First month in Pennsylvania!

Pittsburgh, Lewistown, State College, Hershey, Greenwood Furnace SP, Black Moshannon SP, Codorus SP

Hello, Summer 2021 in Appalachian territory! Our first month living in central Pennsylvania is officially in the books.

New job? Check. State parks? Check. Fourth Anniversary celebration? Check. Family reunion? Check. Oh, it’s been a gas. 

Thus far, we are really enjoying our time here. To begin with, the scenery is outstanding. Dense and lush mountain forests, rolling grassy hillsides, sweeping valley views, and creeks and streams in every other turn of the trail. The quaint, friendly mountain towns are fun to wander through, and we have found locals to be receptive and quite enthusiastic to share things about their hometown if you show the slightest sliver of interest (sometimes overly enthusiastic, which is endearing). There’s also so much history in this region of Pennsylvania with all of the old coal mines, railroads, and huge iron furnaces from the 1800s around which entire communities were built. Plenty to explore! Just how we like it.

As some of you know, I (Gabrielle) got a job with the Davey Resource Group as a field technician working on a project based in central PA. It was a nice fit because we’ve been looking for a way to still make money while traveling and living in our RV, and the project team was excited for our unusual situation. Basically, we can just move right along with the project area as we cover new territory (usually people have to get hotels during the work week as the project area moves further from their homes). I follow the utility corridors – mainly power – and gather data for a variety of purposes. The project is slowly working its way Northwest towards Lake Erie as our team finishes each area. I’ve been pretty happy with the job and the experience so far. Yes, there are politics and logistical issues that can be frustrating…but who DOESN’T have those kind of issues at one point in their job? You focus on controlling what you can. Plus, the hard, physical exercise is welcome – getting to hike in the mountains, along hillsides, and through towns every workday is a plus by ALL standards. 

A few pics of my work truck, some areas that I’ve worked through, and some cool bug and animal encounters. I like to call them my “just another day at the office” shots. ❤

On our way out to Pennsylvania a month ago, we passed through Pittsburgh for the evening. We arrived at the perfect time of day, coming out of a tunnel onto the bridge over the Monongahela River at the golden hour. The whole downtown glowed in the late afternoon sunlight.

We stopped in for dinner and brews at Fat Head’s Saloon, a local brewery that David had tried at GABF one year. It ended up being a GREAT call: Beers were fresh and delicious, pub room vibe was chill with lots of laughs, bartender was friendly and goofy, onion rings were THE best we’ve have ever had (no joke).

Passed through Altoona, PA and stopped in at Boyer Candy Company, home to the famous Mallo Cup! Chocolate and soft marshmallow filling. It was a childhood favorite of Gabrielle’s, which she used to buy at Cracker Barrels as a kid. Boyer is the originator of the “cup candy,” which is now made famous because of the Reeses peanut butter cup. David found his new favorite candy at Boyer’s – the Clark Cup! It has crispy bits of peanut butter mixed in with the smooth peanut butter cup. Definitely trumped Reeses, in both of our opinions. Also, side note – you cannot beat the prices at Boyer. This chocolate was WAY cheaper than anything anywhere in Hershey…and just as good, if not arguably better.

This was our first campsite – Waterside! It was on the Juniata River, it was peaceful, and we were there for the penultimate 17-year CICADA emergence of Brood X. It was intense. They were everywhere. Not dangerous or biting, more just annoying because they were always underfoot and flying into you or dropping onto you from trees. The noise of the cicadas was so loud it borderline hurt our ears when we walked out of the RV. David said at one point it was like an all-day tornado siren going off.

One of the first weeks of Gabrielle’s training, we stayed in Greenwood Furnace State Park, a little outside of Lewistown, named after the huge furnace built in 1834 that forged iron until 1904. A beautiful remote spot, the only downside of which was that there were no cell phone signal for 10 minutes in any direction. Good hikes around the park, caught some crawdads in the creek, explored inside the furnaces, and came across a huge black water snake! 

It’s right in the middle of a huge Amish community near Belleville – lots of horse and buggies driving down the road. Interesting to see stables in parking lot at the grocery store for where they park their horses. We never did get around to buying fresh Amish food or farm goods. Something to do for next time we’re in Amish country.

Another night when we were eating dinner outside. we had a pleasant surprise visit by a momma and baby Eastern Screech-Owl! The baby was just chillin in this hollowed out part of a tree branch next to our campsite waiting for mom to bring back food. If we hadn’t seen the mom swoop in, we would have never known they were there because they were so silent.

We never stayed in State College, home of Penn State, but we did drive through several times and hit up 2 breweries there: VooDoo Brewing & Otto’s!

We celebrated our 4th anniversary on May 28th this year. You know how each anniversary has a corresponding substance or material? The well known ones are 50 (gold) and 25 (silver) but all the other numbers have things, too. 1st anniversary is paper, 2nd is cotton, etc. Well, the 4th is supposed to be fruit & flowers….but hell, we’re scratching that out and rewriting ours! Hamilton anniversary #4 = CHOCOLATE ANNIVERSARY.

Spent the weekend in Hershey, PA! Had an awesome day at Hersheypark riding roller coasters, playing carnival games, eating chocolate dipped pretzels and crab fries, riding more roller coasters, laughing at the ridiculous people watching, doing some drop rides, and then ending the day with the carousel and even more roller coasters. And it wouldn’t be a theme park day with the two of us if we didn’t get drenched by rain at least once! Every time. 

Side story: I don’t know how this started, but we began yelling “CHOCOLATE ANNIVERSARY!” at random points the entire day. Going up the first big drop on roller coasters, sitting eating snacks, in line with people all around us, in the rain getting soaked, having beers on park benches….yeah it definitely was a thing, and we got some laughs, a lot of weird looks, and even a kid that yelled back “YEAH, CHOCOLATE!”

A different day we spent at Chocolate World, which neighbors Hersheypark. It’s the largest Hershey’s chocolate store in the world, and also includes a coffee shop with cookie dough creations, a stand for ice cream shakes, a “big s’mores” shoppe where you can get s’mores the size of sandwiches, a giant faux jungle, and a complete bar with wine and beer and some food options. OH, and if that wasn’t enough they have a full-on indoor ride called Hershey Chocolate Factory that takes you through the whole chocolate making process from bean to bar. It’s reminiscent of Spaceship Earth at Epcot, and we thought it was really cool.

Another really serendipitous thing that happened is that we were there the weekend they opened a brand new restaurant just outside Hersheypark called ‘The Chocolatier’ in honor of Milton Hershey. We got to have lunch there literally the DAY they opened! They’ve designed the whole restaurant menu around having hints of cocoa and chocolate in every dish, even the entrees! David got a cuban with cocoa-rubbed pork, and Gabrielle got a burger with chocolate-dipped potato chips, bacon, and cheddar. We each got a different kind of chocolate martini to go with them, one with fresh cream and one without. Everything was phenomenal. 

Probably spent too much money on chocolate that weekend…? Worth it. #ChocolateAnniversary

Here a couple final pics from our anniversary weekend (seriously, we squeezed a LOT into that weekend) from the famous Hershey brewery Tröegs and a hike we did on our way back overlooking the Susquehanna River. It connected to the Appalachian Trail at one point and it was the first time either of us were officially on the AT! So sweet.

The following week we moved northwest to the Clearfield area, and stayed at state park that was pretty much a bog on a mountaintop! Black Moshannon State Park. Another really beautiful home base for relaxing weeknights, long woodsy walks, and a beach where we spent a whole afternoon playing water frisbee and laying in the sun and sand. 

And FINALLY….the Maxwell Family Reunion!! Gabrielle’s mom’s side of the family is from western PA, and just this past weekend we were lucky to be able to attend the big family reunion. They had it at Codorus State Park down south near the Maryland border. We got to see cousins, aunts, uncles, and family that she hadn’t seen in over a decade, some even since she was a little kid! And of course lots of kiddos and babies to throw in the mix. A fun day in the park with great potluck food, cold beer, pontoon boat rides, reminiscing about good memories back in thr day, and a campfire to end the night with roasted weenies. 

For those of you that couldn’t make it to the Maxwell reunion – you were definitely missed and there in spirit! There were plenty of great stories about reunions of old up at the Li’l Abner cabin. I mean, just the best corn on the cob ever.

The two of us often stop to savor this unique nomadic chapter of our life, as we know it won’t last forever. It’s a more steady and slow pace than how we traveled in the RV before, simply due to the nature of Gabrielle’s job…and that steady, slow pace has seeped into our day-to-day. I think both of us would say that it’s a good thing.  Reminiscent in many ways of that “buena vida” mindset we talked about back in Uruguay……

Our first month here has been soul food, in all honesty. There are things that happened in our lives behind these scenes that have been extremely hard to work through and process, and I know we both really needed this change. Is there anything better than living the life you love, and living it to the fullest? I think kids these days call that #LivingTheDream. We smile at each other a lot recently because, well, we are. 

That’s all for now. Got an evening thunderstorm and a book to look forward to, and maybe a glass of bourbon to accompany it. Peace out.

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