Ashley and I first met in Chambersburg PA, where we both started (and finished) our office careers after graduating college. We were lucky enough to meet many friendly people there, both in and out of the office, and we’ve tried to stay in touch – to varying degrees of success – over the years since we left. As we headed to the western part of Pennsylvania, we knew we wanted to stop in Chambersburg and the surrounding area to catch up with as many people as we could reasonably fit into a relatively short amount of time. And so, our whirlwind week of yardsurfing through Franklin County took shape.
We left Adams County Winery fairly early on Mother’s Day morning and planned to stop at Caledonia State Park to make breakfast and enjoy a hike before journeying the rest of the way to Roxbury PA. Caledonia was the site of an iron furnace owned by Thaddeus Stevens in 1837 from which the park gets its name (check out the Caledonia Wikipage for more interesting tidbits). My family visited Caledonia for picnics occasionally when I was a kid, and Ashley and I hiked in the park a handful of times when we lived in Chambersburg (and before Ashley actually liked to be outdoors, let alone go hiking). The park is located within South Mountain, which is the northern point of the Blue Ridge Mountain chain spreading across Maryland and Virginia. Caledonia has a network of around ten miles of hiking trails, including a two-mile section of the well-known Appalachian Trail. The various trails offer a good mix of easy strolling and more vigorous hiking, and each trail is rated based on difficulty as noted in the park map. Caledonia also has a modern campground, but we didn’t stay overnight during this visit.
I guess I should also point out something that most people familiar with the area may have already noticed. We didn’t stop in Gettysburg as we drove across the Lincoln Highway to Chambersburg. While I’ve been to Gettysburg many times as a kid, I haven’t been there very often as an adult and I’d like to spend some time there in the future. But at this point in our travels, we simply decided to skip Gettysburg to allow us more time to visit with friends and not further delay our arrival in Ashley’s hometown. So if you’re traveling through this area or visiting for the first time, be sure to check out Gettysburg and all the rich history the area has to offer.
Now, for our visits in Franklin County – read on for the highlights from each stop.
Our first yardsurfing destination was Roxbury PA, home of our friend Barb (who specifically asked to be mentioned in the blog – hi Barb!). I met Barb as a fresh-faced newly-employed cubicle dweller almost 14 years ago, and she quickly took me under wing while providing valuable insights and advice on life in the office, and life in general.
Fun Fact #1 – she helped me find a doctor when I was feeling incredibly ill (I was still new to the area and didn’t have an established physician) and it turned out I had appendicitis and had to be scheduled that very night for emergency surgery.
Fun Fact #2 – we may or may not have been featured in a television commercial for a casino in West Virginia (we, along with another friend were definitely filmed for this commercial while visiting the casino, but we never saw a finished product).
While in Roxbury, we not only enjoyed late-night conversations with Barb and visits with some of our other former coworkers, we also had a delicious breakfast from the little country store down the road, and even learned a new game. Turns out we’re now prepared for the retiree circuit armed with our new knowledge of Dirty Marbles – thanks Barb and Patsy for the training! Oh, and we also heard about the infamous “dead cow truck” which would drive through town from farm to farm picking up the expired cattle. If you were lucky, you might spot an errant hoof poking out of the top of the truck, or a limp tail trailing out of the back. Barb is also the only person I know who could sell a used recliner – complete with a built-in electric massage function – to an Amish woman down the road, who freely admitted to Barb that she’d gladly fire up the generator to get the full use of the chair. I’m sure these stories were just the tip of the iceberg, but sadly our time in Roxbury came to a close all too soon before moving on to our next planned stop.
Our next yardsurfing stop was with our friends Kim and JJ, who may take credit for being the catalysts in forming the early relationship that eventually turned into our marriage. Ashley and I even managed to rope their entire family into our wedding in 2008. I was lucky enough to inhabit a cube around the corner from JJ during the first couple of years of office life, and I can say with certainty that his sense of humor often carried us through incredibly slow afternoons behind our computers. We lived in the same neighborhood when I first moved to Chambersburg and made many stories over the years, which I will not share here. They’re better in person anyway – at least, we certainly think so. Their youngest son was a toddler when we first met, but now he’s taller than me (which I know isn’t saying much since I’m short, but the fact remains). While we only spent a very short amount of time visiting during these couple of days, we were able to catch their daughter’s softball playoff game (her team went on to earn the championship later that week) and visit a new brewery in Chambersburg. GearHouse Brewing only recently opened its doors, but the brewery is clearly set to become a favorite destination for locals and visitors alike.
Once again, the time shared with friends passed too quickly and we were on the road to the next destination.
Our final stop was spent with our friends Beverly and Carl, who had an unexpected grilled feast prepared for our arrival. Ashley and Carl worked together at one point in their careers, and Beverly was responsible for helping us find and purchase our first house. We’ve shared many conversations and evenings out over the past years, and Ashley and I were eager to catch up on lost time. After eating more than my fill, Beverly challenged us to a round of Settlers of Catan with the Seafarers expansion which we gladly accepted. It’s safe to say that I’m clearly more suited to land-based Settlers and should probably stick to building roads before attempting overseas trade again anytime soon. While parked at Beverly and Carl’s, we were able to meet up with another group of friends and spent a short evening catching up, telling stories, and playing Jenga.
We remarked that we could easily have spent a month in the area bouncing around from house to house visiting with a long list of people. This was our first attempt to arrive in the RV at friends’ homes (planned in advance, of course – not Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation style). If we weren’t on a loose time schedule to head north for the summer, we’d probably have spent more time at each stop – at least until our gracious hosts chased us out of their lawns and driveways. Ashley and I would like to sincerely thank everyone who made space in both their schedules and their locations for our visits, and apologize to everyone we may have missed on this particular leg of our journey. Bouncing in and out of people’s daily lives is difficult, and brief visits followed by hasty farewells certainly aren’t going to get any easier the longer we do this. So we’ll continue to plan more efficiently in our travels, and always look forward to the next opportunity to swap stories, play games, make music, share food, and enjoy drinks with friends and family down the road.