Daily Archives: June 23, 2007

Chocolate and Cannons

Today was a good day! We got up at about the same time we usually do on vacation days, which is to say later than we do on school days, but earlier than we do on regular weekends. We headed down to the not-so-great-but-entirely-free breakfast in the hotel lobby, then packed up the car and headed to Hershey, PA.

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We did pretty much everything you can do on the cheap. We signed ourselves up for a trolley ride, did the “museum” tour, and bought a couple of containers of Kisses at the gift shop.

“Museum” is in quotes because it’s not really a museum at all – it’s an amusement ride. Mr. Chili and I, being the erudite snobs that we are, spent the entire time lamenting that, pretty soon, museums as we know them are going to cease to exist because they will have been replaced by automated, ride-through experiences like the one we saw today. This “museum” consisted of a walkway, on the walls of which were posters and pictures of Milton Hershey and his story. We stopped to read and, really, were the only ones to do so; everyone else was blowing by us on the way to the ride. As we continued around, we were presented with video on an endless loop of people in the tropics picking cocoa pods and of the resulting beans being dried, sorted, and bagged. The video was captioned with things like “each pod contains 20-24 beans” and “after fermentation, the beans are sorted and packed.” Wow. Educational and exciting.

The path then led to a ride, populated by singing, anamatronic cows (I kid you not) that led us through a “factory” and the process of turning beans into bars. When my MIL was little, she was able to take a tour through the actual factory but, whether because of logistics or OSHA or the FDA, that is no longer possible. Nope; we got to see Kisses glued to conveyer belts and plastic candy bars being popped out of molds and – wait for it – more anamatronic cows. Whatever.

After leaving this disappointing experience, we headed off on a trolley tour. This was more fun, but was a little more hokey than we would have liked. They’re led by costumed guides, one of whom plays the dopey new guy on his first job. He runs off the trolley at the first stop, ostensibly to get his camera so he can take pictures of the Hershey Mansion. He then appears in various guises (including the bonnet and skirt of Milt’s dear old mum), they lead the car in songs (Moonlight Bay and Daisey, that sort of thing) and finally appears as himself, flustered and upset that he missed the whole tour, on the last stop. We never got off the trolley, but were driven past the factory, a few of the stately homes built for executives, the school, the botanical gardens and the zoo and amusement parks. At various points during the tour, Kisses and mini peanut butter cups were passed around. It was a nice way to get a feel for the town, and to learn that even though Hershey didn’t make the BEST chocolate (see? erudite snob…), he was an amazing philanthropist and businessman.

After a quick lunch, we headed to Dudley and Squeaky’s via Gettysburg. We stopped at the cemetary and saw some of the memorials erected for the different battalions, then headed to the visitors’ center to see the mini-museum they’ve set up there and to buy some postcards. We wanted to show this place to the girls and have decided that we’ll make a full vacation out of the area sometime soon, maybe even next year. There are a lot of important lessons to be learned from the experiences one can have here, and they’re things I want my girls to have an opportunity to really think about.

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The only thing I can say about this is that I am always saddened to think of the myriad ways we can cause each other harm, and by how little we seem to learn from the past.

We ended the day celebrating Dudley and Squeaky’s marriage – again. We were there for their wedding in Vegas, and this was a party to include all of their friends who couldn’t make it to see the actual wedding. There were games and bubbles and lots of good conversation – I got to catch up with some friends I made at the wedding and got to meet a few new folks. We also got to see some fraternity brothers of Mr. Chili who live in the area, and that was nice. The night ended with fireworks and hugs and kisses. I’m writing this from our hotel room up the highway.

Tomorrow, we’ll get up, go to Bob Evans for breakfast, then head to DC. We watched Night at the Museum last week, and the girls are very excited to see the Smithsonian Natural History Museum (that, and the American History Museum, are my favorites – I love the gems at the Natural and the flags and first ladies’ dresses at the National). We’re planning to see the Lincoln Memorial and as many ouside attractions in that general vicinity as we can, have lunch in the city, then play the rest of the afternoon by ear. We’ll end the day by heading into Williamsburg, VA, where we’ll settle into our condo and get a lay of the land before deciding what to do with ourselves on Monday.

So far? It’s been a really great vacation. Keep checking back – Mr. Chili’s not sure about the internet access in VA, but I’m sure I can find a hotspot somewhere…

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