September 13 Mercer PA to Casstown OH

Ohio (2) Leaving the western edge of Pennsylvania, we traveled toward the Ohio River, attempting to stay on back roads in order to see the countryside.  Once in Ohio, however, the challenge was on.  Southeastern Ohio is formed in the worn down foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, in addition to narrow winding roads, there are many small towns just a few miles apart, surrounded by meandering rivers and rolling hills. 

Our maps were too small a scale to have all we needed, the iPhone didn’t work at all, so I had only the GPS to figure out our route.  Garmin Girl was as frantic as I was, because trying to type in a town and a street took some time, and often we were there before I could get it all figured out.  Mo was driving, and I think by the time we got to Casstown I was more worn out from navigating that she was from driving all those curvy roads.

Ohio (15)Another reason for driving the back roads, was to drive far enough south to see a bit of West Virginia.  Just across from East Liverpool, on the Ohio River, is the small West Virginia town of Chester.  We saw the big bridge crossing the river, and managed to find our way across, meandering through town thinking we could cross back to Ohio on the Newell Bridge.  Maybe not!  The Newell bridge was very narrow, had a weight limit, and a toll!  Instead we meandered back across the interstate bridge and again found our way south and west through the back roads of Ohio.  Of course, we did this in order to add the state of West Virginia to our travel map!  I have heard several ideas about how this is done, but the one we follow is that if you drive in the state, you get to claim it!

The forests in this part of Ohio have been logged and burned repeatedly, and are somewhat scraggly.  We were on a road that showed a dotted blue line, meaning it was a scenic route, but we couldn’t find any signs saying what scenic route we were viewing.  We spent the day winding along the hills, through small towns and farms, until we reached the portion of Ohio that is reputed to be a center of Amish culture. 

Ohio (24) The AAA book on Ohio listed the restored town of Roscoe as a “Gem”, and being directly on our route we stopped in to view some of the shops and buildings.  It was charming, with a nice visitor center, and a living history museum that might have been interesting if we had the time to actually spend.  Instead, Mo dropped me off on the extremely narrow street at one end of town and picked me up at the other, after some time for me to shoot photos of some of the structures.  It was very hot, something new for us, since we have had cool rainy weather for most of our trip. At this point, we followed Mo’s friend Millie’s advice and detoured north to Berlin.

Ohio (36) What we found after arriving, was that Berlin is merely a very commercial central area for “Amish Country”, and the only way to really experience this area would be to travel much more slowly.  It takes time and a small vehicle to actually savor the slow lifestyle, to amble up the country lanes to visit farms and purchase Amish goods.  Instead we parked in a big parking lot advertising Amish tours, buggy rides, and crafts.  We stayed a very short time, since everything seemed incredibly generic and commercial and we wanted to arrive at our host’s home at a reasonable time.

Traveling west again toward Dayton, the roads finally leveled out.  Long, straight, level, and headed due west into the setting sun. The blinding sunlight served to illuminate nothing but the giant bug splatters from goodness knows what cloud of species battered our windshield along this route .Passing Urbana, blinded by the light, we got a glimpse of rows and rows of huge mansions along the main highway, quite close to the road, and incredibly close together.  Photos were impossible, but I discovered later that these kinds of homes seem to be very common in this part of the Midwest and would present more than enough photo opportunities for me.

Ohio (56) It was with grateful and worn out hearts that we pulled into the long winding driveway of Mo’s friends Don and Millie.  The connection goes back more than 40 plus years, and  Mo has attended the weddings of each of their three daughters, worked on her Master’s with Millie, camped with the family many times, and shared many life experiences during the time most everyone lived in the Bay Area of California.

Don and Millie relocated to Ohio a few years ago in order to be close to their three daughters, all living here with their husbands and families.  I had visited Don and Millie with Mo when they lived near me in Oakhurst, California, near Yosemite, and was delighted to see them again.  The driveway led to a beautiful brick home on 7 wooded acres, with huge lawns, a creek, and an  RV pad for the MoHo, complete with water, electric, and sewer.  Perfect!

Millie fed us supper and after a bit of visiting these two weary travelers settled into a much needed rest.

Photos for the rest of this day are linked here


September 12 Watkins Glen to Mercer, Pennsylvania

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here.

NewYork_to_PA (3) It was good to have two nights in one place, but it was also good to know we would be on the road again this morning.  Most days we only drive 200 to 300 miles or so, and even with only a night, we still have some time to settle in and enjoy.  We also took a bit of time in Wellsboro to upload photos and post all the blog posts that were backing up. We had no clue where we would spend the night, but with it being a Sunday and long after Labor Day, we hoped for something simple and accessible.

Before that, however, the Grand Canyon of the East called.  It was raining, and I knew that it would be difficult to peer into a deep canyon under those conditions.  But with no idea when we would be this way again, it was not a drive to be missed.  Shortly after we crossed into Pennsylvania, we came to the Pennsylvania Welcome Center, one of the best centers we have seen since the South Carolina Welcome Center during our 2007 cross country trip.

NewYork_to_PA (5)




The Pennsylvania Welcome Center was one of the best I have seen in the country

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Matt, the attendant on duty, was friendly and helpful, and even called around to find out where I could get free WiFi.

The attendant, Matt, was helpful and informative, and gave me a bag full of maps, directions, and brochures to help manage the day ahead.  Scenic Route 6 is a beautiful drive rated by National Geographic as one of the best in the nation.  It is over 400 miles long, following a route through several geographic divisions from the east to the western border of the state.  We joined the route about midway and followed it as far as the Allegheny River.

NewYork_to_PA (13) The side trip to the canyon was lovely, in spite of the rain, and the state park had no entrance fee, so hiking around in the fog was OK.  The canyon was shrouded in mist, except for a few moments when Pine Creek appeared thinly.  I bought a great book, however, that I read aloud for the rest of the route.  I learned about the geology, the landscapes, the history, both natural and human, of the great forest we drove through. We approached the highlands of the Allegheny Plateau, and for the first time I understood the relationship of ancient inland seas and glaciations in this part of the world.

It was a beautiful green day, punctuated by charming small towns filled with unique houses, and main streets that looked like they came from a Rockwell painting. In the afternoon, along the Allegheny River, Mo had a spontaneous moment and decided suddenly to cross the river to a small town called Tidioute.  I still don’t have a clue how to pronounce that name, but I won’t forget the town!

We drove across the river and down the main street, continuing toward the edge of town, and the street just kept going. And going. And going.  It kept getting more narrow, and there were no turnarounds to be found.  After a few miles the trees started closing in and we finally decided to unhook the baby car and get turned around.  whew.  Once we hooked up again and headed back through town, I became NewYork_to_PA (56)enamored with the homes and buildings, and suddenly we realized that we had missed the bridge.  The road was once again getting narrow and wandering off into who knows where.  Garmin Girl showed a single road, with no side roads, no turnarounds.  So once again we drove into a gravel driveway near the city reservoir and tried to unhook.  Problem was that we were on a hill, and backing the MoHo with the car behind it isn’t as easy as backing a trailer.  After some tries, we finally managed to get unhooked, turned around, managed to get rehooked and finally back across the Allegheny River!

The rest of the evening was uneventful, meandering through small towns until we reached I-80 and I-79 towards our chosen campground at the little town of Mercer.  The camp is pleasant, with enough space between sites, with electricity, water, cable tv and seriously good WiFi!  I made some chicken quesadillas for a simple supper and have enjoyed the time to read and write a bit, catching up with my kids and friends, checking the weather, and basically reconnecting with the world again.