on the road

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gadfly homepage on the road home last contact: 8/2007 first contact: 7/2000

PA Trip Stats (7/07):


Counties visited: 24

Last visited: 8/2007


Best county:   Erie Co.

Town visited most: Philadelphia

Places slept in: Philadelphia, Coraopolis, Somerset, East Stroudsburg

Most impressive town: Philadelphia

Least impressive town: Can't think of one. It is an impressive state.

Biggest town: Philadelphia

Most scenic area: the Alleghenies along the PA Turnpike near Bedford

Most scenic spot: lighthouse in Presque Isle SP

Signature Food: cheese steaks in West Philly, mmmm

Three words: working, tough, genuine

Tourist Trap: Liberty Bell

Official Nickname: Keystone State

Road Trips: Niagara-Toronto Loop (3/03), Patriotic New Year (12/06), Oceanic Mom (4/07), New England (7/07)


Neighboring States: DE, NY, NJ, MD, WV


Accents:  I have encountered three distinct accents in this state. In Erie most people speak with a Midwestern accent. Philly's accent is almost like New York's, but was also different in many ways. Pittsburgh has the best accent...The residents pronounce vowels in a very drawn out way.


Heroes: The Italians of Philly love their political machine mayors, most especially Frank Rizzo. A tour guide was gushing over Rizzo. Of course, he was Italian and not one of the people Rizzo liked to sick his police force on. A statue of Sly Stallone's character Rocky Balboa stands in a place of honor in North Philly. There was once a law that no building could be taller than the statue of William Penn downtown, but no one comes close to the respect and fame as Benjamin Franklin. His get-going spirit is honored on every corner of the state.


Major passes:  Flying over the well-organized ridges of the Alleghenies left me awe-struck in 2000 and I always wanted to drive across the state. I made it halfway in 12/2006 when I drove from Ohio to Maryland and went over this same a route a few months later in 3.2007. In 8/2007 I completed my mission when I passed from the Poconos to the Ohio border along I-80. Since there was major construction, I had plenty of time to enjoy the view.

First Contact: I arrived in Pennsylvania by plane in July of 2000 before driving through the northwest tip three years later. I was in Philly representing NEIU at a program surrounding the Republican Nat'l Convention that nominated George W. Bush. The city was hot with passion for the two weeks I was there. Philadelphians definitely wanted it noted that the presence of Republican hordes from Texas was not appreciated.

Philadelphia Co. (7/2000)

Philadelphia. Spent two weeks during an internship with NY Post working the Republican Nat'l Convention. Because this city is completely different depending on where you are, I will divide it into neighborhoods. Two weeks is plenty of time to really get to know a place and this will not do it justice. The people of Philly are tough, for sure, and divided by ethnicity. A politically-charged atmosphere existed everywhere. West Philly. I stayed here at the University of PA. A beautiful campus surrounded by some of the roughest neighborhoods in the city. I was almost mugged only once. Pickpockets work the college and yuppy hangouts to the immediate north of UPenn. It seems that the poorer residents ride the underground trollies while the more affluent ride the subways. South Philly. Hard-working Italian area with a vibrant night life. Some streets are very narrow and full of life. The stadiums are all located along Broad Street in an inhuman, soulless complex. Central Philly. Home to the spirit of Ben Franklin and Independence NHP. It is bustling at times, especially around the grand City Hall, and lonely at other times. North Philly. There is a great view of the city from the Art Museum. A good reward for Rocky Balboa when he finished his stair-climbing. Independence NHP. Enjoyed walking the Mall and seeing the grave of Franklin. My favorite stop was Christ Church, but the crowds were gathered around Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell (back when you could actually touch the crack before some jerk attacked it with a hammer to hear it go ding.)

Erie Co. (3/2003)

Erie. Don't let the name fool you, Erie is a beautiful little city that is bustling with activity. It is one of the better Great Lakes cities. Presque Isle SP. This little near island creates a haven away from Erie. The scenery along the shoreline of Lake Erie is hard to beat. There is room for everyone. It will not take one long to find a private place along the beach to enjoy the breeze.

Lawrence Co. (12/2006)

Drove through twice along PA-60.

Beaver Co. (12/2006)

Drove through twice along PA-60.

Allegheny Co. (12/2006)

Coraopolis. Slept in a hotel near the airport here. The airport appeared out of nowhere. Like Birmingham, most of the area is hidden in valleys. It is easy to get lost in the roads that go up and down. Somehow, though, an airport and major shopping centers fill what seem like impenetrable hills. Pittsburgh. The city of destiny for the Old Northwest. I have twice driven straight through without stopping (save for a traffic jam). Despite this. was excited to see the site of old Fort Duquesne and the picturesque, steep hillsides that overlook the relatively flat point where the three rivers meet. Pittsburgh is the kind of city that would do well in a wrestling match.... if that makes sense to you.

Westmoreland Co. (12/2006)

Drove through this hilly Allegheny county twice along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Somerset Co. (12/2006)

Somerset. I stopped over in this mining town during my second trip through the PA Alleghenies in March of 2007. Somerset is a nice little town. Everyone we met was very friendly. I did avoid the Park'n'Eat that everyone recommended and stopped for an excellent meal at the Pine Grill. The town, especially the downtown area, feels pleasant and warm. It looks a bit like the kind of town one might build for their model trains to circle around. The two biggest tourist attractions were sites of disasters. Flight 93 NM. This is the spot where one of the four planes hijacked by terrorists on 9/11/01 went down. Evidence suggests that the passengers took the plane down here to thwart terrorist plans. The site on a windy hilltop, was full of memories left by friends of victims. A chain link fence was covered with mementos brought in by visitors. Makeshift memorials are kept and visitors, including myself, walked around silently, perhaps, recollecting our own experiences of that fateful day. Eyewitnesses to the crash and recovery were on site. They plan on building a national memorial on the site complete with granite plaques and informational signage, but I prefer it (at least for the time being) as it is now. It is personal and touching. This was a real eye-opening look for me at how the public approaches history. Shanksville. This tiny town was the closest to the 9/11 crash.

Bedford Co. (12/2006)

Drove through this county twice along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The mountains are substantial here, providing many scenic views.

Fulton Co. (12/2006)

Drove down the Alleghenies along I-70 to the Potomac River through this county.

Monroe Co. (7/2007)

Delaware Water Gap. Stroudsburg. East Stroudsburg. Bushkill.  Coming soon!

Carbon Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Luzerne Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Columbia Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Montour Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Northumberland Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Union Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Clinton Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Centre Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Clearfield Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Jefferson Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Clarion Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Butler Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Venango Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Mercer Co. (7/2007)

Passed through along I-80 on the way home from the Poconos.

Independence Hall in Philadelphia was the birthplace of the U.S. It now stands in the shadows of skyscrapers. (2000)

Lighthouse on Presque Isle near Erie. (2003)

A bridge spans the Monongahela where it meets the Allegheny to form the mighty Ohio River in Pittsburgh. (2006)

Each of these little angels carries the name and memory of one hero that died on Flight 93 during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The crash site near Shanksville was home to a large makeshift memorial. (2007)

The Flight 93 NM reflects what is to be an American better than most places. (2007)

The backroads of Southern Pennsylvania, like this one in Somerset County, cut through steep Allegheny hills often shrouded with fog.(2007)



Photos (c) 2000-2007 by S. Plencner All rights reserved.