At the beginning of the year, we made plans to visit Noel’s sister, Danielle, at the sweetest place on earth – Hershey, PA. We were excited to take the kids to visit their cool aunt who worked at a chocolate factory. Then, a few months ago she broke the news to us that she was looking for a new job and it was very likely that she wouldn’t be working in Global Chocolate Innovation (yes, that’s really what she did) by the time our trip rolled around. Because there were so many unknowns, we stopped all our planning, but kept the tickets (they were Southwest so we could have cancelled as late as 15 min before the flight and still banked the points) and just waited. A few weeks before our departure, things miraculously fell into place. Danielle would be in-between jobs when we visited and since her new job was in New Jersey we could check out both her new and old stomping grounds. (Go small states!) Still, the timing was a little crazy for everyone. Within two weeks, Danielle would quit her job, host us, move to a different state, and start a new job. We would finish some yard projects, end the school year, fly to PA, visit three states for both sight-seeing and moving purposes, fly home from NJ, welcome visitors of our own, and run a 12 mile trail race. It was an exhausting, fun-filled couple of weeks. This post is not going to be a literary masterpiece, but in case you want to know more about the trip, feel free to read the day by day synopsis and check out the huge gallery at the end.
Day One (Wednesday)
In the morning, Cooper graduated from kindergarten. That afternoon, we loaded up the car and began our journey. Because we have an unofficial goal to try every method of getting to the airport we rode the newly finished train to the plane. Morale was high and everything went well from our train ride to going through airport security. We arrived in Philly at midnight (10pm our time) and caught a shuttle to our hotel. Everyone was exhausted and pretty much fell asleep immediately.
Day Two (Thursday)
We stayed at a a Courtyard Airport hotel and we knew beforehand that there weren’t any great breakfast restaurants nearby, so we came prepared with shelf-stable milks, Crispix, and some freeze dried backpacking meals. It was suspicious enough that TSA felt the need to search our suitcase. After a luxurious breakfast, we lounged at the pool and waited for Danielle. She picked us up and we went into Philly to check out the Touch Museum, Liberty Bell , and the Rocky Statue.
Day Three (Friday)
Danielle was busy with her movers, so we rented a car and drove out to Ocean City, NJ. We spent the afternoon walking the boardwalk, wading in the ocean, and burying our feet in sand. Then we drove home and laughed at the LONG line of stop and go traffic heading the opposite direction. (It was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.) We took our rental car back to the airport and then played an unintentional game called “Let’s See How Many Different Kinds of Transportation We Can Take to Get to Danielle’s New Place.” I’ll spare you the long, boring stories of why, but in the end, it took one shuttle bus, one Lyft ride, one Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Train, one New Jersey Transit train, a ride on the airport train, and finally a ride in Danielle’s Subaru, complete with dog. It was after 11 o’clock by the time we were reunited and we drove around looking for something that was open (gas station, grocery store, anything!) to find food. In retrospect, we really should have looked into a one way car rental and just driven. Danielle had spent all day
stuck in traffic moving and her apartment was tetrised with boxes. We were all sandy and sweaty and in desperate need of showers. We couldn’t find any towels, so we made due with a bunch of her t-shirts. We blew up some air mattresses and wedged them in-between the stacks of boxes and fell asleep.
Day Four (Saturday)
We all slept in and rolled out of bed in time to catch a late breakfast at Morristown Pancake House. As we were parking the car we ran into a parking enforcement guy and we asked if there were any free places to park. He laughed and said, “No, this is New Jersey.” When Danielle told him she’d just moved from Hershey, PA he said, “Why?” We felt very warmly welcomed. Breakfast however, was good. Next, we hit up the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. This involved lots of waiting in line and some slight panic about whether a ferry would actually pick us up and return us back to New Jersey. It was interesting to learn about the history of Ellis Island and I realized that I should learn more about our country’s immigration laws past and present. It was also really cool to see the Statue of Liberty up close. We’d read a Kid’s National Geographic that featured some National Parks and Monuments and one of them was the Statue of Liberty, so the kids were really excited to see something that they’d read about in a magazine. We grabbed dinner and headed back to Danielle’s apartment hoping we could help her get some stuff unpacked. As we pulled into her cul-de-sac, we noticed there was a truck from the power company and a lot of people outside, but it wasn’t until we went to flip on the lights in her apartment that we realized the power was out. We went to the grocery store to get some essentials hoping that by the time we came back the problem would be fixed, but it wasn’t. We went out again to buy some candles. The kids thought it was awesome, but all us adults were a little hot (no A/C) and grumpy about the situation. The power didn’t come back on until 3 or 4 in the morning.
Day Five (Sunday)
Noel went out to get some more milk since the milk we had was spoiled. We did our best to hustle and get everyone fed and dressed then drove two hours to Danielle’s old apartment in Hershey, PA. We went to church at her old ward where Ellen threw a huge fit when we left her in primary, but finally calmed down and Danielle taught a really good final lesson to the high school aged girls. After church we drove to Gettysburg. We checked out the cemetery and then had a picnic in the rain. Our luck was getting sort of comical at this point so we just laughed and sat in the rain for a decent amount of time before it became too much and we got back in the car.
Day Six (Monday, Memorial Day)
A good friend of mine moved to Pittsburgh last fall and she and her family drove to Hershey to spend the day with us. We met up for lunch. We were going to get sandwiches from a delicious local Hoagie shop, but it was closed, so we went to Subway instead. Then we were going to go to this cute park with a castle the kids could play on, but they were doing a Memorial Day Ceremony nearby and wouldn’t let us into the park or give us any indication of how long the ceremony would be. (Have you ever heard of a park being closed?) Instead, we went to a different park and caught up while the kids played. Cooper and Ellen were so excited to play with Russell again. Everyone was having a great time, but Cooper brought the fun to an end when he threw up on the swings. We took a break to clean him up then met up with Jessica and her family to go to Chocolate World. We saw a 4-D movie, went on the factory tour, and made our own chocolate bar. The kids were in heaven and Danielle of course filled us in on all sorts of insider information. We finished off the day with dinner at Houlihan’s and then said goodbye to our friends.
Day Seven (Tuesday)
We got brunch and headed to Amish country. We checked out some fun shops and then went on a buggy tour of Lancaster County. The kids got a kick out of the buggy tour. Our buggy driver was Amish and it was interesting to see his family’s land. They had solar panels which of course interested Noel. When he asked if the Amish didn’t use electricity from the grid because of self-sufficiency our guide told us it was just a tradition that they upheld because of politics, which, one person of faith to another, was sort of disappointing. Maybe that was just his opinion though. After that excursion it was time to finish up loose ends at Danielle’s old apartment. We packed the odds and ends into a trailer and cleaned everything before heading back to New Jersey for another late night dinner at a gas station.
Day Eight (Wednesday)
We were up pretty late unloading the trailer the night before so we all slept in again. We didn’t have much time left, but we decided we wanted to see a little bit of New York before heading home. We rode the train to Penn Station and checked out Times Square and Central Park. The kids loved the park at Central Park. Then we took a frightening taxi cab back to Penn Station where we got some New York Style Pizza and some treats from Magnolia Bakery. Then it was back on the train to head back to the airport. We said our goodbyes to Danielle and then went through security. We were pretty exhausted and excited to be going home, but as we dug into our cupcakes and mini cheesecakes from New York we also felt a little sad we hadn’t had more time.
In case you are still reading, bless your soul, here is a large gallery of photos.