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  1. #81
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,069

    Default Jim Thorpe

    Many months ago, long before I left home, I came accross this little town in PA... and the hostel / guesthouse there. However, I had completely forgotten about it, that is, till I was looking for somewhere to stay late on the 26th July. I was in Panera Bread, Wilkes Barre PA, where I had eaten, and made good use of their free wifi, and trying to decide what I should do for the night. Then, on the hostel site, I saw it again, and all I had read about it came rushing back. A quick phone call to confirm that a (dorm) bed was available, a dash down the PA turnpike saw me arrive at my destination just before 10pm.



    Both having travelled extensively, Michelle and Tom run Mary's Guesthouse as good clean and affordable accommodation for travellers. The only down was that parking was on the street, and then only on one side of the street, in the narrow streets of this old town district.



    Mary"s is close to everything, the history, the sites, cafes, restaurants and pubs, as well as the train rides, library and visitor centre. The Opera House is on the next corner, and the Mauch Chunk museum is next door to the hostel.



    Between the museum and the hostel is this intriguing staircase, which reaches up to the next street. I did not see it used, nor was I able to see from where one would access it, other than through the museum. In the dining room at the hostel is a photo of the staircase with a black bear on the landing half way up.

    A short drive sees you at more recent shops and the supermarket. In every direction the attractions abound.

    I decided to linger a while. It was a comfortable place, and where as there were 6 other ladies there the night I arrived, the following two nights I had the place to myself. This lovely old multi storey house boosts a fully equipped kitchen, comfortable dining room and bright lounge without TV, but a piano for anyone who can play.

    Upstairs are four bedrooms capable of accommodating two dozen guests. The place was spotlessly clean, and even thought the front door was always open / unlocked, I was able to securely lock my room.

    It was good to just sit around and catch up on some of my paperwork - no internet. Had my hair done, and went and drove around to see some of the sights and the streets of the old town.



    I had never heard of Jim Thorpe, but at the memorial, where he is buried, there is ample information, that I am now well aware of the place he holds in sporting history; of why the town is named after him. The action of changing the name of two places, brought Mauch Chunk and West Mauch Chunk together under the banner of the new name... more than half a century ago.

    I really enjoyed my couple of days in this hamlet tucked away in the Pennsylvania mountains.

  2. #82
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,169

    Default Very nice report

    Thanks for the write-up and the photos -- always nice to find these places. Like discovering that the 2nd largest collection of aviation and space technology artifacts in the USA is located in Hutchinson, Kansas!

    Mark

  3. #83
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,069

    Default

    Hwy 209 leads all the way from Jim Thorpe to the Susquehanna River. It is a good two lane country road, and takes in numerous small towns. It was with great anticipation that I set out on my trip, that Wednesday afternoon. The morning storm, which had pelted my car with marble-sized hail stones, had passed, and I assumed the rest of the day would be fine. Big mistake!! and by the time I reached I-81 I was pretty tired of driving this road in the on again, off again rain.

    Headed for Hershey where I planned to check my email, etc. at the library. Tried to follow the instructions from my satnav, but somehow I ended up in the 'Park'. Was shown the way out, but still had a good chance to see what it is all about. I do so not like those type of places. Avoid them at all cost. I was glad that I had decided to spend the night at the truck stop at exit 77, and not in Hershey.

    The next day it was straight down I-81 towards Shenandoah NP. At Front Royal I pulled off the road, into a motel car park to check my coupon book and see if any of them refered to one of the many motels in this town. Imagine my surprise that I had pulled into the motel which gave the best deal with the coupon. After some shopping and checking out the town, I settled down in a basic, comfortable room and bed.... with (iffy) wifi!!

    Skyline Drive was a great disappointments. I drove the first 65 miles and then reverted back to I-81. Like the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive is slow, very scenic, and if you like to stop at the turnouts for photos and take in the view, then that makes it slower still.







    For me it was fog and rain... and then rain and fog... very little to see and enjoy.


    As good as it got

    This is the third time I have attempted the SD / BRP, and each time I have been thwarthed by the weather. As I drove down I-81, I kept listening to the weather on the radio, and looking across to the mountains. The clouds were very low, shrouding the tops of the mountains. I doubt that I would have had much scenery to enjoy.



    On the other hand... a wild turkey crossed my path and many deer were by the roadside, including some young ones.

    Continued down I-81 that day and the next, through Harisonburg, past the accident and onto Abingdon, where once again I chanced upon a weekend festival. This time I did not stop. I could see all the goings on, the one thing I could not see was a parking spot.

    Sometime before I reached the exit at Abingdon, an 18 wheeler pulled alongside of me, blasting his horn. Not having diverted from my cruise controlled driving, I ignored it, and he dropped back. Soon he was there again, honking. I thought I better look and see what he wanted, perhaps there was something wrong with the back of my car. But no! There was a notepad held up which I could see through his passenger window on which was written... MELB. VIC. I gave him the thumbs up, and he continued ahead of me. (On the back window of my car is a sticker in the shape of Australia with the flag super-imposed upon it.) When I exited at Abingdon I lost him. So if anyone sees Navajo trailer #54813, (maybe in a rest area) pass on my details. LOL

    I called the hostel where I had planned to spend the night... south of Galax near the BRP. The hostel sounded really great. When I spoke to the 88 year old owner, he informed me that unfortunately he has had to close for the time being... as he is recovering from a coronary. I was so disappointed. When he heard where I was heading - route 58 - this thoughtful gent did his best to warn me, and advise strongly against my driving that road.

    I thanked him... he meant well.

    Route 58, which had been suggested to me as an interesting road, was all that and more. Heading east from I-81 it passes through the small settlement of Damascus before it heads into the Mt Rogers NRA.



    At first it follows a lovely stream, and then it heads up, sometimes through private property, and somethimes through SP/NRA.


    (One of the few photos for which I was able to pull off the road.)

    It is a winding road, as most mountain roads are, but it is a good road, and a road that anyone should be able to drive. It is not particularly narrow, but it is slow. It was such a pleasure after the disappointment earlier on SD. Really enjoyed the drive. No chance of falling asleep here.



    So scenic and interesting. Not a cruise control road... at least not until you get to, and past Independence. On this fine afternoon, folk were sitting on their verandahs, mowing their lawns and walking their dogs. It was quite an active area despite being relatively remote.



    Well before I got to Independence and the divided road it started to get darker and darker, and the radio started sending out weather warnings. There was movement in the storm which was heading for Hillsville... that was the way I was heading.

    The plan had been to take 89 to Mount Airy NC, but by the time I got to Galax it was not just raining... it was pelting down. So much so, that I pulled off the road for a good half hour. The wipers could not keep up with it, and with the amount of water on the road I was not prepared to let some speeding idiot lose control and hit me. It ended up being I-77 down to Mt Airy (where there is a truck stop which welcomes RVs).

    The ride from 58 down I-77 is fantastic... straight down the hill! I think I counted four run-away truck ramps. That gives you an indication of the grade. And by now the rain had eased, almost stopped, and it really was a great view over the valley to the east. Wow!! I believe it is called 'a ski run'. Not a place to risk taking a photo whilst driving.

    The travel plaza at Mt Airy is one of the few I have stayed at which is not owned by one of the two big fellas. It was a nice change. Not only was the menu different - still great food, great prices - but they offered free wifi, which was available throughout the plaza.

    From here it would be an (almost) speed run down to Florida.
    Last edited by Lifemagician; 08-09-2009 at 06:53 AM. Reason: typo

  4. #84
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,069

    Default Georgia on my mind

    As I travel around, there are some places where I feel completely comfortable and at ease... almost at home. Georgia is not one of them! It seems everytime I travel through that State something goes wrong or something awful happens. In 2001 it was a most horrible experience at the hostel in Brunswick. In 2004 I lost my credit card somewhere in the south... (or was it stolen?) and in Atlanta that year I was abused and came very close to being physically assaulted by a drug crazed individual. In 2007 I avoided the place. That was not really an option this time.

    It was going to be a direct run on I-20 from Augusta to route 44 >> 129, the shortcut to where I would pick up I-75 to Florida. But right from the start, I almost felt as if I had been jinxed once more. On I-20, in Augusta, where the road was narrow and without shoulder, in the middle of road works, where the speed limit had been reduced to 60 (my cruise control was still set at my highway speed - 62) an eighteen-wheeler cut me off... forcing me to brake so that I did not hit him, or get hit by his rear end.

    Fortunately most of these rigs have a freecall number on the back, be it for recruitment or whatever. A small tape recorder comes in handy when trying to record information on the go. Since it was a Sunday, I waited till the Monday before making the call. The safety manager was most concerned, took down all the details, including my details, and thanked me for calling. It is a pity that a tiny minority of rogue drivers affect the reputation of all truck drivers. On the whole I find them courteous. During my interview on the radio in VA, the announcer mentioned that it is estimated that 40% of drivers are too scared to get on the highways. With this type of behaviour, it is no wonder.

    Right at the border with Florida, there are four truck stop plazas at the exit, all of which welcome RVs. It was a good place to spend the night. When I came out after dinner, there was a police car parked next to my car. A Florida police car! Now, it is not every day that you get the opportunity to have a close up and personal with a police car... especially an AMERICAN police car, with its engine running. While I was checking it out, make, model, and all the special features, Jeremy the police man came out and answered all my questions. He however, had a few questions of his own.

    We chatted for quite some time, before he went back to work. Seeing my window sticker on the back of my car with Victoria's latest road safety slogan on it, he announced that he could use one like that for his car. As it happens, I do have another one with me, but it is in St Paul MN. That is how we came to exchange contact details and agreed to keep in touch.

    BTW, I suspect that it is this slogan which made the driver of the eighteen-wheeler cut in front of me. But hey buddy!! If the cap fits, wear it!

    I-75 took me to Gainsville the next day, where I struck gold.

    At home it is not common to find coffee perculators in every home, but it is rare indeed to find a home without an electric jug. I have been looking for an electric jug to carry in my car... make a cup of tea when I am in an RV park, and at other times. It is possible to get large ones and kettles, far too large for my needs, in the shops... and they cost a lot more than I wish to spend. After all, I only want it for a few months. It was here in Gainsville, in Goodwill (my favourite department store - lol) that I finally found one... exactly the one I was looking for, in good working condition, for the princely sum of $2.99.

    Lifey, the last of the big spenders

  5. #85
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,069

    Default Floorida

    It is hard for me to comprehend how permanent residents of Florida cope with the constant heat and humidity, not to mention the mosquitoes. Hence, most of my time was spent in my airconditioned car or buildings. Fortunately the Everglades Hostel has good air conditioning, albeit it only in the dorms. The dining and lounge areas are out of doors, as is the laundry. The kitchen house and TV room are a small separate building, just by the waterfall and pond/pool in the spacious tropical garden.

    This great hostel in Florida City is the perfect jump off point for the Everglades, the Keys and Miami disctrict. With its policy of 'pay for four nights ($100), get the fifth free', many use it in just this manner. It is served well by the local transit bus service. Of course I stayed and relaxed for my five nights.

    Earlier I had stopped to catch up with and have lunch with a friend at AAA, in the Lake Mary area of Orlando. As the manager of the International dept she gets many enquiries about road trips from overseas. She was most interested to hear about RTA as a resource to which she may be able to refer these enquirers.

    Spent a full day in the everglades, and even though I was not able to walk the boardwalks, had a most enjoyable time. It was incredibly hot that particular day, and when I did leave the car, left the engine and airconditioning running. (This no doubt will completely destroy my mpg stats.) Bird life was both prolific and active. Not a bird watcher, I am not able to identify most, and it is hard to get a good photo of a bird in flight with my equipment.



    I was however, most pleased with this photo, considering how far away it was. It had flown across my path just before I took this photo.



    In Florida, at one time or another, I drove on every interstate, as well as the turnpike... and on each and every one of them, I struck storms... incredible brief storms with lightning flashing all around me, and rain so heavy it was not possible to see the car in front. This was especially scary on the Overseas Highway, where I was on the 7 mile bridge. Here there are no shoulders to pull over and the car in front of me did not have lights on. SCARY!! Even though the minimum speed on this bridge is 40 mph, the traffic was moving at much less than that.

    And then, in typical Florida manner, we were out of the storm and the sun was shining brightly... in fact, the road was dry.

    All this happened on my way down the Keys. I had been invited to attend and participate in two Toastmasters clubs, just as I had done in 2007. [This is one thing I like to do when travelling. Whenever I am in a place for more than a night, I like to see if there is a club meeting, which I can attend. On this trip so far I have been made welcome and invited to participate at Toastmaster meetings in St Paul, Boston, Fairbanks, Anchorage and on the Keys.]

    Alligator Alley certainly lived up to its name as I traversed it this time. Standing on the platform viewing area at one of the rest stops, there were two young alligators below us. We estimated them to be less than 5 feet long. None-the-less they put on their best performance for us.





    One appeared to be all dark, probably black. However, the other was most colourful.

    Crossed from Florida into Alabama on highway 231... where, at the welcome centre, I once again picked up a hotel/motel coupon book. I am finding that in the heat down in the south, the option of sleeping in the car is just not on. Neither is sleeping in a tent without airconditioning. I will be glad to get back to where the temperatures are a little more bearable.

    Lifey slowly heading back north

  6. #86
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    11,090

    Default Keep 'em coming!

    Just to let you know I'm still here and enjoying your fantastic report and pictures [along with many other people] so keep it coming !

    best wishes, Dave.

  7. #87
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,069

    Default

    Dave.

    It is only recently that I discovered you can actually see how many times a thread has been viewed. I am staggered!!

    This trip seems so much more enjoyable than previous ones. I am convinced that the resources of RTA have made this possible.

    Lifey who is glad you are enjoying it too

  8. #88
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,169

    Default 3899 and counting

    Nearly 4000 page views of your road trip report thus far! Like Dave, says, keep 'em coming.

    Mark

  9. #89
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    7,069

    Default Alabama

    It was another coupon motel which accommodated me in Dothan AL. The sun had just gone down and after bringing in my gear, I flopped in a chair and switched on the telly. The first program I stumbled across was one of my favourites... Ice Road Truckers. Not just Ice Road Truckers, but here they were on the James W Dalton Highway. I was estatic! I drove every mile with them. After so much stress on the road that day, in all the storms along I-10, it was exactly what I needed. There were several episodes being shown back to back, and it was very late before I got up to get myself ready for bed.

    It had been suggested to me that route 413 in eastern Alabama would be an enjoyable drive. I was not disappointed! Took hwy 169 from Sealle to Opelika to by-pass Phenix City. Beyond Opelika the road was indeed, most scenic.



    At Hollis Crossroads I turned off 431 to take a small side trip along 24 to 281 and into Talladega National Forest, which in turn would take me into Cheaha State Park and onto Mt Cheaha.



    It was a winding mountain road, climbing all the way. After all, I was heading up to the highest point in Alabama.




    The lookout tower.


    Looking up the staircase to the top, which I was unable to climb.

    It was at Guntersville Lake that I pulled over for a break... right by where the restaurant boat is moored.



    And there, next to me, was a most interesting vehicle. I tried to check it out as much as I could - inside and out - but there was no one around to ask... probably having dinner on the boat.



    A drink, a snack and I was on my way. Soon it would be dark, and I had some 60 miles yet to go.



    As I was passing through Huntsville the sun was giving a brilliant display to mark the end of another successful day.

    Tomorrow would be the Natchez Trace Parkway.

  10. #90

    Default Nice views at Cheaha Mountain, and about that van...

    Good afternoon Traveler,

    The van you photographed is a standard-issue local television news mobile recording and broadcasting truck. The gear up top is a telescoping mast which rises to some 30' or perhaps a bit more. Atop the mast, but folded down in your picture, is a satellite dish. The operator extends the mast and orients the dish at or near the location where newsfilm is being shot. The mast helps to clear low branches, low buildings, etc. The footage from the field cameraman is fed into computers onboard the van and is then uploaded to the van's TV station via satellite.

    I'm looking forward to some Natchez Trace images. I've never been on the northern segments of the Trace.

    Keep 'em coming!

    Foy

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