Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sherlock Holmes Weekend

It has been so long I actually forgot my Blogger password! But with the Lyme Disease finally under control I am feeling more like writing now. Long story short, Gladys the Sheltie Puppy was acting very lazy and holding her little pointy paw up when she walked, so I took her to the vet. We had a Lyme Disease confirmation in eight minutes, and the vet wisely suggested I get tested, too. The human test takes more like eight days, especially when the doctor mails the results to you via Pony Express. (In the meantime, I treated a case of bronchitis!) Gladys was fine after a few potent antibiotics, and I am entering my last week of the giant blue capsules.

But rather than get stuck on a ticky subject, I'll write about one of the interesting things I managed to do this month. I had been looking forward to this year's Sherlock Holmes Weekend in Cape May, and there was no way I was going to miss it because of that silly Lyme Disease and annoying bronchitis. I had been working on a new costume so that I could have a slightly different Victorian look each day. This is a weekend-long event, starting on Friday night with the revelation of a murder or two. The event takes place in the Victorian Inn of Cape May.

Professional actors portray the characters including Holmes and Watson. Participants are encouraged to dress Victorian, but few do. I was happy to see about eight women dressed on the first night. Saturday's events include the Search for Clues Tour where participants get to investigate a half-dozen Victorian inns for clues to the mystery. Knowing Sherlock Holmes, most of these would end up as red herrings (totally unrelated to the mystery's solution), but it is great fun to see the insides of the inns. This year I decided to skip the walking around on a cold, rainy afternoon because my bronchitis would have most certainly turned to pneumonia. I joined the group for the next part of the mystery at the Inn of Cape May immediately after the clues tour. Four of us were dressed up and got our picture in the local paper:
Sunday's installment includes a delicious lunch and the solution to the mystery. There's no way I'd ever solve these mysteries and win the prize--they are multi-faceted and convoluted. We're not just looking for whodunit; we are also attempting to figure out why and who the accomplices are. But isn't that the fun of Sherlock Holmes? Cape May's MAC keeps everyone interested, though, with prizes for best costumes, Clueless Wonder, and the amateur detective who comes closest to solving the mystery.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Strasburg, PA

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a weekend in Lancaster County, PA. I go there often, but rarely stay over. This was a treat. I was working on an article about the railroad destinations in Strasburg, but I found time to hit my favorite quilt fabric stores and I dropped a little cash at the outlets, too.

I drove out Friday evening and checked into the Red Caboose Motel. I've always wanted to stay at this motel where you get to sleep in a real caboose. I was actually in a part of the mail car and it was very comfy. I had French toast the next morning in the Victorian dining car which was doing a brisk business. There's a button behind the hostess station that makes the car feel like it's moving. With my camera I walked around the motel's grounds to check out all the clever activities for kids. There's a petting zoo and buggy rides around Amish country, and a 72-step viewing tower that used to be a silo. I got some great shots of the surrounding Amish farmland from the top.

I also visited the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania just down the road. This huge museum features huge locomotives and "rolling stock" representing the railroad history of Pennsylvania. This photo was taken from the bridge over the display. Out in the restoration yard I got a couple of photos of some old rusty cabooses waiting to be restored. Although I was supposed to be learning about railroads in Pennsylvania, I bought a book on New Jersey railroads in the bookstore.

Right next door to the Red Caboose Motel is the National Toy Train Museum. This place has displays of antique and contemporary American and European toy trains and three huge layouts. Each of these has buttons visitors can push to operate the trains and accessories. There is even a display of toys other than trains made by the famous toy train maker, Lionel: a little electric stove and and airport among other things.

The Choo Choo Barn is another attraction just down the street. It started as a display in Mr. Groff's basement, and has grown to a huge layout featuring scenes of Lancaster County. Periodically, the lights go down and it's all lit up with twinking stars above. There's a house that catches on fire, a fire engine that drives over, a ski lift, and a tiny Strasburg Rail Road. This display is in a large room at one end of this mini-complex with train-related stores featuring books, videos, and Thomas merchandise.

I stayed at the Rose Garden Bed and Breakfast in Strasburg Saturday night (the Red Caboose was booked solid!) and then went for my ride on the Strasburg Rail Road. This is the attraction that was here first: it's America's oldest-running short-line railroad. All of the cars are restored (beautifully) to be correct to the 1930s even if the car is actually older. I road in a coach car, but for a little more $$ I could have ridden in the posh first-class car or the fancy dining car for a meal. I'd ridden this train before, but I hadn't noticed that the locomotive pulls the train backwards for the first half of the 45-minute ride, then pulls around the train on a different track to the other end of the train. Now it pulls the train frontwards back to the Strasburg station. It has always done it this way. Huh. Even though this wasn't one of the weekends that the famous Thomas the Tank Engine visits Strasburg, the place was packed! I noticed other people visiting multiple train destinations, too.