- Associated Press - Saturday, January 7, 2017

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) - Two guys walk into a bar.

They order a round, and the conversation flows.

That’s what happens every other Tuesday afternoon, when you’ll find Terry Ditzler and Garry Bertrand at a bar in Lancaster County, but never for a second visit.

With each pint, they’ve learned more about Lancaster County through the bars that dot its landscape.

In December, the friends visited their 100th bar - Bube's Brewery in Mount Joy. With that milestone behind them, these retired guys have their sights set on a lofty goal: to visit every beer-selling, nonsmoking bar in Lancaster County.

“At our age, we might have to pick up the pace to make sure we get there,” says the 63-year-old Ditzler with a smile.

The men, who have grown closer during their Tuesday adventures, met as volunteer board members for the Susquehanna Valley office of Make-A-Wish.

Both live in Lancaster Township. Ditzler is a retired tool-and-die maker from what is now CNH Industrial. Bertrand, 66, retired from the finance and information technology departments at Armstrong World Industries.

HOW IT STARTED

The guys were out for dinner with wife and girlfriend, respectively, when the idea came up for their bar tour.

” ‘Hey, we’re retired. We can do this,’ ” Bertrand recalls saying. ” ‘Let’s go out and have a beer on Tuesday.’ So it started from there.”

That was five years ago.

Why bars?

“We like to try the beer: That’s one thing,” Ditzler says. “The other thing is, you talk about the culture and social structure in diners - you get that in your neighborhood pubs, too.”

THE RULES

The rules are simple: One of the guys chooses a bar from Bertrand’s meticulous spreadsheet, picks up his friend, and off they go.

Terry has the first Tuesday, and I have the third,” Bertrand says, “and then we alternate fifth Tuesdays.”

They banned bars that allow smoking from their list because neither can stand the smoke.

They added another rule while sitting at the first out-of-county bar they visited, Burning Bridge Tavern in Wrightsville. They had a good time there, but decided to stick to Lancaster County bars.

“Because this could open the door to York and everything,” Bertrand explains.

And they go in the middle of the afternoon because they can, and because the bars aren’t busy at that time.

“Usually the bartender’s busy slicing lemons and things and will talk to you,” Ditzler says.

There’s plenty of talk, and they work at solving the world’s problems but avoid talking about politics.

FINDING A GOOD BAR

They’ve gone to The Penguin Hotel and Bar in Stevens, Lucky Ducks in Elizabethtown, Pour Girls Bar in Quarryville, and dozens in between.

They stay long enough for a drink or two. Bertrand likes beers from Deschutes Brewery. Terry likes seasonals and beers from Spring House Brewing Co. and Sam Adams. Both like India pale ale and tend to try the in-house beers at breweries but also are big fans of Philadelphia’s Yards Brewing Co.

After a few dozen bars, they realized they like a similar kind of bar: a place small enough and slow enough that they can get to know the bartender and the other customers.

While they can always find something nice about each place, Ditzler says he can size up a place in a snap.

“I kind of get the feeling - almost as soon as we walk in and when you make eye contact with the bartender - whether it’s some place you’re going to enjoy,” he says.

What have they learned about Lancaster County through its bars?

“There’s good people everywhere,” Bertrand says.

“Most people are good,” Ditzler adds, “but I always thought that before.”

100 AND COUNTING

For their 100th bar, Bertrand created a logo and had it etched onto beer mugs. He brought a pair of the mugs to Bube’s and handed them to Ditzler.

Their friendship has grown through all of this research. Occasionally, they’ll also go out together with their significant others or watch college football games.

“We’ve gotten to understand each other better. And I think because we’ve gotten to understand each other, it’s just a testament that it’s gone on this long,” Ditzler says.

“Knowing him, if he didn’t like me, I’d be history.”

“You don’t do this thing for five years and not grow,” Bertrand says. “You don’t stay the same. It either gets better or worse. If it gets worse, it stops.”

So much of our socializing happens though work, Ditzler notes. When you retire, that ends.

“You’ve got to keep nurturing that social life,” he says. “Even though it might change, and the cast of characters still changes, you’ve still got to keep that element of your life moving along.”

About an hour after they arrived at Bube's, the bartender asked if they were having another round.

“I’m driving, so no,” Ditzler says. “But he might have another.”

“No,” Bertrand says. “I’m good.”

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Online:

https://bit.ly/2jbUvwk

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Information from: LNP, https://lancasteronline.com

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