Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Adventures in the Keystone State.

Got back from Pennsylvania late Sunday night a better American, I think, and a little bit wiser to the east coast's ways.

But first, a tour.

My first thought on entering Pennsylvania late Friday night was, "Jesus, who put all these hills here?" But really, I forgot my last trip through the Keystone State: a frightening midnight run through two-lane Appalachian roads.

Where my sister lives? Beautiful. Rolling hills, changing colors, and enough boarded-up businesses to remind me of my own Rust Belt hometown.

"Don't drink the water," my dad told me before we left. And now I know why: this was the well at my sister's apartment complex, a temporary home for students of WyoTech - like her boyfriend, Trey.

If you know me, you know I love to drive the scenic route. So it was with great pleasure that I took a spin down State Route 981, a beautiful, roller-coaster-like highway carved into the Pennsylvania countryside.

Along the route, I started to feel like I was seeing what I imagined I'd see on my upcoming New England tour. True bucolic Americana - an Emerson-and-Thoreau-inspired trip through U.S. history.

The feeling was strongest in tiny Saltsburg, a river-side town in Indiana County about 10 minutes North from my sister's place.

Saltsburg made its fame (and its name) from deep salt beds buried next to the Conemaugh River that the populace mined for wealth and fortune. What they do now I have no idea.

Take a trail along the river, behind an old folks' home, and you'll find a little path that leads to the former aquaduct.

There I sat on the rocks, and enjoyed the experience: perfect fall day, sunshine, warm, and a shallow river running next to a small American town. Truman would've been proud.

Back in this century, I enjoyed a fine lunch - Texas Hold 'Em included - and a super dinner, as well as a trip to a local tavern, the Roadhouse, for some Yuengling and some Ohio State whipping MSU.

On Sunday we had a giant breakfast, and took my sister's dog Dayton for a romp outside.

We also watched as my dad amazingly fixed the stuck door on my sister's old Toyota. Living in a complex full of auto mechanics helps, however, as long as you have cigarettes for them.

We said our goodbyes and hit the road. I finally got to see Three Rivers Stadium (or whatever it's called now), where my AFC team plays in Pittsburgh, and dad and I shared in the pretty part of Ohio (it does exist, right next to a sliver of West Virginia) as we took winding state highways back home, case of Yuengling riding shotgun.

It was a beautiful trip, and a beautiful state. I plan to engage my assault on New England from Philadelphia next year, so I'll be able to see more of it.

A few things I learned: Pennsylvania is like Ontario, because they only sell beer in beer stores; Italians are legion, judging from the number of pizza joints; they DO have an accent; they love Penn State and the Steelers (sitting in the Buffalo Wild Wings, hearing the lunch crowd cheer for the Nittany Lions, was a neat experience); and the construction is just as bad there as it is here.

Thanks for having me, Pennsylvania.

No comments: