6/1/2011 – Day 56 – Allentown, PA to Nazareth, PA & Vicinity – 28.2 Miles

Today I checked off another item on my bucket list. We left Allentown and took a short drive to Nazareth, PA, the home of C.F. Martin & Co. — the mothership of Martin Guitars! I have owned a Martin guitar since 1962 and currently own four of their instruments. If you are a guitar player you know the name and reputation of these guitars. If you enjoy any kind of music, popular, rock, gospel, country, bluegrass or whatever, chances are you have listened to and delighted in the unique Martin sound. Most artists from Woody Guthrie to the Kingston Trio, to Sting and Paul McCartney and almost everyone else you can think of play, record and perform on Martin guitars. So I approached the factory with the excitement I remember feeling as a kid entering Disneyland. We parked the teardrop in the lot across from the entrance and walked in. We arrived just in time to join the factory tour, and for the next 45 minutes or so we were immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of world-class guitar making. We walked from the room where the wood enters the shop, passed stacks of all the ingredients to make guitars, watched skilled artisans practicing their specialized functions, cutting, shaping, molding, gluing, spraying, fitting, and polishing these incredible creations. The spicy smell of exotic wood fills the air, and the noises ping, rumble and zing their unique sounds off our eardrums. Every once in a while I caught a worker’s eye and almost all of them smiled or winked or showed what they were working on like proud and happy elves in Santa’s workshop, sharing the joy of their exquisite construction with me. I LOVE IT! Afterwards, Diana and I wandered through the 1833 Shop which contains everything from t-shirts and sweat shirts to Martin guitar strings, and humidifiers and picks and all the other goodies guitarists love to use. Then we roamed the Martin Guitar Museum, learning the details of the company’s origins, looking at the tools and other ephemera of guitar making. The display cases were also full of historic and classic and one-of-a-kind Martin guitars. Some played by famous artists, others priceless because they represent milestones in the company’s history, and still others containing extreme examples of mother-of-pearl inlays, rare woods and stunning style. We actually became hungry about half-way through the museum, so we strolled across the street and through a parking lot to a pizza joint frequented by Martin employees. The food was tasty and the walls of the restaurant also contained pictures and autographs of the other famous members of this community – Mario Andretti, John Andretti and Michael Andretti — giants of open-wheel racing and the Indy 500. Great stuff! Then we walked back to the factory and finished the museum tour, bought some items at the 1833 store and were getting ready to leave when I asked Diana to take my picture in front of the entrance to the museum. As we were blocking out the shot, a gentleman politely waited to enter the museum. As I walked over to the door I recognized him. It was C.F. Martin IV, Chris Martin, the CEO of the company! He very nicely suggested that we pose together in front of the museum door and I got the best souvenir possible from my visit — a picture with the celebrated leader of the company! Wow, what a day!! But it wasn’t over yet. We decided to drive to the original factory and old Martin homestead back in town. The old factory now houses the Guitarmaker’s Connection, a retail store that offers a unique collection of guitarmaker’s tools, guitar parts, and guitarmaking kits. We parked outside, walked in and were warmly greeted by the two women inside. We chatted and then took them outside to look at our teardrop. They took us back inside and showed us the wonderful, almost magical contents of the old factory. It was easy to imagine the factory full of workers turning out instruments in the early days. Even my first Martin was made here, and the thought that I might be standing right where it was assembled was thrilling. The ladies of the “Connection” showed us around and told us how the shop works. They obtain rejected parts from the Martin factory and turn them into kits that enthusiasts can use to build their own guitars. Before we left they gave us several vintage Martin advertising posters, a slice of rejected fretboard with inlay and a genuine Martin guitar head. My good day just got even better! Since it was late in the afternoon, we decided to stay in nearby Easton for the night and continue our journey in the morning. I had a hard time going to sleep after all the excitement of the day. But tomorrow promises to bring more interesting things to see and do. It probably won’t top today’s events, but I’m ready to give it a try!

Mr. Kohler & Mr. Martin

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