Monday, day one we traveled to Connecticut and I met Fredís son and we slept at Fredís beautiful colonial home built in 1756. The wood floors are to die for.
Tuesday, the second day we traveled to NY to visit LA and Joyce.
Wednesday, the third day, we met Allison, Fredís old High School sweety, and her husband. We were headed for Pennsylvania Dutch country (which I never would have thought of if it werenít for the fact that I had read about purple chai going there a day or two previously, so thanks Chai!) when Allison suggested that we check out Centralia.
Centralia Pennsylvania is a burned out old mine town that has an underground coal mine fire that is STILL burning! We were going within 7 miles of it anyhow so we decided to go. I brought a camera but accidentally deleted the pictures I took. Sorry. Itís not that big of a loss though.
What happened is that we got there and the road into Centralia was blocked with earthen mounds on both ends of the road that goes through the town, another road was built around it that bypassed it. Fred and I walked in and although Iím not saying itís a bad karma place I think itís begun to collect weird vibes since being deserted. Itís obvious that itís become a teen hang out. The street has several spray painted signs declaring it a Highway to Hell. It was so still and silent as we walked in.
I began to wish we had a canary with us. We were warned by posted signs that there were noxious gases emanating from the ground. We walked around a corner that hid our final link with our car and our way out. It occurred to me that neither Fred nor I could fend off a thief or a gang of kids and I had ďThe RingĒ in my pocketbook. Neither of us had brought a cell phone in case something happened. Stupid. It was hot and not even an insect buzzed.
Around another corner the pavement was severely buckled from forces under the road. It didnít look safe to walk on. I had my doubts about off the road too. Warnings of sudden sink holes had been posted at the beginning of the road, right next to the NO TRESPASSING signs. Then I looked closer and there was a circle painted on the ground at the top of the highest buckle in the pavement. It read ďCARĒ further down I saw three more circles spaced about ten feet apart labeled BIKE, BIKE and BIKE. I thought, ďThis had to be the where a terrible accident happened, perhaps teenagers joyriding hit some of their own.Ē
All we could see ahead of us was more asphalt and no houses and Iíd had enough of Centralia by this point and we headed back to the car. As we left a family was heading in. They asked us if weíd seen anything and looked disappointed when we said, ďJust some heat buckled pavement.Ē They told us that one of their childrenís teachers had explored quite a way in and had taken pictures of deserted houses in a ghost town. They even said that there were still a few residents living there that had refused to leave when the government tried buying the town out to shut it down.
This sounded interesting and I thought of going back with them now that we had enough numbers to feel safer but it was hot, the day was getting older and I wanted to get to see some of Pennsylvania Dutch country before the light failed us. It was already 1:30, so we hit the road for Lancaster County.
We rolled into Bird In Hand heading east towards Intercourse Pennsylvania. This is the heart of the Amish Country. I saw NOTHING but traffic and tourist spots. We pulled over and decided to go for an Amish buggy ride in Abeís Buggy. It turned everything around for me.
It turns out that the slower pace of the buggy allowed me to finally SEE the Amish. It was a case of hiding in plain sight. I looked and walking up the driveway of a very normal looking house was a man in black pants and a straw hat with a beard. Running out to meet him was a woman in a handmade dress and apron with a bonnet covering her head who was followed by a simply clad child on a wooden ride toy. And so it was at many homes we passed. They arenít all living in sprawling farms harvesting and planting by horse and wooden plow.
I talked to the woman driving us, it turns out she was raised Amish until she left at 30 years old. The Amish branched out from Catholicism. Then the Mennonites branched out from them because the Amish were so strict about modern things. You can tell that an otherwise normal looking house is Amish because no power or phone lines go in to it. There were many such homes. We were told that they heat, cook and illuminate by alternative energies such as propane, wood and coal. They even have special motors hooked up to clothes washers and dryers and although they canít own or drive a car they can ride in one. So, many have learned trades such as plumbing and they are driven to job sites. Their lives arenít so very different from ours, just slower and more community centered.
And so a third day passes, we check into our Super 8 hotel (where the internet doesnít work AGAIN. I had to post from the parking lot of a library with an unsecured public connection.) We notice that gas in Pennsylvania is about $2.81 a gallon and we sleep in preparation for a full fourth day, a Thursday, in Hershey.