A Family Gathering
It had been a long time since my extended family had gotten together, so my sister and I figured that we’d get the ball rolling. We found a place “somewhat” in the middle between our homes in Ohio and New Jersey, settled on a weekend and the let the rest of the family know. “We’ll be here on this date; you are all welcome to join us.” A surprising number of relatives showed up, and the location and accommodations were appreciated. We even set up a group dinner at a local historic Inn and celebrated my dad’s birthday and my cousin’s anniversary.
Since it would easily take me an entire day just to ride to Ohiopyle, and another day to ride back, I decided to take a four-day weekend so that I’d have as much time as possible to visit with family. Dan, unfortunately, could not take that Friday off and would join us some time on Saturday.
Traffic early on in the ride
Paying to get out of the state – ok!
My ride was uneventful, and I tried to stick to Amish country and the rolling farmland of south central Pennsylvania. I dipped down into Maryland and found lunch, and then meandered between Pennsylvania and West Virginia. I was hoping to get to the pre-arranged campground at a reasonable time so I resorted to I-68 for a few miles before jumping back off to enjoy some more back roads.
Near Cumberland Gap
The weekend was great and everyone had an enjoyable time, but come Sunday night various parties were heading home. I stuck around until Monday morning, when Dan and I left at the same time. Unfortunately, he was not coming home with me but instead would be riding north to visit with his family for the rest of the week. I had to be back at work on Tuesday so I couldn’t join him. Instead, I headed south into West Virginia, the heavy fog keeping the views of “coal country” to a minimum. My goal that morning was Cathedral State Park, home of one of the largest tracts of old growth hemlock forest in the north east.
I have ridden through a myriad of difference places and cultures and I have to confess that this was probably the creepiest area I’d been in. It wasn’t a fully tangible feeling, but I had the impression that the cliché of “You ain’t from around here, are you?” was never more true. But no one bothered me and the fog was slowly lifting as I entered the park. It was a very small park interspersed with hiking trails. I wasn’t exactly dressed for hiking, but I walked around anyway, hoping to get a sense of what the great forests of the east coast looked like before Columbus landed. I was disappointed. The forest looked like so many other forests I’d been to, although there was a certain elegance to the hemlocks that were prevalent to this area. A few rhododendrons poked their showy flowers through the leaves but for the most part it as just another forest. I returned to my bike and headed home.
I took my time in finding a route home, keeping off the interstate as much as possible. I ran across a sign for “Dan’s Rock Rd” and thought I’d check it out. Turns out that the road heads up for three miles before dead-ending at a heavily graffitied look out. There was a single vehicle in the parking area, a local maintenance van. By the time I climbed to the top of the look out, I could see the workers hanging out in the sunshine, taking their lunch break. I pondered if they were just a work crew or if they were a prison detail, but either way, they were polite and quiet. The view would have been much more impressive if it hadn’t been so hazy, and I didn’t spend much time there.
There were a couple of interesting stretches of road near Breezewood, PA as I sought to avoid I-78 and I really enjoyed the scenery of 655/964 near Mt Union. I eventually reached New Jersey and as I got closer, I stopped at a farm stand for some corn. She hadn’t heard of my town, so I mentioned a few towns nearby until she recognized one. She seemed more impressed that I’d be riding “all that way” after getting the corn than the fact that I’d just come from the other side of Pennsylvania, by way of West Virginia, no less. Maybe she had no idea just how big Pennsylvania is. I got home as the sun dipped into the horizon, another few hundred miles added to the BMW’s odometer.