Things We’ve Done
Wherever there are people, there are things to do. The three main ingredients are music to enjoy, food to eat, and stuff to buy. Some are better than others. Some are just like the last one we went to. And a few are one of a kind surprises.
Below are the things we’ve done most recently. Click here to see all the things we’ve seen since going full-time.
You get a little bit of everything in the Villages. This week we got Mardi Gras a week early. The festivities were held at the Spanish Springs village square, and it was the most crowded event we’ve ever been to in the Villages.
When we got there we almost gave up because we had a hard time finding a parking spot. But we eventually found one on a side street about half a mile away. Glad we didn’t give up. We had a great time.
We were greeted by the Perseverance Brass Band, who were first rate. Further in toward the square was a Cajun band that was also quite good. Between sets, we were entertained by the Village Twirlers, a larger group of women cheerleaders and majorettes who were closer to age 80 than 18.
You gotta love it.
One of our favorite things to do while traveling is to check out the local festivals, especially ones that have a particularly local flavor. So we were happy to learn that a local orchard was having their 18th Annual Apple Harvest Celebration.
Showalter’s Orchard is located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. It is covers approximately 40 acres with breathtaking views of the Valley. They grow, press, and bottle their own apple cider (hard and sweet) on the premises.
Each October they celebrate the apple harvest with music, crafts, and food. While we were there, a local blues band, Little Walter and the Convictions, were playing. They were quite good. There were also wonderful meal choices from some local food trucks. We had fresh baked pizza with hand made ice cream for dessert.
But clearly the best part of the event was the views from the orchard, which is located on top of a large hill overlooking the valley below. It was a splendid venue. And the cider was tasty, too.
It was the last day of our week stay in Hershey. Over the past few days, we had gone to Chocolate World (not impressed) and to the third annual Choctober Fest (overly crowded and weather was not pleasant). We wanted to do something fun before we left the area. It was a beautiful fall day, crisp and cool. What better time for a visit to Hershey Gardens and Butterfly House?
Hershey Gardens is a 23-acre botanical garden and arboretum built on a hill overlooking Hershey Park. Mr. Hershey built it as a gift for the community and to honor his wife. The gardens first opened to the public in 1937 as a rose garden occupying 3.5 acres. More gardens were added over the next few years, and by 1941 the gardens had been enlarged to their current size. In 1998 the Butterfly House opened.
We started our visit in the Butterfly House which was wonderful! The butterflies were landing everywhere including an especially stunning one on on David’s hat. Butterflies live only a couple of weeks, so the supply is constantly being replenished. The butterflies come to Hershey in chrysalid form, and are ordered mostly from small family farms that raise butterflies in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. They are kept in a chrysalis cabinet until they emerge and are released into the Atrium.
We then went outside to the gardens which are beautiful and very well maintained. They were planned so there would be color and interesting plants in every season. In addition to the fall blooming perennials and brilliant mums, we enjoyed a special bonsai exhibit that was on display while we were there.
It was a nice way to finish our stay in Hershey.
From Scotrun, we took a day trip up to Honesdale to take the Fall Foliage Train Excursion on board the scenic Stourbridge Line. The train travels 25 miles from Honesdale to the town of Lackawaxen along the Lackawaxen River and back.
The Stourbridge Line traces its beginnings to the Delaware & Hudson Canal transporting barges of coal up from Pennsylvania and destined for the Hudson River and eventually New York City. A gravity railroad was built to carry coal over the mountains from Carbondale to Honesdale in 1829. Coal would be transferred from train to canal boat at Honesdale.
According to the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, this is the site of “the first commercial locomotive on rails in the western hemisphere”, which took place on August 8, 1829. The locomotive was the Stourbridge Lion. A replica of the Stourbridge Lion steam engine is on display in Honesdale. Because of this, Honesdale bills itself as “Birthplace of American Railroading”, and attracts rail buffs from around the world.
But we were there mostly for the fall foliage. Unfortunately, the day we took the excursion it was overcast and still a bit too early for fall colors along the river’s edge, which was at an elevation of around 800 feet. Most of the color was above 1,200 feet, which we were able to see on the drive home.
We met the owner of the railroad, Tom Myles, who happened to be on board during our trip. He was walking through the coach cars introducing himself to passengers. As we talked we discovered that he was a retired railroader, and had been a trainmaster (i.e. manager) for the Pennsylvania Railroad at Stanley Yard in Walbridge OH near Toledo during the mid-1970s. Amazingly, at the same time David was working at Stanley Yard as a switchman. In other words, Tom had been his boss. Small world.
It was another beautiful fall day in Connecticut, and we were still at Longview RV waiting for a part to fix our water heater. We wanted something fun to do for the day. We mentioned to our parts guy that we thinking about taking the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat tour, and he recommended it and said we should also go to nearby Gillette Castle.
We drove to historic 1892 Essex Station where we began our tour aboard a vintage 1921 coach, pulled by a steam locomotive. The train traveled through the beautiful Connecticut River Valley via the small New England towns of Deep River and Chester.
Then we were dropped off at Deep River Landing where we boarded the Becky Thatcher riverboat for a narrated cruise along the Connecticut River. After the cruise, we returned to the landing where our train picked us up and returned to Essex.
We were surprised how many people were on the tour. The 200+ passenger boat was full. All people our age or older.
We left Essex and drove a few miles to the town of Chester where we drove our car onto the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry that took us to the other side of the river. The ferry is part of the scenic portion of Route 148 and provides a link between the Essex Steam Train and Gillette Castle State Park.
Gillette Castle is a 24-room mansion reminiscent of a medieval castle. It was built in the early 1900’s by William Gillette, who was a stage actor, director, and playwright, most famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. Gillette lived in the castle from 1919-1937.
We had seen the castle at a distance from both the train and the riverboat. We would have liked to tour the inside, but were unable to because it closed on Labor Day. But we were able to walk the grounds and enjoy the unique beauty of the castle and the spectacular views from high on the hill above the Connecticut River.