“I’m having an interesting evening tonight. I had planned to camp in the Allegheny National Forest, but about the time I found the campground, the radio stations were reporting tornado and flash flood warnings for the entire area.”
So I found a motel, and then the wind howled and the rain poured, and the power went out as the cold front that had been chasing me since Cincinnati finally went by overhead. I spent that night wondering if I was going to wake up to find a tree on top of my car.
The rest of the day was fine, however, even if I did get lost for the very first time on this journey. It wasn’t my fault, either. I drove a couple of miles north on the Interstate from New Philadelphia, to an exit which, according to the map, was a state highway heading east. Except the map lied. There was no state highway, just about three unlabeled country roads. I picked one at random, and headed east. About an hour later I finally stumbled across the state highway I was supposed to have been on all along.
“It just goes to show you how relaxed I’ve become about such things, because it didn’t freak me out at all. Five years ago I’d have been in tears. Now it’s no biggie.”
I threaded my way through any number of small towns, and under hundreds of flaming maple trees to Youngstown, where I was forced back onto I-80 (it was either that or struggle through Youngstown on city streets) until I crossed the border into Pennsylvania. There was no loud sucking noise, thank goodness, but I did see a sign that made me doubletake: “I-80 East New York.” As in New blooming York City. I just stared at it.
A few miles into Pennsylvania, I came to another state highway headed north and escaped off the Interstate again into the Allegheny — well, the locals call them mountains, but they’re really just hills. Pretty hills, but hills:
The road wound in and around on itself following the river and on into the forest, which was positively glowing with color.
I passed through a small town with a sign proclaiming proudly that it had just celebrated its bicentennial four years ago, which impressed me greatly. You have to understand. I grew up in the western U.S. There’s just not much except perhaps a few Spanish missions in California and the pueblos in New Mexico that are more than 150 years old. Antiquity is something I’m not all that used to, so it makes a big impression on me.
After I decided it probably wasn’t going to be safe or comfortable to camp that night, I continued north across the line into New York State, where I found the motel where the power went out. I was so glad I had my camping lantern with me, although the electricity was only out for an hour or two.
I was looking forward to another place on my “I’ve always wanted to see it” list the next day. That is, if my car didn’t end up flattened by one of those enormous flame-colored maple trees around the parking lot…