Family road trip, Summer 2018

Determined to leave the house, the neighborhood, and the state, we planned a short road trip last week. North or South? West? (There isn’t much East of here.) We considered a “waterfalls of West Virginia” trip. We abandoned a camping plan earlier in the summer. We stepped back from other long-drive plans.

We decided to go North. To Amish Country, Watkins Glen, and the Corning Museum of Glass. Oh, and to stay in a tiny house.

DAY ONE

We left the dog and the house and the garden behind, told them all to be good, and took off up Route 15, across the Potomac, retracing our usual path past Cunningham Falls, into the territory in Central Pennsylvania we first drove through on our pre-move trips from Rochester to check out Loudoun County, nine years ago this summer.

Google things like “Amish tour Lancaster” and you end up finding some relatively commercial (I mean, commercial for the Amish is not that much) villages, and some nice farm tour options. The Old Windmill Farm site had pictures of people feeding cows and there were pigs that looked like fun, so that’s where we headed.

The farm tour was so much fun. Yes, we fed the calves from bottles. Yes, the pigs went down a slide. Yes, we held baby chicks, and then their mother gathered them under her wings, just like the song we used to sing the kids when they were babies themselves. Yes, we pet Tim the giant mule. Yes, we fed goats and chickens from our hands. Yes, we held baby bunnies, and yes, the barn cat came when we called and soaked up all the scratches.

Q: “How long did it take to train them to do that?”
A: “About an hour.”

The farmer talked about how they had wound down their dairy operation from a 50-cow spot in a co-op to just what they needed for their family and a little casual raw milk sale here and there. He talked about how his grandfather used to grow tobacco, and now they grow corn and soy, mostly for feed. We learned about how and why they ferment some hay and alfalfa, too.

Q: “How do you stop the chickens from sitting on their eggs?”
A: “Oh, these are bad mothers.”

And then through the craft shack (allllllmost a gift shop, tbqh) and the garden, where the kids helped harvest some potatoes, and we talked about the dry weather and the bugs and all the challenges of Growing Vegetables. 

And then we shared a whoopie pie. When in Rome. Er, Pennsylvania.

We passed through downtown Strasburg, not to be confused with Stroudsburg, which I did! (Ask me about the time I was stranded in the latter for a few hours after working on a student film all night.)

We spent the night in a tiny house.

Tiny House. Prius for reference.

Literally! Like, you’ve heard of Tiny Houses™? We took this from Pinterest to real life, staying at a place that looks like it transitioned from trailer park to Tiny Estates not too long ago. (Thanks to Certifikid!) The kids had fun going up and down the precarious “stairs” to the loft bed, and we enjoyed a few rounds of cornhole and ladder toss and giant jenga in the common area. (It was really nice.)

DAY TWO

Expecting rain in the morning, we decided to head for Corning and spend the afternoon at the glass museum. We crossed the Susquehanna a dozen or so times, ate our tiny-house-toasted sandwiches in a fast food parking lot, and the sun came out for the final miles into Corning. Which is… nicer than I remember?

Maybe it doesn’t help my memory that my previous time in Corning was in the absolute dead of Central New York winter, and it wasn’t my all-time favorite newsroom visit. Because, reasons.

But. But! Not only did Corning look lovely in the summer sun, the Corning Museum of Glass was a complete revelation.

Huge, bright, airy, and the first place they send you is a contemporary art wing which was more relatable and timely and evocative and aesthetically comprehensible than anything I’ve seen at the MOCA in Chicago or (uh, a long time ago) at the Whitney in New York.

Also, glass breaking demonstrations. And glass blowing. And fire. So much fire! And glass. So much glass.

This was a highlight. Dude’s name is Jared, and he was pretty casual. I have a pic of him actually blowing glass, but this was way cooler.

After a few hours, the kids were glassed out, so we mounted up the Prius and headed north to Watkins Glen. After discovering our upstairs-from-a-deli Airbnb was almost as goth as that one chandelier with the crows, we decided a walk and some fresh air was in order. TO THE LAKE!

Also, there was some much needed ice cream, and a country-adjacent live band in a park. Hello, small town America, alive and well in Watkins Glen. (Later, we would look up the 2016 election results for Schuyler County.)

HI IT’S A LITTLE WINDY MAYBE WE SHOULD BACK AWAY FROM THE WATER AND DEFINITELY NOT GO WALKING ON THE ROCKS OK LET’S NOT DO THAT THING OK.
I knew a few songs. We kept our distance, let the kids run around, and I danced a little with my ice cream.

DAY THREE

A short prelude to our day in Watkins Glen State Park: In July 2008 (not a typo), while living in Rochester, New York, we brought our toddler down to Watkins Glen to hike the gorge and camp for the night. Here’s how it went: We all got wet on the hike, then it rained at dinnertime and I cooked our boil-in-bag rice and Indian food on our single burner camp stove in the rain, then I did laps around the campground loop getting the toddler to sleep, then she coughed once and woke up crying, and we packed up the tent and drove the two hours home with our sick kid to sleep in our own bed.

But the pictures from the gorge hike in 2008 are still fun. So we decided to recreate one of our favorites along the path.

July 2008, Gorgeous in the Gorges, birth of several variants of the nickname “Gorges McGorgeous”
2018, grown.

If you’ve never been, it’s worth the trip. I hesitate to even call it a “hike” because it’s pretty easy.

dat gorge light doe
it’s hard to get this capture wrong, tbqh

The hike was so easy, in fact, that we were pretty much done by the middle of the day, and needed something else to do, lest we get sucked into the orbit of the goth Airbnb. (In all honesty, it wasn’t that bad, and the crooked floors became sort of charming after a few hours of sleep.) 

After a break to pick up some sfogliatelle and cannoli at a neighborhood Italian bakery, we decided to check one more town off our list and took a quick ride over the hill to Ithaca, where we had spotted a science-themed mini golf option at a hands-on museum.

This hole was about centripetal force, I guess?

It was just about perfect. Back to Watkins Glen, one more walk to the lake, and we called it a night.

DAY FOUR

The day you drive all the way home isn’t supposed to be too adventurous, but we had seen enough of some parts of Route 15, and had eaten enough soggy sandwiches in fast food parking lots, so we decided to take a quick side trip about an hour our of our way to Hershey. Yes, that Hershey. 

If you’re a parent, you’ll understand what I mean when I say one of the highlights was the moment we executed a perfect tag team puke cleanup / potty run in the parking lot of the Chipotle across Chocolate Avenue (not a metaphor) from Hershey Park (also not a metaphor). [SHUDDER]

So we ate Chipotle instead of sandwiches, took a different route, and realized we were down the street from Tröegs brewery, so I made a quick run into the shop there. (Um, this place is huge? And nice? The only brewery I’ve been at this scale is Surly in Minneapolis.

Tröegs shop, the least impressive part of it, but we didn’t have time for a brewery tour and we had already eaten and the kids couldn’t really believe I was stopping for beer after everything that happened in the Chipotle parking lot.

And then we drove home, picked up the dog, and…

DAY FIVE

Just kidding, there’s no fifth day of the road trip, except that we took the kids to Arcade Fire, their first real rock concert. Did I mention we took them to Hamilton at the Kennedy Center a few days before this road trip? Hello, we are exhausted.

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