Monday, September 29, 2014

Pennsylvania Road Trip - Sight and Sound Theater

It's feeling and looking like Fall around here.  I'm starting to sense the year's end approaching.  And, just as I was thinking about that, I happened to read an article by one of my favorite bloggers, Jon Acuff, reminding us that in spite of the chill in the air, in spite of those year end feelings, there is still 25% of this year remaining.  There is still time left to accomplish amazing things.

25% remaining gives me a new incentive to keep trying to reach my fitness goals for the year.  There. Is. Enough. Time. Left.  I'm gonna go for it!

Today, I've completed 80% of my laundry.  (Four loads washed, dried, folded, and put away.  One to go.)

This morning I paid 100% of my bills that were due.  (Yea!)

As of now, my husband still has 35% of his scheduled vacation weeks still to come.  (Woo hoo!)

And so far, I've only blogged about 20% of our recent Pennsylvania Road Trip.  (By the time I finish that, it'll be time to leave on the next one.  Yippee!)

So there's a little bit of my number crunching for ya.  Blame it on Jon Acuff.  He started it.

Tori and Brianna in front of the Sight and Sound Theater
Our Pennsylvania Road Trip continued the next day to what I will call "Show Day in Lancaster."  Our first show of the day was a rerun for me.  I had seen "Moses" at the Sight and Sound Theater earlier in the year when I took my grandtwins Tori and Brianna for a summer outing, and I knew then that I'd want to come back and see it again with my husband.  It was that good.

The Bible story of Moses is truly epic.  He experienced the miraculous - from the burning bush, to the astounding plagues in Egypt, to walking through the raging Red Sea on dry ground.  The life of Moses is monumental:  he's the Biblical icon who stood on top of the mountain under the thundering clouds, holding the words of God written on stone.

The Moses statue in the lobby
The members of the Sight and Sound Design, Construction and Show Operation teams, along with an amazingly energetic and talented cast, were able to bring the extraordinary environment of Moses' story to life on stage.  It was an inspirational and enjoyable production.

Another view in the lobby
From the moment the curtains open, the sets, scenery, costumes, and special effects are spectacular.

Outside of the Egyptian palace
Moses and the burning bush
Moses petitioning Pharoah to release his people
Preparing to cross the Red Sea, prior to its miraculous parting
We watched as Moses and the people of Israel were given freedom - freedom beyond their wildest expectations.  In their story, today we can get a glimpse of how Jesus Christ wants to give us a life of freedom too - even in our own desperate situations.

Now that's an epic story.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pennsylvania Road Trip - USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame

Continuing along on our Pennsylvania road trip, and following our factory tours at Martin's Potato Chips (read about it here) and the Harley Davidson Manufacturing Plant (catch up on that tour here), we made another stop in the York area to visit the York Barbell Museum/USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame.

Now I am no expert on the business of weightlifting, so I had no specific compelling reason to want to look at weightlifting memorabilia.  Yes, I've done some Les Mills Body Pump (barbell) workouts over the years, and even a few kettle bell sessions, too.  But, nothing more serious than that.  Son Caleb is the strength trainer in our household.  He does the Beachbody company's "Body Beast" workout each day, mostly using a variety of hand weights.

My husband/driver/strong man
We stopped simply because we were in the area, and it was something of interest to see.  The museum, hall of fame, and visitors' store are located in a building adjacent to the actual York Barbell manufacturing facility.

The Weightlifting Hall of Fame is a diverse history of the strength sports - their evolution from mythology to the early Olympic games, and the 19th to 21st century amateur and professional strongmen to the current specialized sports of Olympic weightlifting, power lifting, and bodybuilding.

Let's just sum that up by saying we looked at a lot of pictures of very muscled and nearly naked men.  (And only a few women, who didn't look anything like any women I know.)

We started the tour in the massive lobby of the museum, and hanging above us was a unique mobile made of a collection of barbells.  Not used to seeing swirling weights overhead, I felt the need to walk a wide circle around the perimeter of the room.

Also in the lobby, and flanking statues of Bob Hoffman, the "Father of World Weightlifting" and Steve Stanko, a former Mr. America and Mr. Universe, are displays of old globe-style barbells and dumbbells.

On the wall in this lobby hangs a life-sized photograph of several champion weightlifters training in a gym above the original Broad Street barbell factory in the city of York.  Three of America's Olympic weightlifting heroes from the 1950's are shown.  Dave Sheppard is holding the barbell, behind him is Clyde Emrich, and seated on the right on the small bench is Tommy Kono, possibly the greatest weightlifter America ever produced.  Kono's bench sits there in front of the picture.

 Nearby, a small auditorium with a stage has been used over the years to host various weightlifting contests.

Continuing down the corridor, we examined a series of eighteen drawings representing feats of strength from Milo of Crotona to York Barbell's own John Grimek.

The remainder of the displays in the museum were photos, memorabilia, awards, news coverage, and records from Olympic weightlifting, power lifting, and bodybuilding events over the last two centuries. There was a lot to look at, and one could spend hours and hours reading and looking at it all.

In the awards area, this old weightlifter's prize belt was highlighted.  

The history of women's participation in the sport of Olympic weightlifting in the United States is depicted in one area of the exhibit.  I was impressed at the improvements women have made over the years in the amounts of weights lifted due to different and always improving training methods.

One wall of women's records
I suppose any display involving strength wouldn't be complete if it didn't include something relative to the famous movie star/politician - Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Not to be disappointed, towards the end of the display area, we came upon this collage showing a variety of photos of him throughout his weightlifting and movie career.

The Weightlifting Hall of Fame encompasses approximately 8000 square feet of space, and is chock full of inspirational records of amazing human accomplishments.  I left with a sense of awe of the incredible capabilities of the human body, and the amazing determination some athletes have to reach their full potentials.  

As for me, a little kickboxing'll do it for me.  Someday, that is.  

Today, though, the extent of my weightlifting was just lugging this little camera around.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pennsylvania Road Trip - Harley Davidson Factory Tour

Outside the visitor center
After leaving the Martin's Potato Chips Factory Tour, we headed a few miles away for a tour of quite another sort.  Have I mentioned in any of my blog posts how much I love taking factory tours?

Harley employees claim visitors will witness "passion forged in steel."  Riders call these motorcycles legendary.   So, we set out to see just how these "legends" are made.

We arrived at an impressively large facility, just at the same time as a parade of motorcyclists zoomed in. There were a lot of shiny, polished bikes, a wholebuncha black leather, and might I have possibly sensed a Harley "tude" wafting in along with those bikers?  In a good way, of course.  I felt just a tad out of place in my pink jacket and blue flowered Vera Bradley purse.

We passed the time until the start of our free tour by exploring in the visitors' center, where there were displays of the entire manufacturing process.  Since photography is not allowed in the actual plant, this visitor area is where I took all of the photos you will see here.

The process starts with the fabrication of the fuel tanks and fenders.  During the actual tour, we saw the massive machines that use force to bend the pieces into the proper shapes.

Next we saw the areas where the frames are produced.  We learned that all joints are connected by immense robotic welders, then are carefully inspected by employees.  We watched the frames being moved throughout the plant on overhead lines, almost like moving clotheslines.

There were numerous assembly areas within the factory based on the type of motorcycle being constructed, where all the required pieces are added one at a time to the frame as it moves down the line.  Each station has a computer monitor, with its screen showing an added green mark when each piece has been successfully and correctly added.  At the end of the line, when the motorcycle is all assembled, the screen is fully green.

Of course there are the painting and decal applications.  We learned that the painting process is what takes the majority of the start-to-finish time.  If it wasn't for the paint process, an entire bike could be constructed in as little as 3 to 6 hours, depending on the model.

Towards the end of the construction, there are quality assurance tests, and each motorcycle gets a "roll test."  At each of four stations, a professional rider was putting a bike through a multitude of tests, including simulated driving through a number of gear changes.  A final technician takes a percentage of the Harleys out of the factory and test drives them on the highways around York, Pennsylvania.

On one long wall were photos of all the various models Harley Davidson has produced down through the years, along with their model names.  I had no idea before seeing this that this one company made such a large variety of motorcycles.

On the floor of this large area was what truly seemed to excite a large portion of the visitors - the motorcycles themselves.  Right there to see and touch, and even, oh yessssssss, to sit on and dream of riding.

All of them, just so shiny, brand spankin' new, and oh so Harley-ish!

The husband/lover/driver just couldn't resist.  He had to sit his little behind up on one of them, and he did remind me that he had indeed passed his motorcycle test.  Yes, I did remember that he does have a motorcycle license.  But really, some of these machines have prices the same as the GNP of some small to medium countries!

Honestly, the wall of testosterone emanating from that area around those bikes nearly launched me down to the end of the room, where the kids play area was located.

There was a very clever activity there for the kids to try assembling their own Harley, using metallic parts that would stick in place.  Sort of like a large wall puzzle.  I'm not too proud to admit that I am a big kiddo and wanted to try this.

Although I have absolutely no large interest in riding motorcycles, I found myself surprised at how interesting this tour was.  There did seem to be a good camaraderie among the workers in the plant, and I sensed a lot of pride in what they were doing.  I was fascinated by the machinery and the processes, too.

Would I ever want a Harley?

Nah.  I'm not a big fan of orange and black.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pennsylvania Road Trip - Martin's Potato Chips Factory Tour

Although I have spent my whole life surrounded by pretzels (my family has a pretzel manufacturing business - Tom Sturgis Pretzels), and although I know a fair amount about the process of baking pretzels, and furthermore, although I have eaten way too many pretzels in my life up to this point,..., I might have to admit that I love potato chips even more than just as much as pretzels.

And, the crazy thing is that I have never yet seen the potato chip making process.  I have no clue how they make those delectable, tasty morsels.

Not until today, that is.

I called and scheduled a tour at Martin's Potato Chips in York, Pennsylvania, and now I am enlightened.  I know how potato chips are made.  I have experienced the incredible goodness of warm chips right off the line.  And, I may have purchased some chips.  Some popcorn, too.  Oh yeah, and some fancy pretzels.

The tour started kinda on a low note, and then improved as it went.  We were first taken outside of the facility to the area where potatoes are trucked in and unloaded.  After a brief discussion of what kinds of potatoes are used in chip making, we moved to another area where the smell was nearly intolerable.  If you've ever had a potato go bad, you will understand the stench I'm referring to.  We were shown where the potato peels and waste leaves the building and is shot into bins which are hauled away in large dump trucks.  Some of the waste is taken to use as feed for farm animals, and some is combined in an operation that makes potting soil.

Potato waste leaving the building
The potatoes go through some machines that scrub/peel them, and then they travel on a conveyor belt past this woman who checks them.  She picks out the bad ones, cuts the large ones down into smaller pieces that won't jam the machines, and removes any rocks that the potato picking machines may have collected.

Potato quality control
Our guide made a point of telling us that her line is manned by "humans," and the line behind her is completely automated.

After the potatoes pass by her, they are sliced and conveyed into the cooker.  This kettle cooks the chips in 350 degree oil for several minutes.

Sliced potato chips dropping into the kettle of oil
Chips are cooking in oil
When the chips are finished cooking, they are let out of the cooker onto a trough that vibrates them.

The chips spreading out on the vibrator
The chips are shook on the vibrator to separate them, and to remove any excess oil remaining from the cooking process.

Next, the chips are taken by conveyor to pass under the salter.  Very finely ground sea salt is used, as it sticks onto the chips better than table salt would.

Leaving the vibrator and heading for the salter
Heading up the belt to the salter
Chips passing under the salter
We had been watching this production line making Martin's classic potato chips.  On the other line, kettle cooked style (thicker) chips were being made.

Here we see the chips being taken in "buckets" up and over into the packing room, where they will be weighed and packaged into bags and then into cartons.

On the way to packaging
I experienced, right at this moment, my favorite part of the tour - the taste testing.  We were given chips right off of the line - warm and delicious.  We tried both the classic style and the kettle cooked style.  I definitely prefer the classics, but surely, if I were stranded on a desert island and all I had were the kettle cooked ones, I'd probably be OK.

While all those potato chips were being made, in another area of the production floor, one employee was busily making a flavored popcorn - Martin's Sweet and Salty.  

One of the four large hot air popcorn poppers
We followed the product into the next room - the packing room.  There again, the guide told us there is one "human" line and one mechanized line.

Loading twelve bags into each carton
Finally we were taken to the warehouse, where trucks were being loaded and inventory was being stacked and stored.  Martin's makes potato chips two full shifts each day, five days a week.  Sometimes the shifts are extended depending on the orders.

After a brief description about the color and other coding system on the Martin's cartons, our tour concluded and we were funneled back through the retail store.

It was a very interesting tour, and I'm finally glad I got to see how chips are made.

To me, any day with potato chips is a VERY GOOD day.