Thursday, 2 November 2006, Shenandoah NP, VA
Yesterday we drove through 4 states leaving Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. The weather was clear and sunny and unseasonably warm - very pleasant. Last Saturday we drove through 4 states to arrive in Pennsylvania: Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The weather was rainy with very blustery wind - really unpleasant. But we were just thankful that the weather had been clear and sunny for the days spent in New York City - and it's not so bad to have a driving day when the weather is not so good. It was also interesting to remember that a few months ago we took a couple of days to cross Nevada from Utah to California. We are noticing more and more that the east is much more densely populated than the west. The states are much smaller in area and still have a larger population than the western states.
We were headed for the "Pennsylvania Dutch Country" which is in Lancaster County. It is the home of a community of the Amish and is so called because these people originated in Switzerland and Germany, and their first American neighbours mixed up Deutsch with Dutch. In return they simply called (and still do) their neighbours "English". We arrived in Lancaster County in the early evening - and it was already dark. The campground we had chosen was on the very edge of the county, was far too expensive, and we stayed anyway - just to get inside the camper where it was warm and leave the weather behind.
There are a number of major centres of Amish settlement across the USA and also one in Canada, but Lancaster County in Pennsylvania is one of the largest, numbering near 25000 people. The Amish here have opened their lives somewhat to allow tourists to have a look, but still retain their simple ways and privacy. The best thing about this area is actually the beautiful countryside. Farmland, that is well cared for and incredibly productive, is obvious everywhere.
We woke on Sunday to clear skies and, although it was not yet really warm, the weather just got better during our stay here. Not surprisingly, most of the Amish related businesses are closed on Sundays. We drove through the countryside to the visitor's centre, which is just outside Lancaster, to gather information on covered bridges (Pennsylvania has the largest collection of covered bridges in the USA and Lancaster county has most of them!) and also picked up a tip about an interesting exhibition which was finishing that day at the Lancaster Museum of Art. The exhibition was called "Trashformation", and was a collection of art from all over the USA, made predominantly from found materials. We spent a couple of pleasant hours wandering through, very impressed by many of the pieces on display, particularly the incredible detail in some of them, like the huge moths created by Michelle Salrin Stitzlein from Baltimore.
Lancaster itself is another of America's pretty towns, which we have found to be quite numerous here in the East. We drove around it a bit, oohing and aahing at the beautiful autumn colours, AGAIN!!! Then we set off to have a closer look at some of the nearby covered bridges. I think the most obvious question about these covered bridges is 'why?'. It appears that they were covered to protect the wooden bridges from the elements, making them last longer. Seems sensible when wood is the only material available for construction. Another reason I found is that they look like barns and so the farmers had no problem driving their livestock across them if they needed to. We visited only 3 of them and took some lovely photos, including the picturesque scenery around them, and then it was time to find a campground. The evening came earlier than usual because Sunday was the end of daylight saving. Now the sun sets at 5.00 instead of 6.00 and we find ourselves arriving at campsites more often in the dark! It's pretty inconvenient to set up the camper in a level position in the dark, especially when most sites are designed to be reversed into!
Continuation on > Page 2 > !