A weekend trip…

Life in the time of Corona part eleventy-billion. A weekend away. In hotels. In another STATE.

I mean, like WOW, that doesn’t seem like it should deserve a blog post, right?

But, these are crazy times in which we are living and so a weekend jaunt to Carlisle, PA took on outsized significance. We left the state! Mind you, it was by car, not plane, but that is our normal form of travel. We have done one overnight once, but had stayed in Virginia. We drove to Virginia Beach last month, for about 24 minutes before the thunderstorms chased us away. But a whole weekend! With only one thing on the itinerary, The Chrysler Nationals Car Show, we decided I would tag along and “suffer” untold hours and thousands of cars, if only my hunny would “suffer “ the day before going quilt shop hopping. After all, staying home all weekend alone (and with nothing particular to do or place to go, has been done to death the last 16 months)

So, that became the plan. I would search for lists of quilt shops to poke around in all day long, and on Saturday, Timmy would share his voluminous knowledge of all things automotive.

Timmy discovered The red caboose motel. This motel, in the middle of a corn field (duh! There’s hardly a place NOT near a cornfield in the middle of Amish country in Pennsylvania) is also right on the train tracks and near the train museum in Ronks, PA. Back in 1970, they started buying cabooses and turning them into motel rooms.

View from the top of the grain silo.

Adorable tiny houses! They are the size they are. They can’t be taller or wider than a train car. (although it did appear to me one or two may have had an addition off-track to make it supersized) they have configured them in a variety of ways to sleep a lot of different family groups. One bed, two beds, two beds and some bunks, some loft space beds…. tv’s, fridges, tables and bathrooms, all onboard. And a restaurant, on site. (OBVIOUSLY in a dining car, and of course named Casey Jones) And yes, you exit through the gift shop.

There’s a petting zoo. An abandoned grain silo with stairs inside so you can walk up 50 feet high and survey your kingdom. Train rides, complete with black billowing smoke and whistles. Your inner kid will thrill. 

You probably wouldn’t choose this as a honeymoon location. (I stand corrected. I just looked at some of the cabooses and indeed there is a Honeymoon Suite, complete with whirlpool bath. But, gentlemen–make sure this is your future bride’s desire, too… don’t go getting cute on the honeymoon by surprising her 😉 )

You would have to be idiotic to be expecting a 5-star Ritz experience. You have to have given some thought to the logistical limitations of a confined, defined space when you booked. Right? You would think.

We loved it. It was fun, the employees were friendly (and in “costume” as conductors) or in engineer bibbed overalls and red scarves around their necks. The food was delicious. We received a call from the front desk an hour after arrival to see if we were settled, did we need anything, did we find anything amiss? We were charmed by this touch and we told him we had everything we needed.

Upon arrival.

In  the morning, though?? Oh, the bed was MISERABLE. I mean first class awful. Timmy sells mattresses, so there has never been a hotel mattress that stands up to HIS scrutiny, but it was bouncy and hard. I don’t know how people sleep on spring mattresses, and I think if testing whether a mattress is ready to be replaced, one person laying down for a hot minute doesn’t work. What needs to occur is a smaller person needs to lie down while a larger person lays down and then tries to turn over–and if either of you think it’s high tide, it’s time for a new bed. But we survived. One night’s bad sleep wont kill anyone.

We packed up, the sun was shining after a rainy night. Walking back from an early morning visit to see three little piglets,, I was behind two middle aged ladies who were on a girls weekend.  They approached their car and sneered and whined. There were FLIES on their car. “This is DISGUSTING” one said to the other.


I said good morning as they were our next door caboose neighbors. They said hello, and then immediately wanted to know how big was our bathroom? Quite generous in size, I replied.  She then responded with incredulity, that THEIR bathroom was tiny. SO TINY in fact, that the sink was in the bedroom. Had I EVER heard of such a thing!!  “Yes, actually,” I said, “There is just so much space in a caboose and they did have to tailor the space to accommodate parties of different sizes–how many beds did you have?”

Well. They had two full beds AND a set of bunk beds! Where did they expect all the space went?? What is the real problem with a sink in the bedroom? I have enjoyed hotels that have the toilet and shower in another room, because I can do make-up, etc, while Timmy showers…

THEY MISSED THE POINT.  Travel should EXPAND. You know that it’s the journey, not the destination, right?  They didn’t get anything out of being there. I don’t know HOW they ended up there.

Timmy turned in his key and the “conductor” asked how our stay was; had we any issues? Of course he said it was lovely. They responded in a way that indicated that they were glad to hear, because they had just gotten an earful from our next door neighbors.


We had a list of quilt shops in and around Lancaster to visit, and started after a breakfast at Waffle House. What? Don’t judge, there were 30 minute or more waits everywhere— high summer season in the time of Corona and all. You KNOW what you are getting and how long it will take 😉 .

And we visited many. The number isn’t important. What is important is that I didn’t spend my daughter’s inheritance. That turned out to be wise, because as we arrived at Obie’s Fabric, who did I see but my daughter!! She and my husband hatched a plan and surprised me! (They were GOOD. She was texting me WHILE sitting in front of the shop, asking how I was finding my shopping, and I was thinking I was responding to someone on her lunch hour in NYC!)

I had heard that Obie’s was a sight to see, that it couldn’t be put into words, and photos didn’t really express it. Some things have to be experienced to be believed. I was reasonably sure people were being hyperbolic.

The first hint I was wrong should have been the porch, which felt like it was out of a horror film.

Let me stop here though. I am trying not to be judgmental. Really. (I may need to come back and edit or clarify or something, to really make you understand this isn’t like some evil yelp review. That isn’t what I want to be doing)

So, the porch.

Cardboard boxes inside cardboard boxes, stacked halfway to the ceiling on one side, and it didn’t seem like it was THIS week’s UPS. (I actually read on a FB thread after getting home that boxes left by UPS remain on the porch, unopened. I can believe this)

But we opened the door anyway and stepped inside. Dark. Stuffy scent, old dark-stained wood floors. And an overwhelming sense of awe.

Not awesome.

Not awful.

Just awe.

What is happening here? There is a penny candy shelf, open to touch, and thigh-high; a temptation no child could refuse.

And everywhere else around you is fabric. Cotton quilting fabric. Of every hue, at every angle, and higher than you can reach without a ladder. (Only later did it occur to me that there’s not enough open floor space to open a ladder.)

View from upstairs.

Ooh, look at this! That’s pretty! Oh that color!!! As you keep walking, you start to have heart palpitations as you turn a corner and now there’s fabric piled higher than you are on both sides of you, with a path barely wide enough for an adult. Light doesn’t reach all the way down, It feels like being in a cave, in a crevice, and you know somewhere just out of sight are signs saying, “Watch for falling Rocks.”

And you notice that there’s some rhyme and reason, some categories, some thought. It is possible someone knows where, approximately, to find a purple and green stripe, or something with beachy vibes.

I never did find out who that person might be. We stayed inside for 10 minutes. I never saw anyone who indicated that they were owner or employee. Three other women came in after us, mouths agape. It was just the five of us. Timmy came in and escaped pretty fast.

How can you shop?

But no one ever approached us to welcome us, ask us if there was anything we might be looking FOR (and I think that they might actually KNOW where it was, come to that. There did seem to be some method to the madness) We climbed the stairs and the atrium was similarly covered in fabric—- Christmas on one whole side. There was a flat surface, empty, almost the width of a yard of quilt fabric, and it had bits of cutting mat glued down for measuring.

I don’t know how you buy fabric there. You can’t pull out a fabric bolt and hug it and pet it and carry it around the store looking for coordinating pieces. Most of the fabric you can only see bolt ends. You might want the bottom bolt but how do you get it out without the bolts all collapsing on you? Where would you stack them if you played Jenga and won?

And for all that, most of the prices were that of a quilt boutique shop. You pay not just for fabric, but for the ambiance and the interactions with your LQS owner and other shoppers and the ability to pick their brain for color help, for tutorials and pattern understanding when you are stuck— the skills and community that happen when two or more quilters find themselves in the same place.

This experience however, made me wonder what might happen if I had wanted that bolt down on the bottom, in the back. It made question the way the fire marshal must look the other way, it made me question how many people have filed injury claims against their insurance…It made me feel overwhelmed and claustrophobic and nervous, not anything resembling the excitement that normally occurs when I’m looking at all the pretty things. It made me think of the way my mother died, surrounded by her hoard of things that swallowed her whole.

She probably does have whatever you are looking for. But you can’t look for it, and you will never find that piece of fabric you never knew could not live without until you saw it.


Timmy won first place in his grouping, Sebring/200 class) 🍾

There were thousands of cars. 3,000.


We took the long way home.

Through Skyline Drive, hunting the sunset….

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