Peter Dabbene: Adventures in the Land of Chocolate

We knew we were getting close when the stations on the car radio switched over from rock and Top 40 to country and religious music, and cows and Amish people began to appear on either side of the road. Our destination? The Land of Chocolate. Not Switzerland or Bavaria, but Hershey, Pennsylvania. Within that town, we sought the key attraction, Hersheypark.

We’d be staying in a cabin at the Hersheypark Camping Resort, located—naturally—on Sweet Street. (It’s impossible to navigate the town without traveling on “Chocolate Ave.” or “Old W. Chocolate Ave.” or passing Hershey Kiss-shaped streetlights.)

We honored the cautious (and adorable) five and a half mile per hour speed limit posted within the campground’s confines, a number chosen, I’m sure, for both maximum safety and maximum cuteness. A map of the campground showed the location of our cabin, along with a lonely, ominous section marked “Dead End Employees Only,” which looked and sounded like a place of banishment—or worse—for workers whose careers had not advanced as expected.

It’s a very nice campground, though its placement, bordered by a highway, a freight train line, and a creek that floods in severe weather, gave the impression that the place may have been an afterthought, a salvage project for an otherwise unusable piece of land. In keeping with the safety theme, each train’s locomotive announced its presence with three to fifteen loud blasts of its horn, no matter the hour.

As an experienced traveler, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s always wise to travel with a set of earplugs or, barring that, a bag of cotton balls. Luckily, I was prepared for noise, with cotton balls for the whole family.

I was not prepared, however, for the cabin-shaking, deafening-even-through-cotton-stuffed-ears experience of what sounded like a plane landing out by the fire pit. The highway/train line/creek trifecta was rare enough, but the presence of a Level I…

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