Loot!

It has been a busy week of factory touring. We have learned about pretzel making, graphic arts, glass etching, wood crafting, loom weaving, soap making, violin making, Harley Davidson, and finally chocolate crafting. Whew. We also stopped at a few factory stores that do not have tours. My saddest moment was learning that Wilton Armetale no longer has a factory tour because they closed their local factory and are now being made in CHINA. Gack! I sooooooooo wanted a piece of their cookware! ARGH!

However, we did make out like bandits. Here is a photo of some of our loot. Yes the chair is included in the loot, actually there are two of them. LOL I know I know we have a fully furnished RV but if you get to come visit with us I will explain in detail why we got them.

So at the top of the photo we have my new Harley keychain. I needed a new one to fit all of my grocery store discount key fobs and so I have had an eye out for a while. You would be AMAZED how many of these darn things I have. You tend to collect them when you are on the road. Too many darn grocery store chains and each has their own discount card. Moving on we have 2 lovely black walnut chairs made by the Wood crafters. They dry their own black walnut to ensure quality. Most companies dry the wood too quickly and can cause damage to it when building and through time.  The guide told us how comfortable they were and had us sit in them. We realized they are beautiful and comfortable and Bill desperately needed a new chair for his little office area. They had some beautiful cherry chairs that would have matched out cabinets but we decided to compliment rather than match with the black walnut that is a little more unique.

I also have some of the handmade soaps over to the right on the seat. Several different scents. Now we get to the yummies. Today we did the Wolfgang Chocolates factory tour. They have all their “seconds” (not perfect) products for sale in their store so we grabbed some dark chocolate covered butter cookies (which I hear make great smores!) some dark choco covered blueberries, and a few other yummies. After the tour we hopped over to the Stauffer’s Factory Outlet where I grabbed some crème wafers, lemon and strawberry cookies, and the top pick blueberry flavored SMURF animal crackers! Woot! LOL

We did not pick up a Harley or any stringed instruments though.

We have had a most enjoyable time in York County, PA. If you are ever passing through I highly suggest stopping for a few days and taking in some tours or at least picking up some goodies at the stores. York Country, PA may be one of my top 10 places we have visited!

Motorcycles and Violins

We continued with our tour of factories in York County with an unlikely but fascinating pair.

We visited the Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations plant in York. Harley-Davidson opened their first motorcycle factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1906 and is the only manufacturer of motorcycle in the United States.. They opened their assembly factory in York in 1973. The manufacture parts including frames, fenders and fuel tanks along with assembling a few of the models in York. Unfortunately they are currently assembling 2012 models on the line so we were not able to view the assembly line, but we did get a tour through the parts manufacturing area.  Harley-Davidson uses a combination of robot and manual processes to create their frames, fenders and gas tanks. It was very impressive to see the gas tank parts being stamped out of rolls of steel at the one are of the factory and then see them come out of the paint area all shiny and ready to be put on a motorcycle.

Cameras are not permitted in the factory; however they do have some displays in their visitors center that show some of the process.

Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson

We also visited the workshop of luthier (someone who makes or repairs stringed instruments) Mark Bluett – Bluett Bros. Violins (http://www.bluettbros-violins.com/). Mark made his first violin in 1982 and since then has gained recognition for the quality of sound and aesthetic beauty of his creations.  All of his creations are made of aged spruce, curly mapge and mahogany that is air dried for up to 20 years. Mark took the time to show and describe how he makes the instruments. It was clear that a lot of work, love, and pride goes into each instrument he creates.

Bluett Bros Violins

Bluett Bros Violins

There is more to come – we still have chocolate and metal dinnerware on the list.

Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site

We explored the Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site over the course of two days.

Dwight Eisenhower had a long relationship with the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania area and when good friends of them purchased a farm in the area they looked for their first house of their own (instead of the military housing they lived in). Dwight and Mamie purchased an old run down farm on the outskirts of Gettysburg. The Eisenhower’s renovated the farm and used it as a retreat while he served his terms as President of the United States. After leaving office the Eisenhower’s were finally able to retire to a home of their own. We toured the house and some of the grounds and listened to a couple of Ranger talks. It was interesting to see differences between Eisenhower’s home and that of LBJ which we visited late last year.

The marble fireplace in the picture below was removed from the White House in 1873 by President Grant and was given to the Eisenhower’s as an anniversary gift from the White House staff.

Eisenhower National Historic Site

Eisenhower National Historic Site

If you plan on visiting the Eisenhower site you should be aware that they charge a fee which is not covered by the various National Park passes. You will need to purchase the tickets at the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitors Center and ride the shuttle bus to the site.

If you plan to visit the Gettysburg National Military Park make sure you allot plenty of time. Of course there is the large battle field to tour, however there is also a film, cyclorama and excellent museum.

I don’t know where to start. As everyone knows the Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War and is also the battle that resulted in the most casualties of the war. The battle lasted for 3 days spread out over the countryside around Gettysburg. Taking the driving tour of the Battlefield is kind of awe inspiring to think of the number of men that fought and died there. There are monuments to troops all over the place. During our drive we stopped at the Pennsylvania Memorial and found the name of Leslie’s great-great grandfather listed as a participant of the battle. He was a member of the Pennsylvania 72nd and although he did get wounded, lived to see the end of the war and went on to have children.

The top two pictures in the collage bellow show the Pennsylvania Memorial. The one on the bottom left is the Eternal Light Piece Memorial. The inscription says “Peace Eternal in a Nation United”. The final picture is at the site of ‘Pickett’s Charge’ as the sun sets over the Battlefield.

Gettysburg Battlefield

Gettysburg Battlefield

We also toured the Museum which covers the events that led up to the war in addition to lots of information about each day of the three day war and effect of the war on the local area. After the war the dead and wounded in the area vastly outnumbered the residents of the Gettysburg area. Soldiers lay wounded on battlefield for a few days after the end of battle before they could be attended to in some cases.

While at the Visitors Center we watched the movie and viewed the cyclorama. The cyclorama is a 360 degree cylindrical painting that is 22 feet tall and 279 feet in circumference that depicts ‘Pickett’s Charge’ which is the failed Confederate assault of the third day of the battle. The painting was amazing in its detail and showed the massive scale of the battles that were fought there.

Gettysburg Cyclorama

Gettysburg Cyclorama

A few months ago we visited the site of the start of the Civil War, Fort Sumter. Today we visited the turning point of the war. Enough war – tomorrow we see how violins are made.

Made in America Part 2

Saturday we continued our exploration of factory tours in York, Pennsylvania. We started the day at Family Heir-Loom Weavers (http://www.familyheirloomweavers.com/). Family Heir-Loom Weavers is one of the last surviving textile mills in the United States that weaves on old fashioned Jacquard looms. Jacquard looms were invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801. The loom uses large punch cards to control if the weft (the yarn that is drawn thru) is above or below the warp (the lengthwise yarn).  It was really amazing seeing the complex designs that can be made using the large punch cards. It did bring back some memories of sitting at a card punch machine creating programs for old IBM mainframe computers.  

Family Heir-Loom Weavers has done recreations of historic pieces that can be seen in nine Presidential Homes and a long list of historic sites, famous homes and museums across the country. Fabric they have made has also been seen in a number of movies and has been used to create uniforms for Civil War re-enactments. Watching the looms run and seeing the old machines that create the warp and thread the shuttles was fascinating.  

Family Heir-Loom Weavers

Family Heir-Loom Weavers

From there we went to the Sunrise Soap Company (http://www.sunrisesoapco.com/) which produces all natural soaps bars and lotions. This tour started with a discussion of the reasons to use natural soaps instead of the mass produced store bought products. The owner then made a batch of soap and some of her new shower fizzes. We left the Sunrise Soap Company with some of their products to keep us clean as we wander down the road. (Luckily soap does not cost nearly as much of walnut chairs).

Make soap at Sunrise Soap Company

Make soap at Sunrise Soap Company

We finished the day off in ‘Made in America’ style by grilling some hot dogs over a wood campfire for dinner.

Made in America

The other day we saw a sign that said York County Pennsylvania is the factory tour capital of the nation.  Wednesday thru Saturday is the 13th year that York Country has held it’s Made in America Tour. During this event even more businesses in York county open their doors and allow people to come see how their products are made. The factory tours in York include everything from Harley Davidson motorcycles to bath products and fine violins.

Since we are staying in York Country we figured we should take part in this fine event. We started the day at the Graphik Masters  (http://www.graphikmasters.com/home.htm), a family run graphics studio. Back in 1988 sister and brother Cindi Often and Greg Snell got laid off from a graphic design firm and decided to go out on their own.  Since then they have grown Graphik Masters into a business that does everything from museum displays to graphics on trash trucks. During our tour the owners and employees told how the business of doing graphics has changed over the years from hand drawn and painted products to ones that are designed on computers and cut and printed by computer driven machines. It was fascinating to see computer driven machines that cut foam board and vinyl in addition to how vehicle wraps are created and pieced together.

Graphik Masters

Graphik Masters

From there we headed to the other side of the city of York to visit the Susquehanna Glass (http://www.susquehannaglass.com/index.php) factory. The factory was started back in 1910 when Albert Roye bought a stone wheel glass cutting machine and started etching designs in glass. Since then the company has remained in the family and grown into a company that provides product and services to a number of premier retailers including Williams Sonoma, Lenox and the National Cathedral.   Although they still do stone wheel cutting they also do sand blasting, silk screening, and laser cutting on glass along with laser cutting on metal and machine cutting of acrylic products.  We got a full tour of the factory however watching the artisan using the stone wheels to etch glasses was amazing.

Susquehanna Glass

Susquehanna Glass

After a break for lunch we continued our tours at George’s Woodcrafts (http://www.georgeswood.com/). The business was started by George Martin in 1973 after he spent a number of years building houses and some furniture for his growing family.  They now build fine furniture crafted from fine hardwoods including walnut, red oak and cherry. Each piece is completly built by a single craftsman who personally signs the completed article. The tour started with a demonstration of some of the pieces they make – a table that starts at 5 feet and opens to 16 the amazing part was that the tour guide (son in-law of George Martin) sat on the rails of the table which easily supported his weight. He also showed us the chairs they make which are so solid they can be turned over and support the weight of a man standing on the rails in addition to being very comfortable. We then got a full tour of entire process from drying the incoming wood thru cutting, assembly and finishing. We were so impressed with the quality and comfort of the chairs we bought two to replace the dining chairs in our RV.

Georges Woodcraft

George's Woodcraft

We finished the day off with going to see Cars 2. All I will say about Cars 2 is it was wonderful – go see it as soon as you can.

Tomorrow and next week we will continue our Made in America tour.