Eastern Pennsylvania

Saturday, 09 November 2013 15:30
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Four horsepowerTouring the Amish country

I left New York via the Lincoln Tunnel and headed into North Jersey, with my destination for the day being my cousin’s house outside of Doylestown, PA.  Once you get out of the immediate NYC area, the scenery gets pretty great, and it rivals anything I saw up in New England. I stuck to the back roads and crossed the Delaware River at Frenchtown on a barely-two-lanes bridge. The Delaware is small enough at this point that Washington could have probably just waded across if he had to, so it was a quick shot across and into Pennsylvania. I took River Road all along the banks down toward Lambertville, then cut across to Plumsteadvile to see my cousin.


Crossing the Delaware the easy way

We had a great time catching up, and she gave me a little tour around the area and through Doylestown itself, which had that neat mix of colonial/industrial charm that you get in a lot of the pre-Revolutionary War cities in the area. We cruised all around the area, and checked out notable spots like Fonthill, home of archeologist (and tile manufacturer) Henry Mercer.  It’s notable not only for its size, but also for being one of the earliest examples of poured-in-place concrete construction, which is pretty much the norm these days.

A nice evening at the park The remarkable Fonthill house Obligatory Datsun shot One of the hosts at my cousin's was sad to see me go

After my stay in Doylestown, I headed north a bit to check out the “Niagara of Pennsylvania”, Bushkill Falls. Like a lot of the waterfalls I’ve seen in the past few months on the trip, it was kind of past its prime from a flow standpoint, as it gets a lot of its volume from spring melt-off. However, it was still pretty impressive for an east coast waterfall, and the fall hike through the woods was really pretty great.

Part of the path up the falls The view down the Delaware Valley Bridal Veil Falls The main falls

For the first time since June, my destination for that evening was my own house. I’ve got a home in downtown Lancaster, PA from my previous business endeavors in the area, and while it’s unfurnished (other than a couple of air mattresses and some random pieces) and unoccupied, it’s still my place, and it was pretty great to be able to pull up, go in, and just relax for a bit.

The house on Charlotte Street Fall is starting to live up to its name, leaf-wise

As I’ve got quite a few friends in the area, I stayed in Lancaster for almost a week. It’s really a pretty area, and it’s got not only the aforementioned colonial/19th century industrial charm, it’s also right in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, so there are a lot of Amish and Mennonite people around driving buggies and tending to their farms. Layered in on top of all that is a newer, funkier note as Lancaster has sort of become an arts hub for eastern PA, with a number of downtown galleries and other artistic spaces. I’d also arrived for First Friday, so there was a lot of action, food, art, and other fun stuff going on downtown.

Downtown record store The grave of Thaddeus Stevens is right near downtown

I spent the next few days catching up on bills and other “life” stuff, having dinner and getting together with old friends, and visiting the many places within easy walking distance of the house, like the nearby coffee shop and the Lancaster Central Market, which is the oldest continuously operating farmers market in the country.  However, Halloween was approaching…and it occurred to me that a giant, vacant Victorian house was probably one of the best spots to give out Halloween candy

Some fall color in Lancaster The Central Market For really small omelettes

My mom drove the 90 minutes or so up from South Jersey to visit for Halloween, and I went out and gathered up a whole lot of candy at the grocery store. My friend Caiti had carved some excellent pumpkins as well, so I had the makings of a reasonably decent haunting for Halloween.

I put a couple of torchieres with red light bulbs in them into the entryway, and distributed the spookier looking pumpkins on the steps. I also had an iPad and some computer speakers, so I got some spooky Halloween sounds together, put the speakers behind the lamps, and put it all on “loop”. After pouring what felt like about 100 pounds of candy into a bowl, we were ready.

Ready for the first victims Mom, practicing her scary look One of the greeters

 Halloween festivities were scheduled to run from 6pm to 8pm, and kids started showing up right about on time. It was pretty fun to watch the smaller kids come up the walkway…first they were all enthusiastic about the prospect of candy, then as they got closer and the house started to loom over them a little more, they kind of slowed down. Once they hit the porch and the lighting and spooky sounds hit them, many didn’t go any further, and a few turned back around and left, candy or no candy. I didn’t think I’d been able to haunt it up that well in 15 minutes of prep, but apparently the house itself was doing most of the work for me. It inspired me to put a little more effort into it next year, assuming I hang on to the place. (Side note: Anybody interested in buying a great Queen Anne home in lovely Lancaster, PA, drop me an email. Special discount for blog readers!)

Looming Watching for trick-or-treaters Passing out the candy to the brave

After Halloween, I hung around Lancaster for a couple more days and handled a few more chores, but then it was time to be on my way. I took the scenic route toward South Jersey, going through a lot of the Amish farm country and also stopping in at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg to check out some of the big iron. The weather was doing its best to keep things uncharacteristically warm, and it was really a great fall drive through the countryside, over the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and into South Jersey.

PA Railroad Museum Some big 'ol iron in the yard They don't build 'em like this anymore
One of the rail cranes Rust never sleeps Old local passenger car
The Union Army, getting ready to board a southbound train 'Ol number 89 More big iron. Love the boiler rivets.
 Prepping the fields for winter  Pennsylvania farm country  The reliable four horsepower plow

Next: New Jersey, land of my birth


#1 tjp 2013-11-11 06:28
Still thoroughly enjoying this trip's write up. And what a beautiful home you have in Lancaster!!
#2 lectacave 2013-11-11 10:07
I second tjp's emotion, there. Love seeing the pics of your mom, that amazing house, the TRAINS! Wow, love this. This one might even get my dad to look at a computer screen. :-)
#3 PL411 2013-11-11 20:46
WOW !! What an inspiration your trip has been. I hope your thoroughly enjoying yourself and the car !! Thank you for this blog.
#4 Mom 2013-11-15 03:14
great blog !!! Halloween was such fun !!

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