DON’T ASK WHY

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DAVID VOGEL
They say that about the worst thing that could ever happen in a friendship is Friend No. 1 inviting Friend No. 2 over to watch the slides that Friend No. 1 took on his latest trip.

Don’t get me wrong, pictures of friends acting like they’re holding up Balancing Rock in Colorado Springs, being buried in the beach with a mermaid sculpture made out of sand representing the rest of their body, and of course bending over so their rear is facing the sky in front of Old Faithful just as it releases its pressure, are funny-but only to those who were there when the picture was taken.

I could invite you to come over to my house to see all 156 pictures I took on my trip to the East Coast, and watch them zoom by on a slide show. (By the way, come on over! Admission is $20.)

But I think you might better enjoy just reading about the highlights of the trip, since you can get up and leave the newspaper any time you like.

The first two days are nothing to brag about. So I won’t. We did see, however, a few funny bill-boards, such as the advertisement in Missouri for the “Atlasta Motel.”

Day 3 was a little more interesting. In the morning, my family-with the exception of my brother Nathan, who was elsewhere, doing the same things-went to Hershey, Pa.

That’s right-the sweetest place on earth. Chocolate World (25 percent entertainment, 80 percent gift shops) was interesting, but somehow seemed more like a tourist attraction. You had the option of seeing 3D movies, interacting in a simulated chocolate assembly line (at that point, I began looking for Lucy and Ethel), take a ride that traced the life of a cocoa bean (I put that in a nutshell a column ago) or, of course, shop.

At the end of the ride, they gave you a small chocolate bar, and sent you down a one-way hall that went straight to the gift shops. Talk about creative marketing!

After being lured into buying a couple hundred different versions of milk chocolate, we took a tour through the actual chocolate factory. Here’s where I start bragging.

Once a year they do a tour, and it’s only for families and kids participating in the Hershey’s Track and Field North America Meet in Hershey. You guessed it, Nathan was my ticket into the factory.

We were all required to wear hair nets, including our tour guide, who, ironically, was bald. My favorite room would be a delight to any chocolate addict who is trying to lose weight. Not only did it have sauna-like conditions-100-plus-degree temperatures-but it was filled with huge vats of melted, milk chocolate!

There was no divider between me and the future chocolate bars. I suddenly began to wish I had brought my trunks along.

Later that day, we went down to Gettysburg and did a little historic sightseeing. I’m sad to say I didn’t find the souvenir cannonball I had planned to bring home-which is illegal anyway-but I did strike gold later!

Gettysburg is not only the home to the most ghost tours, but also the world’s largest teddy bear store: Boyds Bear Country.

For any of you who don’t know, The Boyds company produces collectable stuffed animals and small resin figures of bears, mooses (meese?) and anything in between.

I gave in, and came home with the softest plush bear since Ty’s Beanie Buddies. It wasn’t a cannonball, but….

We spent Day 4 at the Hershey track meet. I’m happy to report that Nathan placed second at nationals in the 800-meter run.

Our fifth day had some historic value, too. But first, we thought we’d drive through Lancaster, which is known for its “Amishness.”

I think I saw two horse-and-buggies, and-I’m not sure-I think one was a yard ornament. We spent the most time in Lancaster driving down a narrow, grimy part of town. I decided Hillsboro could probably be a better Lancaster. We just need some horse-and-buggy teams.

After lunch we arrived in Philadelphia. I saw the area where Benjamin Franklin lived-they tore his house down years ago, but you can still see where he…uh…the privy.

Independence Hall was also on the list of things to do, but tickets were already sold out for the day.

We also saw the Liberty Bell. I’m sad to report the government isn’t doing its job to preserve it-there’s a huge crack in it!

Sorry. Don’t take that seriously.

Day 6 was an ocean day, as we spent a lot of time at the very edges of New Jersey. I got a sunburn-on my feet. In the evening, we took a ferry-I think it was named “Tooth”-to Delaware. I almost ran into a sea gull when I was standing on the top deck.

Washington, D.C., was on the schedule for Day 7. I was surprised I never went through any security, except at the Smithsonian museums, where we spent 10 minutes waiting for our parking meter to run out.

In addition to seeing all the monuments-if you haven’t seen the World War II monument yet, it’s worth the trip all the way to D.C. just to see it-we went to Ford Theatre, where President Lincoln was shot.

It’s almost creepy walking into the auditorium. It was almost completely quiet, except for a dad whispering the history to the toddlers he brought along (they seemed to be more interested in climbing on stage).

When I looked into the booth where he-Lincoln, not the dad-sat, I could almost hear the gunshot. That’s how eerie it was.

The next three days were spent driving back to Kansas. The day before we got home, we stopped at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Security there was a totally different story. I had my fanny pack searched three times.

Oh yeah, like I was going to rip the lens cover off my camera and hurl it at the Arch.

So, we got back to Hillsboro, and school started four days later.

The end.

* * *

UFO: As we were walking out of the chocolate factory, a worker stopped me, told me that my tour guide was ugly, and gave me a sheet of facts. Here are a few of my favorites:

— The Hershey plant is over 2 million square feet!

— In 1972, the number of visitors to the plant was exceeding 1 millions tourists a day. Needless to say, public tours ceased.

— It takes 10 days for a cocoa bean to become a candy bar.

— Hershey Kisses debuted in 1907. Before 1921, all Kisses were wrapped by hand.

— In 1908, a 9/16 ounce Hershey’s chocolate bar sold for 2¢.

— Each year, Hershey’s produces more than 500 million pounds of products.

— This wasn’t on the fact sheet, but…. Milton Hershey’s middle name was Snavely!c

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