Welcomed by a smiling face and a torrential rain the adventure begins.
After a 30-minute transfer in the huge marble station and another two-hour ride, I am chauffeured to the hilly Rice landscape.
Hamburgers and beer and long night of conversations getting adjusted to being in someone else space and though they are more than accommodating, I am an intruder in their world.
I observe the surroundings of what makes these two comfortable. An earthy hue is the tone with sparse arrangement and one overall theme – family.
We talk and talk, not only scratching the surface of years apart until the rainy night brings sleep.
Tonight I sleep on a blowup bed. I vaguely remember having one, but this is the super-sized version. It is always interesting sleeping in someone else’s bed for it is the most personal of spaces.
The next day, after sweet goodbyes and a cup of Joe, my tour guide directs me to his hometown of “New Cumberland”(I wonder what happened to “Ole Cumberland”?).
With the possibility of rain, we wander down the pavement lined with new American homes on one side and woodlands waiting to be plowed on the other. Suddenly the houses change from a former time, lay out in a simple grid of narrow streets not ready for automotive city traffic. Every lawn and bush and tree is meticulously groomed showing the lushness from the recent rains. My tour guide meticulously extracts a few discards of the unthinking being a good citizen of the planet.
The first stop, a “favorite” coffee shop / bakery, not crowded with guest, but the empty shelves show how popular this establishment is in the township. We settle down by the window as I am taught the history of every storefront across the street obscured by the signage painted on the glass. The stories are fascinating and my host seems to understand the importance of knowing the history of his location in intimate detail. He would be the perfect author for an updated book since he is drawn into the wondrous adventure of history, even to the point of becoming a reenactment participant.
We wander down the concrete sidewalk where storefronts turn to home fronts. A steady stream of traffic on the two-lane main thoroughfare, but at a slower “small town” pace is the only sound in the quiet of the mountain venture.
A beautiful Gaelic shop with delicate lace and Irish silver surprises the observer. The next stop for a cold drink and a bite to eat under familiar music is, of course, next door at an Irish pub. The bar maid is welcoming and the dark wooden walls give a feel of a comfortable evening with friends having a pint, and maybe a winch or two. Then to the amazing art shops, with fine examples of creativity trying to make a living through display. From the visions of craftsmanship a flood of ideas spout, bringing back an earlier discussion of a “Joe’s garage & Tiki Lounge”. A purchase may have been a nice gesture, but like children, you don’t give couples what they “may not” want, so we move on.
Avoiding the drops, we retrace our path back up the long climb on the mountain trail, without my guide losing a pace or breathe.
I need a drink. He needs to start the Turkey Chili.
He knows the recipe, so all I can offer is a sharp knife and conversation. The ingredients come together quickly onto a boil as we relax in stories of far away adventures and distant dreams.
His bride interrupts the cocoon of comfort, frustrated by the late start in cooking, but more so the soggy setting she has endured for several days. She is a Southern girl who needs sunlight to refresh just as I have needed space to recharge my batteries after the winter’s chill.
Cake and fresh fruit topped the dinner, cooked to perfection. With still a funk in the air, a game of “Scrabble” is suggested. I had not played this game in over a half a century, but as a polite guest, I was willing to try. The hostess revealed in her champion skills, yet tonight she would be second best.
Competition is not my forte, but laughter filled the evening. How many words can use three Os, a Z and a W?
Morning came as the plastic bed wrapped around me. Like Marion’s front tire when I returned home, air only holds a space where there are no holes.
Several breakfast franchises are recommended for our morning venture, but I suggest a small diner we passed walking yesterday. With some anticipation, my host agreed. The intimate dinner of a couple of tables and tiny counter seemed the perfect reflection of where the locals go. The cramped customers knew the owner with smiles and familiarity while giving us the stares of “outsiders”.
Our next stop was to get Triple G wired. His bride waited patiently while we traveled from one-un-opened-music-shop-to-another. We found one chord that fit the requirement and wandered back as I wondered how such a small community could sustain so many music shops. As we looked in the window of one of the shops, a long-haired proprietor came out and gave an excellent sales pitch on the sidewalk. “It will be $79 tomorrow too,” He continued. Without touching the guitar, it seemed like a good deal, but we had spent enough time here.
A few more local sites of beautiful mountains, then our journey moved onto the Chocolate Factory. Being in Penn state, the town built around chocolate was a must. I had a vision, but no idea just how big a deal candy was here. Parking lots the size of football fields held rows of school buses. Even on a Friday, not even in the vacation season, hundreds were wandering the factory where Kisses are made. The free ride in the slow moving roller coaster swivel car held a Disney presentation of singing cows (luckily I forgot the song quickly) telling how cocoa, sugar and milk are blended into a variety of dentist delight. It is obvious why America is overweight. A woman talks about an ingredient for brownies but I think she is planted. This is commercialism at it’s finest. All those hyped up kids on a field trip to a sugar rush center?
We continue on with a bypass around a curve to an empty son’s house with unbelievable bracing and a curious snake. See where the projects are and the strong family ties.
Later that evening, the Triple G Boogie Band plugged in and jammed, throwing caution to the wind.
The weekend chatter of ideas for “Joe’s garage and Tiki Lounge” man’s land, description of an unknown artist’s painting, guitar stair step, and settlers vs. explorers turns to the Big Event!
A citywide wine tasting that wasn’t really “the event”, but an excuse for a grand opening to a coffee, ice cream & bookstore. Parking the chariot on Main Street, I was told the history of the third floor apartment with a bathroom in the hallway.
A flag marked the spot and rabbits opened the doors as deco booths awaited readers and eaters in the flush of excitement. After pleasantries, we continue our journey allowing the proprietor to assemble her thoughts.
Down the narrow street, the history of the oldest establishment in the burg was quoted by verse, and being a tavern we had to investigate. To my disappointment there were no tankards but an information center requesting foundation money for viewing an old building. Remembering people were shorter then, I bang my head on the wooden beams before we travel to the civil war to gather glasses and another participant for the next adventure.