Three for the Road

This summer, we had two adventures planned.  One–the trip to FanExpo detailed below, went as planned.  But, our first trip (a return to Rocking Horse Ranch) did not.  Ned was called to Florida for a few weeks, so we canceled that trip.  The kids and I regrouped and decided to use that week to explore other destinations within driving distance: we were three for the road.

First up was a drive to the Southern Tier to the Corning Museum of Glass–about 90 minutes and two listens of the Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix #1 away from our house.

We had signed up for two make and take workshops before heading off:  fused glass and bead making.  We got to the museum with enough time to grab lunch at its really quite lovely and delicious restaurant (how often does a museum cafe offer green curry or make your own pasta?) and then run over to the workshop for fused glass.  We were truly surprised how free we were to design our own project–everything from choosing colors, cutting glass pieces, and more.  And, then equally surprised by how quickly the time flew by … when our assistant told us we were down to 15 minutes, then 10, we were panicked.  But in the end, it all worked out just fine.
The museum also has a gorgeous gift shop that is really more like a glass-themed boutique.  Honestly, when we started walking around, we all felt kind of stupid for never having gone before.  The CMoG might be best described as a science museum plus a high art museum plus a glass studio plus a boutique–all in an extraordinarily designed building.
Next up, bead making.  Because we were working over an open flame (yes, an OPEN flame), we had to wear these kicky Yoko Ono glasses.

Visitors make beads with a dedicated one-on-one instructor, which makes the process less stressful.  We each picked a different shape and design (of course) and again were happily surprised at how much we actually did in the process: we melted the glass rod, shaped the bead around a metal rod, added color swirls or dots, shaped the final bead into a square or triangle or oval.  Way cool!

We had some time to explore the art part of the museum.  Again, astonishing!  Seriously, if you go for the art alone, you’ll be satisfied–everything from conceptual responses to tragedies to an entire wall of paperweights to a collection of art nouveau home glass. Wow!

In a corner of the museum, we discovered a cute area where visitors could draw anything that the museum artists might turn into glass.  If a drawing is selected, CMoG mails the piece to the artist.  I don’t think either Penn’s or Harper’s drawings made it, but they had a grand time thinking through their ideas.  Yay, creativity!
The science side of the CMoG focuses on Optics–the science of light and glass.  It offers lots of interactive displays, including this huge glass piece that creates inverted reflections.

When we got to CMoG, we realized they were open until 8, not 5 as we thought.  I was able to get someone to come and let out the dogs so we could extend our stay!  That meant we could add a glass blowing class to the mix–which excited us immensely. As it turned out, our part was really just blowing.  The assistants moved the glass back and forth to the forge and helped shape the ornaments; still, that’s OUR air inside those puppies!

In case you’re wondering, here’s how some of our projects turned out. 
After a full day at CMoG, we Yelped dinner options and found a fantastic hole in the wall BBQ place right around the corner: Slammin’ Jammin’ BBQ.  Ignore Penn’s odd face; I think I caught him midbite.  It was truly delicious!!
Then, courtesy of Yelp once more, we found an only-in-Corning ice cream shop attached to a car wash: Hokey Pokey’s.  Yum … dip cones!

And, that was it.  We listened once more to the Awesome Mix on the way home and threw in some Sylvan Esso.

Then, two days later, we took off for Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Just five or so hours after we left home, we were deep in the land of chocolate.  Our first stop was Chocolate World.

We went all in, getting a ticket that covered all attractions at Chocolate World, starting with a chocolate tasting session designed to turn us into fast-tracked chocolatiers.  
Here’s the thing: we really did learn to taste chocolate differently and recognize the multiple flavors in different kinds.  It was odd to eat grocery store candy you’ve eaten your whole life and taste it anew.  Well worth it, and as at every other activity we did that day, we walked away with Hershey’s chocolate gifts.

Our ticket also covered the “make your own chocolate bar” experience.  This required us to get all food-safety’d up in dapper attire.

We each got to customize a base milk chocolate bar by adding up to three ingredients and selecting an outer coating (milk, dark or white).  Then, we could follow it along each stage of creation, watching our names pop up as the bar passed by.  Given that chocolate’s not my thing, I made a candy bar for Ned in absentia.

We also designed our own candy wrappers, bringing out our inner graphic designers.
I have to give Hershey Park (right next door to Chocolate World) credit for being one of the most visitor-friendly amusement parks ever.  First, I found an online coupon that gave us $15 off each ticket. Then, I learned that visitors could bring their next-day tickets to the park beginning at 7:30 the night before for “preview night” at no extra cost and that our parking fee that night would count for the next day, too!  Finally, HP has an app that gives you the wait times at various rides, literally draws your way from one ride to another, tells you how many steps it will be, and estimates the walk time.  Oh, and everyone is crazy nice.  Wow!
By the way, this photo is a tribute to the kids’ cousin. Guess what his name is?

We closed out the park, getting to our hotel around 10:30.  So, in the morning, I had two sleeping beauties.

We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express (thank you, Hotwire!) about 5 minutes from HP and found a great, old school diner near our hotel: the Cocoa Diner.  As we ate, it filled with folks who were clearly regulars–a good sign.  And, our breakfasts were huge and yummy.

Our goal that morning was to snag two of the limited number “fast track” coaster passes.  HP is known for its amazing roller coasters, and the fast track passes allow their holders to go to the front of the line one time for each coaster.  We got them; the kids went coaster crazy; and I spent a lovely day walking from ride to ride, people watching and reading.  And for about an hour, I half napped in the shade while the kids played in what must be one of the world’s largest water toys. Truly, I had to finally head into it to chase them down so we could move on 🙂

By the end of the day, they had managed to ride most coasters at least twice!  In contrast, I rode only three rides, each once:  the giant Ferris wheel, the sky way that glides small tram over the park, and the carousel.  Joy all around!

We got to HP at about 9:30 am and closed it out again, leaving at 10 pm–rides, waterpark, food, dip cones, and more.  A very good day!
The next morning, we first tried to eat at Bob Evans because Penn had never been to one, but the line was out the door.  I off handedly commented to a perfect stranger in line that we’d go back to the Cocoa Diner rather than wait to eat at a Bob Evans.  As we ate our breakfast, Harper said, “Mom, I think that guy you talked to is here.” And, he was!  His family stopped me on the way out and thanked me: they loved their breakfast, too 🙂

On the trolley tour of Hershey we took on day one, Harper and I spied an outlet mall. We decided to hit it that morning before leaving town. Whoop–jackpot! Under Amour, Disney Store, Gap, J Crew, Talbots, and a Red Robin for lunch.

Filled with bottomless fries, we left Hershey with a new destination about three hours away: Tafton.  Our week would end with our annual visit to dear family friends Suellyn and Doug at their cottage in the Poconos.  Their home sits on a small, private, no motor lake that is beyond lovely.

Even though it was in the high 60s when we arrived, both kids jumped into the lake straightaway.  Ah, the power of Rochester-thickened blood!
The cold snap continued through the weekend.  It never stopped them.  However, this is as far as I got in the water … and even then it was chilly.

At night, we cozied up in the cottage watching Disney movies before treking over to the bunkhouse for bed.

The neighbors around the lake are always extraordinarily generous with their “toys.”  This year, someone had paddle boards.  The kids had never, ever been on them before and were naturals, paddle boarding all around the lake without once losing balance or cool.
The lake is beautiful, peaceful, relaxing and just plain fun; and the cooler weather didn’t stop Harper and Penn one bit from spending every moment possible in or near it.
I was another story 🙂  Luckily, Suellyn and I went to a hipster boutique in a renovated mill up the road where I picked up several pairs of make-your-own mismatched socks.  Turns out they worked wonderfully with flip flops.  Note to self–always prepare for the unexpected, like sub 50 degree weather in August.
On the last day, the kids canoed around the lake, played on the island, and the floating dock.  I eventually had to pull them out so we could head home.

In the end, this week didn’t include anything that we had initially planned–and it didn’t matter. Although we missed Ned and wished he could have shared every moment with us, we had a great time exploring and discovering new sites and making new memories.  As Penn noted on one of the nights we closed out Hershey Park, “I’m actually kinda glad we didn’t go back to Rocking Horse Ranch–otherwise, we’d never have come here.” Our happenstance vacation was a (literally) sweet and cool one; now we just need to go back with Ned!

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