Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New England bike trip October 26, 1985 -- buckwheat pancakes, haunted house, ambulance station!

The 26th was sunny again, and my day's ride started with a huge downhill with a 10% grade, down off the mountain to the "town" of Red Rock. There wasn't much there… a gas station, some junked out cars… and Zel's Restaurant! Mike the Ranger told me to go there for sure, for they served "the best pancakes I ever had." Indeed they were fine! I had sourdough buckwheat cakes and two big hunks of sausage for a very reasonable price.

The restaurant had only one table--a big long one where everyone sat together. Beside me were some folks who, according to my journal from the day, were "local-looking." (What exactly did I mean by that, I wonder???) Across the table was a couple from Harrisburg who said they went out of their way to eat at Zel's when they could. They informed me that Zel was in her 80s but still cooking up a storm.

Me out front of Zel's Restaurant.

Red Rock, PA. October 26, 1985.

25 miles later I arrived in Bloomsburg. I knew I was getting close to the Appalachian Trail and hoped I could find a campsite or a hiker's shelter up there to sleep in. A sporting goods store called up a local hiking club, and I learned there were no shelters. Uh, bummer.

North of Bloomsburg, PA. October 26, 1985.

For the rest of the day I had some pretty long grinding climbs. It was one big tall Pennsylvania ridge after another. Good downhills of course, but more time was spent climbing! I descended through the coal mining town of Centralia and eventually reached the town of Ashland.

Centralia, PA. October 26, 1985.

Mike the Ranger was not the only source of good food tips at the state park. Norman the bachelor supplied me with the knowledge of Snyder's ice cream shop, in Ashland. I went straight there and had me a terrific banana split. Never turn down local food advice! [2010 web search reveals that Snyder's is still around, but not Zel's. 'Magine she done passed on……. R.I.P. ]

Snyder's Ice Cream. Ashland, PA. October 26, 1985.

I went on, laboring up another big climb toward Frackville. I was pretty beat. I was having that uncertainty problem, about where I'd sleep that night. There were some state parks in the area but they were closed for the season! So I chose to ride a larger road, in hopes of finding some kind of commercial campground or RV park or something. I went on and on but found nothing.

Soon it was starting to get dark, and I made it to the town of St. Clair. I started asking around about camping spots but there really wasn't anything there. I even called some motels but their prices were too steep for me. I was determined to find something. Someone told me about a small town park, but it was closed after dark. I had camped in town parks in small towns in the past, so I figured I'd just go ask the police department's permission. Found the the police station but no one was there! It was getting darker… Strangely, despite nowhere to go, I felt calmly assured that this was going to work out. So, why not sit and read? That's what I did, assuming someone would show up sooner or later.

Sure enough, after awhile along came the Police Chief himself, Tom Maley. I asked him about camping in the park, and he didn't hesitate to say yes. But he said I might not be very happy over there, because there'd probably be beer-drinkers 'n' hellraisers around (sorry, couldn't resist slipping in a l'il ZZ Top reference…). So he said "Why don't you just stay in here?" and led me into the ambulance station next door. He was also director of the ambulance service. I couldn't have imagined a better "campsite." The chief of police had personality invited me to stay in a large lounge, with heat, couch, fridge, and color TV! No one stayed there overnight normally -- they were an "on-call" ambulance service.

Across the street I found a place to buy a hamburger. There was local beer and a Penn State football schedule on the wall.

The ambulance lounge *was* used buy community groups at times, and that night 'til 9pm there was a group in there registering floats etc. for an upcoming parade. Not many people came in. The ladies in there insisted I should go down the street to see the local "haunted house," set up in the church. I wasn't so keen to go but one of them pulled out a dollar bill for my admission ticket! I guess I could said no, but where's the fun in that? I felt a little more into it given her generosity. I walked over and found myself in a loooong line to get in. Mostly it was teenagers, and I was the only one nobody knew. It was sort of amusing because you could tell they were trying to figure out "Who's THAT guy?" The haunted house was actually really good. Kids dressed in black with white face paint and red lips and whatever all would jump out and scare you, laughing evilly.

Back at the ambulance station, the ladies were closing down their gig. The wished me luck and gave me three more dollars for my breakfast the next day. I tried to decline, explaining I was fine, etc. But they wouldn't let me refuse. So, I accepted and said thanks and resigned myself to paying the world back some day.

I settled down to watch Game 6 of the World Series, eating cookies and milk. This was good living indeed! I was tired but the game drew me in. I stayed up 'til the bloody end, watching Kansas City come back late to beat the Cardinals and tie the Series. (The next day, they won it…) I then fell sound asleep, so asleep that I did not hear the ambulance dudes come into the building and drive out on a 4:30am call!

St. Clair, Pennsylvania, early the next morning.

Ambulance station somewhere in there on the left :)

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