Sunday, June 08, 2008

Weekend in Lancaster County, Pa.

Thursday, June 5, 2008 we traveled to Kinzer, Pa. for a weekend with the Traveling Americans. Kinzer is a small community in Lancaster County, the Amish area of Pa. The campground, Roamer's Retreat, was easy to locate along busy Route 30. The weekend for the T.A. group starts on Friday but like most of these weekends there are usually several that arrive a day or 2 earlier. So Thursday evening most of us that were on the premises arranged to go out to dinner together. Stolzfus Farm Restaurant was the chosen place because it looked to be relatively close and not on Route 30. Well, we indeed took the scenic route but eventually got to the restaurant. The meal was served family style- 3 meats, fried chicken, ham loaf and sausage with several sides and a variety of desserts for about $17.00. The food was good and too much was eaten but a good time was had by all. When we returned to the campground an Amish lady and her 2 children were going through the campground selling strawberry jam and strawberries. We bought the last quart of strawberries that they had and then enjoyed sharing with the other folks later that evening. The berries were really sweet and flavorful.

Friday in Lancaster County is the Green Dragon Market day and when we are in the area we usually have to go and this Friday was no exception. The big item was strawberries as they are now in season in the area. We bought some fresh produce. From that market we went to a commercial market called Smart Shoppers that we had read about in our local newspaper. It handles discontinued items or surplus items at a very reasonable price. We were pleasantly surprised at the neatness and cleanliness of this type of store. We bought items that we needed paying attention to the expiration dates. We lunched at the Oregon Pike Dairy restaurant. We chose not to go out for dinner, eating-in, instead.

Saturday morning started early for us. Tom had arranged as a Mother's Day present to me a hot air balloon ride for this morning along with Bruce and Cricket McGinnis. At 4:30am Tom had to call to check that the weather would allow for the ride that was scheduled for 6am. At 5:30am we left the campground and went to Bird-In-Hand, a town, to the field that the ascent would be done. Clouds were hanging low and as it became foggier the flight was delayed.

About 7am we along with the McGinnis' and their daughter and grandson decided to cross the road to a restaurant for breakfast. After eating and returning to the field the balloon was inflated and we were going to be on our way. The McGinnis' daughter and grandson were along to follow on the ground and to take pictures but our pilot said he had room and would allow them to go along. The daughter was thrilled, the grandson reluctantly came along.

We had 8 passengers plus the pilot on board, Tom and I, the McGinnis 4, the pilot's wife and a young man that was going to parachute frome the basket. It was not real clear out but was clearing as the time went on. Another smaller balloon also ascended shortly after our balloon and travelled a short distance with us.

Since we had a parachutist on board the pilot had to take the balloon up higher than usual to a little over 5000 feet- a mile high! When we got to that height the parachutist donned his parachute, climbed overboard and pushed off. It was breath taking to see that youngman falling toward the earth. He couldn't get that chute opened fast enough for me! We lost sight of him after his chute opened and he was sailing through the lower winds.

Our pilot took the basket down to 300-400 feet.

As we drifted along, we appreciated the neat and tidy Amish farmlands. Men with their horses were working fields, women and children were tending neatly planted gardens. It was a very relaxing, calm ride. The blast of the propane heaters felt very warm but after the initial heating of the balloon the blasts were short.
There is no control for where the balloon will travel, it all depends on the winds. A chase unit was observed keeping track of our travels.

It was important that our gondola landed near a road because of its size and weight and the pilot did not want to land in any field that could have crops damaged, an alfalfa field was good. Our landing occurred on the edge of a cornfield next to a road. The balloon actually had to be brought down across the roadway which stopped traffic briefly.

After getting the balloon and gondola loaded in the trailer we all loaded into a van and returned to our starting point for a toast with champagne and orange juice. A great trip!

Saturday afternoon we spent in the air-conditioned motorhome resting. For dinner we joined the other members of our group for a potluck meal. Afterwards we gathered around a campfire (heaven knows we didn't need the heat) socializing until the mosquitos drove us inside.
This morning again the group gathered for a potluck breakfast followed by a short meeting. Afterwards those of us returning home packed up and headed home. Several others decided to stay a day or 2 longer. Unfortunately, one gentleman developed some heart problems early Friday morning that landed him in the hospital for the entire weekend and was not to be released until Tuesday so his wife had to remain at the campground and others were staying to be with her.