Monday, August 17, 2009

Homeward Bound

August 13-14

We have been home for several days now--so busy catching up with friends, unpacking, doing laundry, and making our way through the very organized piles of mail that our house sitter left for us that writing about the last leg of our journey has fallen to the bottom of my To-Do List.

Our journey from Rochester to Savannah was a thousand miles, and we vowed to do it in two very efficient days—no detours or distractions. We almost succeeded, too.

We enjoyed the beauty of woods, hills and pastures as we sped south through New York and Pennsylvania. We bought sandwiches in one of the little towns where Route 15 spit us out during one of its many morphs from highway to Main Street and back again. Then we stopped for lunch at a roadside picnic area along the wide rocky totally unnavigable Susquehanna River, where the sound of rushing water was so loud it drowned out the noise of traffic. Amish women in fields near the road were picking produce, while their somber colored laundry danced on clotheslines, inviting us to visit Amish country, but we resisted their temptations.

All was going according to plan until after lunch, when Dick was bemoaning the lack of any sweets in the car, and I was looking at the map to be sure we didn't miss our next turn. That was when I noticed that Hershey was very close to Harrisburg, the fast-approaching site of our interchange. Neither one of us had ever been to Hershey before, but we figured that a quick stop there was sure to solve Dick's craving for a sweet treat. Just like that, we switched back to spontaneous detour travel mode.

Chocolate World in Hershey was more crowded than any national park we have visited all summer. Clearly, chocolate trumps nature.
There are a multitude of attractions within Chocolate World—visitors can don a hard hat in the "candy factory" to make their own personalized Hershey candy treats, attend a pricey gourmet chocolate tasting experience, take a trolley tour of the city of Hershey and visit its Chocolate Museum, watch a 3D show featuring dancing Hershey's Kisses, and much more. Conscious of the many miles ahead of us and the fact that we were really just here to buy some candy, we opted for the free fifteen minute Hershey's Great American Chocolate Tour.

Surely Hershey hired Disney to come up with their hilarious substitute for a standard factory tour. Visitors board little cars that turn and twist through a tunnel that passes lots of singing cows interspersed with a simulated chocolate factory production floor. A narrator and the animated cows guide us through all the steps in making milk chocolate--from the quarter million gallons of milk the factory goes through every day along with the beans of responsibly grown cocoa trees, to the moment sixteen million wrapped Kisses get popped into bags and shipped off by day's end. (When we checked the Kiss count at about 3 p.m., the day's production was a little over eleven million.) At the end of the ride, the scent of molten chocolate still fresh in our noses, and visions of millions of Hershey Kisses dancing in our heads, a woman gave us samples of Hershey's newest creation—Meltaway Kisses. We immediately unwrapped one, tasted it, and discerned that the Kiss fully lives up to its name, just as the exit pathway deposited us in the Candy Store, right in front of a huge display of Meltaway Kisses. The store stocked every other product in the Hershey's candy line-up, including some stuff we haven't seen in stores before.

The four bags of candy and the tin of chocolate covered pretzels we bought seemed like a good idea at the time. When we got home and stepped on the scale, we had a tinge of buyer's remorse. Today, we heard a news story about research concluding that eating chocolate two or more times per week lowers a person's probability of having a heart attack. We feel much better about our purchase now. We may be a little overweight, but there will be no heart problems in this household!

Once again, I digress. Let's get back on the road, after leaving Hershey.

We stopped for the night in Staunton, Virginia, and stayed in a chain motel where we could get a room for less than $50, including tax, using a coupon from one of those little booklets they have at highway rest stops. We had dinner in a turn of the century White Star flour mill, where Dick had the best Crab Imperial he can remember—so good that he marked the exit and wrote the restaurant name ( Mill Street Grill) on our map. They lived up to their motto – "There is nothing run of the mill about the Mill Street Grill"—and we are glad that it is on our Rochester route, so we might actually get back there again. We haven't bothered to record the names and locations of most of the fine meals we have enjoyed this trip, figuring we will never pass that way again. (Or, if we do, it will be so many years hence that they will be under new management or defunct.)

We covered over five hundred miles on our last day, and we did it efficiently.
We kept our eyes on the prize, and made it home by dinner time. As we drove over the causeway to our island, the spartina grass glowed a more vibrant green than we could remember—like the color of freshly budding Springtime leaves. We wondered if our perception of the grass was tinged by sentimentality, but soon learned from friends who have stuck around for the past few months that it has been a very rainy summer. They think the grass is greener, too.

After 12,940 miles, home among friends, we know the grass is always greener here.

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