A looooong beautiful drive in the boondocks

"Some beautiful paths cannot be discovered without getting lost"

John Green

June 1st 2017 State 1: Pennsylvania:

We woke up at the Camp Hill, PA Walmart well rested ready to start a new day. Lori on the other hand informed me about another commode malfunction the night prior. When she flushed the commode, urine sprayed up into her face instead. She was not very happy about pureling her face at 3 am, and I can’t say I blame her. Apparently you need to pump air out of the storage tank before flushing or the air pressure builds up and gives you a facial! We would surely not make that mistake again. We stopped in Walmart to pick up Claritin, facial tissues, a new propane hose, and a few other essentials. Organic yogurt parfaits for were on the menu for breakfast complete with fresh cherries, strawberries, bananas, chia seeds and granola, and they were delicious. We then departed for the city of Harrisburg, PA. to tour the Capitol building and then visit the Pennsylvania State Museum.

The PA Capitol building resembled a 19th century palace, and albeit stunning, it was over the top in our opinion. For example, the chambers of the House, Senate and Supreme Court are covered with massive murals by a commissioned artist depicting the entire history of the state. Each chamber has a stained glass rotunda, and they also imported pink marble from France for the walls. Both the House and the Senate each have 6 massive bronze and crystal chandeliers that weigh between 2 to 4 tons each! These chandeliers are so massive that every 2 years they need to erect scaffolding in each chamber 4 stores high to clean the chandeliers and to change the light bulbs. This process takes 2 weeks to complete for each chamber! It appears to me that there could be a better use for tax payer dollars, especially when gas is 50 cents per gallon more expensive when compared with surrounding states.

After completing our tour of the PA Capitol, we headed over to the State Museum which was largely unremarkable. Admission was steep at $7.00 per person, but I got in free as a veteran, and Lori got a AAA discount bringing her cost down to $6.00. The exhibits were a bit scattered, and lacked a unified theme besides being relevant to PA. It was interesting to see on display The 1681 Pennsylvania Charter, which the state’s founder William Penn authored establishing statehood. Another interesting exhibit was the famous brands that are manufactured in PA, and famous people that were from the state. I was surprised to learn that Martin Guitars, Heinz Ketchup, Crayola Crayons, Zippo lighters, Planters Peanuts, and a personal favorite Mrs. T’s Pierogis are all made in PA. Some famous people that are from PA include Basketball Hall of Famer, Wilt Chamberland, and Comedian Bob Sagot, and actor Kevin Bacon just to name a few. We also learned that Pop Artist, Andy Warhol was not only born in Pittsburgh PA, but the city also had a museum that housed the largest collection of his work in the entire world! We agreed the Andy Warhol museum would make the list as an absolute must see when we get to Pittsburgh!

After we left the State Museum in Harrisburg, we began the long trip via the windy back roads through rural Pennsylvania towards Pittsburgh. Once we left Harrisburg there was not much out there except churches, farms, cemeteries, and grazing animals. We passed a few Amish Buggies while enroute. The men smiled and waved to us to which we reciprocated. The rolling fields of rural PA did have beauty and charm, but after 4 hours of driving, it became a little redundant. We decided we needed a break, so we stopped at Twin Kiss for homemade soft serve ice cream. Teaberry was the flavor of the day, and I really wanted to try it. However, when the young lady with braided brunette pig tails with matching freckles who was working the counter pulled on the tap of the soft serve machine, unfrozen teaberry ice cream sprayed all over her. The young lady appeared embarrassed not to mentioned pink and sticky. Lori offered her a few napkins and shared how she was sprayed by her commode earlier in the day. The story lightened the mood and we all had a good laugh. Since the flavor of the day was clearly no longer an option, we decided on 2 child size vanilla soft serve cones. We then found a nearby state park to have our vegan “Tuna fish” Unfortunately, the gazebo where we sat was unknowingly in close proximity to a bees’ nest, which sent us both running and flailing across an open field. At least the park had running water, but there was no electric. Lori had fun time swinging on a nearby swing set. We hit the road again shortly after lunch, and the rural roads just went on and on and on and on. There was one farm after another with nothing in between! We pressed on in hopes to get close enough to Pittsburg for the following morning. We also had one last stop we wanted to see before dusk: the 9/11 memorial for Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA, and we arrived at the memorial at 8:30 pm.

As most of you surely know, on September, 11 2001 Al-Qaida terrorists hijacked 4 commercial passenger airplanes, and the 4th plane hijacked was Flight 93. However, some of the specifics of the events that day may not be as commonly known. The 9/11 hijackings were supposed to occur simultaneously, but Flight 93 was delayed 25 minutes prior to take off due to heavy morning congestion at Newark Airport. 46 minutes after takeoff, flight 93 is hijacked. After learning about the fate of the 3 other hijacked planes by phoning family members, the 40 passengers vote to attempt to regain control of the aircraft. Amidst the passenger revolt, the terrorists deliberately crash the plane into the Pennsylvania field at 563 mph, igniting 7000 lbs of jet fuel, spreading debris over 40 acres, leaving an impact crator 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep, and sending a plume of black smoke into the atmosphere that was seen over 70 miles away! Evidence later revealed the intended target of Flight 93 was most likely the US Capitol where Congress was currently in session. The plane crashed in Shanksville, PA 20 minutes’ flight time from the US Capitol. In addition, since Flight 93 crashed in an open field, evidence about the attacks was easily gathered including knives used in the attacks, terrorist passports, and Arabic documents depicting the planning of the attack. The memorial consists of 40 staggered but connected marble wall panels. Each individual panel names one of the passengers of Flight 93, and the panels are connected to each other to symbolize their unified heroic efforts. A 17-ton sand stone boulder depicts the actual impact site in the field. It was a somber moment to visit the final resting place of 40 ordinary Americans whose extraordinary actions on 9/11 saved countless lives. Their story will forever be etched in the pages of our history, and the sacrifices they made will always be honored.

We limped into the Somerset, PA Walmart around 10:30 pm, both physically and mentally exhausted after an almost 7 hour drive that day. Even our poor van Rosie was running on fumes. We thanked Rosie for getting us here safe, and then collapsed in exhaustion in our bed. Tomorrow we set a course for our last stop in the state; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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