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Brooks Road Trip 2019: Pennsylvania

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Leaving D.C. with full bellies, we headed toward our friends, the Millers. We met the Millers while in Korea. They were in our court group and we hit it off right away. We met up several times over our two trips and have kept in touch since. Our whole family was so excited to see them again, and to finally meet their two older boys. The drive was pretty quick and we needed a to get out a bit of energy, so we stopped for some playground time in Mt. Joy, just a few minutes from our AirBnb in Manheim. After getting sweaty and tiring out our kiddos, we headed to our home for the weekend.


We were so lucky to have been gifted our stay at our Airbnb by our friend's parents, who own it. They were the most amazing hosts and the space was just what we needed. They live on a farm with goats and chickens, a trampoline, waterfall with fish, lots of grass to run around in, and the living space was huge and had it all. We especially loved the possibility of a bit of separation. The kiddos could play outside or in the loft, and Joe and I could sit on the patio or read a book in the bedroom. We were given fresh eggs, which we made for breakfast each day and Liam got a lesson in handling chickens.


Our first night there, everyone came to the farm for a delicious dinner of Korean chicken, rice and veggies. More importantly than the food, we were surrounded by our friends, their family, and another family we have connected with through the adoption process. I don't think we realized how much we needed to be around other people, until we laid down that night, raving about the time we had. While our family has been doing amazingly well being together 24 hours a day, for three straight weeks, being around other kids and other adults was a great change of pace.


The next day, we headed out to Bird in Hand, a small Amish/Mennonite town about a half an hour away from our AirBnb. We began our day at Abe's Buggy Rides, a small farm that has a playground, horses, chickens, doves and goats. We paid for a thirty minute buggy ride and explored the farm until it was our turn to head out. When it was time our driver, Ervan, helped us into the carriage and started to tell us about the history of the area. Throughout the tour, he would point out landmarks and historical sites, explain local traditions and beliefs, answer our questions and share the occasional joke. He was an amazing tour guide. He even let the boys sit up front with him and drive on the quieter roads. They absolutely loved it!


While on the buggy ride, Ervan mentioned that if we turned down a specific road, it would take us to the Bird in Hand Bakeshop, which he said had delicious baked goods- including soft pretzels. Knowing that soft pretzels are a family favorite, and Pennsylvania Dutch are known for their recipe, we had to give it a try. After finishing our ride and saying goodbye to Ervan, we headed that way.


The shop is adorable! It is surrounded by Amish Rocking Poly tables, a handmade pretzel cart, goats and chickens to feed, and a small playground. We went into the store first and found a couple of souvenirs and some baked goods to try. I could have wandered that store for hours. Then we went outside, got our pretzels and found a table so we could enjoy them while rocking in the shade. While the kids love them, soft pretzels are usually something I can say no to. This was not the case this time. They were the most delicious soft pretzels I have ever eaten, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure out how they make them. We fed some farm animals, then headed to our next destination.


We wanted to see a farmers market and had planned to go to City Market in Lancaster, but the day had gotten away from us and we were all pretty excited to enjoy the AirBnb, so we did a quick google search and found the Bird in Hand Farmer's Market. When we pulled up it didn't look that big, but boy were we wrong. There were several sections of the building, some housing gift shops and handmade crafts, but the biggest area of the building was packed with local vendors selling food either made or grown by them. We were a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of booths to look at and choices to make.


Eventually, we decided that we wanted to find items to make for dinner, so we could stay in again that night. We settled on fresh handmade sausages, peaches and asparagus. We also had the pastries from the bakeshop for dessert, which meant we would have a full Amish meal. We gathered our purchases and headed back to the house. That evening was just the best. We relaxed on the patio, ate a yummy dinner, played on the farm, then ended the night with a family movie night with shoofly pie and ice cream.


The next morning, we got up bright and early because we were headed to Hersheypark with the Millers! Other than Disneyland, the kids have never been to another theme park, so this was an extra special experience for them. Once we got into the park, Joe, Tim and the big boys headed off to ride the bigger roller coasters, while Tiffany and I stayed with the other four. We spent the whole morning walking right on rides, then moving on to the next one. Again, we met up with the other family who had adopted from Korea. We all met up for lunch, then headed to the water park portion of the park. We found the crowds there.


While there were a lot of people in this part of the park, the actual water areas were large and gave a lot of space to play. We started at the wave pool, then once again, split up so the bigger boys could do bigger things. It was absolutely wonderful to watch the kids bond and form connections immediately. Everyone got along so well and enjoyed being together. After a couple of hours in the water park, we were getting ready to head out when we heard an announcement over the loudspeaker. A storm was on its way, so the water attractions were being closed temporarily.


We were so lucky that we had planned to leave before the announcement, because everyone was heading to the changing rooms or out toward the amusement park portion. The crowds were bonkers! It was interesting to see/hear the impact of thunderstorms in the area. Initially the announcements were only saying that "due to inclement weather the water attractions would be temporarily closed". After a few minutes, the line "seek shelter" was added. Our crew walked toward the exit as quickly as we could. We were in the cars less than 5 minutes before the storm hit. It was a close call, for sure.


After the park, we headed to Troegs Independent Brewing a restaurant and brewery nearby. Again, the food was so so yummy. Joe and I shared pork belly lettuce wraps that were to die for. There were more soft pretzels, this time the size of Maylee, and some tasty drinks. When dinner was done, we headed back to the AirBnb for some final playtime and the hard goodbyes. Each of our goodbyes were hard, but they seemed to get harder with each one. We, once again, ended our day with shoofly pie, which helped us cope with our sadness.


The next morning, we started our day with an Amish Apple dumpling, then started packing up for the final leg of our trip. It was surreal to think that today would be our last driving day, that our road trip was nearing it's end and that we had just had our last goodbye. We will never forget the memories made or the hospitality shown to us by the Millers and their family and we hope to return it to them some day, when we can get them all out to Oregon.


Details and Links:
Borough Park, Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania
Colebrook Cottage
Abe's Buggy Rides
Bird in Hand Bakeshop
Bird in Hand Farmer's Market
Hersheypark
Troegs Independent Brewing

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