The Yard Sale, Day One

We wanted to get up very, very early to start the yard sales. Unfortunately, we promised the owner of the B & B that we would be ready for breakfast at 8:30. Any hope of getting an early start was quickly gone, as we realized that it was meant to be a leisurely breakfast, full of conversation.

The breakfast was very nice (maybe a little fancy for our Dunkin Donuts tastes), and the conversation was pleasant. We shared the table with a woman who was traveling to town to pick up some furniture.

We were both very proud of the girls for tasting and eating a little bit of everything (especially since things tasted a little strange). They were very polite, used their best table manners, and only spoke when spoken to. To be honest, I barely recognized them.

Finally, we were off to the yard sales.

We shopped for hours on end. There were yard sales every couple of feet. We found so many treasures an bargains that it was almost ridiculous. I purchased an old telephone table with attached seat in perfect condition for $1.00. I can't believe that no one bought it before me. I bought a piece of exercise equipment (with a retail value of about $500) for $15. AND, I found a free electric skillet!! I had been wanting one for YEARS. The only thing wrong with this one is that the paint is chipped. It works perfectly.

We barely stopped for lunch - grabbing hotdogs from a stand on the side of the road. Maddie and Zoe are expert shoppers - they looked out for the best deals, and walked away from things that weren't dirt cheap. We were briefly caught in a few rain storms, but no one seemed to notice. We could have kept going indefinitely, but the yard sales started closing down around 5pm.

We stopped for a quick dinner at a roadside buffet (much better than it sounds), and took the girls to the Family Fun Center of Clearfield County. They played in a giant jungle gym and played video games for a couple of hours. We all played indoor miniature golf together. We even all played laser tag. I had no idea how much fun that is, and I think I'm officially addicted. It brings out my competitive nature without competing too much with my couch potato nature.

Vicky and I spent our time chatting and playing air hockey (she beat me every time!!). We tried the dancing games, but neither of us were too good at that.

We finally left the Family Fun Center close to midnight. The girls wanted to watch a movie before bed, but they really needed some sleep.

Vicky and I watched Grease and the first half of Grease 2 until I literally passed out (the 2 bottles of wine that we drank helped that out). We were already looking forward to the next day and the treasures that awaited at the 2nd day of the yardsale.

The only regret I have is that my camera broke. I love to get pictures, and it was frustrating to be without it.

After the Coal Mine

Once we left the coal mine, we headed out to an area called Bilgers Rocks. This was a great park, with rock walls that are over 300 million years old. Most of the rock walls are 20 to 25 feet thick. I've never seen anything like it.

As we were coming into the park, I said hello to a man walking to his car. He asked me if we were tourists (was it that obvious?). He said that he had lived within a few miles of Bilgers Rocks his entire life and had played in them thru out his childhood. Now, at the age of 80 something, he was a volunteer with the park. He asked if we would like a guided tour. We couldn't turn that down, so off we went.

He led us thru the rocks, climbing more nimbly than I ever have. He told us stories about different carvings, and provided a great deal of history. He took us into very narrow walk ways, and took the girls into a cave (after mentioning that Vicky and I were probably too big to squeeze thru). It was extremely interesting, and we got a lot more out of the experience than we would have if we wandered around alone.

Soon, the man left us to return to his wife at home. He didn't want to be late and make her worry. We explored the park on our own for a few minutes (there were some great wood carvings as well). We found that the park hosts a number of events each year - concerts, hayrides, dances. It sounds like a great resource for the locals, and I'm really glad we went.

The next place on our stop was the Bed and Breakfast that we would be staying at for the remainder of the trip. The Victoria House was a beautiful old ( built in 1894) house right in the center of town. We had a fabulous view of the lake, and were within walking distance of almost anything in town.

We had the entire 3 floor of the house all to ourselves. There were 3 bedrooms, a kitchenette, skylights, and a large bathroom with a whirlpool tub. It was very nice. (The only downside was lugging the suitcases up 3 flights of stairs.

We didn't have much time to explore the house or the town, because we had more things to do that day. After a quick bite to eat at a great hole in the wall pizza joint, we changed into our oldest clothes for our next adventure - BOW FISHING!

To be honest, I had never heard of bow fishing. It didn't make much sense to me - why shot a fish with a bow when you can catch it on a hook? And, we were going at night. That didn't make much sense, either.

We arrived at the home of our fishing guide / expert - Stacey. He taught us how to use the equipment while we were still on land. It was fun shooting at soda bottles. We knew that there would be one other person on the trip with us, but we were surprised to find out that it was the woman who creates the local traveler guide. She would be taking pictures of our expedition, and we would perhaps be in the 2010 Clearfield County Travel guide! Very cool.

We followed Stacey to the lake, and waited while he put the pontoon in the water. As we were heading out into the lake, Stacey explained that night time was a great time to catch fish. They would be active and feeding at the time. Stacey shined huge lights into the water, and we were amazed at all of the fish we saw. We also saw several turtles, many of which were larger than dinner plates.

We would only be catching carp on our trip; however, Stacey quickly assured us that if we accidently caught another type of fish, he would eat it. His confidence in us was almost funny.

People don't usually eat carp. It is in the same category as goldfish. The carp that is caught during these trips is used to feed the turtles and other lake wildlife.

Vicky and I really got into the fishing. Zoe tried fishing for a few minutes, but had a hard time holding the bow and arrow. Maddie was incredibly bored, especially since she couldn't even pick up the bow and arrow (they are heavier than you would think).

Stacey was a great guide. He clearly loves fishing, and knows the lake and local wildlife very well. Vicky and I had a great time. We stayed out on the boat until well after 1am. We would have kept going until dawn (and Stacey would have been happy to stay with us), but the girls were very bored and very tired. Maddie even fell asleep in her chair.

The highlight of the trip, however, was when Vicky caught her fish. My camera had broken by now, so I don't have any pictures. Never fear! It is very likely that she will be in the Clearfield County Visitor Guide next year.

We promised the girls that we would do something VERY fun the following night to make up for how bored they were on this trip. They were great sports about it. We rolled into bed, trying to figure out how we squeezed so much into our day (swimming, weight lifting, coal mine tour, Bilgers Rocks and 6 hours of bow fishing). Before bed, the girls reminded us that they wanted to get up nice and early for the yard sales in the morning. They didn't want everyone else to get all the good stuff!!

Girls Only Trip - Day 2

Zoe woke up bright and early on Day 2 of our trip. She spent the next 45 minutes trying to wake Maddie up. Once they were both up, the girls immediately put on their bathing suits and went down to the pool.

The immediately returned from the pool, because there was a sign that said one must be age 14 or older to swim in the pool without an adult. We tried to convince them that it would be okay to break those rules - they are really just guidelines. Plus, no one would question how old either of these girls is (they could pass for a small 14). PLUS, no one was in the pool. It was 7am, for goodness sake. AND, both of them are strong swimmers who would be looking out for each other.

But, the girls are rule followers to the core. So, Vicky took off to the pool with them.

I enjoyed a few minutes to myself, but quickly got lonely. I went down to the pool to look for the three of them, but no one was there. I checked the bathroom and the complimentary breakfast area. No luck. I rode the elevator 3 times, checking the room each time. I thought that they may be looking for me and we were passing each other up in the elevator. After another quick check of the pool and the restrooms, I ventured outside to check out the van.

I found them sitting on the patio, eating cherries and grapes for breakfast.

After breakfast, the girls decided that they wanted to swim some more.

Then, it was time to work out in the weight room.

Then, it was time to get their hair done.

Then, it was time to try out all the coffee and tea samples in the room. (I'm proud to say that I taught them well, and they quickly turned their noses up at the powder creamer).

By now, it was 10am, and the girls were ready for something new. Plus, we knew that we had a LONG day ahead of us.

Our next stop was the Seldom Seen Coal Mine. That name just cracks me up. I actually remember going here on a 4th grade field trip. It was a bit tricky to find, and we had to ask a few folks along the way. I was surprised how many people who live and/or work within 5 miles of the place had never heard of it.

Once upon a time, this had been a real, working coal mine. It opened in 1939, and 1963 was it's last year of production. Since then, it has been operating as a tourist attraction. In recent years, it has become a non-profit organization run almost completely by volunteers.

We were very excited to put on our hard hats and go on the underground tour.

We road in an authentic coal car from the visitors' center into the mine.

Our tour guide was PHENOMENAL. He was a descendant of a coal miner family, and shared an incredible amount of information. After a few minutes of total darkness, we were able to view all of the main areas of a coal mine. They displayed authentic equipment that is rarely seen in coal mine tours. We were able to get out of the rail car for a bit (with hardhats on) and experience how coal is mined.

I am not giving this tour justice with my words. I would have to say that this is the single best historical tour that I've been on (next to Monticello) - and, having lived in Washington, D.C. for many years, I have been on quite a few. I am surprised that it is not more widely known about, and saddened that it does not get the attention or funding it needs.

We were certainly not done for the day, but I am done writing for tonight. We squeezed so much into our trip, I'm getting tired just thinking about it!!

Swimming and Go-Carts at Lakemont

For those of you who haven't been to Lakemont, there is more to do than just ride rides. Admittedly, there isn't much more, but for a nine year old and an eleven year old, there is plenty to keep busy.

We spent a couple of hours swimming in the pool and sliding down the slides. I'm not really sure why I'm saying "we." I am spoiled by the warm waters of North Carolina, and didn't last too long in the icy cold water of North Western PA. But, once again, I got some great pictures!!

Our girls look too much like teenagers for my liking. Would someone please tell them to stop growing up?

Another fun thing to do at Lakemont is ride the go-carts. At most parks, riding go-carts is an 'add on' that is generally so expensive that it isn't worth doing. Not so at Lakemont. When an entire day's admission is only $3 (how many times have I said that?), these extras aren't so bad.

It was a long, long day, and those girls kept us running until the park closed. They were disappointed that they didn't have time to play mini golf or get a funnel cake, but all in all, they had a great day.

When we left the park, we realized that we hadn't yet had dinner. It's hard to stop and eat when you are having so much fun! Altoona is not a particularly large town, and it was hard to find a restaurant that was open after 9pm. Fortunately, the girls are flexible and will eat just about anywhere. We ended up at a pizza joint, and all was well with the world.

Sometime around 10pm, we checked into the hotel (a wonderful Mariott Courtyard). I was afraid that I wouldn't make past the elevator without falling asleep, but those girls just wanted to keep on going! The immediately went to check out the pool to see how late it was open. Much to their disappointment, it was closed. We promised them that they could go swimming in the morning before check-out, and to bed we all went.

I'm not sure who fell asleep first, but I think it was me!

Girls Only Trip

Maddie and I recently returned from our 2009 Girls Only trip. For those of you who aren't familiar, this is an annual event for girls in the Rader and Croyle families. My best friend, Vicky, and I have held this trip for 3 consecutive years. Vicky has 4 children, with three of them being girls, just like me. The rules for the trip are: You must be 8 years old to participate. Other than that, there are no rules. This year, the only other Croyle child that was old enough to go was Zoe. She is 11. Her and Maddie are great friends, despite how different they are.

These trips have historically been jammed packed with fun and activities. We barely take time to sleep, and strive to make every moment an adventure. This trip was no exception.

Maddie and I started our trip by driving to the Croyle's house Maryland. We arrived shortly after midnight, and promptly went to sleep. (Well, I went to sleep. Maddie spent an hour or so prowling the house doing heaven knows what).

We were up bright and early the next day. We all loaded our suitcases (some of which were significantly bigger than others) into the Croyle's giant van, and off we went. Our first stop was Lakemont Park in Altoona, PA.

We experienced great luck and fortune thru out the trip, and this day was no exception. As it turns out, Wednesdays were 'dollar days' at Lakemont Park, and it only cost $3.00 per person to get in. And no, that is not a typo. $3.00. It cost a total of $12.00 for all 4 of us. (Much better than the sticker shock at other amusement parks -- it cost our family over $250 to go to Dollywood for a day, and some of the children were FREE!).

Anyway, Lakemont Park is famous for having the oldest roller coaster in the county. Leap the Dips was built in 1902. It is the only "side friction" roller coaster left in the U.S. What that means is that it doesn't have an extra set of wheels on the underside of the coaster cars to prevent them from coming off the tracks. It's a little scary to think about. Most people consider this to be a tame ride (after all, it's maximum speed is only 10 mph), but after seeing the car return to the station without being on the tracks several times - I declare this to be a rather frightening ride. The ride attendants had to lift the car up and return it to the tracks on more than one occasion. There are no reports of the cars ever flying off the tracks, or people being seriously injured on this ride, but it's still a little scary.

Never the less, we rode this coaster twice. The girls may have wanted to ride it more, but the lines were prohibitively long. They only use one car at a time, and the car only seats 4 people. Given that other lines in this tiny park were incredibly short, the girls much preferred to direct their energies elsewhere.

Here are some pictures of the coaster:

This picture shows the ride attendants watching carefully after returning the car to it's tracks.

Returning to the station.

The view from below.

The girls loved the other coaster in the park - the Skyliner. The lines for this (and everything else in the park) were very short, and we rode this coaster at least 10 times.

The girls also loved all of the spinning rides. Vicky rode some of them, but I opted out of all. The older I get, the sicker they make me. Luckily, I got some great pictures!

The girls went on the Round Up several times in a row. How they managed to do that, I'll never know.

This was the strangest roller coast that I've ever seen. You climbed into a small cage built for two, and then rode at a 90 degree angle up a giant tube. Once at the top, you burst into the air and rode in a corkscrew fashion to the bottom. The ride ended with a few small dips. It was a short ride, but the girls only rode it once. I'm not sure how much fun it was, but it was certainly interesting.

Maddie says that this was her favorite ride. She rode it several times. This is your typical octopus / spider ride.

Another ride that I wouldn't go on. It looked like everyone was having fun.

This was another monster / octopus / spider ride. Although Maddie LOVED the yellow one, this ride practically did her in. If you look closely, she doesn't look too happy with that. Poor kid.

Our day did not stop there. There is just too much to talk about in one blog entry. Although this park is tiny (you can see the entire thing from the road), it was great fun and provided enough activities to keep those girls busy for an entire day.

Jenn, Matt and Kayla

Aunt Jenn, Uncle Matt and Cousin Kayla came for a visit this weekend. Everyone had a great time!

We celebrated Maddie's birthday.

We went to the beach.

We played at the park.

We ate pierogies.

And, we hung out at the campfire.

What a wonderful visit. My only regret is that it was too short.