Thursday, August 4, 2016

Michael Scott and Milton Hershey

Ahhhhhhh the trek home. Days of endless driving followed by more driving. For parents of small children, you all know what this means: iPads and a truck-load of gummy bears. Also, frequent prayers for a Chick-Fil-A sighting.

Our course home allowed us the pleasure of some extensive drive time through Pennsylvania's roadways - most of which were under construction. Hard core, everywhere-you-turn construction. We're really not sure how they accomplished the funding to re-pave the entire state at once, but... Kudos.  They must have a real Peter Russo type in Washington pushing some pork their way </EndShamelessHouseOfCardsReference>.

At one point we'd just had it with the construction pileups and the fact that we had not spied Michael Scott in Scranton, so we pulled in to a WalMart parking lot and had a real deal picnic. Awning down, chairs out.


When we literally could stomach no more of Pennsylvania's roadways and detours we agreed that a relaxing 2 day stay in Amish Country was just what the doctor ordered. 







The Amish really come across, at first, as authentic with their whole "we're old fashioned" shtick. They've got the horse and buggies, the boss outfits, the impressive facial hair. Most tourists buy right into all of that without so much as a second glance... but not the Royans. We look a bit further, dig a bit deeper, and start peeling away the layers....

Pretty soon some suspicious things start to come to light... For example, this fine Amish attraction is literally sharing a parking lot with a Super Target. That "authentic" Amish dining establishment has food that tastes spot on like a TV dinner. There is also something called "ThermFlow ®" as the second ingredient in all the "made from scratch" pies they sell.



One thing that even the Amish can't fake, though, is horse shit. Mark, despite his stock-car-racer-like driving prowess, encountered a heaping helping while getting stuck behind a horse and buggy for several miles on a hot summer day.  Subsequently, the efficient churning action of our six tires resulted in a thorough coating of horse manure in every nook and cranny of the F350 undercarriage. For the first time the entire trip - we longed for a severe thunderstorm.

And with that we will naturally segue to our next stop... Hershey's Chocolate World!


Our family and about a million of our closest, sweaty, tourist friends crammed in to the Hershey's attraction to celebrate sugar, chocolate, and America. Mark really likes KitKat's, BTW.



Andrew quickly set his sights on the "Make Your Own Candy Bar" offering and we were off to the races. The Hershey's have really figured out how to milk this whole chocolate thing. It's literally a theme park dedicated to their product line. Very impressive. In any case, we made some great candy bars, dressed up like we were on an episode of "Lavern and Shirley," and capped things off with a Disney-like ride through the history of Hershey. The place was alarmingly busy, especially for a Thursday, but we're glad we had the experience. 










We arrived at Gettysburg on Friday morning, bright and early, eager to beat the heat and the crowds. April would comment (wearing shorts), " is SOO hot out here.  I can't believe the soldiers had to fight here, at least they were able to do it in the winter so that they wouldn't feel so hot in those heavy wool clothes." The battle of Gettysburg took place from July 1, 1863 – July 3, 1863. 


The recruiter at the main door could see right away that our boys were cut from good stock. So they were eager to sign them up, and sign them up they did! A few quick questions and it was off to boot camp for Max and Andrew.






Even Dad ended up having to get a little PT in and prove he had the mettle to hang with the local volunteers.


After a few sweaty hours at Gettysburg, it was on to some lighter fare at a roadside spectacle in Virginia: Dinosaur Land. The children, still miserable and exhausted from their Gettysburg experience, were kept on the brink of a meltdown for hours with the promise of "In just a few more hours we'll see some dinosaurs." They obliged, and dreamed of all that was to be of this magical dino world. As we approached, however, the horse-shit removing thunderstorm we so desperately desired descended upon us... and Dino Land closed right before our eyes.

The gift shop, however, remained open, and April carried a sobbing Andrew through the relentless rain and flooded parking lot so that he could get a peak at all that he was missing out on.

The gift shop, which smelled like an old, smokey, wet couch, featured gems such as this "educational project," on sale for 75 cents.

Please note the bottom line:

"This book contains about 26 different animals, with information obtained by leading scientists and geologists. We had no information on a few of these animals and we are very sorry that none was obtained." 



Alas, we hope another 10 million years will not go by before we get another chance to explore all of Dinosaur Land's mysteries.

We drove deeper into the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, where we would encounter more pleasant weather, some additional Civil War historical sites, and some fantastic Southern hospitality. Our Endless Caverns campground was complete with beautiful views, relentless face-swarming gnats, and a great little fishing hole where the boys spent an afternoon chasing perch and bluegill.

As they were finishing up for the day, Andrew hooked an especially challenging catch. He fought it as it ran, and things got pretty tricky. When he finally landed it, he learned why - it was his very first Largemouth Bass!! Mark was a proud poppa!




Farewell, random road trip stops, we're off to the mountains of North Carolina!

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