I have frequently considered trying a bus tour type of trip. One where I could “leave the driving to them”, as well as the planning and figuring out where everything I’d like to see is located. Someone else could determine what the best venues are, where the best food is, and what attractions have the coolest things to do. But……I really enjoy mixing my need to have somewhat structured plans with my love of having the flexibility to be spontaneous and veer off course when something interesting catches my eye. So, I have always opted to leave the bus tours to others and mold my adventures on my own. Also, I had a really bad experience on a bus trip a little over 30 years ago (the one and only time I traveled by bus) that has stuck in the back of my mind and pops up whenever the idea of traveling on a bus even remotely enters the realm of possibility.
Well, I changed all that this past weekend! Several months ago, some friends from church asked me if I wanted to go along with them on a bus tour to Lancaster, PA to see a production of Moses at the Sight and Sound Theater there. It was going to be a two day – one overnight stay – trip down and back, the price seemed reasonable, and I thought it might be fun…….so, the trip was booked…….and, now, it is over and in the memory books!
The trip, in general, was very nice – parts of it was awesome and parts left a lot to be desired, but over all, it was a good adventure and I had a really nice time. I’ll address the parts that fell flat for me, first, because there was much more that was really good and I want to devote the bulk of this post to the good parts!
I have only one “in general” complaint — I felt confined by a really structured itinerary. There was some time when we were “on our own”, but only in the sense that we got off the bus at a location and had a set amount of time to just wander and do what we wanted to do at that location – not that we could go where we wanted or choose to do something different. As we rode around from place to place, I saw several things that I would have stopped to get a closer look at or snap a photo of if I was driving, but couldn’t and that made me sad.
There were two more specific parts that made me wonder if I had made a serious mistake in agreeing to go……and, both were right at the beginning. First – the seating was assigned and REALLY cramped on the bus! It wasn’t long before the lack of leg room made my bad knee start to throb and the lack of elbow room made me feel tense and achy! This went on for the first five and a half hours or so until the first major stop in Lancaster when my friend and I discovered there were empty seats in the back that had a LOT more room and we moved to them and were able to stretch out – we claimed those seats for the rest of the trip! 🙂
Speaking of that first major stop in Lancaster…….that was the other part that made me question my decision to go – and it was one of the items on the itinerary that I was really looking forward to! That first stop was at the Rockvale Outlet Mall for shopping and lunch on our own – we had three whole hours there. I looked it up online and got excited about some of the stores – I envisioned putting a huge dent in my Christmas shopping! But, when we got there, we found that it was a HUGE sprawled out place with all outside entrances and several pockets of buildings that weren’t attached – including all of the places to eat. AND…..the weather was not the best for a situation like that – it was cold and drizzly and windy! There were trolleys, but you had to stand and wait outside for them to come around. There were benches, but, again, they were outside in the cold! So, we waited for a trolley (that killed almost 1/2 hour) and went to Bob Evans for lunch – killed as much time as we could there! By then, the sun came out a little and the drizzle stopped, so we thought we’d check out some stores within short walking distance from where we needed to be for the bus. Every store was SUPER crowded – you could barely get in the door of some of them – and the prices were not what I would call “outlet” prices! So, we gave up and went to wait for our time to get back on the bus. I didn’t purchase anything…..all I accomplished was lunch and getting cold and wet! I couldn’t believe that they dropped off a bus load of mostly senior citizens (not all, but a majority) with no means of transportation in bad weather at a place that required so much extensive walking and no place to get inside to sit comfortably if they didn’t want to (or couldn’t) shop! It would have been a very different and likely more enjoyable feature to the trip if it was an indoor mall with seating areas.
So, that was the first half of the first day…….like I said, I was seriously doubting my judgment, here!
But……things began to look up from there! Like I said, the sun started to show itself and we discovered the better seats where we could stretch out and be more comfortable on the bus! So, now that I got the griping out of the way, on to the awesome parts!!!
We arrived at the hotel to find a really nice LaQuinta Inn and a very nice, comfortable room. We changed and went down to go to dinner. Dinner was a group thing that was included in the package. It was a family style dinner at an Amish family owned restaurant called Hometown Kitchen. They put on a full Sunday Dinner type meal – turkey and filling (they call dressing/stuffing “filling”), roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, buttered noodles, peas and carrots, a salad, homemade cranberry jam and strawberry jam, rolls, and dessert! IT….WAS….AMAZING!!!! Surprisingly, the pie wasn’t very good, but everything else was just incredible! We ate until we were stuffed!
Then, the main event for the trip – the Sight and Sound Theater production of Moses! I have no appropriate words for how awesome it was…..is there a good word that trumps AWESOME??? If you’ve never been to a Sight and Sound Theater, you will just have to take my word for it cause I don’t believe I’ve ever been anywhere that compares to it! They only do shows that bring the bible to life and they are located in both Lancaster, PA and Branson, MO. It is a humungous theater with a stage that surrounds the audience on three sides, as well as aisles where the performers also take the action. There was an extremely large cast of very talented actors/singers and lots of animals – REAL animals!!! Egyptians came charging down the aisle on horse drawn chariots or on horse back, Hebrew peasants and others lead camels and herds of sheep and goats, and large beautiful birds (parrots, I presume) flew in over the audience to perch right where they were supposed to be! The voices on the singers were so amazing – what talent they have in their shows! The only complaint I had was that the actor who played Moses didn’t look a bit like Charlton Heston, so he wasn’t very convincing! hehehehe Seriously, the entire cast, sets, animals, costumes, etc. were perfect! I did have one real complaint……not really a complaint, but something that did bother me – I wasn’t crazy about how they had the actors talk in more modern language – at times a little TOO modern for my taste. I realize it was done for the humorous factor and entertainment value, but I thought it took away from the authentication of the story – at times – not throughout! When Moses went to the mountain and God spoke to him, the voice of God bellowed through the theater and it gave me chills! The burning bush and the fiery etching of the Ten Commandments onto the stone tablets brought tears to my eyes! The angel of death flew in from the back of the theater over the audience, did her thing to those children not of houses of God’s followers (as evidence by sheep blood painted on their doors), and then raised way up out of sight……it was heart stopping! Then……there was the parting of the red sea…..I wondered how they were going to make that seem real…..I won’t spoil it for those who may want to go see it, but I will say that the wind whipped through the theater at high speed, rushing through our hair and across our faces, and there was a visual that took my breath away……and the sea was parted so that God’s people could escape down the aisles through the parted sea! From the time Moses was put in the basket by his mother and floated off to sea, to his time in the palace as the Egyptian Pharaoh’s son (taken in by his wife when she found him floating in his basket), to his exile from the palace and return to being a peasant, to his rejection by his Hebrew people, to his work on behalf of his God……it was all so real and awe inspiring! Just incredible! I do have to say that I thought parts of the first half were a tad boring, but not a lot…..and the second half more than made up for it! It was the highlight of the trip!
Statue of Moses in the lobby of the theater!
The curtain covering the set designs prior to the start of the show
That was about all the excitement we could take for one day – we went back to the hotel and got some much needed sleep (we left Batavia at 6:00 am…..I was up at 4:00 to be ready to head to the bus by 5:00!)
The next morning we got on the bus at 8:30 after breakfast and a tour guide joined us for a driving tour of the Amish communities. She was very knowledgeable and told us all about their customs and traditions. We drove around the area for a couple of hours and learned so many interesting things about these incredible people. We have Amish and Mennonite communities around here, but not as populated or as strictly traditional as they are in Lancaster County, PA. It was Sunday, so there wasn’t a lot of activity going on – it is worship and family time for them. We also didn’t have any stops where we could get out to take photos, so I only got a few that I took through the window of the bus when it stopped for a brief viewing. But, we did see a gathering for a worship service – they don’t have churches because they worship in the home – each family holds their own worship in their own home and then every other Sunday they all gather at one home for a day of worship, food, and fellowship. They rotate the homes and the host family is responsible for the food for the entire community – they all prepare the same meal so that they don’t feel like they need to compete with each other. The following two photos are of a worship gathering we came across – you can see some of the buggies parked and (hard to see) some children wandering around by the tree.
It was also wedding season…..we saw a few houses prepared for wedding festivities – one had temporary additions built on their homes (after the wedding, the additions are taken down and moved to another home needing them for a wedding) and one home had a HUGE tent that will be used to hitch the many horses out of the weather. The following photo is of a cemetery we went by.
An interesting tidbit of info I learned — young, unmarried Amish girls wear a white mesh apron, once married the apron is put away and kept until it is taken out and placed in the casket with the girl at her funeral. The tour was wonderful……I really enjoyed it a lot! Also, there are a couple hundred one-room school houses in this area – one for each small district or neighborhood community. The Amish always homeschooled their children. Then, at one time, the government told them they had to consolidate all the small district schools and their children had to go to state approved schools, so they accepted that and sent their children to public schools. Then, at some point, there was the removal of the ability to pray in school and the requirement for PE (and the horrible gym uniforms all kids had to wear), so the Amish appealed to the courts to allow them to school their children in their own schools. The courts agreed, so long as they followed state sanctioned curricula and some other stipulations. All agreed and now they school their children in their little one room school houses until the age of 13 – at which time, the courts agreed that their “schooling” can end because they recognize that their “learning” will continue through their work and family life. Interesting!
Then, we stopped at the Intercourse Canning Company – a store that sells canned goods made with authentic Amish recipes canned under the Intercourse Canning Company label and the Jake and Amos label. It is not Amish run, which is why it was open on Sunday. There were samples out and about throughout the store – jams, pickles, beets, chow chows, mustards, dips, soup mixes, and on and on…….I tried just about everything and bought several items that I fell in love with!
We then traveled to Lewisburg, PA to stop at the Country Cupboard for lunch and shopping. Great food and lots of beautiful things to look at. I didn’t purchase anything, but really enjoyed the lunch and the browsing!
And, then we were homeward bound!
So……that was my latest adventure!!! Despite the questionable start of the trip, it was a great time and I really did enjoy it! I wish I had the opportunity to venture out a little more and had more chances to get some good photos, but C’est la vie……. I hope to make a trip back to Lancaster County, PA in the future – next time I will drive and take my time to see more of the local interests and less of the bigger commercialized attractions. Until then, this was a great little taste of a very interesting area and a truly inspiring production of one of the great Bible stories!