Perhaps the traffic didn't cooperate. Perhaps Mother Nature had a better idea of what the perfect weather for the weekend should be. Perhaps some of the group did not see the trip the way we did. Perhaps some things would not go according to plan. Perhaps we would have a great experience anyway.
The kids played hooky on Friday, as did Mom and Dad. Sick days, vacation time, just good old staying home was how our road trip would start. It started out as a Girl Scout fall camping trip that quickly fell apart as participants dropped out for one reason or another. Yet the cabin was paid for, the date was set, and the truck was full of gas. We would be joined by one other scout and her grandmother, who would follow along with us, not wanting to waste the opportunity at a new adventure. The night before we left, with the trip in shambles and a family road trip quickly emerging, I retreated to the stash of brochures and bookmarked websites that have been the seeds of many a trip.
We left at 9 on Friday and only needed to wade through a short stint of commuter traffic to reach our first pit stop at an outdoor store to pick up hunting licenses for the whole family. It was actually relaxing no longer having a deadline or the responsibility of the troop behind us, so we could meander along the back roads enjoying the foliage. Those back roads led to a small Pennsylvania winery offering Potion X pumpkin spice wine, a small luxury for around the campfire. Further down the road sprawled Country Junction, a giant general store with an immense candy section, seemingly limitless baked goods, and shelves of peanuts and crackers and chips. We gathered snacks for the cabin and skipped along amongst the pumpkin patch. We visited the small petting zoo and teased the ducks with pellet food.
Little towns lost to the movement of time, boasting light poles adorned with flags of their hometown hero veterans and an endless supply of patriotic flags, marked the mileage of our route. We found our rustic cabin, situated next to an RV we had also rented for the weekend to allow for a private bathroom and kitchenette, and dropped our gear in order to make the most of the rest of Friday's daylight piled into one car. The countryside held the Rolling Hills Red Deer Farm, a great source of jerky and custom cuts of venison. A final supply stop brought us uncannily close to a local brewpub serving some autumnal brews and hearty meals to stoke the coals of our bellies for the dropping temperatures as the sun disappeared. Turkey Hill Brewing will be worth another visit in the future.
Joe, the head of security for the campground, came to the rescue of the girls. His overzealous kindness put a damper on the kids attempts to build a fire from scratch using only a flint and steel. But his need to make their camping trip a great experience became the quirky undertone of the entire trip. The girls were not disappointed but found his whirling personality comical and endearing. Inside the massive cabin, built to house an entire troop of people, it felt more like a refrigerator than a cozy bed, so we all retreated to the insulation of the RV as the coals of the fire died down.
The chilly morning air found us outside the campground heading toward an anachronism of a breakfast spot. The Timber Creek Family Restaurant was populated with older local residents sprinkled with some campground folks. The waitress was completely overwhelmed this Saturday morning but quickly found respite in our disarming, laid back attitude toward slow service. Along with the slow service came mountains of morning grub. Pancakes engulfed plates and bacon was made to order, the crispier the better. There was also true corned beef hash and an old time PA staple of scrapple and toast. The menu still had Shit On a Shingle, chipped beef with gravy on toast, and the home fries were not only cooked to order but could have an entire garden of vegetables thrown in (garlic and onions and mushrooms, oh my). The kids loved sampling the scrapple and hash and home fries while filling up on eggs and pancakes and homemade sausage links. We grabbed some fresh backed pumpkin bread and chocolate chip muffins for the cabin and set off again.
Our stomachs filled, we headed back to the campground for some BINGO before Knoebels Amusement Park opened. The excitement grew as we heard the rides clacking to life. We would have four solid hours of rides before the sun would turn the park into a glowing tribute to Halloween. The kids rode every ride, hooting and screaming and wobbling dizzily from coaster to coaster. Upside down, backwards and forwards they rode anything and everything. A quick snack before the cold of the night came and we were back in the park with the ghouls and ghosts. Some of the rides were transformed for Halloween with real zombies and murderous monsters jumping out from behind obstacles along the track. There was a spooky train ride and even Trick-or-Treating at the snack stands. Something needs to be said for riding roller coasters in complete darkness, no matter the season.
After an exhausting amusement park marathon, Sunday started slow and cold. Mother Nature saw fit to test us with unexpected frost and freezing temperatures, and Joe had dropped off a care package of extra kindling during the night like a campground Santa's helper. We packed up and again followed the back roads that paralleled the highway. Cabela's is always a destination for us in October. Preparing for the upcoming cold and hunting seasons and enjoying the atmosphere of the expansive store. We perused the new camo patterns and awed at the mounted trophy animals. A few sale purchases and down the road yet again. Dietrich's is not to far from Cabela's and holds more than it should for a store its size. All types of Amish delicacies along with an incredible meat case that bulges with bologna and wursts and liver pudding and free samples. Foodies we are and embrace it we do. Sunday football snacks will have some new meats for the crackers after this visit.
The last pit stop of the day, of the trip, would be Waffle House for some hash browns covered, smothered, and chunked. Snow flurries completed our adventure as we topped off our tanks for the final stretch of highway home. This was a trip worth revisiting next year for Halloween. The people along the road were friendly and the food homey and hearty. Roadside America is alive, if fading, and waiting and we will visit again.
Tuesday, October 6, 2015
As the leaves begin to fall, we take a break from the everyday chores to spend some time embracing the coming of Halloween. This past weekend we put down the rakes and hammers and shovels. We let the weed whackers go untouched and the lawnmower was silent. Instead we, as a family, grandparents, grandkids, and parents, gathered the materials to build a tree ghost out by the mailbox. Sure the day before we needed to clear the logging road to the cabin and cut the downed trees into firewood, but those chores rewarded us with the perfect stump and base for our five foot tree ghost that would haunt the outside of our home. It wasn't just a rotten tree stump but a wonderfully enjoyable project for everyone to participate in. A drill, some extra branches for arms, an old hat, a forgotten set of decorative plastic eyes for the garden and a repurposed LED light brought life to that stump. It was a pleasant surprise to take a break before the football games kicked off the feeding frenzy of snacks and not worry about chores and embrace the Halloween spirit. We placed the first pumpkin of the season and planted the anticipation of pumpkins yet to come. October has just begun and already we are feeling the glow of Autumn. I can not wait for the campfires and Jack o'lanterns and wings and beer on Sunday afternoons. Shortly the spooky movies as the sun disappears will begin to dominate the TV programming and hopefully the owls will once again visit in the darkness and fill the cold night with screeches and haunting hoots. Hopefully this will not be the last weekend where chores give way to Halloween projects and Fall creeps deeper in. May the fun and spirit of Autumn embrace everyone like a great big hug from a tree man along the road.