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» Friday, November 13, 2009Plain, Planes, and Trains
Well, it was our last full day today. We slept as late as we could and still get breakfast downstairs (about 8:45) since we went to bed stiff and cold from sitting on the platform in Exton for thirty minutes. I checked out the weather and it looked like we would have a break in the rain/drizzle early this afternoon, so we headed back out to Strasburg via US-30 again.
Well, from here we had to take route 422 to route 202 to US-30. I didn't remind James when he got to 30, so we continued going down 202. Oh, well. We'd go a few miles on, connect with route 100, and come back north to US-30 again.
And then we saw a sign called "American Helicopter Museum." Serendipity strikes again.
Well, yeah, of course we went. LOL.
This is a small museum; we walked around for an hour and saw everything. There were at least a dozen helicopters inside, from the Bell helicopter that would have been used in Korean War MASH units, to a Cobra. (There were also six helicopters outside.) Now here was a museum that provided something for kids, but was not "kiddy." There was a little play area with a toy helicopter to sit in and helicopter toys to play with, a place where you could draw a helicopter, and two helicopters you could sit in and pretend to fly. There were several little kids there, more than one with what looked like their grandparents, having a good time.
One wall exhibit traces the history of the helicopter, in another corner there is a tribute to the "Whirly Girls," 1955 female helicopter pilots (there were only fifteen of them), who wanted to encourage other women to become helicopter pilots. There was a small exhibit about seats, another about the development of the cockpit, a corner where you could work a helicopter flying simulation (for an additional fee), engine exhibits, ones about how the controls help the helicopter fly, and all sorts of other interesting things. There was also a gift shop (it's a State Law).
We finished thoroughly looking around and James taking photos, and resumed our course. We arrived at the Strasburg Rail Road in time for the 1:00 train, but it was already full, so we bought tickets for the 2:00 excursion, then went to the diner for lunch. James tasted his first piece of shoo-fly pie. It's hard to describe. Call it a sugar custard. It's basically molasses, brown sugar, and eggs in a pie shell, ironically less sweet than a pecan pie. This one was very evidently made with blackstrap molasses, as the molasses flavor was very strong.
We also checked out the main gift shop and the toy train gift shop (basically there are three gift shops...as James said, one for dad, one for mom, one for the kids...a model train shop, a general gift shop [shirts, magnets, ornaments, etc], and a shop full of more Thomas the Tank Engine stuff than I ever knew existed). By then it was train time.
They weren't actually running the steam engine today. It's weekends only starting October, and they ran it Wednesday for Veteran's Day. What we rode was a little interurban car from 1887, with a diesel engine. It was built as an experiment to transport people from town to town. It carried 40 people (there weren't 40 seats, so I presume some people stood) and also cargo and milk in the rear of the car, which had reversible seats so that a turntable was not needed when you reached the end of the line.
Well, from the very breezy areait wasn't raining, but cloudy, with a whipping windoutside the old terminal station (not original to the area; it was moved here from somewhere else and restored), we piled into this very warm small car: it had a real working heating stove at one end. It smelled of wax, so I assume it was burning paraffin. The motorman/engineer was an older man who had many years experience at train operation, and he had all sorts of information about the history of the area, the operation of the trains, information about the "Plain People" in the surrounding area (not only Amish and Mennonites, but Dunkers and French Huguenots; the French Huguenots were the original European settlers in the area under William Penn's land grant), and some funny stories. My favorite was about the time a cow was on the tracks. He said dogs, cats, horses, etc. will see the train coming and get off the tracks, but not the cows. So one day during the heyday of the video camera, he had to stop the tour to try to remove a cow from the tracks. She wouldn't budge! Then a little girl, about three or four years old, barefoot, came running toward the train. She said something very sternly to the cow in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect and the cow snorted at him, but vacated the track with the little girl trotting after it! And all those tourists had his defeat by a cow on videotape! LOL.
We went past a turkey farm where the farmer was collecting the turkeys to take to market, and you could see the turkey heads peering out of the shed. We went past a corn maze that had just been mown down for the season. We passed an Amish elementary school where the kids were playing outside at recess. We finally stopped at the Amtrak tracks where our motorman told us about the difference in old tracks and new tracks (the old tracks were bolted due to the weight of the steam trains, the new are welded). Then we reversed seats and highballed it (well, as fast as an 1887 car can highball) back to the station.
Airplanes are magic. But there's nothing like a train ride to make you feel like a kid again.
We made it into the gift shop in time to buy a refrigerator magnet, a little book about the history of the Strasburg Rail Road, and two "stained glass" autumn leaves.
Then we hit the outlet mall on US-30. James needed some "small clothes" from the Hanes store, and I went into the Corning store and bought four more Corelle dishes to match the eight we bought not too long ago. Now we have a setting for twelve. We like these dishes: they are small so we don't eat large portions, and have a rim so that meat juices and gravies don't run off the plate.
We also went in a lovely place called the Christmas Hill Shops. Nice variety of non-tacky Christmas decorations: berry wreaths, candles, some prims, cards, nightlights, several different collections of Department 56 village houses, Radko ornaments, country-look items, light strings, etc. as well as non-holiday items. I got some Yankee Candle air fresheners for the car, plus a set that look like Christmas ornaments to hang on an artificial tree to make it smell like a real one, and four little "Blossom Bucket" figures, three to go with my Santa collection on the china cabinet, and a snowman family for winter.
James did a bit of shopping in the Pepperidge Farm outlet (we haven't seen one of these in a dog's age; the one in Buckhead closed decades ago, ditto with the one near the vet's office) for stuffing for the winter, and some ginger cookies. We also went into the train store associated with the Strasburg Rail Road. What a huge collection of railroad-oriented books!
Dusk was coming on as we drove back to the hotel. We passed several Amish carriages, which I found a bit scary. They have headlights at night, of course, but the headlights are on the carriage. The horse itself has no headlights (<wry grin>) and you need to watch a distance ahead of the lights.
James had found a small gaming store near the King of Prussia Mall, so we went there before heading up 422 to the hotel. This was actually tucked in a tiny shopping center about a mile behind the hue and cry of the mall, and it's evident it's a meeting place for the local gaming fans as AAA Hobby is one for James' hobby friends. The guys were all sitting around a table bantering with each other.
Anyway, we found a Christmas gift and I found a Scattergories card game. We're supposed to go to a game night next weekend; I'll have to remember to bring it.
We made a brief stop at A.C. Moore before finally lighting at the hotel. I had the coupon from the Sunday paper and was going to buy one of the magnetic mailbox covers. I couldn't make up my mind between the pretty country-Thanksgiving pattern and the autumn leaves and pumpkins fall pattern and was going to get both with unfortunately only one discount. Well, hurrah, they were half price!