It’s a warm June day when I take off for Buffalo, New York, en route to Niagara Falls. Billy Joel serenades me, putting me in “a New York State of Mind.”
On Rt. 15N, wooden fences follow me on the undulating farmland, and clouds with well-defined edges, as if drawn with a fine-tip pen, hover overhead. Fabbioli Cellars and Creek Edge Winery, white barns, a boarded-up farmhouse, and orange day lilies fly past my window. A farm market offers “Fresh eggs and local honey,” and the Little Rock Motel promises a place to lay my head. I pass Barnhouse Brewery and the Old Lucketts Store with its “Vintage Hip” sign and its Beekeeper’s Cottage. This is vineyard and winery country — dotted with antiques, junk and farm markets — on this last shred of road in northern Virginia. This stretch through my home state is breathtaking, with its silos, barns, rolling green fields and golden grasses. The only time the bucolic scenery is interrupted is at the Valero gas station, which doubles as A Factory Cigarette Outlet.
I cross the Potomac and Maryland Welcomes You: We’re Open for Business. Signs show I’m on “America’s byways: Hallowed Ground.” Corn and hay fields surround me while Jaymay sings of “Niagara Falls.” TLC admonishes: “Don’t go chasing waterfalls,” but of course, that’s just what I’m doing. When I pass the Monocacy National Battlefield, I wonder when I’ll have time to visit to get a National Passport sticker and stamp.
On the way to Hagerstown, the sharply defined clouds give way to a white haze smeared over pale blue. I pass Catoctin Creek, Boonesboro, Smithsburg, and Sharpsburg. Antietam Battlefield reminds me of a happy anniversary with my husband in November of 2015. Deep Creek Lake brings back memories of several family weeks during past summers.
Before long, I’m welcomed to Pennsylvania: pursue your happiness. Phantom Fireworks promises All Fireworks Legal in PA! I’m curious about the town of Amaranth, which seems to have a questionable existence. Beyond it, a sign promises Beyond Reasonable Doubt, Jesus is Alive!
Amanda Shires sings “You are my home / Wherever you go / Anywhere that you stand / Is my piece of land.” I enjoy the lyrics and press replay several times. Lavender wildflowers brighten the roadside, but a dead deer soon spoils it. When I pass through Everett, I can’t help but think of a boy I dated in high school, Roy Everett, who was killed in car accident shortly after high school. Our romance, if you can call it that, lasted just prior to and shortly after the York County Fair, where we rode the Ferris Wheel together.
Pennsylvania seems an endless state, and here the white haze gives way to white clouds with grey underbellies. Jet streaks criss-cross the skies. I could stop at the Second Blessings Coffeehouse, but then I’d just have to make more rest stops. Juniata Trading Co has a U.S. flag fluttering on every post and Bygone Days offers treasures from lost times. If I so desired, I could find Harness Racing at the Bedford Co. Fairgrounds.
Soon, I’m heading north on 99 to Altoona. I sing along to the song “Said Nobody” by Old Dominion:
Don’t give me a kiss
Cause I don’t wanna taste your lips
Said nobody, ever
I speed by other places: Saint Clairesville, Osterburg, Blue Knob State Park, Claysburg, King, Roaring Spring, Portage, Hollidaysburg, and Tyrone. Road construction forces drivers to bump along for miles on the shoulder. Wind farms twirl out-of-tandem on the ridgeline. A dilapidated trailer park has a sloppy handwritten sign in front: “Trump Make America Great Again.” Ugh.
John Prine sings of “Summer’s End” and “Caravan of Fools,” both of which I love and play again and again. I fall in love with John Prine in fact, especially when he sings in “Lonesome Friends of Science:”
I live down deep inside my head
Where long ago I made my bed.
I get my mail in Tennessee,
My wife, my dogs, my kids and me
Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh
How I love the uh-huhs! They’re so much fun to sing along with when you don’t know the lyrics. 🙂
I continue the endless drive past orange day lilies along a creek in a shadowy hollow. I consider whether I should stop at Bombshell Hair and Nail Salon. Could they really make me into a bombshell? The “Buddy Boy” Winery doesn’t match up to the classy names of Virginia’s wineries, but Philipsburg is a surprise with its charming porched houses and town square.
On 322W, I pass Larry’s Saw Shop and Destini’s Day Care and a place called Earth Worx. On I-80W to DuBois, I pass the Rosebud Mining Co and Empire Excavating. I hold my nose through a smelly town with belching smokestacks. Lindbergh Furniture has an airplane hovering over its front door. I pass the Custer City Drive-in and wonder about Custer’s last stand and what he has to do with Pennsylvania. Sadly the Expressway, like all good things, comes to an end, and it’s all two-lane roads from here on out. It’s slow going as I get stuck behind pokey vehicles. Speed limit signs admonish drivers to crawl through specks of towns.
Finally, Welcome to New York, The Empire State at 2:41 p.m. A sign says: God Bless America / America Bless God. I wonder why it doesn’t say, God Bless the World! These nativistic sentiments get on my nerves. I pass through the Hamlet of Kill Buck and think, really? Kill Buck?
I drop my bags at my Airbnb in the Elmwood neighborhood of Buffalo and take a walk up and down the cute street. After buying a few books at Talking Leaves…Books, I enjoy Shio Butter Ramen at Sato Modern Japanese Cuisine, accompanied by Kirin beer and hot sake. The perfect ending to a 7-hour-drive. 🙂
“ON JOURNEY” INVITATION: I invite you to write a 750-1,000 word (or less) post on your own blog about the journey itself for a recently visited specific destination. If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments. Include the link in the comments below by Wednesday, August 29 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this challenge on Wednesday, September 19, I’ll include your links in that post.
If you link after August 29, I will not be able to include your link in my next post, so please feel free to add your link to that post as soon as it publishes (since I’m leaving for the Camino on August 31).
This will be an ongoing invitation, once on the third Wednesday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!
the ~ wander.essence ~ community
I invite you all to settle in and read a few posts from our wandering community. I promise, you’ll be inspired!
Many thanks to all of you who wrote posts about the journey. I’m inspired by all of you! 🙂