WANDERING IN WHEATLAND

Last fall – another president’s house.

James Buchanan’s Wheatland in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Wheatland is in a residential area, reminding me of the area where Zachary Taylor’s house is located.

James Buchanan was the 15th president and a Democrat. He was elected because the nation was hoping he could quiet the growing storm between North and South. His term started with the Dred Scott decision and ended with the southern states seceding. He watched hopelessly as the nation split its loyalties. Lincoln was elected president and Buchanan went home to Wheatland.

Mr. Buchanan was the only bachelor president.

He raised goats in the White House Rose Garden.

J.B. was also the only president from Pennsylvania (although Eisenhower’s had a house in Gettysburg).

He had two different colored eyes.

But the reason we’ll remember Wheatland has little to do with President Buchanan and a lot to do with the cutest tour guide I have ever had – anywhere ever. (Well, that and the fact that my debit card suddenly didn’t work – even though it had been working just fine until we got to Wheatland. A quick call to the bank revealed that I could use it anywhere but PA. Go figure – but sure enough, as soon as we crossed the border into Ohio, it was once again working exactly right.)

Anyhow, the tour guide was dressed in costume and was very tiny. I think she said she was 88. She often had to sit down or take a drink out of a bottle in a brown cloth bag (I believe it was water.) We were all quite concerned that she wouldn’t make it, very hunched over. A sweet lady who knew her stuff.  Look for her in the pictures.

Making Pretzels

Back to last fall …

So while we were in Lititz we went to the Sturgis Pretzel Bakery.

This bakery was started back in 1850 by a guy named Julius. In fact in 1861, Julius started the first commercial pretzel bakery in the US. Since that time, the Sturgis family has continued to make pretzels.

The bakery is in on one of the original Lititz buildings (1784). The house was actually built from stones dug from the street and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. (You aren’t really seeing Sturgis pretzels being made – that happens somewhere else.)

I won’t say this is the most exciting place I’ve ever visited. We did make pretzels and the tour guide was very informative and friendly (though if I were running the tours, I would make the tour guides wear something other than jeans and a t-shirt – you know, get into the spirit of old Lititz.)

The other disappointing aspect is you can’t keep your pretzel or bake it and eat it. This is not the fault of the pretzel people, but has something to do with the health department. But you did get a certificate saying you were an expert pretzel maker.

Of course, there is a gift shop with many pretzel-themed options … including several different kids of pretzels.

KID FACTOR: This place has got it and I imagine a lot of school classes come for the you-can’t-really-eat-the-pretzel making.

The Chocolate Garden

Jumping around again … to a trip just last week.

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I like indigenous restaurants.

I like places that have been featured on the Food Network, just because I think that gives them some credibility for being deliciously good … or maybe not.

So, as we were walking through a town which shall remain nameless and saw a cupcake bakery that had actually WON cupcake wars, we suddenly got a craving for a cupcake. You see those scrumptious confections with spectacular decorations on television and figure that if they won $10,000 they must be good.

Or not. Just didn’t like them and we were both sorry we had wasted the calories. (I will say there is a cupcake bakery right here in the area that has much more memorable cupcakes. The owner also told me she would not go on Cupcake Wars because she wants to focus on her customers. If you want to know where THAT bakery is, let me know and I’ll tell you … or maybe even take you there 🙂 )

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So we were on our way home and saw a sign for The Chocolate Garden, a classic-looking sign that just said to stop and oh, yeah – the place had been featured on The Food Network. We decided to try again. Signs pointed us down a narrow country road, twisting and turning through vineyards.

And then we came upon the Chocolate Garden surrounded by fields. We walked into a large, simply decorated room lined with shelves. The chocolate is all the same ball-shaped truffles. One counter had rich, dark chocolate, another milk chocolate and still a third display had white chocolate. But each of the three sections had a multitude of flavors – chocolate raspberry, lemon white, etc.

The truffles are super expensive – so stop for a special treat. In other words, you’ll not be getting your supply of Halloween candy for the neighborhood kids here. For $3.00 you choose three samples – small slices of the truffles of your choice. Two truffles cost $6.00. You can also buy bigger boxes which I didn’t.

Even though I like chocolate, I’m not a chocoholic. But I bought two lemon-flavored white chocolate truffles and I’m making them last by eating a small piece a day. They are smooth, flavorful and rich – so a small slice a day works.

The girls behind the counter were super friendly. At least one was the owner’s niece and she explained how each truffle is made separately, etc. Oh, and besides the Food Network, they’ve been mentioned in a bunch of other places and won the “most ravishing chocolate.”

So again, be prepared – the truffles are expensive (but chocolate is expensive anywhere these days), but if you’re looking for a different sort of experience while riding south on 94 in Michigan – here’s an option.

A Cool Town

Lititz, Pennsylvania is a cool town.

Members of the Moravian Church founded it back in 1756 and named it after a castle. And actually for 100 years, only Moravians could live in the town. And then the powers that be said you could live there, but you had to lease a house … unless you were Moravian.

But by the time of the Civil War the town was open to everyone.

Right along the main street is Linden Hall School, founded by the Moravians back in 1746 and is now considered the oldest all-girls boarding school in the U.S. (and still educating girls).

Downtown Lititz would be picturesque no matter when you walked down the street, but on the fall morning we were there, the leaves made it even more colorful and appealing.

So take an autumn walk through Lititz …

A Long and Rainy Day

We headed into Maryland … in the rain.

And walked around Easton … in the rain.

And ate lunch at St. Michaels in the rain … at a place called the Town Dock. Very charming, good food and a rainy view …

Then we headed across the Bay Bridge … in the rain.

And drove around Baltimore and up into Pennsylvania … in the rain.

We weren’t planning on going the whole way up to Mannheim … in the rain, but we did.

When we arrived, it was dark and there was monstrous construction. I was extremely tired from driving through Baltimore rush hour (a place I had never driven before) in the rain.

We were ready for a good meal. The lady at the desk at the hotel sent us out into the hilly, under-construction, rainy night to a place called Blue Bird. Took us awhile to find it on the country roads, but we finally did … and were pleasantly surprised.

Anyone who travels with me knows how much I like indigenous restaurants. This one was very indigenous – it’s actually been there since 1859, one of the oldest inns in Pennsylvania. Back then it was called Ye Olde Golden Key Hotel. During Prohibition it became a speak-easy (disguised as a tea room).

I had the Guinness Sirloin Tip pie and it perfectly hit the spot.

But then we had to go out into the rain again and maneuver ourselves back to our hotel in the dark and the construction …

… and the rain.

Our view ,..
Our view ,..
Our view from the Town Dock Restaurant
Our view from the Town Dock Restaurant
The Guinness Sirloin Tip Pie
The Guinness Sirloin Tip Pie

Still Heading North

Our next stop was Rehobeth Beach – another town that looks like Mackinaw City. That’s not a “you’ve seen one beach town, you’ve seen them all” statement, I love beach towns.  I just found it interesting how the three cities are laid out in a similar pattern.

On the way to Rehobeth Beach, we went over the Indian River Inlet Bridge which is, as far as bridges go, exceptionally cool. The bridge is the latest of several bridges built over the inlet – none of which has latest very long because of the climate – this one cost 150 million dollars and is expected to last 100 years (so you have time to visit).

Later, we stopped for the night and ate at Meddings and Son – a seafood restaurant. I got the fish platter: clam, crab cakes, shrimp and hush puppies. Not sure what Sue got, but I am sure it wasn’t seafood. Not my favorite meal of the trip, but some authentic ocean cuisine.

But this is the big achievement of the day for me –

I collect counties. Every county I visit, gets colored in on my big U.S. map. Ken and I started this when our kids were in middle school and I’ve kept it going.

Delaware is the second state where I have visited every county.

Wisconsin is the first and it was a lot more difficult to cover the 72 Wisconsin counties than it was the 3 Delaware counties – but then again, I don’t get to Delaware that often.

Indian River Inlet Bridge - very cool bridge.
Indian River Inlet Bridge – very cool bridge.
Rehobeth, Delaware
Rehobeth, Delaware
Meddings and Son
Meddings and Son

Heading North on Route #1

From Assateague Island, we headed north on Coastal Route #1 into Deleware … and Bethany Beach.

My main focus in Bethany Beach was to buy a Christmas present for Bethany.

The streets were lined with beachy-type tourist shops and looked very much like Mackinaw City, Michigan. In fact, you could set the main street of Mackinaw City down at the end of Bethany Beach main street and you wouldn’t be able to tell where one stopped and the other started.

And the beautiful sunshine we had enjoyed for several hours had disappeared – however, we did get to see the horses in the sun.

I found a hoodie for the kid and we continued on our journey.

The clock at the beach - see the cloudy sky!
The clock at the beach – see the cloudy sky!
Looking toward the main street from the shore of the Atlantic Ocean.
Looking toward the main street from the shore of the Atlantic Ocean.
Bethany Beach, Deleware
Bethany Beach, Deleware

The Maryland Side of Assateague

So the next morning we went back to the main highway and headed north. We crossed over the Maryland State line and saw a sign for the Maryland part of Assateague Island.

Hmmm … should we go?

Finally we decided we weren’t in that big of a hurry, so we’d check it out. (Assateague Island is split into Virginia and Maryland, but you can’t cross the state line ON the island – you have to go out to the main highway to get from one state to another. Not sure why, but I’m guessing it has something to do with horses.)

Before we got to the bridge to take us to the Maryland side of the island, we saw another visitor’s center – this one uniquely called “Assateague Island Visitor’s Center.”  That sounded promising and so we went inside and questioned the rangers – who actually answered us nicely and explained the horse situation (after promising that we wouldn’t have any problems actually finding wild horses). They did not send us to McDonalds to see the horse in the pen.

This is all rather complicated and not exactly logical sounding, but the Virginia Assateaque Island horses are owned by the local volunteer fire department. Not sure why a fire department has horses, but again, I’m sure there’s a reason. I do know that they keep 150 horses and that they’re fenced in large pastures. The fire department does make money by selling the foals.

The Maryland horses are owned by the National Park Service and run free. They keep the herd to less than 125 horses, because a larger herd would destroy the barrier island.

Some history – No one is sure exactly HOW the horses got to Assateaque Island – there’s a couple different theories including a result of a shipwreck or maybe early settlers put their horses on the island to hide them because they had to pay taxes on their animals. No one knows.

The wild horses thrive on the island plants and because of the ocean saltiness in the plants – they drink twice as much water as mainland horses.

The island has lots of warnings not to get too close to the animals because every year tourists get kicked, bitten or knocked down by over zealous visitors attempting to get pictures. . (My own close-up pictures were done with my telephoto lens NOT because I was close. I saw my dad get scratched by a bear at Yellowstone – I respect wild animals.)

So the moral of this story is: If you want to see the wild horses – go to the town of Chincoteague for the museum and Misty statue (and ice cream), but to actually see wild horses, go north to the Maryland side.

Hanging Around Town

So done chasing wild horses for the day … we headed back into town (after checking out the fenced-in horse at McDonalds).

We walked around, did some shops … nothing overly interesting.

Had some pizza for supper … and then headed over to the Island Creamery – the place several people told us we HAD TO GO TO for the world’s best ice cream.

We went back to the hotel and sat on the back porch overlooking the water and waiting for the sun to set …

Key word in that sentence – the sun actually came out – before it set.

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We wandered around town – I especially liked their Adirondack chairs.
We wandered around town, but at times were a little confused ...
But at times we were just a bit confused about their stores.
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We had some pizza, but that was just a prelude to the anticipated ice cream (thanks to Marcy and Crystal and Ken telling us that we should go to Island Creamery).
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Yes – Chincoteague’s famous ice cream shop.

Fiction is Stranger Than Truth

Or something like that.

So I’ve beeDSC_0482n writing about our quest to find the wild horses of Chincoteague – a phenomenon made famous by the children’s classic Misty of Chincoteague. You can visit the Chincoteague Museum which has many Misty artifacts … and in fact, Misty herself stuffed and standing there as big as life. We didn’t go to the museum. The downtown square also has a statue of Misty. In other words, everywhere you look in town – you see Misty or books about Misty or mugs or …

Which made it quite a surprise when I read about the author Marguerite Henry and her love for this Assiteague horse whom she met on the island and her intrigue that the horse’s markings included a map of the United States on her side. Because after Mrs. Henry met Misty, she had the horse shipped to her farm and that’s where she wrote Misty and the other five Misty books. Neighborhood children would visit the horse and come to Misty’s birthday parties.

Where did all this happen?

Not in Chincoteague – not even in Virginia.

No – this all happened in Wayne, Illinois.

Seriously? I go through Wayne on the way to work. So I did some research because I figured Misty is a famous horse and somewhere in Wayne it must say something about her …

Oh, wait a minute! The meadow where Misty lived is now a “natural area” set aside for nature. A meadow I have been passing on the way to work for the past 20 years.

I took this picture this morning. Who knew?

I think the book should be called Misty of Illinois.

(After 10 years. Mrs. Henry did ship Misty back to Chincoteque where the horse lived until she died … and now stands stuffed in the museum.) FullSizeRender-2