Dynargh dhe'n Blogofrob

Tuesday 10th May 2011

Leaving Chicago, we crossed into Indiana, and onto the turnpikes that the GPS kept directing us towards. That machine must be in the employ of the Highways Department, as we found ourselves shelling out substantial sums of money to tollbooth operators, through Indiana, Pennsylvania, and all the way to New York. The fact that a road is a turnpike has no relation to its condition. They are in just as poor a state as the rest of the country's highways, full of potholes (some in the middle of 6 lane interstates), cracks and temporary surfaces that have been there for decades. This, and the blunderingly careless way in which a number of Americans drive, must be responsible for the shredded tires that litter the roads everywhere we've been.

Incidentally, I feel a bit bad that we have failed to find a name for the GPS unit (or the car for that matter). Her velvety tones have managed to get us across the States, without forcing us into too many wildly dangerous manoeuvers in order to correct confusing or incorrect directions. She has also functioned to ensure that neither of us has attempted any map-reading while the other drives. This, I am sure, has reduced the bickering potential by some degree. Despite these services she is only referred to as "she" or "bitch".

Our first stop in Indiana was a little town called Kendallville. We wanted to find some small towns, with old-school main streets, where getting there meant driving through other small towns and along small roads, past red barns and wheat silos. Kendallville fit the bill perfectly. Although, as usual, much of the town's business is located a mile or two out of the centre, in yet another collection of strip malls, fast food outlets and gas stations, the quiet Main Street is full of pretty Victorian buildings, including an old fashioned drug store, a faded theatre and a diner. Nearby, past white wooden houses (complete with porches and the Stars and Stripes) we found Bixler Lake, where we watched fishermen and geese pottering around the shore.

Then into Pennsylvania ("isn't that where vampires are from?" - George). We stopped for 2 nights in the strangely desolate town of Erie. The real highlight of the place is the peninsula, Presque Isle, just outside town, which sticks into Lake Erie. It is covered in a beautiful pine forest, which is bordered by a beach looking out over the immense lake. It doesn't sell itself particularly well though: one trail we walked along was called "Dead Lake Trail". As we entered the trail, a sign told us that this was a "Tick Area". Luckily, despite a scare in the car on the way back, we emerged unharrassed by critters.

Once we had "done" the Presque Isle, we were a bit stuck for things to amuse us in Erie. We aborted a wander up the high street, on account of it suddenly becoming rather sketchy. So, we drove out to a massive mall, wandered around it for an hour or so, and then saw Red Riding Hood, in a run down little cinema next door. Ropey film, but since it only cost $1 a ticket and kept us out of trouble, we weren't complaining.

There followed a toss-up between Punxsutawney (home of the famous groundhog) and Hershey (home of the famous chocolate). With George involved in the decision-making, there was never any real doubt as to where we were headed, and we arrived in "The Sweetest Place on Earth" (as the town sign has it)and checked into a local motel. Apart from the giant chocolate factory sitting in the centre of town, Hershey is a fairly standard Pennsylvania town - but the factory makes a big difference. The main street is called Chocolate Avenue, and travelling down it you can smell the chocolate, heavy in the air, like hops in a brewery town. Tthe lampposts are topped with giant Hershey's Kisses (in the same way Roswell had alien heads). We visited Chocolate World, where we were serenaded by singing animatronic cows (there to liven up the more boring stuff about how the products are made) and made chocolate bars, choosing the ingredients and designing the packaging. Although this only involves pressing a few buttons on a computer, they make you wear an apron and hair net (and beard net if applicable) to do it. I felt faintly ridiculous, but I suppose it was in the interests of making everything as authentic as possible, short of having Oopah Loompahs supervising the proceedings.

Playground, Bixler Lake

159 - posted at 18:21:57


I particularly liked our authentic breakkie in kendallville. A proper diner experience.Thick strong coffee continually topped up, butter soaked bread and dodgy but yummy sausage, with the local fat sheriff sat next to us.

1: Gg - 08:31:53 on Thursday 12th May 2011 (permalink)

The word is spelt "manoeuvre". Time to come home.

2: Christopher - 18:23:57 on Thursday 12th May 2011 (permalink)

It was a compromise between the US and UK spellings.

3: Rob - 10:11:24 on Thursday 19th May 2011 (permalink)

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