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Day 24 – Tuesday May 22: Rain N’ Fog in Coal Country

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<– Day 23 – Mon. May 21st: From Summer Santa to the Police Academy | Day 25 – Wednesday May 23rd: Steel, Strings & Sellersville –>


Jerry and the MB he turned into a Follow Me Jeep years ago.

Day 24: Tuesday we drove from Hershey to Drum, then south to Bethlehem.


On Tuesday we drove from Hershey to Bethlehem.

We began the day with a visit to Hershey’s Chocolate World. It’s a place we’d tried to visit back in 2013, but it had closed in anticipation of the construction of a new and improved(?) Chocolate World. Ann spoke fondly of the the place and her disappointment at not sharing it with me in 2013. So, you can imagine that she was pumped to finally be getting to see it again, something she hadn’t experienced since she was a kid. What could possibly go wrong with that scenario??



With entrance photos taken, perhaps the best part of our adventure was about to take place. As Ann walked toward the front doors, one of them suddenly opened, followed by a voice, “Ann, it’s so nice to meet you.”

Now, it’s important to know that one of the things damaged when Ann suffered her TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) is her ability to recognize faces. So, she has a really hard time remembering faces. Thus, when confronted with an unexpected welcome, she quickly get’s confused, wondering if she should know the person or not. And, given we’d just come from the reunion, she wasn’t sure if she should know who this stranger was.

In this case, she wouldn’t have, as the stranger introduced himself to me as Gordon. According to Gordon, he hadn’t realized we were going to be in town (he’s from Carlisle and is a fan of John’s Restaurant as well). Since he’d read that we’d planned to stop at Chocolate World, he thought it would be fun to stop and say a quick hello while on his way to Walck’s in Bowmanstown, Pennsylvania, to pick up some parts for his CJ-5. Ann and I were both humored by the gesture.


With Gordon on his way, we went inside to explore.

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Chocolate World has several different things visitors can see that require tickets, but the “Chocolate Tour” ride is free. We decided to go straight for that.

Hershey must have studied Disney line strategies, because the ride has a very long, zig-zag, queueing system, complete with multiple areas of information and a photo section where you can take photos, then pick up photos on the way out (there was nothing subtle about this attempt to get visitors to pay for photos – yuck).

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After walking for days, we finally got to the ride itself. Let me cut to the chase. The ride was ironically like a candy bar, all marketing on the outside and void of nutrition (or substance if you will) on the inside. I was glad we neither had to wait for the ride nor paid anything for the ride.

Things looked promising at first. We were escorted into moving cars, ala Disneyland.


As we entered the first area, there were singing cows and a pig whose head popped up and down. What was the purpose of this?


Next we found ourselves staring at a strange screen. Again, why?


Then, we entered a series of fake chocolate industrial dioramas. At that time a fake blond scientist popped up on the screen in our little cart. This puzzled me greatly as this caused us to look down at the cart rather than the multi-million dollar spectacle-disaster happening around us. Now that I think about it, maybe that is why they put a screen in the cart, so we would be distracted.


Why is there a screen in the cart???

Here are two more dioramas:

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I kept my opinions of the ride to myself until, as we approached the end, she turned to me and said, “That was awful; they destroyed the ride!” ….  She hated the sterile nature of it (as if no humans picked the beans or were involved at any step in the process).

Hershey has done to Chocolate World what Coke did to the Coke Museum (or whatever the original was called), turning both into visual, but mindless experiences. We would highly recommend the Hershey History Museum in downtown Hershey over this place, but that’s our my opinion. Even the kids rides at Disney (they are at least silly or goofy) are more fun than this one.

Following the ride, we headed for the safe refuge of a jeep collection. But, to get there, we had to brave a series of hard rains, fog, and a surprisingly brutal section of road that I’m pretty sure is supposed to be Interstate 81. Apparently, ever since Bill retired from PennDot, things have gone bad!

On the way there, we saw this odd structure at “Granny’s Motel”:


Jerry’s place is deep in the hills of Coal Country (or felt that way). He’s got a nice spread with a beautiful barn.


Jerry spent time in the Army and the Airforce and served overseas in several capacities. That’s given him a fondness for military jeeps. The first jeep he began restoring was an MB he tackled in the early 1980s. He bought it for $150 from a guy who’d brought it back from Europe. Good luck finding those prices today!

Jerry has set up the MB to be both a standard MB and, for diversity, a Follow-Me jeep.


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Jerry remembers the M-38A1s from his service days. He decided to redo this M-38A1 to honor his time in the Air Force.


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Jerry’s working on another M-38A1, except this one is a Canadian M-38A1CDN2. He’s discovered a variety of little things that differentiate it from it’s American counterpart. He’s even sought out special body panels that came out of Canada. He’s been invited back to Canada to show off his jeep once he completes it.


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A military jeep Jerry bought recently was a Swiss Military CJ-5. He spotted this on eWillys, so you might remember it. He plans to keep it as is and uses it for cruising the area.

He believes the original color can be found on the inner fenders. Anyone know what color a Military Swiss CJ-5 might have been? I don’t know if the Swiss paint color differed from the paint codes shown below?
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Notice the ventilating windshield.

The seats are thick with a special pocket on the rear of the passenger seat.2018-05-22-jerry-cj5-swiss8 2018-05-22-jerry-cj5-swiss9

Jerry also shared this photo of a family jeep from about 1949. I found two things interesting about it. 1) The cab appears to be an early Worman Half top, something of which I’ve rarely seen pictures.
2) this early jeep has dual hood clamps. I think this might be the earliest photo I’ve seen with those. I thought they were a later phenomenon.

We had a nice time visiting with Jerry and really appreciated his time, his vehicles, and the things he sent home with us. Too bad it was raining, as he was set to take us for a ride in the Swiss CJ-5.

After talking it over with Jerry, we decided to stop by the small town of Eckley, a community frozen in time as a model for what an early coal mining town might have looked like. This particular place is free to walk or drive through. There’s a museum on site as well, but we were so late that we decided it wasn’t worth the price to walk through it he museum.


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After driving through the town, Ann wanted to stop by the visitor’s center to go to the bathroom. I spotted this sign, so wandered up to read it. That’s when it hit me. I didn’t recognize Eckley, but I did recognize Coxe. I’d briefly written about him in my book SLAG.


Eckley Coxe had inherited a family mining operation and was an early trained mining engineer. He wanted to see mining improved from a safety and technological angle, so it was he and one other guy who helped push for the creation of AIME, The American Institute of Mining Engineers, in 1871. My great great grandfather Anton Eilers would have met him at one of the meetings he attended during the early years of the organization. Small world.

From Eckley, my iPhone took us on an unexpected path through the mining town of Freeland (where the Coxe name can be seen in several places), then up and down hills through fog and rain, until we dropped into the town of Jim Thorpe (formerly named Mauch Chunk). That turned out to be a cute little town.

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The second to the last surprise today was that Siri, without my prompting, took us into Bowmanstown, home of Walcks. As I pulled off the highway to figure out where Walck’s was, I discovered it was right there off the freeway. It was already 5:30pm, so I wasn’t surprised the place was closed.

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The last surprise of the day was near our hotel. We spotted this LL bean shoe mobile. Who knew?

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On Wednesday we have decided to shift plans from the Crayola Experience to the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem. Then, we plan to visit with Chuck and his wife to see their jeeps and finally, we’ll be arriving in downtown Philly for a two night stay with my cousin.

<– Day 23 – Mon. May 21st: From Summer Santa to the Police Academy | Day 25 – Wednesday May 23rd: Steel, Strings & Sellersville –>


7 Comments on “Day 24 – Tuesday May 22: Rain N’ Fog in Coal Country

  1. Paul Chandler

    When you go through Delaware, you should check out fort miles (if they are open) and the air force museum in Dover

  2. SE Pennsylvania Steve

    I guess that’s always the hazard of you and Ann being celebrities, people you don’t know that recognize you can approach you and call you by name.

  3. Jerry Steber

    It was a true pleasure to have Ann and Dave as my guest on Tuesday afternoon. We had great conversations about jeep, history and some of our personal experiences in the military and restoring our jeeps. I wish them a safe continuation of their journey and return home. you guys are always welcome to my Jeep Barn! Thanks again for the visit!

  4. rdjeep

    All PA roads are like that. That’s how you know you’ve crossed the state line!

    When I was a kid, there was none of the “Chocolate World” stuff. You actually went into the factory! I still recall the conveyor with the river of silver Kisses on it.

    At least you caught a good stretch of weather for Philly. We just got done with a week-and-a-half of rain.

  5. Richard Petrushka

    Wow guy’s, welcome to my world. I live in Bangor. 15 minutes from Bethlehem. My Dad was born and raised in Eckley. Mom was born and raised in Upper Lehigh next to Freeland and Carl and Danny at Walck’s know me by name. Hope you enjoy the area, glad Ann got to see Hershey again. Your welcome to see my 3b and FC 150 anytime. Dave thanks again for helping me sell my DJ a few years ago. Safe travels.
    Rich Petrushka
    Bangor, PA

  6. David Eilers Post author

    Rich: Glad I could help. I guess we’ll have to visit next trip!

    rd jeep: A real factory would have been so much better. We got to see the Martin guitar factory today. That was great.

    Jerry: Thanks for sharing showing us everything!

    Mark: We made it to the old Bethlehem site and went through the museum. Great stuff. More in Thursday morning’s post.

    Steve: I like Jerry’s comment to us. He said he’d only met two celebrities, me and Tom Cruise. I told Ann later, I wonder if Tom ever get’s that? Anyone ever say to him, ‘I’ve only met two celebrities, you and David Eilers’. I can only imagine the look of befuddlement on his face. 🙂

    Paul: I don’t know how much time we’ll have. I’m awaiting confirmation on Friday’s visit to see a collection in Delaware. Thanks for the suggestions!

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