Beewatching’s Blog

Road trips and road food
December 1, 2009, 10:16 am
Filed under: 1

Thanksgiving weekend, after a turkey meal at home, saw 3/4 of my immediate family driving westward from the flatlands of south Jersey into the farmlands and wooded hills of central Pennsylvania. One third of our party was a sullen teen, who would rather do homework than come along. Guess what kid — you get the trip and the homework, no extra charge! So he wore his longest face as he stared bored out the back window of the car. How do you improve that? Travel means you get to order dessert at EVERY meal if you like! So after lunch at the Quakertown Family Restaurant, his outlook had improved slightly. This place had a tasty Grecian panini (what I ordered, even though I don’t really like lamb).

Around dinner time we reached our hotel in Lewisburg. In our efforts to extract the teenager from the electronics, we cruelly deprived him of controlling the remote. Okay, you want to hear how mean we REALLY are? When the kids were little we cancelled cable, so they would not have access to trash like MTV. We still don’t have cable, and don’t miss it much; but at hotels, we often allow the kids to catch up on their favorites, the Sci-Fi channel offerings (I know they’ve changed their spelling, but I won’t — it’s stupid to spell it with Ys), Mythbusters and Sponge Bob Squarepants. We are going to be going out and about, we informed him, and you’re going to take the time to practice music and do your math. Some Thanksgiving break!

Dinner at the Country Cupboard (because it was nearby): The all-you-can-eat buffet is usually wasted on us, because we can’t eat our money’s worth without getting sick. My husband ordered it anyway, because it had an appealing selection of dishes. I had a fairly good salmon croquette instead. Don’t order the shrimp there — they don’t shell or clean it. The other menu items were fine, especially the desserts. The sulky teen switched his shrimp for macaroni and cheese, then took back a slice of cake which took until the next evening to finish. Did I have dessert? Of course: pecan pie. Did it take me until the following evening to finish? No. I am not including the link to this place because the food is not all that great. It’s edible. The complex is mostly a tourist trap full of kitschy souvenirs and Pennsylvania Dutch type foods. The Country Inn was quite comfortable though and the staff pleasant. It’s a nice place to stay.

Saturday was the best day of the weekend. We met an old friend who walked us around the business district, starting with a small independent bookstore, Page After Page, now possibly threatened by the proximity of a new Barnes and Noble intended to serve the Bucknell University community. I like an old fashioned bookstore, with aisles so narrow you have to engage in conversation with your fellow shoppers and browsers. Lewisburg has a comfortable downtown with some interesting places to shop. After lunch at the Cherry Alley Café (vegetable panini and an Italian soda for me, although they have a nice selection of coffees and pastries as well as other lunchworthy offerings) we strolled a few blocks to a large indoor flea market, which holds almost anything you might shop for in used goods, including musical instruments and large pieces of furniture. Our last stop in town was a drive through the Bucknell University campus, which, like most colleges in Pennsylvania, boasts scenic views from any direction.

Back in the car, we briefly stopped at our friend’s home, where our son finally started to enjoy himself, playing with the three huskies in the backyard. Then a tour of the area took us west on back roads and Route 45, a major conduit to Penn State. Along a road that meandered alongside Penn’s Creek, we stopped at a house with the scariest driveway I’ve had to navigate. The owner is not only a musician friend of our friend, but apparently an artist and accomplished chef as well. We found ourselves invited to his Snowflake Party in January. Guests can spend time cutting out paper snowflakes, which he photographs and assembles into a slide show. These artworks ranged from simple ones a child could do, to intricately detailed museum quality designs. Backing out of his steep rutted driveway toward the highway below, I felt at times as if I would roll the car, and near the top, looking out my rear window, could not see the driveway’s surface at all. Much as we appreciate our Subaru Forester, a vehicle somewhat lower to the ground would have made this exercise less daunting. I don’t see us going to this nice man’s Snowflake Party unless he gets a new driveway.

Speaking of driving, as friend Flora tells us, a great many young Amish men set out in the afternoon to go courting miles away along the mountain roads. Lest anyone doubt what substance these Amish are made of, imagine driving your carriage along a highway on steep roads with cars careening around the bend on their way up or downhill, and returning home in the wee hours in all kinds of cold or heat. I admire their pluck. We saw several buggies before dark, but none on way back to Lewisburg after dinner.

We reached Milheim a little early for dinner, but we were hungry anyway. This is where we ate: This place has a selection of microbrew beers, good food, and like other places in which we ordered tea, a variety of those as well. I recommend the carrot cake if you order dessert, although the other choices look delicious too. We couldn’t stay late enough to hear the live band that was scheduled for that evening. It was time for Flora to feed the dogs, and for us to torture our offspring with music practice, math and English homework back at the hotel. And time for husband and me to get acquainted with the hotel fitness center to do penance for our dessert. We were relieved to find that none of the other guests complained about hearing violin music from our room.

Our last day of this holiday weekend took us north on Route 15 from Lewisburg to Allenwood, just north of I-80, for a visit to Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland Zoo. Apparently the founder of this animal habitat is well known for appearances with both Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien — photos on display attest to his celebrity. The animals were indoors, as you might expect in November. Unfortunately, the room smells really bad. Since all the animals are in glass tanks except the large tortoises, I am guessing they are the source of the smell. There was no unpleasant smell in the small theater with the narrated slideshow, where the presenter brought out a baby alligator and a python for the audience to touch. I am happy to report that all the tots who witnessed the show emerged unharmed. This held enough interest to engage our brooding adolescent, who extracted further compensation when we adjourned to the gift shop. The shop sells unhatched snake eggs, with a caution not to let them get warm enough to hatch. (Pass.) You don’t need to be told that the emu you’ll pass by is neither a reptile or an amphibian, but in keeping with the acknowledgement of the paleontological link between birds and dinosaurs, is an appropriate specimen for this place.

From there, we drove north to Williamsport, to have brunch at the Bullfrog Brewery, where we met up with Flora again, who obligingly brought her flute to join the jazz group who jams there on Sundays with any of a number of musicians and vocalists from the area. Bored teen ordered a “Fajizza”, which is a flatbread pizza, followed by peanut butter pie. I had a salad with their tasty red pepper vinaigrette, Bruschetta (an appetizer, but I wanted room for dessert), and Black Forest cake. My husband had a tasty looking salad. Afterward it was time for us to head home to the land of leftover turkey, and to see what mess our older teen had made of the house.

Usually, when I learn of the frequent lengthy traffic jams of the Philadelphia area, I am hearing it on the radio, and can reflect on how grateful I am that none of us commutes there regularly. This time, we learned of our impending traffic jam too late to avoid sitting almost still for about a half hour, which is time enough to remember why we don’t usually go away for Thanksgiving, unless we can wait until Monday to drive home. I won’t try to imagine how flying was for those of you who did this to yourselves this past weekend. We were finally able to get off the PA Turnpike, and learn by trial and error that the map we had just bought did not accurately label the roads we went on after leaving the turnpike and passing through Doylestown. Head east, we figured and sooner or later we’d reach the Delaware River and figure it out from there. It worked if you consider making a three hour drive in five hours a success.

The house wasn’t too horribly messy on our return. So, would I do it again next year? Probably. Some of us never learn.


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