I had a goal to visit two new states that I had never been to before this year. Back in August I was able to visit Westerly, Rhode Island on a spur of the moment decision when I realized that the year was passing me by and my goal might not be achieved. My trip to visit with my brother and his wife and young son was not as spur of the moment but I asked about the possibility of a visit around 3 weeks before we worked out the details.
The drive for me to North Western Pennsylvania is not a short one. I live near Albany, New York in the eastern most portion of Upstate New York. The trip to my brother's house would be a 7 to 7 and a half hour drive. I left after work on a Friday and chose to cut across New York state before heading south, so that I could avoid the traffic heading into Manhatten and New York City on a Friday night. I saw my first snow of the year while travelling through the Catskill mountains of New York, but thankfully the driving conditions were pretty good in spite of a some snow squalls I ran into while heading south west. Having left work around 1 pm I got to my brother's house a little after 8 pm. My brother was working so I watched t.v. and spoke to Tracy and Tristram before he got home. Clifford and I chatted a bit when he got in but I wanted to get to sleep with the headache I had from travelling so far and having driven half the trip in the dark.
Pennsylvania and New York are both notorious for car accidents involving deer. Most people don't realize that deer are actually repsonsible for more deaths than any other animal in the United States each year. It has nothing to do with packs of viscous American Bambis, and everything to do with the high rate of vehicle collisions with deer. This time of year is particularly dangerous with longer hours of darkness and deer moving closer to roadways as they search for food. My headache was largely the product of straining my eyes so much in the dark to make sure a deer didn't run out in front of my car. I saw one on the side of the road but luck was with me as I didn't encounter any dangerous situations.
On the first day of my visit Tracy had to work so it was Boys day out. Clifford, Tristram and I hung out at home and drove about a half an hour away to Smicksburg, PA to do some Christmas shopping and wine tasting. Smicksburg is a very small and quaint country town. Their "shopping district" if it can be called that is a stretch of roadway that has 5 houses on it which have been turned into crafts shops. The town is rather hilly, so I felt a bit bad for Clifford as he manuevered Tristram's stroller up and down the hilly sidewalks. The shops had a lot of Christmas crafts in particular. They are small stores with a lot packed into them. Clifford said that usually there are only a handful of people there, but this week was kind of their kick off for the Christmas shopping season and there were probably close to a hundred shoppers. While I realize that's not a lot of people, when you're working your way through small shops, packed with arts and crafts while pushing a stroller, it seems like a lot more.
The stores had a lot of cute items including jewelry, christmas ornaments, kitchen tools, teas and coffees, rugs and small clothing items. I found a couple of things for some family members for Christmas. We had also planned on going to a winery in Smicksburg, but one of the shops was doing wine tastings from the local Windgate Winery. The convenience of having a wine tasting in the town shop was nice. I was not all that impressed by the wines I tried and did not decide to buy any. Later that night we had an "Amish Blush" wine from Windgate Winery with dinner, which was much better than any of the Windgate wines I had tried. Smicksburg has an Amish community, so when you drive their you have to be mindful of the horse and buggies. I felt bad for the horsies who went so fast on the down hill sections but looked to be laboring to transport their passangers over the uphill portions. Tristram was quite entertained by the horsies, so I would point them out to him each time I saw them trotting past us.
After shopping Clifford, Tristram and I stopped in a homemade cheese shop right outside of the town center. We sampled some onion cheese and decided to buy onion cheese, pepperoni cheese and sun dried tomato cheese. I think the cheese shop was the highlight of a Smicksburg and a definite attraction for anyone who might find them self lost in a tiny western Pennsylvania village.
On the second day of my visit we spent a nice morning with my brother's church group after breakfast. We discussed a selection from the bible and said a prayer for a variety of local people who either had need for aid or cause to celebrate something happy. We left before the church service because we had a long day of travel ahead of us. First we packed up dinner and ate a late breakfast/early lunch at Wendy's fast food restaurant. Then we headed a little over an hour south to the premium outlet stores in Grove City, Pennsylvania Grove City Premium Outlets. Outlet stores are name brand stores that sell older product designs or slightly imperfect products at discounted prices. They are very popular throughout much of the United States. I was surprised at just how large the Grove City outlets were. We got a considerable amount of Christmas shopping done there prior to eating the dinner we had packed picnic style and travelling another 2 hours south to the main attraction of the trip: The Christmas in the Park, Christmas Lights display in Ogelbay Park, West Virginia.
Clifford picked West Virginia over Ohio knowing that Ogelbay Park would be having the opening weekend of their Christmas in the Park, Lights Display. We arrived in Ogelbay around 6 pm. While the weather was cold it was not uncomfortable to walk in as we were all dressed appropriately for the mid Autumnal weather. I absolutely loved the little shops and the Christmas Lights display at Ogelbay. Their park was a lot larger than Washington Park in downtown Albany, NY near me where they also do a Christmas Lights display. I bought my mother a nice little Cyclamen Plant from this lovely flower shop in Ogelbay as a thank you to her for letting me borrow her Garmin GPS system for the trip.
The shops were also very crafts oriented, much like the ones in Smicksburg, but with a lot more room to walk around in. I really liked these little animal flower pots at the plant store. The associates there were nice enough to allow me to take pictures in their shop when I asked permission.
The lights display in Ogelbay park was much more vast then the one in Washington Park near my old apartment. I was very impressed by the variety of displays and the originality of the lights. There was everything from Charlie Brown trying to kick a football, to Dinosaurs around an exploding volcano, Cinderella, Snowmen, Santa Claus, A 12 Days of Christmas Lights display, various sports themed displays, animals, horse carosels, a ferris wheel and water fountains... and that's just a small sample. There were so many lights that you could not see everything. We were fortunate to have gone the first week as we could move at a goodly speed where even Clifford who was driving could enjoy the lights because there was almost no traffic. Tristram really loved the lights, I could tell, as it was the quietest he was during the whole trip. LOL
Side view of nativity
Lights framed through the car window
Santa Claus is Coming to Town! YAY Santa!
One of my favorite things about Ogelbay was their blown glass shop. It was amazing to see what people can make out of glass. If I had more money and a place to keep nice glasswork without having to fear breaking it I would have loved to buy something. This trip was not a trip to be buying myself things though with Christmas on the way. We ended up leaving Ogelbay Park and Resort around 9:30 pm after the shops had closed. We got back to Clifford and Tracey's house in Pennsylvania after midnight.
Ogelbay Glass Shop: picture courtesy of Blenko Glass
On my last day of my visit we decided to kick back, take it easy, play board games and watch movies, which was a nice change given all the travel I had been doing. That respit was also appreciated the next day when my trip back home took over 9 hours instead of the 7 and a half it should have when two accidents completely shut down the main roadway back home and I had to detour myself through the north central mountain ranges of Pennsylvania. While the trip was a lot of time spent in a car over 4 days I truly loved everything about it. It was great to spend time with family and to explore new places while also accomplishing some Chirstmas shopping along the way. I would love to return to Ogelbay Park again sometime and Clifford invited me back out next year for a trip to someplace in Ohio. If I can get the time off from work, I definitely plan on taking him up on the offer. =)