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June 10th & 11th: Checking out Butler

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2013-06-11-butler-bantam-signAfter defecting to Canada and back on Sunday, we decided to head south on monday toward the jeep-mecca-that-is-Bantam: Butler, Pennsylvania.

Though we’d spurned Canada, the country seemed to haunt us. I guess we were there long enough to look Canadian. For example, when we stopped by Starbucks Monday morning (June 10th), we were told by a cashier that we could go online and get Starbucks Cash (or points or something) for completing a survey. He then announced the cash (or points) were good in Canada, too. Ann and I looked at each other wondering why he thought we were Canadian. Then I realized I was wearing a “Canada” shirt.

From Buffalo, NY, we drove south through rain until we got bored of the Interstate. I spotted a town called North East, PA. Thinking that was an odd name, especially since it was in northwestern Pennsylvania, we decided to venture toward it. It was a strange town. For example, they grow plants over their parking meters.


We tried to visit their nearby railroad museum, but no one was home. There weren’t any hours posted on the door either. They did have lots of trains and a train station as well.


I never did learn why the town was called ‘North East’


Here, Ann is sharing the finer points of shifting a train track (I’m sure there is some technical name for that). I just hoped that she didn’t hurt her knee!

They did have several Fairmont built rail cars.


I think these two Fairmonts are about to throw down and fight.

From North East we drove southwest until we reached Erie, PA. We had planned to check out their maritime museum, but decided we didn’t want to spend the money. So, we looked upon Lake Erie, which satisfied our goal of seeing all five Great Lakes on this trip!

After Lake Erie we decided to drive straight down to Butler. During our drive, we did some searches to find something wonderfully odd to visit in Butler. We found it in the form of a B2 Bomber shaped toy store. Playthings, Etc, is a toy store located eight miles north of Butler on Highway 8 that bills itself as the ‘world’s coolest toy store’.  It might look like a B2 Bomber to the uninitiated, but my wife explained all the details it lacked (she worked on the original).


The back of the ‘plane’ is where the entrance is.


This is the back of the store, which is the front of the plane. My wife assures me it looks different in person.

Inside, they encourage you to touch, test, and try all kinds of toys.


This is the entrance . . .


Look mom! I’m playing with toys and not getting in trouble!

After playing with toys all afternoon we were hungry. I suggested we eat at the CHOP SHOP, a restaurant that had received some great reviews. But, it turned out the CHOP SHOP is only open for breakfast and lunch (unless it is Friday). Outside the restaurant we spotted a Bantam Festival Jeep Sign:


Outside the CHOP SHOP I spotted this Bantam Festival sign.

Instead of the CHOP SHOP, we settled for Rachel’s Roadhouse, which was near our motel. Ann had a seafood pasta that was great, but a little on the spicy side. My reuben was very tasty.

On Tuesday morning (June 11th), we woke up at the crack of 9am and were out the door by 10. Our breakfast stop was the CHOP SHOP. If you are in Butler, I can highly recommend the place (check out the menu). My prime rib wrap was great. Ann’s Lamb wrap (very thinly sliced lamb with feta and more) was especially good. She shared half her wrap with me. That’s why I married her.

One reason I decided to stop by Butler early this week was to locate the Bantam Factory Marker, one of those holy jeep grail items I can now tick off my list. We located the marker, which is at 662 Hansen Ave, Butler, PA. You can see the sign using Google’s street view.


My partner in crime had a migraine in the morning, so I had to photograph myself. I came, I saw, I photographed!

After Cooper Lake, where the Bantam Festival is being held, I wanted to see if the rain had made a mess of things. When we arrived at the campground, we saw that artificial fences and gates had been erected that made accessing the camp site (amphitheater C) impossible. However, the ground looked pretty firm. I saw no obvious muddy areas. So, as long as the area doesn’t get too hammered by the next series of storms.

When we left Cooper Lake, SIRI misguided us past McConnell Mills State Park. We still aren’t sure why she picked the road she did, but it’s a beautiful park with a great old mill and a covered bridge. It’s just a few minutes away from the Bantam Fest location and might make a nice detour for people.


The Mill (nice to see the sun come out just in time for pictures!)


The nearby covered bridge.


Us. Note: whenever you see us in a picture, you can be assured that I have set the timer and then sprinted over to the spot next to Ann.


Me trying to photograph snakes. We spotted around 10 of them.


A few of the snakes.

That was pretty much it for the day, as we retired early to our room (which includes a stove — we get a few home cooked meals for the next few days). So, Tuesday and Wednesday nights we’ll be in Monroeville, PA. Thursday we’ll drive to the Heinz History Center in the morning before we head for some dinner in Canton and to pick up the books I’ve ordered.

We’ll arrive at the Bantam Fest early Friday morning. My first presentation is at 1pm somewhere near the history building (or maybe inside??). More on that later.


2 Comments on “June 10th & 11th: Checking out Butler

  1. Colin Peabody

    Ann is performing “Switchman” duties. Spent a lot of years in the small railroad town of Winslow, Arizona and got to know a lot of “rails” and what they did. Winslow had a switchyard back in those 1960s days.

  2. Lester Senn

    The technical term is called “throwing the switch”,In the old days the brakeman would have to jump off the slow moving train at a switch and run ahead to the switch.Usually since he was running or sprinting he would grab the switches operating lever and give it a “throw” to operate it.Nowadays switches are operated electrically by computers in the large railyards.

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