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Trip Report Celebrating the Fourth on the Third in Altoona, PA

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This started out as a messing-around type thing in the Lounge (where you're going, where you've been type), but I decided to take this seriously and give y'all a portrait of a not-too-frequently-trip-reported type trip.

We left Philadelphia late afternoon on Wednesday, my sister, BIL, the three kids, and me, to visit my other sister and BIL in Altoona. Taking kids there is kinda like taking coals to Newcastle, but the cousins all have a wonderful time together.

Traveling up the PA turnpike for four hours is a triumph of scenery-- Hey, it's trees! And more trees! Look, it's a cow! Ulp, they've just fertilized the fields!-- and cuisine: We can stop at Roy Rogers. Didn't they close up, oh, about five years ago? Not on the timewarp known as the turnpike, they didn't! But we didn't make it to Roy's, instead getting Burger King, a feast for the discriminating palate matched only by the cheerful service that would put Disney to shame if Disney decided to stop using their perky people and start using the Wicked Stepmother and Evil Queen characters.

You get to go through tunnels about 2/3 of the way up, which is cool because of course the idea is to hold your breath through the whole tunnel. Of course, you don't really want the driver to be doing that. But the tunnels mean you're now in the mountains, so to speak, or at least the foothills. From the Bedford exit, it's about half an hour on the I-99 highway, a ride which used to be much longer and take you through some backwoods kinda mountain towns but now just takes you past a few good views of the valleys and hidden state patrol cars. (Don't speed on I 99. Seriously. I'm telling you this for your own good. Plus deer tend to pop out here.)

We arrived at Sis's house and got the grand welcome with rugrats hurtling themselves at our knees. The Princess (3) was delighted to see us all, but Baby J (18 months) was already asleep. She made up for it the next day, though. She's a piece of work little chica who remembers just how to play patty-cake with Aunt Amy (she gives me a big hug at the end) and how to communicate her wishes very effectively with all of us.

Altoona time is laid-back, so on Thursday it was fairly late when we leisurely went to the Logan Valley Mall (partly destroyed by fire in 1994, and I actually hadn't been back since it was rebuilt) to pick up a few things, and then to Sam's Club for vast quantities of food for the Third of July Fourth celebration. The traffic was insane, with shoppers galore; Altoona, moving rather slowly, never became a big part of the real estate bubble and hence isn't having as bad a time now with the economy. (That had happened to it with the end of railroading/coal as a way of life, a number of years ago. Altoona was, in fact, built as a railroad town, and one of the highlights is the World Famous Horseshoe Curve. For realz: their minor league baseball team is even called the Curve. I used to have a great time as a teenager at the curve, but they've fancied it up a bit since then. It's still pretty cool, though: http://www.northeast.railfan.net/horseshoe.html )

Up early the next morning (yup, all of us stayed there: the next night, more (local) cousins joined the party; my sister has a very expandable house) to prepare for the picnic in the yard, which included a few more families. It was only in the 60's, so not too much could be done in the swimming line, but there was volleyball and basketball and swings and a Little Tykes car for Baby J and rockers and gliders and a some big picnic tables and...food. Which needs its own paragraph. (deep breath)

Hotdogs, hamburgers, chili, sauerkraut, macaroni salad, potato salad, deviled eggs (48--I made them), lettuce, tomato, cantaloupe, strawberries, cherries, fruit dip, potato chips, chip dip, cheese, and then dessert: brownies, peanut butter squares, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cookie dough brownies, strawberry pretzel jello (absolutely something we had to have for my BIL the high-end caterer; he can't imagine how we can even eat it--by the way, the pretzel bit is the crust, then a cream cheese-y layer, then strawberries in jello), cheesecake, and of course the whole Pepsi pantheon plus sweet tea.

Everybody ate mightily for about the space of an hour, then packed all the kids into assorted cars and vans and went to Lakemont, the area amusement park, for fireworks.

A good time was had by all!

(Oh, and trip home: same, same, reverse, no Burger King.)

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