Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania’

We took a “simulated factory ride” at Taste of Hershey.  Not a Disney-quality ride, and not a factory tour.  Maybe if we’d brought kids along with us it would have been more fun, but I kind of doubt it – I think Chris had higher standards, even 20 years ago.

Gettysburg, on the other hand, is the real deal.  This time, we start with a tour of President Eisenhower’s home and farm.  A shuttle from the Visitor’s Center takes you to the site.

The only home Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower ever owned

Aside from all the obvious history, I enjoyed the fact that the President and First Lady liked to eat their dinner on tv trays on their informal porch, while watching the evening news with Walter Cronkite.  Krushchev, De Gaulle, and many other foreign dignitaries were entertained here.  I liked Ike’s way of getting a read on his new visitors – by taking them on an exhaustive tour of his farm, and his prize-winning Angus cattle.  After that, they were probably softened up enough, and not forced to watch the Eisenhowers favorite shows, “Bonanza” or “As the World Turns”, respectively.

I’ll never forget the film clip with President Eisenhower being interviewed by Walter Cronkite, where the President chokes up talking about how there must be a way to end war.  In this home, the only one that Ike and Mamie ever owned, there is absolutely no war memorabilia.

We spent the next day at the Gettysburg Visitor’s Center and Museum – probably the best overall Civil War Museum we’ve seen.  Just do it.


Dobbin House Tavern

Dinner was at Dobbin House Tavern, an authentic colonial tavern with delicious food  (we ate in the downstairs pub room -amazing crab dip appetizer, very tasty chicken dinner) lots of history, and a secret crawl space for runaway slaves, featured in “National Geographic”.

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Ephrata Cloister


It’s Sunday,  and we’re here at  Ephrata Cloister, to learn about this 18th century religious community – while, religiously, coming back to the Navion to catch the score/watch the Packer game. We missed Mass today, so our worship has obviously taken a different form.

I listen to what life was like for the people who joined this community – and like everyone else on the guided tour- think, no way.  The celibacy, the sleeping on a board with a wood block for a pillow, little sleep, working for hours on end with little or no food. Vegetarian at that.  We’re not recruited.  But our tour guide did a fantastic job of putting us in a different mind-set. Where were the people in this community coming from, what was going on in the countries they left behind?  War, famine, homelessness, starvation, faith under attack. This place begins to look good.  Food, shelter, clothing, community.  PLUS, singing musical compositions or calligraphic writing, depending on your ability – as a discipline for mind and body.  That’s education.


Sister's House and Saal (Meeting-house) Ephrata Cloister


After the leader, Conrad Beissel died, it sounds like the beds were pretty much “re-made” overnight.  And the community fell into gradual decline.

Oh, and the other ending.  Packers lost.

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George Washington's Headguarters, Valley Forge


Almost every historical site we visit challenges something I thought I knew.  Mention Valley Forge, and I envision starving and freezing men in Washington’s army, dying in tattered rags during their winter encampment here.

Not so much.  Disease killed more men than cold or starvation.  And two-thirds of the men who died, did so during the warmer months of March, April and May.  That would be influenza, typhus, typhoid and dysentery.

I also thought of them as a pretty ragtag lot.  Nope, they’re a surprisingly skilled bunch of men.  Under brutal conditions, they built their own housing, foraged for food, constructed trenches, forts, patrolled and defended the camp and took care of each other. It’s reported that some of the sick and dying preferred to stay with their fellow soldiers rather than be moved to nearby hospitals.

It turns out one of the most significant things about the encampment at Valley Forge was that the army was whipped into shape by Baron Von Steuben, a former Prussian army officer.  Washington’s Continental Army didn’t just waste time here – they gained skill and confidence,  and became an army to contend with.

Thank you, boys.  We’re forever indebted.

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