The Long Way Home

Lincoln Highway
October 15, 2014, 7:10 AM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , ,
A remnant of Fairyland Forest, Laurel Highlands.

Little Boy Blue: A remnant of Storyland, Laurel Highlands.

When Jeff and I stared dating nine years ago, our first road trip together was Route 30, Pennsylvania’s old Lincoln Highway, destination: Mutter Museum. I mapped out the places I wanted to see along the way, but more importantly, this travelers’ road crazy-twisting through mountains provided relief from the PA Turnpike. Speeding highway travel puts my nerves on edge, and finally, I found a man who was willing to travel the roads less wandered with me (metaphor intended). A few weeks ago, driving back from a visit with friends East, we climbed intense mountain passes, and felt the isolation in those forgotten towns nestled in the hills. It was a bright, clear, sunny day, so pretty it made hearts ache. We imagined Model T-s struggling up those hills in the route’s early days, all the stops it took just get a few miles – clever roadside attractions that gave travelers some escape: hotels that looked liked ships, fairytale creatures hidden among the trees in someone’s yard, with signs made clear no trespassing.


Antique store in a barn near Gettysburg.

Antique store in a barn near Gettysburg.

TV in Fayetteville, PA

TV in Fayetteville, PA

Bedford, PA

Bedford, PA

Garden near the Laurel Manor motel.

Garden near the Laurel Manor motel.


November 23, 2010, 8:11 PM
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: , , ,

the beauty of early darkness

I have mixed feelings about daylight savings. After the holiday season, it’s a little depressing to wake in darkness, then go to work, only to go home when it’s dark. But from now until New Year’s, there is something comforting about the darkness, especially while  driving down rural highways where the deep blue fields only intensify the warm lights coming from gas stations and people’s homes. I often take photos from inside the car because I want to catch the moment that I’m afraid to forget. It’s not only the image that affects me, it’s the cold blast of air hitting my face as I hang out of the car window, or seeing a house with people standing inside their living rooms, getting up from chairs to go to their kitchens, or to answer a phone. I’m curious. And when I can’t find the answers, I make my own.

barn. photo by jeff.

descending into breezewood

highway oasis

Postcards from the Lincoln Highway

sunlight2Last month, I traveled down Route 30 from Pittsburgh to Bedford  with my husband Jeff, and our friends Bill, Dan and Beth. The Pennsylvania part of the old Lincoln Highway actually starts somewhere near our home in Pittsburgh, and slides into commercial highway near Philadelphia. Here are some stops we made along the way to Hokee Gee’s, a giant flea market in Bedford, our final destination (Jeff is totally addicted to trash. We have to buy a house soon – we’re running out of room to store all the scary taxidermy and post-mortem photos we collect in these places), before coming full circle home.

Gravity Hill  bill and beth testing gravity hill

If you google “gravity hill” you will find that there are others like this in America – a road that defies the laws of physics. Cars roll backwards despite them moving forward and water runs in the opposite direction (or something like this — this site  can explain it so much better). The one in New Paris, PA is on a beautiful winding back country road dotted with farms and a bubbling creek running alongside of it. Not one of us in the group is science-minded, so it took us a few tries to figure out how to drive the car but lo and behold, Beth and Bill got it figured out – they looked as if they were rolling uphill, when they were really rolling downhill. Pretty impressive.

Ed’s Steakhouse what a beautiful sign: Ed's at dusk

a word from Beth:

“By the end of the day, we were all hungry and feeling very picky about what we were going to eat.  It had to be diner-like, it had to serve tons of awesome food, and it had to have spaghetti and meatballs for Lisa.  

 So we asked a local where to go.  “The Colonial Inn,” he said.  We asked again “the Colonial Inn.”  But on the way to the Colonial Inn, we saw the sign for Ed’s Steakhouse, and decided that any restaurant with a sign that cool had to have delicious food.

And we weren’t disappointed!  Ed’s even provided more than we had hoped – chairs with wheels!  Geriatric diners! Van-sized families!  Postcards and five-cent mints by the register!  Spaghetti & meatballs!   It was the kind of dining experience we’d been missing since the last Pappan’s closed. 

Unfortunately, we soon found out that although our souls were craving family restaurant food, our bodies would have been perfectly happy to never eat fried chicken and chocolate mousse ever again.   We spent the ride home clutching our tummies and looking for gas station bathrooms.” (and thank god we found one; we were still two hours from home. — editor’s note)

The Coffee Pot  the coffeepot

My friend Jason told me recently that he grew up a few blocks away from this crazy-giant structure that once served as a stop for weary travelers bumping along the Lincoln Highway. I always wonder what it’s like to live in a tourist town such as Bedford. It is beautiful and haunted and far from everything – being a city girl, that’s how it would feel to me since I have lived in the city most of my life. While I took artsy pictures of it (me, lying on my back in the grass to get the full view of it with my limited 35 mm lens), the other four, bored as kids, had found someone’s geo-caching stash buried underneath the Coffee Pot historical plaque. Before Jeff could take out all the tiny toys and put them in his pocket, I knew it  was time to keep rolling.

Joe’s Bar

“One of the most amazing taxidermy collections outside of a museum.” – Jeff a taxidermy lover's dream

But Joe’s is way more incredible and disturbing. The owner has a seal head, a deer’s ass, and a polar bear, not to mention a kangaroo with gigantic nads, all housed in glass cases in the back of his establishment, as well as filling a whole second floor. Walk up the winding staircase and marvel at the elephant head suspended from the ceiling by wing-like cables — its feet are now bar stools (with stiff black hairs still in tact). Chimpanzee skulls, gazelles, a tiger, a hippo and the standard wild boar. And despite Joe’s exotic attractions, it’s still off the beaten path.  The bar is pretty ‘local.’ If you don’t mind being ignored by the surly long-haired bartender, then just go for the amazing animal display.

Big Mac Museum

The Lincoln Highway Drive-In radio station 88.3 provided the soundtrack for our ride home – Monsters vs. Aliens was the movie that night. I could see the light flickering from the giant screen, and it reminded me of when my parents took my sister and me to the drive-in for a double feature of Rocky and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. We weren’t allowed to watch the movies, but we got to sleep in the back of the car with the hatchback down. (this is what my young parents had to do back in the recession of the 1970s. Who had money for a babysitter?). As the sun set, the boys were getting hungry again, and I was curious about the Big Mac Museum. The Big Mac was actually created in Uniontown, PA, about an hour away from North Huntingdon, but it was never made clear in the museum display how North Huntingdon ended up with the Museum Honors. We ate apple pies and french fries surrounded by blaring TVs airing retro McDonald’s commercials. “I like Big Macs here,” Dan said, “They have a different measure of quality than other McDonalds’ Big Macs.” 

And if you are ever in the Irwin area looking for good thrifting, Beth gave us this tip: “We’ve been to [the Irwin] Goodwill. It’s filled with juggalos.”

We’re totally heading there on our next trash-hunting trip.

better measure of quality: the Big Mac Museum

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