I woke up this morning at 8:30, an almost unprecedented feat for me. Slowly but surely, I'm managing to change my inner clock a bit. However, I fully expect to return to NST (Nightowl Standard Time) upon my return from this expedition.
I spent the day visiting goofball roadside attractions and motoring the winding and scenic byways of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Gettysburg is a treasure trove for tourists. There is, of course, much attention paid to and pride taken in the area's prominence in the lore of the War Between The States, so not only can you visit the actual site of the battle but you can take in the rather silly National Civil War Wax Museum. That's not the best of it, though. The best lies just to the west of town: The Land of the Little Horses and Mr. Ed's Elephant Museum.
A lesson of the road learned the hard way: If a roadside attraction is a bit off the main stem and its ever-so-enticing billboards claim that it is "just 2 miles south of state highway 49," they're lying. It's more likely to be four, five, or even six miles; they know that once you're rocketing down some narrow little country road, your heart pounding and your mind racing at the mere thought of experiencing the thrills they've been promising you every two miles for the last half an hour, you're not likely to turn around and go back because of an extra mile or three.
In the case of The Land of Little Horses, the promised two miles become five or so but it's a beautiful drive in springtime - a winding, tree-lined path with apple and assorted other trees in full blossom, so what the hey. Luckily, I didn't need a passport to enter the Land of Little Horses; just six and a half bucks. What a wonderland! A stable here, a barn there - none of them very big but remember, these are the World's Smallest Horses. They don't need much room. The horses' keepers tell you one can pet the horses, while in the same breath warning that they may bite (they do; one nipped my leg. A suit is pending. Imagine a guide at, say, the Grand Canyon telling you, "You may jump over the railing if you desire to, but we should mention that you might fall to your death.") They put on a little display of the animals in the stable (or was it the barn?); one of them did that tired old number of being able to do math. Was I the only one in the place who noticed that the creature stopped counting with his hoof the moment his trainer moved her left foot forward? It seemed so. I wasn't bothered by the children's enjoyment of the show at all; it seemed to be aimed towards them. Some of these parents, though, need to get out a little more often.
It will surprise you not a whit to learn that the Land of Little Horses also features a snack bar and - surprise! - a gift shop. I wasn't up for a snack, though, and the gift shop was pretty lame, even for this kind of place. So, if it's snacks or souvenirs you're seeking, look elsewhere; if it's the kind of act that would have made it to the final cut in auditions for the old Ed Sullivan Show you want, the Land of Little Horses is for you.
My sister Julie grew up collecting frogs. Big ones, little ones, stuffed ones, ceramic ones - it didn't matter. She was fond of frogs of every ilk. It made gift-giving a snap for me and her other siblings. Don't know what to get Sis for her birthday? Can't think of just the right thing for Christmas this year? Why not a frog? Sold! Could you giftwrap that, please? And do you have any paper with frogs on it?
Well, you get the idea. I don't know if Julie still has her collection or not but, if she does, all she needs is an eight-to-ten feet tall croaker that moves its eyes and houses a continuously-playing tape recording of fun frog facts to know and tell and she's ready to open her own museum. That's what the titular Mr. Ed did with his elephant collection.
A few miles further west on Rt. 30 than the Land of Little
Horses, Mr. Ed (who is apparently not a talking horse, although we didn't
meet face-to-face) has turned a life-long passion into a going proposition.
He has, in addition to his collection housed in locked glass cases, a gift
and candy shop which also sells freshly roasted peanuts. I have to be
honest: Mr. Ed's can't truthfully be called exciting but it's
well-intentioned and the kids will probably enjoy it.
Continue on the American Odyssey.
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