Tuesday at Hershey is another day off and looking out of the window I see that the snow has returned. It is falling heavily and snow ploughs are clearing the hotel parking lots. There is something so captivating about watching large flakes falling slowly.
It takes me back to childhood and I just gaze out of the window for a good 15 minutes or so. Because I have no shows and no travelling today I am going to send my frock coats for a dry clean to freshen them up for the last leg of the trip. I happen to know that tomorrow’s hotel has a guest laundry so I don’t have to send a huge load to the cleaners today.
Having handed my bundle over at the front desk, I have another delicious breakfast of porridge, bacon etc and ponder what to do with my day I had thought of driving to Gettysburg, as I would love to find out more about the Civil War, an area of history where my knowledge is sadly lacking but the snow looks heavy and I’m sure that the roads will be bad.
I decide to come back to my room, write my blog and then decide later. After an hour or so at the computer the snow is still falling but I decide to go anyway. Im sure that the main routes will be clear and it will be good to get out of the hotel for a while.
The Jeep has sat unused since my arrival here so I start to brush it off only to discover that under the snow itself there is a thick layer of ice. The car is entirely cocooned in it. I’ve never seen anything like it. With the engine running I get all of the windows clear and brush away as much as the loose stuff as I can, before getting in.
I’m wearing my coat and cap because it is winter. OK, the car has a perfectly good heating system, but it just seems sort of right to wrap up.
I put the Gettysburg address into the Sat Nav (OK, cheap gag, I know but it IS my day off) and head out onto the roads. Actually driving conditions are not too bad and the traffic is very light. I had seen on the television this morning that many schools are closed so I suppose a lot of families have stayed at home. My route takes me past Harrisburg and across the Susquehanna River. Looking towards the city I can see at least three bridges spanning the water and Charles Dickens’s approach to the same city comes to mind:
We crossed this river by a wooden bridge, roofed and covered in on all sides, and nearly a mile in length. It was profoundly dark; perplexed, with great beams, crossing and recrossing it at every possible angle; and through the broad chinks and crevices in the floor, the rapid river gleamed, far down below, like a legion of eyes. We had no lamps; and as the horses stumbled and floundered through this place, towards the distant speck of dying light, it seemed interminable. I really could not at first persuade myself as we rumbled heavily on, filling the bridge with hollow noises, and I held down my head to save it from the rafters above, but that I was in a painful dream; for I have often dreamed of toiling through such places, and as often argued, even at the time, ‘this cannot be reality.’
The river is indeed immensely wide here and it must have been a most unnerving experience.
The drive to Gettysburg is about an hour and as I drive on the snow is getting heavier although the roads are still clear.
After around 45 minute minutes there is suddenly an almighty crash right in front of my face. What have I hit? What has hit me? It has taken all of this time for the heat from the engine to finally loosen the cocoon and great slabs of ice have broken away from the bonnet (hood) and smashed into the windscreen (windshield).
About 12 miles before reaching Gettysburg itself, there is a sign on the other side of the carriage way for the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing. I can’t think of any connection with motor racing here but as that is one of my passions, I will call in on the way back.
I follow the signs to the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center. I pull into the parking lot and discover the whole place is closed. I realised that the battle fields themselves would be inaccessible but I’d hoped the center may be open.
So much for my increased knowledge of the Civil War. However I do have the chance to walk a bit and take some more winter photographs. I drive into the town centre, where most of the shops and business are closed presumably because of the snow.
The town looks very pretty though with lots of historic buildings and information signs. I imagine it must be a bustling place at the height of the season.
On the way back to Harrisburg I pull off to the Motor Racing Museum which of course is closed but through the windows I can see glimpses of US dirt track and sprint cars, the kind that legends such as AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser cut their racing teeth in.
I have lunch in a roadside diner and get back to the hotel in the afternoon. I watch a couple of films: the BBC Hitchcock biopic ‘The Girl’ and ‘Ray’ with Jamie Foxx giving an extraordinary Oscar winning performance as Ray Charles.
Lane of Lights
Once darkness falls at around 5.30, I go back to the car. One feature of Hershey’s Christmas celebrations is a drive through lane of Christmas lights. In the past I have never been able to see it, because I’ve always been performing in the evening but this year’s schedule at last allows me to take it in at last.
The drive is just a matter of minutes to a patch of woodland in the countryside behind the hotel which has been transformed into an outstanding land of lights. At the gate it is suggested that you switch on the local Christmas radio station to accompany the drive and of course I need no encouragement on that front.
The first part of the drive is through open parkland and there are huge displays of Christmas scenes and a depiction of the 12 Days of Christmas, after which the route winds into the wood and slowly meanders uphill. Here the show is exceptional, with characters and scenes nestling among the trees.
It is truly magical. Even Ebenezer Scrooge would be impressed, although he may be concerned about the amount of electricity used to power all of this.
Back at the hotel I have dinner in the Italian restaurant, Trevi5, which is beautiful and actually have dessert for the first time during my time here (I performed the last act of my show whilst desert was being eaten). After coffee I go back to my room, have a lovely hot bath and then drift off to sleep nice and early.
For another year my sumptuous Hershey adventure is over.