Monday, August 4, 2008

Day 42 - New Waterford OH to Washington PA

(photos: East Fairfield church message; Welcome to Pennsylvania; busy porch of general store in Burgettstown)

Due to requests from a few Riders, Sharon set up breakfast to start a bit later than usual: 7am. We had only 62 miles slated for the day, and felt we could afford the luxury of more zzz's. Today's route consisted of deep rollers with a few long climbs. Towns in this area had a scrappier appearance than those from a day or so ago. You could sense the transition from ag-based communities to those trying to sustain themselves with industry.
At the peak of one hill, I scanned the horizon. Farm fields were behind me and laid out in the valley below. But active, tall, smokestacks were in the distance. The view seemed to imply that Pennsylvania meant Industry. I began the noted long descent - not noticing the Welcome to Ohio sign on the left-hand, ascending lane, and reached the base of the hill. Mark was there to point out that an official Welcome to Pennsylvania sign could be found about 1/2 mile to the right, whereas our route continued to the left. How can you pass up a sign photo opp? Got a shot of the PA signe and even went back up the hill to get a picture of the Ohio one as well. (When crossing from Indiana to Ohio, we did so on a county road that only noted the crossing within a street-name sign. Wanted to have a more official-looking one in my archives).
Rolled on into my first PA town: Midland. Looked fairly run-down. Unkept rowhouses lined the road into town. At the mid-town check point, I asked Mark about local cafes. He pointed to one down the block - one of the only bright spots around. The Karma Cafe. I locked up my bike and went in. Old building, very high ceiling, illuminated by daylight from street-side windows.. A seasoned wait-perso behind the counter seemed to be going through Opening tasks. I sat on a stool at the counter and ordered some coffee - there was a REAL espresso machine on the back counter - and a fresh-baked apple muffin. As other Riders saw my bike and filed in, the tension mounted a bit. "I'm the only one here so you'll just have to wait" said the wait-person/cashier/cook. We're a patient crowd for the most part. Few seemed to mind the hap-hazard way of ordering (no menu present: speak up or you won't be fed). If she looked your way, you needed to ask what was available and pick something on the spot. The place did accept credit cards for payment, but the machine had run out of receipt paper. You get the picture. But the breads, muffins and cakes were made in-house. It was very much worth the experience to stick around to eat and drink.
On my way out of town, I passed the Beaver Valley nuclear power plant. Ominous facility. We had been warned not to take photos - as your camera might be confiscated. Ok, ok, I'm out of here.
Moderate to deep rollers for the balance of the day. Stopped in Burgettstown (last chance to make grocery-type purchases before camp) and meandered along some back streets. It was Sunday, so most everything was shuttered. But I could hear a loud voice down an alley way, and spied some older guys hanging around an open door: an auction was in progress. Farther down the street I noticed the general store. Its porch was crowded with any number of things. A stretch for me to imagine living in such a place. It reminded me of a worn-down italian hill town for some reason - maybe due to its steeply sloping, narrow streets. And the sense that life was being lived behind shuttered doors and windows - but not on view to just anyone.
Continued on in the direction of our designated camp site: Whispering Pines campground. Stopped at a farm market along the way to purchase some local honey, a small town paper, and a cold drink.
The campground was small and basic. Some sites were bookmarked with vacant trailers. And other sites available to us were on a grassy slope. We made the best of it. Having a shower and a chance to set up your little tent home is often all that we need, along with a few thousand calories in one form or another.
Dinner was catered by a local company. They underestimated our appetites. No matter. We'll make up for it tomorrow.

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