for us! Not only was it a fabulous one-hour up-close and personal tour throughout most of the factory, it was FREE.

Upon arrival, we were fortunate to learn we were the last two people needed to fill their next departing tour that maxes out with 15 visitors. It was fascinating to watch the various steps being expertly performed– there are 300 in all– to produce a high-end top-of-the-line handcrafted guitar.

There are 150 parts in each guitar, and it takes 2-3 months to craft a guitar from beginning to end in their 200,000 square foot factory. Five hundred employees make that factory hum, and they are so happy working there that there is a turnover rate of only 2%. That’s dedication.

Martin Guitars aren’t cheap. They start at $1,000 and can climb in price well past $50,000 when customized with mother of pearl inlays and exotic woods.

Their guitars are the best, though, and have been played by some of the
most famous and talented musicians since Martin first started producing guitars in 1833.
Today, musicians such as Eric Clapton, Sting, and Paul Simon play guitars produced in Nazareth at Martin Guitars.

Come along with me as we tour the Martin Guitar Factory:

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Following the tour, we enjoyed their museum which was beautifully presented and displayed. What a great find Martin Guitars turned out to be today!

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In the museum, we saw how Martin Guitars were crafted back in the beginning, in 1833.

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When Martin Guitars produced its 1,000,000th guitar, they hired a master inlay artist to bejewel this guitar with diamonds, emeralds, and other precious jewels.  It took two years to complete the work, and it’s estimated to be worth $1,000,000.

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