We are now in Pennsylvania, staying just outside Philadelphia where my daughter Rachel is working as a nanny. We left Salt Lake late Thursday afternoon for a direct flight to Baltimore-Washington Airport, where we spent the night then drove up to Philadelphia yesterday morning.
We had received quite a surprise at the Salt Lake airport. We hadn't allowed ourself quite enough time prior to our departure and were dismayed to see the longest line to get through security that I have ever seen at that airport. Resigned, we joined the line, which moved fairly quickly to where an airport employee was checking people's boarding passes. He took a quick look at ours and said "Pre-Check - you go up there to that [short] line on the left."
Somewhat bewildered, we followed his directions to a relatively short line that was moving quickly through screening. As we stood there, I turned and asked a woman behind us what this was all about. She explained that, in this line, we wouldn't have to take off our shoes or our coats, nor would be have to take our laptops or our toiletries out. "It's just like the old days," she said.
Hardly believing our good fortune, I asked her how we might have been so blessed by the travel gods to earn this beneficence. I hadn't applied for it; I didn't know anything about it. The only enlightenment the woman (whom I'm pretty sure was transgendered) could provide was that frequent fliers were selected for this program. So, I can only surmise that, because of the flying we have done this year, we were somehow selected. That is such a cool feeling when the universe reaches down/out and inexplicably lifts you from one (not-so-good) situation and just makes your day. So, thank you travel gods.
|Rachel's Nanny Family House|
Rachel was thrilled to see us, and we here, as we arrived late yesterday morning in a "mainline" suburb outside Philly. It had been beautifully sunny outside Baltimore that morning, but had turned cloudy, windy and quite cool by the time we arrived. But at least it wasn't raining. We had decided to head to "Amish Country" in Lancaster County that afternoon, so after a quick tour of the house, we got in the car and headed west.
|Looking down Rachel's driveway|
Our first destination was the Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, Pennsylvania. If there's a larger smorgasbord anywhere in the country (with the possible exception of Las Vegas), I would be surprised. Why would be go there? Because Rachel had been there with a friend about six weeks ago, and because after having visited Amish communities in both Illinois and Ohio, I knew that "Amish food" and buffets were a big part of the "Amish Country" experience.
|As we were waiting in line, I heard these ladies speaking "Pennsylvania Dutch," a dialect of German|
unique to the Amish and Mennonite Communities - a first for me
The food wasn't bad for a buffet like this. It was certainly way better than Golden Corral and not even comparable to the, um, stuff they serve at Chuck-o-Rama (a Utah thing). Of course, one of the highlights was the dessert bar, where I helped myself to pieces of Shoo-fly and pecan pie and Mark treated himself to an apple dumpling.
After our late lunch, we checked out the mother of all gift shops in the basement of the restaurant, then headed out across country through Intercourse on our way to Paradise and on to Lancaster. (Yes, Virginia, there really is an Intercourse, Pennsylvania. And, of course, you have to experience Intercourse before arriving in Paradise.) Along the way, we saw some beautiful countryside and lots of buggies and horse-drawn implements.
Yesterday evening, we browsed around the King of Prussia mall, billed as the second-largest in America (the largest being in Minneapolis, apparently). It was an experience and kind of gave me a feeling of an "east-coast" Christmas (which, as Mark pointed out several times, is over six weeks away).
|One can almost see the bubble above his head: "OMG, I have six weeks of this ahead of me!"|
We ate dinner in a Food Court (I know, kinda plebeian, but it was ok). I had - of course - a Philly Cheesesteak with fries.
Today: Farmers' Market and Valley Forge with Rachel, then Mark and I head into Philly while Rachel goes to a church dance in New York City tonight. This evening, we're having dinner with Tom - a guy we met on our Corsican cycling tour - and his husband, Michael.