Everything listed under: Discover

  • Pennsylvania Halfway Point

    I love mountains!

    So much so, I really should get a bumper sticker that declares my affection for these ancient geographical structures.

    Mountains are pleasing to look at, fun to explore, and easily inspire adventurers, which is why they do a great job of being a metaphor for many aspects of life -- not to mention being a great way to illustrate the halfway mark on the Pennsylvania, Here A Year project.

    The way up:
    Typically, climbing up a mountain is the most challenging and difficult part of the hike, but when looked back upon, it usually contains the most memories. So far, this has been true for my journey as well.

    I said goodbye to my extended family in Minnesota, right after having my beagle, Elli, unexpectedly die from a respiratory disease, followed by my grandma dying the week after -- all leading up to living in a strange state, in a bungalow, on a animal rescue farm.

    When I arrived, I instantly started my trek of exploring unique cultures - Pennsylvania Dutch, Amish/Mennonites, Mummers, South Philly Vibe, Pittsburgh’s Art Scene, The Cove, People of the Poconos, Commonwealth Capitol District - and it didn’t take long before I was discovering the richness of the state by walking around the annals of history - William Penn’s homestead, Gettysburg National Battlefield, Independence Hall, etc., and celebrating the state by going to festivals and parades, and seeing the land from above in an experimental aircraft (not to mention skydiving), along with diving to the depths of an underwater ghost towns, seeing dogs fly, and fire twirled, and concerts played, and trees being zipped across, and hills being rolled up, and baseball games being soaked up, and kites, kites, kites, and running up the Rocky steps, and laughing at roadside attractions (Centralia, Whistler’s Mother Statue, Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum, Shoe House), and being stuffed with cheese steaks, ice cream, chocolate, chow-chow, and whoopie pies...(I’m out of breath!)

    I think you get the picture.

    On top of all this, my 225,000 mile-driven Mazda quit (for good), I had a total body poison ivy outbreak, and I was attacked by a goat -- all a part of the adventure!

    But most importantly, I’ve made so many wonderful connections with terrific people all across Pennsylvania. Some are virtual through Facebook, Twitter, and the Here A Year website, but most are in the flesh - taking me on tours, showing me the hidden gems of their cities, letting me into their circle of trust and friendship.

    This is especially true about the people who are out there, working to make their communities and this world a better place. And of the three verbs I use as a guide through this journey (Live, Discover, Connect), CONNECT is the one I enjoy the most.

    So far, I’ve been averaging 18 hours a week volunteering with organizations from all over the state, namely: Angel Acres Horse Haven Rescue, Special Olympics Pennsylvania, The Super Hero Foundation, Pyrotopia, Gino J. Merli Veterans' Center, Ivyland 5k, Random Snacks of Kindness Project, and the PA State Parks Department - all with the hope to do more.

    At the top:
    The best part about making it to the top of any mountain is the view. And with the view comes heightened emotions of joy.

    This is true for the halfway point of my lifestyle experiment as well.

    The ability to look back and see what has been accomplished as well and getting a vantage point of what might be to come is priceless. I feel like I have good grasp on how the journey is evolving and with that, looking into the future to see what its potential might be.

    But I must continue on down the mountain. No one is able to stay on the peak forever.

    Coming down:
    Most people think that the trek down a mountain is super easy. I disagree.

    I don’t see the next six months getting any easier as this venture is not able to survive by me sitting back and coasting. On the contrary, the back half might even be tougher.

    When I think about the days ahead, I like to think of them as keeping the momentum alive. Here A Year is just now getting its base of supporters set. It’s just now finding its groove with blog postings and video highlights. It’s just now getting taken as something serious to enjoy.

    All a part of what momentum does -- and I hope the snowball effect continues.

    I still have many places to go, along with many cultures to understand, and  new charities to volunteer alongside of -- I can’t wait!

    With so many things to do, it’s important to get feedback from those who are fellow adventurers - whether that be in person or in the online world. There will be even more opportunities for you to vote on, not to mention the giveaways of sweet PA goodies.

    I hope you’ll stick around.

    So here’s at the halfway point -- and to many more adventures this year. Cheers friends!

  • Pennsylvania's Mysterious Statue of Liberty

    While winding along the Susquehanna River on Route 322 (from Harrisburg to State College) I had to do a double take.

    There, in a stretch of river called the Dauphin Narrows, stands a brilliant white replica of the Statue of Liberty which is anchored to an large stone basin, once used to steady a railroad bridge.

    From my vantage point, Lady Liberty looks like someone canoed to the middle of the river, took out their LEGOs and built a miniature version of the iconic statue. Actually, she's 25 feet tall and quite solid as she is anchored to the platform with cables.Picture Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8414567@N05/3543684834/in/photostream/

    According to Weird Pennsylvania, this is the second replica of the Statue of Liberty to stand here. The first showed up in 1980 to commemorate the centennial of the real one standing between New Jersey and New York in the Hudson Bay. Of course, by the time the 90's came around, the elements caused PA's Statue of Liberty to wash away leaving a gap in the hearts the locals. 

    So, Dauphin Borough raised $25,000 to replace the landmark which brought them to the original artist and local lawyer, Gene Stilp, who then enlisted his friends to help him build a more durable replica. This time, it would be built out of fiberglass, metal, and wood and would be securely fastened to its new home on the river. They helicoptered it in and has been standing proudly there ever since. 

    For a great video about the mystery of this statue from CBS News, click here.

  • The Little League World Series reminds us how great baseball is

    It was the bottom of the sixth and Southeast, the team from Goodlettsville, Tennessee, had the the Little League U.S. Championship game in the bag.

    What happened next made history.

    Team West was down ten runs with only one at bat left in regular play. They drove in four runs before the second out, which brought up Bradley Smith.  He hit a double, followed by back-to-back homers by Kempton Brandis and Hance Smith which tied the game at fifteen and sent it into extra innings.

    Southeast wasted no time bringing in nine extra runs to cement their lead and ultimately win the U.S. title, giving them the right to face Japan in the World Series Championship game.

    When the dust settled, both teams has scored a combined total of forty runs, both had more runs than hits, and needless to say, the pitching lineups were exhausted.

    Joey Hale, the Southeast manager, summed it up best: “We just went through a roller coaster.”

    - - -

    A handful of events are exclusive to Pennsylvania: Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, and, of course, the Little League World Series in South Williamsport.

    South Williamsport, a borough of six thousand, swells to over five times its normal size as it hosts teams from all over the world. The Howard J. Lamade and Volunteer Stadiums, side-by-side in the middle of town, are the game's epicenter for a week and a half in the summer.  This is where thousands of kids dream to be: cracking the ball out of the park, running down the home stretch with teammates and families cheering on.

    As incredibly enjoyable as these games are to watch, it isn’t always what's broadcast on television that makes this tournament great.

    It's the Little League’s devotion to helping children develop good characteristics—citizenship, discipline, healthy living, and teamwork—that makes this tournament great.  They emphasize this goal on their website: “the Little League Baseball and Softball program is designed to develop superior citizens rather than superior athletes.”  But there's nothing like seeing it in person.  None of these kids have a hundred million dollar contract or a shoe named after them or even an agent; but there's still an unmistakable innocence to the game.  That's something we would all like to see more of in our world.

    If you ever find yourself in Pennsylvania near the end of August, be sure to stop by South Williamsport and catch a game or two.   You'll cheer for the games, but you'll leave inspired by the character of the coaches, families, and players.

  • The misnaming of Ivyland, Pennsylvania

    There is no shortage of curious sounding town names in Pennsylvania. A person would only need to cross over the Lancaster County line to be surrounded by boroughs and villages, with names like Bird In Hand, Blue Ball, and Intercourse which makes one shake their head in disbelief.

    Yet, even among the more traditional sounding cities, its naming might not be as straightforward as one might think.

    Take Ivyland, PA for example.

    This quaint borough sports one of the finest collections of Victorian era buildings in the state, but very few of them are covered by ivy. So why name it Ivyland?

    The town was started in 1873 when Edwin Lacey, a Quaker farmer turned developer, who wanted to cash in on the thousands of people coming through the area to celebrate the Centennial Exposition of 1876 being held in nearby Philadelphia. Lacey sold his dream to investors who helped him lay out this twelve block village, complete with an addition to the North Penn Railroad, and a grand hotel in the center of it all.

    Lacey’s utopia was quickly becoming a reality -- so he needed to call this area something that captured the essence of his new home. Thomas MacKenzie, a personal acquaintance of Edwin, stated that Lacey “envisioned lovely ivy-covered walls throughout his town”, and since there was an abundance of this beautiful, glossy, three-leafed ivy, it made perfect sense to call it, “Ivyland”.

    Unfortunately, Edwin Lacey was no botanist, and mistook the glossy, three-leafed ivy for English ivy (which has a webbed maple leaf shape). Needless to say, the new settlers and town officials did not cover their buildings with this vine -- because it was POISON IVY!

    In hindsight, it’s probably a good thing Lacey didn’t call the place what it actually was, because, who would want to visit Poison Ivyland, Pennsylvania? No one.


  • Discover PA: flying the Pennsylvania skies

    “This is my second midlife crisis”, explained one of the pilots. “I traded in my motorcycle and boat after taking my first ride in one of these [ultralight flyer] planes -- there’s nothing else like the feeling of being free.”

    A version of this statement was heard from many of the almost one hundred flyers at the 23rd Annual Father’s Day Fly-In. The three-day festival was held south of Dillsburg, PA at the Shreveport North Airport and sponsored by The Mason-Dixon Sports Flyers, celebrating twenty-five years as a club.

    The event was a non-stop smorgassboard of low-flying aircraft (fixed winged ultrilights, weight shift ultralights, powered hang gliders, powered parachutes, helicopters, and gyrocopters) that sported something for the whole family. Whether it be the fly-by, parade of sports cars, toy drop, pilot games, or the movies and popcorn on the flight line, the weekend was too short.

    Especially since the weather was picture perfect. Powered parachutes and hang gliders were out at the crack of dawn, taking advantage of the lower wind speeds, while the larger aircraft took to the clouds in the afternoon, showcasing what their unique flying machine could do.

    How does someone get involved in ultralight flying?
    Some of the pilots flew remote control airplanes and wanted to go to the next level, others claimed to be adrenaline junkies who got involved to quench their thrill-seeking thirst, a few saw an advertisement to build their own flying machine, while the majority said it simply took one ride to be hooked.

    The next step was to get involved with an ultralight flight community. The United States Utralight Association (USUA) has a listing of almost fifty clubs around the country to join. Most of these organizations have fly-ins, like the one in the Dillsburg area, which give people a taste of what ultralight flying is all about.

    “It’s about having fun...and enjoying freedom in the air,” said Capital Area Light Flyers’ safety and training member Lee Fritz. Both were obvious at this event.

    On a personal note, I took a ride -- and now I’m hooked!