Days 91 thru 96, WLBT continued

Sept. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13

Chestertown, MD; Wayne, PA; Baltimore, MD


by David Runkel

On the road again…With clouds and rain coming in Friday afternoon, the Tour left our umbrella in the sands of Bethany Beach for the last time this visit (and maybe the last, period) and starting packing up. 

Saturday morning we stopped for a last bucket of Fisher’s popcorn and a farewell to the ocean and headed out, not to see the sun again for a week.  First stop was the Orricks in Queen Anne’s County, MD, for a late lunch and a nap before going

Day Ninety Six of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Bookplate Bookstore

down the road 12 miles to quaint, waterfront Chestertown.  We’d been invited to afternoon tea at the White Swan Inn, the town’s premier bed and breakfast, and then to Book Plate, the town’s fabulous independent book store for a reading. A dozen people braved the rain to hear about an innkeeper’s life 3,000 miles to the west. Introducing The Author was Matthew Swanson, himself a writer of children’s books, and the son of long term friend John Swanson (who put us up in Kansas City, MO).  With Matthew were his wife, book illustrator Robbi, and three of their four youngsters. Matthew introduced himself as The Author’s former son-in-law, which indeed he is. He and Sara Runkel were married when he was 8 and she was 5 at Runkel Friends Retreat.

A terrific audience, including two early Peace Corps volunteers who were married in Manila while on duty, delved into the innkeeping business and writing habits of The Author.

Sunday, The Tour drove through the rain to Stewartstown, PA, home of the Runkel family farm and The Tour Director’s only remaining uncle, Rod, and his wife, Catherine.  Rod is about to reach 95 and doesn’t drive anymore.  We brought Sunday dinner, chicken of course, with vegetables and four kinds of pie.  By some magic, each of the diners ended up with their first choice – blueberry for Aunt Catherine; apple with ice cream for Uncle Rod, Boston cream for The Author; and lemon meringue for The Tour Director.  Leftovers were non-existent.

The Tour spent the night at hands down the best B&B we have stayed at since our journey began in June.  Stoltzfus’s B&B occupies a gigantic mid-1850s mansion in Lancaster County eight miles from the town of Gap. A working farm with authentic smells surrounds the inn.   Since we were the only guests, we spread out on facing sofas in the large living room with 18-foot ceilings, reading the NY Times and watching the US Open men’s tennis finals. 

Despite the inn’s name, we did not get Pennsylvania Dutch food for breakfast.  Day Ninety Six of the Scone by Scone Book Tour No scrapple, no sausages, no eggs, no fassnachts (donuts). Instead the owner-chef, a local man, presented first a full fruit course with locally-made yogurt and granola to go over berries, bananas and orange slices.  The Author had oatmeal and quinoa with bananas, while The Tour Director had a gourmet vegetable hash of potatoes, tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms, topped by a fried egg.  Delicious.

Off to Wayne, with a detour to an ophthalmologist who found that The Author’s right eye distress included a staph infection.  Drops were prescribed.  Lunch with a high school classmate Kim White followed, then a visit to the old homestead at 414 Oak Lane and then we knocked on the door of Lavalette Boles, the 100-year-old aunt of our friend Tucker from Harrisburg. Lavalette said instantly, “I know you, Donnan Beeson!”  Our final stop was a late afternoon check-in with Bill Webb, a neighbor growing up on Oak Lane who was in brother Bill’s class (and thus much older).

The following day after a visit to the magnificent Longwood Gardens, we headed to a reading at

The Main Point, where a number of old Overbrook and Wayne friends gathered to 

Day Ninety Six of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Mainpoint Books

hear the returning Author read a chapter and tell how Scone by Scone came into being.  It was a different experience because everyone there was well acquainted with The Author and her progress from a so-so Radnor student who was the first in her family to go to a “land grant” college, Penn State rather than either a small liberal arts school or an Ivy League one, to an accomplished writer.  A fun group dinner followed.

Wednesday we were off to Baltimore, after another check-in with the eye doctor. Another friendly group gathered in the home of Dorris and Ken McElroy in our old neighborhood of Charles Village. Forty years ago, The Author and Tour Director turned down the opportunity to buy the three-story brick row house we were renting with stain-glass sliding doors on the first and second floors for $6,000.  We didn’t have the cash at the time and the rent was only $125 a month. These houses now sell for $350,000 or more and the neighborhood is full of Hopkins students and young couples like we were in the 1960s and early 70s and some like the McElroys who have stayed around long after their children have moved on and their small mortgages paid off.

So much time was spent catching up, the reading almost didn’t come off.  Stories were told.  City Council President Mary Pat Clarke and The Author recalled their shared ironing times, before both decided they didn’t need to do that ever again.  That is until Deedie got into daily napkin ironing at Anne Hathaway’s.  But The Author pulled off a reading like the pro she has become, again opening a side to her that old friends didn’t know. 

It was two for two, back-to-back events with friends of long standing.  Is this our final trip East?    

We spent the night with Mike Kelly at Broadmead, the Quaker retirement community in Cockeysville.  Mike’s wife Narindar died recently and we needed to spend some time with him.

What a wonderful woman Narindar was.  Who else, on a limited budget like the rest of us and living in a small row house, would buy (with a mortgage!) a large sculpture weighing nearly a ton by a major artist?  Who else had several advanced degrees, but was still intent on being the best wife and mother?  Who else would buy a large crate of asparagus on sale and then spend the next three nights having a series of large dinner parties?  We’ll miss her intelligence, her moxy and her good humor.

Next stop – the nation’s Capital.  After that, who knows?  Not the planned Virginia and the Carolinas. Hurricane Florence is interrupting our plans.  Stay tuned.