Donny has decided that seeing Lydia skate in the Hershey Open will be fun and he begins his quest for a room. Hotel prices around the park are crazy high in the season as are b&b rooms, if you can even find anything, and so when he locates Into the Woods in nearby Mt Gretna and it’s available and affordable he gets skater approval and books it. A cozy efficiency in the lower level of a private home it has two bedrooms with wide doors opening onto a covered patio that overlooks a wooded hillside. There’s a fire pit, an outdoor pizza oven and on the upper level a soft lawn edged by a stone walkway winding through a small vegetable and flower garden complete with a goldfish pond.
We have discussed picking up Em and the kids in Springfield giving us just one car. In that discussion to spare the boys an early morning wake up call, I have offered to go with the girls to that dawn breaking practice and then go back to get the guys but Emily is not sure about how heavy the traffic entering the park at the later time will be so we agree to drive separately and meet at Into the Woods.
I am navigator as usual and in reviewing the roads ahead inadvertently touch the screen on Donny new phone such that we are unknowingly rerouted. We have opted to go the Eastern shore way and this change of route occurs shortly past Wilmington. After many turns and miles on beautiful but really small country roads, Donny asks if we are on track. We are supposed to be on a couple of secondary roads anyway to get to the Pennsylvania Turnpike for the last leg of our journey so we don’t realize that we are off course. I get our trusty paper map and strive in vain to find where we are. Finally in frustration we pull off to regroup. A few miles back we have passed a road marker for Chadds Ford. Mom would be so happy. Andrew Wyeth territory. One of her favorite artists. She even purposeful took a trip with friends to meet him at his studio.
Donny & I deduct that we are still headed true just a bit differently than planned. Back on the road I take a video of the bucolic countryside and post it. I get a message from good friend, Robert Netsch, dad to our beautiful daughter-in-law Hilarey, telling me that we are in his neck of the woods. We have recently learned that he grew up in Chadds Ford. He recognizes exactly where I took the video. He suggests several worthy stops but we are still not sure how long this winding trip is going to take and forge ahead.
Many hours later and with our last gasp of gas we reach Old Mine Road. We have been so intent on getting there that neither of us has noticed the empty light come on. Emily and the kids are already settled in. Back up close at hand, Donny and I venture out for gas. We are in the wilds but resupply promises to be only a few miles away. Again our GPS takes us on a circuitous route. We find ourselves going in a circle headed back to Old Mine Road which is only a few miles long. In desperation, we pull into a driveway and button hole a kindly gentleman who assures us that gas albeit high priced is close by and points the way. Back home Donny collapses. Lydia chooses take out over going out and so Emily and I set forth for Manheim and food. Her GPS is much more direct. We quickly find the pizza place and a grocery store close by.
The next morning our drive takes us through a huge country road cycling event. Later Donny learns that it is the 5th annual Chocolate Tour, a very big deal. The girls are already at the rink and later report that they have been entertained by the lift off of a multitude of hot air balloons on their drive in to town.
Donny & I are very impressed with Hersheypark Arena, home to one of the oldest figure skating clubs in the country. It has that grand aged building feel. It is huge with tiers of seats. Lydia’s event is early. She does well enough to medal. And she just misses advancing by one place.
Now we’re off to Chocolate World, a brief walk away, to get some lunch and to met Jen, Lydia’s awesome coach, at Create Your Own Chocolate Bar for our scheduled one o’clock tour. Equipped with aprons, hair nets and a beard net for Donny we begin by entering into a computer our choices of inclusions for our personalized bar. Later I get a lot of grief for creating a plain bar and truthfully it did look rather pitiful gliding along the conveyor stopping for no addition, not even a sprinkle topping. But its fresh milk chocolate taste is amazing. I stand by my decision.
We head back to our little island of calmness for rest and relaxation.While the others rest, I explore the Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails path that winds below our property. We girls plan to meet up with Lydia’s skating friend and her family to watch her event that evening and then take advantage of the free with your day ticket park preview available three hours before closing. The guys choose to stay home.
Sunday morning sees us ready for our day at Hersheypark. It is overcast so we explore the zoo while we wait for the clouds to pass. Martin and I need sun to take on the water adventures on The Boardwalk. We hit the zoo at the right time. Cages are being cleaned and breakfast distributed. All the animals are active and very entertaining. It’s a really great small zoo. We are all enchanted and want to take most of the animals home with us, they are so captivating, the martens, the ring tailed ocelots. The road runner is hysterical, true to comedic form.
Back in the main park, Lydia and Emily meet up with their coaster riding friends. They are off to experience the new ride Laff Trakk. Martin & I ride Wild Mouse before changing into our swim clothes. For someone who doesn’t like roller coasters he has picked an aggressive level 5 ride. We have already ridden easy going Trailblazer. Martin comments that two roller coasters in one day is a record for him. We get the car key from Emily, still standing in the eternal line for Laff Trakk, and go change. We are on the far side of the park. When we get back the gang is still not out of the ride. Finally they emerge. We make a plan and go our separate ways. We divide and conquer Hersheypark.
Heading home Donny & I decide that we just have time before dark to stop by the family farm Robert has told us about. He has given us perfect directions. I send him a video. Is this the one? Yes, he replies. Except for the annoying power lines it looks the same he reports. It’s huge and so picturesque. I’m trying to figure out the exact connection Robert has to the farm. Finally after several texts and some wikipedia research I deduct that it was his grandparents farm and where his mother, Lydia, grew up. And also is the subject of literally thousands of Andrew Wyeth drawings and paintings spanning over seventy years.
Mom would be in love with this blog post. Her great-granddaughter medals in figure skating, a sport mom loved to obsession. (She would put her ice skates on in hot summer and stand on newspaper wishing for ice.) And Lydia medaled at Hersheypark, mom never met a chocolate she didn’t love. Lastly, her daughter runs barefoot (taught well by her farm girl mom) up the Kuerner Farm lane in the fading day light to take a video of one of Andrew Wyeth’s favorite subjects and which now has a family connection to her grandson, Lewis.