Friday, August 21, 2009

Indiana Dunes – The Last Crusade – Day 7 thru 9

While certainly not our last crusade, the last 3 days of this trip will no doubt be the last one for 2009. Being Friday and finally caught up (for now) on where we are suppose to be, we find ourselves back in more scenic, twisty, up and down terrain. I personally have been waiting for this part of the trip, since I have passed this section of PA multiple times on previous trips, having run out of time. We have 3 days to cover around 700 miles, only 233 miles on the average, which is far slower pace than we have been on since leaving St Louis. We will also find ourselves on the back roads again and finally get to travel on the National Road, US 40.

With the pace slower, we get a bit lackadaisical about our departure time on Friday, having a leisurely breakfast and finally get out on the road around 11:00. We blow right threw Wheeling WV, having covered some really neat Landmarks in Wheeling on our May trip, heading for Friendship Hill. FH is the home of Albert Gallatin, who was Secretary of the Treasury, during Jefferson and Madison’s presidency. During his term he completed the Louisiana Purchase (this is what the Jefferson Expansion NP is all about in St Louis), funded the Lewis and Clark guys, and reduced the national debt (haven’t heard that term in a long time have you).

Not too far away is Fort Necessity NP. This was GW (George Washington’s) first crack at a military command and he surrendered. What a way to start a new career, but as they say from failure comes success.

Each one of our trips, at least for me, has one very memorable stop, event or moment. In May it was the Rohwer Landmark in Arkansas. This trips moment is the Flight 93 National Memorial. All I can say is WOW.

It is around 4pm and we were suppose to have covered 2 more parks today, but as usual we have run out of time to make them. A couple of calls to hotels in the area we are headed for and we finds the places to be real pricey. We settle on staying in Somerset for the night.

Since I have been remiss about updating this part of the trip (geez if I look at the May trip reports I am only like 13 days behind there) I am a bit fuzzy and didn’t take a whole lot of pictures on our way to our next stop, Johnstown Flood National Memorial. The National Park is not in Johnstown, but at the South Fork dam that gave way and destroyed many of the towns from South Fork to Johnstown in 1889.

Allegheny Portage National Historic site is next on the agenda. This place is the first railroad constructed thru the Allegheny Mountains. Back in the 1830’s we were busy building canals, this enabled the transportation of barges over the mountains to create a continuous link between Ohio and the Susquehanna Rivers in eastern PA. It is Civil Engineering Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. The 36 mile railroad section, essentially enable the loading of the barges onto flat bed cars that were pulled up 10 individual inclines and back down and unloaded into canals to finish the journey to OH.

Having fallen behind again time wise, we head for Wellsboro PA, home to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. To make matters worse the GPS headed us for a way into the Canyon, which I just had a gut feeling was going to require a Long Way Round type bike with the skill of a veteran off roader. I was really hoping I would not be right, but we are headed down one of these roads, where the sign says “Road Narrows” (I am always leery of these signs) and finally ride 10 miles, Mrs. GPS says right turn and we are confronted with a dirt road that goes straight up the side of the mountain. Now it is not one of those Vermont dirt roads, but more like the ones you see cutting thru someone’s farm. With a huge sigh (and I really gotta start taking pictures of these places) we turn around to find another way in.

We get back to where we turned off PA 289 and stop and ask someone for some guidance, since the GPS is hell bent to take us back the way we just came from. We found our way to PA 660 and finally arrived at Leonard Harrison State Park.

Tonight’s planned sleeping destination is Scranton, PA, however I figure we can get close enough and stay in the Towanda Motel. I have stayed here before, while traveling US 6, and expect to easily get a room. We get to Towanda only to find some kind of festival going on in town and the place is booked. Sigh. Off we go and I figure it is only another 70 miles to Scranton. I am guessing it is around 8pm and it is getting dark, and then darker and then just plain dark. PA is prime deer country and it begins to drizzle abit. We come across the Skyline Motel in Tunkhannock and MeAsWe agrees we should give it a shot. We check in and find the rate is very reasonable. We head out to get some dinner before we even go to our room. Back from dinner, I notice there are not a lot of cars at the place. Upstairs, key in the door, twist the knob, throw open the room and viola I have visual images of the opening scenes of CSI (all 3 series), Law and Order (all 3 series) and throw in Man with the Golden Arm for good measure, you get the picture. I am not sure if we are the victims or the investigators. We tough it out, just hoping we see the sun rise the next day. Actually the bed was quite comfortable.

On the road early (it’s Sunday and we have to make home today, work tomorrow), we grabbed breakfast at a PA diner (PA is also famous for diners) and head for the Tunkhannock Viaduct. This bridge always amazes me when I see it.

I have been trying to get back to Steamtown National Park for a year now and once we hit Scranton it is only another 260 miles to home, so we stop. Steamtown was a major train yard in its heyday. If you like old trains this is the place to visit.

We head out of Scranton and because of the time, I decide to slab it home from here to make some time. As we cross the Hudson and head into Danbury I figure we are so close to Weir National Park in CT and we need CT for a state for IBA National Park Tour and there are only 3 stamping locations in CT and 2 of them are not really dependable to be open due to fiscal constraints in CT, I head a bit south. Just one more INK and we can high tail it home.

Running out of sun light, we are on I84 and I ask MeAsWe if she is hungry. Of course we have to stop at one of my favorite places to eat and conclude if we get home by 10pm we will be arriving early.

All in all, this trip was a great trip, we had some exciting times, anxious times, solemn times and just plain boring times. Indiana and Illinois almost broke my desire to ride. They are one boring, hot, humid, straight, visually unexciting places to ride in. I actually said to MeAsWe at one point in the trip, when I get home I am selling the bikes and buying a Miata or a Mini Cooper to travel.

But this too shall pass.

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