Wednesday, October 7
Ithaca, NY to North Bend, Pa.
I crossed from NY into Pennsylvania at 2:25, leaving I-86 US 220 south, a divided highway, 2 lanes each way with just a railing between them, no median strip, almost like an interstate. The sky almost completely clouded over with a few patches of blue and no sun, the temperature 59. Athens, clouded over. Definitely eastern mountains, some bright red trees, to my left a valley with rolling hills. The road moves down to one lane each way with no divider. I begin thinking about the difference between this and my first cross-country trip in
1966. I had no digital recorder yet my account is full of the excitement I felt at the things I saw. That excitement doesn't seem to be in this account.
Off to my left, upper reaches of Susquehanna. Gas $2.349, making me very happy I filled my tank with $2.099 gas in Ithaca. Passing through a big rock cut on both sides of the road, grass growing on top of the cut, looking over a valley with rolling mountains some distance away, a town (Towanda?) in the valley.
At 10:50, I stop at the Harkness Family Restaurant on a road between 220 and Route 6 for a very good steak & eggs, especially at that price--$9.23. I had planned to take Route 6 but, looking at the map, I decided instead to take 220 to Williamstown. The clouds have pretty well broken up. There are lots of clouds and lots of blue sky and the sun is shining. 220 is now a pretty good road, 45 mph, 1 lane each way, no divider, through a populated area, still mountain country but suburban, not quite rural, small 2-story houses, Root's Appliances & Services, Root's Sharpening Services. Speed up to 55. More color. A tree with red at its top.
A nice creek alongside the road but no place to stop for a photo. The Maple Leaf Restaurant Fine Country Dining. New Albany. A small simple Methodist church, a shabby house with porches on both floors, your standard brick post office, a yellow house with a large wreath between two second story windows. Hillside with a lot of color, more color than green. Dasher. The Jolly Trolley Luncheonette. The Harrington Hotel. [One of my very closest friends, one of my "comrades," was Ed Harrington.] A dead deer alongside the road, the first I've seen on this trip. A scenic overlook. Wright's View.
A large rambling wooden unpainted structure, not a house, at Lycoming. Past Lycoming, 220 becomes a winding road with gentle ups and downs, more hills, wooded, mostly green, some muted dark yellows, large fields of dry corn on both sides of road, the Muncy Creek at Shrewsbury. [The protagonist of my novel Son, My Son lives in Shrewbury . . . Vermont.] The village of Tivoli--a simple Methodist Church with a small steeple. Picture Rocks, Pa. Regular houses, a purplish blue one, one dark green, a brick house, a house with a kind of tower on its front. US 220 merges with I-86 at 12:46, the temp 63, the sun out, cloudy to the north, plenty of clouds and plenty of blue. I get all twisted around, lost, frustrated, and irritated in Williamsport and decide to hell with it and start out 15S, planning to stop somewhere between Williamsport and Harrisburg. Over the Susquehanna into South Williamsport, fate strikes. I stop at a AAA on 15S for a Pennsylvania Tour Guide, where the woman suggested I check out their Pennsylvania flyers. One was for Elk County. Even though it was to the northwest and I was heading south, I was intrigued by it. So, after picking up a TripleBerry Julius at a nearby Dairy Queen, I turned around and headed back to 220N.
220 was flat, in a valley with impressive rolling tall hills to the south, more behind them. Not technically an interstate, it was divided with 2 lanes in each direction and a median, but there were businesses and houses alongside and crossing roads instead of exits. The sky has cleared up quite a bit with a lot of fluffy cumulus, more blue than cloud. Past Jersey Shore, not a sign of a beach of ocean anywhere. To my left (south), a long ridge dropped off into a valley then a valley, up, back down to another valley another ridge.
At 2:35 I left 220 for 120 W, through the center of Lock Haven, towers with rounded domes, a clock in one of them, the brick Congregational church with double spires, a levee off to right. At first it's a good road, 2 lanes each way, curving and rising and falling gently but soon becomes a somewhat scary road, one lane each way with rock cliffs to my left, a droopy to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River to my right with more mountains on the other side. It's really fine country, mountains and trees and a river, very very fine. The biggest problem is that I want to go slow and enjoy it but people come up behind me, no place to pass, and I have to speed up, not able to look around, until I can find a place to pull over. There are some vines with leaves that have turned red climbing trees and telephone poles. Up stream, there's mountain after mountain after mountain.
At 3:30, I stop at Tripp's Four Season Motel in North Bend, Pa.--a fridge, microwave, desk, bench, hangers under a shelf, TV, alarm clock, no phone, 2 chairs, a queen bed, and a small table. I then had a grilled ham&cheese at the Tripp's convenience store and restaurant. Even here, though there was enough light pollution from the lights at nearby businesses, some of them quite bright, that I had a hard time seeing some of the dimmer stars. But I could see Vega, Altair, and Deneb, the Great Square of Pegasus, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, and barely make out the Milky Way, thanks to the Northern Cross.
Thursday, October 8
North Bend to Clarion
Up at 8:45, weight 147.8, a gray day. $10.25 for scrambled eggs & Canadian ham at Tripp's. On the road at 10:26, temp 54, clouds at the tops of the mountains. A train whistle off to my left, the Norfolk Southern with about 20 coal cars going through the back yards of America. At Renovo, there's the big brick St Josephs Catholic Church, lots of brick houses, up to 3 stories tall, practically everything's brick,Yesterday's Restaurant and Hotel. Over the Pennsylvania Railroad bridge, the train now to my right, cloud covered mountains through a rock cut. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah! A cemetary on a hillside, a rock cut to my right 15-20 feet high, continuous for quite some distance, the double RR track now on my left, next to the river, flat land across the river, farms maybe, mountains beyond them. Past the Sproul State Forest, but there's no way to turn around on this narrow road, it drops off to my left, the railroad and river below me, just mountains on the other the river. Mostly green with some amber colored trees, a lot of light greens and a couple of ambers next to me. The rock cut is still to my right. Back even with the railroad track and the river (well, not quite to the river), speed limit 45. Village of Westport. Odometer 5815. The sun shining on top of a mountain up ahead. Keating.
The sky almost completely clear with some clouds, the sun shining brightly. The railroad now on the other side of dthe river. Entering Elk State Forest ("Be Careful With Fire") at 11:07. A railroad bridge puts the railroad back on our side of the river.
Picture before Driftwood.
At 11:25, I leave Route 120 for Route 555 at the burrough of Driftwood. I have to wait for the train to go through the crossing. It goes north, I go west. Goodbye train. 555 is a 2-lane country road in good repair, between mountains, one of them pretty damn high. It ain't bad, friends, it ain't bad. The river or its tributary is to my left, a high wooded mountain to my left, mixed colors, haze in the high valleys, rocky cliffs ahead. 2 high mountain ranges, river between them.
In a bit of a valley, the hills pull away a bit, the river still to the left, a wide plain to the right. I stop at Hicks Run. There are no elk (they usually only conme out at dusk and dawn) but there's an old cemetery, including the gravestone of a 2-year-old who died in 1888, someone else who died in 190- (the last numeral worn away). This is incredible country. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a thousand pictures couldn't capture the grandeur and beauty of this area. This is why I came here. Grants Pass. A valley between 2 high mountains, hazy mountains behind it in the pass, the river down below me. Oh, my.
Trout Run. The Mountain Top Distillery. Medix Run. A long flat hill and more hills, over and over again. How can I possibly describe this? There are no words. At Wapiti Woods there are large cabins, holding 2, 4, 6 or more. I fantasize coming back in a couple of years with Burrie, Conga Bob, Bill McNally, others, and staying here a week or so, playing music alongside the river.Friday, October 9
At 12:43, I get on Route 255 at Weedvilles. This country is just too beautiful to leave so I head north, taking 948. There is more rust red in the trees, once completely rounded tree (an oak?) almost complety rust red. Still a lot of green though. Red Hill Summit of the Allegheny Mountainsm 2305 feet. Kersey--Guardian Angels Hall, Jehovah's Witnesses, Eagles Club. I seem to have left the interesting country behind me. There are so many different shades of red--a very dark almost brown red, the regular dark red, carmine or cherise, bright red very rare, the normal not that bright red, rust red, orange. 948 takes me to 219, which I take north to 949 but can't find it so I turn south, saying farewell to this beautiful country. I leave 219 for 28 just before the town of Conway and the Ensign Connie Esposito Bridge. Quite a stretch of oranges and reds, all the trees ablaze, across from a cemetery, the Take a Break Restaurant, where no one was taking a break. To 322 at 2:10 into one of those Pennsylvania hillside towns with millhouses going downhill to the center of town, two- and three-story brick buildings, thin windows with rounded tops like those in Dansville, a steeple with a clock. A Presbyterian church of large rectangular shaped stone, then back uphill.
At 2:47, 70 degrees, I check into the Super 8 in Clarion with 5937 on the odometer. This is not your usual multi-level chain motel but a string of connected cabins, mine second from the end. No fridge or microwave, the phone and tv on a low bench with 2 drawers, a table with 2 chairs, a queen bed flanked by 2 small tables with an alarm at queen bed, an overhead light, 3 lamps, a small bathroom with an alcove outside it with a sink and a small flat area, hangers and a shelf.
The phone didn't work. The manager couldn't find any other phones that worked. The wifi was extremely slow and unresponsive, which the manager blamed on 6 rooms full of kids ("Xboxers").
So I drove down to Michele's Cafe. No open mike. Back to the motel. Went to Eat'n'Park--wedding soup and mulled cider for $7.34. Both pretty good. Bed at 11:00.
Clarion to York
Up at 8:45. It rained overnight. Corn flakes, English muffin, coffee, juice (OJ+watered down apple) at the motel. $26 worth of gas at $2.49 then on to I-80 at 9:49, temp 62.
After a week or two living in Gainesville nearly 50 years ago, it was as if I had never lived in DC. After less than 3 weeks on the road, it's now as if Northampton was just a dream. 50 years ago is more real to me than a month ago. On the road, I feel more alive, more aware, even on I-80.
Gas here is $2.399. There's lots of color in the trees now, mostly muted, dark reds and ambers. Autumn's here. I had planned to take route 36 south but I missed the exit (it was for 28 instead), so I get off an exit or two down the line and go down a country road that I think will lead me to US322. It's a very small winding country road, State Road 1007, patched and wet, through woodlands then past houses and small farms. At a stop sign I turn left, hoping it's 322. When I come to an intersection, I see I was on 950N so I turn around and go back the way I had just come (again). (Thoughts: So many northeastern cities are named for European and historic cities--Corinth, Sparta, Athens. Is it different in the west? I guess I'll find out.) At 10:09 I reach 322 at Reynoldsville. The ubiquitous brick on one side of Reynoldsville, your standard post office, Elks BPOE. "Looking to buy your old treasure." A large new church and an old brick church. "Insure Your ATV Here." At 10:55, I leave 322 for the road to Sykesville and wind up on state road 450 at 11:01. Village of Stump Creek, Panic and Desire to my left (isn't that all that life is about?), Paradise ahead (it always is), warning of horses and carts, one black cart parked alongside the road. "High DUI Crash Area." Huh? There ain't nothing but country here. This country ain't bad, it ain't bad at all, a 55 mph road, country highway, hilly, gentle curves, houses alongside, trailer homes, a fair amount of muted color. Not spectacular but pretty damn nice. A fairly large dead deer. A cliff alongside the curving road, a nice little strram on the other side. "Buckle Up Next Million Miles." 36 South. 11:21, Yoder's Antique Mall and Delicatessen. 219S at 11:34 temp 66, 2-lane country highway, 45 mph, trees, couple of houses more woods. A huge field of dry corn stalks, big brown barn. Beautiful abandoned houses, in need of repair, a boarded up railroad station at Burnside. The burrough of Northern Cambria--a house needing paint, lots of new houses, shiny, light green, light yellow, gray, cream, brown, light brown, some older shingled house, a few brick buildings, bright yellow new houses, a big business section, a Methodist church with no steeple, yellow brick, orange brick, more yellow brick, orange reds, dark red (a bank), Storeroom for Rent, Goodwill. 12:13 temp 68, sky very gray and dreary. It's hard to believe I've been on the road for nearly 3 weeks. It certainly doesn't feel that long. All that stuff that took so long leading up to it now a distant memory.
The sky lightening up ahead but not blue, pretty dark behind me. An old drive-in here on 219, playing "The Martian." West Carrolton. A big windmill turning slowly. A little bit of rain, wipers on intermittently. Into the center of Carrollton. Gallitzin State Park. Carrollton's Well Seasoned Cafe. Rain clouds as we head south, good view to left and right for some distance, rolling country, woodland, farmland, a white barn with 4 ventilators, another with 6, raining intermittently, coming down harder, very heavy, a side road with trees forming a tunnel. Serious rain at Jack Murtha Highway, 2 lanes each way with a median strip, 65 mph. Onto Route 422 for Ebensburg, the rain stopped, temp down to 62. Mostly yellow, some red, the whole area colorful, orange, yellow, dark red. Rains come again at Ebensburg, where I get on 22 East, slow with people making left and right turns and sudden stops. Off 22 at Route 164.
A strange sensation as I come over a hill in the middle of nowhere to be confronted by big huge wind generators rotating lazily. For some reason, it is strangely disorienting. Into mountains now, coming down out of them to open fields, mountains off in the distance, just gray shapes miles away. It's still raining. A vine-covered square rectangular building in the middle of nowhere. A modern log cabin, fairly large, lace curtains in the window. Mt Sinai Gods Mission Church, more fields of dry corn, lots of them, with some green in them. A big mountain ahead, still pretty damn impressive, with a tower of some kind, maybe a cell tower. Lots and lots and lots of corn stalks. Freedom township. Another log cabin with white between the logs. I leave 36S for 26. There's a range of hills ahead of me and way off to my left , continuing up ahead of me, dipping down into valley, then another range of mountain, covering nearly 180 degrees of my view, over it a streak of white then angry clouds. The Woodbury Cafe in an old church. Occasional brick houses but mostly wood frame houses. The rain is coming down hard again as I come into more mountains, orange and red trees, a rock cut, around a hill, around that long range, a creek. This is damn good country; it was worth having gone this way. A couple of rock slides the length of the hillside, a roadside restaurant with lots of cars, a pond with a bunch of geese sitting in the rain. Heavy rain at 2:17. I take 26N to Route 30. The sky ahead (due south) is clearing up a bit, no blue sky, just lighter at the edge of the rain clouds. A divided highway again, some light sky ahead, rain clouds stretching off to my left, raining heavily then backing off. At East Providence, I pass the Juniata Trading Post so that's probably the Juniata River to my right. Breezewood and the Pennsylvania Turnpike at 2:08. Here gas is $2.899. Into the mountains again, the rain letting up a bit, behind 3 trucks that won't pull over as we come down 3½ mile steep hills, 20 mph for trucks, a long line behind them but they refuse to move over. That lead driver should be shot, 10 miles or more, he doesn't care about others. Finally (2:45) they pull over and we come down from mountains into a valley, cross US 522, more mountains ahead, nothing to the south, anything to the north is lost in haze. Up into mountains again, behind another truck on a winding curving road, right to left to right and so on, no place to pass. Tuscarora Summit, 2123 feet. The truck pulls over and we go downhill again. More spectacular country, a huge rise of mountain, clouds trickling over it, moving down the slopes, very good, easily the best country today. The township of Saint Thomas, home of Nellie Fox (Hall of Fame second baseman for the Chicago White Sox), lots of simple houses, a church with a rounded dome, no sign as to what type of church, old brick buildings from early 20th century, a 50s or 60s small brick bank, houses from the 20s and 30s, a stone house, 30- or 40-year-old brick houses. Gas down to $2.259. Chambersburg. Shatzer's Fruit Market, Pennsylvania Dutch Hex signs etc. Crossing good old US 11 and I-81 at 4:00. The Chambersburg Family Diner, open 24 hours. The rain finally over. Took forever to get through Chambersburg. I'm into familiar territory now, past Caledonia State Park, where the Appalachian Trail crosses US 30, a lot of diners. A rainbow spans the sky--purple, green, yellow, red. Through Gettysburg, too many roundabouts, then through York still on Route 30 to the Motel 6 across from Round the Clock, where I had stopped so many times driving up to hike the Trail in Pennsylvania. 6:05, 65 degrees, the sun peeping through clouds in the west but still a lot of clouds.
After eggplant parmesan at the Round the Clock, I go to bed around 11:30.
Saturday, October 10
York, Pa. to Pa/Md line
Got up around 7:45, the sun shining through my window through cirrus clouds. I went across the street to the Round the Clock for pretty good chipped beef on toast, not too expensive before getting on the road at 10:53, almost a clear blue sky with some cirrus to the south. It's not too far down I-83 to exit 10, where a hawk flies around the exit and I take 214 past the Midtown Motel down to Brown's Orchard in Boganville, where they're selling all kinds of produce and other food like crazy, the place is packed, locate where the Brown Bean Cafe is located in all this mess then get back on I-83, down to another Shrewsbury, where I'm unable to get my prescriptions refilled at a Giant Pharmacy or a CVS. I got some tour books and maps at AAA.
With a little time on my hands, I take a walk along the Rail Trail, starting at (where else?) Railroad, Pa. at 1:15. I walked this whole thing in pieces over 5 years ago. It's not as great as a walk in the woods, up and down hills, as a walk in those woods in northwest Pennsylvania might have been, but it's a lot easier on these old out-of-shape legs. The old railroad is still there, the rails completely rusted--a train has been along here in quite a while. I heard a couple of red-bellied woodpeckers, blue jays, crows, and got a glimpse of a chickadee, a chipmunk crossing the railroad tracks, the shadow of a squirrel jumping from tree to tree. Another blue sky day, not a cloud in the sky. Trees are mostly green, a few turning, brown and dark yellowish-brown. There are a lot of bike riders on the trail, women and girls outnumbering men and boys by at least 3 to 2, maybe 3 to 1. A lot of the girls are in their early teens, sometimes by not always escorted by a parent. Only a handful of young boys and their fathers. Also a handful of adults in their 40s or older, one group of 2 guys and a girl in their 20s and another of 3 girls in their 20s. I see a runner who turned around as I walked toward him (maybe it's time for another shower) and the only other walkers I met were a couple in their 50s or 60s whom I met shortly before I got back to the car. Back to the car at 2:42, temp 74.
Then I took 616 to 216 past the Rail Trail Tavern and then 3 running cows (I don't think I've ever seen cows run before; they stopped when they reached the other cows), not dairy cows but apparently beef cattle. According to the map, 216 should take me to 214 but it ended at a T with no route signs so I turned right on Glen Valley Road, which I thought was toward I-83, and it eventually took me back to Shrewsbury, where I got on I-83 again, this time going north back to exit 10 to 214 to the Brown Bean Cafe, getting there as Art Wachter was unloading his van so I helped carry his equipment in. Another performer was already there, a man probably in his 40s, good-looking, in a wheelchair. While waiting for the thing to start, I had a half roast beef sandwich (edible) and tomato bisque soup (good but not great), chips, iced tea, and later root beer.
The first performer is Stu, who was a regular at the Wagon Shed, plays great blues and came over from England years ago (which you can tell when he speaks but not when he sings). Art let him do 7 songs and I have no complaints about that. All covers. Then a younger man (late 20s) who sang 4 originals. His guitar playing was mostly chords but he was up and down the neck, with varying rhythms. Next was yours truly. I started off with "Don't Ever Go," having some fingering problems because the strap of my guitar kept getting in the way. Then "That's the Bag I'm In," "Hard Travellin'," "Talking Guitar Blues," and finally the world premier of "An Anonymous Alba" (no record producers or publishers rushed the stage.)
I was followed by the guy in the wheelchair, who played a bass, not like the guy in Ithaca but like a regular bass. It was very good, accompanying him quite successfully as he sang and played harmonica. Art accompanied him on guitar on a couple of songs and he ended with a Bare Naked Ladies song (he had 2 young daughters) on nylon-string guitar. All his songs were covers. Then Art played guitar while Harmonica Don played a chromatic harmonica (first time I can remember ever seeing someone play one) quite well. Don had an old face but dark hair. His face was in its 70s while his hair was still in its 50s. Behind him the sky through the window was blue and pink. Art played guitar while his lady sang 3 songs then they did an instrumental together and he played and sang while she played guitar. A man with white hair but looking to be in his 50s or even 40s played a flamenco-influenced guitar and sang originals and finally an old woman (maybe older than me but maybe not) sang several old chestnuts, accompanied by Art and his lady. Almost all the songs were covers but the musicianship was on a noticeably higher average level than that of Massachusetts's Pioneer Valley. I had a number of good conversations with Stu, Art, his lady, Harmonica Don, Tray (?), who remembered me and I remembered him from the Wagon Shed, and another guy from the Wagon Shed whose name I didn't get. Neither of them played.
Then I went in search of a motel. The Midtown Motel was sold out and I could find nothing at the 2 remaining exits on I-83 before I crossed the Maryland line.