Of course, the main event during our recent trip to Pa. was my mom’s wedding, but there was still time for us to sneak in a little fall fun. After all, I can’t even remember the last time I was in my homestate in the month of October. It definitely hasn’t happened over the past nine years that I’ve lived in Florida.
Since the wedding was Friday night, that left Saturday open for us. So, DadJovi, E. and I drove to my dad and stepmom’s, which is about 2 1/2 hours from my mom’s. It’s a beautiful drive through the Poconos, so there was fall foliage everywhere you looked. Of course I didn’t photograph any of it because I was still so tired from the day before. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
We got to my dad’s much later than we would have liked because we got stuck on the interstate for about an hour thanks to some construction. It was not fun. E., who was watching a movie on my phone in the back seat, actually picked the perfect filter when she snapped a photo of me up front.
Yup, that’s pretty much how we all felt being trapped in the car for so long, especially after a long couple days.
We finally made it to Pappy and Babs’ house though! Almost as soon as we got there, we all sort of went our own ways for a bit. My dad and E. went out for a four-wheeler ride through the country so they could do all her favorite Pappy’s house things — visit “their” bridge (a stone bridge that my dad built that E. someone decided was made specifically for the two of them), visit Nam’s farm to feed the horses and cows and ride around looking for forest critters.
DadJovi settled in the house to watch the Duke football game for a bit, and my stepmom drove me into town so I could visit my cousin in the hospital.
Around 3, we all met up again at the Moose Lodge (yes, my parents are members) for lunch with my brother, who was putting in a full-day at his first job — the grocery store! This is his senior year of high school, which never fails to make me feel old, especially considering he was born during MY senior year of high school.
All too quickly, he had to go back to work, so we headed back up to my dad’s to hang out for awhile. Then my dad had an idea — we should take E. on a good old-fashioned hay ride and through a corn maze. It was a great idea … in theory.
The cornmaze, hay ride and a haunted barn (yes, barn! Gotta love Pa.) were held in the small village where my mother actually grew up (about 20 minutes from my dad’s) and where I, growing up, spent A LOT of time at my great-grandmother’s house. She was my primary summer/holidays babysitter until we moved to Allentown when I was in fifth grade.
I hadn’t been there in many years, and it was just like the old cliche — I couldn’t believe how much smaller it was compared to my memories. We drove right by my great-grandmother’s old house (she passed away several years ago) before I even realized. Thankfully I had another chance to see it — twice — on our out-and-back hayride.
But first, while it was still light, we decided to hit the corn maze.
Those seem reasonable enough.
Everything was going great, for awhile. E. was running ahead of us through the maze, leading the way. She was a blur and I couldn’t get her to stand still long enough to take a picture.
Then it happened. As E. tried to work our way out of a dead end, she turned a corner and suddenly a girl in long black robes jumped out and screamed her name at her (she’d heard us saying it).
Poor E. She was TERRIFIED and couldn’t stop crying. I’m pretty sure we’ve forever scared her away from corn mazes. She would not leave her Daddy’s arms until we got out it.
The girls who scared her kept trying to cheer her up (although we did hear them high-fiving and one of them said, “I’ve got my first cry of the night!” So rude). They even let her play with their props. But E. was beyond cheering up.
The Scare Girls ushered us out of the corn maze, and we decided to try something a little less thrilling — the hay ride. That cheered E. up.
Besides E., I probably enjoyed the hay ride the most. DadJovi kept calling it the Jackie Memory Tour. Pennsdale is just one road, so as the tractor drove down Village Road, I pointed out all the sights — there’s Mimi’s house, and across the street lived my friend Theresa, who I spent every summer playing with. That’s the Country Store, where the workers used to give me free pieces of candy and sticks of meat (beef jerky maybe? I don’t know what they were but I always loved them!). There’s the pool where I learned to swim when Pap Pap threw me in and told me to get to the side because he wasn’t getting in. There’s the church where I attended Vacation Bible School every year. See that house? The lady that lived there kept my two pet chickens, Cocky and Bocky (can you guess which was which?) until she sold them without telling me or Mimi and (briefly) ruined their friendship because I cried and cried. There’s the House of Many Stairs, which was used to help slaves using the Underground Railroad during the Civil War and that every kid in the village just KNEW was haunted. And finally, we drove by Mount Equity Apartments, the place where my parents were living when I was born and was my first home.
I swear I heard Sarah McLaughling singing “I Will Remember You” during this tractor ride down memory lane. Isn’t it amazing how much you remember that you forgot you remembered? That 20-minute hay ride brought an avalanche of memories back. In some ways, I wished I’d been alone just so I could process it all.
When the ride was over, there was one more attraction left to see.
Um, yeah. It looked scary. I do not do well with haunted houses. I did Halloween Horror Nights once at Universal Studios and I’ll never do it again. I’m a wuss. We’d already bought tickets for the four of us, but we all knew there was no way E. was going into it. So my dad told DadJovi and me to do it and he’d go get hot chocolate with E. We got into line and waited probably 30 minutes and finally bailed when we realized we probably had at least another half hour of waiting still. Thankfully, they gave us our money back for the haunted house tickets.
After that, we headed back to my dad’s house, had a small dinner of sandwiches and snacks, then hit the road for our long drive back. It was a quick visit but I was glad we had the time to sneak one in, especially since E. and I won’t be going up this year for Christmas for the first time in three years. The way the dates fall this year just doesn’t work out well. Hopefully we’ll see the three of them in Florida for spring break this year.
On Sunday, we got up, hung out with the bride and groom a bit, then hit the road to meet my brother in Philadelphia for lunch. He torments me weekly with his Instagram shots of this amazing looking sandwich and it’s the only thing I’ve been thinking about for weeks.
We picked him up at his place in Manayunk, which is an adorable neighborhood in the northwestern part of Philly, right along the river. It’s packed with cyclists and runners using the canal path and has a ton of great sidewalk restaurants and bars. He took us the back way into the city since the highways were packed with Eagles traffic, and it made me want to get out and run (yes, even me!). It was a PERFECT weather day, and as we drove along the river, so many people were out enjoying the weather by running, biking and even rollerblading while pushing a stroller (yes, I saw that). We drove by the famous boat houses, where all the Philly universities keep their rowing gear, and eventually by the Art Museum, its famous steps and of course, Rocky’s statue.
It was good to be back.
We headed straight for our destination though — Reading Terminal Market.
If you’ve never been to Reading Terminal Market, you MUST put it on your Philly to-do list. It’s amazing. It’s, for the most part, dedicated to food. There are counters with every kind of food imaginable, fresh fruit and vegetable vendors, meat sellers, seafood mongers, bakeries, and much, much more. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we headed straight to the Promised Land:
The place is DiNic’s. And the sandwich is the Roasted Pork Hero, which includes roasted pork, sharp provolone cheese, greens of your choice (spinach or broccoli rabe), a splash of gravy and the most ridiculous roll you’ve ever eat in your life.
And all three of us ate every single bite of our sandwiches. There was no sharing. This thing is too good to share. I’m still licking my lips thinking about it. And it’s not just us. Just this summer, it was crowned the Best Sandwich in America by Adam Richman on Man v. Food. Clearly, he knows his food. Wow. All I can say about it is wow.
I went with the spinach but I should have listened to my brother and gone with the broccoli rabe. Next time, my porky friend. Next time.
Clearly E. wasn’t going to touch it, so I grabbed her something from the closest place — a craperie. That lucky girl got a nutella, banana and strawberry crepe, and she was in heaven.
She also cleaned her plate. If it weren’t for the allure of that pork sandwich, I would have KILLED one of the crepe stand’s savory crepes (they smelled so good). But I had no buyer’s remorse.
We had just enough time to stroll the aisles a little bit checking out the other stands. And we grabbed a snack for the flight home.
What? Like I’m going to finally be back in Pa. Dutch country and NOT get a whoopie pie? That’d be crazy, especially a pumpkin one with chocolate chips. It was worth every single calorie.
All too quickly, it was time to say good-bye to BroJovi. We were all very sad. We headed toward the airport, and the football gods taunted me by making us drive RIGHT BY The Linc DURING an Eagles game.
It was a frustrating game, though, so it’s better that I wasn’t there.
So that was our fall adventure. I think I’m going to have to start rethinking Christmas trips and start making fall trips for awhile. It was so beautiful and exactly what I’ve been missing all these years. Septembers and even Octobers are still brutal in Florida. Although I do have to admit that after that frost on Friday night, I was actually ready to come back to the heat and humidity. But when the perfect weather returned on Sunday, I wanted to stay.
As always, I just wish there was more time to do it all.
What’s your favorite fall tradition? Do you like haunted houses?