Sunday, September 7, 2014

The High-Tech Side of Lancaster County, PA

6 September 2014 - third and final catch-up blog

The three of us – Richard, his brother, and I – drove out to Lancaster County to visit the not-yet-visited niece, nephew, spouses, and more adorable and bright children.  Seriously, they are cute, funny, and smart, all six in Lancaster and the other two in Philly.  But I’m getting out of sequence, and the kidlets were the grand finale to the day.

So – we drove out to Lancaster, which is vaguely west of Philly.  Lancaster County is home to the Amish and Mennonite communities, and probably is best known for the pies, crafts, and quilts of region. 

We decided to explore the small town of Ephrata, which was one of those quaintly adorable, or maybe adorably quaint, towns that make up much of rural North America.  It was the kind of town full of Victorian and Edwardian buildings, flowers along the streets, small shops full of those collectables that tourists come here to buy.  And, because this is Amish and Mennonite country, the smell of horse in the air.  We didn’t see any horse-drawn buggies, but they’re the common form of transportation for the Amish and Mennonites.  (We did see a young Amish boy on a bicycle – though he could have been Mennonite, those of us from outside tend to not see the finer details that comprise the difference between these two ways of life.)

We checked out a few spots for lunch, stopping at the bakery proclaimed “the best specialty bakery in Lancaster” by some magazine – really, that’s what the banner said.  Richard loved the brownie; I had a cupcake with mocha frosting, which was good but I took half the frosting off, I’m more a cake fan and prefer less frosting. 

The Ephrata Diner was our spot for lunch, complete with breakfast all day, blue plate specials, Belgian waffles (my fave), scrapple on the menu, and was popular with both the tourists like us and the farmers (we presume) in jeans and overalls.  There were also a few older Amish or Mennonite women enjoying the food here – and had we not already bought our brownie and cupcake, we probably would have sampled some of the delightful baked goods on the menu.  (If you get to Ephrata, seriously, this would be my recommendation for the place to eat!)

Onward to Lititz, home of Tait Towers.  You may never have heard of Tait Towers, but I guarantee you’ve seen their work.  They design and build and install the stages and backdrops and projection units that go up and down, or move around, or have video screen projections on or under or around the stage.  And SO much more!  

They got their start with rock concerts, and have created stages for most of the big names touring the world.  And yes, the Tait stages travel the world with the superstars.  Superbowl halftime shows?  They’ve done that.  Broadway shows?  Yes, there too.  The Olympics?  Las Vegas?  But of course!

I can’t go into too much detail because some of the new designs and products we saw are still being developed and patents are pending, nor do I want to name drop.  Much of what was being built is proprietary and designed for each individual artist or event.  But each new stage or background or event becomes a new chance to create and explore a new feature of moving stage show accoutrements.  So, imagine starting with building blocks and figuring out ways to turn that into an actual flying stage among fireworks – that’s sort of what goes on at Tait Towers.   Thrilling stuff!!!!!  It was like watching people who figured out how to earn money by playing with big-kid toys!!!  Well, big kid electronic toys with major scheduling and shipping issues thrown in.

Everyone seemed to enjoy what they do here – whether it was in the design phase on a computer, or in the shop being built, it was almost like play.  Seriously, I’d love to work there, whether on Auto-CAD or creating seemingly floating or flying stages or just putting the finishing artistic touches on things – it was amazing.  Serious fun!!!  And the artwork around the complex tended to be leftover stage-show props - I recognized a few signature designs from some major rock bands.  Almost wanted to go over to touch them and imagine the music pulsating out of that prop!  (NO idea what the multi-face Medusa head thing is from, it just looked so artsy hanging from the ceiling with the various walls of records in the background!!!)

Definitely check them out and see what they do!  Website:

Our late afternoon and evening focused on family time, just hanging out with the four adults and six children we came to visit.  They range in age from just-turned-two to the eleven year old, and also range in personality from studious and introverted to the adorable four-year-old friendly and dramatic cousins who are just too funny, and of course the shy and slow-to-warm-up two year old who was born the day after me and eventually started chatting with me in her barely-understandable way.  Add in the little Puckish mischief maker, and we had the normal kind of evening you’d expect with such a group.  It was definitely fun, but at times overwhelming for those of us who skipped the kid thing.  (And imagining the Philly cousins in the mix, good friends with this crew - wow, the mind boggles at the thought of so many kidlets and the potential noise level!)

So that was the week that was.  Busy, fun, hectic, and very much enjoyable.  Exactly the reason we came to Pennsylvania for a visit.

I’m currently on a plane heading back to Seattle, and we’ll arrive in Bellingham tonight.  Our flight left nearly two hours late due to a line of storms to the west, but we seem to be making up time.  This flight has certainly given me time to catch up on the blogs – all I have to do is copy the text, add photos, and line things up.  Voila, we have a blog!

Somehow it feels even more worldly, and maybe just a little, oh, mysterious in a sophisticated way, to be writing the blog and selecting the photos while on a plane winging over, well, maybe one of the Dakotas or possibly Wyoming or Montana.  (I think that might be the Snake River down there, so this could even be Idaho.)  But working on the blog, the journal of our travels, seems like a good activity while on a flight.  No one around us knows that this isn’t socializing, but isn’t paid employment.  And for all we know, some of these people may be followers of our blog.  No way to know.

But we’re currently flying into the sunset, and my battery is tired after four hours of work. 

I’ll report back on the subdued excitement of Bellingham!


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