A Reflective Five Hour Drive Through The Pennsylvania Mountains.
I decided to visit my niece Cassidy this weekend. She is studying law at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. The question was, do I drive or do I fly? In my younger days the decision would be easy. I loved driving just about anywhere. I would drive 12 hours a day with no problem. Now, time considerations and my older body and bones make those marathon drives more difficult.
After looking at flights to Pittsburgh from Avoca, the nearest airport, 40 miles from my home, I realized it would be just about as much time to make the 4 1/2 hour drive as it would be to fly. And was in the mood to go mobile again. So yesterday morning, after a few cups of coffee, I was headed west on I 80 under overcast October skies. I had driven the first leg of my journey many times. I attended Bloomsburg University for two year and I vividly recall the mountains and farms from those rides , although it’s hard to believe that was over 40 years ago.
The next leg of my drive took me trough the hills of central Pennsylvania. I had driven this route quite a few time visiting friends or attending games at Penn State University. Although it was cloudy, and the fall foliage was not spectacular this year it was still a pleasant drive.
I also recall the first time I had driven this stretch of I 80, it was the week after I took the Bar examination. I was driving cross-country in my 1972 Ventura. I had hoped to get to California but ran out of money near Salt Lake City. It was still a wonderful trip. I had five 8 tracks and a lot of time to reflect on my future. And I saw so much of our beautiful Country. More about that in a future blog post, I’m sure. Well back to this trip, as I approached State College I drove on uncharted territory and drove southwest on I 99. This interstate didn’t exist my last time out here.
The coffee finally caught up to me and I made a quick stop at a gas station. I love these stops. I love to observe travelers and try to eavesdrop on their conversations to see where they are from or where they are headed.
I now traveled through some beautiful mountains and wish I had time to take in the spectacular views. I also passed through towns I have heard of, Altoona and it’s railroads, Lorreto and it’s college and Johnston and its infamous flood. Once again wished I had time to explore them. Someday, I hope to return. I also observed the many dead deer along the road. There were dozens of them . A sad reminder of the clash between nature and man’s progress.
The interstate ended near Johnston and I was now on busy highway 22 heading west. Around 11: a.m I decided to have some breakfast and found a delightful little restaurant just south of Johnston.
I never eat at fast food or chain restaurants. Haven’t for 25 years. I’d much rather mix with the local folks at a real restaurant. And Kimmie’s Kitchen was as real as it gets.
As soon as I walked in I knew that this was Pittsburgh Steeler Country. They made sure of that.
Service was a bit slow but I soon learned why. The hostess was performing double duty since the cook had a minor accident. The waitress was helping out in the kitchen. Sorry but I know all this from some good ears and some more eavesdropping.
As I waited for service I observed that the walls were covered with memorials, articles and pictures of the local men and women who served our Country over the years.
It was a moving tribute to the fallen local heroes to the ordinary men and women who served in all branches of the military from World War II to present. More towns should have restaurants like this.
Once I placed my order, the delicious and hearty home cooked meal was served very quickly. I watched the local crowd as I ate my meal. An elderly couple, a mother and middle-aged daughter, a young family with their child and a some blue-collar workers. You learn lot about a community in a local restaurant. This was middle America and good folks they were.
I was now full and set out on my final 60 mile leg of my 258 miles journey. Traffic became much heavier as neared Pittsburgh. I soon left Route 22 and found myself in the even heavier traffic of Interstate 376. After 12 miles and a few tunnels I saw the large skyscrapers of modern downtown Pittsburgh.
I had no problem finding my hotel, the Doubletree in the center of town. I soon parked my car and settled in my room. I was only here in Pittsburgh once before, on a five-hour layover, on a flight to Los Angles. So I looked forward to seeing my niece Cassidy and exploring the city. Here is a link to some more photographs from my drive to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh morning drive October 26 2018.
“The freedom of the open road is seductive, serendipitous and absolutely liberating.”