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    My 2023 Manic Travels in Review, Part Two

    By John Chen–

    2023 was an exciting traveling year for me. The pandemic finally ended so it was time to breathe some fresh air, see and hear new sights and sounds, and smell lots of roses! Like millions and millions of people, I headed out of town, out of state, and out of the country. I turned into an insatiable force, hungry to devour brand new experiences as often and as much as I could. With so many places to choose from, I thought I would share with you some historic, utopian, fun, adventurous, unique, and even scary destinations. (Editor’s Note: See the February 8 issue of the San Francisco Bay Times for Part One of this series:

    Ted Maylath and John Chen at Yankees Museum,
    Yankee Stadium, New York

    Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York

    Arguably the most loved and hated team in all of professional baseball is the New York Yankees. The Yankees are also the most successful American sports franchise with 27 championships. That’s 10 more than the Los Angeles Lakers (most in NBA) and 10 more than the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s combined! Also known as the Bronx Bombers, a well-earned nickname due to their homerun hitting prowess throughout their illustrious history, the Yankees attract a large contingent of fans wherever they play.

    SF Giants vs NY Yankees at Yankee Stadium on MLB Opening Day 2023
    All Photos Courtesy of John Chen

    In 2023, we decided to travel to New York and watch our very own San Francisco Giants play the Yankees on Opening Day to welcome the official start of the 2023 MLB season. Although the historic stadium rocked and filled with energy, touring the onsite Yankees Museum was, in my opinion, the highlight. The number of baseball awards, records, historic firsts, and household names were astonishing! A must see for true sports fans! Even the virtual offerings are worth checking out:

    Bushkill Falls, Pennsylvania

    Visit Bushkill Falls shares: “The ‘Niagara of Pennsylvania,’ Bushkill Falls is a … unique series of eight waterfalls, nestled deep in the wooded Pocono Mountains” that is “accessible through an excellent network of hiking trails and bridges which afford fabulous views of the falls and the surrounding forest.”

    Those who know me well know I am a sucker for waterfalls. I love the sound, smell, and majestic sight of water falling and cascading in nature. On our visit to Pennsylvania, I could not pass up the opportunity to see the largest collection of waterfalls in the Pocono Mountains. The brisk chill air of early spring paired with the harmonious and yet maddening sounds of rushing and falling water brought an overwhelming feeling of Zen and a sense of calm, tranquility, and serenity. Although Bushkill Falls may not be as well-known as some of our amazing California falls, this state park is definitely worth a visit for nature lovers.

    One of eight falls at Bushkill Falls, Pennsylvania

    Hershey’s Chocolate World, Hershey, Pennsylvania

    It’s every child’s dream to go to Disneyland. But what if you told those same children that they can go to another magical place where they can sample an unlimited amount of Halloween chocolates, stuff their very own giant chocolate peanut butter cup with whatever they desire, make their own signature chocolate bar, and ride roller coasters? The 10-year-old me would push Mickey aside and make a beeline for the chocolates. Heck, the older me would do the same!

    Chocolatetown at Hershey, Pennsylvania

    Our visit to Hershey’s Chocolate World turned out to be an educational experience as well. We learned about the history, chocolate making, and packaging process of Hershey, as well as about the company’s successes and failures. Did you know Hershey’s Kiss was invented in 1907? The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup was an acquisition in 1963? The Chocolate World opened in 1973? The original Hershey’s Chocolate Factory closed in 2012? And very importantly, that Hershey made chocolates, once luxury items, affordable and available to the masses?

    Ted Maylath and John Chen at Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania

    Amish Country, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

    I have to admit, growing up in California, I knew nothing about the Amish people. In fact, I had no idea they existed until my first visit to the Pennsylvania countryside 20 years ago when our rental car got stuck behind a horse-drawn carriage on a state highway. I also then saw that horses were tied to a hitching post in front of a grocery store, and that there were Amish handmade furniture signs everywhere. I quickly learned, from the online Amish History Timeline, that the Amish way of life is centered on shunning, or the act of “withdrawal from civic life and separation from the ‘worldly.’” The Amish people “shun” modern technology, innovations, and societal structures. They instead choose to live off the land away from civilization.

    1800s Amish covered bridge on a farm next to a mall in
    Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

    I learned that the first Amish immigrants landed in Pennsylvania some 300 years ago from Switzerland to escape religious persecution due to their separatist views. Throughout the years, the Amish community kept to themselves and continued to live and prosper off the land, ignoring the fast-moving and advancing world around them.

    According to Discover Lancaster: “[Pennsylvania] Amish are involved in agriculture as well as an array of businesses and cottage industries. Arriving in Amish Country allows you to step back in time to enjoy a slower, more peaceful pace—one where the horse & buggy remains a primary form of transportation, and where windmills dot the landscape, providing power harnessed from nature … it’s like time-traveling to the past where tens of thousands still live a centuries-old ‘Plain’ lifestyle.”

    Amish Farm and House, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

    On our latest visit to Amish Country, we took the opportunity to tour the Amish Farm and House, built in 1805, and dubbed America’s First Amish Attraction. Ironically, the Farm and House was located out of sight directly behind a Target Superstore in a modern strip mall. There were many other Amish attractions where visitors can ride in a century-old horse-drawn carriage, purchase handmade goods, attend events, tour the countryside, and sample authentic Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.

    Miami Open Complex

    Miami Open, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

    The Miami Open is one of the largest men’s and women’s combined professional tennis tournaments in the world. Recently, the tournament moved from Crandon Park in Key Biscayne to Hard Rock Stadium, where the Miami Dolphins and the University of Miami Hurricanes play their respective football games.  Last year, I wrote about Tennis Paradise, the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. These two major tournaments run back-to-back in March of every year and are affectionately called the “Sunshine Double.”

    Ted Maylath and John Chen at Miami Open in South Florida

    When I lived in Fort Lauderdale nearly 20 years ago, I worked for the public service arm of professional tennis, First Serve. During my time in South Florida, we took kids from socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods to see some of the greatest players such as Roger Federer, Venus and Serena Williams, and Rafael Nadal compete for the coveted title. It has been a long time since I returned to watch the Miami Open in person, so I could not pass up the opportunity to see world-class tennis players compete and tour Hard Rock Stadium. It was like I also got to see the Dolphins and the Hurricanes play. Okay, not really, but it was a great experience to see another modern sports stadium and check it off my list.

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball, and football teams.

    Recreation and Leisure
    Published on February 22, 2024