Coupon Sherpa went on vacation this Labor Day weekend!
Yes indeed: I packed up my yak and headed out for some R&R before things clop into high gear for the holiday shopping season.
My faithful buddy Yakety Yak and I planned this trip in detail, starting with a hike through America's stunning Appalachian Mountains and ending in Coupon, Pennsylvania!
Our ultimate goal was to find out which came first; the town of Coupon or the paper money saver whose name we so proudly bear. Along the way, Yakety and I hoped to make many new Inji (Westerner) friends and see more of this beautiful country. (By the way, did you know "Sherpa" means "eastern people" in English?)
Yakety found Cabela's coupons for 50-percent off, so we loaded up on camping and sports equipment. Frugal way to go, Yakety!
As trained mountain guides, Yakety and I can carry nearly 150 pounds of gear, so we piled everything on our backs and headed up the eastern edge of the Allegheny Mountains, a portion of the Appalachian Mountains that lies in eastern Pennsylvania.
Even at their highest point, the Allegheny Range only rises 4,862 feet, a mere pebble compared to our journeys up the towering 29,029-foot face of Mount Everest, which we Sherpas call Chomolungma, or "Mother of the World."
It was such an easy hike we barely broke a sweat but the scenery managed to take our breath away. This is indeed a beautiful country, from sea to shining sea.
Descending from the mountain tops we found Prince Gallitzin Park and pitched our tent. Yakety and I headed over to Glendale Lake for some warm-water fishing. I was so glad we'd picked up some great fishing equipment with Orvis.
At the lake we met a nice man named Paul. He showed me how to fly fish. In return, I taught him how to say "Thangbu?," or "How are you?" in Tibetan. The answer is "Las, thangburang," or "I'm fine."
Impatient with our chatter and slow-motion fishing, Yakety waded into the water and began slapping perch onto the shore with a mighty swoop of his forelegs. Most yaks are herbivores, like cows, but Yakety doesn't care much for grass and twigs. He loves nothing more than to gut a fresh fish with his teeth and savor the tender flesh. Me...I'll wait until the campfire has done its work.
After a restful night we headed out to the Cambria County Fair, an annual Labor Day weekend event. Coupon, Penn., is in Cambria County, so we were getting real close to our destination!
We were getting closer to our final destination, but Yakety had a yearning to check out the fair's alpaca demonstration. Let's just say he wasn't impressed. Alpacas may have some mighty fine pelts, but they spit something ferocious, have no horns and their necks would look better on giraffes. The furry one thought they were nothing to write Nepal about.
We high-tailed it out of there before Yakety could teach the alpacas some manners, setting our sites on the tiny town of Windber for the Dog Gone Run. Yakety Yak thought we'd see a dog race, but it was just a fundraising poker run. Not much to watch and way to noisy, so we finally hit the road for Coupon.
After less than an hour of hiking, we turned off Coupon Gallitzin Road and onto the minuscule town's main street. The first thing we saw was a black, horse-drawn buggy. Sitting behind the clip-clopping horse was a man in the least-adorned suit I'd even seen. A mere snip of a boy and girl peered at me from behind their pa. The youngsters looked mighty old-fashioned for Americans, too. Both were plainly dressed. The girl's golden hair was hidden under a white cap and the boy sported a straw boater hat.
Then it hit me llike an avalanche: We were in Amish country!
The man pulled his horse to a stop and asked if I needed help. We introduced ourselves and, since there are no restaurants in Coupon, my new friend Luke asked us home for dinner. I told him in Nepal we would say, "Sama sap shok," or "Please come for dinner."
A home-cooked meal sounded even better than yak-butter tea, so we readily accepted the offer.
We pitched camp in Luke's back yard and changed out of our dusty garb. To honor Luke and his family's traditional Amish clothing, I wore my own Sherpa native dress of wool pants with a long, stiff-collared shirt. This I covered with a long chuba robe, belted with a colorful sash.
While Luke's wife Mary was busy preparing dinner, the children Seth and Isabelle were fascinated by my costume and muscles. I explained Sherpas can carry up to 80 pounds on our backs as we guide mountain climbers up our beloved Himalayan Mountains.
I asked my new friends, or dalzas, whether the town of Coupon or the paper coupon came first.
Luke said he had researched this very fact when he was a child in school. He said, "A Michigan man coined the term coupon in 1909 to sell breakfast cereal but, since our county and Coupon were founded in 1804, you could say we were the first American Coupon."
I was enthralled to finally know the answer and Luke was happy to make me happy. What a good dalza I had found!
After dinner I thanked Mary and Luke for their hospitality and asked if there was anything I could do in return. Luke said the community was going to raise a barn the next day and could use my muscles and Yakety's strong back.
Bright and early the next morning, we all headed down the road to a neighbor's farm, where we found a whole bunch of Amish families ready to dig in for some hard work. Women and girls were busy setting up and serving breakfast while boys and men were preparing to build a barn in just one day.
Many hands made light work and we were done before the sun came down. It was time for bed before hitting the road early the next morning.
Our Labor Day vacation was nearly over, but my heart was full after making so many new friends. Sherpas have big hearts that allow us to climb high altitudes, but mine was ready to burst with love for the people and beauty of America.
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