Going Round in Circles!

Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
Trip End May 16, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Pennsylvania
Friday, November 2, 2007

When we last left off I was wishing everyone a Happy Halloween. I got my fill of chocolate from the Hershey Factory so I skipped Trick or Treating and stayed indoors to play tricks.
I got up this morning to go touring. It was a slow start. I should have clued in that my day would probably continue in the same fashion. That is...going round in circles and not really accomplishing much. I was well prepared. Or so I thought. I had picked up a "Free Map of Amish Farmlands of Lancaster County, PA". First thing I notice is printed in big bold letters, "This Map Not Drawn To Scale". It was a little obvious. What gave it away? The majority of roads went from left to right in pretty much straight lines on the 8 by 22 inch sheet of paper. One thing I've learned about roads in Pennsylvania is that they do not go straight.  The map definitely looked squished. Just like that turtle I saw in Kingston. No Problem. Grab my pink highlighter and highlight all the Covered Bridges. Oh sorry...the map title didn't indicate that it was also a map of all the Covered Bridges in the County. All 28 of them. Oops. That's wrong. There are 28 Covered Bridges in the County, but the map only showed 14. After highlighting all the bridges, I grab my green highlighter and map out a route that takes me by the majority of them. There are 10 along this route. Remember, this map is not to scale. Who knows how far apart these things really are. So I go online to Mapquest and map out my route. Total distance...68 miles..about 110 kms. Estimated time - 3 hours. That's doable in a day. Would also give me time to visit the Amish Farms identified on the map. Homework done.
Time to leave. It's almost 10. Get in the truck, make sure I have my maps, camera, water...good to go! Enter in the GPS the name of the town where the first 2 bridges are located on the "Free Map". GPS shows me the "fastest" route. Not what I want. It's bringing me down the interstate and not the local highways close by the bridges. Let's try entering "shortest" route. Looks good. Should get me close by the bridges. Two things I haven't   mentioned yet is; 1-I don't have an actual hard copy map of Pennsylvania. When I went to the Auto Association (AMA/AAA), I grabbed all the state maps on the periphery of the USA. I kind of forgot to grab Pennsylvania; and 2- the "Free Map" only shows the "general" vicinity of the Covered Bridges in relation to the towns and main highways. That cleared up...I'm on my way. The campground I'm at is situated west of the town of Elizabethtown. The town I'm heading towards is north-east of where I am. So I have to drive through Elizabethtown. Should be no problem...I'm using the GPS...what kind of problems can I get into so soon? Get to town, GPS indicates to turn right. OK. Construction Zone right away...watch for flagmen(women). Get waived through...I wave thanks to the flagman....then another flagman (actually flagwoman)...get waived though....waive thanks....then a third flagman...get waived by. GPS says turn left. Turn left.  "ROAD CLOSED-LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY". Well...exactly what does "Local Traffic" mean? I don't go much further when that question is answered. There is no road...there's NO Bridge. Make a U-turn. Waive to the third, second and first flagmen. Circle # 1. Finally get through Elizabethtown. On the road to Manheim. A lot of twisty, undulating roads. I'm having fun. It's cloudy out. Where's the sun they forecasted? Getting close to Manheim...there should be signs indicating where the Covered Bridges are? Drive into downtown Manheim...stop...take a look at the "Free Map" again. Did I miss them? If I head out of town on the southern highway there should be signs? I'm off again. Drive out of town for a while...still nothing. Well from the "Free Map" they should be to the right...I head down a highway in that direction.  Nope. Must have gone too far. Turn around. Circle #2. Light bulb comes on! "I have another map!" This one came in a Lancaster County Tourist information booklet....and this one has...Actual...street names.  "JACKPOT!" The Bridge that is closest is on West Sun Hill Road. And from this map I must have just passed it when I came into Manheim. Now I'm heading in the right direction. Get to the cross street I'm looking for. Turn left. Drive a while... a little longer. Nope. Must have missed it. Circle # 3 or is it #4 yet? Head back the way I came. Yeah! I find the road. I find the Covered Bridge. It's nothing spectacular. Take a couple of pictures. Next stop...next bridge. Circle #4. Go back the way I just came from and past Circle #3. Find the cross road I'm looking for fairly quickly. Think I've got the hang of this now. Get to a "T" intersection, turn right....and stop. I think I should have turned left. Check the map. Yep! Circle # 5. Find Bridge # 2. This one looks just like the last one, but at least the setting is a little nicer. A couple more pictures. It's already after noon by now. I've made it to the first town out of a dozen I have to pass through. It's cloudy. I have a feeling these bridges are all going to look the same. I check the map. There are 2 more bridges on the way back to the campground if I take a circular route back. See...I told you I'd be going around in Circles all day. By zigzagging I get to see the next 2 bridges without going around in circles. Back at the camper shortly after 1.
Did you know?
Scenic and romantic, numerous covered bridges still link Pennsylvania to a nearly forgotten past. At one point, the Keystone state had at least 1,500 covered bridges, and today over 200 have stood the test of time. Found in 40 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, more covered bridges exist in Pennsylvania than in any other state - highlighting its designation as 'Covered Bridge Capital of the World.' There is even a covered bridge located on the way to Paradise -- Paradise, Lancaster County, that is.

A reminder of a young nation carved out of the wilderness, covered bridges are charming, yet practical. Timothy Palmer built the first American covered bridge over the Schuylkill River at 30th Street in Philadelphia in 1800. The investors asked to have it covered in the hopes of extending the life of the bridge, and Palmer reluctantly agreed. The value of the covered bridge design was quickly recognized, as it greatly extended the life of the wooden bridges by protecting the side supporting timbers (not necessarily the floorboards) from exposure to the weather, thus lowering maintenance costs. There are several wife's tales which present alternate views as to why these bridges were built with a cover, including safeguarding livestock when crossing water, or scaring off evil spirits, but the true reason the bridges were covered was to preserve them from the environment. As a result, many of these wonderful wooden structures have survived for over a century. While covering the bridges was a practical way to protect them from snow and rain, it also had a downside. During pre-automobile days, when sleds were the primary method of winter transportation, snow actually had to be shoveled back onto the bridges to provide a snowy surface for the sled runners.

The longest covered bridge in the world was built in Lancaster County in 1814. It crossed the Susquehanna River between Columbia and Wrightsville, a distance of over a mile (5,960 feet). Ice and high water destroyed it in 1832.

After lunch I started getting caught up on some paperwork I have to do. Sorting through two boxes of papers I brought with me. Filing, sorting and throwing out.. The sun came out just before it got dark. Hopefully it'll be sunny out tomorrow and I'll go find some Amish Farms. Maybe I'll go for a buggy ride.
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