This was the first trip I organized where I was taking other riders (my brother-in-law, Darryl Betts, and our good friend, Gary Rutz) along with me, so I wanted to play it safe and ride two of my favorite roads in Pennsylvania; US Rt 30 and US Rt 6. I love both of these roads, in part because they are some of the oldest roads in the country, so they have a lot of history. And they are, largely, in great condition with very little traffic in most locations.
(DISCLAIMER: For those who look forward to seeing my travel photos, I must apologize. I purchased a new waterproof case for my iPhone and the photos it renders are below my standards. I will be replacing it soon! Fortunately, Darryl and Gary (who took our riding shots) also had their phones to take photos and most of what you see from this trip was taken by them. Thanks to my sister, Kris, for taking the photos of us before we began our trip – I think she wanted good pictures in the event the authorities had to go looking for us at some point.) 😉
Day 1 – Go West, Then North, Old Men (aka old roads for old… toads? — oh well, it rhymes)
We started on a hot Saturday morning, heading west from the Carlisle/Boiling Springs area on Rt. 174 to Shippensburg, PA where we would head south on US Rt. 11, another historic road, until it meets US Rt 30 at the traffic circle in Chambersburg, PA. The traffic circle area in Chambersburg is worth a stop to take a picture as it has a very pretty fountain in its center. We didn’t bother, though (I had done so on a past trip with my youngest son, Corey), as we were anxious to get on Rt 30 and begin our ride.
The first 20 minutes of Rt 30, heading west out of Chambersburg, are not particularly impressive as it takes about that long to feel like you are finally away from the grips of urban influence. Rt 30 now begins to take you through small towns, farm lands, rolling hills and across a couple ridges of the Appalachian mountains. Route 30 is an exceptionally good road and, on a motorcycle, the sweeping turns through the mountains are quite enjoyable. There’s a good bit of history on the Lincoln Highway and I enjoy imagining what it must have been like to travel this road before the Interstate system took hold. You can find out more here.
Our first official stop was Bedford, PA, (where we had lunch at the local Subway restaurant). I had stopped in Bedford several months ago while on a solo ride returning home from State College PA (the long way). Bedford is a really nice, historic town; a place where I could easily see myself visiting for a day or two. It has an old fort (Fort Bedford) a nice waterfront park, Old Bedford Village, a speedway/fairgrounds, and a nice historic downtown with area which includes Dunkel’s Gulf station – one of the few remaining Art Deco gas stations in the country – where we stopped to fuel up our bikes and take a few photos. Before leaving, we stopped by Koontz Coffee Pot; a historic Rt 30 building shaped like a coffee pot.
One stop we could not miss on Rt 30 was the Flight 93 Memorial (free admission) near Shanksville, PA. This particular weekend marked the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks (I remember exactly where I was that morning, do you?), so it was especially crowded at the memorial. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and the fact that parking near the visitor center was closed, I did not have an opportunity to show Darryl and Gary the inside of the visitor’s center. However, I have been there previously and can tell you, it is very moving and a must see if you are able.
From the Flight 93 Memorial, we continued west on Rt. 30 to Rt, 219, where we headed north, to Johnstown, PA. Because we spent a bit more time at the Flight 93 Memorial we decided to “blow through” Johnstown. Actually, “blow through” isn’t the best description of what my GPS had us do. To reach the back road out of Johnstown, we traveled back and forth across town for what felt like an eternity – I can’t tell you how many times we were on bridges that crossed the Conemaugh River, but it was far too many for any of us. Mind you, there is a good portion of Johnstown that can be classified as depressed and my GPS app took us through what felt like most of it, in the most zig-zaggy way one could imagine. However, please don’t think Johnstown isn’t worth a stop if you have the time. There are a number of sites there worth visiting; including the Inclined Plane and the Johnstown Flood Museum. If you have the time while you’re in the Johnstown area, you should also visit the Johnstown Flood National Park, just north of Johnstown, where you can see what remains of the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club, where the dam that broke led to this national disaster that took more than 2,200 lives.
Once Johnstown was in our rear view mirrors we traveled a lot of back roads to get to our destination of Kane, PA, where we would be spending the night. The scenery along the way was pretty and there were a number old towns we traveled through, including Punxsutawney, which I grew up knowing about but had never visited. Most Pennsylvanians are probably familiar with Phil, Punxsutawney’s infamous predictor of Spring’s arrival and Winter’s departure. Well, Punxsutawney is all about Ground Hogs and the streets are dotted with artistically decorated Ground Hog statues (actually, they reminded me a bit of Rocky the Squirrel in the old Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, but I’m just showing my age). Punxsutawney is a pretty town and it was nice to see it for the first time. I think I would like to go back sometime and check it out a bit more closely.
At this point I think I should mention, I am a fan of east-west routes in Pennsylvania but not so much of north-south routes. I don’t know if it’s the angle of the sun, or if there is some sort of time warp, or the fact any time I’ve taken a north-south ride my GPS always seems to underestimate the time it should take. This was one of those times. I really thought, based on my calculations, which I had worked on for weeks prior to the trip, we would be into our motel in Kane around 5:30 PM. Unfortunately, I was about an hour and a half off and we pulled in around 7:00 PM.
You probably know I’m a lover of Mom & Pop motels. The Kane Motel did not disappoint. It was easy to get to, it was clean, air conditioned, surprisingly quiet (even though it was literally within spitting distance of Rt 6). Denise, who owns the motel with her husband George, had a great sense of humor, and was more than happy to introduce us to Bill, her “attitude adjuster”. We stayed in Room 10, on the second floor of the main house; it had two double beds, a single, and a private bath. A total of $76 plus change for the night! It was perfect for our needs.
After checking into the Kane Motel, we decided “grub time” was long overdue. Originally, I had planned for us to go to Warren, PA (about a half hour north of Kane, on Rt. 6) to have BBQ at the Wells Wild Hog BBQ, an 18-time national award winning BBQ restaurant. However, a severe storm decided to move into the Warren area so we chose to play it safe and had dinner at Texas Hot Lunch / 4 Sons. a block from the motel. The food was quite good, reasonably priced, the ambience was great (an old restaurant – actually, most of the buildings in Kane are old; not uncommon for towns on Rt. 6) and our waitress, a younger girl (most are younger than us anymore) who was pulling her second shift of the day, was very sweet. We had a great time chatting and joking with her and suspect we made her day as much as she made ours. The food was tasty enough we decided to return the following morning for breakfast before heading east on Rt. 6.
Day 2 – Rt 6 – A Walk on the Tracks, Men in Big Chairs, BBQ with a View
After a relaxed breakfast at Texas Hot Lunch / 4 Sons, reviewing the day before and discussing the day ahead, we began our trip east on Rt. 6 to Mt. Jewett and the Kinzua Bridge State Park. The bridge is an amazing sight to behold and its story is no less amazing. Since I last visited the bridge several years ago, they have constructed a beautiful Visitor Center (the last time I was there the only thing they had was a small looped parking area). There is no cost for admission to access the bridge or Visitor’s Center.
We left the Kinzua Bridge and continued east on Rt. 6. Rt 6 is a wonderful road to travel; going through many old, interesting towns, traversing farmlands and forests. This part of the state reminds me most of the Smoky Mountains (though not as tall), one of my most favorite areas in the east.
Next on our agenda was lunch and I knew just the place to stop. About 15 minutes east of center-city Coudersport (another great town to check out if you have the time) is Fezz’s Diner. I had stopped there a few years ago, when my youngest son and I were on a similar trip around Pennsylvania, and we enjoyed the food. So it was back to a place I knew had good food at a decent price. If you stop at Fezz’s, be prepared to pay cash. They don’t take credit cards, though they will be more than happy to direct you to the nearby market that has an ATM.
Continuing east on Rt. 6, I knew it was time for a special photo stop. The Black Forest Trading Post has a giant Adirondack chair out front and it’s great for creating a photo memory that will put a smile on your and everyone else’s face. The trading post also has a Deer Park, where you can feed the deer, a “panning for gems” stand for the kids, and a nice gift shop that is just like the ones from 40 years ago! It’s a nice place to stop, stretch your legs, take a picture on the big chair, peruse the gift shop or even have an ice cream cone.
We continued east on Rt. 6 to Wellsboro, PA, where we would turn left onto Central Ave. taking Rt. 287 south. Wellsboro is a wonderful town with plenty to do, both in town and the surrounding areas. Main Street, lined with gas lamp posts and divided by a beautifully maintained grass median offers an abundance of small shops. Unfortunately, we were on a 2 day schedule and in order to get back home in time, we were not able to stop in Wellsboro. However, it is highly recommended!
We were now going south on Rt 287 out of Wellsboro, PA. Rt 287 is yet another nice road to travel; taking you through small villages, wooded mountains, and along streams. At the end of Rt. 287, we turned left onto Rt. 220 north, toward Williamsport, where we would pick up Rt. 15 south to have dinner at Skeeters BBQ Pit, in Shamokin Dam, PA. One way or another, we were bent on eating BBQ on this trip and Skeeters has both tasty BBQ and a great view overlooking the Susquehanna River!
Continuing south on Rt. 15, the first thing you will encounter is a very commercial, very busy section of Rt 15 running through Shamokin Dam. Be careful through here as there is a LOT of traffic. Take your time, keep your eyes and ears open and you’ll get through just fine.
We wanted to finish up our ride near Carlisle, PA, so we could swing by our first rider, Darryl’s house to drop him off, so, just beyond Liverpool, PA, we turned off Rt. 15 onto Rt 34 south. This is a nice road to ride in the daytime but, at dusk, when it’s starting to get dark and the critters are starting to move around, it’s not the best choice. However, after a little over an hour, we made it to Carlisle without any incidents.
All in all, it was a great trip. Darryl and Gary, who had never taken an overnight trip before, seemed happy about having done the experience and we will likely be taking more trips together in the future.