September 28 (Tuesday)
We got up and had our half sandwiches for breakfast, and availed ourselves of the continental breakie the hotel had. It was dingy again, but I hoped it would get better. We were going to be driving through Pennsylvania, my parent’s home state. They’d taken me to Philadelphia, where they were from, but I hadn’t seen any other part of the state. Now I was going to drive from the western border all the way to Allentown, and then past Philadelphia, so I was looking forward to the scenery.
Not so scenic. What I found out later was that we were driving through the remnants of Jeanne. Even driving incredibly out of the way, we still couldn’t escape her.
– near Wal-Mart in Washington
Wheeling is in the north part of West Virginia that spikes up between Ohio and Pennsyvania. It’s very narrow (about 15 miles wide), so we were in Pennsylvania very quickly. We needed gas, so we got off the interstate in Washington and filled up at a Sam’s Club. I drove nearly the entire length of the Pennsylvania Turnpike after that. No, take that back. Mom did drive the first hour or so, then couldn’t handle it. We pulled over at a service plaza (just like on the Florida Turnpike) and switched. It was rainy and dreary, with stretches of construction that made the driving even more dreadful. It was, hands down, the worst day of the trip.
– Roadside America
And yet, there was a high point. Since I heard about it, I wanted to see Roadside America in Shartlesville. It was an old style tourist attraction, like some of the stuff in Florida. It was right on the way, about a half hour before Allentown. We got there late in the afternoon, not long before their closing time. Once inside, I was in heaven. It was the perfect tacky tourist place. They had stuff like t-shirts, a Ferris wheel model, Pennsylvania Dutch trinkets, New Age jewelry, and statuettes of the Infant of Prague. I was especially proud to recognize the Infant of Prague. All those years of Catholic school didn’t go to waste.
I didn’t think it could get better, until I found I could go into the Miniature Village.
Oh, how to describe it. It’s an 8,000 square foot train set, with little towns along the whole route. There were buttons spaced along the perimeter. Press one; a mini-balloon goes up and down. Press another and cars drive around. I must’ve said “Wow” over 50 times. It was like the model train equivalent of Willy Wonka’s chocolate room. And to cap it all off, the lights dimmed at the end and they played a recording of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America“. I came out and felt like I was floating.
Before getting back on the interstate, we stopped at a restaurant that was a couple blocks from Roadside America. I don’t remember what we had, but I think it was good. I do remember the pie display and wishing I liked pie, ’cause they looked good.
Back on the interstate and to Allentown. We got there after dark. Well, it was after 6, but with the clouds it was like it was night. We drove around and Mom kept thinking I’d be lost, but I didn’t. That was one of the times she would talk about afterwards, telling people that she was so amazed I could find my way like I did. Dad was an Army Air Corps navigator in WWII, so maybe there’s something to be said for genetic memory. Anyway, we found a hotel and checked in. it was the most expensive one we’d stayed at, about 100 dollars a night. Just about every other hotel on the trip was around 50 a night. But the day had been so hellacious, we didn’t want to spend more time hunting, so we went with what we had. Checking the weather, we found out that not only had we been driving through the remnants of Jeanne, but Allentown was being hit with some of the worst of those remnants. Be sure that I was happy to crash into bed that night.