Indian Caverns and Lincoln Caverns

I spent the second day of the Labor Day weekend in caves. It was raining on
Sunday but this does not matter if you are going to be inside caves. But I don’t
like driving in the rain. For this trip I had to drive west, deeper into the
heart of Central Pennsylvania, to some caves near State College. I visited
Indian Caverns, and Lincoln Caverns because it is a short drive from Indian Caverns. I was particularly eager to see Indian Caverns because I thought this might be the Indian caves we visited when I was a child. I’m pretty sure this was the place because they had Indian blankets for sale. We had Indian blankets and an Indian drum for years and years after our cave trip. The other possibility was that we went to Indian Echo Caverns, but it makes more sense that we stuck to Central PA.

I’ve never been to State College so that may be a good city to visit in the
future. Bellefonte may also be a cool little town because it is known for its
Victorian architecture. I don’t drive west very often so I’m still unfamiliar
with the highways in that direction. Pass Lock Haven U.S 220 South merges with
Interstate 80 in a way that often throws me off. I used my GPS to navigate on
this trip. For the caves I had to use GPS coordinates so I learned how to enter
them into my TomTom XL 340S. I also printed out cheat sheets because the GPS
never tells you what street to look for. For example, it will tell you “Right
turn ahead” long before you reach the target street and then “Turn right and
take the highway” but it won’t tell you its Route 45 West you should be on. So
it is crucial to have some idea where you should be going. I did notice that it
warns you when you are speeding and it gives the distance to the next turn.

I saw some great scenery on the drive to the caves even though it was
raining. There was a lot of mist around the mountains. I also saw a lot of
farmland and fields of corn. Somewhere along the highway you are tempted to take
your eyes off the road because there is a vast valley that you can see below.
Unfortunately there is no place where you can pull off the road to enjoy the
view.

Indian Caverns has a curious rounded building built into the mountainside.
You have to cross a rickety bridge over a creek to get to it. It is located in
the woods and has a very rustic look. I arrived at the cave around 10:30 a.m.
but I had to wait a half hour for the 11:00 a.m. tour. The gift shop had many
Indian themed gifts which were tempting but I bought a DVD Pennsylvania
Caves and Caverns
, which lists eight caves. I have been to five of those
eight caves. Fortunately they also had a restroom which I needed after the two
hour drive. I passed the time leafing though a travel guide to the
Juniata River Valley. The only thing I saw of any interest to me was Lewistown, a
town where my sister used to live when she found a job there. Later at Lincoln
Caverns I found more interesting brochures like one for the Flight 93 Memorial
and the 2014 Central PA Visitor’s Guide which is devoted to State College but
includes some Williamsport attractions.

Indian Caverns

Indian Caverns

When the tour began at 11:00 a.m. I was the only person in the tour group but
later a few other people joined the tour after we were half way through the
caverns. There was the usual business of turning off the lights to show us how
pitch black it was without the light. I am likely to confuse this cave tour with
the Lincoln Caverns which I visited shortly after, but I remember that this cave
allows Boy Scouts to stay overnight in the cave, without lights, to earn merit
badges. There are no bats in the caves because all the bats are dying from
White-Nose Syndrome.

Indian Caverns Interior

Indian Caverns Interior

It was a short drive to the next cave, Lincoln Caverns near Huntington PA.
There are actually two separate caves to see here; Lincoln Caverns and Whisper
Rocks. The gift shop had a large selection of souvenirs and I bought a chunk of
polished ocean jasper for $15.00 before I left. As I mentioned before, they had
a wide selection of free brochures including brochures for show caves all across
America.

Lincoln Caverns

Lincoln Caverns

There were more people in my tour group at the Lincoln Caverns. It was
drizzling so I was glad to get into the caves. I brought along my light jacket
because the temperature is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit in these caves. The
Lincoln Caverns had some steep steps and narrow passages. I managed to take a
lot of decent photos in these caves. At one point the tour guide turned out all
the lights to show us the pitch black. This is part of every cave
tour. But she didn’t leave the lights off for long. There was a short uphill
climb to reach the other cave system, Whisper Rocks, which has its own door. The
two caves are not connected so we had to go back out in the rain to reach the
other one. There were many spiders hanging out at the cave entrance, over the
door, and some of the kids got a little hysterical over that. In this cave I saw
some excellent examples of flowstone. Yes, I have picked up some of the cave
lingo after this trip.

Lincoln Caverns Interior

Lincoln Caverns Interior

I was really starving after leaving Lincoln Caverns but unfortunately there
are no places to eat on U.S. 220 North. I drove pass a little diner that looked
interesting but it was raining too hard to stop. I didn’t eat anything until I
got home at around 4:00 p.m.

Woolrich Outlet Store

Woolrich Outlet Store

Before I went home I did manage to squeeze in one other side trip. I visited
the Woolrich Flagship Store and Outlet in Woolrich PA. It was slightly difficult
to reach because there was a detour around some road construction. Woolrich PA
is just across the Lycoming County line in Clinton County so technically it is
in my neck of the woods. Towering evergreens line the road into town. There are
attractive ranch houses along the street so the town almost looks like a summer
camp with houses instead of cabins. Woolrich sells expensive sportswear and
outdoor clothing in red plaid. It is the perfect fashion for Pennsylvania’s
woodsy outdoor recreation. I’ve been hiking wearing the same clothes that I wear
at the office so I need to buy some outdoor clothing. Woolrich clothing should
be ideal since it shows local pride. I only bought a short-sleeve plaid shirt
because their prices are steep, even with the discount. That shirt sells for
$55.00 but I got it for $29.99. I also bought a black bear teddy bear wearing a
red plaid Woolrich jacket since it is a fine example of Pennsylvania kitsch.
Lincoln Caverns actually had a brochure for the Woolrich Original Outlet Store.
It is considered a tourist attraction in its own right and there are billboards
for the store along Interstate 80. The store did have an attractive interior
with an indoor waterfall and old Woolrich advertisements from the 1950s. There
was a table with travel guides to Williamsport and Pennsylvania but I already
have all those.

Posted in General, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Pocono Towns On Route 6

I began my Labor Day weekend with a road trip through the northern Pocono mountains. I visited three towns along Route 6; Honesdale, Hawley, and Milford. There aren’t many large cities or towns in the Pocono region so I’ve completed my tour of the major towns. Future trips will have to focus on state parks or individual attractions.

My driving directions to Honesdale were a bit complicated and called for me to head directly east to Wilkes-Barre. Unfortunately I missed the exit for 220 North to Hughesville so I took the usual route to Interstate 80 instead. From Interstate 80 you take exit 260B to Interstate 81 North. I’m familiar with this highway from my trips to Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. The Scranton / Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area is huge and a major influence on the entire north east region of the state so I should spend more time exploring that area. I drove further north than Scranton to reach Route 6 and passed Carbondale. I used my GPS to navigate the rat’s nest of highways in the Scranton area. These details may be boring, but it is always a challenge to drive around Pennsylvania so it is worthwhile to note the details.

My first destination was Honesdale, home of Dwight Schrute’s Beet Farm and Bed and Breakfast. Honesdale was the largest town on my trip. Honesdale is not particularly interesting but there are many summer camps in the area. Between Carbondale and Honesdale I passed Waymart in Wayne County and Keen Lake. My research for this trip was very preliminary so I didn’t have any information on the surrounding area. I tried to be very observant and I will mention many little details for future reference.

Once I reached Honesdale I found a parking area near the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center did not appear to be open but I didn’t try the door. The Visitor Center is also were you board the Stourbridge excursion train. Unfortunately, the trains are no longer running. I saw some passenger train cars but no train engines. I parked behind some passenger train cars labeled Copper King Express. I immediately located the Wayne County Historical Society museum located in the Torrey Land Office of the former Delaware and Hudson Canal company. The museum was open so I made that my first stop. I saw a replica of the first steam locomotive in the United States, the Stourbridge Lion. There was also a Delaware and Hudson passenger gravity car, the Eclipse, which you could enter. A TV with a VCR was in the passenger car. I watched a short film on how the canal system and later trains were used to transport coal from Carbondale and Scranton to New York City. There were several other interesting exhibits; photos of some Lackawaxen River flooding in winter with large icebergs in the city streets, an exhibit of things you might find in your grandmother’s attic, Indian relics and arrowheads, and glass display cases filled with cut glass, etched glass, and fine crystal. The museum had a bathroom upstairs which I used. After a long road trip it is important to know where to find a bathroom. Before I left I picked up a few brochures. A booklet entitled “Navigate the Northern Pocono Mountains” looks like it will be particularly helpful for future trips to this area.

Copper King Express

Copper King Express

After leaving the museum I began to wander around Honesdale photographing everything in sight because I need photos to complete my custom travel guide. I did spend some time gathering photos of Honesdale from Flickr so I had some idea of what to look for. I found the headquarters of Highlights for Children Inc, publishers of children books and a well known magazine for children. I remember those magazines from Elementary School. This company does have an IT department but most of their IT positions are based in Ohio. Only their editorial department is based in Honesdale.

I also found Central Park and the Wayne County Courthouse. I took lots of photos in the park which has a fountain and a small civil war monument. There were three churches north of Central Park with exceptionally tall steeples so I took photos of that too.

Eventually I found Main Street Books, an used book store on Main Street. I found an interesting book, Wise Men Fish Here: The Story of Frances Steloff and the Gotham Book Mart by W. G. Rogers. Although that New York City book store is long gone, I thought it would be interesting to read about the literary history.

I also found the Music & Video Express store which sells home electronics, appliances, cell phones, CDs, and DVDs. Their DVD collection was small but showed excellent taste. I bought a film by Mike Leigh, Life Is Sweet, The Criterion Collection. I bought a copy of the local newspaper, The Wayne Independent, in front of the Honesdale Post Office. It is always important to check out the local media. However, the major publication in the Poconos is the Pocono Record and I visit their web site often to keep up on the news. Recently there have been many fires in downtown Stroudsburg and even one of the Delaware Water Gap trolleys caught on fire and burned up completely.

I was getting very hungry, so for lunch I went to Eleganté Restaurant & Pizzeria. I didn’t do any research on restaurants in Honesdale so I picked this place just because it was open and looked like a distinctive local establishment. Inside, this Italian restaurant was surprisingly large, stretching back a long distance. I had a Salami Hero (also known as a hoagie or cosmo), a glass of Pepsi, and some chips. For desert I had mint ice cream with chocolate chips. This meal cost less than $12.00 but I tipped a few dollars extra. I noticed that the waitresses used the word “Hon” just like in Baltimore, “Is everything OK, hon?”.

My favorite photo from my trip to Honesdale is of a stuffed black bear that was sitting on the sidewalk to promote a business. Pennsylvania is supposed to be crawling with black bears but I’ve never seen one in the wild. The Promised Land State Park is said to be a good place to find black bears and Lycoming County has the largest population of black bears in the state. Black bears are typical Pennsylvania kitsch. For example, in Jim Thorpe I ate at the Bear Appetit Cafe which took the black bear motif to extremes and of course there is the Crippled Bear Inn near my house.

Stuffed Black Bear

Stuffed Black Bear

As I left Honesdale I noticed that all the big box stores and the Walmart Superstore were located just outside of downtown on Route 6. I drove south on Route 6 to reach Hawley PA, the next town on my itinerary.

Hawley PA was the smallest town on my road trip. It is best known for Lake Wallenpaupack, a large man made lake created by PPL. I was slightly familiar with the town from my previous visit to Ehrhardt’s Waterfront Resort, which is located on Lake Wallenpaupack, but I had never actually been in Hawley. Downtown Hawley is only four blocks wide and three blocks in length so there is not much there. I did see quite a few antique stores.

The first thing you see when approaching the town of Hawley is The Settler’s Inn, a hotel and restaurant housed in a Tudor mansion. This is where I took a wrong turn and wound up on Route 590. I followed this road for quite a ways hoping to get back to Hawley but I can see on Google Maps that it never does. Eventually I turned around and went back to the Settler’s Inn and went into town. I think I parked on Keystone Street on the west side of town.

I quickly located the only three establishments which are of any interest in Hawley; the Hawley Diner, the Ritz Company Playhouse, and Penny Lane Candies. The Hawley Diner is an old-fashioned diner. I wish I had waited to have lunch there, but I was too full to eat again so I didn’t check it out. I did buy some candy at Penny Lane Candies. This was a fun candy store where you can fill up a small plastic bag with a variety of pieces of candy. They had old fashioned candy like root beer floats and fancy candy like gourmet jelly beans. They weigh your bag of candy and charge by the pound. The Ritz Company Playhouse is a community theater so that interested me the most.

Ritz Company Playhouse

Ritz Company Playhouse

I stopped in at the Lake and Leisure Shop which sold souvenirs and tee shirts. They had a variety of cheap goods like ceramic figurines, lots of black bear figurines of course, but I settled for a Bee Gees CD, “Monday’s Rain”, for some 1970s nostalgia. This album does not have any of their hits on it but the songs will probably be new to me.

I didn’t spend much time in Hawley. Most visitors to this town are probably there to enjoy the lake. But I did find the Riverwalk Trail to Hawley Park and walked along the dyke path.

The final town on Route 6 in Pennsylvania is Milford PA. After that you are in New Jersey and we don’t want to go there! I didn’t plan on visiting Milford at all so I had done no research on this town. But I was done with Hawley PA by 2:30 p.m. so I had plenty of time to squeeze in Milford. I was also eager to complete my tour of the Poconos after the long drive to get there. The drive to Milford along Route 6 took a long time. Just outside of town I saw the Apple Valley Family Restaurant and I was tempted to stop there. It looked like a small empire similar to Country Cupboard in Lewisburg. But I proceeded along Route 6 and parked as soon as I could on West Hartford Street just before 7th Street. This was too far from downtown. I should have parked further up the street.

It was pretty hard to identify downtown Milford. I can see on Google Maps that Broad Street is the heart of the town and I did find my way there but it looks more like a residential area than a downtown area. The only clue that you are downtown is that the shops seem fancier and there are a few distinctive buildings. This was a rare attempt by me to completely wing it without being the least prepared to find anything. Nevertheless I did manage to find; the Milford Diner, Hotel Fauchere (an important landmark), the Tom Quick Inn, First Presbyterian Church, Books and Prints at Pear Alley, Dimmick Inn and Steakhouse, the Milford Community House, Pike County Public Library, Beer Barn, Chang Mao Chinese restaurant, and the Turkey Hill Minit Market. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about these places because I didn’t do my homework.

Hotel Fauchere

Hotel Fauchere

I did stop in at the Books and Prints at Pear Alley. They sell lots of rare books, leather bound books, and prints but they also have used books. I found a good book Hauntings, Tales of the Supernatural edited by Henry Mazzeo with illustrations by Edward Gorey. The illustrations by Edward Gorey made this a good buy because he is a famous gothic artist. I only paid $12.00 for this book but it might be worth more than that.

I left Milford at 4:00 p.m. and didn’t get home until 7:00 p.m. since I had to drive half way across Pennsylvania. My GPS led me to take Interstate 84 all the way to Scranton. There was a rest area on Interstate 84 where I picked up some brochures for the Scranton area. Finally, I should mention that I stopped at the Lycoming Mall before going home and bought the Moon Pennsylvania travel guide. I don’t really need another travel guide to the state but I’m glad I bought this one because their chapter on the Williamsport area is impressive. Every other travel guide only mentions Little League Baseball as a reason to visit Williamsport. But this book has such in-depth information that I even learned about a few things in the area which had escaped my notice.

This road trip really advanced my knowledge of the Poconos region. I am very pleased with how smoothly the trip went. I even visited one more town than I had intended. Ordinarily I would be satisfied with this and turn my attention to other travel destinations. But since I’m interested in moving to the Poconos I intend to do some seriously in-depth research. Finding work in the Poconos would be especially difficult. There is not a lot of IT in the Poconos, it is mostly an outdoor recreation area. But there are probably IT jobs hidden away in local government. There is no reason an Internet startup couldn’t locate in a lodge hidden deep in the woods. Just visiting the small towns in the Poconos does not even hint at the many establishments hidden away between the towns. There seems to be a lot of backwoods entrepreneurial spirit in the area with campgrounds, resorts, ranches, and bed and breakfast places like Dwight Schrute’s Beet Farm and Bed and Breakfast.

Posted in General, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Victorian Mauch Chunk

On Sunday I visited Jim Thorpe PA, the most charming town I’ve ever seen. Jim Thorpe is known as the “Switzerland of America” and the “Gateway to the Poconos”. The town was originally named Mauch Chunk, but bizarrely renamed itself after a sports legend in exchange for the honor of being his final resting place. I found Jim Thorpe to be the ideal combination of Pennsylvania scenic splendor and Victorian architecture. To describe the town of Jim Thorpe as picturesque doesn’t do it justice, it is the essence of the picturesque. Mauch Chunk is ideally picturesque.

I was going to visit Jim Thorpe on Saturday but the weather was bad, too overcast and dreary, so I waited until Sunday. Fortunately Sunday was a beautiful day with bright sunshine and just a few clouds to create patches of shadow and light. It was perfect weather for maximizing the effect of the scenery. I arrived in Jim Thorpe around 9:00 a.m. so I had two hours to take photos before the attractions opened. What makes Jim Thorpe so picturesque is its many fine examples of Victorian architecture set against forested mountains that fill half the sky. There are two Victorian mansions on a hill overlooking the town and massive stone buildings. Broadway is a street lined with boutiques and other establishments housed in extraordinary architecture. The streets were very narrow and every building looked quite distinctive creating an impression of a very cozy, magical dream town. Jim Thorpe has been voted one of the most beautiful small towns in America.

Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe

I parked in a large parking lot next to the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. It cost me $6.00 to park there for the day. I walked pretty far up Broadway to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which is on West Broadway, and took a lot of photos to complete my custom travel guide. I didn’t quite complete my research before making this trip so I need lots of photos for my notes. On the way back downtown I stopped in at Strange Brew for some iced coffee and picked up a brochure for the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. I also went into Dugan’s Store and bought a copy of the local paper, the Times News. I don’t think I had established what the local paper was called so this was important. After returning to my car to stash the newspaper it was around 10:15 a.m. My walk around town took quite awhile because I went up the Packard Hill to photograph the mansions and I walked down Race Street too.

I bought a ticket for the 11:00 a.m. excursion of the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. I paid $17.00 for the open air car. A branch of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau is located in the Mauch Chunk Depot so I went in there and picked up even more brochures for the Poconos. I have a huge stack of brochures now. I was especially glad to find some maps for the state parks in the area. Beside the Mauch Chunk Depot is a small park with a massive coal bolder and a gazebo. I took photos of everything.

One of the things that makes Jim Thorpe seem like a perfectly preserved Victorian town is its train station, which is located on the east end of downtown, with a passenger train stationed there. The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway is run as a tourist attraction with scenic excursions. There are many excursion trains in Pennsylvania. The Strasburg Rail Road is probably the most famous because it takes you through Amish country. I visited the Strasburg Rail Road in 2011. Next month I’m going on the Tioga Central Railroad Dinner Train, a trip offered by a local travel agent. My ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway took me through the Lehigh Gorge State Park, or at least the Glen Onoko part of the park, so I saw the bike trail and the Lehigh River rapids. There were also fantastic views of the mountains. The entire trip took an hour so that was an hour of relaxation before I resumed my tourist activities.

Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway

Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway

After the train ride I headed up the hill for a tour of the Asa Packer Mansion. Next door to that mansion is the Harry Packer Mansion, which is run as a bed and breakfast and served as the model for Disney World’s haunted mansion. So it is a pretty awesome old mansion. Before the tour started I got to sit under the veranda of the Asa Packer Mansion. This was a surprisingly enjoyable experience because it was so damn picturesque! Before me was a plot of yellow daisies. An American flag hung over that. And the view down the hill of downtown Jim Thorpe was dominated by a massive stone clock tower, a civil war monument, with a huge mountain in the background. This was the view enjoyed by a Victorian millionaire and I got to see it virtually unchanged. The tour of the mansion was also amazing. The furnishings of the mansion are perfectly preserved and display Victorian elegance at its finest. This tour was my favorite part of the trip because it allowed me to form a perfect fantasy of Victorian life. I got to see lavish rooms; a library, a parlor, a dining room, a kitchen, bedrooms, and old fashioned bathrooms all done in fine woods like mahogany and rosewood. This was truly a vision of another era set in the familiar scenery of the Pennsylvania mountains. Unfortunately no photography was allowed inside the mansion or I would have photographed the shit out of it.

Asa Packard Mansion View

Asa Packard Mansion View

After the mansion tour I walked back up Broadway to West Broadway and entered the Old Jail Museum. The Old Jail Museum is where the Irish coal miners known as the Molly Maguires were hung. The tour through the Old Jail Museum was led by a young teenage girl but she seemed very knowledgeable. We were led though the warden’s quarters, the cell block, and the dungeons. There was a gallows set up in the cell block for hanging prisoners. The entire building looked pretty decrepit, dreary, and spooky. I bought The Molly Maguires film on DVD in the gift shop. This film stars Richard Harris and Sean Connery and was filmed in Jim Thorpe and the Eckley Miners’ Village. The DVD cost me $29.95 which seemed a little expensive for such an old movie, but I suppose it supports the museum. I have not watched the film yet. I probably won’t like it.

The Treasure Shop

The Treasure Shop

I was ready for some shopping after all those tourist attractions. Jim Thorpe has many interesting boutiques which makes it better than a shopping mall. First I went to Sellers Books because I always have to visit a bookstore. This bookstore fills the lower floor of a Victorian row house. I made a real find, Lehigh Gorge Trail Guide, a book on the trails in the Lehigh Gorge State Park and even the Hickory Run trails. I plan to do some hiking in the Lehigh Gorge State Park as part of my exploration of the Poconos. I returned to my car after buying the book because I now had a DVD and a book plus some brochures to carry around. I checked my cash and found I was already practically broke so I used the ATM at the Mauch Chunk Depot to withdraw $60.00 more from my checking account.

The next store I visited was the Emporium of Curious Goods which specializes in the arcane and the occult. I especially wanted to visit this store because I’m slightly interested in the occult, mostly shamans or visionaries. I didn’t find anything I particularly wanted to buy in this store but I settled for the book Haunted Cemeteries by Tom Ogen. I was looking for a graphic novel, The Victorian Horrors of Old Mauch Chunk #1, which I came across while researching this establishment, but I did not see it anywhere. I was pretty hungry by then so I entered the Bear Appetit Cafe. My research on Jim Thorpe was so incomplete that I didn’t have a single restaurant in my notes so I took a chance on this place. They did not appear to be crowded like some other places I saw. I ordered sweet potato fries, a crab cake sandwich, and a mountain dew. The sweet potato fries were excellent and the crab cake sandwich was pretty good. I finished everything because I had not eaten all day. That meal only cost me $15.00 with a generous tip so it was very affordable. A record store was right next door, Soundcheck Records, so I went in there and bought a CD of Three Dog Night’s Greatest Hits. Three Dog Night is an old band from the 1970s. They are a little before my time but that gives them a curious nostalgic appeal without being associated with any actual memories. There is a lot about the Poconos which harkens back to the 1970s when the honeymoon resorts were very popular. I have formed a sort of fantasy of the Poconos as a semi-rustic Pennsylvania dream world stuck in the summers of the 1970s. I use that fantasy as my inspiration for this project.

Blue Mountain Sports

Blue Mountain Sports

The final thing I did downtown was visit the Mauch Chunk Museum and Cultural Center, basically a historical society museum. After watching a short film on the town’s history I went on a self-guided tour of the exhibits which were a bit cluttered so you had to spend some time picking out details. By then it was almost 4:00 p.m. and I knew most of the attractions and shops closed early at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday so I decided to call it a day. There isn’t a whole lot to do in this small town so you don’t need more than a day to visit Jim Thorpe, but I may find more things to do after more research.

Before heading back home I did drive out to East Mauch Chunk and found the Jim Thorpe Memorial, the final resting place of the sports hero who lent his name to the town. Actually, his widow lent his name without getting the rest of the family’s permission. I think that entire arrangement was kind of strange and sad.

In conclusion, I thought Jim Thorpe was a magical place, a dream town. The place was crawling with bikers just like at Wellsboro. Bikers must have a thing for quaint small towns. I did see some Susquehanna Trailways buses drive through town which was an interesting local connection for me.

Posted in General, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Indian Echo Caverns

On Saturday I visited Indian Echo Caverns, one of Pennsylvania’s many caves which are open to the public. I can barely remember visiting a cave when I was a boy. I remember that we bought Indian blankets and an Indian drum which we had for a long time. I’m not sure if this was that cave since there is also an Indian Caverns in Pennsylvania. Indian Echo Caverns is located between Harrisburg and Hershey. It took me two hours to drive down there.

Indian Echo Caverns Entrance

Indian Echo Caverns Entrance

Indian Echo Caverns is featured on the cover of the only book on the caves of Pennsylvania:

You can only visit this cave as part of a guided tour. The cave is outfitted with electric lights so you can see everything. I took a lot of photos and most of them turned out all right even without flash.

Indian Echo Caverns Stalagmite

Indian Echo Caverns Stalagmite

The cave had many rooms and a pool of water. At one point, our tour guide turned out all the lights to show us how pitch black the cave would be without light.

Indian Echo Caverns Pool

Indian Echo Caverns Pool

I like to visit show caves because these roadside attractions are very retro. These attractions haven’t changed much since the 1950s and remind me of rare road trips I went on in my youth. So far, I have seen Penn’s Cave and Woodward Cave plus Indian Echo Caverns. There are six other caves in Pennsylvania that I could visit. I did find some other cave brochures at the Indian Echo Caverns gift shop.

Indian Echo Caverns Interior

I’ve really been getting around the state this summer and seeing a lot of attractions that I’ve been meaning to visit. I hope to keep up this pace into the fall and only stop during winter. The quaint town of Jim Thorpe will probably be my next destination.

Posted in General | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Hiking The Golden Eagle Trail

Yesterday I hiked the entire Golden Eagle Trail. It took me ten hours to hike this 9 mile trail. The Golden Eagle Trail is located in the Tiadaghton State Forest in Lycoming County. It is near the Little Pine State Park on the far west border of Lycoming County. To reach the trail you must drive pass the town of Jersey Shore and take Exit 120 onto Route 44 North. Just past Waterville, you will take a right off of PA 44 onto route PA 414. I almost turned right onto the wrong road, Little Pine Creek Road in Waterville since the signs showed that is the way to Little Pine State Park, but you actually need to drive out of Waterville before you can get on Route 414 North. Unfortunately, most of the tourist attractions in Pennsylvania require a long drive deep into the woods. I took some photos of the Clark Access Area parking lot to help me to find the place again.

Golden Eagle Trail Access

I saw part of the Pine Creek Rail Trail, an old railroad line which has been converted into a bike trail. The Pine Creek Rail Trail is 65 miles long and stretches from Jersey Shore up to Wellsboro. Considering how long it takes me to drive to Wellsboro, I would not want to ride a bike that far. But it would be practical to ride part of the trail for the scenery. I also saw a few country inns and restaurants which seemed rustic, but upscale, clearly designed to cater to outdoor recreationists. The area was comparable to the Poconos. There is really nothing special about the Poconos. Most of Pennsylvania is nearly identical to the Poconos. But the Poconos has become famous for outdoor recreation because it is within reasonable driving distance to New York City and Philadelphia. My point is that I can find great outdoor recreation closer to home, without driving two hours to the Poconos.

I came well-prepared for this long hike. I used to hike the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park without even a bottle of water. I brought three 17 ounce bottles of Sparkling ICE on this hike and drank all of it. I also wore my new hiking shoes and used my new hiking poles. Hiking poles are great for climbing uphill or downhill and there was plenty of that on this trail! I only saw a few other hikers on the trail and almost everyone had hiking poles. I bought a trail guide for the Golden Eagle Trail from PAHikes. The Guide to the Golden Eagle Trail includes detailed directions with points of interest which was helpful in determining my progress.

Wolf Run Vista

The Golden Eagle Trail proved to be quite an ordeal. There are some fantastic vistas on the trail but you have to earn it by climbing uphill. I started on the trail at 8:45 a.m. and didn’t finish until 6:30 p.m. Towards the end I was worried that I would be in the woods after dark. Fortunately I did have a hiker’s headlamp in my backpack. I didn’t see any wildlife except for one deer and a chipmunk. I hiked this trail counter-clockwise so first I encountered the Wolf Run vista. I ventured out into a rock ledge but it made me very nervous. The view was spectacular! The next vista I found was the famous Ravenshorn Vista. All of the photos of the Golden Eagle Trail feature the Ravenshorn Vista, usually with a hiker standing on the Raven’s Horn, a large rock formation that you can climb onto. It looks like a precipice of a mountain but if you fell off you would only land 20 feet below the large rock formation. This was were I encountered the first hiker I saw. The trail was completely deserted most of the time. The view was even more spectacular than the Wolf Run vista.

Raven's Horn Vista

Raven's Horn

Most of the Golden Eagle Trail is a seemingly endless hike along the Wolf Run creek and the Bonnell Run creek. You have to cross these creeks dozens of times but fortunately the creek beds were bone dry or there was only a trickle of water. My hiking shoes are not waterproof but I did order a pair of waterproof hiking boots. Every uphill climb really winded me. I could only climb uphill for 15 feet before I needed to stop and take a rest.  At the end of a Game Commission Access Trail, which is like a grass road through the woods, I found the Beulahland Vista which offers another great view of the mountains and valleys.

Beulahland Vista

After hiking the entire length of the Golden Eagle Trail, I feel like a real hiker, a mountain man, a frontiersman. This was a very strenuous hike. It was almost too much for a day hike since I barely got out of the woods before dark. But it was interesting to see some of the outdoor recreational areas that Lycoming County is famous for. There are many more hiking trails in Pennsylvania. I plan to do some more hiking because it is a cheap way to make a trip. I have bought several books on hiking in Pennsylvania.

Bonnell Run

Posted in General, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

My 9th Trip To Washington DC

Yesterday I made my 9th trip to Washington DC. I have to admit that I was not very enthusiastic about this trip. I was also a little bored on this trip. I think I’m guilty of checkbox tourism, checking things off on a list of popular attractions. Some tourists seek out the “hidden gems” and a genuine local experience while other tourists do only the highlights mentioned in the travel guides. I like to find obscure establishments through intensive research or base my activities on my serious pursuits and interests. For example, finding theater buildings is worthwhile because I like to write plays. And I like to visit bookstores because I love books.

The bus arrived in Washington DC around 10:00 a.m. The bus driver was quite knowledgeable about Washington DC so he tried to point out all the major attractions as we passed them by. My research on the city is fairly complete so I don’t need such general information. We were dropped off in front of the National Museum of Natural History. The first item on my itinerary was the Corcoran Gallery of Art. I was considering a stroll though Georgetown for this trip but the weather was calling for rain so I decided to stick to museums. The Corcoran Gallery of Art is just to the left of the White House so I was able to take some great photos of the south side of the White House along the way. The scaffolding is gone from the Washington Monument so I got some great photos of that as well.

The White House

Fortunately, admission to the Corcoran Gallery of Art was free on this Saturday. I didn’t even need a ticket. This art museum is fairly small with only two floors and thirty galleries. The most famous artwork I saw was a Chairman Mao portrait by Andy Warhol. I was going to have lunch at their Muse Café but it looked like they only sold coffee and some pastries. The museum store was closed so I couldn’t buy anything. This was probably the cheapest bus trip I’ve ever been on since I spent very little money.

The next item on my itinerary was the National Archives. The big draw at the National Archives is the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights which are on display in the Rotunda. I was not particularly interested in seeing the original documents enshrined in this building, but it would be a shame to visit Washington DC repeatedly without seeing this important exhibit. You have to go through security to enter the building which proved to be a little annoying since my pockets were full of electronic devices, small change, keys, etc. Absolutely no photography is allowed in the National Archives but they will allow you to bring in a camera. You just can’t use it. In addition to the Rotunda, there is a public vaults exhibit with other historical documents on display. The only really interesting thing I saw was an exhibit on modern technology which had many motherboards and obsolete media formats encased behind glass. The My Archives Shop had many books for sale but I didn’t find anything I would want to read. Perhaps my low enthusiasm level made me reluctant to buy anything.

United States Botanic Garden

The final item on my agenda was the United States Botanic Garden. This was my favorite part of this trip but the Botanic Gardens should probably be low on your list if you are visiting Washington DC for the first time. I walked though the National Garden and then explored the Conservatory. I liked the indoor jungle and tried to take every conceivable photo through the lush foliage. I also visited Bartholdi Park which features a massive Bartholdi Fountain. The Capitol building is nearby so I tried to get the Capitol building dome in as many of my photos as possible. You can see the dome through the foliage at many spots in the Botanic Gardens so it is an excellent location for taking some classic photos.

National Museum of the American Indian

Incredibly enough, I still had plenty of time to kill so I visited a few more museums. I had not planned on visiting the National Museum of the American Indian but it is right next to the United States Botanic Garden so it was convenient. I must say that I found the National Museum of the American Indian a little disappointing. It’s primary focus seems to be on contemporary tribes. The exhibits were pretty thin on the history of the American Indian. There was not an extensive collection of Indian artifacts. Frankly, I think even the Pocono Indian Museum might be a better museum. Where were the Indian Chief feather head dresses, the buckskin clothes, the teepees, the peace pipes, the scalps, the drums, the tomahawks, the arrows, etc? I did buy a book in the gift shop, “The Shawnees and the War For America” by Colin G. Calloway. The Shawnees used to live on the Delaware River which is why there is a Shawnee on Delaware town in the Poconos. I’m not very interested in Indians except for Shamanism. Shamanism is the universal and fundamental expression of spirituality. The National Museum of the American Indian did not have an exhibit on Shamans and its collection of books on the subject was not very good. Even my meal at the Mitsitam Café was disappointing. I only had a buffalo burger, a parfait, and a bottle of Minute Maid but that cost me over $16.00.

I spent considerable time in the National Museum of the American Indian but I still had over an hour to kill so I decided to visit the National Museum of American History. I have been to this museum on a previous trip but I was a bit rushed and did not see everything. This time I saw the exhibit on the American Presidency and the gowns of the First Ladies. I think they made improvements to Julia Child’s Kitchen because the view into that glass enclosed space was better. I saw the original Star Spangled Banner Flag again.

With this trip, I am pretty much done with the National Mall. But I’m not quite done exploring Washington DC. I should consider the United States Capitol Visitor Center for a future trip. The Folger Shakespeare Library and a tour of the Kennedy Center would better serve my interests. And there is still one more art museum to see, The Phillips Collection. I also want to visit Georgetown and the Adams Morgan neighborhood.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Forth Trip To The Poconos, Stroudsburg

Today I made yet another trip to Stroudsburg. Ordinarily I would not visit a city so soon after a previous trip but I’m seriously considering moving to Stroudsburg. That means my research has to be far more extensive than a trip made from idle curiosity. I had a long list of things to check out and photos I needed for my custom travel guide for Stroudsburg. I currently have 80 web pages of material on Stroudsburg.

I parked at my usual spot on Ann Street. The parking lot was nearly full because a lot of people where attending church at Light of the World Church. The first place I went to was Earthlight Natural Foods, a health food grocery store. I thought this store might be located in the textile mill that houses the American Ribbon Fabric but it had a separate building. Apparently nobody has ever bothered to take a photo of this grocery store. Earthlight Natural Foods does not open until 11:00 a.m. on Sundays and I arrived in Stroudsburg shortly after 10:00 a.m. so I didn’t go inside then.

Earthlight Natural Foods

Next I walked up to Main Street and then went further west than on previous trips. I saw the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau and then found a Wawa store. Wawa is a famous chain of convenience stores based in the Philadelphia area.  Wawa is practically a Philly institution. We don’t have any Wawa stores in my area but Sheetz is another popular chain of convenience stores and we have one of those. At the Wawa store I bought the Sunday edition of The Pocono Record and a bottle of Wawa iced tea. The Sunday edition of The Pocono Record was really thick with inserts which pleased me because it will be better research material than the really thin Saturday edition. I also picked up a copy of The Pocono Times.

After depositing the newspapers in my car I went back to Main Street and took some photos of Main Street Jukebox, a record store. I did find a good photo of this establishment online but it was outdated. Main Street Jukebox is in a different location and looks completely different now. So this was something I wanted to correct in my notes.

I entered Dunkelberger’s Sports Outfitter on Main Street to see if they had any hiking gear. They did have a pretty good selection of camping gear so I bought a deluxe brass whistle and a multi-colored headlamp by Coleman. I don’t think I need overnight camping equipment but I do want to carry emergency equipment while hiking. Dunkelberger’s Sports Outfitter did not have any trail maps or books on hiking.

I then located McMichael’s Falls. Here was something that I completely overlooked on my previous trips. There is a fantastic waterfall right in town and a small park with a viewing platform so you can enjoy the waterfalls. I shot some video of McMichael’s Falls and took lots of photos.

McMichael's Falls

When I got back to my car on Ann Street it was past 11:00 a.m. so I returned to Earthlight Natural Foods which was now open. They had an interesting selection of food, not the usual stuff you find in grocery stores. Unfortunately I could not buy anything that requires refrigeration since I was two hours drive from home but I did buy a bag of Maple Pecans by Sahale Snacks. Main Street Jukebox also opened at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday so made my way there next. Main Street Jukebox is a good old fashioned record store with vinyl records, compact discs, and books on rock bands for sale. I bought a two CD set of Blondie music including the CD of Ghosts of Download which I’ve never even heard of before. I used to be obsessed with Blondie so buying this CD was a deliberate act to invest Stroudsburg with some personal significance.

Main Street Jukebox

After that I walked along Sarah Street and took photos of any building that was of some interest. I found the Stroudsburg Fire Department building which was pretty interesting. I probably should have spent more time downtown but I had other places to visit so I drove to the Pocono Plaza in East Stroudsburg. The Pocono Plaza is your typical strip mall and I usually would not make a point of visiting a shabby little strip mall, but I intend to investigate every nook and cranny of this town. There is also a Kmart store in the strip mall which was the only store I entered. Kmart has become a pretty shabby department store which is barely surviving. They do sell a lot of heavily discounted DVDs now. I found a really cool Japanese science fiction movie Assault Girls for only $5.00.

I continued further into East Stroudsburg and finally visited the Pocono Medical Center and East Stroudsburg University which was on my itinerary for previous trips. It is kind of surprising that nobody has taken any photos of these important facilities and put them online. I could not find any decent photos of the Pocono Medical Center or various buildings on the East Stroudsburg University campus. These are the two largest employers in the Stroudsburg area so this was some serious sleuthing and not idle tourism. I was particularly interested in seeing the Fine Performing Arts Center and felt quite pleased after making a long walk in the hot sun just to find the place. There really isn’t much to East Stroudsburg except for the university which has grown into a vast empire.

Fine Performing Arts Center

Before going home I went to the Stroud Mall and bought a book on Hiking Pennsylvania at Books-A-Million. I also had a slice of pizza at the food court. I was hoping to find Sbarro’s Pizzeria which is still listed in the mall directory but they have been replaced with another pizza restaurant. It is easier to get back on Interstate 80 West if you go to Stroud Mall.

I probably should have spent more time in Stroudsburg. I left at 2:00 p.m. and got home by 4:00 p.m. I don’t think I will make any more trips to the Poconos for awhile because I’m dangerously low on money. I need to do more research on Honesdale, Jim Thorpe, and Milford before I can visit those quaint towns in the Poconos region.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hiking In Rider Park

Today I went hiking in Rider Park. Rider Park must be the best kept secret of Lycoming County. Nobody seems to know anything about it. The park is managed by the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania. Rider Park is not a state park which may be why the park is not well known. However it is open to the public and it is free.

Finding Rider Park proved to be slightly difficult because you have to follow a detour while a bridge is being repaired. Like many attractions in Pennsylvania, you have to follow winding roads into the woods and climb hills to reach your destination. The drive is often scenic but nerve wracking. The great thing about Rider Park is that it is only 15 minutes away so it does not require a long drive. Rider Park is located near Warrensville, north of Montoursville, an area I have never explored.

Rider Park Sign

I have been doing a lot of hiking this summer. I’m proud that I’m taking advantage of the summer instead of staying home sitting in front of my computer all day. So far I have been to Ricketts Glen State Park (twice), Watkins Glen State Park, Big Pocono State Park, Bushkill Falls, and Hickory Run State Park (Boulder Field). I have decided to get a little more serious about hiking and buy some of the hiking gear you should have. At the very least, you need to bring some water with you on a hike or you will be dying of thirst before you are through. On this hike I had a small first aid kit, my Leatherman multi-tool, binoculars, moist towelettes, and a bottle of water. I also wore the hiking hat I bought on the Delaware Water Gap trip. My backpack is a really cheap one I bought at a dollar store but it is holding up well.

The trails at Rider Park are very wide. You could easily ride an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) on the trails but motorized recreational vehicles are prohibited. I did see plenty of tire tracks on the trails which were too large to be caused by mountain bikes. Since the trails were so wide it was very easy to follow them. The trail blazes are colored dots at eye level on trees. There were also many trail signs to show you the way.

I found trail maps at the parking lot. I started on the Francis X. Kennedy Trail (Green) and found the Doe Pen Vista. I heard a lot of gunshots at Doe Pen Vista because there are sportsmen grounds nearby. The constant sound of a rifle being fired made me very nervous. I did take some great photos of the vista and I used my binoculars to get a closer view of the valley below.

Doe Pen Vista

I then got on the Blue trail (Cheryl’s Trail) which is one of the longer trails. I saw lots of ferns along the trail and woods with a carpeting of ferns which is my favorite nature scene. Cheryl’s Trail goes through some areas that are not densely wooded but appear more like a true park, still wild and not landscaped but maybe cleared of undergrowth. And there were some interesting things to see like a small graveyard, a mountain meadow with wild flowers, and the foundations of old homesteads. I found a metal toolbox in the homestead of Charles Ludwig. It must be a geocache. It contained a student’s ID card and some moldy papers. There was even a park bench where you could sit and contemplate the meadow.

Ludwig Meadow

Before returning to the parking lot I checked out the pavilion. Near the pavilion is the foundations of a barn which has been filled in with a wildflower garden. Some rusty farm implements were arranged around the old barn foundations. I also saw the homestead of Norman S. Wheeland which features the remains of stone walls and a stone cellar.

At the parking lot I found the Katy Jane Trail trailhead (Yellow). This trail is all uphill so it is very exhausting but it does lead to two vistas. I think it is the Loyalsock Creek Valley that you see from the vistas. From one of the vistas you can see more farms and rural dwellings along a road. I took a shortcut to get back to the parking lot, the Saddle Trail, where I saw a deer. That was the first wildlife I’ve seen while hiking. You could see a black bear while hiking in Lycoming County but I’m not too eager to see one of those in the wild. But it is neat to see a wild deer in the woods.

Deer at Rider Park

I did get lost while trying to find my way home but since I was still in Lycoming County it wasn’t too hard to find the way to Williamsport. It was interesting to see some rural roads in Lycoming County which I have never seen before. At one point I passed a large brick apartment building which looked surprising modern and upscale. I eventually reached “confusion corner” near Brandon Park which was a surprise. Using Google Maps, I can see that Rose Valley Lake is west of Rider Park and I must have come down Bloomingrove Road which leads to Brandon Park. My mistake was going west on Route 973 when I should have gone east to return to Warrensville Road. It looks like I could have followed Route 973 West to Lycoming Creek Road which is a better route for me to take.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Delaware Water Gap

Today I made my third trip to the Poconos this summer. The focus of this trip was the small town of Delaware Water Gap which is located in the vicinity of Stroudsburg. To reach Delaware Water Gap I had to drive along Interstate 80 clear to the border with New Jersey. It is worthwhile to note a few landmarks along the way. There is a hideous apartment complex near Bloomsburg called the Lions Gate Luxury Apartments. It seems quite strange to build a huge apartment complex out in the middle of nowhere. According to their web site this is luxury campus housing for Bloomsburg University. Another useful landmark is the huge mountain that looms into view around mile 250. I think that is the Sugarloaf Mountain. I saw a Susquehanna Trailways bus on Interstate 80 which followed me a little ways. It was probably heading to New York City as part of their regular service and not a tour.

Once I reached Delaware Water Gap, I parked at the Water Gap Trolley parking lot. I wanted to take the trolley tour at 10:00 a.m. But since I arrived in town at 9:00 a.m. I had time to walk around and take some photos. I walked uphill and took photos of various establishments all the way to Deer Head Inn. That only took a half hour so I walked to the Water Gap Diner and ordered breakfast. I saw a few Appalachian Trail hikers at the diner. I’ve recently finished reading Bill Bryson’s book about the Appalachian Trail, A Walk In The Woods, so it was cool to see some actual Appalachian Trail hikers. Bill Bryson does mention the Delaware Water Gap in his book. I ordered pancakes, a coke, orange juice, and coffee. I ate and drank really fast because I wanted to catch the 10:00 a.m. trolley tour.

Water Gap Trolley

After breakfast I walked back to the Water Gap Trolley and bought a ticket for the 10:00 a.m. tour. A few senior citizens also showed up for the tour. The trolley first took us up Broad Street pass the Pennsylvania Welcome Center and into Shawnee on Delaware, another small community in the vicinity. This was very useful because it showed me the route to Shawnee from Delaware Water Gap. In Shawnee I saw the Stony Brook Inn, the Shawnee General Store, and the Shawnee Playhouse. I was particularly interested in the Shawnee Playhouse because while driving along Interstate 80 I had the brilliant idea to submit one of my plays to this theater. Their web site has a submission form for playwrights.

Shawnee Playhouse

The driver of the trolley kept up a running narration of the sights we were passing. I took keen notice of significant details. For example, we passed some Shawnee time shares which looked very luxurious. The wealthy still flock to the Poconos for outdoor recreation. And it was interesting to see where the Pennsylvania Welcome Center was located in relation to the Delaware Water Gap town. I saw where the Inti Peruvian Cuisine restaurant is located in  Shawnee.

The trolley went back through town and then followed PA 611 to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area overlooks. This was also very useful since it showed me how to reach the three overlooks; the Resort Point Overlook, the Point of Gap Overlook, and the Arrow Island Overlook. Unfortunately the Resort Point Overlook was closed. We even went to the Cold Air Cave but we only saw it from the road. The trolley only stopped at the Point of Gap Overlook where I got off to take some photos of Mount Tammany.

Mount Tammany

When we arrived back at the Water Gap Trolley, I drove up Main Street to park in the spacious parking lot of Sycamore Grille. My next goal was to do some shopping since the stores were open by then. First I visited Edge of the Woods Outfitters which sells hiking gear to the Appalachian Trail hikers and offers bike rentals and kayak trips. The store did not have as much merchandise as I had expected. I bought a $40.00 Transit Sun Hat by Outdoor Research. I’m not a hiker but I’ve been doing a lot of hiking this summer. I only intend to do casual hiking but you shouldn’t even do that without some proper gear. At the very least you should be packing a water bottle. There are some hiking trails in Lycoming County which I plan to investigate.

Edge of the Woods Outfitters

The next store I visited was Castle Inn which is similar to the Street of Shops in Lewisburg, a sort of craft mall. Castle Inn has a Victorian ice cream parlor called Zoe’s Ice Cream Emporium. I had an ice cream cone there with two scoops for $4.00. I was the only customer because they had just opened but its hard to see how a town as small as Delaware Water Gap supports these establishments. I think I saw more hikers than tourists. I did buy something from the craft stores in Castle Inn, a polished stone for $1.00. I felt I had to buy something.

I wanted to visit the Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery but it did not open until 1:00 p.m. so I had some time to kill. There really isn’t a lot to do in Delaware Water Gap. I drove up PA 611 and revisited the overlooks that I had seen from the trolley. The Resort Point Overlook was blocked off but I did go to the Point of Gap Overlook and the Arrow Island Overlook where I took many more photos at my leisure. I even went to the Cold Air Cave. I could feel the cold air emanating from this cave as soon as I walked up to it. There were many cars parked in front of the cave but I did not see anyone inside. I peered into the cave but I didn’t really go inside because it was dark and creepy in there.

 Cold Air Cave

When I drove back to Main Street it still was not 1:00 p.m. so I parked at the museum and had brunch at Zen Fusion which was clearly open now. Zen Fusion is a pretty fancy restaurant for such a small town. It must cater to sophisticated tourists from New York City and Philadelphia. I had Breakfast Chilaqules; corn chips with scrambled eggs, tomatillo sauce and feta cheese. I guess corn chips with scrambled eggs is a fusion dish! It wasn’t bad but this was the second breakfast I had that day. Fortunately that took some time and I found the museum open by then. The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery is located just behind Zen Fusion so I did not have to walk far.

The Antoine Dutot Museum and Gallery features an art gallery downstairs and a two room historical museum upstairs. I was tempted to buy some small art prints I found in the museum. Some of the art prints were paintings of Stroudsburg establishments on Main Street and there were also Times Square paintings which I really liked. One of the rooms upstairs was an old fashioned schoolroom which was very charming. I watched a slide show on Delaware Water Gap. I was left alone up there so I felt free to take some photos.

Appalachian Trail

The most interesting thing about the history of Delaware Water Gap is that it used to have hundreds of luxury hotels. The Delaware Water Gap was considered one of the greatest scenic wonders of the world back at the turn of the century. It is very impressive but hardly one of the greatest scenic wonders of the world. Nevertheless many grand hotels were built to provide vacationers with a great view of Mount Tammany. Equally surprising is how little remains of these palatial hotels. Only two small hotels remain; the Deer Head Inn and the Castle Inn. In this, the town of Delaware Water Gap is similar to the town of Eagles Mere which also had many resort hotels for vacationers from New York City and Philadelphia. Now Eagles Mere is just a tiny hamlet with a fancy little museum documenting some bygone era of grand hotels. I did see some very old photos of a very young Fred Astaire who used to vacation at Delaware Water Gap in its glory days.

When I left the museum I retraced the route of the trolley to return to Shawnee on Delaware. I parked at the Shawnee General Store and walked to the Shawnee Playhouse to take lots of photos of this theater. I also took photos of the bed and breakfast, Stony Brook Inn. I have considered staying there because it is tedious to drive two hours along Interstate 80. Unfortunately I don’t have the money to do anything except day trips. Eventually I may stay overnight in the Poconos since I intend to do some really extensive research into the area that may be my future home. The Shawnee General Store was kind of a dump without much merchandise but I bought a photo of the Delaware Water Gap anyway. It did seem like a genuine general store and not a tourist trap.

I needed to find a restroom after that brunch at Zen Fusion started to disagree with me so I stopped at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center. During the trolley ride I heard that the place had flooded up to its roof and cost millions of dollars to construct. I was alarmed by the accounts of flooding since I don’t want to move to a flood prone area. I have been in this fancy Pennsylvania Welcome Center before because the Susquehanna Trailways bus sometimes makes a comfort stop there. I picked up a few more brochures there.

Pennsylvania Welcome Center

My final stop was the Crossings Premium Outlets. I always see this place from Interstate 80 during bus trips to New York City. I remember we did stop there once and I visited a bookstore. Unfortunately there are no bookstores there now. Crossings Premium Outlets has many stores but they are all clothing stores. In this respect, it is similar to the King of Prussia Mall. All those stores and there is absolutely nothing I would want to buy! I picked up a shopping guide and went into a Timberland store and a Hot Topic store but I bought nothing. I will never go to Crossings Premium Outlets again. The parking lot was completely full so I had to park behind one of the buildings.

Before I went home I did stop at the Lycoming Mall again. I wanted to stop in at Gander Mountain to buy some hiking supplies. Gander Mountain was not where I thought it would be. I must have misread the Google Map satellite view. Gander Mountain is located in one of the huge box stores around the mall, but not on the side where I thought it was. I almost didn’t bother to stop in because they were doing a lot of construction on the entrance and I wasn’t sure if they were open. I bought a compass and a medical kit at the camping section. I probably don’t need that for casual hiking but some of the hiking trails in Lycoming County are deep in the woods, in the mountains of the northern part of the county. This part of Pennsylvania is advertised to tourists as “The Wilds” with hunting and fishing as the big attractions. There does seem to be a whole culture of outdoor adventuring that I know nothing about. I’m not up for anything really strenuous, but I might as well try some hiking closer to home.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day Trip To The Poconos

On Saturday during the July 4th weekend I made my second trip to the Poconos and Stroudsburg. I managed to spend the entire day in the area and did most of the things on my itinerary.

My first goal was to visit the Big Pocono State Park. The park is maintained by the Camelback Mountain Resort which is a large ski resort and waterpark. You have to drive past the Camelback Mountain Resort to reach the park on a curvy rural road that is partially uphill. I had precise directions on how to reach the state park but I wasn’t certain I was going the right way until I saw the park entrance. The Camelback Mountain Resort seemed to be quite busy for the July 4th weekend but fortunately I didn’t see a long line of cars until I went back down the mountain.

The main attraction of the Big Pocono State Park is the spectacular view of the countryside from that elevation. You can see the woods and mountains of Pennsylvania for a long distance in every direction. You can even see the Delaware Water Gap far in the distance. I hiked the Indian Trail which was more rocky than I expected. I thought I had gotten onto another trail but according to the park map I probably stayed on the Indian Trail which loops around. The Indian Trail is orange blazed and I only saw orange trail markings. The trail led deep into the woods. I saw rock outcroppings and lots of ferns which always look pretty in the woods. At one point the trail offers a great view of the Camelback Mountain Resort from above so I took many photos of that. I also saw the Stevenson Express chairlift operated by the ski resort.

Big Pocono State Park

My next goal was Bushkill Falls. To reach Bushkill Falls I had to retrace my route and get back on Interstate 80 which proved to be easy. I noticed that traffic was really backed up on Interstate 80 in the other direction. I think there was a Pocono Raceway race going on that day. I took exit 309 and got on US-209 North. This road was extremely congested and I probably spent an hour crawling along it. I thought there may have been an accident but the only thing I saw which might have backed up traffic was some firemen stopping traffic to collect donations in their firemen helmets. If those firemen were indeed responsible for backing up traffic for miles then that makes them the entitled assholes of the year!

Bushkill Falls was very crowded for the July 4th weekend. I had to park near the entrance on a grass lot in the last available space that you could squeeze into. When I left there were even cars parked along the highway. A ticket for Bushkill Falls costs $12.50 for an adult. It is billed as the Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania. Part of the trail is wooden walkways with handrails similar to Watkins Glen State Park’s rock trails. These privately owned waterfall areas have better trails than state parks which never had any commercial development. All of the trails were pretty crowded. I hiked the Bridal Veil Falls Trail which was too steep for me. I almost passed out after climbing uphill. But from Peter’s Corner it was easier to go downhill and I found a great view at the Delaware Valley Lookout. I also did the yellow trail through the Lower Gorge Falls, Laurel Glen, and the Upper Canyon. The Main Falls was spectacular and well worth the effort. I saw many Asian and Indian tourists so there must be international tourists visiting the Poconos.

Bushkill Falls

I bought a book at the Bushkill Falls gift shop, Pennsylvania Waterfalls: A Guide For Hikers and Photographers by Scott E. Brown. I figured this book would help me to identify the waterfalls I’ve already seen. I have many photos to tag. There are also some waterfalls in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area which I plan to see.

Fortunately I did not find my car boxed in when it was time to go. I had no problem backing out of my parking space on the grass lot. US-209 South was still a bit congested on the way back. There are just too many establishments along that road to tempt motorists to slow down and turn off the road. I passed a few golf courses and the Pocono Palace Resort. I forgot to mention that I grabbed a bunch of brochures at Bushkill Falls. I also took brochures at rest stops on my way to the Poconos and back. I am making many improvements to my Pennsylvania travel guide this summer. I needed these brochures for further research.

Next on my itinerary was another visit to Stroudsburg. The focus of this visit was East Stroudsburg because I could find few photos online of establishments in this part of Stroudsburg. Although I could have followed US-209 to East Stroudsburg by taking the Business Route, I thought it would be easier to backtrack along my original route to Interstate 80. I took exit 307 to reach Broad Street in Stroudsburg. This was important because I need to know how to get off Interstate 80 West to get back to Stroudsburg. I turned left to drive down Ann Street to park in the same place as my previous trip.

I walked east on Ann Street and took a photo of the Stroudsburg post office for my custom travel guide because I did not like the photo I found online. The post office building is an attractive art deco building described on the Monroe County Historical Association web site. I also noticed the Willowtree Inn on Ann Street so I took photos of that restaurant. I thought this restaurant was supposed to offer views of woodlands? Yet here it was on a residential street downtown. I have to add this place to my notes.

I did finally eat at a Stroudsburg restaurant. I had dinner at Marco Antonio’s, which specializes in Spanish and Portuguese cuisine. I ordered the Alentejana plate, which is seasoned pork, clams, and  potatoes sautéed in a savory white wine and garlic sauce. Marco Antonio’s is a Bring Your Own Beer establishment and I saw a large party bring in a bottle of wine. In Pennsylvania, you can only buy wine at a state run liquor store. Stroundsburg has a Wine & Spirits store on Main Street. My bill was only slightly more than $25.00 which was about what the Alentejana costs. This was a pleasant surprise after my sticker shock at the bill at Osteria al Doge in New York City which was unexpectedly twice the cost of the main entree.

It was getting late and I was very tempted to skip the next item on my itinerary and just go to Stroud Mall. Fortunately the prospect of making another long trip to the Poconos to make up for what I didn’t do on this trip, steeled me to making the trip over to East Stroudsburg. I was reluctant because I did not have precise directions to find Crystal Street. Fortunately it was easy to get to Crystal Street. This street is supposedly the main drag of East Stroudsburg but I did not find it very impressive. I took many photos of interesting establishments because you cannot see Crystal Street on Google Street View and few photos exist of East Stroudsburg. I took photos of; the Trackside Station with the Liquid Restaurant & Martini Bar, the Municipal Building with its clock, the Alexander Loder house, the Pocono Cinema which was advertising a Frazettta Screening, Franzettta’s Fantasy Corner and Golf World in a Masonic Hall building, and the Lackawana Hotel Tavern.

Pocono Cinema

After leaving East Stroudsburg I drove back to Stroudsburg and followed Main Street to 9th Street. I turned right onto 9th Street and went to Stroud Mall. Stroud Mall is quite similar to our Lycoming Mall with the same stores. First I went to Books-A-Million where I bought a Time Out guide to New York for Visitors, a 128 page magazine. I didn’t really need this but it had a great cover photo of the Empire State Building. I also bought Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods, a humorous account of his attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail. You can actually reach the Appalachian Trail at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area. But I was mainly interested in this book because I’ve been doing a lot of walking in the woods. I can tell from my sales receipt that it was 5:00 p.m. when I made my purchase. I’m glad I managed to spend the entire day in the Poconos without cutting short my trip. I then went to Fye which is practically the only chain of stores left which sells physical CDs and DVDs. I was looking for DVDs on Flight 93 on September 11 but I had to settle for Oliver Stone’s film on the World Trace Center.

Before going home I did stop at the Lycoming Mall where I did find the United 93 film on DVD at Fye. I also visited Books-A-Million in this mall and bought the book Off The Beaten Path Pennsylvania which has the Reading Pagoda on its cover. I had seen this book at Stroud Mall and regretted not buying it. I have been reading all my Pennsylvania travel guides since I’m doing some intense exploration of the state this summer. And finally I stopped in at Sweet Frog in my neighborhood for a treat of frozen yogurt just to make the day complete.

This trip did much to advance my knowledge of the Poconos which is still a popular destination for New Yorkers and people from Philadelphia. I really enjoy hiking in the woods which is sort of nostalgic since it is a quintessential experience for residents of Pennsylvania. I even remember a rare instance of being sent to a summer camp but I don’t remember its name. My sister used to take us hiking in the woods far up our road which climbed a mountain into mysterious private land. I should probably invest in some hiking gear if I’m going to visit state parks often. For my next trip to the Poconos I will concentrate on the Delaware Water Gap.

Posted in General, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

30th Day Trip To New York City

On Saturday I made my 30th day trip to New York City. So I have spent a month in New York City without paying for a hotel room (except for one overnight trip). I can still find things to do in the city but my trips are becoming a bit repetitive.

The first item on my itinerary was to visit an establishment on 28th Street.  My Metrocard had insufficient funds for the fare on the 1 train. Instead of buying a new Metrocard as usual, I used a smaller vending machine to add value to my card. I’m ridiculously pleased with this accomplishment. However, you can only use a debit card or a credit card to add value to your card. You cannot use cash. I saw a lot of stores selling flowers on West 28th Street. It is New York’s Flower District.

Next on my agenda was to visit Poets House, part of New York City’s literary community. New York City has always been the center of America’s publishing industry and a mecca for aspiring writers. I was planning on finding a poetry book and reading a poem or two at Poets House but all I really did was pop in and examine a showcase of independent presses. There were some musicians performing in the exhibition space which was open to the outside. I was practically the only one there and it seemed a bit awkward. Anyway, I had a reservation for the 9/11 Museum so I was in a bit of a hurry.

Poets House

I then found the Irish Hunger Memorial which I only recently discovered while looking at Google Maps of the area. The Irish Hunger Memorial was created in 2002 so it hasn’t been there for long. The memorial is a peculiar park built atop a oyster-like pedestal.  You enter the park through a tunnel in the pedestal and then climb a grassy hillside. It will be hard to picture the memorial based on this description so find some photos online. The Irish Hunger Memorial features the ruins of a 19th century Irish cottage. I’m not sure why you would want to place a memorial to the Great Irish Famine in New York City. The famine did cause millions of Irish to emigrate to the United States and New York City. They should create a giant empty whiskey bottle for an Irish Thirst Memorial.

Irish Hunger Memorial

Next I walked east and found St. Paul’s Chapel and Zuccotti Park. St. Paul’s Chapel has many exhibits honoring its role in providing a shelter for the victims of 9/11 and later the recovery workers. You should definitely make this church part of your visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The Zuccotti Park was interesting because that is where the Occupy Wall Street protesters camped out.

After that I went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. I wasn’t terribly interested in seeing the new museum and the memorial but I was going to be in the area anyway so it made sense to go there. The memorial pools are an impressive sight and a great use of the footprints of the World Trade Center Twin Towers. For the best view, position yourself on any corner. Considering how massive those buildings were, it does not take long to walk around the pools. There are of course, two pools since there were two towers. I did see the new One World Trade Center which is now the tallest building in Manhattan. There is still a lot of construction going on in the area. I think they are building a new World Trade Center PATH station. The World Trade Center Transportation Hub is a peculiar structure which looks like the ribs and spine of a giant, alien dinosaur.

9-11 Memorial Pool

The 9/11 Museum opened in May 2014, last month, so obviously I could not have visited the museum on previous trips. The museum is a bit crowded because it is a new attraction. You should definitely buy a ticket online to reserve a time for your visit. I suspect that eventually you will find it easier to visit the museum, but right now it requires a reservation and a bit of hassle. I arrived 20 minutes early but there was still a long line for the 2:00 p.m. entry time. There was some security to go through. You just had to empty your pockets of any electronics and large metal items. The security around the 9/11 Memorial is kind of annoying because the target of the terrorist attacks is long gone.

It took a lot longer to go through the 9/11 Museum than I expected. I think you should give it two hours. There is actually an extensive series of exhibits and it takes quite a while to see everything. I saw the personal effects of people killed in the attacks and various pieces of rubble. There were multimedia presentations to explain the events. The 9/11 Museum also includes material on the Pentagon attack and the crash of Flight 93 in Shanksville Pennsylvania. The museum is full of grim reminders of the tragedy that struck that day. Some artifacts seem dated, like the cell phones, while other things like the Metrocards are the same today.

9-11 Museum

I have not given much thought to September 11 on my trips to New York City, although it is mentioned in contemporary travel guides. September 11 was a Tuesday and I was at work that day. I was working as a web developer for a small web design company and we used to go to the Internet World shows at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. So at that time I was enjoying trips to New York City which made my profession seem especially glamorous. My very first trip to New York City was a complete nightmare but I remember seeing the World Trade Center Plaza.

Before leaving the 9/11 Museum I went to its controversial store. I looked for a book that would explain everything that happened that day. They did have the 9/11 Commission Report but I feared that would be too tedious to read. I saw they did sell some books with other viewpoints like Noam Chomsky’s 9-11: Was There an Alternative? but not any of the stupid conspiracy books. I bought the book 102 Minutes by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn which appears to tell personal accounts of survival in the Twin Towers. I also bought a 9/11 Museum bookmark which was cheap enough for an impulse buy.

My final goal for this trip was dinner at Osteria al Doge. I was going to eat at Pigalle but you can’t make a reservation online and when I called to make a reservation they hung up on me when I told them when I wanted I eat. Osteria al Doge is on West 44th Street so I made my way uptown with plenty of time to spare. I wandered around the theater district a bit but it was even more crowded than usual. There were bus loads of people outside the stage door of the Richard Rodgers Theatre and it was difficult to squeeze through. They may have been hoping to see Idina Menzel, the leading actress  in the blockbuster Broadway musical Wicked. I bought a slushie at the Theatre District Shopping Court because I was dying from thirst. When I finally made my way to West 44th Street I discovered that 6th Avenue was blocked off for a huge street fair. New York City street fairs are an excellent opportunity to walk down the center of a street and take photos from that unusual perspective. My meal at Osteria al Doge was ridiculously expensive, $51.00 for just one person. I ordered the Calamari Alla Griglia, lemon and  herb marinated grilled calamari served with tomato, sweet bell pepper, and cucumber salad. I also had a glass of wine and tiramisu for dessert. In the future, I think I will stick to Japanese ramen restaurants which offer a cheap meal which is exotic enough.

After dinner I still had an hour to kill so I went to the Kinokuniya Bookstore across from Bryant Park. I went upstairs and found the DVD section where I selected the Japanese science fiction movie Gantz. I like to watch contemporary Japanese films. I bought several on Amazon before my trip to New Orleans. I didn’t do much shopping on this trip to New York City. I only bought one book and one DVD. But it was still an expensive trip. I found a table at Bryant Park and sat there for a while before heading to 51st Street to catch the bus home. I think Bryant Park might be a good place to kill time for the last hour of my NYC trips instead of the crowded Times Square, but it is a little far from where I need to be.

Next week I plan to continue my exploration of Stroudsburg and the Poconos. We drove past Stroudsburg on the way to New York City and I could see part of the city visible from the highway now that I know what to look for. If I lived in Stroudsburg PA I could visit New York City even more often and without such a tedious bus trip!

Posted in General, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Am Studying NHibernate

I have not blogged about programming for a long time. That does not mean that I have not been improving my skills. I frequently come across something new and document it for my notes. For example, I recently discovered that web browsers can unexpectedly do form validation with built-in validation triggered by new HTML5 tag attributes. Since this unexpected behavior caught me by surprise twice, I researched the HTML5 Constraint API for Form Validation and added it to my notes. It is quite puzzling when the browser is doing form validation even though you don’t have any code for form validation!

Over the past few days I have been learning how to use NHibernate. NHibernate is an object-relational mapping (ORM) solution for the Microsoft .NET platform. I have been using SubSonic for object-relational mapping but I think the developers have abandoned that project. NHibernate is more difficult than SubSonic since you have to create your own classes. I did find a program to generate the classes, NHibernate Mapping Generator, but it is not as convenient as SubSonic.

The main advantage to using object-relational mapping is that you can make changes to your database tables without having to rewrite a lot of code. Usually you only need to add a line of code for a new column or change a line of code if you change a column’s data type. You won’t need to revise a lot of SQL strings in your code. A project in development may require many changes to the database schema so this can save a lot of time.

Today I learned how to select all records in a table, how to select records based on multiple criteria, and how to create a traditional SQL query which may be necessary for complicated queries. As with any database API, you have to learn how to do CRUD (Create a record, Read a record, Update a record, and Delete a record). I usually add an example of how to select all records and loop through the result set.

I plan to redesign my web site soon. I need to find new clients because I don’t have any freelance work to do right now. In the meantime, I will continue to make trips around Pennsylvania. There are still a few towns I could visit like Danville, Bloomsburg, and State College. I also want to explore the Poconos some more since there are many resorts there with a variety of recreational activities. I am particularly interested in Stroudsburg and will be doing a thorough investigation of the city and its resources. Today I learned exactly where the Pennsylvania Welcome Center is located in Delaware Water Gap and I clarified the location of the Martz Bus Terminal where you can catch a bus to New York City.

Posted in General, Programming | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Watkins Glen State Park and Corning Museum of Glass

Today I finally drove north into New York State to see some of the attractions. I’ve gone on a few bus trips to Niagara Falls which went through New York, but this was the first time I ventured up there on my own. I have done so much traveling this weekend that it seems like a real vacation, with multiple attractions seen each day as if I had limited time.

The drive north into lower New York State was very scenic. I drove through some fog in the higher elevations so there was an interesting mix of bright sunlight, patches of fog, and green mountains. I arrived at Watkins Glen State Park around 9:00 a.m. I wanted to be early because I heard the parking lot gets full on weekends. This did seem to be the case by noon. You are supposed to pay a $8.00 vehicle use fee when you enter the park but there was nobody around to take the money and give out tickets. I wasn’t asked to pay when I left so I got to visit the park for free!

Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park has some spectacular waterfalls and a deep gorge making for some incredible rock cliffs. It was better than Ricketts Glen State Park. The trail was also better with well made stone steps, rock tunnels, and strategically placed rock bridges. The falls trail in Ricketts Glen State Park is primitive in comparison and far more treacherous. There was a lot of places  where water was dripping onto the trail so I got a little wet and had to walk through some puddles. I had to worry about getting water on my camera lens. I took a lot of photos and even some video which I will upload to YouTube. On the Indian Trail I saw a small mountain cemetery with some impressive monuments so I photographed that too. Watkins Glen State Park has a gift shop but I only bought a heart shaped polished stone for $7.00 as a memento.

After leaving Watkins Glen State Park I went to the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York because it was only a short drive from the park. There is a billboard advertising the Corning Museum of Glass in Williamsport. I pass that billboard every day on the way home from work so I thought it was about time to visit the place. But I’m not very interested in glass.

Corning Museum of Glass

The Corning Museum of Glass was better than I expected. They have an extensive collection of glass objects from throughout history including ancient Roman glass, Venetian glass, glass eyes, stained glass windows, glass paperweights, and contemporary art done in glass. They seemed to have a few international visitors. There was also a massive gift shop selling glass animals, glass paperweights, glass chess sets, and books on glass artwork. I bought a glass paperweight which was 50% off.

Crippled Bear Inn

After driving back down Route 15 I stopped in at the Cripple Bear Inn for one last adventure. Cripple Bear Inn has “local character”. The restaurant is full of hunting trophies, stuffed bears, bear skins, and deer antlers. It also serves as a biker bar so there are always a line of motorcycles lined up outside. Their food is pretty good and I always find the place packed with patrons. Today was Father’s Day and I thought the place looked half empty but then I noticed they have a courtyard and I saw the waitresses take a lot of food out to the courtyard. I ordered a prime rib sandwich with sautéed onions and melted provolone and a glass of Pepsi. Cripple Bear Inn is pretty close to my house so I could go there often but I’m rarely heading in that direction.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Weekend In The Poconos

Today I finally made a trip to Stroudsburg PA. I have been interested in Stroudsburg for quite some time because it is as close as you can get to New York City while still being in Pennsylvania. Stroudsburg might be the ideal city for me. If I lived in Stroudsburg I would enjoy a low cost of living while being able to make trips to New York City as often as I want. It would cut two hours from the travel time. I have seen the signs for the Stroudsburg exits on every bus trip to New York City. As a matter of fact, my next trip to NYC is in just two weeks on June 28th, 2014.

Downtown Stroudsburg is impressive with an attractive main street. There are several Irish pubs and retail establishments. There were plenty of benches to sit on and you could cross the streets using modern pedestrian traffic signs. I parked on Ann Street and 9th Street where there was a small stripmall and a few farmer’s market stands set up.

Stroudsburg

I took many photos of various establishments on Main Street because I couldn’t always find any decent photos online. I took a good photo of Jock N Jill’s Sports Bar, Sarah Street Grill, Cedar’s Mediterranean Grill, and Marco Antonio’s. I walked on each side of Main Street twice to make sure I had plenty of photos to use for my custom travel guide. I arrived in Stroudsburg at around 9:00 a.m. so I had to wait until 10:00 a.m. for most stores to be open. At 10:15 a.m. I went into Carroll & Carroll Booksellers because I can never resist a bookstore. I bought a two volume set of the Italian playwright Dario Fo’s plays, a rare find, but it was expensive, almost $40.00. I wanted to buy a copy of the local newspaper, the Pocono Record, but I had quite a struggle with a newspaper vending machine so I had to go into a corner tobacco shop to buy a newspaper for further research.

Sarah Street Grill

I was going to have lunch at a downtown restaurant, Marco Antonio’s, but it didn’t open until noon so I decided to skip it. When I returned to my car with my books and newspaper, I cut short my stay in downtown Stroudsburg and proceeded to follow my detailed instructions on how to drive to the Frazetta Art Museum in East Stroudsburg. It was an annoyingly complicated route but fortunately Google Street View helped me to plan my route. I had to cross Pocono Creek, drive through East Stroudsburg, and drive quite a ways along Milford Road.

The Frazetta Art Museum was an amazing discovery I made while researching my trip. Frank Frazetta was an artist famous for his fantasy artwork used for pulp paperback book covers. I am quite familiar with his artwork for the Edgar Rice Burroughs books, especially the John Carter of Mars series, and his many Conan the Barbarian book covers. The art museum has the original paintings for these book covers in livid color. They even had many Edgar Rice Burroughs and Conan the Barbarian paperback books on display. This art museum is a must for any science fiction or fantasy fan and it was especially appealing to me because I have such fond memories of those paperback book covers. It is amazing that such a nifty museum was only two hours drive away from me and I never knew about it until now. This just goes to show how worthwhile it can be to explore your home state.

Frazetta Art Museum

I was the only visitor at the Frazetta Art Museum and I think it was Frank Frazetta’s son who welcomed me. I think the museum has only been open for a month. I hope they get enough visitors to keep the place open. After leaving the art museum I did stop in at Pocono Candles but after that I just wanted to go home so I found my way to Interstate 80. I regret not spending the entire day in Stroudsburg but there didn’t seem to be much more for me to do there.

To make up for my early departure, I forced myself to make a detour in Danville and finally visited Mom’s Dutch Kitchen, a rustic restaurant which I’ve often seen on bus trips to New York City because the bus would pick up passengers across the highway from this restaurant. Mom’s Dutch Kitchen serves PA Dutch cuisine so I ordered a breakfast platter with scrapple. The scrapple was surprisingly good. Scrapple is usually something to avoid eating, but it is a genuine regional specialty. I’m pleased that I am making progress in my exploration of the region. It will definitely help me the next time I need to look for a job.

Mom's Dutch Kitchen

I plan to continue my research on Stroudsburg PA. I may even make more trips to the Pocono area. In order to establish a relationship with the Poconos, I plan to look for a web development client in Stroudsburg. There does not appear to be much IT work in the area, but I will dig real deep to find the key to moving to this city.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Last Day In Venice

By my sixth and last day in Venice I had run out of things to do. I had done all the things listed on my itinerary. I wanted to do less walking this day but I still had to leave the hotel while my room was being cleaned. The first thing I did was walk up Calle Fabbri to see how to reach the Rialto Bridge that way. I should mention that this street had many modern stores. It was a narrow alley but the stores looked similar to what you would find in a mall. I found this aspect of Venice to be especially surreal. Venice was like the fusion of a shopping mall with cramped medieval streets.

I had to find something more substantial to do so I took a vaporetto to the San Samuele stop (line 2) and waited a half hour for Palazzo Grassi to open. Palazzo Grassi is a museum of contemporary art. I was the first visitor of the day so I wandered the empty galleries all alone except for the museum staff who made me slightly nervous. The first thing I saw was an immense white room designed to give no sense of perspective. You were allowed to walk into this white void but I decided not to. There was also some artwork made from neon tubes and a giant video of a nuclear explosion, the usual conceptual art crap. I liked the special exhibit of black and white photos better. This was L’Illusione della Luce e Irving Penn. I’m not familiar with the major photographers so I  will have to google Irving Penn. His work has been exhibited internationally, and continues to inform the art of photography. Well that is certainly true since I saw his work exhibited in Venice! Penn’s repertoire also includes ethnographic photographs from around the world. True, I saw many photos of tribes people. I was most pleased to see his photograph of Tennessee Williams.

Grand Canal

After leaving Palazzo Grassi I took a vaporetto to the Accademia stop and found Campo Santa Margherita where I had a cappuccino at a small cafe. I had to go inside to pay for my drink. Then I took a vaporetto to the Ca d’Oro stop and walked along Strada Nova. Strada Nova is a long street lined with stores in a part of Venice I had not seen yet. I saw a statue of Paola Sarpi which I had not encountered in my research. I found a restaurant that appeared to cater to tourists and ordered salmon and prosecco. The waiter put a basket of bread on my table and some sparrows began to fly onto the table to eat the bread. I found this very amusing and even some tourists passing by noticed it and had a laugh. There was a street performer nearby who was painted entirely in gold and wearing a top hat, one of those living statues. Why would anyone want to stand stock still in the hot sun for just a few coins? I was given a carafe of prosecco which was half full and I drank the entire thing which left me slightly drunk.

Paolo Sarpi

After lunch I walked back to the Rialto Bridge area and crossed the bridge to return to Piazza San Marco. With nothing better to do I went in search of a square I had not seen, Campo Santa Maria Formosa. I walked pass the laundromat where I had washed my clothes so I took some more photos of that. When I got back to Piazza San Marco I spent some time taking carefully composed artistic photos since it was my last day. I took lots of photos where the streetlights fill the foreground and something like the bell tower fills the background. I then found the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo again to take more photos in better lighting and I located the Teatro Goldini again. I don’t think I had anything for dinner on my last day in Venice.

Streetlight

I might as well describe how I left Venice the next day. I forgot to mention that I did go to a ticket booth near the Royal Gardens to buy an Alilaguna ticket for the airport for 15 Euros. I bought that ticket the day before because I was worried that the ticket booth would be closed early in the morning, as in fact it was. I checked out of my hotel just before 7:00 a.m. and did not have breakfast because I wanted to leave plenty of time to reach the Marco Polo airport. I dragged my suitcase across the Piazza San Marco to the San Marco vaporetto stop which also has a pontoon for Alilaguna boats. I had to wait quite a while before a boat showed up. The crew just shouted aeroporto to make sure you knew they were going to the airport. It took over an hour for the boat to reach the Marco Polo airport because there were several stops along the way. The boat even went to the islands Lido and Murano before reaching the airport dock. I was a little worried I would not make it in time for my flight but my plane did not leave until 11:35 a.m. so I had plenty of time to get there.

After arriving at Marco Polo airport there was a long walk to reach the terminals. I just followed everyone else but it was a long ways to drag my luggage. Once inside I had to check in and get my plane ticket. I checked one bag in so I only had to lug my carry on satchel around. Then there was passport control and security which was slightly easier than security in American airports. By this time I was starving but I had time to get something to eat so I went upstairs and found a Bricco Cafè. I had a cotto baguette (prosciutto or ham) and a bibita media (a medium drink). There was a bookstore up on the second level which tempted me but I did not buy anything. I had to wait at the gate for a long time but I did get one of the few seats. As usual, they loaded the plane by zones and my zone was practically the last one called. I saw they were conducting random security checks of passengers but fortunately I was not stopped. The man in front of me dropped his coat in the walkway, or jetway I think they are called.

During the flight the pilot keep pointing out things we could see out the windows like the Alps or the Eiffel Tower. He was the chattiest pilot I’ve ever encountered. I was able to finish watching the movie Wolverine during the flight. That movie makes me want to make a trip to Tokyo. I also watched Captain Phillips which was sort of travel related and most of Goodfellas which I didn’t particularly like.

When I finally got off the plane at Philadelphia International Airport I had to go through passport control. I can never remember this process so I will try to describe it. There were several lines for the booths and I remember there was a scrolling LED sign indicating which line you should be in for US citizens. We were given a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Declaration Form 6059B on the plane before we even took off so I already had that filled out. Then I went to the baggage claim area and found my checked bag. Then I went through customs which was just a line where you handed them the form.

I had considerable trouble finding a bus for the Economy Parking Lot. I will have to study the airport layout some more because when I left the terminal I had no idea where I was. I must have walked all the way around the terminals before I found my way to the familiar F terminal where I got on a shuttle for the Economy Parking Lot. Parking for two weeks cost me $165.00 which I paid with a credit card. One thing I had studied very carefully was how to get on the right highway from the Economy Parking Lot exit. It requires a difficult left turn across traffic and then another immediate left turn onto Interstate 95 South. I almost followed my directions but I did not turn left soon enough so I had to turn around. I hate driving around Philadelphia because I always make driving mistakes there! But after that I managed to make the correct turns to reach the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Except for the blisters on my feet, my trip to Italy was perfect. There were only a few slight annoyances which is about the same for domestic trips. I made some improvement in my travel smarts by doing some laundry on this trip. But I still need to work on my Philadelphia International Airport knowledge.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venice Day Five

On the fifth day of my stay in Venice I took the vaporetto to the San Toma stop. I found the Scuola Grande di San Rocco but the woman in the booth told me it was closed. She did not speak English well enough to explain why it was closed. That was the only instance of a complete communication breakdown. Of course I saw the nearby church, Chiesa di San Rocco, but I didn’t attempt to go inside.

I wandered around the San Polo sestiere for quite awhile until I found one of the Chorus churches, sixteen churches managed by Associazione per le Chiese del Patriarcato de Venezia.  I know it was a Chorus church because they gave me a map but its hard to identify which church it was. I’ll have to guess it was San Giacomo dell’Orio because I remember thinking I had strayed too far north. According to my photos I definitely came across the church Chiesa di San Giovanni Decollato, vulgo San Zandegola which would not have been far from that other church.

Frari

I also saw Campo San Polo and Chiesa di San Polo which I did not try to enter. And then I found the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari which was definitely on my list of places to visit. I saw Titian’s masterpiece, Assumption, at the Frari and the tomb of Antonio Canova.

Eventually I found Carlo Goldoni’s House but it was very difficult to find. This was another museum covered by the VeneziaUnica City Pass. Carlo Goldoni was Venice’s greatest playwright in the 18th Century, the 1700s. I have only read one of his plays in translation, The Coffee Shop. The museum was fairly small with just a few rooms but it had a puppet theater which was interesting.

Casa di Carlo Goldoni

After leaving Carlo Goldoni’s House I was ready to get out of the San Polo sestiere since I was getting too lost there. At some point I found a farmacia and bought more aspirina. I needed to keep taking aspirin due to the blisters on my feet. After crossing the Rialto Bridge I found a vending machine where I bought a bottle of Coke because I was very thirsty. Unfortunately the bottle of Coke erupted on me when I opened it because the bottle had been shaken as it fell in the vending machine. I had to go back to the hotel to get sticky coke off my fingers. I remember one of the hotel staff surprised me in my room because it was too early in the day.

Campo Santa Margherita

When I went back out I went to Pier Dickens on Campo Santa Margherita where I ordered four cheese pasta and a seafood salad. After lunch I walked all the way to the San Marta vaporetto stop. This was clear across the Dorsoduro sestiere so I must have walked very far west from Campo Santa Margherita.  I saw some cruise ships docked along Calle Dietro Ai Magazzini and there were even cars in this part of Venice. But I had strayed far from the tourist areas. I took a vaporetto to Piazzale Roma and from there I got on another vaporetto to Stazione FS Ferrovie. Finally I got on a vaporetto which went down the Grand Canal to San Marco. I was done for the day because all that walking was torture for my aching feet.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Venice Day Four

I began my fourth day in Venice with breakfast at the hotel. I had yogurt, cheese and a small croissant, coffee with milk. I took a vaporetto to the Accademia stop and quickly found the entrance to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum because I used Google Street View the previous evening to figure out where it is located. I made sure to take several photos of the entrance because it bugs me when I have to hunt for something despite my efforts to be well prepared. But then I had to wait on a park bench at Campo San Vio until 10:00 a.m. for the museum to open.

Peggy Guggenheim Museum

Although I would have visited the Peggy Guggenheim Museum anyways since I like modern art, I had an additional reason to be interested in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. Luisa Casati, an eccentric Italian heiress, muse, and patroness of the arts in early 20th century, used to live there. I read a book about her life, Infinite Variety: The Life and Legend of the Marchesa Casati. I took a few photos of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum garden before wandering through the galleries. I also went out on the terrace for the view of the Grand Canal. I didn’t find any books in the gift shop that I had to buy.

After that I proceeded to yet another museum, Ca’ Rezzonico. I was able to use my Venice City Pass again so I really got some value out of it. At Ca’ Rezzonico I saw many rooms in the palace and there was an extensive art gallery of old paintings. I only found Emma Ciardi’s work striking enough to memorize her name.

From Ca’ Rezzonico I was able to find Campo San Barnana. This is the square where Katharine Hepburn falls into the canal in the movie,  Summertime. I liked that movie because it was about a lonely American on vacation in Venice. You could see the shop on the square where she buys a Venetian glass but it is a magic shop now. I also found the bridge nearby, the Ponte dei Pugni, and after crossing the bridge I found Campo Santa Margherita. There are many restaurants on Campo Santa Margherita so I had lunch at Pier Dickens. I ordered sardines and spaghetti with cuttlefish ink. It was a messy meal but probably the most authentic Venetian cuisine I ate in Venice.

Campo San Barnana

After lunch I went further up the Grand Canal, pass the Rialto Bridge to Ca d’Oro. This museum was a little disappointing but you do get a good view of the Grand Canal from the palazzo’s Byzantine loggia. When I left Ca d’Oro I wandered around until I found Santi Giovanni e Paolo, a large church, which I entered. This church has a vast interior which is filled with funerary monuments and paintings. From there I eventually found my way back to Piazza San Marco.

Ca d'Oro

I bought some gelato in a cone on my way to the hotel but walked pass it to find the Goldini bookstore where I bought a Touring Editore travel guide on Amsterdam. Amsterdam will be my next destination in Europe but it may be several years before I can afford another extravagant trip. I must have returned to the hotel to put the book in my room and then I went out again to have dinner at a restaurant on the Riva degli Schiavoni. I just choose a tourist restaurant at random and had a pizza and a lemon soda. The final landmark I searched for that day was the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, famous for its spiral staircase. It was not far from my hotel and there were signs pointing the way.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venice Day Three

For my third day in Venice the plan was to visit some art museums. I had breakfast at the hotel again; yogurt, scrambled eggs, cheese and slices of meat. Coffee with milk. I took a vaporetto to the Accademia stop but it went to Lido first because it was going in the wrong direction. At the Gallerie dell’Accademia I had to buy a ticket since this museum is not included on the VeneziaUnica City Pass. I saw Titian’s very last painting which was memorable to me since I had read the book, Titian: The Last Days by Mark Hudson, which describes this painting in detail. I also found Giorgione’s painting The Tempest although I almost missed it because it was located in a large side gallery that I only found after going through the entire museum.

Gallerie dell'Accademia

I then went to the Ca’ Pesaro where I was able to gain admittance with the VeneziaUnica City Pass. I took the vaporetto to San Stae and then walked to the museum since you can’t enter it directly from the Grand Canal. The Ca’ Pesaro has a decent collection of modern art. I saw artwork by Andy Warhol including his brillo boxes and a few paintings by Giorgio de Chirico. I also saw artwork by artists I’ve never heard of, like Miroslav Kraljevic, a Croatian modernist. I liked his expressionist paintings which seemed very dark and sophisticated. Unfortunately the Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Art’s most famous painting, Gustav Klimt’s Judith II (Salome), was on loan so I did not get to see it.

Ca' Pesaro

The Oriental Art Museum is on the upper floor of Ca’ Pesaro. I wasn’t expecting much from this museum but it turned out to be genuinely impressive. The collection of Japanese decorative arts was substantial and of high quality. I don’t think I’ve ever seen oriental art on this scale. The samurai swords alone must have numbered in the hundreds and there was every other kind of Asian craftsmanship on display. Most people probably don’t go to Venice to see Asian art, but if you are into that kind of thing then you would not want to miss this museum.

I liked the Ca’ Pesaro International Gallery of Art so much that I bought a museum guide to help me to remember what I saw since you were not allowed to take photos. I had lunch in the cafeteria, a ham and cheese sandwich and a Pepsi. But the neat thing is that they have tables with a view of the Grand Canal so I could watch gondolas and vaporetti go by as I ate lunch.

Santa Maria della Salute

I took the vaporetto back to Piazza San Marco and tried to go see the church San Zaccaria but it was closed. I went back to my hotel room to drop off my book, take some aspirin, and change my socks. The blisters were still bothering me. I then went out again and took the vaporetto to Santa Maria della Salute. There is a vaporetto stop right in front of the church. Fortunately the church was open and I took photos in the interior. I also paid to see the sacristy where there is a painting by Tintoretto, Marriage at Cana. After leaving the Salute I tried to find the way to The Peggy Guggenheim Museum even though it was not open on Tuesdays. Unfortunately I could not find the entrance although later on I realized that I had walked right pass it. I have several travel guides on Venice and none of them tell you how to find the entrance to this museum, not even the Rick Steve’s book. They all seem to imply that you can enter from the terrace on the Grand Canal but that is not the case.

Pensione Wildner

After giving up on finding The Peggy Guggenheim Museum I took the vaporetto from Accademia to St. Mark’s Square. I had supper at Hotel Wildner’s restaurant on the Riva degli Schiavoni. I was pleased to eat there because the writer Henry James stayed at the Pensione Wildner. I was going to read his novel The Wings of the Dove before my trip to Venice but I did not have time after adding Rome to my trip. I had a glass of prosecco, sparkling water, and an excellent pasta dish at Ristorate Wildner. Before I returned to my hotel room, I found an ATM on Merceria and withdrew another 150 Euros.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Venice Day Two

I began my second day in Venice with breakfast at the hotel. I had yogurt, scrambled eggs and bacon. Coffee was something they served and I had a cappuccino. I planned to visit several museums on Piazza San Marco since it would be easy to find everything in the vicinity.

First I tried to visit the Correr Museum at 9:00 a.m. but it was not opened promptly. So I went up the Campanile instead but I was wearing the wrong pair of glasses. I have prescription glasses and reading glasses that I use when working on the computer. I accidentally left the hotel wearing my reading glasses. There is a small building located at the base of the bell tower known as the Loggetta. I was unable to find any decent photos of the Loggetta online so I made sure to take lots of photos of it. It bugs me when I have to spend a lot of time searching for a photo of something while researching my trip. The Campanile gives you an excellent aerial view of Venice so I took lots of photos. There was a vending machine up there so I bought a bottle of water.

Campanile View

I then tried to find a laundromat based on directions I found online. I only packed three shirts for my trip and they were getting kind of grungy by the second week. Unfortunately the laundromat was hard to find so eventually I gave up. But I did find a farmacia and bought some more stuff for the blisters on my feet. I went back to my hotel to get my prescription glasses.

I returned to the Correr Museum which was finally open. I also saw visited the National Archaeological Museum and the Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana which are connected to the Correr Museum. I used my VeneziaUnica City Pass which I bought online. I just had a print out of the PDF but that got me into many museums so I got my money’s worth. At the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana there was a special exhibit, Il Mondo Fantastico di Fosca. The “Fantastical World of Fosca” was a set of anthropomorphic animal drawings illustrating the history of the library. Fosca must be a contemporary Venetian artist. http://www.foscaworld.com/biography.html I only took one photo in the National Archaeological Museum where there was an Egyptian mummy in a small room which looked secluded enough for sneaking a photo.

After than I went to the Doge’s Palace which is also a museum. My VeneziaUnica City Pass got me into the Doge’s Palace as well. I saw the courtyard which you can only see with admission and the Giants’ Staircase, although that was roped off. I’m not quite sure if I saw everything in the Doge’s Palace but I did find the Doge’s Apartments and the Senate Chamber. I followed a large tour group, French I think, and crossed the Bridge of Sighs, where I got a view out the window, and saw the prisons.

Giants' Staircase

Next I visited St. Mark’s Basilica which is free to enter since it is a church. But I did pay to see the Treasury, the Pala d’oro, and the St. Mark’s Museum with access to the roof. You were not allowed to take photos but I saw many tourists disregarding the signs so I took a few photos as well. Of course, you can take as many photos as you like from the roof. I saw the original Triumphal Quadriga or Horses of St Mark’s in the museum. I bought a Venice travel guide in English at the St. Mark’s Museum store, mostly for the map which was not very detailed.

I had lunch at Caffè Florian. Caffè Florian is super expensive but very classy. They even charge for the musicians playing if you sit outside, supplemento musica 6 Euros. I ordered club sandwiches and peach ice tea. The whole thing cost me 32 Euros. But I think it is worth it to get an essential Venetian experience. Just don’t take all your meals on the Piazza San Marco.

Effe Erre

After lunch I made another attempt to locate the laundromat Effe Erre and finally found my way to it. I rushed back to my hotel and packed my carry on bag with dirty clothes. Then I retraced my steps to the laundromat. Some locals or maybe young backpackers helped me with the washing machine. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a laundromat in my life so I had no idea how the procedure may work. The washing machines and dryers in Europe are very modern. You have to buy soap from a dispenser and then put it into the top of the washing machine. There were instructions in English so I might have eventually figured it out on my own. It took about an hour to wash and dry my clothes. They didn’t even wind up totally clean or dry. But I was immensely proud of myself for getting this taken care of. This was a huge advance in my travel smarts. Of course, I had to return to my hotel to drop off my carry on bag before going out again.

Venetian Laundromat

I went to Harry’s Bar and ordered a Bellini and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. The Bellini alone cost 16.50 Euros which is outrageous for a small drink. My total bill was 32.40 Euros. I only went to Harry’s Bar because it is a famous establishment and I wanted to be able to say I’ve been there and done that.

Harry’s Bar

For the rest of the afternoon I walked far to the west until I found the Ponte dell’Accademia. I came across the Museo della Musica which has free admission. I saw lots of musical instruments in the museum, mostly string instruments like violins and cellos. I bought an opera DVD, La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, but I have not watched it yet. This opera was first performed on 6 March 1853 at the La Fenice opera house in Venice.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment