Saturday, November 03, 2007

Monday Jay and I explored rural Pennsylvania. As with Ohio, I am always surprised at how much rural Pennsylvania there is.

First we took the Pennsylvania turnpike to Shanksville. I don't much like the toll road but people tell me I can't take it with me.

We were hungry for lunch so we stopped at a small store in shanksville. It looked a lot like Enloe Burress's store. We got sandwiches and ice cream. Then as we were paying, we spied the treasure. A plate of homemade chocolate oatmeal cookies, the no baking kind Mother used to make. We all love them and Jay especially adores them so we each bought three.

Then we drove out to the site of the September 11, 2001, crash of Flight 93. Happily the road has been newly paved.

Other things new since we were there a few years ago are benches, a gravel pad, and a small National Park Service building. We listened to a lecture from the volunteer. The place is manned during daylight hours by people from the area who volunteer to talk and answer questions from tourists.

I love this place. It is so meaningful. However, the Park Service has plans for a hundred million interpretive center. I think that will be a step down from what there is now.

People leave all kinds of things on the fence walls. Baseball caps, licence plates, signs, city limits signs, etc. They are periodically cleaned off by the volunteers and place in storage in a warehouse. By desire of the families, a rotating exhibit of these offerings will be shown in the new fancy memorial.

Next Jay and I headed to Johnstown. This is where in 1889 more than 2000 people died in the Johnston flood.

There was a sportsman's club in the mountains above Johnstown that had a lake. The club was owned by wealthy steelmen from Pittsburgh, including Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie. It was not well maintained, and what they did, it was usually pointed toward increasing the amount of bass in the lake for fishing. The spillway was compromised because they did not want to lose more bass.

On the fateful day it rained seven inches in the Johnstown area. The dam broke and a huge wall of water swept down the valley, taking with it, houses, trains, warehouses, bridges, and the lives of two thousand people.

We toured the Johnstown Flood museum. I noticed a plaque giving credit to Representative John Murtha for his help in getting the federal government to partly fund the museum. That is the Murtha who is in the house leadership. Since I have read how much pork barrel money he is responsible for sending to this district. He is the House equivalent of Senator Byrd.

The Johnstown flood is where Clara Barton started her Red Cross relief efforts. Beside the museum is a Johnstown cottage, the 19th century equivalent of a Katrina cottage. The Johnstown cottage was meant as temporary housing for the survivors, most of whom spent many months in tents on the mountainsides.

Back on the road we went to Indiana, Pennsylvania, home of the late actor Jimmy Stewart, my brother James's idol. We got there just as the museum closed, but we got to read some things in the lobby, and we took pictures by his statue.

Then it was back to Pittsburgh for the night.

Tuesday was going home day. I dropped Jay off about 1:30 and started driving back home. My GPS was not charging properly so I had to make my own way home. I did fine. I think I was like the kid learning to ride a bike. I think I am protected by my sister June holding onto the back of the bike, but really she let go and I riding by myself. Similarly, going to Pittsburgh I gave all the credit to the Garmin. I had to come home by myself and I did just as well, so maybe I have become a good driver of even big cities I have never before been to.

Maybe now I can just drive where ever I want to go. In the last few years, I have driven through Memphis, Jackson (MS), Baton Rouge, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Columbia, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Charlotte, Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Pittsburgh. I have also driven through cities out west, but nothing was such a thrill to me as driving Julia's new Cadillac down the strip in Las Vegas. I hope George Rodney could see me doing that.

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