Monday, August 31, 2015


Bed and Breakfast

            It was the first time that I spent in a bed and breakfast and it was wonderful. The house had been the summer home of Phillip and Arthur Brooks. The brothers were from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Philip was the author for the hymn of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”History has it that he wrote if in Philadelphia, but the residents of Canton, Pennsylvania say that Philip was inspired to write the hymn  looking out from the windows on the lights of Canton.

            Driving up to the “summer cottage,” I am greeted by this large building of stone, with a forest green and chocolate brown upper three stories that claims the top of a ridge. Multi-paned windows fill its sides and ends. A large covered porch sprawls across the entrance to the home. The drive ends in a circle that curls between the three car two story garage of the same design as the bed and breakfast.
            Mary Beth, the hostess was gracious and enjoyed sharing the history of the house and the loving care that she and her husband Tom took to restore this gem of a building.  Each room held a treasure-trove of furniture and reminiscences of the past. Just inside of the door, hung a large mirror with pegs that sported a fedora, a derby, a top hat, and a woman’s hat complete with three white ribbon roses and a large veil. There was something intriguing and visually stimulating at each turn and in each room.
            The bedroom for the night was on the second floor above the game room and the living room with its deep brown leather reclining chairs.  To get to the bedroom, I had to either walk through a bathroom complete with a claw foot tub/shower, a pedestal sink, and commode or to pass through a small sitting room decorated with a tea cart that held a blue and white tea service and the obligatory corner fireplace.
            The bedroom was spacious with a queen sized bed, a day bed, a desk, and several chairs. A large dark oak chifferobe claimed a corner of the room and a huge fireplace filled the wall between the doors to the bathroom and the sitting room. As I explored, I found a third door that opened onto a small balcony. Padded wicker furniture welcomed e to sit and share the view of a pond and a vista of trees and the hills beyond.
            I was amazed and enthralled at the variety of antiques and memorabilia that claimed spots on the walls and collected in the corners. It was a feast for my eyes. Every detail impressed me. The home and the hostess were there to put at ease the visitor and make the stay a restful one.
            I have only scratched the surface of the things that I saw and the things that I want to say, but I will leave that for another time. There is a link to their site with photos that allow you to share what I was able to see in the short time of my visit. It’s at www.rockgirt.com. Please visit the site to see what I am talking about and thank you Mary Beth for a wonderful stay. Thank you for sharing your home. It was an oasis in the middle of our trip.

Friday, August 28, 2015


Next Stop Lancaster

            On our trip, the next stop was Lancaster and the obligatory visit to an Amish farm and the bus tour of the community. It lightened the mood left over from Gettysburg, but nothing will completely remove the emotions from that battlefield.
            The knowledge of Amish community and the area that the bus driver shared was remarkable, but then, I am sure that he could almost drive the routes while asleep. He described the differences in the Amish homes, farms and religion with today’s world. The bus stopped at the usual tourist traps and several small Amish fruit stands. I met a couple and their daughter who were Jewish. I spoke with the wife. She had an accent, so I assumed that they were from Israel.
            That over, we drove farther east to visit Indian Echo caves, Bushkill Falls, and Crystal Caves. Let me tell you, the effort of the hike to see the waterfalls at Bushkill Falls definitely made me feel bushed and almost killed me.
            Driving through Valley Forge was less impressive than Gettysburg and I didn’t feel the emotion that Gettysburg stirred in me, but then Valley Forge was a winter bivouac and no shots were fired in battle here. I learned a lot from the rangers who are guardians of Washington’s headquarters and home.
            From Valley Forge, we drove along the Delaware River hunting the bushes for every size waterfall in the eastern end of Pennsylvania. We saw covered bridges. Some of my favorite views were of the churches and cathedrals along the roads. No matter how far we drove off the main thoroughfares, there was a church. Even in the smallest communities, there was a church or chapel.
            The buildings came in all shapes and sizes. They were constructed of stone, brick, or simple white painted clapboard, most had a spire pointing heavenward. Some spires were tall and needle-like while others were more squatted and held a single bell to call the faithful on Sunday mornings.
            So many miles and so many waterfalls started to drive me crazy. It wasn’t bad as long as the sites could be located on the GPS, but when we had to drive down goat paths to see them. It became harder and harder for me to sit still. Too many of the falls were low on water or nearly dry which made the rides and disappointment that much greater. The next bright spot on the tour was a bed and breakfast near Canton, Pennsylvania. I will talk about that wonderful place in my next post.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Gettysburg

            I’ve read a limited history of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, seen some documentaries of the battlefields, and even memorized the Gettysburg Address when I was in high school, but my first visit to this massive site left me in awe. Nothing prepared me for the amount of acreage that the battle sites actually covered. As we drove, the hundreds of monuments and cannons announced one company of soldiers or another. Many of the edifices were of marble, iron, or bronze. Statues of soldiers, horses, angels, crosses, weapons, and even one shaped out of gray marble that looked like a bullet.
            Pillars and markers noted the companies of fallen southern heroes that came from Florida, Texas, Alabama, and others. Edifices dedicated to the northern fallen men erected to connote the companies from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, New York, and Maine, to mention a few. Many places, monuments became manmade forests of metal and stone.
            The reality of the massive scale of sacrifice started to make an impression on me. At times it short circuited my emotions and my thoughts couldn’t take it all in. I would stand on a hillside, looking out over fields, crossed with stone walls and split rail fences, and I knew that men took shelter behind them, firing at other soldiers in bloody combat. I was surrounded by a feeling of the massive and unbelievable amount of pain, suffering, and loss of life. Feelings of sympathy, awe, and horror choked me, almost as though there was a cannonball lodged in my throat.
            Often, my brain would go on pause. I would stand there dumbfounded, unable to take it all in. It was as though I hit the pause button on my brain. One field, I was struck with the irony of what I saw. Several monuments dotted a field. Pressing on all sides of these markers were plant after plant of baby’s breath. The delicate flower covered a meadow of death. A flower that often fills funeral baskets, it seemed somehow appropriate and yet out of place. Here at a site of carnage and death, the word baby screamed of new life and was out of place and bizarre.
            I think that the one sight made the most impression on me. In a wheat field along McPherson’s Ridge, there were sixty to eighty turkey buzzards on fences, in trees, or in the field between the rows of straw. Dozen were perched on the split rail fence, while others whirled overhead. It was as though these carrion eaters were still at the sites of battlefield carnage, feasting on the spirits of those men who answered the call to battle or perhaps they were lured by the stench of death on the ground that hadn’t been erased over the years.
            My thoughts echoed the words of Abraham Lincoln about the hallowedness of the land and the sacrifices made. I felt unworthy to walk on the consecrated land. Impressions of the horror, comingled with feelings of humbleness. A I began to take notes, I began to multiply my feelings by the number of battlefields that were just at this site and then to those other battles that were fought to reconnect a divided land and the desire to see it whole again.

Monday, August 24, 2015


I Have Returned

            This morning as I woke from my slumber in my own bed, I was welcomed home by the barking of the neighbor’s kennel of dogs, the crowing of the roosters, and the cawing of several crows. The soft whisper of the breeze coming through my bedroom window said that I am home.
 
            On the trip east, the first stop was at Old Bedford Village. The site held nearly a dozen or so buildings that were saved from ruin and moved to this site for preservation and to share their history with fellow visitors. The buildings were from the surrounding areas. The log cabins were homes, blacksmith shops, stores and shops of different types. A barn and a church also graced the property.

            Route 30 is a drive that takes the motorist up and over the Appalachian Mountains. Steep grades and winding roadways were the results of the migration of settlers to the west and a desire to travel more easily.
            My first encounter with Route 30 over the mountains came on a return trip from Downingtown, Pennsylvania where my daughter was attending college. I wanted to catch Route 76, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, before the mountainous stretch arrived. I asked my wife Cindy, and my mother-in-law Retha, to help me watch for traffic signs to make the transition. They became engrossed in reading and the trip over the Appalachians was inevitable.
            I don’t think that it would have been difficult, but the daylight disappeared and a light rain had begun to fall. It was almost like driving in fog. By this time, Cindy and Retha were unable to read anymore due to lack of light and wanted to talk. I didn’t want to be distracted by their chatter and because I felt it was their fault that I was still on Route 30, I asked them none too politely to keep quiet while I was driving. That was a harrowing experience that took all of my concentration to stay on the roadway.
            My vacation driving over Route 30 was a much more pleasurably affair. The sun was shining and even though the road was just as steep and winding, I was able to see the scenery and the road.

            My rambling about Route 30 has a purpose. The next stop on the trip was Gettysburg and there is so much I want to say, I needed to share my emotions and my thoughts on this great battlefield at one time. I didn't want the post on Gettysburg to be distracted by anything else.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


I’m Back from Vacation

I put my blog spot on hold as I made a whirlwind tour of Pennsylvania. A friend and I drove along the southern part of the state, up along the Delaware River and zigzagged in the northeast, before crossing the northern tiers of counties. When we it Presque Isle, we dropped south and returned home. I hope to share some of the experiences and feelings from the trip.

Our first stop was Old Bedford Village, then Lancaster. I was the most impressed with our driving tour of Gettysburg. I was overcome with emotion, but I will write about that in another post. We toured Valley Forge. I was impressed with the size of the area, but the emotional impact was a lot less. Driving along the Delaware River and moving through the northeast corner of the state, we visited many of the waterfalls that dot the area.

My first visit to a bed and breakfast was a great experience, several motels were less than expected, and one motel was a Godsend. We had good, great, and not so great experiences and met quite a few very nice people. I will try to share all bit by bit starting tomorrow.

Monday, August 10, 2015


Having a Ball at College

            One year as I studied nursing at Penn State,  my roommate and I got along quite well, even though he was a Philly’s fan and I was a Pittsburgh, Pirate fan. I was older and he never saw me study, because I was awake early and my classes were mostly done by lunchtime. He would be gone most o the afternoon, when I would study and grab a nap.
            I was awake until later in the evening, “keeping up” with the younger crowd. It was funny, being called the “old man” and yet I was as active as they were and he thought that I was smart because he didn’t see me nap or study in the afternoons.
            The incident I was remembering was the students above us made all kinds of noise, almost like they were wearing wooden shoes on the tile covered concrete floors of the rooms. We politely reminded them of the problem and they chose to ignore us. One evening, I wanted to go upstairs and bring the issue to a head, but my roommate said “No” wait. He was going home for the weekend and we’d deal with it when he came back.
            Once he was back, w waited until the upstairs students marched across the floor. My roommate went to his closet and hefted out a heavy looking bag. “Let’s go,” he said. And we took the elevator up two floors and went to the room directly above the noisemakers’ room.
            He knocked and explained the situation and asked if we could come in. Once we were inside, he unzipped the bag. The guys who lived in the room sat on their beds, while my roommate and I sat on opposite sides of the floor. And we began to roll his chipped and scarred, old bowling ball back and forth across the floor. The noise in the room was like thunder from Thor’s hammer in the room. I could only imagine what it sounded like in the room below.
            It wasn’t too long until we heard a pounding on the door. When we answered it, it was in fact the two young men from the floor below. When they saw us, the belligerence in their faces left. My roommate and I outsized their smaller framed bodies and we said, “Now, you understand what it’s like, living under you guys.” We closed the door, packaged the bowling ball, and went back to our room.
            The noise levels were better but my roommate kept the ball in his closet, just in case.

Friday, August 7, 2015


The Wren
Oh wren, you sit below my bedroom window and sing.
You wake me with a lilting song that befits a king.
You charge me naught for the serenade you freely give.
You feed on scraps and insects at the place where I live. 

I hear your warbling voice raise in cheerful song each morn.
You build your tiny nest protected by branch and thorn.
Daily, your thrilling song pours across my window sill.
You sing in sweet serenade breaking the morning’s still. 

Oh wren, such calliope wrapped in body small.
The quiet of daybreak is opened with your call.
Your unbound songs rise on your wings, outspread in a fan.
Oh wren, because of you, I am a fortunate man.