"Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act." Proverbs 24:12

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Almost Heaven.....

Reaching the top of Spruce Knob.
Cabin Life
The view and wildflowers surrounding our cabin.
West Virginia's largest caverns.
Touring Lititz, PA
My limited photography doesn't do God's beauty justice.

West Virginia. Yes, we are almost at the end of the journey.

Wednesday morning we awoke, had our final breakfast at our marvelous B & B and did some touristy things throughout the small, quaint town of Lititz. A couple of fun things was visiting the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, where America's first pretzel was made back in 1861. We then hopped over to the Wilbur Chocolate Co., who has been around for over 100 years. I made sure to fill up a baggy of chocolate covered apricots and we were off to lunch.

Again, YUMMERS!!!!! Lunch was at Good and Plenty and boy, oh boy! Was it good and plenty! This neat restaurant seats you at a table with strangers, introduces everyone and then starts piling on the food. By the time the 3rd course had arrived we felt like we were sitting with old friends, who just happened to be from Wisconsin, California and Nebraska. Scott and I pondered parking the car under a shade tree and napping for a few hours, but we knew we had a 5 hour drive to a remote cabin in West Virginia, so we had to hit the road.

I have to say that I loved West Virginia and the beauty and peace that the mountains brought, but I am a city girl and I truly learned that you can take the girl outta the city, but you can't take the city outta the girl. Whoa! I was pretty frantic to learn that we were over 100 miles from any area where our cell phone would work.

We arrived at dusk and after taking what seemed endless twisting and turning roads up North Mountain, we drove down into a valley where our cabin sat. Both Scott and I were pretty speechless when we saw the view. My immediate thought was that only our God could create such beauty and such perfection. The sun was setting behind the mountains and the blue haze that covered them with an orange splash of sunshine created a festival of water colors in the sky. It was absolutely spectacular.

We gathered up fire wood and my mountain-lovin' hubby quickly began making a fire. I also have to give him great kudos because we did not have matches and he was able to start the fire with a votive candle that I had lit on the stove.

As we sat by the fire, with the temperature dropping to the high 50's, I tried so hard to relax, but all I kept thinking about was those horror movies (i.e. Michael Myers in Halloween) and how we would not have a way of reaching civilization because we had no phone lines and we were 20 miles away from the nearest anything! Of course, we also had the noises that stir in the night when you are out in the wilderness and I would pop up everytime some creature made itself heard. It made for an interesting night, including my waking up at 2:30 a.m. with horrible nightmares about Michael Myers. Oh yes, fun!

The next morning we woke up and again, I was in awe of the natural beauty surrounding us and to add icing on the cake, there were cattle and deer just outside our door! It was great having coffee on the deck and watching the deer pop their little heads up from the meadow when a sound reached them.

We then headed up to Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia. Before reaching Spruce Knob, we decided to pull into this little place for breakfast. As we pulled in we read a big sign outside that said, "Welcome Mountainfest Motorcycle Rally 2008" Ahhh, yes! Not only was I looking over my shoulder expecting Michael Myers wearing a mask behind me, but I was now going to be sharing what I thought was a town of 200 with over 2,000 Hells Angels. Or so I thought.

We walk into the restaurant and it's empty with the exception of two older bikers sitting at a table. Scott and I find a table on the other side of the restaurant and settle in. Shortly afterwards, my husband decides he's leaving me alone there so he could go to the bathroom. As he's walking around the other table, the man comments on Scott's shirt. Obviously, a New England Patriots' fan. Scott smiles, mutters something and continues to the restroom. They then turn to me and say, "Where ya from?" I am seated about 20 feet away on the other side so I loudly respond, "Florida". The woman then says, "Why don'tcha come sit with us?" I smile nervously without responding. She waits and then says, "Are ya expectin' somebody?" I again smile, grab my cup of coffee and our car keys that were on the table and slowly make my way to their table. I then sit and say, "Nope. We're just here on vacation." Then some small talk ensues.
A couple of minutes later, Scott walks out, starts walking past us and I say..."Hey, I'm over here." After giving me a completely baffled look, he sits down in the empty chair. I then explain that I had moved over because they asked us to join them. The bike outside with the sidecar belonged to them. We had new biker friends....heh.

But as God always does, he slapped me upside the head and taught me once again not to judge others. Here I entered this place terrified of bikers and thinking we're gonna get kidnapped and my babies would grow up never knowing how much their Mama and Daddy loved them, and so on....and we were sitting at the table with a Shriner and his wife!

The conversation had turned, of course, to our kiddos. Scott pulled out pictures (proud Daddy) to show them and they of course asked about the 2 little Chinese ones. The picture Scott had showed Anna Grace's hand and the man asked about it, which I thought was a bit strange. I responded that she had syndactyly of her hand and we were awaiting any day now to hear from Shriner's Hospital in Tampa. He then told us that he owed his life to Shriners followed by his complete story (which was quite fascinating) of how Shriner's allowed him to be able to walk. He was so thankful that at age 27, he became a Mason and then a few years later became an actual Shriner. What are the chances that in the remotest of town we would sit down to breakfast with 2 complete strangers in an empty restaurant and one of them be a Shriner, whom I am desperately awaiting to hear from? Yep....God at work.

After breakfast we toured West Virginia's largest caverns, The Seneca Caverns. After spending about 2 hours there, we finally made it up to Spruce Knob. It was beautiful, but I have to admit, not quite as beautiful as the view from our cabin.

I was feeling pretty miserable that I hadn't spoken to the kids in 2 days and unless we drove over 100 miles to speak to them, it wasn't happening, because we couldn't even find a public phone to call collect from. I still carried my phone on me praying and hoping. As we climbed the observation tower at the highest peak of Spruce Knob, I hear a "click" coming from my jeans pocket. Scott said, "Hey! That's your phone!" I quickly pull it out and look at it. The NO SERVICE sign was gone and in it's place were 2 bars! I don't remember dialing it happened so fast! I was beside myself with excitement when my Mom answered the phone at my house. I was able to say, "Mom? Can you hear me?" She said, "Yes!" and that's the last thing I heard. The line dropped and the NO SERVICE flashed on the screen again. I felt like crying. It totally sucked that we were in one of the most beautiful places on earth and I could not enjoy it because I wanted so badly to talk to my little ones. Scott even offered for us to drive back to town the 100+ miles, but I knew that was ridiculous when we would be going back to the city the next day.

From the observation tower, we went on a walk through a beautiful nature trail. The wild flowers and foliage were magnificent. I took the opportunity to take lots of pictures and just enjoy the quiet time with my husband, trying to put the cell phone and the kids in the back of my mind. For a while it worked.

We eventually made it back out to the parking lot. As I was walking back to my car, the "click" of my cell phone went off again. This time I held the phone high in the air, trying to make as many "bars" appear as possible. I hit redial and got my Mom again. I then told her to quickly get the kids on the phone before I could lose my connection. Anna Grace and AJ were with her. Kai was at my sister's house. I spoke to both my sweeties and told them how much I missed them and that Mama would be home in just 2 more days, all the while in a frozen position so as not to lose my connection. My neck ached from being so still. I hung up with them and called my sister's house. I was able to speak to Kai. Just as I hung up, my phone rang. It was Amanda! I knew it had to be God giving me this time. People were walking by me and commenting on how in the world could I get a cell phone connection up there. I didn't take the time to respond. I was so wrapped up into telling all my babies I loved them! I missed them so much! After speaking to all my 6 sweeties, my heart was lifted and I was renewed.

We went back to the cabin and had a fabulous steak dinner, followed by sitting around the fire outside sipping on wine and munching on smores made with marshmallows roasted in the fire. A perfect night.

The next morning, I awoke before Scott, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed to the deck to watch the sunrise. Again, another gift from God. I was in awe of the natural beauty that surrounded me.
We packed up and headed to the last stop of our vacation before heading home. Annapolis.

image signature

Pennsylvania and Amish Country

Here we are on our first ride at Hershey Park, The Comet!
I love wooden rollercoasters and thought I would try video taping
the ride. It only worked for a bit, until the camera dropped and I couldn't
get it back in my hands. So, sorry for the "bumpy ride". We had a blast!
(Remember to scroll down to turn off background music.)

I will be finishing these entries in parts, since I have found it really hard to sit and put it all into words without leaving out the details that I want to remember years from now.

After a small mishap of losing my entire notebook containing all of the information about our trip (flights, hotels, mapquests, reservations, etc.) we finally arrived on Sunday night in Litiz, PA. Our innkeepers, John and Heidi, were wonderful, caring people.

(PLUG TIME: If anyone is looking to stay at a B & B that truly makes you feel at home and go the extra mile to make sure your stay is perfect, The Lititz House is it!)

Monday morning we awoke to a great breakfast and headed off to Hershey Park. I want to add here that this was my first visit to Pennsylvania and I loved it! It was probably the best part of our trip. The rolling hills and dotted farm lands were just beautiful. The people were kind and we had a magnificent time. I digress.

Hershey Park was loads of fun. The weather was perfect. The only thing I would've changed was the lines on the rides. We were only able to go on about 7 rides due to the 1 - 1.5 hour wait in each one. That was one of the few times on the trip I was happy to say that kids weren't with us. I just couldn't imagine standing in those lines with 3 toddlers. That said, we had a great time. We laughed and frolicked through the park and water park like 2 kids. Not to mention, we ate just about every bit of junk food the park had to offer....and loved every minute of it.

The next morning, we again were spoiled by a tray of delicious coffee brought up to our room as a "warm up" to breakfast, which again was delicious. We sat around the table, chit-chatted a while and then headed to Intercourse, P.A. Amish Country. I was again blown away by the beauty there. Corn fields were as common as palm trees in Florida and after a long search, gave up the battle in trying to find a house that wasn't surrounded by flowers and just plain beautiful. The horse and buggys were everywhere and we of course had to join in by taking our own horse and buggy ride through town. We found an Amish farm with homemade rootbeer.....YUMMY!

We then headed to Kitchen Kettle Village, a quaint little shopping area filled with all-things-Amish. We bought Amish cheese, sweet bologna and bread and had a romantic little picnic lunch, making sure that we didn't stuff ourselves so that we could be plenty hungry for our dinner with an Amish family.

Afterwards, we drove through Bird in Hand and Strasberg where we visited (mostly for the kids) the Thomas the Train museum and picked up some more goodies.

Finally, we arrived back at the B & B around 4:30 p.m. just in time to shower and get ready for our 5:30 p.m. dinner with the King family. We drove out to their 68 cow dairy farm in Lititz and pulled up to the beautiful home. Upon arriving, we were greeted by their 9 year old daughter, Mary Sue. She graced us with a beautiful smile and a warm welcome as we entered their home. Her Mama and she had been cooking up a storm. Mary Sue is one of the 6 King children ranging in ages from 9 mos. to 11 years. The youngest and the oldest being the boys of the family.

We noticed a fan running in the dining room where we were seated which must've put a puzzled look on our faces, since the Amish do not use electricity. Rachel, the mother, quickly explained that the fan ran on generators, but that they did not have electricity in the home, and that all of their water came from wells, also run on generators.

We learned an awful lot about the Amish lifestyle, starting with the fact that their faith is Christian based. She and Mary Sue began bringing out dishes to the table filled with meatloaf, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, zucchini casserole, Amish-style chicken pot pie, homemade ketchup, applesauce, and chow-chow (not sure of the spelling) which was similar to a pickled 3 bean salad. Everything was scrumptious!!! Just when we thought we couldn't take another bite, Mary Sue informed us that we had to have dessert. She had made them. Then suddenly, out from the kitchen, appears Rachel carrying a 3 layer Bavarian chocolate cake and of course, Shoo-Fly Pie! (Becky, I thought of you immediately!)

The Shoo-Fly Pie was good, but oh my gosh, that Bavarian cake had to be the most delicious thing I've ever had. Yummers! Soooooooo good!

The children wanted so badly to give us a tour of the farm and finally convinced their parents to agree to allow them to do their chores afterwards. These children, with the exception of the 2 year old who reminded us so much of AJ, get up at 4:30 in the morning to help the parents. First, the oldest son (11) and the the two youngest daughters (6 and 8) head out to the barn to help milk the cows. They clean the stables, feed the goats, the cats and the horses. All this while the 9 year helps indoors with laundry, since this needs to be done before the generators need to be used for milking the cows. When the laundry is finished, the 9 year old goes out and hangs it on the line while the mother prepares breakfast.

By then it's almost 6 a.m., the kids come in, clean-up and have breakfast and they ready for school. They attend a 2 room schoolhouse where grades 1-4 are in one room and grades 4-8 are in the other. They attend school up until the age of 14 and then they join the family full time in working the farm. By the way, the children all spoke Dutch, German and English. We were explained that their first language is Pennsylvania Dutch. a dialect of German. But, all of their church services are in German, so they must learn to speak, read and write German and then of course, English since they live in the US. Sweet little Stephen, the 2 year old, was rattling away in Dutch with his Mama and then turned and spoke to us in English. I was saddened to see that they don't attend school further than age 14, but I also understand that this is their religion and their lifestyle. I emphatically want to add that all of the children were so respectful and friendly. They had wonderful manners, were smart and just filled with a yearning to please both their guests and their parents.

We loved the tour the kids gave us of the farm. I was so moved by the 6 year old having to tell us goodbye because she had to feed the animals. A few minutes later, we see her pushing a wheelbarrow that was almost bigger than her as she is going from stall to stall shoveling new bedding for the calves. It was quite a learning experience.

I did want to share that we did not take pictures of the family out of respect for their beliefs. They strongly belief in God's word and take it literally. Exodus 20:4 tells us that Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth, hence their reasoning for not taking pictures.

I loved our stay in Lancaster. I never expected to enjoy this part of our trip as much as I did! I truly learned a huge amount and was honored to get to peek a bit into the lives of these humble people. I could go on and on....but I won't. :)

The next morning we toured a bit of Lititz, had an amazing lunch at Good and Plenty (again, thanks Peg!) and began our drive into the spectacular Blue Ridge mountains of beautiful West Virignia.

Note: April, we tried to get to Shady Maple, but there was no way we could eat so much in 3 days! Another reason to go back. :)

Also, I am dying to find the time to catch up with everyone's blogs and my emails. I hope to do that very soon!!!

image signature

Blog Widget by LinkWithin