Week 33-  April 24 - 30 Week: Maintenance

In order to stay on our schedule, we had to say goodbye to our friends the Sjaardas in Baltimore and travel on a Sunday morning.  It was ironic that the first week this year that we were too “busy” to find a church, was the week that we would spend some time in Amish/Mennonite country where faith, family and community take priority over schedules and things of the world… 

We stayed in the farming area outside of Lancaster the first few days of the week.  The rolling hills were dotted with tidy farms of Amish and Mennonite families.  Spring field work was in high gear and we were treated to sights such as eight horse teams pulling manual plows through the fertile Pennsylvania soil. 

We visited several villages during our stay.  On Monday, while Brenda was checking out a quilting display, I became engrossed in a book that attempted to answer the major questions that are often asked about the Mennonite and Amish culture.  We, in “progressive” America, rush through our busy days battered by the distractions and noise of life often ending up isolated and unfulfilled.  Some look down on the Amish as “backward”, but their lifestyle seems more successful in attaining the things that really matter in life! 

Amish philosophy on education fits in with what we have been experiencing on our trip with respect to different aspects of learning.  Our “modern” society puts so much emphasis on formal education and all of its theories.  As we have learned this year, education is so much more than this.  The Amish seem to understand this.  Formal education focuses only on reading, writing, and arithmetic, and goes through eighth grade.  Studies have shown that Amish teenagers have learned just as many facts as our kids have, but their knowledge is more balanced.  They may not be as technologically savvy, but have learned so much more about what it takes to live in harmony with their environment and their community. 

In a way, we have simplified our lives similarly the past year.  We left most of our “stuff” home.  We have not been tied to the world’s frantic schedule.  We have thoroughly enjoyed being so close as a family unit. 

The faith and family aspect was especially intriguing to me.  This culture has some unique advantages in how they live out their Christianity.  I especially enjoyed the response that one Amish fellow gave when asked if he was a Christian.  He answered, “I could tell you anything… You should ask my family and neighbors if I am one.” 

As we drove out of the country on Wednesday, we stopped at Herr’s Snack Foods for another of our factory tours.  It was a nice way to conclude our experience of the Amish and Mennonite culture.  While the Amish focus on being a self sufficient agricultural community, the Mennonites are more a part of the “modern” world.  This Mennonite family business of Herr’s demonstrated well the application of the community and faith principles in the corporate world.  The company has put people first throughout its long history, and it showed in the employees we met. 

Being in a food processing factory again also kind of shook me back to the reality that I will be in the working world again in about six weeks.  I’m sure I’ll have some re-entry turbulence ahead of me… 

After Herr’s, we used the afternoon for our obligatory Delaware drive-through.  There was almost nothing in the AAA guidebook about Delaware!  We finally decided to get our state line photo and drive to a dot on the map that located Kirkwood, Delaware.  It turned out that there wasn’t even a downtown.  The post office was part of a convenience store on their one intersection.  The employees were amused as I posed by the Kirkwood post office sign. 

This week was also a week of maintenance, both family and equipment.  Early in the week most of us were hit with a 24 hour intestinal bug.  Besides that, Harvey needed some attention, which is always disrupting to the family.  Instead of the ten minutes needed for the van, an oil change takes several hours and means we have to be out of our “home” during the process  The timing of our appointment was a bit challenging as we really needed to be in our home resting… 

We also needed to get some specialized work done on Harvey’s hydraulic system.  In yet another example of how God has daily cared for us, we ended up finding a Winnebago dealer in the Philadelphia area that could help us.  The main mechanic, Pete Seagraves turned out to be an expert in the system that needed attention.  In fact, he is a trainer of other mechanics for the company that makes these systems!  Pete also builds race cars and gave Nate and I a great tour of his equipment!  Ask Nate how loud a souped up drag-racing Camero can be! 

Media Camping Center in Fairless Hills was so nice to us.  They fit us into their schedule, let us stay on their property, and got us fixed up as fast as possible.  What could have been a major disruption, had little effect on our already tight schedule, as we visited our planned Philadelphia attractions during the days they worked on Harvey. 

Philadelphia was a wonderful city.  The new historical center provides a great introduction to Independence era history with films and displays.  We experienced historical sites including, the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin’s hangouts, the first US Congress Building, and Independence Hall.  We also enjoyed cultural experiences like eating Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches purchased from a sidewalk vendor and sitting and talking to a retired couple on vacation from Staten Island (priming us as we prepare to head for New York City!). 

Our last day in Philly, we visited the U.S. Mint.  We enjoyed this tour even more than the Bureau of Engraving in D.C.  Some of the displays included the hugely successful 50 States quarters program.  As we looked at each one, it was so exciting to see the different perspective the kids had discussing the highlights depicted after being in so many of the states this past year.  Jenna has especially taken interest in saving each state quarter as they are released. 

We also visited the Auguste Rodin Museum.  Rodin is the French sculptor best known for his sculpture, “The Thinker”  We were surprised to see that it is actually a component taken from a larger work, two huge bronze doors depicting Hell.  It gives a whole different perspective knowing what he is contemplating!…  Rodin’s work masterfully captures motion and emotion.  He also was expert at sculpting hands.  The whole family enjoyed our quick visit more than I thought they would!  We had wanted to do more with art and sculpture museums on our adventure, but have just started getting into it here on the East Coast.   

After Harvey’s work was completed by the end of the week, we headed out of the Philadelphia area Saturday morning to Easton Pennsylvania.  The drive was a bit too exciting as we wound around the narrow road along the Delaware with Harvey and the van in tow.  Parallel to the river was the now abandoned Delaware pull canal.  Our stop in Easton would include learning about the short era of our history when canal transportation was key to our growing country.  

Adding to the drive time excitement, the kids noticed that the praying mantis egg casings we had been toting in our bug cage since Leesburg had finally hatched.  Hundreds of the little guys entertained the kids as we drove.  So far, we’ve managed to avoid mass escapes in Harvey! 

The other attraction we visited in Easton was the Crayola Factory.  As factory tour aficionados we were a little disappointed that there was no actual production, although they did have a demonstration of the process.  The Crayola factory is still a fun place with all sorts of creative entertainment and exhibits. 

We arrived in our RV park west of Allentown very happy to settle down with a full hookup for a few days after a tiring but fulfilling week.  Hopefully man and machine will now stay in good working order for the rest of our adventure.