B&B shines, like the stars

Pennsylvania: Dublin Manor easily accommodates a family crowd, and a clear view of the Milky Way delights the kids

Short Hop

January 02, 2000|By Martha B. Landaw and Jeffrey M. Landaw | Martha B. Landaw and Jeffrey M. Landaw,Sun Staff

From Day One, we knew it wouldn't be easy.

We were trying to plan for ourselves and our two kids; for Martha's uncle from New Jersey; and for his daughter from Israel and her two children. Our uncle wanted to see the Gettysburg battlefield, and we wanted to show off our favorite amusement park (Idlewild in Ligonier, Pa.) before we headed west on the rest of our vacation. When we travel, we keep our kids' morale up by finding hotels with pools, but our cousin didn't want a hotel -- and most bed and breakfasts don't want children.

So back and forth the e-mails went, and on we trolled through hundreds of Web sites. We nearly went mad, but we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

We suspected we had a winner when the Dublin Manor Bed and Breakfast asked us very graciously how they could accommodate us. We liked the look of the place on the Web. But when we arrived for the first of three nights, after a leisurely trip from Gettysburg on U.S. 30, we still weren't sure.

Dublin Manor is supposed to be in Fort Littleton, Pa., which we couldn't find in the dark. But around a turn in U.S. 522, there was the house -- and what a house.

We immediately saw the big front porch, and more porches above and below on the back and sides. When we found the key and let ourselves in (the owners, Sarah and Nathan Duvall, live in Nathan's grandmother's house nearby) we saw a full kitchen, dining room with a china parlor, TV room with VCR and living room, all furnished with antiques that didn't seem fragile (one living room sofa could have been the twin of Martha's grandmother's), stocked with interesting books and magazines and decorated with rich dark woodwork and light flowery wallpaper. A magnificent staircase led up to the four double bedrooms and one single room; each family had an upstairs porch and, since we'd taken the whole house, we let the kids sort out their sleeping arrangements.

The house is a mile from Exit 13 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, but far enough out in the country for the kids to jump with excitement over seeing more stars -- including the Milky Way -- than they ever could in Baltimore. (The house also has a telescope, but we were nervous about letting small children use it.)

The Duvalls say they find it easier to leave food in the kitchen every morning and let guests eat when they like. They left us an enormous "midnight snack" when we arrived and socialized in the mornings when they dropped off the supplies as we chilled out or tried to gear up for the day. The Duvalls started Dublin Manor in 1996, when they bought the house, built in 1922, from the previous owner's estate. They also farm 400 acres of land (the house belongs to the Pennsylvania Farm Vacation Association): A neighbor does the work and they share costs and proceeds.

Mill and museum

Idlewild was as good as ever, but the best single thing that happened -- because it was a surprise -- came on our last full day, when we just wandered up 522.

We'd learned to love flour from Burnt Cabins Grist Mill when we shopped at Baugher's in Westminster. Burnt Cabins is the next town up 522 from Fort Littleton, and when we called the mill, the owners invited us to tour, as the drought had slowed business. The dry weather had stopped the water wheel that powers the mill, but we got a good look inside the building, bought more flour and were given some caps for the kids.

From Burnt Cabins, we drifted north with the idea of seeing some caves in central Pennsylvania, but out of curiosity we stopped at Orbisonia, and that was as far as we got.

Orbisonia is home to two tourist attractions: the East Broad Top Railroad, the only narrow-gauge line left in the East, and the Rockhill Trolley Museum, started over the East Broad Top's Shade Gap branch when the railroad reopened for tourism in the early '60s. Both operations, like Baltimore's Streetcar Museum, are run by volunteers and open only on weekends, and we were coming through on a Wednesday, but we thought we'd take a chance.

We climbed onto some old cars in the EBT yards, but there was no sign of life in the shops or the roundhouse. Jeff favored giving up and pushing on to the caves, but Martha's uncle talked him into checking the trolley museum next door while the rest of the party got food for supper at a supermarket in town.

A worker hailed Jeff at the trolley barn and offered to show us around. Once we got the gang back together, he and a couple of colleagues showed us the collection -- which includes cars from Johnstown, Philadelphia and as far away as Rio de Janeiro and Oporto, Portugal -- and even arranged a ride on an old Johnstown car that happened to be out on the track. The scene recalled the episode in Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine" when the streetcar motorman, making his last run before the cars give way to buses, takes his children and friends down an abandoned stretch of track for a picnic:

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