Discover(ing) Lancaster

April 26, 2018

Written by Art Petrosemolo

Several years ago, the Lancaster Tourist Bureau office changed its name to Discover Lancaster. How appropriate. There is so much to discover in this county whether you are a “newbie” or someone who grew up here.

Tina and my association with Lancaster dates back to 1973 when, after a difficult tenure as the alumni director at the University of Massachusetts main campus in Amherst (where I received my graduate degree), I was hired at 29 as the director of publications at Franklin and Marshall College.

To be honest, I had never visited Lancaster County and my first glimpse of it was watching the patchwork of farms from a small plane on a flight from Hartford, Conn. I was impressed and felt, even before the plane touched down, that this was the place for me.

We spent four great years at F&M living in the Grandview Heights section of Lancaster opposite the former RCA complex on PA 23. We had a tiny house on Louise Avenue and made some wonderful friends and began to learn about the county’s heritage. For example, a neighbor and friend serviced sewing machines for the Plain Community and I marveled at how he got Singers to run on air pressure.

It is here in Lancaster that we adopted our son Keith.

In 1977 we left for a six-year stay at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., on my way to a 50-year career in college and corporate public relations. But through it all we never forgot the good vibes of living here. Those memories were a key reason for looking at Active 55 and CCRC communities two years ago when we were ready to retire. We found Garden Spot Village and Sycamore Springs and moved six months later.

For the past year-plus, it has been a real pleasure re-discovering Lancaster and its many secrets that pop up when you are off the beaten track and the well-traveled tourist roads of Route 30, 340, 322 and 896. If you know your destination is North, South, East or West, point the car in that direction (and maybe with the help of GPS or your cell phone) and find your way there on the back roads. Be prepared to slow down for carriages and jaw-dropping scenery.

Just these past several weeks, I came across some wonderful discoveries on just such journeys. For me, it mostly is about the image that I might use in a story for the Ephrata Review, Lititz Record, Elizabethtown Advocate or Lancaster Farming.  I have cameras in every car and pocket and have become the master of pulling over to photograph something or even to shoot through the front windshield. I said recently on a Facebook post of a photo, “Sometimes this county is literally a picture postcard.”

So, where have my adventures taken me? A week or so ago, I was heading to Mount Joy to a barn sale and my GPS took me the back way from Route 23 onto Snake Hill Road and then onto Hunsicker Road over Route 222 and toward Route 272. Suddenly, I came across a beautiful covered bridge in spring sunshine. Naturally, to Tina’s dismay, I pulled over on the shoulder of the road, got out and photographed for 10 minutes. I removed the modern street signs with Photoshop and the result is pure Lancaster County (see photo above). I learned the bridge was built in the 1840s and rebuilt after hurricane storm damage in the 1970s. It looks like the one-lane bridge will last another 100 years. My research tells me they were built covered to protect the roadway and to last longer.

My second discovery was on the road – PA 896 I think – from Paradise. There is a beautiful farm just south of Michael’s Bakery where I always stop for Raisin Bread (the best) as it comes out of the oven about 11 a.m. on Fridays. The farmer was preparing the fields for planting with a team of horses and the scene with farm in the background was too good not to stop. I had to get onto a side road and squeeze to the side and stand on the door frame of my car to get the shot but I got it.

My third discovery was a farm off Route 772 that I photographed on the way home from some story research in Lititz. I actually pulled in back of a house to get this one and it was worth it.

Finally, for my fourth recent discovery, my neighbor told me about some derelict cars in East Earl that he had seen on a recent visit to Black Creek Garden Center on Black Creek Road. We went up on a rainy Sunday and indeed the two cars were late 1930s somethings…. A Chevrolet panel truck and a four-door unidentifiable sedan. We could not get across the creek to photograph so I took images from the hill.

But three days later, I found my way back and across the creek through a home at the edge of the property. I got up-close-and-personal. The cars were long abandoned, filled with junk and being overtaken by new growth and weeds. They will probably not be visible during the summer.

I spent 15 minutes getting my photos and I was pleased. It made some for terrific prints for my old car friends.

My friends laugh when I tell them I have digital SLR cameras worth big bucks but many times get just as good photos with high-end and not-so-high-end point-and-shoot cameras in the $100 range. I have a camera (or two) in every vehicle and at least one on me—besides my iPhone 8 plus—at all times. The images are there but you can’t take them without a camera…… so don’t leave home without one.

Note: I photograph members of the Plain Community all the time and either ask them if they are OK with it or in the case of farmers driving horse teams, I always, always shoot from their side or behind them so they are not recognizable. Surprisingly I find, many times they could care less about getting photographed but if the image appears in print and their fellow churchgoers see it…. well it can cause a rub. I’ve learned the hard way.

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